SUNDAY, JUNE 22ND – DAY FOUR: Only slept two hours because I couldn’t fall asleep. Got dressed and went downstairs for LOTS of coffee. Good news is Wally, David and Tucker all had on different clothes which meant their lost luggage finally arrived. We left the hotel at 7 am and drove to the Oslo airport, about a one hour drive. Long lines to check in and then SAS would not allow the “international weight allowance”. New rules state that even if you are flying on a roundtrip international ticket, if you spend ONE night anywhere before taking a “domestic” flight, then you have to follow domestic flight weight restrictions. That means each person is only allowed 20 Kilos! That’s one bag weighing only 44 pounds. Impossible. They hit the Bellamys with $2,000 in excess charges because of personal luggage and instruments. Flight was fine but the pilot told us before we took off that there was “high winds and rain” in Dublin. Great. When we landed, the wind was gusting up to 60 mph and I thought the plane was going to land on it’s side. Not a fun landing. I realized that the promoter never sent us our work visas. When we had asked for them, he said he was just going to “fax” them and that he would have the originals with him at the airport. Of course, that would have done us no good because he can’t come into the Passport Control Area where we have to show the Visas. So, when we went through, the agent asked if I was there on business or pleasure. I told him pleasure and he asked me numerous questions before stamping my passport. I have a feeling if I had told him business, we would have been there for hours while we tried to figure out a way to get the Visas to us. Thankfully all our luggage and equipment made the flight. Guess it helps when you PAY the excess. Our escort – Paul – was waiting for us and walked us out to the bus. Only, he didn’t know where the bus and bus driver were parked. The wind was blowing so hard, it almost blew us down. Paul called the driver who said he was wearing a yellow jacket and standing in front of the bus. We walked up and down with our luggage carts in the wind and never found him. Paul called again and started walking around without us. I saw a man in a tan jacket standing in front of me talking on his mobile phone and I figured out pretty quickly he was talking to Paul and that he is obviously color blind. The ten minute drive from the airport to the hotel was more like 30 minutes. At least the hotel is unbelievably nice, especially for Ireland. Elevator, large rooms, free wireless internet. Our rooms were ready for us, too. Brian from the Bellamy’s UK distribution company and his wife Sue met us in the lobby. When I got in my room, I noticed that there was no shower curtain on the tub. I called Susan and made her check her bathroom because sometimes hotels in Europe don’t use shower curtains and the whole bathroom gets flooded when you take a shower. Hers had a curtain and mine had the curtain rings to hang one. I went to the front desk and they said that housekeeping was “washing” it. We went into the restaurant and had lunch and then I went over to check out the showroom in the “Inn” next door. The production company was supposed to have loaded in that morning so that we could load in our gear and sound check at 2 pm. At 3 pm, the production company was still not there. And, there was only one tiny elevator for them to take all the equipment up to the second floor show room. Production company finally came in at 3:30 pm but our guys didn’t get to even start sound check until after 5:30 pm. Doors opened at 7:30 pm, so they had to rush through sound check. Everyone was a little “on edge” because of the late start and short sound check. James wanted to move the “Meet and Greet” to 7:15 pm but I explained that Howard and David were asleep and were not going to be ready for the “Meet and Greet” until 9 pm. My shower curtain still had not been replaced by 4:00 and I needed to take a shower. I walked down the hall and saw a cart filled with wet shower curtains, so I took one and hung it myself. I had put the “Do Not Disturb” on my door but my phone rang twice while I was in the shower and then someone knocked on my door 4 times! They DO speak and read English here, you know? Every time it was housekeeping wanting to hang my shower curtain. Took me 4 attempts to convince them that I had already replaced it!!! The promoter – James – arrived at 5 pm and I went over shortly thereafter to have dinner with him. Came back to the room to get ready for the show and found that my printer wasn’t working. I needed to print some signs for Susan, so I went to the Business Office. Evidently Wally, James, and Susan all tried calling my room, knocking on my door, and calling my cell phone while I was away those few minutes. I also had a text message from James saying the “Meet and Greet” was being moved until after the show – which was not acceptable. I’m surprised they didn’t call “911” when they couldn’t find me. 🙂 I had to wash clothes in the sink again and am hoping they dry before we leave tomorrow. Have I mentioned that it is FREEZING here? I had to wear my fleece all day today – even inside! And, I already HATE all my clothes. We had a short Meet and Greet prior to the show with Radio Station Winners. The radio station gave the Bellamys these beautiful pieces of pottery. The guy who made the pottery has climbed 7 mountains including Mt. Everest and there is a beautiful inscription on the pieces. Definitely something that has to be “shipped” not flown home. The Bellamy’s Doctor from FL ran into them at the airport and he is here on vacation with his family. They came to the performance tonight. On “Redneck Girl”, Kieran (works with our promoter) jumped on stage and played the “penny whistle”. It was so awesome. He’s amazing on that thing. Guys signed autographs after the show and I should get in bed by 2 am tonight. It was wonderful to see Brian and his wife Sue again. Really good people. I only wish we could have gone down into the City of Dublin. I’ve never been there and won’t be able to tomorrow since we depart at 11 am. L Oh well, I’m seeing lots of places in Ireland that some people will never see. Just found out that another one of my good buddies will be handling the production for Gary’s band in Brussels. Just one more reason why I definitely should be there. By the way, today was Larry – our steel player’s birthday. Tomorrow is James – our promoter –birthday!
MONDAY, JUNE 23RD: Actually got 5 hours of great sleep. Unusual on a tour like this. Weather looks a little better today but couldn’t run because we are on a major interstate with lots of construction. Susan came to my room early and we put a Pilates DVD in and worked out in my room. Also unusual to have a room large enough that there is floor space for us both to lie down and work out. Felt great. Took a quick shower, breakfast – where you could actually order off the menu! – then packed up and answered email. Had an email this morning from the Radio Programmer who had given the guys the beautiful pottery. Evidently I look exactly like a former American girlfriend of his. He was apologizing for acting so stunned when he met me. I honestly didn’t notice but assured him that I have that effect on all men the first time they meet me. 🙂 I wish! He played the Bellamys single on his program this morning and is promising to push their songs over here. They have this beautiful Irish song with a Penny Whistle in it that Kieran played on as well. That’s the thing about the Bellamys, they know how to work the overseas marketplace. Of course, they are teasing me about “doing anything” to get radio play for them now. We are in the third hour of our 3 hour drive to Ballymena. We played there last year but of course I travel so much, I don’t even remember what the hotel was like. I will have to look back at my old road reports and see how I liked it! If I have internet service, I’ll be happy. For such a wonderful, modern hotel last night, I was disappointed that there was no health club…not even a bad one. Maybe there will be somewhere to jog in this city. Well, when we arrived at the hotel, I KNEW we were in trouble. This is the hotel that looks like “The Adams Family House”. I definitely remember it from last year and also remember that there is a problem this year because of a wedding taking place today. They did have all our rooms ready but said that internet was only available in a couple of the rooms. I switched my room so I would have service. HA! To access my room, you walk through the dining room, then through the bar and into my room. Right outside my room the other way are all the ballrooms. Of course when I was trying to roll my bags to my room (which THANKFULLY is on the ground floor since there is no elevator), the wedding party was in full swing. I’m sure they were thrilled to have me and my luggage right in the middle of their event. My room is a “handicapped” room. I took a photo of it. The bathroom has this tiny little sink that looks like it is for a six year old child and is exactly the height for a 6 year old child. There is no bathtub or shower stall – but in one corner of the bathroom there is a “chair” with a shower wand mounted at about shoulder height. Lovely! And, of course, the internet does NOT work in my room. Figures. There are no windows in my room but there is a skylight with no cover. When the sun comes up, I’ll definitely have to wake up as the “beds” are located directly beneath it. For about 30 seconds I have internet standing under the skylight, but that disappeared. Susan and I walked down to the little village to change money to pounds. There was “road work” taking place and the sidewalk was not accessible. At one point, the workers directed us to walk on the newly poured asphalt. Susan yelled, “Oh no. This is still HOT”! So, we got wet tar all over our shoes and were “sticking” to the road as we tried to walk. Very impressive. Now my shoes smell like tar, too! Two of my guys came to find me to tell me that they don’t have a bathroom in their rooms! I asked the front desk and they said that they told the promoter this when he booked the rooms! They are supposed to share a “common” bathroom for three rooms. Our only option was to move them to another hotel. I am so not happy about this. The front desk assured us that no one else was in the “third” room and our two guys would be the only ones using it. When one of the guys went to take his shower, the bathroom had been used by someone else. We asked the front desk to have it cleaned and they responded that it was not possible since everyone was working on the “wedding”! The Production Company was late arriving again and our load-in and sound check got pushed to later as well. I had lunch with Susan and David and at least the food was good! When I went back to my room, I noticed that the ceiling light was blown. Took me 3 trips to the front desk and 30 minutes to get it changed. The attendance was less this year than last year – probably because Dolly Parton is performing 30 minutes from here! Interesting to note that her show did not sell out either. But it was a good audience and they bought lots of cds afterwards. So, now I am sitting in the bar with my laptop, external hard drive, headset, printer, files, paper, extension cords and adapters….everything I need for my “office”. Tomorrow we depart for Derry. Haven’t been there. Hopefully the hotel is better and the attendance at the show is larger. Can’t believe I haven’t even been gone for an entire week yet and have 7 ½ more to go. Jude
TUESDAY, JUNE 24TH – DAY SIX
Happy Birthday to Lindsey! Got up early to do the Pilates. I really didn’t think that particular form of exercise was going to work for me because I am so accustomed to either running 5 miles or working out hard with weights at the gym. But, my abs were really sore this morning from yesterday’s routine, so I decided to give it another try – upper body this time. Had a quick breakfast of yogurt and then showered in my “chair”. Quite the challenge!!! Weather is better today. Much warmer than last night. Even my cell phone doesn’t work in this room! I decided to turn on the tv – something I never do. Picked up what I thought was the remote control only to have some electronic “blinds” begin sliding across the skylight! NOW I figure out how to do this, after having the sunlight stream in at 4:54 am this morning and wake me up! It was an easy drive to Derry. Hotel is 100 times better than last night. Very modern. Wireless internet in each room. All the rooms have a BATHROOM. J There is an elevator. It’s located right downtown in the middle of a shopping district. David, Susan and I ventured out for lunch and found a great little restaurant. Also walked through the Mall and found that the venue is right behind the mall. It’s called the Millennium Forum and is like a Performing Arts Center back home. Hopefully, it will be sold out. The weather turned bad just as we were leaving this morning. It has rained all day and is SOOOOO cold. Heaters weren’t working in our rooms so I called and called and called the front desk. Finally I told them if the Bellamys got sick and couldn’t perform, I was not going to be happy. That did the trip. Radiator is “on”. Amazingly enough, there is a great trail beside the river where I could run (if it weren’t cold and rainy) AND there is a health club in the hotel. I’m going to check it out before I leave for the show. So the Health Club is all cardio. Two treadmills, a rowing machine, two bikes, elliptical trainer, and an ab roller. One of the treadmills was flashing “STOP” so I pushed various buttons to make clear it. Nothing worked, so I walked over to the walk and turned the power off. Just as I turned it back on, an alarm went off. I thought it was my fault and I ran for the door. People were coming out of their rooms and heading for the stairs. It was the fire alarm. When I got in the lobby, David was waiting for me. He thought HE had set it off because just as he closed his door, the alarm sounded. You can take the Americans out of the country, but you can’t……. 🙂 Our promoter had called a taxi for us and we were supposed to be picked up at 8:55 pm. At 9:15 pm, we were still waiting. Made numerous phone calls while about a dozen taxis drove by the hotel. Didn’t realize that in Northern Ireland, you aren’t allowed to “hail” a taxi but have to “book” one in advance. The guy finally showed up almost 30 minutes late. The band was waiting for us to go on stage when we walked in. The Theatre is beautiful! It holds almost 1,200 people and we had 700 attend on a Tuesday night. Good crowd. Sound and lighting was phenomenal. Same thing happened with the taxi on the trip back home. Only this time one never showed up. One of the Theatre employees finally gave David, Howard, and Jenny a ride. Wally, Susan and I walked back. It’s a short walk, but mostly up a very steep hill and in a high crime area. Heat is off in our rooms again. But, we have the huge down comforter that I will fight with all night. I get cold and pull it over me. Then I get hot and kick it off. Then I’ll try covering various body parts one at a time. Nothing really works. Makes for a restless night. Off to Castlebar tomorrow. The Bellamys are going to film for a new tv series on RTE (public television). Evidently some girl started a show with just a handheld video camera and it took off. It was originally called “Working Girls” but is now called “Wonder Women”. Should be great exposure for the Bellamys. Jude
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 25TH – DAY SEVEN – ONE WEEK!!!!
Heat never came back on last night and even with the down comforter, it was freezing. I put on socks and every warm piece of clothing I could find. The reception evidently closes down because no one answered when I called to try and find someone who could turn on the heat. That, or they recognized my room number and purposely avoided my call. J It was great having a health club for a change. Used the elliptical trainer, rowing machine and free weights. Sure feel better today after a good workout. Just got an email that my NYC Firemen and friends have arrived in Switzerland. Here’s the “history” of that. In June, 2003, when I went with the first group into Iraq, I met a man named John Vigiano. He and his wife – Jan – lost their two sons, one a fireman and one a policeman, on 9-11 in the Twin Towers. Most of you know that I wear the bracelet he gave me in their memory every day. We “adopted” each other and I love them like family. Whenever I have a celebrity in NYC with time off, we go to the Brooklyn Firehouse where one of his sons worked. They cook us dinner and we all have a wonderful time visiting. My promoter and dear friend in Interlaken, Switzerland (Iris) has a boyfriend who is in the volunteer fire department. He also owns a restaurant and is a fantastic chef. He and Iris have visited the Brooklyn Fire Department a couple of times. We were all there together last October and he cooked dinner for them – quite the treat. Rene’ (her boyfriend) has a “cooking show” on TV in Switzerland. They invited 10 people from the Brooklyn FD to come to Switzerland as their guest. John (who retired from that Firehouse) and Jan, and two of their best friends (one who also retired from the NYFD), and 6 firemen from the Brooklyn FH arrived Switzerland today. It’s killing me not to be there with them but I know they will have a blast! They have lots of fun things planned for them and I’ll see them Saturday night at our festival with the Bellamys and Carlene Carter. Then I get to spend all day Sunday with them going up to Jungfrau (highest point accessible in all of Europe – and I’ve been there so many times I could GIVE the tours). Really looking forward to that part of my long tour of Europe. Bus ride turned out to be more like 4 hours than 3 hours. Plus we stopped for lunch at another “Carvery”. Interesting food. J Production company was not set up and ready for us today either. Something about a flat tire this time. A few minutes after we left Derry, the bus door blew open. It’s a hydraulic door. We pulled over to shut it but there was a horrible “burning smell”. They checked everything out and didn’t find anything so I guess it had something to do with the door. Hotel is NOT what I expected. It looked beautiful on the internet but is actually a lot like the “Adams Family” home we stayed in the other night. No elevator and all the rooms are up a couple of flights of stairs. No internet in any of the rooms. As I type this, we are all sitting in the lobby working on our laptops. The show room is under construction, so we are going to perform in the “Pub” area. Good news is, we will only be here a few hours since we have to depart for the airport at 4 am! It’s so old, the facets in the sink are still separate—one for cold water and one for hot water! The doors have these old doorknobs that don’t have a slot for a key. There is a deadbolt higher up on the door that you have to unlock with the key. BUT, you have to unlock the deadbolt AND turn the doorknob at the same time to get IN or OUT of the room. Not an easy task when you have your laptop, external hard drive, headset, plug, bottle of water and purse all in your hands because you have to sit in the lobby to access the *!^#@ internet! We were told that the Bellamys would go on stage at 9 pm so I set up their tv interview for 8:30 pm. Then at 8 pm, we were told that they wouldn’t be going on until 9:30 pm! So disorganized. Not the way I like things to be done. Again, good thing the Bellamys are “road dogs” and so flexible. Had dinner with David and Susan in the hotel restaurant. Will be glad to leave the heavy “Irish” food behind. No time tomorrow to work out with a 4 am departure either. L The Comedian was a “hoot”. She came all dressed like a “country music fan times 20”. Did a very funny, short interview with the guys and then went on stage with them in an even more outrageous costume. Looking forward to seeing that footage. It will air on her show starting in September and will also be on the internet for about 7 days. Show room was tiny and so was the stage. There was no “backstage”. But, the room was packed and it was another great show…our last in Ireland. After the show, as a special treat, Kieran drank an entire Guinness– UPSIDEDOWN! Since we have to depart at 4 am, I’m signing off for the night!