THURSDAY, MARCH 3RD AND FRIDAY MARCH 4TH, 2011:
Left Nashville for Chard, Somerset, UK today with the Bellamy Brothers. This will be a 3 week tour with performances in the UK, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. The weather is supposed to be snowing and freezing everywhere we go which means Nashville will have unseasonably warm weather because I’m not there!
Everyone arrived on time and we got all the luggage checked in with time to have lunch before departing. It was a small regional Continental jet from Nashville to Newark and we were late leaving. We were told that 20 bags did not fit and had to be taken off. I figured our musical equipment was probably the first thing to go. Not good! Flight to Newark was smooth and as soon as we landed, I went into the President’s Lounge and had one of the attendants check to see if all our bags scanned into Newark. It took her about an hour so I checked email while she was having this checked. My cell phone stopped working and I had to remove the battery and start over which takes about 5 minutes to “re-load”. Of course, I missed the most important phone call of the day while my phone was “down”! The agent told me that all our bags had scanned into Newark which was fantastic news.
The Continental jet was awesome. So much nicer than what we have on the United flights. I’m hoping United will adopt Continental’s “policies” now that they have merged. The flight attendant was unbelievable sweet and happy. The meal was outstanding – hard to believe on an airplane but as good as any restaurant food. There was a choice of 178 movies, too! I watched “The Kings Speech” which is what my friend and I had planned to see in Baltimore a few weeks ago but the “timing” didn’t work out for us. It was a great movie. Slept for about 2 hours and then we were landing in Brussels. These European flights are much too short compared to my Kuwait and Asia trips!
No problem clearing Immigration and going to the gate for the flight to Bristol, UK. Again it was a small regional jet but only a 60 minute flight. They even served breakfast on the flight and it was good! Another smooth flight and we landed on time in Bristol. Took a very long time to clear Immigration because the UK has instituted a new process which was supposed to speed up everything. LOL. The agents were laughing about how much longer it now takes. But, we all had our work visas and didn’t have any problems.
All but one of our bags made it – Howard’s wife Jenny did not get her bag. An agent actually met her at baggage claim and told her that her bag was still in Brussels because the tag had fallen off it and they would fly it in at 4 pm today. No idea how they knew it was her bag!
Greg – one-half of our UK team – and Blue met us with a really great bus. We had about an hour and a half drive and I think I slept most of the way. Our Hotel is a “spa” hotel and it is in the middle of NOWHERE. I was a little worried about internet connection but Penny had checked with them and was told there was wireless in every room. Liars, Liars! There was service in a couple of common areas and NONE in the rooms. I was really unhappy since I had a lot of work to do this weekend.
The hotel is beautiful and the rooms are large and nice – definitely not “elegant” or even “fancy” for a Spa Hotel though. After getting everyone in their rooms, several of us walked to the restaurant for lunch…..and walked and walked and walked. With my “no sense of direction”, I was tempted to drop pennies to find my way back! It was entirely on the other end of the complex – at least ¾ of a mile away. I only had a bowl of soup and it probably was not worth the long hike.
I found the room where the internet works but I have to go outside to access it. And it was FREEZING in there. Of course, my room was freezing too but I found a little wall heater and cranked it up. Hopefully it will have warmed up in there by the time I get back. I worked for about 3 hours and then went back to my room. Decided NOT to unpack. Wally and David came by and said dinner was at 6:15 pm so I met most of the group in the hotel restaurant – one that was open for dinner (but not lunch) and closer to our rooms. The menu was very good for the UK (the ONLY good food in the UK is Indian!) but as is typical in the UK – totally bland.
Greg was able to get a couple of little heaters for me to take over to the internet room with me which helped. David came by and said that he and Howard had wireless service IN their rooms. I thought they might since they are on the side where this “common” area is located. Greg asked the front desk if there was another room available on that side that I might move into. They gave me one that was one floor about the Bellamys. I decided to check it out before moving my luggage. The wireless started fading the minute I got upstairs. By the time I was in the room, I had two “bars” if I sat by the window. The room was much smaller and definitely not as nice as where I was. But, I would rather have internet connection that a bed, so I moved everything upstairs! Glad I didn’t unpack but it was still a chore.
After 1 am here, so hope to go to bed soon. First show here tomorrow and then we drive to Minehead on Sunday for one show.
SATURDAY, MARCH 5TH – FIRST SHOW IN THE UK:
I got laptop, printer, external hard drive, headset, and folders all set up on the huge desk in my room last night, only to find that the wireless doesn’t pick up that far away from the window. Basically, I have to be as close to the window as possible and the drapes have to be open. Then I have a whopping TWO bars! So, my computer is on a tiny round table, the printer is in a chair, my files, external hard drive, headset and folders are all in another chair and covering the floor. Not the ideal work situation BUT I HAVE INTERNET CONNECTION. J
I forgot to mention the sink yesterday. As I said, this is a beautiful resort but some of the amenities are a challenge. The “stopper” in the sink was closed and I could not find a way to open it. There was no “handle” to push/pull. I tried using a pair of manicure scissors to coax it up but couldn’t get them wedged in properly. I called the front desk and they didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. After crawling around under the sink looking for something to push/pull for several minutes, I gave up and called David. He said it took her a while but Susan finally figured out if you push down on one side of the stopper, the other side will flip up! Who would have ever guessed that one? I need to take time and write a “guide” book for people traveling overseas and include this and things like, if your lights won’t come on, insert your key in the slot by the door, etc. etc. These resorts are “worldwide” and remind me of a stationary cruise ship – all the same amenities only not at sea.
Went to bed around 2:30 am and at 3:30 am I was woken by “something” going on in my room. Looked at the clock to see what time it was and was so tired, I really don’t remember much about the noise except thinking “This place isn’t haunted, so it can’t be what I thought it was”. Then today I mentioned it to our Emcee for the show tonight who lives here. He told me all kinds of stories about “ghosts” who live here. Evidently, several children met unexpected deaths – one playing hide and seek in a chimney – and guests regularly call the front desk and complain about children making too much noise in the hallways. This resort does not allow children. I’m going looking for white candles for my room tonight!
I slept until 8 am and then went down for breakfast. It was a really nice buffet with lots of the food you would find on one in America – with the exception of the blood sausage and pork and beans! Afterwards, I ran on the treadmill for 3 miles, showered, and started working. Went down to check on the sound check and show room and everything was moving along just fine without me. Imagine that! J Greg called me back down later in the afternoon to go over the questions that will be asked at the Q&A session later today. They were actually pretty good questions and should make for an interesting event.
Walked David and Howard over a little before 4 pm for the Q&A and it was painless. They were really great and “on a roll” today. Afterwards, we went over to the “far side” of the resort where I hiked to for lunch yesterday and they had a little private autograph session with 14 of the top sponsors. Really nice people and I got a lot more “history” about the haunting. I might as well plan to stay up all night tonight if I can’t get those candles. Reminds me of my visit to Savannah a couple of weeks ago!
I offended my British friend who is on my Road Report list (so sorry Nigel!) by my comment about the bland food. He sent me a photo of two really obese Americans in response. Point taken and I agree. But, at least Americans get fat eating truly great food whereas there are just as many obese folks in the UK who have to be stuffing themselves on horrible bland food. LOL. Honestly, I filled my plate last night with vegetables – most of which were steamed. If I closed my eyes to eat them, the only way I would have been able to identify one from the other would have been the “texture”.
BUT tonight we ate in the Italian restaurant that was on property and it was excellent. I hated to eat there since we’ll be in Italy for a week but really glad that we did. I had a spinach/mushroom filled tortellini with light truffle oil. It was amazing.
I brought two watches and today the batteries died in both. I have two travel alarms so I put one beside my bed and one on the desk so I could see what time it is from my “homestead” by the window. When I got back from dinner, both clocks were sitting on the stand by my bed! I had the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, so no one should have come in. Actually, the sign says “I Need a Little Quiet Time” on one side and “My Room is in a Muddle, Please Tidy” on the other. I’m taking it with me.
Worked for another couple of hours and then met Susan to walk over for the show. Steve – the person with the resort who has been helping us – at the merch table and helped us get set. I asked him about the spirits and he got a strange look on his face and asked me my room number. Evidently, that’s the room where “Lord Nelson” used to stay and he still visits occasionally. He was an Admiral and there is a statue of him in the center of London. So, at least now I have a “name” to put with the sounds. He said there is a spirit backstage, too, and they brought in an exorcist. The exorcist suggested they NOT remove the spirit because it was very happy there and not a threat to anyone. Steve gave me a little cross in a packet with a great note with it that I am carrying around with me in lieu of the white candles.
I had to “hike” back to my room to get some sharpies and forgot that I had to walk outside in the dark in front of a small, very old church with a graveyard. I literally sprinted across that part of the grounds. At the next building, the doors open automatically and the lights in the walkway come on automatically. Except this time. They did not turn on. I danced around right inside the door and waved my arms and tried everything to trigger them. Finally I did another sprint to the end of the hall where I triggered the next set. Getting lots of exercise at least.
The show was great but the British were very “reserved” as usual. Then they come up after the concert and rave about how awesome it was! It was completely sold out. We’re only doing 60 minute concerts here which are so short compared to what we usually do. Susan didn’t think she’d sell very much merchandise but she did really well! I noticed the opening act standing around and they looked really familiar. I asked them if they played other festivals and turns out we had met at the Americana Festival in the UK several years ago. I am horrible with names but I usually remember faces.
I was back in my room by a little after midnight. Need to be up by 6 am so going to bed soon. Driving for about 1 ½ hours tomorrow to Minehead. I was quizzing Greg about internet connection there and he assured me everything is fine because he is giving me his “dongle”! Hello??? Sounds a little risqué to me! Turns out it is a memory stick. J Hope I can sleep without another visit from Lord Admiral Nelson. I read about him on line and how he died, so I probably won’t sleep.
SUNDAY, MARCH 6TH – SHOW IN MINEHEAD, UK:
I should NOT have read about Admiral Lord Nelson or Lord Admiral Nelson’s or however the proper title goes. Had horrible dreams until about 3 am, then finally was able to sleep.
We were able to have breakfast before we departed for Minehead. Again, it was a great tour bus and the drive was about 1 ½ hours. This is like an “Amusement Park” and sort of fashioned after a “mini-Disney World”. Would have loved to have my twin grandchildren with me!
The Bellamys were given great suites in a building near the venue and everyone else was placed in “apartments” farther away from the venue. I already knew there would be “internet” problems here but Greg was convinced he had it all taken care of for me. Obviously, he does not know my “luck” yet with the internet! We got David and Howard checked in, the band dropped at the venue and went to the apartment to see if my laptop would connect. Stacy – who works with Greg – had the “dongle” that he had purchased for me. (By the way, the “line” of the tour has become “where is your dongle” LOL). We popped it in the computer and the service was great, but Greg had forgotten to pay for any “time” on it. It goes through the cell phone number of the person purchasing it and it would not let me or Stacy use our credit cards to purchase time. So, we tried one that Stacy had but she didn’t have cell phone service. I moved the computer by the window and tried again but it would never connect. I was pretty frustrated by that time and told her to get me a suite where the Bellamys are staying and I’d pay the cost difference because they have wireless connection.
We walked back over to take Howard and Jenny some fish and chips for lunch and then went back to the dressing room to sort out the other rooms. I was supposed to meet Susan a few minutes later, so I walked back over to meet her. I couldn’t even get in her building without a key and the “”Guest Services” office by her building was closed. I was pretty ticked off by that time so I sent her a text and told her to come downstairs and meet me. She insisted that it would be fine if I stayed in the extra bedroom in their suite because it had a full bath connected to it. I really didn’t want to intrude but for one night and the luxury of internet, I definitely was persuaded. Thank you Susan and David. I had Susan walk over to my former lodging with me to retrieve my laptop. These buildings are individual apartments all in a tall building. They are very clean but very sparse. The beds are all fold up beds and there is a strong smell of mold everywhere even though everything was spotlessly clean. Nothing I couldn’t have dealt IF I could have connected to the internet!
After taking my laptop and luggage to her suite, Susan and I walked over and had some really greasy fish and chips. The venue is connected to a food court but it’s all fast food. There are a few shops with children’s toys in there as well. We took David back some food to the suite and I showered and worked until time to go to the venue. First show was at 4:15 pm –another 60 minute show. Susan sold all her cds and t-shirts and now only has some ladies’ tank tops and koozies left. The Brits are not buying the koozies. Number One – they don’t know what they are. AND, they are not big on cold or hot drinks. Everything is pretty much room temperature. I told Susan to re-name them “Dongle Warmers” and she’d sell out! LOL
After the first show – which was PACKED – we went to the Yacht Club for dinner. Trust me, it did not live up to it’s name. It was “buffet” and the grilled chicken I got was so dry, I was afraid to eat it for fear of choking. I ended up eating a salad and some veggies.
We went back to the rooms for just a few minutes and then back to the venue for the 2nd performance – which was again PACKED. A lot of the people who came to the first show also came to the second performance so the Bellamys changed up their set list somewhat. I went out with Susan to set up the merch table and some guy wouldn’t let us set up where we were before. He said a “photographer” was going to be taking photos there. So, she decided not to even try and sell the last few tank tops. We sat backstage during the show.
Right before the show was over, we went both went to the bathroom. Susan got there before me and when I walked in, both the stall doors were closed. I was patiently waiting for her or the other person to come out when the foulest odor ever began coming from one of the stalls. I wasn’t going to say anything because I didn’t know if it was Susan or the other girl. Susan came out first and it was definitely the other “occupant”. I went in and I heard Susan start to dry heave and say she had to leave. I had to hold toilet tissue over my mouth until I could get out of there. The girl came out of the stall and it was one of the technical crew from the show. I ran out so fast that I made a wrong turn and walked straight into the Men’s Restroom where a man was standing at the urinal! I did not stay long enough to check for a “dongle”!
We were back at the suite by 9 pm and it’s only 11 pm now. Really early for me. The internet here blocks lots of sites and one of them is my office server. So, I guess it means I’m not supposed to work tonight and should go to bed. Have to leave here at 8 am tomorrow and fly to Italy via Brussels. Lake Como for a WEEK and no performance until Saturday. How COOL is that?