A whirlwind trip taken long ago

I have been working to tidy up my digital bits. This includes going through old hardware as well as some old tarballs. One of the things I unburied was this story from about twenty years ago. Here it is in close to the original format.


In December of 2001 I returned to the UK. While I had lived there for a year in the mid-ninties, I had not returned since that time. 

I spent only a week on the island this time, as the key purpose of the trip was to see my favorite band in concert. People may laugh and think the idea silly, but it’s something I had to do. I’ve been a fan of James since the early nineties and had only seen them once before in concert. While I’m not an avid fan that knows all the details of the band members’ lives, I harbor a space in my soul for their music. No other band has such a space. I think perhaps it’s because their music rarely reaches the the US. They’re not overcommercialized here and I listen to what I want when I want.

This is a little chronicle of that trip, as I’m so very glad I followed my self and took a chance on what turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life.

Page 1
How it Began

In early November I received a call from a marketing company regarding sitting in on a focus group for web developers. At the end of the telephone interview the woman asked me a question out of left field. “If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?” I answered without even thinking that I would go to England to see James in concert as they were embarking on their last tour with their lead singer. I was surprised that the woman noted my entire statement, as she read it back to be verbatim. That night, when I was driving home from my oppressive job, I suddenly decided that I would go. 

Here’s an image of my stuff to give you an idea of light I was traveling.

That next week I made the flight arrangements and booked tickets for the last three concerts of the tour. I invited my best friend from Ohio, M, and he agreed to go along on the journey. 

I packed very lightly. A small backpack to carry my laptop (gilda), my digital camera (with which I took the pictures you’ll see), and 12 rechargeable batteries and their charger, plus a power converter so I could recharge everybody. I took a small, and I mean small duffle bag with me which contained all of my clothing and toiletries for the week (which was basically two pairs of jeans, my Van’s, extra socks and undies, various shirts, a wool sweater, a fleece hooded and zippered sweatshirt, gloves, my lovely soft Italian hood/scarf tube-thing, and other various bits. I rounded things off with my leather biker jacket, a pair of black pants and black boots (all of which were worn on the way over.) I’m glad I took the boots, as I’m rather short and the extra height was great at the last concert….
I ended up carrying my backpack with me just about everywhere, as I was too paranoid to leave gilda alone often, even though we were usually staying in very nice hotels. 

So anyway, on December 6, 2001, I boarded a plane to Chicago. I had booked our flights so that we ended up flying out of Chicago on the same plane. I managed to get M a flight out after his last exam and I arrived in Chicago shortly after his flight landed. I called home to check on my mom, who was having surgery that day. My father reported all was well, which was good, as if anything had gone wrong I would have been on the next flight to Cleveland instead of London. We boarded the flight to London and I gave up my window seat and sat next to a child with a cold so we could sit together. The flight over was uneventful, as the kid passed out shortly after takeoff. According to his father he was on antihistamines I drank a lot of hot tea and juice on that flight to ward off any thing. I really didn’t want to be ill for this week of my life. 

We landed in London shortly after dawn. After collecting M’s big bag we went through customs. Now while I had booked our air travel in advance, I didn’t book any of our hotels in advance, as I had money and the desire to just sort of go with the flow. This apparently caused a bit of a problem with the customs agent, who wanted to know exactly where I would be staying. I sort of lied to them and just named a hotel on my handy-dandy preprinted list of possible digs for each of the cities we’d be visiting. That got us through with no more than a seriously raised eyebrow, and to the poor agent’s credit, we did look fairly ragtag, as we were traveling light. Mark just had a big rucksack and I had my small backpack and itty-bitty duffle bag. In reality we were on vacation and I could give a rat’s ass about money, but I didn’t want to announce that sort of thing after just landing.

Page 2

We left the airport, caught the underground to the Euston train station, bought tickets out to Manchester, and I called the first hotel on my list (Britannia Hotel on Portland Street) to book a room (which happened to be where I told the customs agent we were going to stay.) I picked up some snacks and we boarded our train.

We then set out on the first leg of the trek across the island. We got in to Manchester late in the afternoon and walked to the hotel. Check in was accomplished easily enough, but our room was on the fifth floor. Thankfully the lift got us there.

Here are pics of the room.

After we unpacked and freshened up a bit, we head out into the streets. I ended up standing in line for over an hour to book our train tickets for the next several days. The rail system’s efficiency has definitely declined since I lived out there, but I didn’t want to deal with renting a car, or so I thought. Next time I go over, I’m definitely going to be driving. Still, the extra sleep I caught while on the trains made the choice a good one for the trip.

After taking care of our travel up to Edinburgh and then back down to England, we went back to the hotel for some food. Then it was about a fifteen block walk to the G-Mex Arena for the first concert.

Page 3
The First Concert

We got to the arena and I stood in line for what felt like ages to pick up the tickets. Then we found our way to our seats. We were in the nose bleed section (207–upper right in the pic), but considering how late I bought the tickets and the fact that M firmly refused to find standing tickets, I really couldn’t complain. 

We had a great view of everything: the crowd, stage, crew, etc. When we entered the arena, the opening act, Turin Brakes, was already midway through their set. They were pretty good, but the crowd was anxious for the main event.

The arena was packed, and when I saw how many people were down on the floor I was kind of glad I wasn’t down there too. I had just flown for roughly 12 hours and then sat on the underground and on a train for five more just to get here. While far from the stage, it was really a great way to see the first show.

After what seemed like a very long wait, James came on stage and started things off with “Say Something” and then they played “Waltzing Along” and “Sometimes”. I started experimenting a bit with my little digital camera and took some non-flash pics of one of the huge video screens. Not the greatest, but still nice mementos.

The next songs in the set were “Laid”, “I Know What I’m Here For”, and “God Only Knows”. It was great to hear the world famous “Laid” live but seeing them perform “God Only Knows” was incredible. Andy Diagram, who was performing again with the band for this tour was simply incredible. A live and loud ringing trumpet made the performance spectacular as Tim played preacher and Michael (I think) voiced the man behind the curtain/megaphone. 

They followed up with a very quiet rendition of “Someone’s Got It In For Me” and then “Vervaceous”. Then everyone but Tim and Jim Glennie left the stage and Larry Gott, a former member of stage came out. An acoustic performance of “Protect Me” with Tim sitting between the two guitarists was quite lovely.

The lovely quiet spell of songs continued when, David Baynton-Power, Mark Hunter, Saul rejoined the trio for “Out To Get You”. The quiet ended there in many ways as Saul’s equipment went out. He was less than pleased with the occurrence and wandered about the stage with his violin muttering while a tech scurried about making things right. James switched gears after that started off on another series of definitely non-quiet moments. First with Hymn From a Village and then, after Saul’s amp woes were resolved, with Johnny Yen. They then, after Larry and Andy left the stage, played the first song of the night from their recent album–“Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)”. 

The highlight of the night for me was the next song, “Tomorrow”. It is hands down, my favorite song by James. When I first heard it, I didn’t really care for it, but the anthem is now my very favorite and I’ve gone so far as to put it on one of my business cards. Silly I know, but hey, I have faith in things like that. The set finished out with “Born of Frustration” and “Ring the Bells”. Everything went dark and I was afraid that truly was the end of the evening.

Thankfully, the band (including Andy and Larry but minus Tim and Saul) returned to the stage. Tim appeared out in the crowd on the right side of the stadium (from where we were sitting) to sing “Top of the World” as Saul and his violin appeared on the opposite side of the arena to accompany Tim. It was a very poetic moment.

Then Tim and Saul disappeared as the band began the opening strains of “Sound”, another one of my favorites. The song live was a stunning work lasting over ten minutes, but I wouldn’t have loved to hear even more. The lights went dim then, but the band soon returned for a second encore. They began quietly again with “Space” and followed up with “She’s A Star”. They then kicked things up once more with “Come Home” before performing their last song. It was a lovely finish to the concert too, as while Mark played the intro keyboard, Tim and the crowd sang the opening verse before the rest of the band joined in the event. What started as a very sad moment, with just Tim and the crowd singing those rather depressing opening lyrics, became a joyous and very uplifting moment as everyone in the arena was carried along by the song and it’s, dare I say, message. This was James’s last hometown concert with the singer who had been with them for some twenty years and it was lovely way to say good-bye.

Page 4
On to Scotland

After the concert M and I made our way back to the hotel. It was close to midnight and we stopped at a chip shop to pick up some food. It was cold out, but not as bad as I had expected, but that could have been due to the adrenaline. After eating a bit all my energy just left me and I wanted a nice warm bed. We made it to the hotel, where the staff were waiting it seems. I had to show them my key before they’d let us through the door which I thought was rather odd. I didn’t think anything of it though until the next morning. We had to be up very early to catch our 6am train up to Edinburgh and when I went down to check out, there was a party going on in one of the rooms off the lobby. I could hear people singing (not loudly) and some light chatter and I have this suspicion now that James was there–a private party. I’m kicking myself now because I didn’t ask or just peek in to see for myself.

Machester Station

Anyway, we then trudged off to catch our train. After a little wait it arrive and we boarded it. We passed out shortly thereafter. I woke from a short nap and tried to figure out where we were. I made the mistake of asking the conductor where we were to disembark, as I was too tired to figure out what was actually written on the tickets. (The writing wasn’t exactly legible.) He informed me to change at Lancaster, so we got off at Lancaster. Mistake. Seems on that day, due to rail work being done that day, there would not be a connecting train. We waited at the station for a few hours until the next train that would get us to Carlisle. We boarded that train and got to Carlisle. I inquired with the station manager who politely wrote down “Misguided by director, please pass through” on our tickets and we caught a coach to Glasgow as the next train to Edinburgh wouldn’t leave for several more hours. The coach ride was a pleasant change of pace and we got in to Glasgow where I once again asked for assistance–making use of my lovely American accent. This time we need to head over to another station within the city to catch the next train to Edinburgh. A quick shuttle ride and we were there. There are trains every half hour between the cities, so we were soon in Edinburgh. The trip took an extra hour and a half, but everyone along the way was so helpful and as there was no concert that evening, I didn’t stress over the delays.

We arrived in Edinburgh and I found a hotel–the Hanover House. Right across the street was an Internet cafe, where I soon went and checked my mail. M and I then wandered the streets a bit. We had dinner at a pub down the street from the hotel and then we wandered about the city. We took in a movie (Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone–and if someone could please explain why it’s the Sorcerer’s Stone here and the Philosopher’s stone there, I’d greatly appreciate it.) We returned to the hotel, and I finally had lots of postcards to write on and then send. M went to sleep and I went over to catch up on my mail, as while I couldn’t plug gilda into a spare Ethernet port, I could use one of the hundreds of Kiosks to stay in some semblance of contact. The connection back to my server wasn’t exactly secure, but I was obscured by the masses enough I didn’t worry too much.

Part 5
Edinburgh Castle and Such

The next day we got up and headed out to see the castle. I had been there years ago with my parents, but this time I had a camera and I took a lot of pictures. These are some of my favorites.

Page 6
Even more images of Edinburgh.

After the castle we went to the a museum down the street. I took these images amoung the various exhibits of optical illusions and tricks.

Page 6
The Glasgow Concert

After a day of site seeing, we found a pub and had dinner. Then we walked to the train station and caught a train to Glasgow for the second concert.
We arrived in Glasgow and headed towards the metro trains. Finally caught a train out to the SECC. It was packed with people heading to the concert. We finally arrived and entered the building. I headed over to one of the sales booths and picked up stuff. I ended purchasing three shirts and a program. We then found our seats. We were once again fairly far from the stage but at close to eye-level this time. We had arrived in ample time to hear the opening band’s full set. They were pretty good and the crowd, while rowdy didn’t seem as rude as at the previous concert.

After what seemed like forever, James took the stage, opening loudly with a wonderful and flashy performance of “Laid”. They followed it up with “Waltzing Along” and then “Sometimes”. The crowd was great and we had a good view of the rolling sea of people standing in front of the stage. 
I remembered the first time I saw James perform live–from the balcony of the Newport in Ohio. Back then Tim had surfed the crowd, but it was an older band up there now. They were more content to enjoy the crowd where it was as they jammed over the first wave of adrenaline.

“She’s a Star” was next up, followed by “I Know What I’m Here For”. They then turned things up a notch with a performance of “God Only Knows” that in my opinion blew their version of the previous night to shreds. Andy simply wailed and the power from the rest of the band reached an ecstatic level. I’d never heard James play with such ferocity and it was wonderful.
The pace dropped down considerably as they followed up with the quiet of “Vervaceous” and then “Out to Get You”. Apparently they were running problem free, as there were no indications of the equipment failures that had occurred at the last concert.

The high energy kicked in again with a strong, if not spectacular performance of “Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)”. The band followed up with one of my favorites, the witty “Destiny Calling”. They seemed to falter at first with it though, and ended up restarting after the first few bars, but after beginning again they seemed to “let it all go”.

Next the band launched off into “English Beefcake” and I thought how lovely it would be if Brian Eno joined them to provide the harmonies, but alas, not on this evening. (Little did I know….), but my disappointment quickly faded, as the band then launched into the best performance of “Tomorrow” (my favorite song at that) I had ever heard. Tears came to my eyes as I realized, while I still had one more night to enjoy, this was really it. While James would go on, their voice was changing. Not necessarily a bad thing, but still something to mourn before moving on to experience whatever comes next.

Another of my favorites followed as the band quietly began “Johnny Yen”. The quiet didn’t last long, however, as the energy soon climbed again and the band followed with “Born of Frustration” and finally “Ring the Bells”. The band then left the stage and the lights went out. I craned my head about as I tried to figure out where Tim would appear, as the opening bars of “Top of the World” quietly began. He appeared in the center of the stands (we were pretty much sitting in bleachers) and Saul remained on stage for this performance, as the two serenaded one another across the crowd.

At this point M wished to leave, but I wasn’t up for leaving just yet. Besides, I reasoned, we had an hour to get to the train station still. So we got to see the band perform “Space” . The soft opening soon bloomed into a lovely and uplifting bass-driven sound-scape that was then followed by another great performance of “Sound”. As if the orgasmic finale of Sound wasn’t enough energy, James went one step farther and launched into “Come Home” at full force, as Tim announced “Time is running out. Enjoy every second now.” The crowd was frenzied as the opening synth melody washed over them and the rest of the band joined and restraint was left somewhere off-stage.

As the song ended I realized it was really getting late, and I worried a bit about whether we should leave, but I wasn’t going to miss one bit of any of the concerts, so I told M not to worry as Tim announced this next would really be the last one. The opening bars of “Sit Down” then began and I think everyone in the place was singing along as James sang yet one more good-bye.

The lights came back up and M and I made for the doors. We had roughly forty minutes to get to the train station and I figured we could catch a taxi once we reached the outside. Unfortunately one wrong decision landed us right in the middle of a herd of people and it took roughly fifteen minutes for us to make our way through the crowd. We finally gained the exterior only to discover we were most likely on the wrong side from the main entrance and trains. I fought down the panic that rose up in my throat as I realized we had less than twenty-five minutes to get to the train station or else we’d probably be stranded in Glasgow and thus, we’d miss our train down to London. I didn’t want to think about the consequences of that, so I cast about for a moment before calling out to two young guys walking out into the car park. They were kind enough to stop as I asked them which direction was which, and as I feared, they told me I was indeed, on the wrong side of the building. They asked me what time our train was and when I told them they assured me I would certainly miss it. They then asked me where we were going and I replied back to Edinburgh–at which point they kindly offered us a ride, as that is where they were from! I thanked my karmic stars and after thanking them profusely, we settled into the back seat.

It turns out that Doug and Oscar had attended the concert after getting tickets from someone who couldn’t use them at the last minute. They had driven up from Edinburgh and had arrived just in time for the show. On the way back, Doug drove quickly, which wasn’t difficult at that hour of night with the roads virtually clear of traffic, and in thirty minutes’ time we had passed our scheduled train and were back at our hotel in Edinburgh.
Unfortunately I can’t seem to remember how to spell Doug’s last name properly, even though I wrote it down. Thus, I can’t get an e-mail out to him, but I am so very grateful to both of them for their kindness to two very silly Americans.

Page 7
On to London

Warning–Gross Story Follows:

We awoke early once again and set off to catch our train to London. I felt tired and weak and then strain from traveling was starting to take it’s toll on my system. I had to stop and rest at one point and M kindly took my duffle bag for me. We soon were at the station and I collapsed on a bench and waited for some strength to return. My sugar levels were dangerously low and I tried to munch on a granola bar, but it induced too much nausea. Eventually the train pulled in and we boarded, but a few moments later I had to dash back out to the platform where my stomach proceeded to rid itself of all the insulin loaded bile. A conductor walked by and asked if I was all right, to which I nodded. He probably assumed I was hung-over. I wiped off my mouth and got back on the train–non too soon, as it soon started on its way. Thankfully the worst of the sugar problem was over and I made certain after that episode to take care of myself so it wouldn’t happen again.

UK 12/2001 image

We changed trains in Carlisle and arrived in London via Euston that afternoon. I thought a bus would be quicker than the underground, but I had forgotten that it was the Christmas shopping season. After a half an hour of stop and go’s we disembarked and headed to the underground. Another half an hour later and we were in Kensington. I guided us from memory to the hotel I had often stayed at when living in the UK and we found a room. We went off in search of food and ended up at a little Italian restaurant around the corner. Against M’s protests that it was too early, we then boarded the underground again and set off for Wembley arena and the last concert.

Page 8
The London Show

We arrived at the arena, or rather we disembarked from the underground and made our way the some 10 blocks to the arena. Thankfully I had the tickets for this show in my grubby little paw and thus I wouldn’t have to go through the will call trial again. We found the entrance and I found a scalper. He named his price and I took time to think it over and call Frances (my host-mom, but more on that on the next page) to let her know I’d be out to see her the next day. After the call I walked back over to the scalper and handed over seventy-five quid and my existing tickets in exchange for two standing tickets. We then walked into the arena and I found a spot along the rail.

I was excited, as while the first two concerts had been great, I had been so very far from the band. The crowds between the stage and my view had been vast and also vastly different from each other. First the hometown crowd of thousands had created an emotional tidal wave and then a huge mass of Scottish students had relished in the energy and abandon that James created with and for them. After two shows peering at the band with binoculars I was going to be as close as possible, as this was the end of a huge part of my life. Whatever James metamorphosed into once Tim left would be something new, and this was the last good-bye on my trip.

I didn’t want the night to end, even the waiting before the opening act came out I was happy to chatter away with M. An interesting bit of luck occurred as I offhandedly started talking to two guys near us. Trying to shed some of my nervous energy I included them a bit in the discussion and soon I was chatting merrily away with one of them.

Olivier had flown over from Montreal for this one concert and he pumped me for every bit of information I could share from the previous two concerts. He was an avid fan and we were soon swapping bits and pieces of song-knowledge and band-lore. M soon decided he to leave us for the safety of the side wall saying he was to old to all the way up front. Pfph…he’s only a couple of years older than I.

All too soon the opening act took the stage, and while they were good, I barely remember any of their performance. I did manage to pick up a cassette of a couple of their songs, and can now say they’re quite good. After Turin Brakes left the stage it was time to set up things for James. Unlike Manchester which had used a large white cloth curtain to hide the band’s setup (and the curtain was dropped just as James began to play,) this time everything was in plain site (similar to the Glasgow concert.)

Soon enough the spot light guys started up their tiny ladders. I had seen them rise up above the crowds before the past two concerts, but I hadn’t realized how tiny the ladders were. They were soon ensconced in their seats as safely as one can be and the crowd started to buzz even more with anticipation.

Suddenly it was time and the band appeared and opening chords of “Laid” breathed out. The crowd loved it and the band followed up with “Waltzing Along”. I was a bit worried that the set list would be the same as the proceeding night, but then I remembered Larry was due back and that might spice things up a bit. “Tomorrow” followed and my fears were put aside, as while not nearly as wrenching as the performance the proceeding night, the band was beginning to mix things up a bit. “She’s a Star” followed on the heals of “Tomorrow” and the band’s energy seemed to be growing stronger.

“I Know What I’m Here For” quickened the pace, as Michael and Adrian (who were directly in front of me) seemed to awaken as they and the rest of the band finally started to let it go a bit. The energy finally began to climb the ladder as James then launched into another high-powered performance of “God Only Knows”.

All went quiet then, and Larry came out on stage with his chair, as the rest of the band exited. Larry and Jim once again sat beside Tim and the three performed “Protect Me”. It was incredible to see the three together up close and while the song was very quiet in tone and pace, the energy continued to climb. The rest of the band, minus Adrian and Michael returned for a great rendition of “Out To Get You” and followed by a dizzying performance of Hymn From a Village.

Throughout the performance Olivier and I commented about this or that song as I fought to keep my feet from being smushed by the screaming teenie-boppers nearby. (Actually that was the one annoying blip on the radar that whole evening–as I stood next to three of the most annoying girls possible. Screaming and waving as if they were at a Duran Duran concert. I just showed my age there didn’t I? How about New Kids on the Block? No? well maybe those Backbeat Boys then.) Anyway, suffice it to say I have blocked out most of the horror and I avoided making contact with their heads and my fist fairly well.

The concert continued as James, minus Larry now, launched into “Someone’s Got It In For Me” and it seemed that a bit of the energy was falling off. Not to worry though, as with their next song, “Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)” the energy began to flow again. The crowd enjoyed the new single and cheered when James then launched off into “English Beefcake”. I thought it was a bit odd when before “English Beefcake” a second microphone stand was brought out and placed next to Michael, as that meant there would be an additional player on the stage. As Tim began to wind down the first half of the song, a short figure walked out and took his place at the additional mike. I saw that he was bald and then suddenly knew it was. As the spot came up, Olivier and I turned to each other and actually screamed “Oh my god, it’s Brian Eno” in unison. We then turned and became enraptured with the performance. While Eno had a bit of trouble harmonizing at first, I think it was partly due to the falsetto and the possibility that he wasn’t on a monitor. Still, seeing Eno in the flesh was incredible. He stayed on stage for the next song, “Sometimes” which ended with an incredible jam session.

James then started in to “Johnny Yen”, and while I had heard it at the proceeding two concerts, neither performance was close to the energy or rather manic frenzy of this performance. I’m sure a great deal of my sentiment was helped by the fact that Tim moved stage left and sang right in front of me–at one point he seemed to stare into my eyes as we both sang the lyrics.

I was so entranced that it was only when Olivier frantically nudged me and told me to take a picture that I awoke a bit. I managed to do so, and I realized I had barely taken any pics the entire concert. I began clicking a bit more often….

All too soon “Johhny Yen” was completed and the band moved on to “Born of Frustration” and then “Ring the Bells”. The lights went dark as the band left the stage, but I didn’t despair, instead I once again began looking about as I tried to determine where Tim, and possibly Saul, would appear.

The band returned to the stage and the opening bars of “Top of the World Began”. Tim soon appeared in the far back of the arena and Saul was up in the stands on the opposite side from where I stood. It was another lovely moment and it faded all too soon.

After “Top of the World”, Larry rejoined the group and they began to jam a bit as “Sound”‘s first bars were introduced. Tim and Saul rejoined the band on stage and they group proceeded to jam for well over ten minutes. It was quiet incredible as each member played to dominate and then mesh back in to the rich musical fabric of the piece. Years of working and performing together had led up to each performance of “Sound” on the tour, and I’m still not sure which of those I saw was “the best”. All too soon it ended though, and the lights went dark again. I knew they’d return one last time though and the tears started to well up in my eyes.

The band returned and performed a raucous “Come Home”. I knew what was next after having been to the other concerts, but so did the crowd, as there really was only one other song left for the band to play that night.

And so, with that lovely keyboard opening from Mark, Tim and the audience began to sing the first verse of “Sit Down”. Eno had rejoined the group to make it a full ten band members for the very last hurrah. Thus, except for a two missing souls that night, everyone who had performed as a member of the band plus one of their most influential producers, was present to sing the anthem one last time. A few fans were hoisted out of the crowd (one of the annoying teenie boppers thus disappeared and my toes were thankfully saved) and as the band played the last notes of the song, and began to take their bows, the crowd continued singing that lovely refrain. The band and Eno graciously remained on stage for a bit, waving and smiling to the fans, but eventually they all disappeared.

Exiting Stage Left.

Concert Epilogue:

As the concert crowd dispersed and M and I made our way back to the hotel, the euphoria and sadness began to disperse and my mind wandered through my memories

I discovered James and their music during college. They were touring to promote Laid when an old high school friend invited me to see them. We got there early and found spots in the balcony that circled the pit. The opening act was a lone female guitarist and the place was packed, and once James took the stage it was all over for me. I had once been a rabid REM fan, but after the release of Green my interest had fallen off as they had become too popular and too commercial. James on the other hand was the same age as REM, but the bulk of their music was undiscovered country to me. Within the next year I had collected all of their studio albums and had started learning about their singles catalogue. I didn’t know much about the band members themselves and I really didn’t care to know everything down to their last bowel movement. The music was what was important, but slowly, over the years, I began to find out bits and pieces about the band through their music. Then, when the biography Folklore was released, I bought an advance copy and suddenly a whole new portal of understanding into the music opened up to me.

For me James has always been a pretty private event. Very few people I meet know who the band is unless I play or sing “Laid” for them. While on one hand this makes them in many ways my little secret, in other ways it’s frustrating, as I know that such a talented and incredible group should have a larger audience. Over the years I’ve looked forward to each new release as my collection has slowly grown to include a few rarities and bootlegs, and lately I’ve been trying to gather video bits and pieces, but as most things are in PAL, that’s going to be a long process. Even with the diversions, of a book and videos however, the music still remains the central facet.

I listen to the music when I want. I’m not inundated with it day in and day out like I would be were they carried on the radio. I’ve gone through periods of times where I have my fifty-one disc CD player loaded with all James discs. I’ve played one song over and over–usually great to do when coding or other concentration sensitive tasks. I’ve incorporated many of their lyrics into purgatory–always with credit of course. And I’ve flown over five thousand miles and traveled for days with little sleep to see them in their last concerts with Tim singing lead vocals.

While Tim has said good-bye to the band and Saul, Jim, Mark, David, Adrian and Michael have stated James will continue on without him. James is once again going to change and I think everyone who enjoys their music is uncertain what that change will bring. That distinctive voice and that distinctive flailing dance have left the stage and the fans are waiting to see what will appear when the lights come back up. I too wait, and as I do so, I continue to enjoy the music the band has created–music that continues to provide much of the soundtrack for my life.

Page 9
To Walesby

The next morning I slept in until 9am. Then I was up and was off to the train station. I was heading off to Retford to visit family. M had elected to stay in London, which was probably a good decision as we were starting to bug one another. I, on the other hand, was off to visit my host family. I had first met Ron and Francis when I went overseas to attend UEA. Before going to the university I stayed with them for several days and we got along so well I visited often during my time at UEA. My parents also got to meet my host-family when they came to England to visit me and the next year my host mother and her eldest daughter, Liane, visited my family in Ohio. It had been five years since I ‘d seen them so this would be a great bonus to my trip.

I boarded the train at Victoria and ended up sitting across from a dancer on his way to Leads to perform with a company. We had a pleasant conversation and soon I disembarked and found Ron waiting outside the station to ferry me back to their house. It was a very pleasant visit, and I ate way too much and we all chatted until late into the evening. Sadly their dog Sable had passed away six months earlier and thus was not there to demand my lap space and attention.

I stayed over that night and the next day Ron drove us down to Peterborough to see Karen. I got to meet her son Sam and we all had lunch before Francis and Liane took me to the train station. All too soon I was back on my way to London.

These are some of the pictures I took with my camera.

pics of the new kitchen and dining room

Page 10
Back to London

I arrived back in London in the late afternoon and I headed to Camden market. I poked about a bit but had little luck finding any James rarities. I did find a few Christmas presents though as I poked about the stalls. I didn’t want to buy too much, as my bags were already quite full, as after the concert at Wembley I had picked up an extra T-shirt and program for a friend, plus a mug for myself. 

I grew tired of shopping though so after an hour or so I then across London to Westminster Abbey as I had never visited it. The abbey was all right, but over the years I’ve slowly become burned out on churches. It was nice to see Poets’ Corner and some of the other historic spots, but I didn’t linger. I headed back to Kensington and dumped my stuff off in the hotel room. M was out so I left him a note. I then set off unencumbered by my backpack. (I had left my duffel bag with him before heading off to Retford.) I went to a pub across the street and met a few staff members from a hostel chain. It was a pleasant way to spend an hour or two, but I soon left them and headed down to Picadilly Circus as I wanted to pick up a copy of the new release of James b-sides. I stopped off at HMV, Virgin and of course Tower. Tower was much smaller than I had remembered, but I still managed to buy a few interesting things. I wandered about a bit and I thought about taking in a movie, but there wasn’t anything showing that interested me. I did get to see the setup for _The Fellowship of the Ring_ at Leicester Square though, as it was due to open the next day. I headed back up the way I had come and popped into the Trocadero. Most of the stores were quiet, but I found a lovely little store called Octopus where I purchased a cute little sugar bowl as well as some wheeled salt and pepper shakers and a cute little purple ring.

I then returned to the hotel. M was already there and we chatted as we prepared for our return flights that next day. I had not been able to schedule us out on the same flight, so I was due to leave a few hours before him that next morning.

The next morning I rose early and headed out. I arrived at Heathrow and suddenly panicked as I thought the line for Air Jamica was the line for American Airlines. Not to worry for long though, as I soon found the right line and just a few minutes later I had gotten my boarding pass, checked my duffle bag (I needed to carry on my sugar bowl and a few other items in an extra bag,) and was on my way to the gate. Security was much easier than that of the US, as it was just so efficient. The same procedures with a lot less hassles. 

I managed to navigate through the duty-free shop without buying anything and soon enough I was at the gate and ready to board my flight. It had been a lovely trip and sadly I had to go home. 

The flight to JFK was uneventful and soon it was time to disembark, get my bags, go through customs, recheck my bags, find my new gate and get on another plane. The last bit of the trip was tiring, but I eventually got in and home and there was much rejoicing–well sort of, as the next chapter in my life certainly was not as much fun as this one and I’m still dealing with the outcome, but more on that later.