Day 8 – Edinburgh. I spent part of last summer here, performing Paradoxical Undressing at the Fringe Festival. MJ, the show’s stage manager, meets us at Cabaret Voltaire (fun fact: there are 8 stories of subterranean apartments below the club) so we can catch up over dinner in the Thai restaurant where a waitress once asked us, “How are you? Sweaty and crying?” I love that place. I ask people if they’re sweaty and crying all the time now.
Our favorite friendly Viking, Olaf Furniss, shows up right before set time and Billy blanches, as he rarely survives an evening with Olaf and his hip flask of mescal. We agree to meet for coffee in the morning rather than making a night of it; Billy exhales.
Day 9 – Travel day. After coffee with Olaf, we drag Ethical Paul to Thirsk so we can take pictures of James Herriot’s surgery and have a beer at his favorite bar. We’re Yorkshire-geeked, Paul is bemused, but drinks his beer politely. Then we drive to the B & B we’ve booked for the night, hoping it comes with a wacky old lady who could be our temporary grandma. It does. It also comes with a nuclear power plant.
We thought Butlins was weird! This is even more post-apocolyptic. We wonder if the combination of the tremendous heat in the B & B and radiation have given our new grandma tentacles, or something even cooler, like super powers. Then she tells us that she trips on mole hills, which could happen to someone with tentacles, but probably not someone with super powers.
Day 10 – York. Granny Nuke thinks we’re staying 2 nights and no one wants to hurt her feelings, so we don’t check out, we just spend the day wandering around York, calling the club every couple of hours to see if they’ll let us in. Eventually, someone feels sorry for us and unlocks the door. It smells like a mushroom farm in the dressing room, but the people are lovely.
We swap out the sweet-as-pie “Welsh hobo” opener, Chris Rees, for keening local, Chris Helme, fresh from a train tour (“are you a hobo?” I ask him). He’s great. Then I play way up high on a stage upon a stage. I actually bump my head on the rigging. Three encores; the audience is super swell.
We pack up, settle up, load out, then back to Granny Nuke’s.
Day 11 – I spend the morning catching rabbits. Well, trying to. British rabbits are faster than ours, I think. Saying goodbye to our temporary grandma is harder than we thought it’d be. We’re all a little worried about leaving her there in the shadow of the cooling towers.
We drive to Lancaster, a beautiful town. Everything there is made of stone except the trees. My old friends Patrick and Karl meet me at the pub across the street from the venue and tell me that they’re getting married. I’m thrilled; I actually well up (I swear I’m not a girl). Before I can congratulate them, a scalper interrupts to ask if I want to buy tickets to the Kristin Hersh show.
Day 12 – Burnley. Get to meet the amazing Fin, a young Toby Snax fan who is recovering from brain surgery. He is precious and bright and working so hard right now. Fin brings gifts: a sparkly pine cone, a homemade card, birthday candles. I well up again (maybe I am a girl). I sign his book and draw him a picture of Toby. I wish I had more to offer this brave little boy.
Tonight’s show is in a library as part of the Get It Loud in Libraries series. I was really looking forward to reading some books tonight (I can never bring enough books on tour) but the improvised dressing room is in the large print true crime section. Billy smuggles in a gardening book and I make do with that. Burnley Library is a beautiful venue with perfect sound – packed, yet casual. This series is a great idea.
Day 13 – Travel day. I ask my Twitter pals for a scenic drive to Norwich and they send us through the Peak district. Lordy, it’s nice. “This is pretty fuckin’ quaint,” says Billy and I have to agree.
We get to our hotel early enough to have Ethical Paul over for a couple of episodes of “Jeeves and Wooster.” Anglophilin’ out.
Day 14 – Norwich. All I knew about Norwich before today was the British TV series “I’m Alan Partridge,” a brilliant piece of squirmy pain.
The Norwich we drive to has nothing to do with squirmy pain, however. I’ve heard that I’m playing in a church that’s been converted to an arts center, so we pull up at a church that’s been converted to an arts center, but there’s no Kristin Hersh show scheduled. We notice another church a few doors down, one that appears to have been converted to an arts center, and wonder at the coincidence. “That’s gotta be the venue,” says Billy. It’s not.
“Try down the block,” they suggest. We keep walking until we find another church that’s been converted to an arts center, but they’ve never heard of me either. The fourth converted church we come to is where the show is.
As if Alan Partridge wasn’t cool enough. This town literally worships art. Wicked.