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Dirty Clyde & the Zuiderzee

Next in the blog series. You’ll see when this one got started..

I’m on the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, catching a flight this morning to Vienna to visit my parents. It’s early (7:15am or so), and the sky is overcast grey clouds hanging low. Slivers of light from the east up ahead are fighting their way through and a cloudy mist is touching the tops of the hills. The landscape is at times open and broad, farm fields with sheep, a river dyke, groups of houses and gently sloping hills. Now a fiery white sun reveals itself like the moon in the day.

Last night was fantastic. Long, full day on the bus from Bath to Glasgow. Slept a good bit and finished reading Hemingway’s short story collection Men Without Women, which I’d picked up in Bath and started in the park. Took a bus to the venue easily, put down my bags and walked along the Clyde and around the area in search of a Tesco to get flowers for the Larkin Poe team. Could only find a Spar convenience store (no flowers) so had to settle for some chocolates instead. What a venue. It’s called The Ferry and it’s a big boat with an upstairs dining hall which overlooks the stage and downstairs music room. It’s a small stage and the drummer sits in an alcove with a low ceiling. Has hosted a lot of great acts- Gillian Welch, The Jayhawks, and others. Backstage looked out on the Clyde and the sludgy brown water on its edges. Rebecca asked “Would you rather sing into a mic covered in cow dung or a mic covered in someone else’s vomit?” Cow dung, no question. I added, “Cow dung or the River Clyde?”. Cow dung, again, for me. Intimate show with a wonderful small audience, and enjoyed meeting everyone. Turns out the Low Anthem were in town as well. Figured I’d pass some time at a bar in town until it closed and then make my way to the train station to either catch a late night train or wait a few hours for the first morning train to Edinburgh. Instead Graeme and his wife Christine invited me over, and I had a great night chatting with them about Mali, music, travels, and listening to Hazeldine and my Mali album. Had some fine Laphroaig Scottish whiskey from Islay in the southern Hebrides (George Orwell’s writing retreat, apparently), which was the smoothest and most pleasant I’ve ever had. Graeme walked me to the train station early and I’m on the move again. Got to see the ‘west end’, I think, of Glasgow and it’s a nice area.. nicest I’ve seen, actually, Glasgow definitely has an edge, and everyone warned me not to pick a fight there. Was happy to see another side, so to speak.

The Netherlands. Feels far removed now, having just finished the UK leg of the tour. But it was a great two weeks. Met Crash at the train station in Amsterdam and the dragging began as we lugged our bags around a few streets in search of the bus we needed for Edam. Finally got it, with a bit of direction from a bus driver, and we slowly and painfully made our way to De Harmonie, a really cool bar, cafe, pension, and music room along one of the canals in the center of town. Got a bit of a nap in and played a fun show. Hung out with some cool people there as a party band played the late night set. De Harmonie always seems to be the spot for Sunday night fun in Edam. Next day we walked along the dykes to Volendam and back. Nice little town, a bit touristy along the waterfront, but a neat place. I decided I needed to lighten my load because my bags were way too heavy to endure for the whole time in The Netherlands, so I estimated how many CDs and t-shirts I might need in Netherlands and sent a number of shirts and cds away to England to pick up upon arrival there two weeks later. Still felt heavy, plus the rolling bag had busted on the flight over, and continued to warp itself as I rolled it down the many cobblestone streets around the country. By the end of The Netherlands one wheel was completely gone and two others were misshaped and didn’t roll well, so the bag got scraped to bits as we went along. Anyway, we got to Amsterdam and checked into a cheap hostel in the Red Light district, across from a place called “Gay Cinema”. The Decemberists were playing at Paradiso, and we went down there to see if there were any tickets. We found a guy selling two for face value and decided to go for it. It was packed in there, and we were standing right in the middle of an unmarked route linking the floor of the venue and the bar just outside the show room. So I got bumped constantly and kept moving back and forth to dodge the hundreds of pilgrims passing on the way. Loved the show, though. I have all their albums and had never seen them. Great band, and a totally fun show. They finished with “June Hymn” from the new album, The King is Dead (love it!), and the song was stuck in my head for the next ten days or so. “Summer comes to Springville.. Hill”. Crash got annoyed as I would start humming or singing it without realizing, over and over for days. Had some local beer next to the Grasshopper and called it a night, sleeping in a tiny room about four feet wide with some friendly, stoned German roommates.