I was sewing. Finn nudged me in the side. I looked out the plane window. There were a lot of mountains. Really a lot of mountains. With snow on em. Then there was a glacier, I think. And some rivers. And more mountains. More snow. I stood up. Dan and Raife were about six rows back.
I mimed that he should nudge Raife to wake up. He looked at Raife, whose sleeping head was lolling sideways into the aisle and shook his head.
It was quite something. I’d never been to Queenstown before. Apparently the pilot doesn’t always do a loop of the valley before landing, but this time he did. Quite. Something.
I only brought one sweater to New Zealand. I wore a coat to the airport but I didn’t expect to need it. I never thought I’d be so grateful to London Autumn.
'This is the furthest south I've ever been.'
'Y'know, me too. Weird.'
Golly it’s pretty. Really pretty.
There’s a shop in Queenstown that sells, aside from sheep face masks, hats with plastic fists on them that when you squeeze an air pump raise a finger. Didn’t buy one. Don’t know why. Jet lag, probably. To blame for all bad decisions.
Barry and Nancy were in charge. Promoters, ostensibly, occasionally they like to get out on the road and drive some musos around. God knows why - Barry spent the whole trip finding whatever item Raife had happened to lose the night before and then got ill on the last day. Nancy blossomed. But that’s to come. They also had the answers to all the questions.
'You know how this tour is sponsored by Jaeger?'
'Does that mean…..we get free Jaeger?'
'Yeah it does actually. We've got a case up in Auckland for when we get up there. All you can drink, basically.'
The next day we drove to Dunedin. We stopped at a beautiful lake and I regaled everyone with tales of going to the high school national rowing champs in the late nineties ‘at a lake JUST LIKE THIS’ only to turn around and see a sign and realise it was in fact the very same lake. At fifteen, as fit as I’d ever been and probably will ever be, hauling 200kg of boat through 2km of glaciermelt in eight minutes or so, did I ever think I’d be standing on the shore ten years later on my way to play a show in Dunedin?
No. No, I didn’t. I don’t know what I thought I’d be doing. It seems like a long time ago, and in another way not long ago at all.
It’s nice to be home. Nicer even than I thought it would be. The only really bad thing about New Zealand is that not everywhere has internet, and as a result I’ve gotten behind. Also being sans camera means I have to rely on other people’s cameras, and other people’s cameras get lost, or left in places that aren’t where I am. So for photos of Dan chasing sheep you’ll have to wait.
I might try to do it in order, but there’s a lot to tell and I’ve forgotten, probably, some really good parts, and whenever I forget good parts people get All Upset and come up and go ‘But you didn’t put in that part where I said such-and-such and I thought that was SO FUNNY.’ Aside from shows, I’ve been hanging out a lot with this muppet, and her mum. We fell into a pattern where I’d tuck her in at night, and we’d discuss what she wanted to do the next day. It’s nice to hang around with a small somebody whose idea of the most perfect and glorious possibility for the future is hunting for strawberries.
‘Yes.”Hello, I’m Gareth, just introducing myself, I’ll bring you some drinks from up front a bit later on, is everything okay?”Yes everything’s fine. I don’t drink so don’t worry, I’ll be alright.”Oh, okay. Well, give me a shout if you need anything.’ What’s so special about Donna? She’s sitting next to me in economy. We DO have the best seats in economy, the ones by the emergency exit, where you have a clear two metres of leg room in front. I thought maybe Air NZ was secretly thanking me for appearing in their inflight entertainment system (‘A thirty minute interview and acoustic session with Kiwi band THE VEILS’) when I found out I was sitting there, and the appearance of this clearly special Donna person backed that up….but it was mysterious. Nobody was introducing themselves to ME. It had cheered me up a bit though, the seating. Hadn’t been a very good morning. I don’t like goodbyes. The plane got in the air. I thought I’d get my ipod out of my bag. I opened the overhead locker. An orange handbag fell out. Right on Donna’s head. She screamed. I guess if something falls on your head, and you’re on a plane you would scream. I apologised. It was her own bag, at least, but it was a bit like when you accidentally hit someone in the back of the ankles with your trolley in the supermarket queue, and then have to stand there waiting behind them, knowing they’re loathing you. Except worse, because Donna and I were sandwiched together for the next twelve hours. I resolved to try not to do anything else to irritate Donna. She was rubbing her neck in a slightly irritated way. About an hour later I thought I’d get my book out. This time my plastic bag full of sewing supplies cascaded over Donna’s head. Picking spools of thread out of her hair, I apologised as best I could, resigned myself to the waves of loathing pouring over the armrest and discovered that Death Note part 2 was in the movie selection. Thought about listening to our Veils Air New Zealand special. I remember when we did it, we went off on a little rant about how if anyone was listening to it they should jump up and yell out ARE THE VEILS ON THE PLANE because chances were we would be. Nobody did that. I didn’t listen to the special. And ten hours just flew by. As we got off the plane, some stewardess cheerfully told Donna they thought they’d have a seat for her in business on the next leg. It all became clear. Someone at Air NZ had overbooked the business class, and poor old Donna got booted. I wonder how they decide that. Ask for volunteers. ‘Anyone fancy some slumming??’ Got out in LA and sat in a transit lounge watching WWE for a bit. 'Air New Zealand is paging passenger Ian McKellan. Would Mr Ian McKellan please make himself known to an Air New Zealand staff member.' No idea if it was THAT Ian McKellan. Seems possible. Though you’d think paging him would be kinda unnecessary. Just have a glance round the first class section, surely. Or start yelling GANDALF. I wish HE’D been the one to get downgraded. Got back on the plane. Donna sat back next to me. I decided against getting anything out of my bag. Then another stewardess appeared. 'Are you Donna?”Yes.' Jesus. 'Come this way please, we've got you a seat…' And Donna was ushered up the front. Our time together was over. I was so glad not to have to keep sitting by her, terrified of falling asleep and spasming and smacking her in the face, or spilling my coffee on her, or some other horrifyingly gauche incident that I didn’t even resent her for getting to go business. A nice tall man ended up in Donna’s seat. He offered me one of his eye masks (he had two eye masks! TWO!) and though I didn’t drop anything on him I bet he wouldn’t have minded if I did. But just as I thought my trials were over, I heard a noise. A sort of….oh not even a sort of. A bona fide retch. A LOUD retch. A definite retch. From behind. I resisted looking behind me and awaited further developments. It’s weird, planes. I think that’s why the Donna thing was so bad. It’s so rare to be so closely quartered with strangers, to fall asleep inches from another persons sleeping face. All sorts of subtle etiquettes. It’s like that Curb episode where Larry hates that the guy is wearing shorts on the plane. Actually, I was wearing shorts, but I had tights and long socks so I don’t think Larry would’ve minded. Anyway. I feel like one of the things you’re not supposed to do is get too interested in anyone. Like, your neighbour, fine, maybe a short chat. People behind you…they might as well be in another world. Besides, nobody who’s retching wants to be viewed. I heard a stewardess approach. 'Are you ok?”Um, no.' It was a young girl’s voice. 'My friend and I are both really ill and we….we don't know what to do.”Do you want to be offloaded?”……..n……no…..”Well, if worst comes to worst we have oxygen on board. And I'll bring you some sick bags because you won't be able to get to the bathroom during takeoff.' I dunno why she offered oxygen. Maybe oxygen cures nausea. Who knows. They WERE pretty ill. It was rough. The PA came on. 'Hello, uh, this is your captain……uh…..we're being held at the gate, because for some reason…..somehow the plane has been overfuelled by about twenty tonnes. Um…..that takes us way over takeoff weight. Luckily, we're carrying a lot of freight, so I'm afraid we're going to be held here, and they're going to offload 15 tonnes of freight to get us back down to weight. Uh….might be some time, I'll keep you updated.' Lucky for the retchers. They spent the next hour doing bathroom relays. By the time the flight took off an hour later, I’m just going to be honest, they were pretty messy. Like…..damp. I missed Donna. I fell asleep. Seemed like the best option. Put the ipod on, let it run on shuffle, and doze. I may have snuggled the tall man a bit, but I think he was asleep, or at least he was polite about it. In Auckland I saw the retchers at the baggae carousel. They seemed to have recovered. Didn’t see Donna. It turns out that 12 hours of ipod on shuffle is only 200 different songs. I thought it would be more.
I’m going home for the first time in two years on Friday and for some reason I’m really anxious about it. Having those dreams where you thought you were packed and then you discover that for some reason instead of having one suitcase you have five and they’re all full of things and you’ve packed some of your stuff in each of them and now you have to re-pack but theres NO TIME YOU WERE MEANT TO BE AT THE AIRPORT HALF AN HOUR AGO.
On the bright side, leaving London before winter really starts means I will avoid my usual December norovirus panic, where I spend three weeks looking askance at fellow bus passengers, in case they’re about to start projectile vomiting on me, then going home to wash my hands. And the shows are going to be wicked, and it’s going to be sunny and I’m excited about seeing everyone. My camera is still bust but if I can get a new one expect many smug pictures of ice cream and swimming, in the near future. PS another big slow machine that thinks it’s alive.
Got up early and spent the required hour on the train into town, only to go straight back underground.
A friend of mine got a little trigger happy on the booking site, and ended up with spare tickets to this. For some reason we chose to take the early slot, and ended up being led by a nice young man in fluro safety gear, down into a disused tram station under Holborn. He advised us not to touch the walls. When it was built, people were still being towed around by horses.
Didn’t think to bring a camera, so the phone had to do. Call it atmospheric?
It’s a rope making machine.
There was something quite chilling about it. This vast, imperceptibly moving creaturemachine spinning away under the street. And the rope itself was so very pretty.
What I didn’t get a picture of was the way the wheels at either end looked like trees, and the whole thing creaked slightly as it spun, resolute and rainbow coloured. It makes 20cm of rope per hour ending with a 100m length as thick as my wrist, some time early next week.
I dunno if anyone from Sydney comes here, so this is a long shot, but we once found a cat that had been missing for eighteen months on the doorstep of a complete stranger’s house, so you never know.
My mum’s lost her cat. Bella. In the Edgecliffe area. Bella is small - some might say runty - silvery striped, with ears that as you can see border on the ridiculous, and you’ll know her because she makes up all she lacks in size by being the loudest cat you have ever heard in your life. So if you’ve seen, or more likely heard, a small cat going WOW! WOW! WOW! MAOW! WOW!…..get in touch.
Seriously, if I find Bella though this blog, I’m never going to hear ‘maybe you should’ve stayed at law school’ ever again - so you’d be doing me a favour too.
More info and photos that weren’t taken on my phone here. If you’re in London, then go. Better to go on weekdays to avoid queues, according to the guy who was guarding it, but it is free, and there’s a nice courtyard where you can wait your turn.
Gatwick, 9am. We were flying into Ljubljana, Slovenia, then driving to Trieste.
'Is that the plane?'
'That's the plane.'
'I've never heard of Adria airways.'
'It's probably their very first day.'
'THAT'S the plane?'
'That is a SMALL PLANE.'
A balding man walking beside us laughed.
'That's the plane.'
'Hey, that's the director of Billy Elliot over there.'
'How do you know?'
We had a guest. Raife had brought along a friend called Stephen. Stephen is an Actor. I’ll talk more about him later, but for now it will suffice that we had a guest, his name was Stephen, and he’s an actor. I wouldn’t even mention the actor part except that it sort of comes into it heavily later on when Dan starts writing songs about it in the back of taxis.
'Actually, a lot of these people look like film people.'
'Obviously they're all going to make a film somewhere.'
'Maybe they're going to make it in Slovenia.'
'Oh this SUCKS.'
'When this crashes, we're not even going to make the fine print.'
'Why not! It'll be 'indie band dies in plane crash!'
'No, it'll be BILLY ELLIOT DIRECTOR DIES IN PLANE CRASH.'
'….you're right. Damn.'
'Maybe a little bit about Stephen.'
'Fuck you, Stephen.'
As we were waiting to board the Very Small Plane, a man approached us.
'Hey, are you the Veils?'
'Yeah! How did you know!'
Honestly, we said that with the excited glee of children.
'You're joking. What were you doing at Bush Studios?'
Turned out the guy knew many people we knew. Odd small world. He was going on the Small Plane to someone’s fiftieth birthday in a castle in Croatia.
'D'you think ALL these people are going to a birthday party in Croatia?'
As we got on the plane, there was a strange vibe. I thought it was maybe because of the size of the plane, but people were saying hello to us and stuff, as though they knew us or something. Someone made a joke about how the plane couldn’t crash because there was a band on board. I didn’t know if they knew the irony, but they didn’t sound like they did. But then, everyone else on the plane was also clearly a lot more successful and richer than us, and thus luckier, and thus more likely to prevent the plane from going down. For a second I thought perhaps there had been some mistake, and we were in fact on someone’s private jet, going to a birthday party in Croatia. But that was soon forgotten amidst the general terror.
'WHY DOES IT FEEL LIKE WE'RE BRAKING.'
'I DON'T KNOW.'
'DO NOT WANT.'
We got there. Small planes. Officially not a fan. Maybe it’s different if it actually is a private jet. Must be. Surely Kanye isn’t constantly terrified.
At the airport, the reason for everyone’s friendliness became clear.
'You're not coming to Mike's?'
And off they went. I hope Mike’s was wicked. The one guy who recognised us from Bush stayed genuinely nice. Everyone else looked vaguely embarassed that they’d even mistaken us for People Who Would Be Invited To Mikes.
Drive to Trieste was an hour and a half. Slovenia is beautiful, in a foreboding, misty foresty kind of way. Apparently there are holes in the ground, all through the forest, that lead to caves, so that nobody can go for a nice forest walk without fear of falling through.
And then we were in Trieste. Regatta!
That’s a big square.’
'I like what they've done with that statue.'
You can sort of see it in the first photo, the stage was erected in front of this huge angel statue that sort of loomed out behind it. Whatever else you can say about Italy, they know about making things look nice.
I had raw prawns for dinner and they were really good. Stephen sprung on us the fact that he spoke fluent Italian, so we forced him to translate everything for the us the entire time, a task he took on with excellent humour. Then we played.
Midway through Sit Down, I looked out over a crowd that had been full, and steadily getting fuller, and thought, people are leaving. Why are people leaving? I thought we were doing okay? They’re LEAVING?
Then I noticed that it was pouring with rain. Pouring with rain.
Doorways filled. Some people did leave. But the people who stayed, and there were more of them than I would’ve thought would stay in the rain in Trieste for us…..they were amazing people.
At the end, they told us we couldn’t play any more. We pleaded a bit. The man in charge, who was wearing a sort of nautical sailing windproof weatherproof maybe sharkproof jacket, relented. Best Nux ever, and not just because, midway through, I managed to get all the way across the stage with a bottle of water and upend it over Dan’s head without him ever seeing me coming.
'I'm going to investigate rum and red bull.'
'I could join you in that investigation.'
Ten minutes later Dan’s jammed his head in a fuse box, and we’re hunting for a bar. We found one around the corner with pigs feet in brine in a jar, and settled in. I somehow ended up purchasing two heart decorated headbands and one pink bunny ear one, none of which I have any use for and one of which ended up on a ledge a story high opposite our hotel, where it flashed through the night and may still be flashing today. Stephen brought out a wooden chopping board loaded with cheese and bread, and Finn and I made him describe in possibly excruciating detail what Stephen Fry is like as a person, periodically interrupted by Dan yelling ‘WHERE’S YOUR MOTIVATION.’ and Stephen replying ‘GO SOME EXPRESS SOME EMOTIONS WITH YOUR GUITAR’.
Actors and bands. Now I understand why the combination is so famed.
Somehow we ended up in a van headed for the hotel. And were treated to a little light musical entertainment. We like music.
Dan’s Song. 'You are an actor
you are just pretending
to be other people
I am just pretending
to be myself
that is why Im awesome
because I’m honest
do you know skype
skype is so awesome
you are just an actor
you are better than Raife
just because youre better
doesnt mean youre awesome
I am so awesome
because im honestI am so honest
I’m not pretendingto be other people
that is why I’m awesome
because I’m honest
honest honest honest’
Back at the hotel, I received the following text from Raife. 'MY FRIENDS ARE DO MUCH BETTER THAN TOY.'
That chair on the right is what I’m sitting in right now.
'Jesus, is that an apple tree??”Guess so…..oh WAIT'
'What are you doing?'Washing my shells.'
Tennis with ping pong paddles and no net. Speedos though.
This is Costas. He is the prime minister? There are more billboards of him in Greece than I’ve ever seen of anyone, ever. They’re all the same billboard. There are no billboards of anyone else. Like, literally, walls of them. Everywhere.
'OOOHHH IT'S COLD'
'Stop being a baby, it's not cold.'
'You're right, I'm being a baby.'
'Wanna skim stones?'
'Now THAT I can do.'
* * *
'HOW DID YOU GET SO GOOD AT THIS.'
'It's my inbuilt desire to win at all times.'
'You're from COVENTRY.'
'We've got canals in Coventry.'
'You've got a special skimming STANCE.'
The ultimate speedo moneyshot.
That big white thing is the hotel, where all those earlier pictures were taken from.
'Left please…oh NO NO WAIT! I like a peaceful life!' Groan. I know. Groan.