Another tour, another journey, although this time to the slightly nearer city of London. After I didn't make Saturday's BRS gig in Tonbridge Wells owing to my bike dying, and the last two gigs (Subways in Bristol and Be Your Own PET in London) being somewhat underwhelming, I had high hopes for this one, but first we had to get there.
During a lovely journey through the Kent countryside (gazing at sheep, reading the paper and listening to a dumb American woman bleat on about how the world is shit) I got several texts from people asking what the plans were. These quickly evolved like an organic primordial soup but the upshot is I ended up waiting at Victoria for 45 minutes (as detailed below) before me and Katy set the controls for the heart of Uxbridge and went up to meet Jack. Rocketing up the Piccadilly line, at Hammersmith we saw the evidence of someone who clearly didn't mind the gap and wasted perfectly good wine gums. After a change at Acton Town (and for reasons I'll explain later, I can't help but say "bon voyage" whenever someone mentions that station) we made it to Uxbridge and walked to Jack's to dump our stuff. Time was pressing on and our original plan of visiting St Helier station to drink St Helier cider sadly fell by the wayside. Rosie and Olli were marooned in London due to the delay and so, sitting on the train in Uxbridge station, we let them know we were just about ready to depart as the next Met line train pulled in, and gave them an eta of fourty minutes. Two minutes later we got a reply saying "you were on the train that just left, weren't you" and we got off further down the line to meet them on the following train.
We joined them on the train and changed the plans once again, deciding to head straight to Archway for the Blood Red Shoes instore. On the train we had more of the anniversary cake (and had fun wiping chocolate sauce on people, an act that caused Rosie and Olli to not talk to each other for ten whole minutes - god knows how they coped) but at King's Cross when we changed they made up and decided to keep talking. On the Northern line to Archway there's a distinct gap in my memory, so either nothing happened of note or I'm old. At Archway we went to find a pub to sit in, but failing to find one that was suitable we settled on the old fallback of "get stuff from Sainsbury's and find a park to sit in". On our search for a park we found a railway station and sat there instead. For some reason we got odd looks sitting eating cheese on the westbound platform of an overground station in the sunshine, but I took a moment to reflect on it and realised you can't beat silly things like that with close friends - the happiest days of our lives.
Walking back to Puregroove we stopped in along the way and bought presents for the band, and I was delighted when there were more people at the signing that were on the board than non members! We availed ourself of free posters and stickers (which lead to Rosie and Katy sticking stickers on each other's breasts - this was a popular activity to watch) and I bought my copy of the album on vinyl even though it's not out until Monday (and I'm dreading checking my balance online after the last few days). Then, to our dismay but not surprise, the Puregroove fella announced to the gathered people (and there was around 20 people there) that due to time constraints the band wouldn't be able to make it to the signing, and had promised us free stuff or a guestlist spot in compensation. How valid this offer is I'm not sure, as we later found out that Puregroove had told Steven that there were 100 people there in an attempt to guilt him into coming, an act which means that the Box of Secrets LP is the last time I'll buy anything from them for the forseeable future, and Banquet Records of Kingston will be getting my money instead.
Back at Archway we jumped on the Northern line, getting off at Tufnell Park when Rob pointed out that this train was going down the wrong branch for Embankment. Joining Matt, Olli and Rosie in the following train we drank and were merry all the way to Embankment. Rather than change and get the tube to Temple, we decided to walk along by the river, especially as a fair number of us needed the toilet. (I will point out that there were public conveniences just outside the station, we didn't piss in the Thames.) Once again failing to find a decent pub we went straight into the venue, with Matt avoiding sorrow by finding someone to pay money to for a ticket. King's College is a new venue for me, and it was an odd experience getting a lift to the venue - it felt like going to the great gig in the sky! Set openers An Emergency weren't to our tastes so we went and sat down and had cake while they were on.
After they'd finished we went for a wander and bumped into Steven, who was happy to see us (especially Katy with her stickers) and most apologetic about pulling out of the instore. I nipped off to find Laura and give her the jaffa cakes we'd bought her, not recognising her without makeup on. "Hey you" she said, and I gave her the gifts. Back down by the stage we got into position for These New Puritans, who weren't as bad as I said (but to be honest, I just wanted to wind up Rob) but weren't the best support act of the last few days. Edging our way down the front in readiness for the headline act we were discussing Nik the tour manager's worrying likeness to Wolverine from the X-Men films...which, us being boys with two curious girls, led into the inevitable argument over who was hotter out of Rogue and Shadowcat.
The disappointing thing about the set (apart from the obligatory drunk fat man in the crowd) was that the vocals were so low down in the mix, I couldn't hear anything. Not a problem, considering that I knew the words anyway (and Can't Find The Door/Stitch Me Back were fun as it showed who the proper fans were) but it ended up with the somewhat disconcerting feeling where I could hear Conic singing over the band! For the last song of the night Steve (who had been forewarned that there would be a stage invasion during ADHD) asked for a member of the audience to come up on stage and play cowbell. Well, Conic was up like a shot! He looked at me and said "come on, the rest of you come up here" and getting a small measure of revenge for my lone stage invasion at Bush Hall I said "nah, I'll be up when the band start". They started and I joined him on stage.
Given how up for it the crowd were I knew that others would follow, so there I was at the front, still wearing my leather jacket as I'm too tight to get it check in at the cloakroom, pulling people up on stage and generally having a good time. Definitely better than the stage invasions at Subways gigs in Harlow! Sweaty and happy, we stumbled outside to find Rosie and Olli had already left, and so we headed back to Jack's. Changing at Hammersmith we got on a Piccadilly line train towards Rayners Lane, and were told by the PA on the train "if you're just joining my train at Hammersmith, this is a Piccadilly line train to Rayners Lane. If you're going further than that you can always change to the Metropolitan line, but I hope you're wrapped up warm as it's a chilly night. Stand clear of the doors, they might hurt you if they close on you".
The announcements continued in that vein throughout the journey, which caused many people to crack up laughing and - shock, horror - provoked actual conversation between passengers! The best part was at Acton Town where "if you're changing trains here for Heathrow the train directly behind us is going your way so you won't have too long to wait. Bon voyage!". As they were walking down the platform at Rayners Lane I thanked them for an entertaining journey, and shall be writing to TfL to praise them if this blog entry ever gets done. We got back to Jack's, after a nice walk under the stars with the astronomy domine, and had a decent night's kip.
Awaking on Thursday we decided to return to the cafe in Uxbridge station for breakfast, the scene of the infamous "strawberries are animals!" discovery. Fully nourished we jumped on a Piccadilly line train and headed into town, pondering what to do before Sian arrived. I was all for staying on the train until the other end of the line at Cockfosters (*giggles*) but as it was a nice sunny day we decided to walk from Covent Garden to Victoria, via Forbidden Planet and the river. Forbidden Planet is a huuuuuge shop dedicated to science fiction, my mecca. I could have spent a lot of money in there but instead settled for just a Serenity graphic novel. From there we stopped in the Disney store (hoping to see Emily's play) and in the London Transport Museum shop, but left empty handed. Walking along by the river we took plenty of pictures, including one I took of two tourists in front of the London Eye on their very nice digital camera.
Every time I see the Houses of Parliament I get the 1812 Overture stuck in my head. As there were plenty of V masks available for a fiver in Forbidden Planet I was loudly regretting not buying another one to wear around the area - a statement I hastily rescinded upon seeing the large men with sub-machine guns protecting the great leaders of this country. By the time we reached Victoria we were ready for the chocolate fudge cake from the pub in the station, but looking at the menu I realised how hungry I was and plumped for a curry instead. When Sian finally appeared we headed off to ULU, stopping to get a doughnut on the way (and I got a free hot chocolate as well).
Inside the pub we bumped into CJ, who I hadn't seen since Blood Red Shoes at Bush Hall back in October, and gradually people arrived in dribs and drabs as it was Shagga's birthday and we bought him a cake. There were some people there who I hadn't spoken to in ages and had no real desire to speak to again, so after picking up
I first saw Johnny Foreigner supporting Los Campesinos! in Portsmouth at the end of February. I really enjoyed them, and since being underwhelmed by the Subways in Bristol I was more looking forward to them than the main band. Wandering up to the merch stand to buy a t-shirt Kelly (the bassist) spotted my Los Camp tee and almost squeed with delight. After an all too brief discussion her and Junior had to leave, as they were due on stage to play. We trotted down the front and I let those back at the pub know that JoFo were on imminently. The set was good, the crowd seemed to really get into it and I felt justified in buying the CD as well.
We moved off towards the sides in preparation for The Subways, as it had the possibility of getting manic and wanted to stay clear of it. We weren't wrong, and even on the fringes kept getting bumped. As for the band...if you've seen them any time in the last two years you'll know what to expect. You'll know exactly what to expect in terms of banter, just with a few new songs. It's good, but it's very repeatitive. I think I'll make that my last Subways gig for a while. Jack and I were playing "guess the next song" and doing scarily well. As the band came back on for Girls and Boys at the start of the encore I headed back to the cloakroom to get my bag and jacket and sat at the back for that and the long, drawn out closer of Rock n Roll Queen. I ended up having a really nice chat with Junior and Kelly from JoFo instead!
After escorting Katy and Sian back to the station I got an earlier train from the one that I was expecting, and so arrived at Faversham just after midnight. I nipped into the "tiolet" and then tossed a coin to determine my route home, plumping for walking the four miles rather than getting a taxi. Wanting a proper soundtrack I stuck the first CD of Echoes (the Pink Floyd compilation) on my mp3 player and listened to that. Walking through Faversham towards home I had Another Brick In The Wall to set my pace to, and then out of Faversham on a dark country road with no other stimulation save the stars above me and the lights of the motorway junction in the distance listening to the title track, it was brilliant. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun came on while past the junction in a dark road towards Boughton which was perfect for the dark farmland around me. I arrived home just over an hour after I left the train (one hour and two minutes) to find that on said train was my JoFo t-shirt. The only thing that went wrong over the whole two days.