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Newsletter AUGUST 2002

After the Swiss tour in April the planned Austrian school tour failed to materialize. We've been doing these school concerts for years, but recently the spring schedule has often fallen through, for reasons not easily discovered, leaving the autumn schedule as successful as ever. Let's hope this proves true for November.

In April I was in the low countries low, playing some familiar venues and zipping from north to south.

The Soldatje Folk Club in Nordwijkerhout was as warm and welcoming as ever, and I had the opportunity to play 'The Lonesome Greens', a Blues, or rather a 'Greens', written especially for Lisbeth, my Dutch agent, who has a particular affection for frogs. I don't write many spoofs of that kind any more, so it was fun to perform a new one.

Hans and Marie, at the Fiddler's Green up in Schildwolde, always provide a homely welcome and a great club atmosphere, and this concert was no exception. However we were spiked by the timing on this occasion because there was a Country Festival in one nearby village, a Bluegrass Festival in another and a third festival somewhere else, but the hardcore stalwarts were in attendance and we all had a great evening.

The next day I went scudding southwards again, to play at the Troubletree in Koudekerk, another familiar and well-loved venue. Once again we were up against football, Mothers' Day and school holidays, which combined to whittle the audience down, but it was still a great evening.

I don't know whether there's a patron saint of football. If there isn't I would suggest St. Sisyphus; named after the unfortunate character from Greek mythology who spends eternity in Hades rolling a large boulder to the top of a hill, only to have it slip from his grasp just as he reaches the top. As far as I'm concerned the whole media-hyped hysteria which descends annually, under the name of The World Cup, seems equally pointless. Not that I mind, it's just that I just wish they wouldn't plan all their matches to coincide quite so precisely with my concerts.

In Mulligans, in Amsterdam, there was yet another of these interminable play-offs and it took me a while to realise that the hysterical cheering, whooping and clapping were not the audience's understandable response to my breathtakingly trenchant lyrics and sensitive guitar-playing. Just kidding. Just kidding. Still, I could have lived without the competition.

The Bacchus concert in Aalsmeer was a complete contrast. Arranged by a good friend who, in his misspent youth, used to act as a quasi agent for me when I toured Holland in the mid-seventies, it was well-publicised, well- attended and subtly enhanced by the stomping of a line-dancing class in the neighbouring room. "Aw shucks. But that warn't nuthin'." The local press did me proud, and there were one or two faces in the audience whom I'd not seen since 1968! Wow, a lot of water under a lot of bridges, but what can you expect in Holland. A really great evening.

It's been a quiet summer. 'Too quiet.' as they always used to say in adventure stories. The only difference is that in adventure stories something, not at all quiet, usually happens shortly thereafter. Not that I've wasted my enforced leisure; the new songs keep coming, there have been poems, graphics and a long-term writing project, and there were a couple of German concerts too, arranged by Inge Kleffmann, an old friend but a new agent, who keeps adding concerts to her list in a nonchalant, and thoroughly endearing, manner.

At the end of June I was onstage at the Gasthof Hahn, Ottenstein, near Hameln (Hamlin. As in 'The Pied Piper of.....'), where the surrounding countryside is not only beautiful but also knee-deep in legend and history. The weather prevented us playing in the open-air as originally planned but it was still a great success.

Ottenstein once won the gold medal for being The Most Beautiful Village in Germany (whatever that might mean). It's certainly a lovely little place, and the Gasthaus Hahn where I played is also unusual, to say the least. 'Hahn' means 'Hen', and Hans-Harald Hahn and his wife Elke have built up the largest collection of chicken-related artefacts in the world, earning them a place in the Guiness Book of Records!

They also host some top-class concerts and are lovely people, with a very un-German, offbeat sense of humour. When I'd played my final encore they suddenly appeared on the stage, wearing chicken-outfits and waving sparklers, to present me with a chicken telephone notepad and pen! Needless to say, The 'Chicken Blues' was much appreciated.

Another real bonus there was having the chance to meet David Qualey, a guitarist of awesome abilities and quiet charm. Having returned home that evening, exhausted after winning a golf tournement, he gamely turned out again for the concert, and it was a real pleasure to have the opportunity of meeting him. Anyone who wants a taste of what the guitar is capable of in the hands of a master, would be well advised to check out David's music.

I returned to Frankfurt, where car-loads of delirious Brazilians were scorching about on scooters or leaning out of car windows, waving flags, playing loud samba and chortling gleefully over their World Cup victory. Refreshingly, there were also a few cars full of German fans who leaned out to embrace the victors and swap tee-shirts. A pleasant change from the national chauvinism so often associated with football.

The following weekend I played a matinée in Dillingen. People really do get out of bed and go out to attend concerts on Sunday mornings, an astonishing fact of life I'm still assimilating. As so often this summer, inclement weather prevented an outdoor venue, but in the Bistro in der Stadthalle all was warmth, welcome and music.

The end of July and beginning of August was spent in England, where the weather was unpredictable and the cream teas were awesome. We also went steaming about on Dartmoor, or along the Coast Path, on several occasions; and I mean 'steaming'. Sweltering sunlight, followed by blinding rain, sweeping vistas abruptly veiled in cloud, wringing clothes and sweaty weather gear. What more could you ask from an English summer?

It's probably best not to mention the weather thereafter. This month's planned Croatian tour was washed out by a combination of rained-off festivals and duplicitous town councils; and the unprecedented floods in some parts of south-eastern Europe have been truly alarming.

Sun and rain permitting I'll be participating in the Frankfurt Museumsuferfest 'Poetry Slam', between 3.00 p.m. and 5.00 p.m., on Saturday, August 24th , (Radio X Bühne, Holbeinsteg, Sachsenhausen.) And again at the 'Open Stage', directly thereafter, or on Sunday 25th at 4.00 p.m.

Then I'm in England again for a couple of gigs on the 29th August and 3rd September, Pissaros (Hastings), and Jonkers (Llangollen) respectively; Jonkers is a very special place, and a concert is the ideal excuse to stay there. If you ever need a gateway to north Wales, I can wholeheartedly recommend John and Heather's hospitality and food. Not to speak of the bookshop.

After this there's the Frankfurt Internationales Theater on September 21st.

Whether the weather be wet,
Or whether the weather be hot;
Whatever the weather we'll weather the weather,
Whether we like it or not.