Email 8th July 2009

Fish 2009 - Butterflies on the half volley

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,

Well the convention is approaching fast and furious, and I am coming to terms with the enormous workload we will have to deal with in the next few weeks.

The band arrives on Sunday to begin three weeks of solid rehearsals and hopefully everyone has done their homework so we can get up to speed quickly.
It's a huge commitment and we will be pressed to get everything together in the run up.
As I said there are no warm up shows so it will all be focused on the night.

To put it in perspective only 9 of the 40 songs across the two set lists were performed on the last tour. 3 are first time ever as a solo artist, 11 are pre '88 with most of them having been on the bench for years and a lot of the others haven't been in a set since the '90s.
Frank and Foss have dim recollections but Chris and the 2 Gavins are learning everything from scratch.
I would never have contemplated sets like these for anything other than a convention and in all honesty this could be the last time out for a lot of these songs.

The sets will contain a mix of eras on either night and there is enough material to keep everyone happy across the weekend.
And the band completely perched on their toes! :-)

Not only do I have my own end to hold up as the singer, relearning lyrics and remembering material from over 20 years ago but I also have the "daily events" to put together including writing the "Never Mind the FishHeads" sketches for the Sunday afternoon, working out what we will do as the acoustic set on the Saturday, getting together with Tosh and others to plan the back screen projections and all the other film elements together with all the "sundry" pieces that go to making a happening weekend.

The weekend tickets are selling well but I have decided to put up the individual nights for sale as there are some people who can't make both nights and also some members of the public who want tickets but who are not members of the fan club. With this in mind we will have tickets for the individual nights on sale through my web site and from the Assembly rooms at Leamington Spa on Monday.

The tickets are priced at £25 for each night. They are valid for the evening performances only and not the after show party on the Sunday.
As already confirmed Pendragon will be my special guests on the Saturday and The Reasoning and Glyder will be my guests on the bill on the Sunday.
Doors on Saturday for the evening performances will be at 7pm and on Sunday it will be 6.30pm.
My sets will be totally different each night and there will be an eclectic mix of songs across the two performances.

People who are fan club members and who only want to come to one night can get special laminates for the events of that day for £5.
These are available only through my web site and only valid together with your individual ticket.
The same criteria on numbers etc apply as for the full weekend laminates.

The convention is taking a massive effort to put into place and with promotion kicking in over the coming weeks I am going to be a busy chap!

All that and getting down the gym and pool to try and get myself in some sort of acceptable shape :-D

It's been 8 months since I last sang a full set on stage and at the moment I am worrying the neighbours as I weed the brassicas and go through my vocal exercises.
It seems ludicrous to some that we are putting ourselves through all this for just two performances in Leamington Spa but as this will be the last indoor performances for a long time I want to make it a bit special and at the same time have a bundle of fun.

With all this workload there have been a few casualties on the ideas front.
I have decided to put the NEARFest DVD back until later in the year.

The audio is all mixed and the visuals are all together but I have not had the time to put together all the extras for the bonus disc.
I could have had a basic DVD together for the convention and put the limited edition out later but I personally hate when I buy a movie I want and then discover there is a better version that comes out months after and that contains a bunch of material I really would like to see.
I still have to put the interview together and also sift through hours of footage I shot on the road over the period of touring.
I had an editor ready to start working on the bonus material with me but it would all have been pushed to get it into production before Leamington and I want to make sure that the project is exactly as I want it and not something rushed out half-baked.

The finished NEARFest movie will be shown over the weekend together with footage shot throughout the 13th Star tour but the DVD package itself won't be available until October as I won't be able to get into the studio until late August and September.
Sorry to disappoint some of you but as I said I would rather go with the all-singing and dancing version first before the standard version goes to retail at the end of the year.

I'd also hoped to make a start on the book but again I need a clear run at it and I didn't want to have my mind preoccupied with other more pressing duties. It will necessitate some clear focus and a phone off the hook so from September onwards I will be nose to the keyboard whittling out the project that will jump start next year's activities.

One other project has moved into position was after meeting a film producer in London recently I have been asked to write a treatment and a synopsis of a script that has been dogging me for years. My pitch was well received and I must admit to getting quite excited at the prospect of moving something on and into a field I have wanted to get involved in for years. It's a bit daunting but I feel I have to start testing myself a bit more and getting out of the "comfort zone" I have been in for too long.

The last 7 months have been much needed for a number of reasons and most of my energies have been spent tidying up business affairs and developing the garden.

Since coming back from Croatia KT and I managed a couple of trips.
The first was down to London with Frank and his wife Sue to support a charity auction for Combat Stress.
I had been introduced to the organiser Kevin Godlington (Google and discover a fascinating individual ;-)) by an old friend of mine from Bosnia. Kevin knew I was supportive of the Combat Stress charity and asked me if I would come down and play a couple of numbers at the charity auction in the Berkeley Hotel in June.
Frank was more than happy to come down with me and we took our wives along for the occasion.

It turned out to be a great night with most of the attendees either army related or big time spenders from London high society.
Colonel Tim Collins was one of the guest speakers and I admit to being overawed when meeting Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, proudly in uniform and wearing his Victoria Cross. It was the first time I had ever seen a VC on a living person and knowing the level of heroism required to attain this decoration it did take my breath away.

Our involvement was after the dinner and just before the auction.
It was the first time I had sung in public since the last tour and the operation so I was doubly nervous.
Frank and I had rehearsed in the afternoon in my room in the Columbia hotel and we at least had that behind us.
Kevin had wanted the obligatory "Kayleigh" which we started with and received a minor roar from a few people who were obviously fans.
The other number was a bit more contentious and I had cleared it with Kev as I didn't want to throw a bucket of sick on the occasion.
We launched into a pretty attacking version of "Pilgrim's Address".
Again heartily appreciated by a few, who were mostly military, but the majority gibbered and jabbered throughout our short set despite calls for quiet from those who did want to listen. Pretty much the standard kind of ambience at corporate events and a reason why they are a rarity in my gig schedules! :-)

Frank and I did well and I was quite proud when introduced later to Colonel Tim Collins and he admitted to enjoying the performance and also to being a fan. We'd done our bit and Kev and the organisers were well chuffed. I retired to my wine consumption a happy chap.

The auction side of the evening was pretty scary and I had to keep my hands deep in my pockets.
It wasn't the Stig's helmet, the day with the England Rugby team, the day with a Formula 1 team and driving the car, the day with the SAS boys at their base in Hereford (done that and got the T shirt ;-)) or the framed autographed Colonel Collins address to his men on the eve of the Iraq invasion together with his cap and 22 regiment badge that worried me. All those items tantalised and tempted but my resolve would hold.

The one that had me sweating was the day out with an Apache helicopter crew and getting a chance to fly the beast!!
It was even hinted that the lucky bidder would be on an aircraft on a weapons drill! The numbers began dizzy and kept rising. I sat on my hands and avoided eye contact with the auctioneer.
It eventually sold for £16k!!!!
I was glad (as was KT!) that the lesson learned from bidding while under the influence when I bought the F1SHS registration plate back in '89 was still remembered! :-[ :-X

Altogether the event raised a staggering £94k for Combat Stress from an assembled crowd of just over 200 people!!

The other trip was to Denmark with Mark and Julie Wilkinson to attend the opening of the Dante Exhibition at the Fantasmus Art gallery in Saeby.
First up we had a trip to Holmsbu in Norway to meet up with our good friend Morten and the other Vikings for a couple of days R and R.
Two days at the spa in blistering sunshine was just what we needed and it was great to be able to spend time with Mark, Julie and the guys away from backstage areas.
As expected the evenings were spent quaffing wine and beers and with the near perpetual sunshine up there the walk back along the road by the fjord was pretty magical and presented some eerie photo opportunities.

The second night was bizarre as after a long session and just as we were preparing for our midnight hike back to the hotel the news broke in the bar that Michael Jackson had died.
Suddenly everyone came together and the session took on new legs.
The circus was underway in both Los Angeles and Holmsbu.

The press in Norway next day was dominated by the story and I was glad not to be in the UK where Sky News and the like were jumping over barrels and through hoops pursuing the latest developments.
My attitude? I admired what he did as a singer and performer in the early years but as we came into a new century he was part of a freak show with little musical content.

I was never a fan and was definitely not impressed by choices in his personal and public life. There have been others far more deserving of the accolades from the media who had revelled in his fall from glory in recent years. The hypocrisy is outstanding.
The thing I found most disgusting was the focus on the financial side of everything concerned with the shows and the chorus of weasels trying their damnedest to capitalise from the situation.

Out of all the verbose and "sincere" wailing and gnashing of teeth from so many "close friends" and celebrities I found the daughter's tribute on stage at the memorial service yesterday incredibly moving and one of the few genuine moments in the last week.
I just feel sorry for his children as the circus inevitably rolls on and the obvious greed from certain quarters poisons the memories and allows history to repeat itself by swallowing up yet more innocence in the pursuit of filthy lucre.
I found his father despicable with his statements as he seemingly attempted to capitalise like many others on the publicity surrounding his son's death.

And the guilty? I had heard from sources a long time ago that he was probably unfit to tour never mind perform those 50 London shows.
How could anyone pledge someone who we know now was so obviously ill to a commitment of that magnitude?
The doctors, the promoters, his management, advisors and everyone else who were on a percentage should look at themselves closely in the mirror and take stock of their humanity.

The golden goose is dead and the eggs that are left will be fought over by carrion.
Michael Jackson RIP.

The ferry to Denmark was a first for me and I had never been to the Northern swathes of that country before.
The drive to Saeby was weird. Every village we passed through on the Friday night just short of 11pm was deserted.
It was more like a science fiction movie about a plague or massive evacuation in the face of ghouls or aliens.

On reaching Saeby it was the exact opposite as the town was jumping with a street festival in full sway.
We met up with Claus Brusen, a fellow artist, gallery owner and the publisher behind Mark's forthcoming book "Shadowplay".
A highly charismatic man and consummate and generous host he had us put up in his father's flat overlooking the town square.
It was fine for me and KT in the back bedroom but for the others they had to endure the Bacchanalian festivities below that swept through the night and into the early hours of the morning.

We had a sneak preview the night before the opening and I admit to having been hugely impressed by the collection of artwork on display.
Every artist had to submit pieces created around the theme of Dante's Divine Comedy and all had stepped up to the plate.

You can check out the artwork including Mark's two paintings at (dead link August 2010)
His "Paulo and Francesca" is definitely worth checking out ;-)

I didn't expect the quality to be so high and both KT and I hovered with wide eyes and open mouths at some of the paintings.
My personal favourites were "Fruits of Enlightenment" by Dutch artist Michael Hiep and Margaret Bowland's "Wedding Cake", KT's were "Malebole" and "Divina Commedia" both by Reinhard Schmid, although there are others too many to mention here that had my credit card buzzing in my pocket asking for attention.
The knowledge that the walls in the studio are full kept us both from buying anything.

I had a short speech to make before the official opening and was interviewed for local TV.
After that it was mingling and beers and meeting an array of characters that all had fascinating stories and opinions.
We retired later to Claus's house by the sea for dinner and more conversation while consuming the output of a small French vineyard!
A fantastic night with wonderful company.

Mark, Julie and Morten disappeared North toward Norway the next day while KT and I meandered around Saeby and hid away for a long lunch in a fish restaurant by the harbour.
At night we stayed in Claus's converted farmhouse on the beach and took in his incredible collection of artwork. Another long meal with some of the remaining artists including Patrick Woodruffe with table banter going on into the wee hours soaking up the wine left over from the previous night's party.
It was such a refreshing and creatively invigorating weekend and our hosts Claus and his wife Sannie were impeccable to the nth degree.
They drove us the next day for our flight at 6am and we arrived in a damp and dreary Scotland shortly before midday. It would be our last free time before the convention and I was straight onto the PC that afternoon and churning over the plans with more than a little trepidation.

Once again the garden had continued to erupt under the care and protection of my parents.
The brassicas in particular had literally gone through the roof and we had to remove all the protective nets to allow them to grow on.
Now of course they are open to attacks from the Cabbage White butterflies that lay their eggs in profusion amongst the damp thick leaves.
The impending army of caterpillars as always are the bane of my life and with 40m of raised beds filled with Savoy cabbage, summer cabbage, three types of broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts it's a pretty big area to cover by hand when you have chosen to garden organically. Best bet is to keep a wary eye for the fleeting white butterflies and deal with them as ruthlessly as you can.
My chosen weapon - a badminton racket!
There's nothing quite as fulfilling as catching a prancing Cabbage White on a half volley in the sunset.

For those that get through my flashing racket and lay their bundles of yellow eggs I put faith in my second assault team. Those are the wasps that have a gargantuan nest in the wooden shed nearby.
I learned my lesson on food chains a few years ago when I destroyed a nest and quickly found myself overrun by pollen beetle as I had just eliminated their major predator.
I put up with the annoyance of wasps around my Sauvignon Blanc and the irritation of an occasional sting with the knowledge that they are allies in my battle against the bugs.

My only problem is that we some merchandise in the wooden shed and I hope for Elspeth's sake we don't get a run on "Fellini Days" picture discs! :-D

So now is the quiet before the storm of rehearsals.
I have four days to go until the amps warm up and the wires crackle into life.

The new potatoes are being raised, the beans and peas shelled, the broccoli harvested, the carrots pulled, the onions, garlic and shallots dried in the sun and I pray the cabbages make it through the aerial invasion. The band will at least be well fed!

A flicker of white has just passed my office window,
Must dash,

Advantage Fish! :-D

Until next time
Onkel Fish xx

PS. I found it amusing watching the tennis at Wimbledon recently when Roddick was playing as sometimes when he took his place on the serving line the camera angles allowed his head to block out some of the letters of his name on the scoreboard.
Lo and behold up there playing Federer in the final was none other than DDICK ! :-D

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