Email 21st September 2009

Fish 2009 - Bee keeping for beginners and the Bicycle Viking!

Dear FishHeads, freaks, fans and the Company,

It's a wee bit weird sitting here with no gigs on the event horizon and no music activities in the foreseeable future.

Italy, as I pointed out on the Forum, was a bit of a let down and with all the band and crew leaving at different times and different days, we never got a chance to celebrate the end of the tour and say proper goodbyes.

KT and I and the Scottish contingent, together with Chris Johnson, had to leave the hotel for the airport at 9am with Gavin the Griff flying via Berlin with a 4 hour stopover. Yatta, Vince and Shaun had to stay over another day as the flights back to Brum on the Saturday were way too expensive and it was cheaper getting hotels. It was in retrospect maybe a gig too far.

The gigs in Heerlen and Zons had been fantastic with all concerned performing what had become a great set list with marvellous aplomb!
Yatta and others around us were pushing for more shows with this set list but there comes a time when you have to call it a day.
I genuinely needed to walk away for a while and know that when I do return to the stage it will be a reinvigorated singer taking the mike.

I started to write the book a week ago and have a first chapter in place with the second already underway.
The title is "Adrift on the Perfume River" and once I have three chapters in order I will be scouting for a publisher for an advance to enable me to concentrate on the writing and not have to worry about the mortgage for a while.

Many of you have asked "What's it about?".
Well in the prompt on the version of "New Novelist", the writing software I am trying out, I wrote "middle aged man travels to Vietnam on a solo journey of self discovery and to break the cycle of failed relationships".
It's most definitely not "I arrived in Aylesbury in January '81....."
It is autobiographical but it doesn't follow the line you may expect.
KT read the first chapter, "Shadowplay", and pronounced it as very dark, raw and disturbing!
It's a first draft but I am pleased with it and I am sure it will do more than raise a few eyebrows.

As part of the research I am filming interviews with my parents in order to put certain characters in place and discover more about some of the "whys?" in my life.
Not only will I have a better idea of where I came from but I will also have an historical library of tapes to hand down to Tara that will document our family history.
How many times are we all guilty of sitting there over a few sherries on a family get together when the story box is opened and only taking in part of the information spread before us? Trying to remember months later exactly where great grandmother was born and who was the mustachioed stranger in the back row of the wedding photo in Glasgow in 1906?

I think this will be an interesting project on a number of levels.

It's a lot of work and I will be out of the public eye for quite some time with this.

These blogs will become a lot less frequent but as some of you have already noticed I have started to get more involved in the forum.
The "Things you always wanted to ask Fish...." section is a bit of an escape for me when I do suffer from the inevitable writers block and it gives me a chance to interact with you all on the music side of my career.
If you've not already logged onto the forum I suggest if you want to satisfy your Fish craving you check it out. :-)

There will of course be bits and pieces that will come together in a blog such as this and I am sure I'll get the urge to give you the caterpillar kill count every now and again! :-D

On that prompt I can let you know a couple of things I have learned this year.

Never rely on a badminton racquet to defend your veg patch and no matter what, keep nets over the brassicas!!
I have come very close to the "dark side" and reached for the pesticide in recent weeks.
The heavy rain I thought would deter the flight of the cabbage white butterflies but I hadn't reckoned on the eggs they already had laid.
In the two weekends I was away and the days I thought there was no need to keep vigil the wee bastards have taken over.
In the kale alone I crushed around 150 twixt finger and thumb in an hour and still they came!
I have an organic bacteria to try out this week but if all else fails and it's a pesticide or no sprouts this Christmas I have only one option!

KT has done brilliantly with the salad beds and we are still moving leaves on to the Tyneside and others as our wee kitchen garden continues to multiply.
We have hardly bought any veg from Tesco's in the last 4 months and we have enough still coming on that will keep us in greens at least until New Year.
As I said we learned a lot and as we get ready to put in the Autumn crops the lessons are in our minds.
It's been a great first year and the next one should be even better!

The weekend gigs were a struggle as we all had to get our energies up after weeks of hanging around. Remembering the songs we had learned for Leamington was tough and every time we came home it took a couple of days to get back up to speed with our domestic life and to deal with other business issues.
I'm glad I can settle into more of a routine again and organise my days to better effect.

The Nearfest DVD is still moving forward and I was interviews for the bonus disc a couple of weeks ago.That has since arrived and I have to go through it and ok the content before sending it off to the US to have the menus put together and the full package finished.
I will be taking pre orders in the next couple of weeks and obviously will let you know exactly what to expect.
The release should be in late October with a retail version (without the bonus disc) available around Christmas.

The demands for the convention T shirts has been high and the Chocolate Frog designs have also proved popular with you all.
I have ordered some reprints across the range as we ran out of some sizes and these should be in the shop next week.

I asked on the forum if anyone was interested in any reprints of older designs and the response was quite positive.
I will be looking into a new design utilising the "Vigil" sleeve later in the year as it seems to be a popular choice.
Elspeth is also looking at fleeces and long sleeved shirts and we hope to have something in place on the run up to Christmas.
If there's any other designs you'd like us to look at or any other items you think we should carry please let us know by dropping an e mail to the office or posting on the forum in the "T shirt reprint" thread on the General Discussion section.

Again there have been queries about the possibility of a live release from the convention.
The weekend was filmed but only on 2 static cameras and it was recorded from the out front mixing desk.
At the moment I haven't had a chance to see or listen to the material and I am reluctant to put out another live album just now.
There's already a huge investment in the Nearfest DVD and any future release would be dependent on sales of that title before I can look at any release from the convention.

My initial thoughts, before hearing the quality, would be to try and compile a best of audio from the two shows and have a bonus DVD compiled from the day events with a selection of songs from the evening performances.
It's only an idea and as I said totally dependent on funding.

The other release on the imminent horizon is yet another compilation from EMI.
I have mixed feelings about this.
I was made aware only a couple of days ago that EMI intend to release a 3CD album, "Marillion The singles 82-88".
It's pretty much the same as the box set they put out a couple of years ago but this time in a straight forward jewel case.

The 3 CD's contain all the singles/edits/remixes and the relevant B sides and come to about 4 hours all together.
As I said I knew nothing about this and neither I nor Marillion have any say in what EMI can do with the material we recorded under the old contracts.
I make no bones about this.This 3 album repackaging is essentially the previously released box set (which was pretty cool!) but contains the bonus sounds of a barrel being scraped very loudly.
It's unimaginative and is, I think, for serious collectors only.
(full track listing is on the web site)

If I don't stock it then anyone who does want it will go to the web sites of our on line competition who, thanks to elements in the EMI sales force have had it on pre order for a couple of weeks now!
As I said I have had mixed feelings and would like to get some feedback from you on whether you think I should add this to the mail order.

If I do stock this I will keep the price down to eight pounds fifty plus VAT which will bring it to around ten pounds for most of Europe plus postage and packing.

I'd appreciate if you could let me know if this is something you may be interested in purchasing by sending an e mail to Elspeth or letting us know through the forum, again in the general discussion section.

You may have noticed that I have dropped the prices of most of the product we have available as we try to clear out some of the older stock including the Snapper digipaks which we bought from them when I bought out of my distribution deal.

Although it's the same audio material the packaging is obviously different and for anyone out there collecting the catalogue from different labels (and there's been a few :-D) there are still units available from various pressings.
If you specifically want a certain pressing of an album please specify on your order and Elspeth will try and accommodate you.

When they write up my final catalogue listing in a future issue of Record Collector it's going to make for some interesting reading and I think some of the pressings could end up as valuable rarities. (Snapper only pressed a couple of thousand of each of the solo albums before the deal was ended).

It's interesting to see just how much the original Dick Bros pressing of "Sushi" is going for on E Bay these days. =-O

For those of you who baulk at some of the prices on there don't worry if you are looking for some of the rare live material.
I am in discussion with Rob Ayling at Voiceprint to repress and repackage some of the titles next year.
The idea is to combine them with bonus DVD's containing rare clips and interviews etc along with extra audio material.
If that happens there is a good chance that it will be supported by the release of a book of lyrics including those from the next album with an in depth analysis and all the stories behind the songs.

As you would expect ,after my previous announcement about the novel, this will take in my autobiography with far more focus on the music side of my career.

It looks like it will be a busy year! :-)

That's the cunning plan anyway! ;-)

Quite a few days have elapsed as I was caught up in a a domestic blizzard of things to do.
A couple of days of warm sun meant we could attempt to cut the grass for the first time in weeks.
The tractor then decided to play silly buggers again and one throttle cable and a drive belt later and we were off.
Together with a strimmer that also decided starting up was going to be a trial of strength.
Much swearing and a couple of nasty blisters later I was wading into the orchard to prep it for the tractor and my Dad's pick up and short crop. It took us two days!

I had to watch the interview DVD for the Nearfest bonus and had a couple of tweaks to organise.
It sounds pretty good and the 90 mins or so runs pretty fast. And that was for me who hates watching his own performances.
I actually laughed out loud a couple of times at some of the roving camera footage I have had cut into the interview.

The arrival of a bus shelter at the end of the road didn't meet with everyone's approval and the local farmer was particularly upset at having a new addition to the main drive.
I was pleased it had been put up knowing my own daughter's experience of standing in the howling wind and rain waiting on buses that sometimes pass in the gloom. My immediate neighbours also have 3 sons who regularly use the bus service into school and town and just having some protection and a recognisable stopping place is a boon.

My letter of support to the transportation department following the farmers official complaint and the subsequent latter I put out to the neighbours seems to have had the effect of pulling a pin out a hand grenade =-O

It's all a bit East Lothian Enders here just now and in good old Cold War tradition the speed bumps are back in the drive with piles of old wooden palettes and big rocks creating ugly badly unlit chicanes that narrow the road and make the place look like a tip.
Cue a day of letter writing and lots of discussion on the farm. :-|

I took KT away for a weekend break in Kinloch Rannoch and a spot of white water rafting on the River Tay.
To be honest I could have read a newspaper on the way down and especially after my last rafting experience in Norway it was always going to be a slight let down on the adrenalin front.
It was a great day though and a lot of fun. We paddled most of the way and divided our time with capsize simulations, getting the boat vertical in the water and other japes as we searched for "death defying" white water opportunities! :-)

And the endless chasing of repairs went on. The felt on the shed roof was blown off just as the heaviest rain hit the county.
The fish pond filters are constantly requiring cleaning and the endless caterpillar killing, oh. the endless caterpillar killing!!! :-|

The positive side of my experience with insects has resulted in KT and I joining a bee keeping course at Newbattle Abbey College.
It's strange going back into a classroom , even for a couple of hours a week, after 30 years on my side!
It's genuinely interesting and we both hope to garner the skills to start operating out own hives next year!

Finally it was the last chance to see my daughter Tara for a while.
She's been living in Edinburgh since the beginning of the year and has been building a portfolio of modelling photographs.
She finally picked up a great contract in Dubai for fashion and media modelling and is working with the agency and learning the ropes.
She came down to see us last week and had a farewell lunch with her Grandparents and KT and myself.

There was a piece about her trip in the Scottish News of the World this Sunday.

I am really proud of her as she has had a tough time of late and it will be great for her to get out of Scotland and experience something new and challenging.

Hopefully she will bring me back a couple of shemaghs and some saffron from the spice markets for Christmas! :-)

Football of late has been a mixed bag.No trip to South Africa for the Scots next year but at least a couple of my shirts will be there.

I was introduced on the phone on a recent trip to Norway to a remarkable gentleman, Bjorn Heidenstrom, by a my good friend Morten in Holmsbu.

Bjorn is an ex player who is passionate about the beautiful game and who has decided to cycle from Norway to Africa, arriving at Robben Island in May next year.

He is operating his journey on a "No Logo" basis and has turned down corporate sponsorship in order to keep his trip "pure" and "obligation free".

He has funded everything himself and is dependent on support and help from strangers on his route.

I became one of his stops after a conversation on the mobiles from Norway to his then map reference in the woods somewhere in Russia.

He arrived on my doorstep the day after the depressing Scotland v Holland match and we consumed a few beers , talked football ate a hearty meal provided by my beautiful and talented wife, and then chewed the fat into the night.

A very smart and resourceful man with a great sense of humour and a fantastic approach to Life. A special person I am now proud to call a friend.

The aim of his trip is to bring people's attention to the immense refugee crisis in Africa where he will be cycling to and visiting refugee camps in the Sudan, the Congo, Rwanda amongst others.
People can financially support the refugees by buying the "Forget Me Not" badges on the refugee support sites.

On the way down he is zig zagging across Europe and into the Middle East before jumping off onto the African continent visiting football clubs and meeting fans in order to collect for the other reason for his journey.

He plans to get as many autographed football shirts as possible that will be sewn together to create a massive football top that will be flown at the South African World Cup next year.

It doesn't matter whether they are from Dalkeith Thistle, Augsburg Avengers, Arsenal or Notts County, he wants them!
There will be "clusters" of shirts sewn together and any shirt sent from my contacts will be based around the Hibs and Scotland tops I gave him when he visited.
He has also got a Hearts strip from Ian Black, shirts from Berwick Rangers and more on his visit here but I'd like to think that there are footy loving members of the Company out there who have an old strip or who have contacts with their local club who can pull a few more into the equation.

The purpose of "The Strip" is to show the worldwide appreciation of football and to show how it brings people together from all social and ethnic dimensions, from small amateur village clubs to international outfits and everything in between!
The shirt represents the worldwide footballing community and will be a major symbol at the World Cup in South Africa next year.

You can visit his web sites (Scandinavian and English) to get an idea of where he is and what he is up to through his regular blogs.

You can hear his message on YouTube

Please send him and e mail of support via his web site and tell him where you found the link or you can find him on Twitter

If you can send shirts the address where they are being collected is The Shirt / Heidenstrom, Haugenbakken 12 B, 3475, Saetre, NORWAY.

I have attached two files with introduction letters which if anyone can send to their local clubs, or to players they may know, we can get the message spread far afield and gather the shirts for South Africa.

There are photos of Bjorn on the web site and a link to his visit to the Studio at the East Lothian Courier.

Please pass the message on to anyone you know who could be interested and can help!

And now as the winds rage around my newly stacked log pile and the caterpillars hide from the wrath of the Brassica Protector.
I light the stove and huddle down for another night in the Studio and the next episode of East Lothian Enders! :-)

till next time

lots of love
Onkel Fish xx

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