Email 29th November 2009

Fish 2009 - A Drunk Man Stares at a Thistle

Dear FishHeads, freaks, fans and the Company,

Well after a quiet few weeks suddenly I was assaulted by all manner of events.

I am writing this on a driech Scottish Sunday afternoon; wet, windy and grey.
The log fires are on earlier every day and the darkness is numbing.
Tonight in St Mary's church in Haddington I will be reading Edwin Muir's poem, "Horses" as part of the Saltire Event that is taking place throughout the day in East Lothian.

The director, an old friend Stuart Nisbet, asked me to take part a few weeks ago and at first I was reluctant as my voice just now is pretty scratchy. In the end it was too prestigious a ceremony to turn down and I will be proud to be a part of the celebrations.

There will be quite a few dignitaries attending as well as a number of musicians and writers I hold in high esteem.
I'll just have to make sure I take a double dose of Manuka honey and a warm pint before I head into the church.

I'm also looking forward to the evening gig in the High Street where Capercaillie and others will be performing on a stage set up at the West end of the town next to the Town Hall.
I've always wanted to see a festival set up in the High Street and if all goes well tonight there may be other chances in the future for similar events. ;-)

It should be quite an emotional night as the Scottish flag, the Saltire, was born in this county and to be part of the torchlight procession from the Kirk to the market cross where the standard will be raised will be a memorable event.

It's just a pity that the weather as always has conspired against us and that the "white cross on a field of blue" will be on the cloth rather than above us in the skies.

I had been asked to sing tonight but in my present condition it would have been an impossible task.
I am desperate to have my problems rectified next month under the surgeon's scalpel and find my current vocal predicament incredibly frustrating and if truth be told, depressing.

On Friday I attended another event tied to the Scottish Homecoming year.
I was on stage in Glasgow at the SECC accepting a Tartan Clef award for services to Rock music in Scotland as part of the Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland Gala dinner.
The Tartan Clef was presented to me by Tom Russell, one of the main DJs on 96.3 Rock Radio who were sponsoring the award and I couldn't have chosen anybody more relative to my career up here to introduce me on stage.
Tom was a huge supporter of Marillion in our early days and played a major part in promoting us when we first started touring up here in '82.

Katie and I travelled through late on Friday afternoon and at first when we walked up the red carpet to the auditorium I was a bit daunted.
There were about a thousand people in attendance and if I am honest the room was too big for comfort and any intimacy was lost between the stage and the tables whose occupants chatter grew louder and more intrusive as the night rolled on through an intimidating auction where if you blinked you could find yourself a couple of grand down as the auctioneers were to say the least highly aggressive in their tactics. :-D
The wine and spirits flowed and the awards ceremonies took place late in the evening.
I had prepared a speech but realised soon after taking the stage that it was pretty pointless attempting to communicate any serious thoughts to a crowd that were sliding into severe party mode and I was finding it difficult to even hear myself above the hubbub from the hall.
I cut it short and exited stage right to a media room that I didn't really want to face.
I was really proud to get the award but at the end of the night the euphoria was short lived and Katie and I were back in our hotel room leaving the party animals to bay through to the dawn.

The evening raised over 125 thousand pounds and I was really pleased for the organisers who had pulled off what used to be a smaller event in the old Glasgow Fruit market, in the massive space of the SECC.
I hardly knew anyone there apart from the odd musicians that were performing on the night and a few Scottish music business faces.
I bumped into Joe Elliot from Def Leppard, who was singing with Mott the Hoople on stage and met up with Euan Vernal who was playing bass with Capercaillie.
I did meet Ian Hunter about 1am when I went down to have the last cigarette of the night outside reception of the smoke free hotel.
By that time I was past caring and after exchanging a few pleasantries I slinked off to our room and avoided being trapped in a dwindling rock and roll circus that was unravelling in the bar mostly occupied by "civilians" living the dream!

The View had also performed on the night and I had a wry smile as I watched their table and remembered Marillion's first night in the Holiday Inn in Glasgow where we had all behaved as we should have as an up and coming EMI prospect with attitude and an expense account. :-D

All in all it was a good night and I have another trophy for the cabinet.

I mentioned briefly in my speech that I never really felt part of the Scottish music scene as I had really began my career down South and didn't know many of the luminaries up here till I met them later in life. I mentioned that I was often perceived as being an English singer when I moved back in 88 even though Marillion were often acknowledged as a "Scottish heavy metal band" in some elements of the press.

I also mentioned the famous Kerouac passage about "roman candles" and noted that today bands seem to "go off" in one big expensive bang whereas I was more akin to a big box of fireworks which had some duds, some high flying rockets and some smouldering surprises that you find in the long grass the next morning and that still work even when the crowds are gone.

I noted that like a lot of musicians I look for "signs" (my Fellini moments) and pointed out the "Still Crazy" movie and decisions that are made, sometimes disastrously wrong, on career moves influenced by those magical moments.

The SECC stands in old Anderston which was knocked down in the main in the 60's to make way for the M8 and to clear the deserted docks and the crumbling tenements. This was the area where the Campbells lived. Where my "Aunt" Mary had her dairy and Alec Campbell had his bakery.
Scotia Street, where Alec lived was demolished and disappeared as a street name when they built the motorway and I thought it true Fellini that Katie and I probably drove through the ghost of his house as we turned off at the junction to the venue.

I was in "Jenny World" in the morning after the awards as I stared up the Clyde from our hotel bedroom window at the empty spaces of old Anderston which had once hosted a thriving and vibrant community.

To be presented with the rock achievement award on stage in the SECC in Anderston at this point in my career while I embark on the journey up the Perfume River I looked on as a significant marker and one that somewhere deep in my psyche I understand and acknowledge.

I wanted to explain that on the night in my speech but it was the wrong time, the wrong audience, the wrong event and is something I can only explain later in words.

Saturday afternoon was some primal scream therapy at Easter Road as we hustled a 2-0 over Falkirk and went joint second in the premier league. The shouting didn't help my voice much and last night's meal with Stuart Nisbet to discuss today's events at the church was a hoarse affair.

Tomorrow morning I am involved in the opening of the new community radio station East Coast FM.
The studios are in Market Street in Haddington and the station is broadcasting on 87.7 FM.
You can find more information on the station and the programmes at their web site.
I have offered to host a programme on the next 4 Monday nights between 8 and 10 pm (UK).
I decided to call it "Fish head curry" after my first shows on Radio Forth and will be playing an assortment of rock tracks across the two hours of relatively advert free air time.
If the station proves popular then we make get a "proper" license and continue to broadcast after our "trial" period.
Ian Robertson, the station's team leader, will be engineering my shows and hopefully we can get a good vibe going and create some fun programmes.

My voice at the moment is perfect for radio. If you don't recognise it don't worry it will only be like this for another month or so! :-D

Tomorrow afternoon I have to go and pick up my new fish stock from someone who has decided to move into the city and is giving up her pond.
I have spent most of the last couple of weeks constructing my new super duper 380 gallon pond together with Kevin my friendly stone mason and we have been out in all weather frantically sorting it out.

I was at one point sitting on a garden bench in the pouring rain and a minor hurricane dividing and re potting marginal plants in between barrowing 3 tons of sand to hold the preformed plastic pond inside the new walls Kevin had built.
I am really pleased with it and it has become a major garden feature that will come into its own next year.
Of the 13 gold fish that were moved from the old pond all have survived and are swimming carefree in the new deeper and wider waters.

Next step is to take the old preformed plastic pond and move it into the "Japanese garden" area which became neglected when the previous liner was punctured and the pond was rendered unusable.

It's a bit of a build but with an acquired decent second hand pump and filtration system it should be a really positive exercise and I will have some sparkling Chi waters to re energise the area outside my office window while I work on "Jenny's World"

I'll then have two functioning fish ponds that I can use for breeding my own stock and with the Koi, tench, comets and tetras that are arriving tomorrow it could be an interesting year!

I'll send some photos to Mo this week once I get further on so you get an idea of what it looks like.

Another photo I'll send up is of my Dad from a few weeks ago when we finally managed to use his 80th birthday present.
I'd arranged for him to go up in a helicopter on a city tour of Edinburgh, flying over Dalkeith on the way.
It was pretty windy on the day but my dad sitting in the front seat was completely unfazed and had a great time hacking about in the sky.
I think I was more concerned than him about the weather conditions! :-D

Finally I got the news on Friday that we expect the "Nearfest" DVD here at the studio on the 7th December.
I saw the finished masters last week and I have to admit that I am really pleased at how it has all turned out.
I think it is probably the best live DVD I have released so far and Matt Urban and his American crew have done a fantastic job putting it together.

It's available for pre order now and anyone who gets their orders in now will have packages sent out to them for Christmas.
We have to take the shop off line for a couple of days on the 11th and 12th December to upgrade some software so if you want to have the DVD for Christmas I would suggest you get an order in earlier.

I'd also like to remind our UK and other European fans that the British government is raising VAT again in January so prices will be going up next year.

And with that I leave you and start to prepare for the Saltire service tonight at St Mary's.

Katie and I will be wrapped up warm for the occasion but a kilt isn't the best item of clothing to be wearing on a freezing windy East Lothian night. I most definitely will not be "commando" tonight! :-D

until next time

take care and stay alive
Onkel Fish x

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