Email 23rd April 2010

Fish 2010 - "Sunshine on Leith"

Dear FishHeads, Freaks, fans and the Company,

First of all I would like to thank you for all your messages of support in the last week.

It meant a lot to me as although I and others were privately aware of the finality of the situation it was difficult and painful to acknowledge it publicly.

I now move forward with my life and have to leave the last few chaotic and confusing months behind me and rebuild another future.

Another round of thanks is due to all of you who have sent in suggestions of venues on the forum and to me personally.
I'm sorry I haven't been able to answer most of you but all your suggestions have been taken on board and we will be examining routing and availabilities in the coming weeks.

I have copied Yatta on all the emails and posts and we are looking at the possibilities of special weekends and mini tours in July and August with an "upgraded" acoustic experience from October onward which will take us onto the mainland, volcanic ash permitting! :-|

In June I want to ease my voice back into shape and to get reused to performances as it has been quite a while!
There will be a couple of very small shows around that time before I venture out into the wide open spaces.

The Summer touring will be the smaller capacity gigs and some of the places you have suggested look fascinating and very promising on all levels.

September I am committed to filming my role on "Electric Man" but still hope to throw in a couple of shows in Scotland.

The movie BTW is close to reaching its first funding target which enables us to start shooting at the beginning of September after we have taken the script into workshop for fine tuning.

I had my first rehearsal for "The Government Inspector" last week and a dress rehearsal tomorrow before our opening night on Thursday. The cast, who are mostly all amateurs from East Lothian, have done valiantly putting together what is a demanding play and I must admit to feeling a bit humbled and embarrassed at my minor contribution.
I am sure we will have a lot of fun on the three nights of performance at the Netherbow Theatre in the Royal Mile which coincidentally was where I had my first ever audition for "Not Quite Red Fox" back in 1980.

It means I will miss my diving session on Thursday but in all honesty I really need to get working on my theory rather than my pool work. I am settling in to working with the dry suit but am struggling with the figures and dive plans etc.
I sat a small test last week and the classes I have missed have left huge gaps in my knowledge especially on the medical and biological effects. The basics I know but the Scottish Sub Aqua course is very strong on safety and as such a lot more detailed than I ever expected.

My dry suit is in Amanda's Dive Shop at St Abbs this week having the rubber neck seal brought in as the previous owner was a size 18 consequently meaning that I have been leaking even in Haddington pool. I don't want the chance of the North Sea getting in through my neck seal once I get out into the open water. Hypothermia I understand! =-O

My dive buddy Rab and I went up the Lammerlaw last Thursday before the pool session.
We walked for about 6 miles or so up the hill, about 600 metres above sea level, across the ridges and valleys in the Lammermuirs and round by Gifford for about 3 hours.

I didn't suffer and although a wee bit puffed now and again I survived with no blisters from my rarely used hiking boots.

It was strange feeling sitting in silence by the cairn on the law and it took a moment to realise that the reason for the stillness was that there were no planes in the sky, no jet trails and nothing apart from curlews in the air. It was as if we had travelled back in time a hundred years.

Tomorrow we plan to walk across the hills from Carfraemill, a distance of around 9 miles. I need to put some boot work in and get tabbing to prepare for the 96 mile epic approaching next month.

The West Highland Way trip is coming together and we now have around 20 or so people committed.
Jim Mitchell has done a fantastic job organising the walk and now had vehicle support and fuel sorted, food in hand and all the campsites organized.

We hope to get all the information we have out in the next few days to all those taking part and to move things forward for the start date in May.

Any help you can give or awareness you can raise is more than welcome by us all and you can point people who are willing to place donations at the Just Giving web sites for Cancer Research and for CHAPS.

There's a great vibe about and I am really looking forward to taking part. :-)

As I mentioned before I recently acquired a Nikon 300s camera and have acknowledged that I need to learn a lot more about the model and general photography before I really get out there and shooting properly.

I signed on for a course at the Nikon training centre in Kingston in early May where I will be taught about the specific workings of the 300s and learn some tricks and operations outside the factory settings.

It's going to be an interesting and gruelling couple of days but perfect timing for the upcoming trip on the West Highland Way where I am sure there will be a lot of opportunities to capture some stunning scenery as well as some candid shots! ;-)

I signed on for a show at the Usher hall in Edinburgh on June 9th which is a celebration of the 20 years that have passed since Hibernian Football Club were saved from an aggressive takeover bid by the former and now deceased Heart of Midlothian chairman Wallace Mercer by a successful campaign from fans under the banner of "Hands off Hibs".

It was a fraught, stressful and passionate time in Edinburgh and I can remember being on tour at the time supporting the "Vigil" album and receiving page after page of articles cut out of the Edinburgh Evening News by my father and faxed through to German hotels to the bemusement of receptionists.

Mercer very nearly won his bid and would have closed us down as a football club but for the rallying of the fans and the communities in Leith and beyond (and with support from Hearts supporters who didn't want to see their city rivals disappear).

The club is now one of the best run in Scotland and although results have been wanting of late, to say the least, we now have a strong financial base, a new stand being built to complete a modern stadium and a training facility second to none. At the moment we are still fourth! :-X
A great achievement considering our near dissolution 20 years ago.

The gig on the 9th is a celebration of the fact and amongst the film footage being shown and the appearances and speeches from former players I will be performing a short 15 minute set as part of the programme before the Proclaimers playing their set obviously closing the night with the adopted Hibs anthem "Sunshine on Leith", the rallying call in 1990.

The proceeds raised from the event go to Alzheimers Scotland and to former players. It should be a memorable night for all concerned. ;-)

Tara was born in Leith in 1991 at the Eastern General hospital and today moved with her boyfriend into her own flat on the edge of Leith and just up the road from Easter Road stadium. (Handy for coming back from matches if I visit the Hibs Club ;-))

It was quite emotional watching them pack and bag all their belongings and there was the ceremonial handing over of her Great Grandmother's mince pot which had been passed down to me when I moved into my first house in Aylesbury all those years ago.

My granny Dick swore that the best tasting stews came from this old cast iron pot which had a white enamelled interior. I could never have disagreed as that woman made the finest mince I can ever remember! :-D

I managed to empty a couple of cupboards of unwanted and spare stuff that I never had the heart to throw out.
Things like the mince pot and that second fondue set, the dozen or so fish motif soup bowls that I bought when drunk in a Chinese restaurant in London in '89, a load of casserole dishes and TBH a lot of stuff given to me by my parents when I moved down South! :-D

I also have the spare bedroom back and a heating bill that will regain normality now that Buddha the bearded lizard has disappeared with his replicated desert environment and the accompanying chirping crickets :-)

I'll miss my daughter's company but in all honesty I prefer living on my own just now and am looking forward to walking around the house naked again and not frightening the children! :-D

I won't however miss the giant rats that can open tins and once again can rebuild my "war cupboard" in preparation for the next volcanic interruption :-D

Friday 23rd

I was going to send this a few days ago but as Mo was still away I held back and so am bringing this up to date.

First night of the play went well.

It was really strange driving in to the city and parking up in the Royal Mile just down from the Netherbow theatre, walking up to the venue and going into an empty dressing room to get into costume while I listened on the in house speakers to the production playing out in front of 90 people (and a crying baby) in the small auditorium on the other side of the wall.

As I was a "surprise" I couldn't mingle or be seen so it was a lonely vigil waiting on the end of the second and final act.

I caught some of the first act from the rear of the hall but at the interval I had to scurry away to the dressing room again.
It works really well and the cast have done a remarkable job in limited time.
I felt really guilty taking a bow with them at the end, just after my swift entrance and three lines of dialogue!
But it's all fun with no egos and the applause the cast took was well merited.
I still have another two nights to go! :-)

The strangest sensation was leaving the theatre after the show, walking straight through the foyer, past a small crowd of people and down the road to my car to drive back to Haddington and, apart from Harley and Spike the two guardian cats, an empty house.

It was quite bizarre! Thirty minutes before I was being applauded on stage in front of 90 people and surrounded by a theatre company and here I was sharing a bottle of white wine with a fresh trout I was preparing for the oven! The trout was only allowed one glass and it would have been churlish of me to leave an open bottle in the fridge! :-D

(Create a tin foil tray and lid. Stuff trout with parsley, basil and coriander from the greenhouse, chopped spinach that had over-wintered in the raised bed outside together with finely chopped onions and mushrooms. Place in tray and add white wine, paprika, black pepper, fines herbes and cook in pre-heated oven at 120 for 30 minutes! :-))

I enjoy having my own space again and with Kate and all her possessions gone for nearly 4 months the house doesn't really register her previous presence which I only sense for the moment in the garden through her bulb plantings from last year.

I am quite happy knocking about here on my own and have already got back to my old habits of talking and laughing out loud to myself sometimes. :-D

Tara will always have a presence here despite all her belongings disappearing to Edinburgh and her new flat but as we have found out over the years although we love each other dearly we cannot live together. The huge hole she kicked out in anger in the plasterboard wall in what will always be her room is testimony to that fact! :-|

For the first time in nearly two years I can now re-establish my own home and start building my life again.
I can start putting things back to the way I want them in that annoying manner that women hate and only guys understand the logic of! ;-)

I just have to remember to let Elspeth know when I go diving as she was completely freaked out a week or so back when she came in to find my dry suit hanging like a corpse from the beams in the studio! :-D

I am still working on the fitness regime and concentrating more on the walking end of the programme. Rab and I didn't go up the Lammemuirs the other day. We were a lot more ambitious and headed to the Pentlands.

We parked up at Flotterstone and climbed Turnhouse hill, Carnethy hill, Scald Law, East Kip and West Kip, circumnavigated Hare Hill and came back by Loganlea and Glencourse reservoirs. All in all it took us 6 hours and involved two climbs up to 570 metres and three to over 450 and covering a distance of around 13 miles!

The guide books said it should take 6 hours to walk two thirds of that and two hills less! 8-)

My legs were like solid hot pokers at the end but on examination at home, just before I crawled into the Radox bath, there were no blisters on my feet. :-)

Rab and I are getting really into this now and he is seriously talking about an attempt on Ben Nevis in the summer.
I'm not totally convinced as I was a wee bit nervous standing on the narrow rocky ridge of West Kip in a 25 mile an hour wind with the temperature at the bottom of the gauge :-\

It is great exercise though and I can't remember ever having this level of fitness.
If I cut the 70 shilling and the Sauvignon Blanc out of my diet I'd need a complete new wardrobe!

The West Highland Way is a lot less daunting than it was a few weeks ago but I am not sitting back and relaxing. Rab is away to Egypt diving next week so I will be walking somewhere high and long on my own on Monday.

Tuesday I am fly fishing with my footy mate Bill down in Berwick and then I am off to London by train on Wednesday for meetings with EMI Music publishers on Thursday to sort out my back catalogue and try and get some ideas rolling with them.

I'm staying with Jon Crawley, one of my oldest and best friends who I have known since meeting when he worked at Charisma Records. I was thinking about those days recently when the announcement that Malcolm McLaren had died.

I remembered meeting him when he was signed to Charisma when he had the "Buffalo Girls" projects on the go.
He cadged a couple of fags off me and held court in one of the offices. He absolutely loathed the very idea of Marillion.
As much as I respected his business acumen I always thought he lived off other people's original ideas and his "genius" was manipulating and exploiting them. I remember at the time thinking he was a very clever arrogant prick.

I'll be back home on Thursday night as the less time I spend down there the better and I have far more important things to be getting on with up here such as getting the brassicas sorted out :-D

My Mum and Dad were up a few days ago as they moved the tomato seedlings from the seed trays and into the paper eco pots.
There are about four varieties and we lost count after 120 plants!
I may have sown a wee bit too much this year! =-O

All the peppers are moving through and the salads are starting to break out under the cloches which are still being used some nights as the temperatures drop.

I'd hoped to get some photos but the lens I need is on the Nikon that is away for servicing and the 70-200 is no real use for landscape shots.
As my PRS cheque came through and with the West Highland Way offering so much potential I decided after a lot of gnashing of teeth to splash out on another lens and bought the brand new 24 mm F1.4 .It's not cheap and the only thing that swayed me and convinced me to buy it was that it'll never really lose it's value. (I'm still saying that like a mantra just now! :-X)

I was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire Cat until I got the email from the suppliers telling me there is a delay from Japan and I may not get it for over three weeks due to high demand for this new lens. =-O

I am currently trying to borrow one from Nikon for the walk but as expected have run into a wall of "sorry, you just have to wait" in the sales department and am trying to get through to their press office. Problem is I am not Robbie Williams in the publicity stakes! :-|

They advertised this as released in March and we are now more than a month down the line and no show.
A major International company releasing a brand new major product and getting the production runs wrong?
Sorry but not impressed!

I just hope I can pick something up for the walk either from Nikon or from a hire shop.

It's a real shame as the garden is looking great just now with a wide spread of colours from the various daffodils and hyacinths as well as a whole range of other plants that were stuck in last Autumn. As the flowering intensifies the bumblebees are starting to appear more regularly although not in the numbers there were last year.

I am still looking at the idea of getting bee hives for the orchard but I have to wait until the end of May beginning of June to act on that idea.
That is one of the few hassles of being on my own as I have had to bin the idea of getting chickens and rethink the way I would look after hives. It's still feasible but I will need some help from local beekeepers.

With all the touring wheels turning and gigs on the horizon I have to make sure I don't over extend myself and end up with too much to do or a garden that collapses due to lack of attention.

At least when we are working on the album in the late Summer we will be surrounded by a wee version of paradise and that in itself should be pretty inspiring! ;-)

But for now it's the birthday weekend and I approach my 52nd year! :-)
Tonight is another walk on at the Netherbow and home to a bottle of rose (thanks Heike and Johannes ;-)) and a medium sirloin steak! :-D

Tomorrow is down to see Amanda at St Abbs and pick up my dry suit and some equipment I need to complete my rig.
Afternoon is in the greenhouse moving seedlings on and getting the butterfly nets up and running and ready for the assault of the cabbage whites next month.
Early evening I'll be in the gym and swimming for a bit before I head in for the last performance of the play and then.........?
The night is mine ;-)

Sunday lunchtime I will be driving into Leith and on to Easter Road for the Hibs Rangers match before heading up to Tara's for a meal at her new flat.

Off to my parents for a quick visit and then down to Haddington pool for a scuba session early evening with the end of my birthday spent with friends at the Tyneside.

And as I said earlier, Monday I will be walking on my own in the hills somewhere as yet undecided.

As long as it's sunny with a light breeze to blow the cobwebs off a 52 year old man with a mild hangover the destination doesn't matter much.

Until then
Take care, stay alive ;-)

Onkel Fish x

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