The Most Mundane Travel Notes

Been in England ten days now and played eight shows. Lots of zigzagging (Portsmouth to Norwich to Brighton to York to Preston to Newcastle) which is how it works out sometimes. The shows have gone well – everyone’s expectations are so low at this point, due to the lousy economy, that even if twenty-some people show up the promoter says it’s been a success. Eric and I have both found joy in playing again, after the burn out/wall we hit in the US.

I still haven’t learned to drive the ambulance, and since Eric is expert at driving the left hand drive vehicle on the right side of the road, my job has been to try staying awake in the passenger seat and studying current British culture. Here are some of my notes:

I’m never so aware of fashion as when we’re touring around the UK. Forget France, which moves so slowly, with flair. Things change here – all of a sudden everyone’s in slightly baggy jeans, though not as quickly as the skinny ones a few years back. I devour the papers and magazines and they have the desired effect where suddenly I’m longing to go shopping and buy this new lipstick, jacket, or skirt. Or why stop there, how about a shiny new “property”? We watch as many property shows as possible.

One of the best shows ever, Peep Show, is back on TV. We caught up with what seemed like the second episode in the new season, but has something happened to Mark? The weird stuffed animal sparkle has gone out of his eyes.

Is it possible to climb a grassy bank from a humble chain hotel to a service station to buy milk without feeling like Alan Partridge?

My new obsession is Jackie magazine. I saw a 1987 compendium of this teen girl mag on our friend Kate’s shelf and now I’m hooked – crude but cute illustrations, spotty faces, scrawny sallow limbs and crooked teeth on the models. Before technology made perfection an obligation. I know I’m going to be on eBay seeking out my own copies as soon as I get home.

The food has improved on the motorways – we used to have to hold out for the Marks & Spencer branches to buy fresh fruit or salads. Now they’re everywhere.

Went into a Starbucks in what had obviously been a Little Chef. The inside was just like any Starbucks, but I swear the windows still had that steamy, greasy Little Chef look. I remember staring at the black and white photos of egg and chips in the Quadrophenia booklet when that album first came out and thinking “how exotic, gritty and glamorous, cause it’s England.” And Little Chef probably hadn’t even been invented yet. It really is all the same everywhere now, sort of.

We went for a stroll and admired narrow boats on the canal near Manchester yesterday. Then we had ice cream. God, are we middle-aged.

The promoters and venue owners have been so nice to us. Makes me feel bad all over again about certain clubs in the US. Club Cafe in Pittsburgh in particular. I hate that place. Not the people who come to shows there, just the place.

Saw a really good film last night, The Damned United. 70’s footballers – it looked great with amazing actors Michael Sheen & my favorite Timothy Spall. I want to go to a football match, but only if someone invents a time machine and I can go back to the seventies when the players had cool haircuts and sideburns.

We had to cancel our show in Henley tonight. Doubt anyone will even notice. The humiliation factor was just running too high. On to London tomorrow, the Buffalo Bar in Islington. Then back on the boat.

This is rambling and disjointed but I’m posting it anyway. I’ve got important things to do (ie, there’s a Boots and a TK Maxx not far away).

7 thoughts on “The Most Mundane Travel Notes

  1. alexh

    Amy we're so sad to miss your shows but 5-days a week working plus university trips to Cardiff & Cambridge, general exhaustion etc…sorry! My sister (&I!)loved Jackie magazine & I dreamed of being a 70s footballer. How did Britain avoid congealing in an ocean of Little Chef grease?Shall we start a Timothy Spall fan club?

  2. Wreckless Eric

    The Little Chef or Roadside Cancer as I call it has been with us since 1956 or thereabouts, a perfect place for squares to tuck into a plate of stodge back when the Esso sign apparently meant happy motoring. There used to be a rival chain called something like The Happy Chef but that went away about the same time as Brian Clough took over at Nottingham Forest. Now I'm embarrassing myself by displaying football knowledge. Shall we set off for this TK Maxx you talk about?

  3. Ed Ward

    I think it would take nuclear power to dissolve Little Chef grease. I thought I could eat any junk food available, but I remember pulling into one of those back when summer vacation meant driving through England, staring at the menu, and realizing there was not one thing I wanted on it. I got up and left, amazed. On the other hand, there were those guys in trailers along the side of the road offering "hamburgers." They made Little Chef look like Joel Roubichon.

  4. amy

    Yes, definitely Alex – let's start a TS fan club. Watched Still Crazy the other day…sorry we didn't see you but don't worry, we'll be back.Ha ha, Eric, there we were two feet away from each other and it took a blog comment to get my attention! Can this marriage be saved?Happy Eater, that's it – I'll pass that on to Eric LJJ.Ed thankfully things have improved so much in England. Though sometimes there's nothing like a greasy bacon sandwich from one of those cafes on wheels…Luci we tuned in just as Mark was drawing on a Hitler moustache, so there was a large part of the episode missing. I'm not sure what happened with JLB etc. I howled when they shoved the copy machine down the stairs. It's all your fault!

  5. Non Je Ne Regrette Rien

    johnelle and I saw french girls with saggy-butted-jeans … she told me that is the new trend!!! from the rear they looked like the 12 and 13 year old little boy friends of my son … of course he's 25 now… so yes, everything does come back again doesn't it. and that isn't necessarily the best thing.

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