My epic tour of the UK has started. It's only when I started that I realised how bad my geography of the country is. I've travelled all over the world, but have neglected to explore my own backyard. It gets really embarrassing sometimes – for instance, someone tweeted me the other day asking me whether I was playing a date in Newcastle. I'm not, as it happens, but I looked down the list of gigs and tweeted back a possible alternative. It turned out that my proposed destination was a good two-and-a-half hours drive from Geordieland. It's really time I bought myself a map of Britain and had a good look.
It doesn't help matters that my tour is called Welcome to Wherever I Am. The name is supposed to be a vaguely ironic reference to wherever I am career-wise. It's starting to become very prescient, however, as I'm driven from town to town, from cold empty dressing room to cold empty dressing room.
People are very protective of their home towns, and rightly so. I don't want to cause offence before I've even arrived. I tend to put up a tweet while travelling to the next date, asking locals to recommend things to see and places to go. This gets mixed results. Some wags give me the usual "Keep on driving", or something like this, my current favourite: "The local newsagents is worth a visit – it stocks a wide range of reading materials as well as cigarettes, soft drinks and other sundries." Very useful. Thanks for that.
Very occasionally, however, I get tweeted a gem. I was in Glasgow on Thursday and several tweeps suggested that I try a place called the Wee Curry Shop in Buccleuch Street. Now, I don't normally have curry for lunch, but this was a delight: a tiny little place that looked like somebody's front room with a couple of chefs on view cooking fresh, simple Indian food. It was wonderful and I had a two-course meal for a fiver. It's at times like these that I wonder why I live in the Cotswolds where the unwanted breadbasket on a gastropub's table is charged to the bill at a very reasonable £6.
At the moment, I'm doing the South, and so I'm not staying at too many hotels. The rule seems to be that, if I am 100 miles or less from home, then I get driven back there. This is good for avoiding divorce and remembering my children's names, but it's not going to help with my steamy memoirs of life on the road.
When I start heading further afield, however, I shall be having longer stretches away from home, and this is where my rock'n'roll touring debauchery can start – except it won't. Stacey, my wife, is insisting on coming with me. I have a three-night stint in Scotland this week, and I can't be trusted alone. If I'm honest, I did have plans for carousing into the early hours of the morning with topless wenches in skimpy kilts pouring haggis and whisky into me. But no. Stacey is coming with me, and we already have quite an intensive tourist itinerary planned.
The only fun left for me is the rider: the goodies I can ask to have waiting in the dressing room. A long time ago at a big corporate do, I jokingly asked for seven quails' eggs, a photograph of Paul Daniels and an inflatable hammer. To their credit, the straight-faced crew, who must have seen weirder riders than mine, provided all three. On my current tour, I ask for some water, a local newspaper and a kilo of cocaine. The newspaper and water are always there, on cue, but a lot of venues seem to have a problem with the cocaine. Squares.