Venue Hopping: Around and About

Rather than ground hopping, this time, I’ve been venue hopping.

What do you mean by venue hopping? I hear you ask. Well I’ve been to a few different venues over the last few days and this is a round up of my time.


VENUE 1 – Thursday 13th December 2012 – Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Tonight it was a music gig at a very famous venue. A venue with a lot of history was appropriate as it was Paul Heaton now solo after successful times with the Beautiful South, and before that with The Housemartins. He was supporting South London’s finest Squeeze (minus Jools Holland).

I went with a long time friend, and it was a chance to reminisce, drink very expensive beers – £4.95 a pint – and remember the days when £1 a pint seemed a rip off. Grumpy old men? – guilty as charged.

The venue itself is one of the finest (in my opinion) for live music in Central London. It is small enough for you to feel you are part of a rather intimate gig. It used to be the venue from where Terry Wogan presented his thrice weekly chat show on BBC TV.

Paul Heaton has always put on excellent shows, from his days in the Housemartins through to his solo gigs, and tonight was no exception. A blast through his solo stuff, some Beautiful South and Housemartins  and a quality gig was ensured. Paul Heaton is showing his age these days and possibly the effects of his substance usage. He has to have all the lyrics to the set list on a lecture in front of him. One can only presume his memory is not what it was. He confirmed this when he explained how he often gets muddled these days, for example “ I often mistake the Pub for the Gym and I always get Leisure Centre and Bar confused” He also now needs to put on his reading glasses to read the pages on the lectern.

There are two things his advancing years have not changed, the first is his inability to dance. Paul is a man after my own heart – his attempts at dancing are nearly as bad as mine. Nearly Paul, but not quite as bad. Having reached the age of 50, I am presuming his dancing will not improve – well mine hasn’t and I’m not that old

The other thing the years have not changed is his quality performances. He is worth the admission money as the main act, let alone a support act!

A great gig from Mr Heaton, but it was followed by the South London legends, Squeeze. The music of Squeeze is the music of my growing up. Classics such as Cool for Cats, Labelled with Love, Annie Get Your Gun, and Up the Junction ([o, Lee, you don’t need to say anything – you were right!] amongst just some of the classics. As long as they could play their instruments, the gig was guaranteed to be good.

I’ve commented on Paul Heaton having reached 50 years of age, well Gifford and Tillbrook, the 2 singer songwriters behind Squeeze are now 58 and 55 respectively. Fortunately, they play guitars and therefore were not tempted to dance! The music was excellent, but I do wonder if songs like Cool for Cats etc. sound right being sung be people nearly 60 years old now rather than in their 20s when written and first performed.

The gig ended before 22:30 – unheard of in the past for it to be over so soon. Obviously late nights are not in keeping for people of their age.

The last song was Goodbye Girl and the whole band made their at through the audience on the balcony performing the song. It was rather good actually, especially when Chis Difford just sat down in the audience whilst Gen Tillbrook was playing.

In the pub over the road, I was chatting with a couple of Chelsea lads at the gig and we were reminiscing about how back in the 80s, with all the likely lads at such a gig it would have ended in violence instead of the peace and love atmosphere. Growing up some might say.

The night ended late with Pizza & Chicken and reminiscing with an old friend until silly o’clock in the morning. Fortunately I had the Friday off work as I’d never have got up in time to go to work – and certainly not have been able to cycle to work.


VENUE 2 – East coast Train – Friday 14th December 2012

I travelled up to Newcastle on Friday on a cattle truck of a train. After the splendour of the Shepherd’s Bush Empire I had the misfortune to travel on an East coast train that had seemingly been boycotted by the cleaners. Filthy dirty, the toilets had never been cleaned in a long time. A disgrace of a train. it wasn’t helped by being surrounded by a North East version of the Beverley Hillbillies. She was a high maintenance female – seemingly only interested in her appearance. Her spouse and her seemed to communicate only by sniping and arguing with her. The best description of the female is the saying that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear or the saying about mutton dressed as lamb. She may have been in her 40’s, but she was wearing a skirt so short that one of the Fat Slags would have thought twice about wearing it.

The mother sat opposite had put 2 bags in the luggage rack. During the journey, the bag containing a box of Christmas crackers fell onto her head. All she kept repeating ot  her son was that it was a good job the other bag with the bottles of wine in it as she’s have got wet. Despite son pointing out to her, that the bottles would have caused injury she kept saying how she would have got wet.

I do not know where this group were from but judging by their behaviour, they were I suspect some of our less fortunate brethren from Wearside. The knuckles dragging on the floor were probably the biggest give away.

No shock in the next statement – the train arrived late into Newcastle. I think the reason was it was delayed by the weight of the rubbish they left on the train after its previous journey when the cleaners avoided it.


VENUE 3 – Chez Michelle – 14th – 16th December 2012

Without doubt the best venue of the few days. The service and attention to cleanliness were the complete opposite of that on the East coast train. From my lift home being at the station when I arrived, through to the excellent cuisine offered and the copious quantities of alcohol provided by the stunning looking waitress – this is definitely a first class venue

[Michelle, have I written enough nice things to ensure I get my Christmas Presents next week?]

As ever, the late night alcohol and very enjoyable chatting turns into going to bed once again at silly o’clock.

Saturday brought a slow start. I definitely need jump leads on the morning after these days.. I must be getting old!


VENUE 4 – Brewery Field, SPENNYMOOR 15th December 2012

Yes, another trip to see Spennymoor. Michelle loaned me her car so I could head down to the game. It did cost me a tank of fuel as payment, but that’s a small price to play. today was Spennymoor’s 3rd attempt to host Billingham Synthonia in the FA Vase. The prize for the winners of this game was a home game against Lordswood from Kent.

The game was postponed the previous Saturday & Tuesday owing to freezing conditions. This time no such problem, although the pitch was obviously very heavy after all the rain and melting ice.

Spennymoor were playing up the slope in the first half, and as I was still walking round the ground to behind the top goal, I saw one of the funniest goals I’ve seen in years. Bear in mind its the first minute of the game, and Spennymoor have a shot that is deflected wide and heading out for a corner some 6 –8 yards from the goal. The Billingham goalkeeper runs and slides to try to prevent the ball going out of play. A task which he succeeds in doing, but as he slides off the pitch after keeping the ball in play, he has left it at the feet of Gavin Cogdon, aka Paulo DiTitchio, the smallest and best player on the pitch – who has a simple task of dribbling the ball into the goal. 1-0 and a very embarrassed goalkeeper. The crowd were left not knowing whether to cheer or laugh out loud.

Just after this, I got a tweet from a fellow Newcastle fan who chose not to go to St James’ Park today and watch Man City beat Newcastle, despite him having a season ticket there. He had chosen to come alone done to the game, not realising I would be there. After meeting up with him, it was good to have a chat and watch a game with probably less Spennymoor possession than I’d have liked. Indeed the Spennymoor keeper made at least 3 saves in one on one situations that saved sure goals.

Spennymoor may be the favourites this season to win the FA Vase, but on today’s performance, it will not be a foregone conclusion. Billingham battled well and may feel unlucky not to have got a draw, but they could have no complaints about Spennymoor’s 2nd goal which was a peach of a shot from 20-25 yards from that man Cogdon. An excellent goal. I’m just hoping Spennymoor’s video expert can get the 2 goals on the website as soon as possible. They were worth watching again, one as being hilarious, the other pure quality.

Spennymoor were playing their first game in about 3 weeks owing to the weather. They also have their biggest league game of the season coming up on Wednesday night against Darlington 1883. This the league leaders against the 2nd placed club. It is perhaps understandable if players had this on their minds.

At present, Spennymoor are installing a new set of floodlights at the ground. The cabling work has already been done. This has resulted in a lack of maintenance work being done on the existing floodlight. On the Tees Crescent side of the ground, most of the bulbs are out on the top 2 sets of floodlight pylons. This means the ground has an unusual lighting pattern, and is not up to the standard that is expected. Sadly, the cost of replacing floodlight bulbs is so high that it is not reasonable to replace bulbs that are to be themselves replaced in a few weeks time.


Let me end this post by paying tribute to the players and spectators for the perfectly observed minute’s silence before the game in respect of Peter Lax, one of the officials of Billingham Synthonia who died recently. You could have heard a pin drop during the minute’s silence.

For those who may be unaware, Bilingham’s unusual second name is an abbreviated version of Synthetic Ammonia which is a chemical product once produced by ICI who were based nearby and as I understand it helped the club out financially.

They are known for being the only club in England to be named after an agricultural fertiliser (Synthonia being a contraction of “synthetic ammonia”, a product manufactured by ICI, with whom the club originally had a close connection until 1994


VENUE 5 – City Hall Newcastle 15th December 2012

This was a trip to see the Bootleg Beatles, a band who make a living simply playing covers of the Beatles records. I went with Michelle and Josh to this  and we were lucky enough to have front row seats.

The City Hall was at one time THE venue in Newcastle. My memory of seeing bands there in the past was that it seemed a much larger venue than it actually is. I’m not sure who thought painting the art deco roof red yellow and white was a good idea, but they clearly missed out on the day God handed out taste

I first saw the Bootleg Beatles perform nearly 30 years ago at University and have seen them many times over the years, but not for a few years. They are rather good. The have done lots of work at copying the voices and mannerisms of the fab four. They play their way through some of the many hits of the Beatles. They have numerous costume changes and wig changes, so they look authentic for each song.

If you have an interest in the music of the Beatles I recommend a trip to see the Bootleg Beatles. Hopefully Josh & Michelle enjoyed it as much as me.

The night ended up early enough for us to catch the off licence before it shut for just a couple of bottles of wines to round the night off.


VENUE 6 – Tynemouth & North Shields Fish Quay 16th December 2012

As it was such a glorious day today, Josh, Michelle & I  decided to go down to the Fish Quay and have a walk along the sea / river front to Tynemouth before ending it with a fish & chips takeaway  from the great Waterfront Fish & Chip shop on the North Shields Fish Quay. One day, I might be able to afford the restaurant there! I joke as the food is excellent value and excellent quality. Fish & chips there was enough to last me all day.



The little beach near the North Shields Fish Quay is a great place to watch the river traffic entering and leaving the Tyne. Today, the beach seemed to have been the recipient of lots of tyres, presumably washed overboard from a passing vessel.



The walk from North Shields Fish Quay to Tynemouth is over looked by the Art Deco style flats in the photo below. These flats have a fantastic view over the mouth of the Tyne and out to sea.


What would people pay for such flats? Well, as I understand it these flats are actually owned by the Local Authority and have got to be some of the best views  of any Local Authority housing in Britain.


From Tynemouth, we completed a circular route back to the Fish Quay, taking us through Tynemouth Village which is one of the most picturesque places in North Tyneside. Arriving back at the Fish Quay it was time for those fish & chips and then home, collect my bags and head for the train back to London after saying goodbye to Michelle & Josh. At least it won’t be long till I see them again.

That should be the end of this blog which  I’ve been typing on the train back to London, but the train was running 24 minutes late by the time we reached Doncaster. Then we were told there had been a total power failure in the Peterborough area and the train is delayed indefinitely.. We have travelled from Doncaster to Grantham in 2 hours and have yet to reach the affected area. We are already 1 hour late and have at least another 1 hour 20 minutes of journey time left (if normal service were operating). So a total delay of at least 2 1/2 hours, meaning arrival in Kings Cross after last tubes have left the station.

Requests via twitter to East coast re paying for taxis meets with the response that you will have to speak to station staff at Kings Cross re travel arrangements. No indication if they will pay for taxis for people of what we are supposed to do. I suspect I will end up having to take 3 or 4 night busses to get home and probably arrive home some 4 hours later than expected – i.e. about 02:00 – 03:00 am. Not sure what I am supposed to do about work in the morning. I need to get into work as I have important work to finish before I break up for Christmas.

I do know I will be getting my rail fare refunded. That is some small consolation.

So work colleagues, you know where I am if I am late in tomorrow morning!