Up at 6.45 AM, it’s not usually me that’s first up in any household, so it was a bit weird to know that I was leaving the house and standing in the dawn light, waiting for a bus, five hours earlier than I usually would. I was on the way to Wells, but first I had to get to Bristol and change to the Wells bus there. I walked down the Boydies’ driveway to the main road and found the bus stop, where I stood alone watching the rush hour traffic start to build up. When the bus came, I got on and paid the surprisingly low £2 (it’s a thing for all buses at the moment), no seats downstairs, upstairs it was also packed but even more surprisingly, there were two seats at the very front. It was a double-decker tourist tour of the outskirts and of central Bristol as the sun came up. It’s been a long time since I was in a rush hour traffic jam and even with the bus lanes, the less than half an hour journey took an hour, would I get me my Wells connection?
In the city, I asked two people the way to Wine Street, where the Wells bus left from (they had no idea where it was). According to the timetable, I’d already missed it, but I persevered and the third person I asked gave me some vague, difficult-to-understand directions that managed to send me in what felt like the right direction. I finally found the street and the bus stop and the bus was conveniently eight minutes late. On the bus, another double-decker, I went to the top deck where there were three people, a lady in the middle, and two older blokes hogging both the front seats. It’s lovely countryside and it’s nice just watching it roll by, bright green waves dotted with sheep and lined with ancient stone walls. And then one of them started doing something on his phone for the world to hear – I was so excited… I immediately grabbed my noise cancellation headphones to find the battery had run out, so every time there was a rumble from the road that vibrated through the bus, a horrible noise occurred, but that was better than the annoying dings on his phone. The album that I was trying to listen to was Focus – At the Rainbow (1973), Jan Akkerman is pretty amazing.
I got to Wells an hour and twenty minutes later, it was raining (of course it was). I went into town and found that Gregg’s was closed for renovation, but another shop had veggie sausage rolls (lunch). I went into one of the charity shops where they wanted ridiculous money for everything musical. I went to Smith’s to buy batteries, but they had none, I asked where I could get them in the high street, the woman said she didn’t know Wells very well – she works at W. H. Smith, in the high street – there’s like one and a half streets in this town… By the time I got to the storage house, I’d been at it for three hours already.
I saw storehouse/warehouse manager Shaun and I proceeded to attack the stack. I had to pull all kinds of things out to get at other things. Olivia was back in Bristol waiting for news from the mechanic about Ariel. In the meantime, I pulled out all kinds of things I’d like to load up and drive back to Porto, the record cleaning machine, the lava lamps, various guitars, keyboards, the vocoder, amplifiers, books, a mannequin, CDs, records, my stamp collection. The guitars were a problem, they were buried under heavy boxes, shelving, and the red couch, how was I going to move all this on my own?
I placed piles of things to take away from the stack and cleared a path to the guitar trunk. Most of my guitars are in Porto already but not my Shergold 12-string or my 1968 Hagström 8-string bass. I know what you’re thinking, 8-string bass, jazzy baby, muso man, technique machine. But no, this is another kind of beast as far away from those modern basses as could be. It’s more like a cement mixer than a Ferrari which is why it’s essential, even if it’s hard to find a spot for it, but when it hits your driveway, it pours. I managed only one fall throughout the whole attack, I fell hard on my coccyx, just what I needed after struggling with everything else. My hands were holding out, but I wasn’t really grabbing things, more lifting and pushing, carrying things away, still, not perfect for the thumbs.
I finally conquered the guitar trunk and dug out the Shergold and Hagström, plus a smaller-bodied Takamine acoustic, my knackered Eston 12-string, and a nameless nylon string that seems to have something about it if it’s used in the right circumstances. Then Olivia called, Ariel wasn’t going to make it (this time) – with the new parts fitted, smoke was coming from the engine and the mechanic didn’t know why. He’s over it, we are now trying to figure out what our options are as after a year, he wants it out of the yard. I now had to put everything back in the stack and I only had an hour to do it. Everything had to fit and I had to adjust my head into ‘flying back to Porto mode’ and think about what I could take – the two electric guitars, the Marty & Olivia T-shirts, some records and CDs, the stamp collection? I recorded what I was doing with the camera running, but it was difficult with no one to operate. I drifted in and out of view, struggling to get everything back in time for the imminent closure of the warehouse.
I was soon outside with everything I wanted to take but discovered that I was struggling to carry everything, I was taking the bus but had to get to the bus station. I had to get out, so Shaun could lock up. I unpacked everything onto the bonnet of an old Jag that’s been sitting in the courtyard for years, rusting to death. Luckily, it wasn’t raining. I was carrying so much stuff, two guitars, a heavy suitcase, the camera, and two record bags – I had to go 20 yards at a time and stop. Wetherspoons was around the corner, I made it there and had veggie bangers and mash. The bus station was around the corner from Wetherspoons and I made it there, stopping all the time because it was all so heavy and awkward.
I called Olivia and asked her to come to Bristol and help me when I got off the bus. She obliged and even with her help, it was a struggle to get to the next bus, get on it, and get back to the Boydies’ house. They aren’t here at the moment, so we were on our own, but we did it and now we are here with a lot of stuff, a 600 quid return to Porto, and with no car and wondering what to do about it. All options are not ideal, but our next plan is to have another garage take a look and see what they can find out. If that doesn’t work, we can store it at the warehouse car park till we come up with an alternative plan, Shaun, lifesaver.
Music today has been Focus – At the Rainbow (1973), the Akkerman tone, only he sounds this way and even with the dodgy headphone interruptions, his finesse comes through. He plays with a lot of treble, which is one reason why he is himself.