newcastle: i probably owe you an apology.
for too long, to me, you've been some place up north typified by bare-chested manly-men, fiercly-optimistic football fans and, y'know, Ant and Dec.
not so, it seems, not so, for it's here in the city of Newcastle that the tour reaches it's peak, from a poorly attended gig where we make some new friends regardless, to an underground club in the city centre where the rock music mixes with the cheese like we're mixing the champagne with whiskey. they play PJ and Duncan. they play Bowie's Magic Dance. they give us another opportunity to dance to some horrific nu-emo-metal that's right up there with the playlist at the Cockpit a few days previous, only this time with added My Chemical Romance. but more importantly they're nice, friendly, the bar is cheap and the vibe is excellent.
a few hours later - 6.30am, to be precise - i've been spat back out onto empty city streets to wander, and think about what i've done. unable to rouse my sleeping touring buddies, i sit outside the civic centre and watch seemingly oversized rabbits bounding around, wait til Costa opens and find a quiet corner with the Independent for company, and generally fill myself full of caffeine until i start hallucinating, which happens about 10. still, it's great to see the city come to life. i hope to return very soon.
as well as marking the high point though, newcastle also marks the beginning of the end - by now all three of us, and our tour pet Kev, are the worse for wear. not enough sleep, too much alcohol and depleting brain activity has turned us into zombies, which is probably why Huddersfield was so much fun. the Parish is a zombie-themed venue (zombie free since 2006, they advertise), a pub with a venue slung on the side. again, the people are sparse but the goodwill is there, and despite our best intentions to sleep, before long we're dragged out again to Sectioned, some underground rock club which beats our ears in with all manner of punk and ska and rock and.. anything.
we go to bed too late. we get up too early. the drive ahead, from Huddersfield to our overnight stop in Reading, is a big one, and Lockey is by now too rough to drive it. barry manfully takes on the mission - single-handedly defining the tour mantra offered up by myself a few days prior, that "sometimes the only way to get back on the horse is to tie youself to the fucking saddle" - whilst i do my best to keep awake. and fail. still, we reach Reading in one piece for a night of rest, ready for the last date in portsmouth on sunday.
and that, dear reader, is that. we get there, we wander to the arcades, lose some money and i reign supreme at bowling, we play (apart from Jim, who manages a song and a half before his voice gives in for good), and we retire home to junk food and a sleep which isn't anywhere near as long as it should be before we have to get up and part company, home to the same people, past-times and problems we left behind eleven days prior, albeit with the memory of an incredible bonding journey fresh in our minds.
one thing to bear in mind, before the post-tour blues kick in and i forget what this has taught me, and this should not be forgotten as you, like me, sit solemnly in your jobs from monday to friday:
it was Franklin D Roosevelt who said that we have nothing to fear but fear itself, but he was lying. what we actually have to fear is reaching some age where youth has deserted us only to realise we've wasted our lives.
never give up.