Ukulele Globe Trotting
Being on tour with the Orchestra means I’ve circumnavigated the globe many times over as well as going down, down, up, down, up, down most parts of the UK. That’s a lot of mileage covered, a lot of lugguage wrecked, a lot of unhealthy snacks consumed as I traverse the world, in a seated position, on planes, trains and automobiles. Almost every night, there’s a different hotel, in a different town, in a far away place. Sounds glamourous, I hear you say? Yes, yes – it does sound that way doesnt it…
A Bubble of One’s Own
Of course, it is the very stuff of dreams to be earning one’s living as a travelling minstrel with such a merry band of pluckers. And, ukuleles are not only easy to carry, but useful in emergencies. They can be employed invariably as a canoe paddle, a portable table to have breakfast off, or in dire straights, kindling for a very short-lived fire.
There are normally 10 of us on the road together, that’s 8 musicians, our manager and our sound technician. It’s a family, of sorts and we spend a lot of time together. We normally save all our energy for the actual show in the evening, and in the daytime, whilst travelling, most of us are in what I call ‘powersave mode’. We rarely sit together on aeroplanes, not only because most us want aisle seats, but because it’s necessary to be able to go into one’s own private bubble, switch off, watch a movie, read a book, write songs, or make origami cranes from one’s boarding pass.
I can’t always concentrate enough to read, so I’m a bit of a binger of boxsets. I use Netflix, Now TV, BBC iplayer, Mubi and just about anything I can get my hands on. I always make sure I’ve got plenty of stuff downloaded before I leave my house in London – just incase our hotel has an unbearably slow internet connection. In the early days on the road, I would look out of the window of the tour bus, marvelling at the passing scenery, strange road signs and funny little towns we would drive through. But those innocent days have gone, I’m too long in the tooth now, sadly. I only really look up from a documentary or drama when I feel the bus rumble as it pulls into a service station for a much needed stretch of the legs and dose of caffine. Service stations still have a certain thrill for me. However flash or basic, its always fun to chuckle at the fayre on offer, confectionary bars by the name of Plopp or Kex. Only really amusing to we silly Brits.
I guess the real secret to staying sane on tour for me, is knowing how to be alone in a crowd, without worrying about how antisocial it appears. The 10 of us are together for most of the waking day, and each of us understands that whilst in transit, we are an archipeligo of sorts, who might shout ‘hello’ from our little islands, but who, for the most part, only really become an unstoppable collective when it’s showtime. And of course, afterwards in the bar.