Who knows where the time went…………. The Fairport Convention Wintour 2018

Tris group photoI’m (Dave) writing this blog sat at home in the warm whilst outside February is going out with an icy blast of bitter winds and snow. Thankfully this is the first real snow of the winter for us; if it had come a month earlier it could’ve made things very difficult.

But then again we do seem to be living a charmed life at the moment.

We were at Banbury Folk Festival in October 2016 when we received an email and then phone call from folk-rock god and thoroughly nice bloke Dave Pegg (Peggy) offering us (Winter Wilson) the support slot on Fairport Convention’s winter tour 2018. Obviously we were delighted and did a bit of a jig around our camper van (not easy). At the time it seemed an age away and we were just concentrating on living long enough to make the tour; it took quite a while to sink in.

It then began to dawn on us what a huge opportunity it could be. Obviously we’d been aware of Fairport from our youth and remember going through people’s record collections at parties and such and seeing those iconic album covers by artistes such as Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Dylan, The Stones and, nestled amongst them in equal stature, you might find Liege & Lief or Unhalfbricking by Fairport Convention.

Since those days I’ve heard lots of music that sounded similar to what Fairport were making back then, but there was nothing like it before them. After a little while we realised that we were to be touring with true game changers, a band that helped create Folk Rock.

Oh shit, we’d better get match fit.

At that time we had no plans to start writing and recording again as we were heavily involved in promoting Ashes & Dust, the album we’d released a few months earlier. But Peggy pointed out it would be a good idea to have a new album for the tour. We had the minor distraction of a tour of Australia and New Zealand from January to March 2017 to contend with, followed by a stack of gigs around the UK and Europe (you can read about our exploits down under in an earlier blog), but then again there’s nothing to concentrate the mind quite like a deadline. We also needed to book our own tour (we don’t have an agent – it’s a control thing) to promote the non-existent album that was miraculously going to appear before the start of the Fairport tour.

I vividly remember negotiating a London album launch gig at Cecil Sharp House, the home of English folk music, for April 2018, whilst not having a title or single note recorded and only three songs written for said album.

However, we got stuck into it, the songs began to take shape, the recording went well and by October 2017 several boxes of CDs were blocking the entry to our garage and we had a tour booked to follow up on the Fairport tour.

Far Off on the Horizon has been extremely well received by critics and punters alike – we could not have been more pleased. It has received features in a wide range of music mags and online sites as diverse as The Daily Telegraph and The Big Issue and is by far the best-selling album we’ve released to date.

Back to the Fairport tour.

With new strings on string things, new batteries in pick ups, tuners etc and optimistic boxes of CDs and tee shirts, we packed Tallullah (our trusty camper van) and set off. The first gig was to be at The Roses Theatre, Tewkesbury on Thursday January 25th. We’d travelled down the day before to play live and have a chat with Genevieve Tudor for her show on BBC Radio Shropshire. It was a welcome distraction as our nerves were getting the better of us. That night we stayed with our good friends John & Sue who live nearby.

John and Sue kindly fed us, plied us with drink and spoke in soft, soothing and encouraging terms while we jabbered on in bollockspeak like two stressed chipmunks. We’ve done stacks of gigs and have screwed up in front of some impressive musicians, but this was a different level, and it was getting to us.

The thought of playing in much bigger venues wasn’t the major concern; we knew we’d overcome that once we’d got a few shows under our belt. More than anything we were nervous about meeting Fairport and their crew. We were to be spending a lot of time with theses folks, seeing them almost daily for nearly five weeks (29 gigs in 32 days). We desperately wanted to get on with everyone without coming across as gushing, sycophantic slimeballs.

We arrived at the theatre in good time, 4pm for a 5.30pm soundcheck. Two of the crew, Andy (truck driver, PA rigger) and Johnny (sound man), came to say hello. They were lovely and told us to go for a walk as we had loads of time. As we were heading off for a wander, Fairport turned up, smiles, hand shakes, hugs and kisses. What on earth were we worried about?

Peggy T shirt 2

We met Ellen (Peggy’s partner) Ellen & Kipand, after she had explained to Kip where she stood in the pecking order (see photo), Kip and Ellen set up the merch stall in the foyer. We had a posh new banner, CDs, badges and tee shirts. The tee shirts and badges displayed the message that most folks on this tour were thinking -“Who the folk are Winter Wilson?”Merch photo

The theatre was lovely, the sound check was a doddle – Johnny “gin ears” Gale (don’t ask, it wasn’t us) clearly knows his stuff. Fairport joined us to run through Still Life in the Old Dog Yet. It’s long been a tradition that they join the opening act on their last and therefore Fairport’s first song. We had sent them three songs and have no idea why they chose this particular track. We ran through Still Life a couple of times, but they’d got it on the first. Our nerves settled a little more.

Our set was due to start at 7:30pm; it was to feature three new songs from the new album and we had practised them a lot.

At 7:25pm uncle Mick Peters, the tour manager, went to our dressing room to call us to the side of the stage. He needn’t have bothered – we’d been there since 7pm. Ric Sanders

IMG_20180225_232902637 (1)

Marvellous Mick (can he fix it, yes he can) Peters. Tour manager, fixer and thoroughly nice bloke.

(Fairport fiddle maestro) then came up, cracked a few jokes, gave us a hug and, after getting the go ahead from Mick, Ric then walked out onto the stage to introduce us. After a couple of minutes of Ric’s stand up routine we were on.

We nailed it………… almost! The first five songs were fine, a little nervy but okay. Then Kip introduced Fairport and the audience whooped and cheered. She then chatted to the audience about our last song Still Life in the Old Dog Yet and the audience laughed in all the right places. While this was going on I was looking behind me at these five blokes and pinching myself. Gerry counted us in and bang – we were off. I sang the first two verses and was thinking “This is great. I’m on stage playing with Fairport on one of my songs and it sounds brilliant”. I didn’t realise I’d completely missed the third verse and gone into the middle eight until I saw the look on Kip’s face.

The band didn’t miss a beat. We finished the song, took a bow and we were off.

At the interval Peggy came to me and said “Sorry Dave. I’ll get it right tomorrow night” I thought about keeping quiet but then told him about missing a verse. He put his arm on my shoulder, laughed and shouted, “Chris, it was Dave that f***ed up, not me!” It wasn’t mentioned again, and I got it right every night after that.

And so the tour went on, twenty nine gigs in thirty two days. It should have been twenty eight, giving us the four Mondays off, but Fairport were doing a charity gig at Cropredy Village Hall on the second Monday, to raise funds for the local school and Peggy asked us if we’d like to play. “No pressure,” he said. “If you’d rather go home and sleep I understand.” As we were miles from home, we were planning on booking into a camp site to get our washing done and then sleeping in the van that night. As it turned out, along with the gig there was accommodation thrown in at Aunty Shirl’s (Cropredy legend) and while we were in the Brasenose having a pre-match aperitif the wonderful Shirl was getting our washing done. 

There were a lot of laughs. I frequently bumped into Gerry Conway Kip & Gerry
(awesome drummer) wandering the backstage corridors of many theatres. Gerry would be looking like he had as much idea as I had as to where he was or where he was going. We were at The Cheese & Grain in Frome and I was chatting to Gerry while he was tinkering with his drum kit. “Is this a regular gig on the tour then Gerry?” “Apparently I’ve played here several times but I’ve no recollection.” I can understand where he’s coming from; this was our first tour on this scale and we were taking photos of every venue and behaving like excited kids. Gerry’s been doing it for over fifty years.

ChrisChris Leslie (a major contender for the sweetest man on the planet) is not only a brilliant musician, great songwriter and singer, he’s also a magician and possibly of another world. He can make playing cards appear and coins disappear right in front of your eyes. No idea how he does it; it has to be be magic.

Ric and Mick the tour manager developed something of a ritual as the tour went on. Each night before Ric went on stage to introduce us, he would hand over his shoulder bag (which we christened the sporran) to Mick. The handing over of the sporran developed into a Goons-type routine with dancing and silly voices. I managed to capture it on my phone one night for posterity, just before Ric hurt his back during the dance routine.

IMG_20180202_160959606_HDRIt wasn’t all laughs though, as we got caught out several times by overnight road closures and I managed to inflict severe clunkage on Tallullah. Kip was driving us into Morecambe for the gig at The Platform and on the way in we saw the statue of Eric Morecambe on the sea front. We pulled up for the obligatory photo and, as it was surprisingly sunny (for Morecambe), Kip was struggling to see – she sits well below the sun visor. So I volunteered to drive us the rest of the way, reversing the van into a post in the process. Kip, being very good at jigsaws, managed to stick the rear light together with black gaffer tape. I was seriously pissed off – we’d spent a small fortune getting the bodywork done up last year and IMG_20180212_114847644_HDRnow I’d not only smashed the light, but also creased the rear door and dented the bumper. When the band arrived they were very sympathetic. Simon (Nicol) put his arm around me and offered silver gaffer tape, as it would be a much better match for the van. The worst thing was he was right.Kip & Simon

We settled into the routine of the tour very quickly. Each day we’d arrive at the venue at 5pm, by which time the crew would have all the gear set up on stage. We’d carry our instruments in, say hello, do a sound check and then go and set up our merch stand. Then off to the dressing rooms get our posh clothes on and get back to the merch to smile and chat to folks as they arrived. (Peggy is a master at this, greeting everyone like long lost cousins.)

We soon learned that placement of the merch stand is critical and directly related to sales, prime placement being the spot that the audience have to pass to get to the bar and/or the exit. We would both man the stand during the interval, and at the end of the show Kip would man (woman? person?) the stand while I positioned myself in the largest flow of exiting people and dished out gig lists. Once folks had left, we’d get packed up, say our goodbyes and either go back to whoever’s house we were staying in or get a few miles in towards the following day’s gig and find a nice layby/carpark to sleep in.woodhead car park Kip, being in charge of logistics, had more often than not researched a cosy spot to head off to and it would be marked up on our trip sheet. This was the view we woke up to when we slept in a car park on Woodhead Pass after playing The New Vic Theatre in Newcastle Under Lyme the night before. Yes, it does look cold and yes, we are a little bit odd, but it suits us well and once you’re wrapped up in bed it’s very snug.

Leeds City VarietiesWe performed in places we’d never dreamt of playing. The beautifully-restored Leeds City Varieties, where as kids we’d seen The Good Old Days in black and white on rented TV sets.  Just as Ric was announcing us, one of the crew was reeling off the names of past performers -Charlie Chaplin, Harry Houdini, Morecambe & Wise, Laurel & Hardy…. It was an impressive list but did bugger all to calm the nerves.

The New Vic in Newcastle Under Lyme was a very different experience. IMG_20180207_162802263It’s set out for theatre in the round which, as it suggests, means you have people sat behind you – probably a bonus if you’re watching me, but I couldn’t comment on anybody else. Kip wisely dispensed of the short dress for the night and wore trousers instead. It would have made for some interesting views when bending down to pick up her accordion.

It was great to play at every one of the these places, but the highlight for both of us and possibly Fairport had to be The Union Chapel in London. We were looking forward to it immensely and Fairport played a blinder that night, which made me think they were well up for it too. Mick and Ellen had both warned us that parking would be a nightmare, so we gave ourselves plenty of time as we were driving in from a hotel near Heathrow. We were planning on pulling up outside, dumping the gear and while one loaded in, the other would drive off in search of a parking space. Once found they would get a tube/bus/cab back to The Union Chapel. As it was, as we approached we saw Andy’s truck outside and there was just enough room to park Tallullah behind it. Andy had already received a parking ticket (an occupational hazard that he budgets for when pricing jobs in London), so we thought that the green meanie may have gone home happy and we’d chance it.

A rant, if I may. It’s great that councils are happy enough to allow, and in some cases actively encourage, venues to put on live events which are a benefit to the local community but then why give no leeway to allow trucks, vans etc to unload equipment into and out of the venue?

We’d never been to the Union Chapel before, only having seen concerts broadcast from there on BBC Four. It’s still a working Chapel, and services are held regularly – there was one planned for the morning after our gig. Union Chapel 1The stage was beautifully lit; Gerry’s drum kit was wedged in just in front of the pulpit making things a little tight for him and the rest of us, but well worth it. It’s not every day that your back drop is as stunning as this.

Gerry told us about appearing in a film many years ago and there was a scene of him playing in a band on that very stage. He’d hidden a bottle of brandy in the pulpit that he could reach from his drum stool. A dark horse that Gerry Conway.

Looking back, The Union Chapel was slightly strange in that despite being very excited at the thought of playing there, neither of us was very nervous. The whole evening was a delight, the event was a sell out with nine hundred people in there, the atmosphere was wonderful, the sound was great and we didn’t pick up a parking ticket. We played our set with beaming smiles and, when joining Fairport for Meet on the Ledge at the end of the night, I almost missed the first line of our verse as I was grinning like a loon at the crowd on the balcony who were singing like larks.
There was however one incredibly sobering moment on the day of the Union Chapel gig. On the drive into London we were laughing and joking and, as we came up off a slip road, we saw a burnt-out block of flats. Grenfell Tower………..Silence.

Tallullah our trusty VW camper achieved a major milestone on the tour. She racked up her first one hundred thousand miles (if we can keep doing this, two hundred is achievable). Saddos that we are, we caught the momentous occasion on camera and gave a little cheer.

The folk scene is relatively small and closely knit, and one of the joys of what we do is meeting people. Although you may not see much of them, many become firm friends over a few brief meetings. When we played Leeds City Varieties we stayed with Tom Bliss, a regular on the circuit up until a few years ago. The first time we met Tom was several years back when he and Tom Napper showed up at our house with Vin Garbutt. We were promoting a gig in our home town that Vin was headlining and, being the sort of bloke to offer a helping hand, Vin was giving the two Toms an opening slot at his gigs. Tom Bliss then stayed with us a couple of times when passing and we stay at Tom and Kat’s whenever we’re around Leeds.

The night before the gig at Leeds we were playing in Whitby and called in to see Vin’s widow Pat for a quick coffee and chat before the concert. We sang Storm Around Tumbledown that night in honour of Vin. He gave us a tremendous lift by recording Tumbledown on his album Persona Grata and he would always give us a plug whenever he sang the song live.

We were due to meet up with and stay with Alistair Russell and his partner Maggie for the gig at Whitby Pavilion. Ali is great singer and sound engineer (he mixed our last two albums). As it was, Maggie and Ali were away at the time, but they left us a house key and we and our lad Andy and his wife Alie had the use of their house for two days. There was a chap who we’d never met before came up during the interval at one of the gigs and gave us his card. He then said, “If you’re passing and need a shower or a bed, give us a call.” The chances are we will.

Before rounding this up we must pay tribute to the crew, Andy Salmon, Johnny Gale and Ode to the crewMick Peters. Their hours were longer than ours, they don’t get any of the glory and without them none of this would have happened. Top blokes, great to work with and lovely with it. Henry Rollins was so right.

Andy & chocolates

Andy Salmon with our gift of chocolates – all of the caramels removed and replaced with fruit pastilles.

Over the thirty two days we drove almost four thousand miles and relied on the kindness of friends and acquaintances for beds, showers, getting the washing done, the occasional lunch and a couple of hangovers. Special thanks to Sam & Elaine, Colin & Rosie, Kip’s cousin James and his wife Karen, Deany, Kirsty & Harry, Gwynneth & Brian, Paul & Jenny, Aunty Shirl, Maggie & Ali, Mary & Derek, Nicky & Jeff, John & Gill, Gail & Helen, Sue & Dave, Heather & Eileen. If I’ve missed anyone it’s not intentional; it’s just an age thing.

Both meet on the ledgeWe learned a hell of a lot on this tour, but there was one thing I just couldn’t get the hang of. Twenty nine gigs and I still don’t know what to do with my hands when I’m not holding a guitar.

Others however………._2190436

We could never thank the Fairport Family enough for us allowing us to open up for them on this tour. For them it’s been business as usual, but for us it’s been incredibly special and will stay with us forever.

Team Curry

Team-building curry in Bradford

Signed CD

How nice is that?


It’s a blues thang


And finally 

We’re not the first musicians to do a tour of Australia and New Zealand, there’s plenty more done it better than us. But this was our first tour, which obviously meant a hell of a lot to us. We’ve played thirty one gigs in a variety of venues. From community halls, people’s houses, festival marquees, two back gardens and even a garage. If Mystic Meg had said to us in 2012 that in five years time we would be full-time musicians we would have laughed, and by the time she added that our music would take us all around the UK and Ireland, Germany, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand we would have told Meg to stick her crystal ball where the sun don’t shine (other mystics are available). 

“Every day I tell myself that I’m a lucky man” is a line in one of our songs (Milestones, available here folks). I’ve never written a truerer word (truerer is a word, look it up, and while you’re there look up gullible).

The trip has been brilliant; we’ve had such a good time which in the main has been due to the generosity of others. As is nearly always the case,& it’s the people you meet that make the memories. We were away from home almost ten weeks and during that time we only stayed in hotels for eight nights, thirteen nights in a camper van and one night in a car. The rest of the time we stayed for the most part with people we’ve never met before (a regular event for folkies). We will be eternally grateful to all of those who’ve helped us out with the gigs, beds, showers, food and the odd drink. Rest assured we will be hounding you all again for another trip.

So here we are back in a sunny but chilly Sleaford, visiting family (one new member!) catching up with friends and watching the sun tans fade before our eyes. One of the positives of the tour is that Kip has lost weight and one of the negatives of the tour is that so have I.

We start gigging again in the UK within a couple of weeks. We’ve started work on writing songs for a new album that we’ll be releasing early in 2018 and we’re very excited about a tour we’ll be doing next year, that we’re not able to go public with as yet.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading our blog. It’s been fun writing it and it’s been written as much for our benefit as anyone else’s. In six months time our trip will be a distant memory – we’ll need this blog to remind us where what it was like.

Thanks to everyone for the support – feel free to leave comments on the blog. You can keep up with what we’re doing by visiting our website or follow us on Facebook

Please say hello if you get to a gig. If you can’t stand us go watch someone else. Live music is good for the soul.

Travel count

Flights – 7

Ferry trips – 3

Train trips – 5

Tram rides – 1

Bus rides – 1 (plus a minibus)

Taxi rides – 1

Hire cars – 3 (plus a campervan and the loan of Katie’s car for almost 2 weeks)

Kayaks paddled – 1

Horses ridden – just 1 (and not for very long) but he was a gorgeous scaredy-cat Clydesdale called Wally.

Miles driven – 5,391 (and yes, I’m enough of a sad b**t**d to have worked that out – K)

Beds slept in – 27 (including camper, but not including the car we had to sleep in one night!), or 28 if you count the seat in Emirates Business Class (it converted to a bed).

Most consecutive nights in one bed – 6, thanks to the lovely Tim, our host for Illawarra.

Concerts played – 31

Wildlife count

Dolphins – one group (pod?)

Kangaroos – lots (finally!).

Kangaroo poo – sh*t loads.

Platypus – 1 (thanks Helen for pointing it out!)

Koalas – several, including a nursing mother – Awww!

Wallabies – loads, very close up.

Wombats – yep.

Possums – loads, but only one of them was alive.

Lizards – only two, but one of them was a doozie!

Eagles (and various other birds of prey) – yep, them too.

Great white crane – 1

Bush turkeys, fairy wrens, crimson rosellas, galahs, cockatoos, parrots …… yep.

Kea – two.

F***-off big spiders – too many to even think about without coming out in hives! (and one of ‘em was wearing a stripey fur coat!)

Creek names – hundreds. We never saw shit creek, but know what it’s like to get stuck up there. You’d think they would call one myknees.

Oh and blogs – 33

Random photos 


Well that’s that then

Sat 11th March.

We’re through security and sat in the departure lounge in Perth airport. I’ve just been pulled to one side by a customs official who sounded like an extra from Auf Wiedersehen Pet. I was filling out one of those forms you have to do when leaving the country and a customs official called me over. “Listen mate, are you taking more than ten thousand dollars in cash out of the country?” “I wish,” says I. “Don’t bother with that bloody form then” he says and waves me through. I bet they wouldn’t do that in America.

Yesterday we headed to City Beach near Perth. We were meeting one of Kip’s old school friends for lunch in the afternoon but first we were making the most of our last chance to get onto the beach and in the sea. I’d gone off for a walk (Dave) and was walking back toward Kip when I saw she was on the phone and waving frantically. This of course scared the shit out of me and I started running to find out what the problem was. Kip handed me the phone – it was my daughter Lianne telling me our latest grandson had arrived. All I could do was gasp and pant. Lianne was due on March 16th, by which time we’d have been home but we didn’t think she’d last that long. It was all good news though, mother, baby and father are fine. Can’t wait to meet the little chap. 

A couple of hours later we had lunch with Carol and then that night played our final gig of the tour, at Wanneroo Folk Club. Some folks came along who’d been to some of the other gigs we’d done recently, which was nice. We’ve not seen many familiar faces. “Did you say you live in Sleaford?” said one bloke. “Yes, do you know it?” “I was there two years ago visiting my uncle and aunt.” It always amazes me when this happens. Katie (our surrogate daughter who’s given up her bed for us over the last ten days) and her house mate Jema came to the gig. It was their first time in a folk club and they are still speaking to us. 

The gig went well but we both felt a bit flat. After all of the planning, the miles of travelling and all of the folks we’ve met it felt odd to think that this is it and we’d be heading home the next day.

We didn’t have to be at the airport until around 7.30pm and Katie had been saying all week that she would take us out for the day – she didn’t disappoint. Bags packed and loaded into the car and off we went. Our first stop was the Feral Brewery. Where we had to suffer a taster rack of six beers and a bowl of warm olives and crusty bread.

Then onto a Sandalfords Winery for lunch (and wine) followed by a trip to a chocolate factory where,in keeping with time-honoured tradition, we filled our faces with free samples and bought bugger all. We finished off with a walk around Kings Park In Perth for some much-needed fresh air. 

It was a smashing day out. Katie then dropped us off at the airport where we said our goodbyes and set off on the trip home.


How can you fly for four hours and not cross half of one country?

Mon 27th Feb

Man this place is big. We’ve just flown for almost four hours and landed in another time zone without leaving the country. I realise that with two more flights to go I am tempting fate here but the flights so far have gone really well. There that’s put a curse on it – we can expect our bags to go astray on the way home (Not the guitar God; please not the guitar!).

What was really special about this flight was Katie meeting us at the airport. Katie is a Kiwi;  she lived with us for a while about twelve years ago (see earlier blog “Was that moo cow wearing a boob tube?”) and we’ve only seen her once since then. Katie settled in Perth a while back and we’ll be staying with her for much of our time around Perth. We have threatened to trash the bedroom, but she probably wouldn’t notice (only kidding xx). 

We have a few days with no gigs, the first two days we spent on the beach and in the sea with the temperature up into the high 30’s. It was beautiful.

Wed night 1st March, There’s a hell of a storm going on, thunder, lightning and it’s pissing down.

Thur 2nd March, The rain has stopped, it’s a cloudy morning but very warm. We drove into Perth to have a bit of a mooch around and then headed out to Lesmurdie, which is where we are playing on Friday night.

Robin Hood would’ve loved this tree.

Fri 3rd March, We stayed last night at Pauline and Kevin’s house in Lesmurdie, they have some cracking spiders.

Pauline and Kevin were both working today so we did a bit more sightseeing in Perth and then went to the beach at Cottesloe.

The beach was very nice but we don’t look great in the photos.

We played the Hills Folk Club that night. Itwas a smashing gig, all acoustic in Falls Farm, a community building which the locals refurbished and maintain for putting on events. Small world syndrome struck again, when we met up with a chap (Phil) who we’d met about four years ago in a folk club in the U.K. He was on his hols at the time and we were heading down to play Swanage festival. We swapped CDs and didn’t expect to see each other again. Until tonight.

Sat 4th March.

Tonight’s gig is in Bindoon. We left Pauline and Kevin’s house straight after breakfast and headed off, the plan being to spend some time having a good look around Bindoon. We arrived there about 11.15am and we’d seen it all by 11.45, which included having a coffee and jumping onto the cafe’s wifi for twenty minutes of Facebook shite. We took off down the road in search of excitement. We didn’t find any but we did have a nice Nanny Nap in the car. Back to Bindoon to meet up with Barni Norton. Barni has organised  tonight’s gig; she’s a whirlwind. Barni is on the local council; she’s also standing in the upcoming election, and she’s a folkie who plays keyboards in a rock band. She also has a great house full of musical instruments two dogs and a mannequin with no arms and a bare arse.

The gig was in Bindoon Community Hall (great sound from Tuarn). We hardly saw anyone in the afternoon but somehow Barni and her helpers sold eighty tickets to bring in a really good crowd that night. They were a friendly bunch. One guy came to us in the break and said “What a lovely show, it’s wonderful to see a couple getting on so well. I’m eighty one and me and my wife get on great, we don’t have sex anymore though…” Whoa there old fella – too much information!

Sun 5th March.

Back to Katie’s. In the afternoon Katie drove us over to Yanchep National PARK where we made another addition to the wild life count. Koalas (they are not bears apparently) are cute but not very energetic. We saw four or five, all clinging to tree trunks and chilling big style. In fact they could been stuffed and no one would have been any the wiser. We also discovered that parrots like chips.

They have a bar in a national park, well you would wouldn’t you.

Mon 6th March.
Beach, it’s a rare thing for us Brits to be able to swim in the sea and not then be able to use your nuts for collar studs (Dave) or your nipples for hat pegs (Kip). It is possible here though. The beaches are beautiful and are washed by the warm Indian Ocean. Every day around 12pm the Freo Doctor goes to work. The Freo Doctor is the name given by the locals to the very welcome breeze that sweeps the coastline from the direction of Fremantle (Freo). It’s caused by the rise in temperature overland, the hot air rises to be replaced by the cooler air from off the sea. And very welcome it is. We had a live session to do on Fremantle radio tonight, so we left early to call in at Cottesloe and have a look at the annual Sculpture by the Sea Festival.

We saw some beautiful and very unusual sculptures around and on the beach. There was also a great sunset plus a hell of a racket from the cockatoos roosting.

Onto Radio Fremantle to have a chat and sing a few songs on Bill Hale’s folk programme.

Tues 7th March.
This morning we met Al Riebau for a coffee. Al has been very good to us. He’s on the committee for the Western Australian Folk Federation and has set up several gigs around the Perth area. Al’s from the USA and settled here several years ago. We had a good chat and Al took notes for an article he’s writing about our tour for the Folk Federation’s newsletter. We then sorted out the problems of the world and discussed concertinas. Nice bloke. Then to the beach, back to Katie’s and out that night for a house concert in Joondalup. Our first ever gig in a garage. It was at Mags and Bill’s house, two Liverpudlian hippies who came here forty years ago and have done okay. Mags still has a broad scouse accent and Bill has a passion for Neil Young and Martin guitars. Fine by us.

Wed 8th March

Another beach, another gig. Nice photos from the gig courtesy of the bloke with the tattoos, nose ring and baseball cap at the Indy Lounge. He really knew his stuff and was explaining to me the problems of getting good photos under stage lighting – really interesting but I forgot his name.

Despite his colour Dave was breathing at this point.

Thurs 9th March.
Beach, parachute display and kangaroo steaks (Dave, not Kip. Very tasty) 

How about this, we were sat on the beach and this military aircraft came flying down the coast about half a mile out and drops a load of parachutist’s into the sea (they did have boats out there to collect those that didn’t get eaten by the sharks)

Nice beach.


It’s the final countdown, da da da da da…

Monday 27th Feb.

I’ve started this post sat in the departure lounge of Melbourne airport. We’re having a coffee whilst waiting for our flight to Perth to be called for boarding. The six gigs we’ll play around the Perth area will be the last ones of this tour.

We’ve just played a couple of house concerts in the Melbourne area. The first was on Saturday night at Adrian and Aleks Wakeham’s house. Before the gig we were telling them about the lack of Kangaroos we’d seen during our time in Australia. “Take em on a road trip Adrian” says Aleks “There will be loads at”…. (sorry forgot the name of the park). Off we went. To be fair to Adrian he wasn’t as enthusiastic about our chances as Aleks was and he did do his best. Not one chuffing roo!There was much apologising and piss taking and a lot of laughs on our return. It was a lovely evening. We tried out a couple of new songs and murdered them; to be honest, some of our regular songs were severely wounded. But all in all it was a good night.

On Sunday we drove out to The Burke and Wills Winery at Mia Mia to play an afternoon concert at Andrew and Heather Patterson’s place. It’s a great location, as you’d imagine for a winery, it’s miles away from the nearest town and surrounded by open fields and vineyards. After the gig we went for a walk with Heather and Andrew. Within about 400 meters of their place we saw loads of happy hopping kangaroos bounding around. The roos took one look, immediately recognised us as folk singers and scarpered. They will never know how happy they made us.

Aside from kangaroos (which we didn’t photograph), we saw one helluva spider and Kip got to ride a horse. Meet Boris and Wally. (Not just a horse – Wally’s a Clydesdale! -K)

Andrew has been promoting live music for years. It’s been a real passion for him and his lovely wife Heather. He asked us to sign his visitor’s book and allowed us to have a look through it. It’s a who’s who of folk royalty. It included:- Bert Janch, Chris Smither, John Prine, Guy Clarke, Martin Carthy, Andy Irvine, Chris Hilman. We will never be in the same league as these heroes of ours, but at least we’re now in the same book! 

Andrew has been extremely kind to us helping us get bookings and giving advice and assistance to help get us our visas for this trip. He’s done all of this (alongside running his winery) whilst being very unwell, suffering from anxiety. He’s now taking a well-earned break from promoting and we wish him a speedy recovery.

On Monday afternoon we said our goodbyes and drove back to Melbourne to get a flight over to Perth in Western Australia. On to the last leg.


340 steps, got that? Three hundred and forty (Farewell NZ).

Thurs 23rd Feb

We spent last night on a patch of gravel near the River Grey at Greymouth. Greymouth is situated at the mouth of the river Grey (the department for the naming of towns must have sweated buckets). This little patch of land is one of hundreds around NZ that it’s okay to camp on providing you have a self containment sticker in your window. This means that you have a loo on board (a tiny little box cassette thing that hasn’t seen the light of day since we collected the van) and that you have a waste tank for dirty water to drain into. Having said that nearly everyone pees in the hedge and chucks the washing up water around the back of the van. But if you haven’t got the sticker and you get caught it’s a two hundred dollar fine (just over £120). Some of these sites have toilets. This one doesn’t, but it does have fresh water and rubbish bins, and it costs you nothing. You get all sorts of campers and caravans pull up at these places. There was a converted bus close to us. Some of these folks sell their houses when they retire and take to the road.

We’ve encountered loads of “one lane” bridges on this trip. As the name implies, the bridge has only one lane, and as such vehicles from one direction or the other are given priority. You will always find skid marks on the side where the traffic has to give way. The one way bridge we encountered at Greymouth was like no other. Not only did you share the one lane with traffic coming in the opposite direction, you also shared it with trains. 
We were both knackered after our kayaking and slept like logs (only one game of scrabble). Today our shoulders are feeling better than we’d anticipated and we woke feeling pretty good (aching knees, bumps from sandfly bites etc – feeling good is relative).

Today is our last full day in NZ, although we hope to return at some point. We fly back to Melbourne from Christchurch on Friday evening.

We didn’t have breakfast straight away when we woke, the scenery wasn’t that great where we were so we drove about half an hour down the road toward Christchurch and pulled up on the banks of Lake Brunner. Look at the photos, you can see the attraction.

We still had a few clothes to dry from our Kayaking trip

One of us went swimming in there.

After a wander around and the damp clothes had dried off we got back on the road toward Christchurch. This meant crossing the Southern Alps again via Arthur’s Pass, so named because many years ago Arthur Dobson found a way through the mountains after getting a few tips from some local Maoris. Arthur has also got a town named after him and as you aprouch it coming from west to east you can see a fantastic waterfall called the Devil’s Punchbowl (no idea why). We pulled into the car park and set off on the path up toward the waterfall. It’s quite a climb. Steps have been installed to get you up the steeper sections. One of us felt the need to count every one and there were three hundred and forty. 

Kip found us a place to park up with the help of her magic ap. We were about thirty minutes drive from Christchurch in a car park overlooking Governors Bay. As we were returning the van to Road Runner Rentals in Christchurch the following day it made sense to be close by.

We shared the spot with a couple of lads from France and a family who looked like they were from Japan. 

The French lads (Nicholas and Kevin) were parked close by and Kip packed up a carrier bag of stuff we’d got left over (veg, milk, pickle etc). They were really nice lads, who’d arrived in NZ about a week ago, bought a van in Christchurch and were planning on picking up some work and staying for a year or so. They’d previously spent two years working and traveling around Australia and had just spent seven months doing the same thing around Asia. Kevin was a nice guitar player, he’d got a beaten up old nylon strung guitar that sounded great.

Kevin and guitar overlooking Governors Bay.


Later on that night we were sat in the van and a young girl from the Japanese family came and knocked on the door. She’d was holding two cans of beans and an ancient can opener. Old gits to the rescue, a quick lesson on how to open a can without slashing your wrists and she was heading off back to her family who welcomed her with open arms. The hunter gatherer returns saving them from imminent starvation. Just don’t light any matches before opening the van doors in the morning. 

We got up in the morning, waved goodbye to the French lads, gave the others a wide berth and drove into Christchurch. We’d got the day to wander as we were flying out at 8pm and didn’t need to get the van back until 4pm. It was a beautiful day and we parked up close to the Cathedral area. The city was buzzing. There’s reconstruction work going on all around following last years earthquake, this was on top of the “big shake” (as a friend put it) of 2011. A lot of buildings were boarded up awaiting reconstruction or demolition. There were loads of shipping containers stacked high alongside many of them which we guess would be secure storage for the contents of the evacuated buildings. We very much got a sense of “shit happens, let’s get our heads down and get on with it”. There were banks, shops, restaurant, bars etc operating out of Portakabins, mobile kiosks, hastily erected sheds and containers. 


These sculptures were created as a tribute to the everyday men and women who carry on regardless.

We also saw some very nice Muriels. We 

And a great quote from Joni Mitchell 

We flew back to Melbourne that night. With good health and good fortune we hope to get to New Zealand again. It’s been a blast.


They Look Like Coloured Cauliflowers

Tues 21st Feb

It’s a good job we got a good walk in yesterday; it’s pouring down this morning. We left our salubrious patch of gravel (with a mountain view) and drove to the nearest town which was Franz Josef (I still don’t know who he was, must make better use of wifi time). We found a cafe with wifi, had a coffee, sent messages to the kids, posted a load of shite on Facebook and never gave Franz another thought. The town is nice but very touristyfied (it is a word, you know what to do) – not really our thing and as it was still raining we drove to Okarito, which is where we have a gig tonight.

Okarito is on the coast about thirty minutes from Franz Josef and the weather was very different there, it was sunny and warm. It all has something to do with weather fronts, mountains and coast lines (however it did piss it down the following day).

Okarito has a resident population of about thirty, but quite a few more during the summer. It was established as a port town in 1865 during the gold rush. At one point there were over a thousand people living here. The venue for our gig was Donovan’s Store. Donovan’s was built in the 1860s and was originally a hotel. James Donovan (what a man, read the info on the pic) bought it around 1890 and with the help of his wife Eva ran it as a general store for over fifty years until shortly before his death, at the age of 88, in 1956. The building continued to be used as a store until around 1987 when it was bequeathed to the Department of Conservation. It’s now used as a community hall, which (with the help of Gemma van Breek) is how we ended up here.

Gemma and her partner Bas run the Okarito Kayak Centre; they took it on a couple of years back from some friends who’d moved away. Their friends arranged gigs at Donovans, so Gemma took that on as well. They also look after some holiday lets which is how we got to be staying in this gorgeous place.

As you can see from the photo, Donovan’s is only a small place, Okarito is tiny and remote and this is our only gig on the west coast of The South Island. Financial madness, but what a great place to go to.

We ate at Gemma and Bas’s house. Kip and Gemma discussed gardening and were talking about various plants and flowers. Dave and Bas didn’t understand and looked puzzled. Someone mentioned Hydrangeas. Bas, “Are they the ones that look like coloured cauliflowers?”

While we had our rhubarb with coffee ice cream, Bas went around the campsite to persuade, cajole and beg people to come to the gig (Gemma took a dish of rhubarb and ice cream to Donovan’s for Bas later on). The campsite, by the way, is run by the residents of Okarito and the profits from it fund their water filtration system. Isn’t great what you can do when you talk to your neighbours?

The gig was our final one of the NZ leg of this tour. It was a good laugh and folks seemed to enjoy it. We had a running battle with the audience trying to get people to sit on the front row. No one was up for it. After two songs and with the help of Bas we removed the front row of empty seats. Gotcha.

They were well prepared for the kind of folks you get at a Winter Wilson gig.

We met a young couple there from the USA (the lad just made his own banjo), a lady from Canada (another offer of accommodation), a couple from Tewksbury in the U.K. and another young American lad who was wearing a Lames United FC shirt, (it’s the football team he plays for). He had of course heard about the mighty Lincoln City’s domination (so far) of the FA cup. Good news travels far and wide.

One thing Okarito hasn’t got is street lights. We’d walked carrying our instruments the two hundred yards or so to the gig. It was light when we arrived and total darkness when we left.

Kip “Hasn’t your phone got a torch on it?”

Dave “Yes it has but I left it at our digs.”

Kip, “What’s the point in having a mobile if you don’t carry it?”

Dave, “What’s the point in carrying a mobile when there’s no reception within twenty miles?”

Both, “Oh bollocks.”

We walked back, bumping into various things and in total silence aside from the continuous screeching of the Clackety Bugs (the Latin name for cicadas. Bas told me. It’s true – look it up.)

We’d mentioned before the gig that we’d like to have a go at kayaking so Bas told us to get down there for 9am the next morning and he’d get us sorted.

He was true to his word and by 9.40 am we were in a two-man kayak on the lagoon, catching the incoming tide to help us to get up the creek to the rain forest.

We were equipped with waterproof jackets, a dry bag, a map and a good talking to from Bas as to where we should go. “Keep the poles that mark the channel to the river on your left going out and on your right coming in. When you’re coming back don’t go past the landing stage, as the tide will be going out by then and the current will drag you to Australia. But don’t worry the sharks will eat you before you get there.”

The only things that remained dry were the waterproofs. We didn’t get them on in time, (there’s a clue in the name “rain forest”) and they stayed in the dry bag (the dry bag got wet on the outside).

Our paddle technique was akin to the cotton wash on our machine back home. We got lost several times. “Which side of the poles?” “That fucking map’s upside down.” We sacrificed more flesh to the evil bastard sandflies and had a thoroughly good time.

Gemma and Bas are expecting their first child in June. We would love to get back here and meet that kid.