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Thursday, 27 March 2014



OK, so this place is possibly the most beautiful I’ve been to. I loved it so much, and I can't entirely place my finger on why. It left a deep impression on me.

This port is on the island of Menorca, of Spain. Its in an estuary? Is that the right word? The giant mouth of a river. There's islands in it, one of which has a peculiar building on it.

The town was beautifully Spanish, and unspoilt for once by the host of yuppie yacht owners who've migrated there to fritter there fortunes in its idyllic beauty.

I spent the day hanging out with some of the crew, and had a pretty cool time, although without really doing much. In the last hour or so I split and went to investigate the rest of the town. There were so many things that clicked with me. I love this town.

To describe it best, it had a ramshackle Spanish beauty. Nothing was too big or too modern. Even it's supermarket was hidden inside some ancient building.

I walked along the harbour front marvelling at the colour of the sea and the hills and the houses beyond. I met a mermaid made of brass, and on her plinth was the word 'Mo'. You see, everyone kept calling this place Mamon, but every postcard called it 'Port de Mao' and I think occasionally just 'Mo'. I’m really confused. I’m gonna get on google when it's freer and less of a bad satellite link.

I then walked up through the town. The view from the harbour wall was immense. I met a German lady, a hiker, who was walking all around the island. She told me the building on the island was a fortress, and recommended I go see it. I hope I can!

Another beautiful day in paradise. It ended with singing song with the crew on the ukelele on the aft deck. Nothing like a ukelele party with donuts at three in the morning! Love this boat. Would love a day off tho!

Miss yas all

Sam x


My first impression of Toulon was that it was insanely beautiful. The harbour, the buildings, the ramshackle French streets.

I got so psyched about speaking French! It was a Sunday, so the shops open were very limited. All the same, I did some shopping. I bought a cooked sausage from a street vendor, speaking only French. I felt very elated at this.

I also got a text from someone I really didn't expect. In fact it made my day so completely, the whole world feels a little bit lighter. I can't go into more detail than that, but it was the most significant part of this port.

I then walked further out, and the beautiful port became big concrete tower blocks and lots of roads. I did however find a few very beautiful bits. I met two lads busking in the street, who appeared to be completely incapable of playing at all. They were playing smoke on the water very quietly, and actually asked me for money. I gave them some, and asked if I could play their guitar. The lad said 'yes, but be careful. I took it, and found it was ridiculously out of tune. It was the kind of cheap Argos guitar that a beginner has. These kids were clearly seriously broke to be out playing and making next to nothing. They didn't even have a hat for their money. I tuned it roughly, and played a little bit. The guitar played badly, but it did sing. I told them they had a beautiful guitar, and thanked them. They looked at me like I had some kind of superpower. It was a really nice meeting, and I got more chance to practice my french.

The further I walked up the hill, the more grey and concrete it got, although there was one more treat in store for me. I saw my first ever properly painted train. It was the same kind they have on the New York overground, that Fab Five Freddie and all those people would have painted. At first I thought it was actually pulled into the Garre Du Norde but it was actually just in a siding. Insane in the membrane, paint the train, paint the train!

Later that day I was properly suffering. The storm was ridiculous, and had glasses sliding off tables and smashing. The piano was rocking so hard I was hitting bum notes. Everyone felt queezy, including me. Well, just dizzy really. I had to lie down. It was a crappy time, and I went straight to bed.

Barcelona! What a beautiful horizon....

And it was beautiful. I think I had too higher expectations of Barcelona, after being bowled over by the beauty of Malaga. Thing is, Barcelona is a huge and thriving wealthy city, and I’ve gotten so used to seeing cities packed with ancient relics and oddities in the past few weeks I wasn't as stunned as I could have been.

Some of the back alleys were truelly stunning, with huge old spanish appartments towering up like warm tombstones, little balconies on every floor with ornate iron railings running down to tiny shops, selling everything from phones to paintings to records. But mostly tourist tat.

I set out to look for Los Rambles as I new it was near. I found it. Having been promised street artists and performers, I was disappointed to walk up it and find it bare of anything but tourist stalls, flower stands and the like.

Just as I type we're in the middle of a massive storm. Waves are buffeting the ship and the whole cabin is shaking like a leaf. It's quite exciting. Every time a wave hits, the hull booms like a kettle drum somewhere out to my right. My cabin's one away from the wall of the ship, so it must be even worse for them. Oh my good lord! It's like being in the aluminium shell of the old caravan at home when some-one beats their palm on the side.

I head down a side street, nip in and out of a few shops, but everythings out of budget for me. Eventually I find the Barcelona museum of contemporary arts, and outside on the wall there is a girl playing ukelele! I really want to strike up a conversation, but as soon as I approach her friend starts shouting at her in Spanish. I decide to make an exit, but I wanted to have a bit of a multilingual skill-share. I also wanted to play her ukelele. This sucked.

The museum was closed, so I set in search of Gaudi's catherderal, and found my self back on Los Rambles (holy sugar this ship is shaking!) and outside the Museu De L'erotica. Well, I asked the entry and it was nine euro. I walked away, but felt guilty that I was opting to view relegious art over sexual art which is in every way more wholesome, so I went back and got in. It was undoubtedly worth the money to realise there was a women dressed as Marilyn Monroe stood in the window having her skirt blown up and waving at passers by. I wouldn't the museum was a massive eye-opener, but it was very interesting. It's somehow comforting to know that in this recent age of sexual repression and beating down of a very fine and beautiful natural impulse, that the same things have been drawn, etched and sculpted for thousands of years. It's not the decline of civilization, it's just rejoicing in nature. It was also apparent that artists of yesteryear saw no need to depict the body in the way we see it now. All shapes and sizes of women, labia, pubis all that jazz. That's how it should be in my book.

At the bottom of Los Rambles I finally saw the street artists, and the human statues. There was one women dressed as a scary green sort of witch queen, with ten inch fingernails, caressing those who sat on her lap. The sort of thing that terrifies children for a lifetime. So cool.

Back to the ship, for some very fine meatballs in the public diner. I prefer it to the crew mess just because the airs fresher and I can look out to see. Most people don't have this privilege.

I’ve had such a weird day today. I didn't feel quite right from the beginning but it was really this old guy that did it. Because I don't know so much piano instrumental music, I have to pad a little with improvisation between songs. Nobody really cares, because when I’m playing there's usually a really loud band playing next door so you can't hear me playing anyway. But this guy gave me a right dressing down. 'I spent seven years playing piano, and I can do that what your doing. I want to hear some melodies, some songs that we know!'. I told him I was sure he could play what I was playing, it sounds like he's a very accomplished pianist, and started to play some melodies, but with 1 hour fifty to fill with instrumentals, I was gonna be repeating. Just when I was starting to get really adept at playing the stuff, he just went and pissed on all my confidence.

But then in my first full vocal set, which is going really well, these young women in their late twenties start requesting songs, and getting really chatty with lots of eye contact. I presume this to be flirting. Snag is I’m not allowed to fraternise with the passangers. At least not in the good way, so I have to be careful. Still, felt good.

Weird thing is, Although I’m having the best time of my life, there's still a part of me that just wants to be home. When me and grace were making our scrapbook, we had a page in it that said 'by this time we should have been abroad at least twice'. How could we possibly now how it was going to turn out? I’ve been to more countries in a week than I have in my entire life. France tomorrow – Toulon. Where the heck is that?

Au Revoir!

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Malaga and Spanish Castle Magic

Well, today I really started enjoying myself. I was ecstatic.

As I walked along the harbour road the shore spread out to my left and right. To my left, the harbour and the city, stretching out into the distance. To my right glorious sparkling beach for miles and miles, and more city behind it, as far as the eye can see. This was gonna be a big cookie to swallow. Where do I start?

With lunch. On the beach. I was tempted to bring my ukelele on my Malaga adventure, but its weight put me off. I regretted this at once, because playing a ukelele under palm trees has to be done at some stage. I’m going to befriend the costume tech and make a strap for it's case. Still, it made for a good chill. I stopped for at a cafe for a drink and texted home. Then I started to walk upwards towards what looked like a castle.

Below the castle was a winding steep zig-zag pathway up the hillside intersected with the most glorious gardens imaginable. I was absolutely awestruck. The view was stunning. The city, the bullring and the pier stretching out ahead of me, capped off by the Majesty, waiting for me in the distance, funnels smoking.

About half was up I met a classical guitarist, busking. His playing was splendid, boisterous and soulful, yet completely completely relaxed. We started chatting. He asked me if I played – I said I did, and he handed me his instrument. I said I played pop, but picked out my wobbly version of Angie. He was gracious about it. He told me to look up Paco De Lucia, that he was the No. 1 flamenco player in the world. He also wrote on my gpad envelope 'Entre Dos Aguas'. No idea what that means, but when I get google, I'll check it out.

The graffiti on the leaves of the plants in the garden was one of those little things that really sticks with me.

After that I climbed up to the castle. It was breathtaking. I see what Jimi meant with Spanish Castle Magic now. Amen brother! The view was a stunning panorama of the whole city, most intriguingly into the most enticing private swimming pool I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, back down the hill, I decided to find a post office. Asking for directions, I failed pathetically. Still, I did find a tourist tat stand that sold stamps and had a baby post box. I popped a birthday postcard in for mum.

Ah crap! Another camera fail. All the pics I took today went onto the internal camera memory. I don't have a lead for the camera. I can't find a way to copy them! GAAAAH!

Anyway, then I went for a long walk around the town and saw heaps of bits and bobs that I just thought were fab. The dry river down the centre of the city was particularly beautiful, I have to find out what the graffiti on it reads.

Last nights gig was a belter. Loved every second. Thank god I’m back on form. Or someone at least :-)

Adios! xxx

Monday, 24 March 2014

Gibralter - and Monkey Business There-in...

What a day! I’m exctatic.

Firstly, yesterdays gig was boss. I aced it fully for the first time. I didn't actually want to stop athe the end of my 3 hours and 45 minutes of sore playing!

Gibraltar is a beautiful island. From a distance it looks like a giant's split a box of lego down a mountain. From the midst of it, it makes even less sense, but this is what makes it.

Unfortunately, the place is clearly very wealthy and cosmopolitan, which comes with the usual Armani clad idiots with briefcases strutting up and down looking at watches like they're late for an appointment with an anal spoon removal specialist. Nevertheless, higher up the hill the streets get more ramshackle and interesting.

There's no pavements through half the town, and if a scooter scoots by you have to duck behind the nearest object with haste. It's like a cross between Cornwall and Turkey.

The best bit though were the monkeys. Sorry, Barbary Apes, as a gentlemen corrected me on last night. You see, monkeys have tails it seems. 'Have you ever seen a chimpanzee with a tail?', well, no, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a chimpanzee.

Anyway, I didn't think I'd see them without going up into the mountains, but there were a bunch just chilling in the city! I photographed a few, but I didn't get too close as my bag was packed with snacks. I’m gonna play with them properly when I go back!

I found some records on the way back – one by Feliciano! Another called the twelve greatest hits of the San Remo Festival 1966 (recorded in Italy). I think the girl on the cover must have been at the festival. Dropping her keys maybe. Lucky they caught that really...

Cadiz - Spain, oh you are so beautiful....

Olah Cadiz!

Oh how beautiful you are!

I can see why Jimi Hendrix wrote Spanish Castle Magic now. Well, he wrote it in Morroco. You're walking along the road, you pop out, and suddenly your next to a bit of Castle! Well some fortification anyway.

I found some more stickers for my guitar case here, almost straight away. Then I just wandered through the streets. Cadiz was less ramshackle than previous ports, this time it was stately and upkept. Unless we were just in a richer part of the city. None of Laurie Lee's Cadiz remains, from the book 'As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning'. But still, the giant stone statues and suchlike must have been there in his time – I wish I'd bought the book with me to re-read.

The city was so multi-coloured , bustling, busy and confident. The biggest thing that struck me were the Zebra crossings. No button to push, just stand and wait. Then, a countdown clock tells you exactly how long you have until the cars move again.

Mopeds were everywhere. I saw a beautiful girl in the middle of a crowd of parked mopeds putting her helmet on clumsily. It could have made a poster for a teenage boy's bedroom. Palm trees everywhere, and sudden green spaces jumping out at you from behind the tall buildings. Even the modern tower blocks had a kind of technicolour beauty.

I bought some lemons from a greengrocer for honey and lemon. My Spanish was pretty poor, especially as I thought I was in Portugal when I landed! Smooth lol.

Luckily 'Olah' is pretty universal.

I met some lovely Canadian chaps who led me to phone shop, where they might have an SD card reader, but it was closed. I still need to ask on the boat, but I doubt they'll have one.

I finally found diet coke! Or at least coke light. For the first time in four countries! I’m not looking on the boat, I’m pretty pleased I’ve stopped drinking it.

The last thing that really blew my mind, is I got so deep into the city, I became to doubt the direction back. I followed the road I thought led to the seafront, and boom! The most amazing view I think I’ve ever seen. The docks, the train tracks, the ships, the city, the ocean and the sky in one mad explosion of complexity. My camera just wouldn't do the justice!

Anyhow, gotta de-smelly before work.

Last night I got my voice back fully! Then it went again. Boo.

Adios lovely peeps!  

Casablanca... (play it Sam, play as time goes by...)

I have played it again Sam several times already on this cruise, and week! I’ve also got a recommendation to see the doctors, but I don't think bunnies will be happy if I have a day's rest. I'll also loose my pay. Lol, no sick pay here as you might imagine.

So yeh, Casablanca is absolutely nothing like the film. Initially all I saw was the docks, which were big and concrete. I followed the busy road into town, which was intersected by train tracks simply running through the middle of it. If a train came, the traffic stopped for it I guess, no need for level crossings here. Zebra crossings, as with all Morocco are a battle of will between motorist and pedestrian. I do recognize however that as a pedestrian I have more to loose in a game of chicken. I love the smell of four star in the morning!

Getting into the town was a fairly straightforward, although the sun beat down on the path, with no shade. My water leaked into my bag, nearly ruining my medical form, so I had to chuck it.

Casablanca, delightfully, is very similar to Marrakesh with its market stalls and ramshackle streets. I found a chap who was incredibly keen to be my guide around the town to get what was on my shopping list: A watch, Honey, Lemons and Argon Oil.

The watch was a breeze. I'd had a gentle bollocking from an officer for looking at my mobile for the time – it's meant to be under-decks at all time for crew. I was also sitting in chairs by the window which is also not allowed for crew. I’m guessing I’ve been breaking a whole shed-load of rules without knowing, but the officers instead of talking to me, talk to the entertainment manager. I’m really lucky this lady spoke to me directly and put me straight, as its far more the decent thing to do. She recommended that I bought a watch from the ship. 'They're like eighty quid though!' just kind of slipped out of my mouth. She raised an eyebrow and said 'Well?'. I forget that most of the people on board would drop eighty quid in a heartbeat, at least those above deck 2. Anyway, Casablanca yeilded the watch Portimao wouldn't, and a fine specimen too! Cheap, cheerful, but very pretty.

The argon oil was sold to me with great zest. Argon oil is unique to the Morroco, and has properties of prolonged youth. Its made from nuts grown in trees, which are climbed by goats to graze in the shade. Now you may laugh, but I’ve seen this first hand! I’m going to have some on my bread for breakfast.

Lastly, my guide, who was actually a Berber from the Atlas mountains (I’ve been there!) took me to buy some honey in a little pot. He promised it would cure my throat, and charged me ten euro for it. Any day I say, it tastes like liquid gold. My guide told me he moved to Casablanca because life is a little more dangerous, exciting I guess he meant.

Last night sets were pretty grim. It's getting harder and harder to sing. I’m praying to doctor will let me stop. I don't care about the money anymore, I want my voice back.

Au revoir!


Friday, 21 March 2014

Lisbon, Obridgado xxx

I was so down when life reminded me why I got on this boat. Lisbon reminded me.

I set my alarm early, but I ritualistically cancelled it until it was much later. The first thing I had to do was to get my registration card from the crew office. This would allow me to go ashore, which I was gasping for in my super ill state. I just wanted to see something that wasn't the inside of a boat. OK, I could go on deck, but then I had to smile and say hello to everyone and I wasn't feeling very much like smiling.

The crew card was waiting for me, and I strolled ashore. The first thing that met my eyes was the incredibly beautiful buildings. I’m not kidding, this place was stunning. The more I saw, the more impressed I was by it's giant marble sculptures and arches intersecting multi-coloured streets of beautiful architecture. There was graffiti everywhere, but there was art to it, and some of it was desperately beautiful.

I sat down on a bench by the police station army scary people place. I lay back and soaked in the Portuguese sun. I felt like I was breathing for the first time since I got on the boat. I could be on my own, get my bearing and settle. My whole body just glowed, and I took the chance to text my fam. They called me and it felt so good to be back in contact with the real world.

I set off towards the town, on a quest to find a Portuguese phrase book. This was a mission. I managed to buy some stickers for my guitar case, one saying Portugal, one Lisbon.

The biggest thing that struck me about Lisbon were the bottle banks. There was one on every street corner! All hand painted in a range of colours. A lot of buildings were dilapidated, with the paint sweating off the shutters in the gasping heat.

There were trams – yes, Lisbon has an amazing tram network – intersecting an incredible arched courtyard so big it was insane. In one of these arches I found a tourist information. It was here that I found my phrase book.

'Olah' – hello.
Obridado/Obrigadah – Thankyou

That's pretty much all I needed to know to be polite to the Portuguese. Immediately, everyone I spoke to was a notch more friendly. It's so true that just a little effort makes a difference, and I'll be seeing a lot more of Portugal.

The graffiti was amazing too. I snapped this piece because it moved me more than any other.

I went back to the ship feeling refreshed with a new confidence. For the first time I actually performed well.

First Day At Sea!!!

Oh my god I miss land. I can't remember exactly where the expression a 'curly head' came from, but I’ve never liked it. Unfortunately it completely suites my state of being.

I’m beginning to find my way around majesty. Basically, deck 2 is where I live, in a sort of Harry Potter, cupboard under the stairs get up. No, that's mean, it's actually got everything I need and is quite spacious, but I do feel bad for the Hungarian genius classical musicians next door who are two to a cabin. They are lovely men, brothers, and going through a very hard time. I occasionally hear gypsy scales dancing through the wall. I’ve not had chance to tell them yet what a privilege it is to hear their music, even if just through the walls.

My bar is called Rendezvous, and there is a bar literally built into my piano, where people can sit with cocktails and distract me from my playing with intense eye contact. I like this though. When people start to communicate with me, the music starts to get good. Sometimes I play in Polo Club and then for some reason people start requesting. Surprisingly the same songs I'd played an hour ago, to the frustration of the bar staff. Today though, I just played in Rendezvous, with a couple of sets in the Reception, who were stunned, and said that nobody ever played the piano in the reception and that they were thrilled it was getting played.

That's one of the weirdest things about this ship – there's grand pianos everywhere. Like if a drunken child had been given stickers and a plan of the boat, they crop up in the most bizarre places, like a stairwell. I think maybe the ships designers had some empty awkward corners to fill, and they just said 'Grand piano?', 'Yeh, why not'.

The hardest thing today has been keeping going for 4 hours and thirty minutes with my voice in tatters from yesterday. Doing these kind of hours is really bad, I’m risking nodules by not resting my voice, but I’m in a contract, so what can I do? If this persists any longer, I’m going to tell them I’m taking a day off, because I barely got through this set. By the end of it my voice was in tatters again, and how long can this go on for?

I had a drink on deck with the production manager. He's sound as a pound, and I met some other new people too. I’m not going to have a lot of time to socialize if I want to survive this insane schedule, but I want to make sure I get to know people before it's too late. Three months single is a terrifying prospect!

Oh one more thing, rules. They are soooo many. None of them seem nonsensical, except that even when your in down time and not working, you can't wear informal clothes on the decks. Thank god you can on deck 2. I get the impression I’m going to be spending a lot of time down here. I much prefer it down here in the 1950's caravan world, than upstairs in the polished chrome and glass world, where some poor guy is buffing his soul away, but still tries to smile and say hi to every passenger, in accordance to the rules. Maybe I’m seeing it in a bit of a down light through my curly head.

Anyway, I’m off to shower, dress, sound check and sing for three hours forty five.


Sam x

Farewell White Cliffs of Dover...

Hello there my wonderful friends who I’m already missing the living daylights out of.

I am now aboard the Thompson Majesty, and sick as a dog. The start of this trip has been as bad as it's possible to be, so I’m almost wishing I'd never come.

I’m sat in my cabin right now, which bears a striking resemblance to the inside of a 1950's caravan. That's cool by me, I like the 1950's, and caravans. I’m right over the engine room, so I can really feel what the engines doing – whenever we go up a few knots my bed starts to vibrate like a massage chair. I actually don't mind that either. It even gives me a bit of a rush when I feel a big wave hit the side of the hull and it runs a little shudder through my room. I love my cabin! Although it did take them a couple of days to make the shower hot...

The good news first!

Before I left, my records came! Finally I’m released on vinyl! That in my mind makes me a real musician, and I have pictures to prove!

You can hear all about it on Audiogumshoe here:

My flight from East Midlands left at six in the morning. 'That's OK, I wont sleep I thought'. You know that opera singer in Scrubs who jumps out and shouts 'MISTAKE!!'. Yeh, stick him in there. I grabbed a few hours on the plane. But when I awoke we were decending, and I had the biggest pain spreading throughout the inside of my head. I felt like I was gonna explode. I curled up, held my nose and swallowed again and again. I looked around. Everyone else was fine. As usual, just me. I must have missed the start of the decent.

I went through the airport feeling sick an dizzy, and desperate to find some water. I found non. I got my baggage, boarded the coach, by this point I felt like I was gonna die, my head was still exploding, my hearing was popped and I felt really dizzy. Luckily, then I met Adam, the entertainments manager, who rescued me and the other newcomers from the throng. He took us by a table of water, and I grabbed some as I went.

The next few hours were a whirlwind. Here's the ship, here's your cabin, here's your piano, here's your rota. In at the deep end. I was cool with that, I would have been fine with it all if I didn't feel like Uranium was frying my brain. I just wanted to be back home, and in bed. Preferably with somebody beautiful holding a cold flannel to my head, kissing my cheek, and... yeh.

So I head to my cabin at the nearest opportunity, set my alarm, and sleep. Glorious sleep. I was hoping I'd wake like the springtime, sweet and fresh like aloe vera in an April shower. I awoke feeling like a ninety year old on ket. For those who don't spend much time in Nottingham, that's bad.

My set was appaulling. I was a poorly back in England, but now I was gone. My voice went about half way through. Nothing I played sounded right, it was an unmitigated disaster of clashed notes, bum chords and a vocal that sounded like a cross between Tom Waites and a clanger. As the ship rocked I felt like I was going one way the piano the other. By the end, my voice was so shot I just played instrumental music till my time was up and then crashed into bed like a nervous wreck.

Lying on my bunk the realisation struck me that I had eighty more days of this torture. No escape. The only consolation was a little present I'd been given, with strict instructions to open it on the boat. Right then, it brought me so much comfort, its untrue. Thank you.

Then I turned on my ipod, and scrolled through – what would bring me back home? Just for a minute? The hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy. My old friend.

Cya soon everyone, I hope it gets better!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Breakfast Club, Spanky Van Dykes, Sneinton Lights, Bunkers Hill and my hair 2% sexier!

Hey there!

Had an awesome weekend with the Breakfast Club, We Played three gigs!

Oh, and this happened a week ago, just for the laughs!

First was the Nottingham lights festival, in Sneinton:

The second was Bunkers Hill, for which we have no pics, we were a little drunk by this point!

Then the next day was Spanky Van Dykes, which was amazing! Our big gig with Redrox supported by Anywyn Williams, Ric Birtill, Bud, Adam Clarkson (of Captain Dangerous) and compared by Tom Stevenson of Youtube fame. It was AWESOMEEEE!!!

We don't have many pics because the camera ran out of batteries here! Everybody was amazing. Bud were beyond incredible, I think they will be famous pretty soon.

Ric sang his song about Putin being gay, which was shared by Pussy Riot on Twitter!

Here's Anwyn being amazing completely acoustic:

And Bud being just making everyone happy!

Sorry I couldn't post something by everyone, or I'd be here all night!

Anyway, now I'm home I decided to relax and use science to determine whether I should put my rent or a haircut first... It seems I look 2% better with short hair!

Thanks science!