Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Ferry Good Ride

Ok, so when we were back in Amsterdam we were trying our best to find a way to get England, there were no megabus, flights were too expensive, no car shares.  Time was running out, Niz had a few days left on her visa, and we were starting to worry a bit. Then all of a sudden a car share just appeared.   From Amsterdam to Liverpool - 30 Euroes, leaving in 2 days!  We looked up at our lucky stars and said muchos gracias!  We got in touch with the guy and he tells us it is going to be on the Ferry.  Leaving from Rotterdam, we sail to Hull, and then Manchester and Liverpool.  We were so happy, we didn't think our bodies could take another 500 mile trip in the car.  He said it might be another 20 euroes each to pay for a room on the ferry, which we just about had.

Our last few days in Amsterdam we spent busking, and this time we made a sign. 'Trying to Get Home' and it worked!  We had managed to save 120 euroes for this journey back.   It was a nice time we spent back in Amsterdam, the sun was shining, the busking was good, we ate our favourite salads and talked about what it would be like back in England.  I warned Nizha that I would be different a bit.  When you are back at home, you are in a different mentality.  On the day we were leaving we set out to meet Paul who was driving.

He was with his friend and girlfriend, and they reminded me a bit of Delboy and Rodney.  They were German,  had bought a car that had broke down in London, so they found a replacement engine in Manchester, they were picking the engine up, then driving from there to London to fix it, and drive the car all the way back to Germany.  You could just tell they loved being on the road, driving, fixing cars, filling the van with parts.  They were a funny pair and I liked them right away.  They said that it would be another 20 euroes for the room on the ferry, so 50e each.  we said sure, and that left us enough to get something to eat for the journey.  We spent a nice few hours in Amsterdam with eachother though, rolled and smoked a joint, talked, laughed and then set out for the ferry in Rotterdam.

Paul phoned ahead to the ferry, as he hadn't booked the seats yet, and since his girlfriend decided to come at the last minute, it meant he would need another room.  He was starting to get nervous, he was speaking in German on the phone to her, and getting a bit worked up.  They wont let 5 people stay in a 4 person room, and he hadnt even booked the room yet.  He started to feel this might cost him big, and was asking us if we could find another car to just sneak past the entrance in.  Once we got to Rotterdam and to the ferry terminal he pulled up at the booth and told them that he hadnt booked the room, and now has an extra person.  She looked suprised that he hadn't booked the room before, but calculated his car and people, took our passports then handed him a bill for over 400 euroes!  We were all gobsmacked!  You could tell Paul was gutted, his bank card was not accepted, so he had to put it on his credit card.  We felt a little bad that we only had 50 euroes each to give him, but he assured us it was OK, and if we just give what we can, it will be alright.  It was just the fact that he needed an extra room which made it so expensive.

Then came the immigration check, this is what me and Nizha were worried about, she was a day over on her visa, and they were giving her trouble because she didn't get it stamped last time she left London.  After a good talking to, they let us go through.  Paul had let us have a room to ourselves, and it was gorgeous!  Like a little hotel room, we had a shower beds, lamps.  After a whole summer on those long Megabus rides, this was a luxury!  As soon as we lay down with eachother we just slept in eachothers arms.  We were supposed to be heading out to see the entertainment on the ferry, but we just couldn't wake up.  We got there in the night though, just in time to catch Paul and the guys.  We bid them goodnight and had a pint of stella in the Piano bar, then went for another sleep.

We awoke to the announcement that we were pulling in at Hull Ferry terminal.  I could taste the English air again, and we met up with Paul at the car and drove through the long line of passport checks and immigration.  They were looking at Nizhas passport and calling other people over, they asked to open the door so they could ask some questions.  He seemed like a nice fellow, and I was talking that we are just busking and we will be gigging around Liverpool.  He said 'Oh, are these paid gigs?'  I immediately realised that on a tourist visa you cannot work, so I said no they are just for the fun.  But I told him the romantic story of our journey, and he said'I am not legally allowed to let you into the country.....But go on then' we were so relieved, my honesty in telling him the story had nearly fucked everything up, but he was a nice guy and we sailed on through into Blighty.

It was when we were driving from Hull to Manchester, that Paul realised he wasnt even supposed to be going through Liverpool.  He thought it was Leeds!  But they took us anyway.  It was a 2 hour drive, that made them be late for another car sharer, but they dropped us off in Old Swan.  I can't truly express our thanks in enough words for all they did, but I felt it was something in the universe that made it all happen.  There we were in Amsterdam with no way to get to England, then all of a sudden this one appeared, took us to England in comfort, and though it was not even supposed to be going to Liverpool, it did anyway.  It had cost him double what he thought and took him well away from his planned route.  Paul, with all my heart I thank you and your friend and your girlfriend for all you did.  We were in Liverpool!

We had no English money, and when a bus came I just asked if we could jump on for free as we have had a massive journey.  He said he couldn't incase the ticket guy got on, but I said we will take the blame if he does, so he let us on for free and we took the bus to the city of Liverpool, amazed at how we got there............

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Sunday, 1 December 2013

The Buskers Survival Guide Part II - Amsterdam


I have spent so much time here in Amsterdam as a busker, that I know a lot more information on busking than I did with my previous survival guide.  So here is some more stories and info on my time busking in this legendary city.

Lets start with Permits.  If you are planning to stay in Amsterdam for a few months busking with an amp, then it is definitely worth looking to apply for a permit.  The rules have changed a lot now, and they only give 10 out, give you a set time to play, and give you 3 chances to get a warning.  There is only a window of a few weeks to get the permit, and that is the first 2 weeks of February.  It will cost you 50 euroes and some photos, but is a good investment for the summer.  As when Amsterdam is busy it is a gold mine for street musicians virtually wherever you play.  They give you 4 sets of one hour each, for 3 days of the week.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  The best places to play with an amp are Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square.  These are the places where you can draw a crowd and fill a big hat.  I reccomend having someone with a hat, as that triggers much more of a drop rate than waiting for people to put it in your case.  Someone with a hat, selling CDś is a way to massively increase your takings for a set.  But keep the volume down though, as the Handhaving and Politie can give you a warning if it is too loud.  Amsterdam enjoys itś peacefulness, so respect that and you will be fine.  If you are travelling with an amp and band, it is OK to risk a few sets here and there, and if you are stopped, just play the Travelling band card and they are usually fine with you.

Acoustic Busking can be just as rewarding as busking with an amp in Peak season, and if you are only on your own, you can make almost the same amount that is usually split between 4.  I survived a whole winter here on 2 spots.  Not overworking them, which is important.  If you overplay a spot too much it will start to reject you.  Itś strange, you will find aggression from passers by, Handhaving and neighbours stopping you.  The best plan is to find a route, of 3 or 4 spots where you know you can make between 10 and 30 euroes an hour.  4 sets and you have a good days wage.  But dont bank on the spots, sometimes you can make just pennies, when the previous day you had a full hat.  Thatś the only certain thing about busking.  The uncertainty.  The good thing about Amsterdam though is that there are so many good acoustic spots, because of the quietness of the city.  These are the spots I have found have been reliable drop spots.

After 10 years of being closed, the Rijks museum finally reopened this year and it is the most beautiful acoustic spot in the city.  A whole chamber of reverb for you to fill.  Tourists walking by, lots of people coming through.  They like people playing there also, as long as it is nice.  They will move you on if you go and try to play punk in there.  Busking is about fitting your environment.   I remember in Liverpool I would play all the gritty angry folky ones, cos that is the environment.  When I tried to play them in La Louvre in Paris, it just didn fit.  A good busker can pull out the perfect song to fit his environment and situation.  Lovely day?  Play some sunshine music.  Rainy?  Play some rainy day songs and so on.  The Rijks museum naturally attracts the classical players, single instruments and bands.  There is sometimes a waiting line in there, as it is sheltered, reverbed, and a tourist hot spot.  So just go and book yourself on and give it half an hour.  I find it is even the most perfect practise spot late at night.  There are no neighbours, so I just go there late sometimes and practise some new songs.

Waterlooplein.  I love this place.  Not just because the market there has kept me in good shoes all through my stay, but it is just so great a spot to play.  It is busy with the market, but still so quiet.  It makes all the difference in busking when you can hear yourself, and enjoy the set.  It has no car traffic, just bikes and passers by.  This place kept me going through the winter.  I would have to get there early to beat the Gypsys, but now they are at Rijks a lot so Waterlooplein has mostly been free!  I have had some very good hat fulls here, but it is playing to passers by, not drawing a crowd for people to sit.  There is a woman who lives close by that likes to come and tell you to stop.  But the law for acoustic busking is that you can play in one spot virtually anywhere for 30 minutes.  So if you are acoustic, she has to let you play.   I love this place, and will be there again over the Winter, so you best get there early to beat me!  This is a day spot, night time it is pretty quiet, but sometimes worth a shot in Summer especially.

Red Light District, the bridge by the church on the same line as the bull dogs is another good spot.  Night time especuially, but prepare yourself for randy tourists and noisy drunks.  This risk can bring big steady drops, but you have to put up with some pricks.  'Play Wonderwall!' They scream so gleefully.  It is supposedly forbidden to play in the Red Light area, but they seem to let it happen, as long as you are not too noisy, and not there for too long!

Vondelpark is a good day spot, but only through the summer.  Playing just by the entrance always served me well, or the tunnel a bit further on, but that has awkward walk ways.  The thing about your busking spot, is funneling them into a narrow walkway, making eye contact and BOOM BABY, there is the drop.  Vondelpark has a lovely quiet, and tourists and passers by.  You can probably find an OK spot in a lot of places, but the drops were always unsteady with this place.  Sometimes really great, and sometimes nothing!

The Hard Rock Cafe on Max Euweplein is a good night time spot.  After the chess board has closed at 21.30 you can do a sneaky set and sometimes make a really good hat.  It is supposedly forbidden to play there, but the street guards dont seem to mind.  Just dont drink a beer on this set as its not allowed to drink there.  If you are tempted by the tunnel just a few metres away, there is a guy who lives above that doesnt like buskers playing there.  So just watch out for him.  But somtimes you can catch him out and play a little set there.  Nice acoustics and good passers by.

There are that many bridges in Amsterdam, so Iḿ sure you can find one that suits you.  There is also another type of busking you can do, which has proved to me to dwarf any of the above.  It is a way to make big money in Amsterdam.  But since that is our project for the summer, I will keep it to myself for now.  Enjoy your Amsterdam busking adventure.  And if you want a little insider advice.  Go to the Coffeeshop Degraal on Albert Cuypstraat.  They have the best, cheapest weed, best music, best people, a recording studio in the back and weekly jam nights.  This place has been like a second home to me, it is a creative atmosphere where you can smoke a joint, play chess, draw in the house book,  and meet some very good interesting people.  Do say hello if you catch me in there!

Albert Heijn is the best Bar and Restaurant in town.  Good healthy salad for 3 euroes, bottle of good beer for 1.  But only an outdoor seating area, haha.  Hope this gives you a good heads up on enjoying Amsterdam as a busker.  If you are reading this and want some adventure, then do it.  Take a holiday, learn some busking classics and just head out into the unkown.  I promise you it will make you truly experience life.  Each day, each season, you will really feel the city by standing the streets playing music, seeing life come and go and fill your hat.  What are you waiting for?

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Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Bonnie and Clyde

The reason I love her so much, is we just feel so natural with eachother.  From that first moment, we picked up where we had never left off.   Niz is a very street wise girl, we would look after eachother.  She would always have little packs of sugar when there was none for the coffee, or tissue when you just needed it.  She was good at saving money, and since Berlin we were saving our money together, it would always run out sooner or later, but we lived better cos Niz is good with the money.  She fixes her clothes and is always sewing and mending things.  We were good together, and strong.  Musically it was stunning.  We had this chemistry when we played that it felt like sparks were coming off us sometimes.  We would both play so passionately, communicating in musical telepathy. Now we had our answer from Paris, it was time to plan the next steps.

First we spent a couple of days at Mike and Freds looking after the cat Kiki, and their lovely home.  Niz cooks amazing meals, lots of vegetables and curries and stuff, the first day we had alone at Mike and Freds she had cooked this amazing meal, and again itś hard to describe but we were having a laugh about something, I think I was teasing her a bit. She went into this fiery, fiesty, passionate Latina screams and shouts.  God I love it when she gets like this.  The sun from the wide open windows made her glow so golden, the breeze from a cool wind put her hair accross her eyes.  I thought, 'God, I am so in love with this girl' Another moment when I really felt myself fall in love with her even more.

We found a ride going to Amsterdam, and since that place was like a home to us, we took it.  We spent our last evening in Paris listening to and playing music, making love and getting our stuff ready.  We had survived Paris.  It was hard at times, but thats what made it so wonderful an experience.  We bonded in a way that it was hard to imagine being apart anymore.  So, we got engaged in Paris!  Is that too much of a cliche for this love story?  Well, itś true.  But it wasnt eating at the finest restaurants and grand hotels.  It was singing in the noisy streets for coins to buy cheap wine and baguettes.  Jumping the barriers of the metro to the sound of alarms, laying in the hot hot sun for hours with eachother, moving with the shade, sipping a cold coca cola like it was the last one in the world, drifting in and out of sleep on the grass, sending a coffee back at the most expensive restaurant in Paris.  Walking past bars with an empty stomach where they advertise cheese burgers for 20 euroes.  Going past a bar where they pump perfume through the air into the streets(not nice). Whenever we thought we had tamed Paris, it came back to bite us.

We took another 10 hour megabus ride to our beloved Amsterdam and the sun was shining when we got there.  We jumped the trams in ease, and when we heard that announcement on the tram 'Please remember to check out' we both smiled and felt really good being back.  Nizhas Visa would let her have another 3 months in the UK, so we said we would do a little busking tour of Scotland or Ireland and stay together.  I was a bit daunted by heading back to Blighty, and had my doubts.  But I soon came to my senses and we enjoyed our Amsterdam together.  Riding, busking, picnics and drinking.  One night we were sitting in the Ness, and this guy is staring at us.  I look at him and he comes over.  He says...'I just had to say, you two are a very beautiful couple, you are both just glowing' I said cheers bud, and he went on his way.  But together, we did glow.  People sensed it.

We had only a few coins, and needed to find a way to get to England.  Then a true gift from the Universe came upon us, and some good fortune that got us to England in comfort after doing thousands of miles on those hard Megabus '.  I will save that for a new chapter though, as Paul, his Girlfriend and Friend deserve a good story.......

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Friday, 22 November 2013

Gai Parii

Ok, where were we?  It was around 11am in Paris, we were empty, tired and drifting in and out of sleep on this bench.  Niz remembered she had 20 euroes in her old bank account, and if the supermarket would accept her card, we could get some food.  We woke up a bit, and straightened ourselves out, got all our stuff again and walked the cobbled, steep hills in search of a place for some cheap food.   After around 40 minutes we found a Fran Marche, they would accept Niz's foreign card, so we got some Baguette, Salad, Cheese, Chocolate, Bananas and water.  We found a nice little spot to sit and it was a heavenly feast.  The food tasted really good.  Infact all the food we ate in Paris, was lovely.  I ate a banana and swear it was the best one I have ever had.  We felt much better, and human again after something to eat.

After the picnic we headed back to Pont Neuf and we smoked a joint from a little bit of weed we bought from Amsterdam.  Then we just lay with eachother.  I took a turn to watch and draw in my book while Niz slept.  I want to try and describe this moment, but know you wont understand fully how it felt.  I was holding Niz, and she had some tears in her eyes.  We didn't speak, but we just both knew that we were in something special together, and no matter how hard it gets, we will get through it.  After an hour or so, we decided to have a little practise of some new songs.  We must have looked like a right gypsy couple.  I had my vest on and black hat, Niz a summer skirt that fits her like a dress playing guitar and violin on a bench in Paris.  A couple were walking past and asked if they could take our picture, I said sure and started playing some Johnny Cash.  The wife of the man took 5euroes out of her purse and gave it to us.  Was a strange moment that, we just said thanks very much and they went on their way.  We smiled to eachother and thought that Paris might not be as hard as we thought. 

Through that morning, we would still try our best to make eachother laugh.  Exagerating the waiters pleas when he told us Ít's Champs Eloise!!', Thats what kept us strong, when we laughed hard and loud with eachother.  It was getting around 5pm and we had a place we could go at 7:30, though it was a train to the edge of the city, and then a 40 minute bus ride.  We went to an Irish bar I knew and got online and planned our route.  After a cheap pint of ale we were feeling on a positive, we had made it through the day and it had turned out quite beautiful.  We went to the Lovers bridge to busk a bit, and the sound was just lost there.  The water and space of the bridge just carried it nowhere.  It was like you couldnt even hear yourself when you played.  Plus we were truly exhausted. We made enough to get the metro though and get to this address.  The metro seems so agressive in Paris, you go through a gate like cattle, and it shoves and bangs, makes this horrible noise.  Then the trains throw you round at a noisy speed.  We got to the edge of the city and found our way for the bus.  We jumped on without paying and it was hot and sweaty like sardines.  The bus was rammed full of people.  We looked round and everyone just looked ugly.  Sad women in designer dresses tutting and shoving.  We got to the stop and made our way to the address.

We were greeted by 2 very beautiful people in this world, and an amazing cat.  Mike and Fred welcomed us from that first moment like old friends.  They had a really delicous salmon and rice waiting, plus a joint, red wine and some schnaps.  They shared with us everything like family.  After such a testing, tiring day, to be welcomed like this gave us more faith for our time here.  We had a really great night with them, and Kiki the cat is truly like royalty.  We had a very comfortable couch bed to sleep on and we rested so good after a nice hot shower, clean towels and such a warm welcome by Mike and Fred.  The next day we headed out to do some busking again, and get some more information from the Embassy.  We had our last 6 euroes in the world and we spent it on some wine and food for a picnic.  We then tried to busk, and nothing!  Every place we tried, nothing.  We were getting very worried as we had no money for the metro to get home.  We walked around trying to find a busking spot with no joy, we were starting to get a bit crazy.  We thought fuck it, lets just got in this metro.  The doors were banging loud every 30 seconds or so, but we just took out our instruments and played with every bit of passion and life we had.  Seriously it was something intense coming from us as we played.  Niz played like I have never heard her play before, I sung my damn heart out and after 40 minutes we had made 16 euroes! Joy!

We threw down our instruments down and kissed so passionately, I held her and lifted her up and we thanked our lucky stars.  We then sat outside and drunk the rest of our wine, smiled, laughed and joked about how desperate we felt just before that busk.  We really did go from one extreme to the other that day.  Not a first though, and certainly not a last.  After a little walk in the city we made our way back to Mike and Freds, they had friends visiting them for a meal, and when we got their they asked us to play.  So we did, and they really loved it!  We played on the balcony overlooking this gorgeous red sunset, and a man who lives a floor up was shouting for more, Bravo Bravo!.  Mike and Fred have such a beautiful home, and they take such pride in their cooking, and hosting meals.  Like an art form.  They are a really nice couple, and again Couch Surfing didn't just get us a place to stay, but brought new friends into our life.  On our last day with them, we went for a picnic at Notre Dam and they asked us if we would like to look after their place when they go on holiday on Tuesday.  It was now Saturday night and we said sure.  Niz had been chasing up the Embassy and contacts, and we knew we needed a few more days here.

After a truly luxorious stay with Mike and Fred, we stayed with a Chinese French Girl.  She was lovely aswell.  Spoke French with a Chinese accent and lived in the very Northern part of Paris where all the high rise building are.  We met her the next day and had a picnic on Lovers bridge.  We played some music and again, passers by gave us 5 euroes!  We didn't even have our case out or anything.  It was weird, we made money not busking, just playing in Paris.  We stayed with Yifang, and the next day when she went out to work we went out to the city.  We sat on this bench in this black area of Paris.  Even the high rise slums were decorated very stylishly.  I think everyone in Paris knows who their architect is!  We decided to smoke the last of our weed from Amsterdam and then head to the city.  The sun was burning the ground truly.  We decided to just jump the metros.  We had been doing pretty good at it.  Finding the spots where we could get on for free, then when we got to the centre we jumped over the barrier and then the alarm went off.  Constantly it rang and rang announcements in French, we just pretended it wasnt for us, and watched the 2 minutes till our train came count down.  It was an intense 2 minutes.  We were pretty high from the joint, we got on the train and just held our breath.  We thought they would be coming from somewhere.  We decided to get off at a station and it was the Tour De France!  Just crowds of people and bikes, it was horrible.  We tried busking and it was painful.  We just walked for hours in the hot heat, then jumped the metro back to Yifangs. What we planned to be a nice walk in Paris had turned out to be a hard day.

I think it was because we had got complacent.  I remember walking around that day, saying hey 'Paris quite likes us, giving us 5 euroes here and there, and meeting these people and stuff'And then with a bang, we had our fear of Paris again.  The next day Niz needed to be up and out at 6am to find out once and for all about her Visa I waited for her in that black area and drew some pictures.  I waited there for 3 hours and when she came back she had her answer.  It was a No.  She would have to be out of the EU in 12 days.  It was a big blow and it hit us hard.  We brought some food and an Ice cold Coca Cola and lay on this patch of grass that was a smoking area for all these high rise office buildings.  There was a massive silly statue of a thumb.  We just lay on that grass all day, moving with the shade of the glowing green leaves, holding eachother.  For like 6 hours we lay there together, her head on my lap, mine on my guitar. Watching and listening to people come out from their work breaks and lunch hours.  As we lay there I kissed Nizha and I asked her if she would marry me........

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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A True Love Story

Ever since I could play acoustic guitar and started writing and performing songs on it, I always wanted a violin player to play with.  I love strings, they have such an effect on me, and since I am a sucker for a sad song they always seemed to fit so nicely into what I would play.  All through that last year in Amsterdam, I wanted to find a violin player to come busking with me.  So I posted an ad on the musicians classified and a few weeks later received a reply from a girl called Nizha, who was travelling also, and would love to come and meet in Amsterdam and travel and busk together.  I was back in Liverpool for a few weeks after a hard winter playing on the streets, and we agreed to meet in Amsterdam in a couple of weeks and start a busking adventure together.  Even from that first moment of contact, I had a great feeling about her. 

The night we met, I was cycling through Central Station to meet her, and I hear my name called with a beautiful Spanish tint., I turn around and there is Nizha, with the most radiantly warm smile.  We walk and we talk as if we knew eachother before, we had a gig booked at a cafe close to the Red Light Area, and we head there to get a beer and play for the first time together.  By the time we got there, the place had become packed and noisy and when we played, noone could really hear us, so I just turned the mic to her violin and heard these beautiful lines she was playing.  We played for eachother in a noisy bar and I said, '' hey that's what we gotta get used to with busking, playing in noisy streets with noone listening'.  We had a good response from some though, and the bar maids were giving us free beers all night.  There was this moment during the end of the night when I had knocked my beer over, and we shared one.  We both took sips until it had gone, I don't know why this moment resonates so much, perhaps because it was a sign of how we would be together.  Sharing everything as one.

The next day we woke up early where we were sleeping, and still in our pyjamas had a quiet little acoustic jam of some songs.  We talked and made plans, and it felt so good to be with her.  It was like we were getting ourselves ready for what we knew would be an amazing adventure, lots of cities, and lots of music. We started busking that day, and within 10 minutes we had 15 euroes in paper drops!  Another sign it was a great chemistry we had.  Over the next few days we would ride, busk, picnic and talk, the more I got to know her, the more I found myself feeling so attracted to her in every way.  She is so beautiful, with her Inca Princess'smile and that fire in her eyes. She was playing such sweet violin lines when we were busking, and they would be still be playing in my ears as I drifted to sleep wanting to be close to her.  After a few days, we stayed at the garden house in the East. Its a little wooden house on the outskirts of Amsterdam, with nothing but candles, wood fire and greenary all around. We moved all our stuff again, on trams, bikes and a heavy walk.  She never complained though, she has a strong travellers heart and would never tire or moan. 

We were starting to fall in love, and we made love in the garden house.  It was intense.  For those first 4 days together, every part of me was aching to touch her, to grab her and kiss her, hold her.  We felt so close, and being this busking team of playing together and having this beautiful musical chemistry was bringing us closer and closer.  When we made love, I felt that the universe had given me what my heart had always craved for.  Here I am in the great Amsterdam, falling in love with the most beautiful girl, she has her violin and bag, I have my guitar and bag and we can go wherever we want and eat and drink and live from the streets of the cities we bring music to!  What a life.  I felt stronger being with her, I wanted to look after her of course, and always do my best.  We were now becoming partners in every way, lovers, bandmates, travelling partners and best friends.  Ahead of us was a beautiful summer to fall in love like neither of us had ever known, but always dreamed of.

I have always felt I was a lucky bugger in this world, but being with Niz, that seemed to double.  The universe seemed to look after us in many ways.  We had our low days aswell of course.  Busking is so unpredictable, sometimes you play and noone really cares, and sometimes you get a great response, people sit and listen and tell you how good it is that we play here.  After a week together, we packed our stuff once again and left the garden house.  We were staying at me mate Barts for 2 nights before we headed East to Groningen.  We'd had a little slow patch busking, and we only had a few euroes left, and it was grey and rainy.  We were wondering how we were gonna get money to get to Germany and try to get into the fusion festival, and then we seen in the sky 2 patches of blue. It was a sign! We packed our instruments, spent our last few euroes on a couple of beers and went busking at Max Eiweplein.  There was a good atmosphere, it was starting to brighten up in the sky, and we were playing well.  The drops just flowed in, in less than an hour our bag was full!  Over 50 euroes, and then as we were packin up, Bart phoned us and asks if we want to play at a party on a house boat. He came and picked us up and we rode with smiles with a legend to an unforgetable night.

Bart has beautiful friends, and around 6 were sitting in this lovely warm boat house, we drunk a beer and then played. They really loved it, one girl was moved to tears!  It really was a special night that.  After busking to people passing by, this was the first time we played together for an audience, and Nizha played like I had never heard her play before, it was like she was glowing so bright and beautiful, full of life, passion, energy and she was so fiesty and fearless. That whole night, and I found myself falling even more deeply in love with her and when we got home from a very crazy and beautiful night, we told eachother, in a very special way.

We were leaving for Groningen and then to Germany the next night, and the next day Bart took us to another house boat to play and he put the hat round again. Another great party and people! We now had enough money to get to Germany, and on that last moment Bart found a spare ticket for Fusion, and it seemed that everything had just clicked into place. From the start of Friday night we were broke and low, and then with that good busk, and those house boats we had a bagful of money and a head full of beautiful memories and a ticket to the best festial in Europe!  Again Bart went out of his way to help us get our ride to Groningen, and took us to meet Dani on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

We spent a lovely 2 days in the East of Holland with Dani, Wytze and their boy Flitz.  They live in this amazing squatted hospital building.  Their room is an old operating theater and is decorated so cool, almost like a little festival with lights, flying saucers disco balls and a DJ booth, but at the same time being so warm and homely.  It is just one big room, and me and Niz would sleep on two single matresses cuddled up close, whispering under the covers to eachother, kissing, holding and feeling like something special was taking a hold of us.  To hold her in my arms made me feel so complete, to touch her made my hands tingle, like there was some kind of energy between us bonding us together.  We couldn't keep our hands off eachother, and it was becoming more intense the energy with us.  We had a few tmes when we would argue aswell, being together 24/7 sleeping on couches, floors and wherever you can, brings you close, you feel like you are looking out for eachother all the time.  You become stronger together.  Niz is proud, passionate and fiesty, and sometimes we would have our moments, but always end up in each others arms.

We were helping Dani pack for the festival and getting excited about going to Fusion Festival.  Dani is a festival pro, and working the coffee bar that is a motorbike, and cooking coffee and cakes in a wood oven is a great way to experience the festival, you meet and speak to so many people, plus you party with a good crew of friends who come with Dani.  At the end of the festival you feel like you have really been through a special experience with everyone you are with.  We would dance from one tent to the other, always waiting for the drop beat break, then when it kicks back on, dance like hell.  Then wonder off to the next stage and see what is happening.  There is so much at Fusion, one day we went on a trip around and found this gypsy Indian band, playing incredible music.  It was raining, but we just danced on, kissed, smiled and had a great party.  We would work on the coffee bar together, with me selling the coffee and Niz looking after the cakes.

It can be hard living in a tent with someone you have only known for 2 weeks, at a festival where there is a continuous bass line shaking the ground, no hot showers and people everywhere, you really get to know someone.  The more I got to know Niz, the more I loved her.  At festivals you can sometimes see the effects of people who party so hard, they look like zombies a bit.  Nizha would still shine bright and beautiful like I have never seen before.  I was carrying my tooth brush in a plastic bag, and she was carrying hers in a leather toiletries bag, at the festival we started keeping them together in her bag, another silly small thing, but it just resonates as another moment that brought us closer together.  We were at Fusion for a week, and then we were heading to Berlin for some busking and adventure!  We had heard so much about the city, that we were so excited to go and experience it.  The fusion had bonded us in a beautiful way, that we just felt so strong together.  With her, I felt able and eagre to face anything in this world.  We were on this amazing journey, in love like we have never felt before, we made beautiful music together in the streets, we felt like a truly free gypsy travelling couple.

And God, how I loved her.  Whenever we touched, there was an electricity that set our bodies on fire.  The energy would get so intense between us sometimes that it was explosive.  She brought out the best in me musically, and and in myself.  By the end of the festival we had been through some massive highs and lows, rain and sun, had tears watching Dhaka Brakha in the sunshine, danced in the rain from place to place waiting for the drop beat, then dancing on, swimming in the lake in the afternoon sun on the last day, wow.  Thinking back now just brings these waves of smiles and good memories from that festival and time together.  I have already wrote a big chapter about Berlin that I feel tells most of what happened, and you can read that here  But from a persepctive further on, this is what I remember from our Berlin days.......

We would ride the Ubahn and just make eachother laugh as much as we could.  I would have these silly faces and nods, and German voices,  and Niz has such a good quick wit she would always bounce back so sharp.  I just remember laughing so much with her.  We spent a lot of  days in beautiful sunshine, just laying on the grass, her head resting on me, mine on my guitar, feeling so good and close together.  Watching the sun move through the sky, and moving yourself with the sun to get the shade every ten minutes, sprinkles of shade through the glowing green leaves.  A cold beer, and falafal from our busking fund.  And the busking was going good.  Up and down, sometimes pennies, sometimes a bag full.  But thus is theee busking way.  But we were doing good.  We would picnic every day still, find a nice spot.  We were spending every moment together, and we never tired, it just grew and grew.  It felt strange to be away from eachother when we were.  Cos sometimes we would have a little argument over something completely silly, but always end up back in eachothers arms, say we enjoyed our few hours apart, but really we just missed eachother.  It had been a month together, and I felt it was impossible to fall in love with her even more, but over the four months we had together there were special moments where I  physically felt myself fall in love with her even more and more.  It was a strong feeling.  She was like everything to me.  My girlfriend, my best friend, my travelling partner, my band mate, my true love.....

It was good days in Berlin,and on our last day before we headed South to Dresden, Niz found out that she would have to go to Paris sooner than she thought to sort her Visa out and hopefully stay in Europe longer.  We were in the car to Dresden and I had wanted to head through Southern Germany and get to Switzerland and then Greece.  Nizha was gonna come to, but now her road had changed all of a sudden, and there were these few hours in the car where I was still gonna head to Switzerland, but that just didn feel right at all. I knew I would just miss her like crazy.  Didnt make sense.  I was a little daunted by Paris, itś hard going there busking, no free transport, expensive in every way, my Francais wasn that great and I just wasnt drawn there at all.  I was completely drawn to Niz though, so our adventure would take a U-turn.  When we got to Dresden we needed to find a route to Paris.  It was hard, there were no cheap trains, buses or car shares and we didn have much money in the busking bag.  We decided to head back to Berlin, and then Amsterdam, and then Paris.  That was the route we could  get cheaply.  But we had a nice 4 days in Dresden.  Completely different atmosphere to Berlin, but we did some nice busking there, and had a good response.  Very classical flavoured city. We learned some new songs, and then got a ride to Berlin.

As soon as we got out of the car in Berlin, it felt really good to be back there.  I had this feeling to stay while Niz went to Paris and busk with the amp. I knew I wouldnt, but thatś the effect the city has on you.   The next day we headed out to do some busking, it was a grey day, and the reality of Paris was settling in more and more.  We had a little argument and split for a few hours.  I went to the park where we had first slept on the bench that night, and drew some pictures in my book.  These 2 Germans were really amazed by them, they couldnt speak much English, but we had this trade of conversation over a joint, and them looking through my book.  Then this girl came upto me, and couldnt speak English, but was upset and saying she hates her life. These people you meet.  I thought of life travelling on my own again, I went out busking at this bridge and it was terrible.  My voice cracked and I lost it after the first line.  Felt so wrong playing without Niz.  I went straight back to Anjaś where she was, and told her that I may be daunted by Paris, but as long as we are together we can overcome anything.  I love you and am with you all the way with this.  We found a ride to Amsterdam and spent a much needed few nights there, bracing ourselves for Mordur...Paris.

I make it sound much worse,  But I just never felt it was the place for me.  They dont really care for busking, itś noisy and the metros are aggressive.  It is expensive in every way, and if you don speak French, you just dont get it. I did have some good days there, but I just remember getting to Amsterdam after 2 months in France and thinking WOW!  This is the city to be!  Itś just a good way of life here if you havent got much money. (As all my previous chapters cover:)  Anyway, we got to Amsterdam after a 6 hour ride from Berlin.  We were welcomed home so warmly by Bart, who had the bikes waiting and a cold beer.  We were only here for a couple of nights before Paris, and it was a good time.  The sun was shining, we went out for a busk at Vondel park, we were amazed by the quietness after the noise of Berlin.  We enjoyed our set and made a nice bag ful.  Felt good being back.  On our last night I had this great talk with Johnny who lives with Bart about the Ether and the Universe, smoking hash and drinking heinekin like water.  Was a nice night that.  The next day we took the bus to Paris.....

We arrived in Paris at 5:30 am, and we felt so hazy and tired.  We had done a few thousand kilometres now on the road over the last month. It hurts on the Megabus, no leg room, and your body just aches from trying to sleep while going over bumps, wobbling your neck, you really feel it like.  We took all our stuff, and walked over hard cobbled steep roads to try and find a coffee and make a plan.  We had 20 euroes between us.  A guy on couch surfing who said we could stay with him for a few nights from 7pm that evening. The first stop was a coffee, after walking for around 40 minutes, watching the city slowly start to wake, we found one that was open.  I ordered 2 cappacinos and he brings a bill for 15 euroes!  I say we cant pay that mate, we were expecting like 5 euroes or something!  I said take it back mate, no chance.  He said..'But this is Champs Eloise'!  Haha, we had ended up on the most expensive road in Paris.  There was a Mcdonalds just opening opposite but my pride didn allow us in there.  We found one down the road that was just 3 euroes.  We sipped that coffee like it was the last one in the world.

The first thing was to get to the embassy and find out about this visa.  We were so tired and we used 2.80 to get 1 ticket for the metro that we both huddled through on.  We found the area we had to go, and found a bench near.  We still had a few hours to pass before it opened.  We just lay on this bench, and drifted into patchy sleep.  After an hour or so Niz, changed her clothes while noone was looking and got ready to find out if her future is in Europe or Argentina.  We went over what she was gonna say, and hoped we would find out more  about what needs to be done.  Unfortunately the Embassy wasnt much of a help, so we decided to make our way to Pont Neuf, a place I knew a fair bit from my last time here.  We spent another 2.80 and huddled through and got to Pont Neuf.  We were empty, tired, hungry, we just found this bench in the shade, and we just held eachother.  We would not let go of eachother one moment. We took turns sleeping for a bit while the city woke up further, we were getting so hungry.  We had 8 euroes left.  We had a faint idea where a supermarket was, all our luggage with us.  It was around 10am.

Thinking of that first morning in Paris, is undescribable at this moment.  Bringing back a lot of heavy and intense beautiful memories with Niz.  Just holding eachother so close.  Keeping positive hearts.  I am gonna leave this chapter here for now, and try and to capture it fully with a fresh breath.  Paris was an incredible story of true love that decided where the next road led to.

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Friday, 6 September 2013

Back we go......

Our ride to Dresden was leaving at 10 am and we packed all our stuff and left for the Bahnhoff.  Not once did we have to pay for transport in Berlin, we could just jump from train to train and get anywhere we wanted.  We arrived in the East where are ride was leaving, and even though it was 9:30am, I bought a Berliner Pilsener and thoughtfully drunk it, thinking of how special a city and time we have had there.  Our ride arrived and we set out South for Dresden....

On the morning we were leaving, Anja had made us a full English breakfast, and it was such a touching gesture and as we ate we spoke about our plans.  Nizha realised that she needed to get to Paris to sort out paperwork for her stay here sooner than she thought, and on the journey there was resigned to having to leave Dresden for Paris as soon as possible.  My plan was to go to Switzerland via Prague and Munich but it didn't seem right to part, so I agreed to go with her.

We arrived in Dresden and it was such a different atmosphere from Berlin, the buildings were so beautiful and it seemed like it was full of old people eating expensive strawberries and cream.  We seen a few buskers and they were all playing really beautiful classical stuff.  We began to feel like we were out of place a bit.  We had a lot of luggage with us, and had to wait till 7pm to meet the girl who said we could stay with her.  We heaved our luggage around, unable to afford a beer here, looking for a busking spot.  I was starting to feel a bit like we would be too out of place here.  We took a rest and bought some bread and cheese and a bottle of beer from the supermarket and had a little picnic while we made a plan.

We headed to the bridge we had heard the classical buskers and there was this accordion player, playing one song over and over.  We said we would go on after him and waited for our turn.  We played and immediately the tunnel filled up, people were stopping and watching our whole set, giving us flowers and candy and filming us.  We made close to 30 Euroes in less than an hour and I was so relieved.  We kind of felt we had injected a bit of rock and roll and life into the usually quiet city.  With smiles and re found energy we made our way to Emilia's to sleep there for a couple of nights.

It was a nice time there, but most of our time was occupied in planning how we could get to Paris.  There were no car shares heading there.  The train was way to expensive and since time was running out we needed to find a way.  It seemed the easiest option was to head back to Berlin and get a bus from there to Amsterdam, and from there to Paris.  So after 3 lovely days of busking and exploring Dresden we caught a ride to Berlin and messaged Anja to say we were coming back, and could we stay a few nights.  She welcomed us back with open arms and the moment we stepped out of the car in Berlin it felt great.  Even just going away for a few days made me realise how great a city it is.  And part of me was almost tempted to stay there.

We needed to make as much money as we could in Berlin as we knew Paris was no place for the poor, but it was hard cos acoustic busking is harder to find a spot.  We tried Alexanderplatz and around the heavy nested tourist areas, but just didn't feel right there, so we took a chance and headed to Maur park and went around the corner from the main road.  As soon as we started these two lovely young girls sat in front of us and started watching us.  After a couple of songs we had finished our beer and one of the girls ran off, and came back a few minutes later with a fresh cold beer for us!  She took her seat again and they listened for the whole set.  We made good money that busk, and had found our spot.  We took a break, drunk a beer and ate some chips and then went back for another set there.

After a few songs, a homeless guy who was sitting round the corner from us, came and sat right next to us.  Singing a long and trying to speak to us in English.  He put some pennies in our jar, and then after a few more songs the most touching thing happened.  He went and bought us a beer.  How can a man who has no home, begs for money and sleeps on the street be able to buy two English buskers a beer with the last of his money?  We spoke to him for a while, and it turns out he was Latvian and had been living on the streets of Germany for a few years.  We bade him farewell and took the metro home.  A few days later we seen him blind drunk asleep on a bench at the station and our hearts ached a bit.

As the thought of Paris was becoming more a reality and we had only a few euroes to our name, I became worried of what the city would be like for us.  One day we left for busking, and it hit me.  My memories of the place last time.  There is no free transport, no cheap way of life, no English speaking, I was a bit daunted by the thought, and Nizha and I took some time apart.  I tried busking on my own, and it was horrible.  I missed her more than I thought possible.  I remember during the first few weeks of playing with her, I would sleep with her violin melodies playing over in my head.  Busking was not good without her.  I had one beer saved and 80cents so went to the bench and park where we first slept and did some drawing.  I hadn't done much lately, and wanted to get back into it.  I was sitting on our bench and these two German guys who couldn't speak English were amazed by my drawings, they went through every one with wonder and respect, and we tried to speak in the German that I knew, and the English that they knew.  They shared with me a joint, and I shared with them my beer.  Once they left, this girl sat right next to me, and was crying saying she hated her life, again she didn't speak much English, but we spoke a bit, and then she left.

I came home to Anja's and just gave Nizha a big hug, and we spoke and I said I may be daunted by Paris, but I am still coming.  Life is about facing your fears, and I know that as long as we are together, we can get through anything,  We both knew Paris was going to be hard, but as long as we stay strong and together we can do it.  Thankfully, we would have a little stop off in our beloved Amsterdam before we hit Paris........

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Saturday, 24 August 2013


Again, I have left this far too long to accurately get down everything that happened with our Berlin adventure.  But let's take it back to the fusion and see how we get on.

On the last day of the festival, it had that 'party's over' type of atmosphere in the place.  Tents were all going, the zombies were searching for the bass drum that you could still hear in the distance.  We had put a sign on the coffee bar asking if anyone was going to Berlin and if we could catch a ride.  There was no luck so far though.  All through the festival we were camped right next to the Dub stage, and that bass line is still stuck in my head.  When you lay your head on the ground to sleep, the vibrations rattled your ear lobes and brain.  It seemed like it was just one bass line constantly for 72 hours straight. We hadn't had a good nights sleep or a hot shower for a week now, but on the last day we went for a swim in the cold lake.  Then Jetske, who was with us at the coffee bar doing massages said she quite fancied an adventure in Berlin, and would drive with us to there.  The sun had finally came after 2 days of rain at the festival, and on a gorgeous day we got on in the car and on the road again.....

The drive was nice, listening to Van Morrison, hitting some high speeds on the Autobahn.  We were approaching Berlin and once we got there we fell in love with the place.  The buildings were so colourful, the sun shone on them and brought out the pinks and sky blues, and murials everywhere.  Graffiti on every bit of space there could be.  But more than that, you could just feel an electricity in the atmosphere.  The city was alive, and we got such a great vibe.  The first thing we needed to do, was drink a beer and eat a falafel.  And that we did.  In Berlin, you are never more than five meters away from a cold beer for less than a euro and a good falafel.  We walked round the city, seeing these gorgeous views and buildings.  We had a contact for someone who said we could crash on their couch, so we needed to find an internet cafe to get online and get her details.  Everything was so cheap!  They still did things in cents, like 32 cents for half an hour of internet and stuff. 92cents for a beer, cheap chocolate and everything just seemed so good for us.  We got the details of where we were gonna stay and drunk some more beers.

The telephone number she had given us wasn't working, and the address had noone home.  Hmmm, we wondered what we could do and went to try and find a hostel for 8 euroes a night.  We had left the festival with 50 euroes for our work and when the hostel was fully booked, we thought 'Shit, it's all gonna go if we get a more expensive one'.  We couldn't find one though, everything was booked. Wherever we would go it was no vacancies.  We prepared ourselves for a night on the streets.  We were so tired from the festival, so dirty and just needing to lie down.  We found a park bench, and Jetske kept the stuff in her car, and me and Niz slept for the night on the park bench.  It was a strange experience, but I feel when I am with Niz, we can overcome anything.  We are strong together, and after that night on the bench I fell in love with her even more.  She is such a strong hearted, fiery girl, and when she accepted we were on the bench, there was no complaints or big worries, we knew our lucky stars would look after us.  As the sun came up, we drifted in and out of sleep as people walked by, and the working day began.
Our first night in Berlin

When we got online again in the morning, we had a message from the girl who said we could stay with her, saying sorry she had given us the wrong number, and we could go there from 5pm that day.  This was a relief.  We just wanted a shower and a bed so bad, sleeping roughly for over a week takes its toll on you.  When we got there, we were welcomed warmly and took a nice hot shower and lay down for a little bit.  We went busking that night, and played right next to a main road that was so noisy, but we still made about ten euroes in total.  Amsterdam is so quiet, and acoustic music thrives there, but Berlin was noisy and hard to find a quiet spot.  From this point, we pooled all our money together.  We became a closer team.  Upto now, we were splitting what we made, but it was pointless, as I am bad with money, I just can't save it.  When we did this, we became even stronger.  We had spent 3 weeks together, and only bin apart for a few hours in total.  I felt I had found someone really special.  A beautiful and amazing violin playing girl, with a wild travelling heart, who brings out the best in me.  
Busking in Berlin

We could stay with the girl in Berlin for 3 days before we needed to find somewhere else.  We posted on the Emergency Couch group and received a message from Anja, who said we could stay with her for a few days.  We both had a good feeling about it.  Niz is never wrong with her feelings and we set out from East Berlin, to West.  When we arrived at Anja's, it was like coming home.  The place had such a warmth, and homely atmosphere and we met a very special family who will always have a place in our hearts.  The daughter Layla, an 11 year old genius.  Who spoke perfect English, with a beautiful tint of German Indian.  The 2 boys, Lada and Bada, who were born to be Bollywood stars.  So full of life and energy in their eyes. And Anja, a beautiful and strong woman and a natural mother at heart.  For a few days, Niz had been craving Indian food, and when Anja brought out one of the best curries I had ever tasted we knew our lucky stars had looked after us again.  

One night when we came back from busking, we sat with Leyla and talked about the universe and philosophy until midnight.  She asked me if there were any questions I would love to know the answer to.  I said, 'I like the fact that some things will never be answered, like what is infinity, and why are the pyramids there, what happens when you die'.  Leyla reads a book a day, she sings perfectly the melodies she hears from Bollywood songs after listening only once, she is a truly gifted and brilliant mind and that night will always stick out for me.  The boys had taken a liking to us aswell, and were calling us Uncle and Auntie, we would play with them for hours, and they would never tire.  They have eyes full of love and life, and that is all because of the great mother they have.  Anja brings those boys up with such love and strength that it was truly inspiring and heart warming to be a part of.
Anja and the kids.

On Sunday Anja took us to Maur park, and I know why she did.  We were leaving for Dresden on Tuesday, and when we got to the park we were amazed and in awe even more of Berlin.  There were musicians EVERYWHERE!  Street musicians every few metres, just playing for the hell of it.  People practising in the park, an ampitheatre that had hundreds of people seated, singing along to karaoke (I asked to do a song, but was just a few minutes too late, damn!'.  We did a bit of busking ourselves, drank some beers, fell in love even more with each other and Berlin.  We were very sad to be leaving for Dresden, as our plan was to head South as fast as we could and get to Switzerland via Prague, Nuremburg and Munich.  But we would find ourselved back in Berlin and Anja's sooner than we thought....

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Friday, 26 July 2013

On the road again.............

Where can I possibly start this chapter?  It has been nearly 2 months since my last entry, and so much has happened in that time.  I think I will take it back to the leaving of Liverpool, and there were many fare thee wells.....

I left Liverpool this time full of life and energy for the next chapter to begin.  It had been so great being back, I felt like a rich man I was walking around with pockets full of pounds from gooood busking, feeling very comfortable.  When you have a little bit of financial freedom, it allows you to rest a little easier.  I was busking hard though, over the weekend nights playing for 7 or 8 hours a day.  Getting 40 quid drops and 20 and 10s and 5s.  Was beautiful  And I was a little sad to be leaving.  I was eating well, reading a book every 2 days, seeing some beautiful friends and bands and really enjoying being home with my family.  A violin player had got in touch with me after I posted an ad on a musicians site, looking for a travelling busking partner, and said she wants to come busking with me.  All last year I wanted a violin player to play with, and was about to meet a special one..
I packed my stuff into my big bag, and realized how little clothes and stuff I actually had.  The only heavy things were my amp, a warm coat, tea bags and multicoloured socks.  Oh yeah, and lots of  books and pads.Though sad I was a little to be leaving, I was looking forward to playing with a violinist.  I set out once again for an 18 hour bus ride to my beloved Amsterdam to start the next chapter.  I was meeting Niz (The Violin player) that night, and had been offered a gig at the bulldog, so thought that would be a good place for us to play together for the first time.  I always think if you can just tune in with eachother without practising it´s a good sign.

I touched down in Amsterdam the next morning and popped in to see a few people and pick trigger up.  I ate my favourite Albert Heijn slaad, bought my favourite La Trappe beer and smoked a joint in my favourite coffee shop De Graal.  It was nice being back, but different. I knew I had my heart set on Berlin and other places this summer.  But it always feels like a second home to me, Amsterdam.  It was approaching the time for the gig and meeting Niz so I headed for a little back ride and to the Bulldog.  I got in there and sat through the usual offerings of an open mic acoustic night.  The host was quite excited to have me play it seemed, and I was quite looking forward to playing and seeing if it would click with the violin, if she made it in time.  After my first glass of La Chouffe she called me and I went to meet her.

I liked her from the very first moment. I was so full of energy after a month back in Liverpool and being back in Amsterdam that she thought I was on drugs by how I was speaking (this happens a lot though) She understood what she could of me speaking as we went to the gig.  By this time the noise of the place had got a bit loud, and I hate playing in loud places, we set up to play and I was getting angry by the almost deafening noise, so me and Niz just played for eachother.  I put the mic to her so I could hear these perfect violin lines she was playing.  We met that night, after our first jam at our first gig, all the signs were good.  We shared our beer and I felt I had found a good travelling partner.  And from that moment I went from being a lonesome traveller to a band of gypsies.

The next day we went busking for the first time at the tunnel under Vondel Park, the first three drops were 5 euroes!  Another good sign.  Then we went to Waterloo and played for half an hour and made another 20 euroes.  Each moment I was liking her more and more.  After a good first busking start, things started to get slower.  We were making not much, but still going at it.  That's the thing about busking, it is so unpredicatable!  You never know how it's gonna turn out, and who your gonna meet.  Some sessions we would get a great response, others hard and none. We were splitting our money at the start, and it always burns a hole in my pockets.  I always spend it, but we knew after 10 days in Amsterdam we were heading to Berlin, and to the Fusion Festival, Nizha didn't have a ticket so was trying to save.  It was hard when things were slow, we were leaving on Sunday and it was now Friday.

We were staying at Barts at this time and he was looking after us with that golden heart of his.  It was approaching the night after being gray and rainy all day and we had 10 euroes between us.  We were wondering wether to go out, when I looked out the window and seen 2 patches of blue.  This was the sign!  We jumped on our bikes and headed to Max Euweplein.  The sky was clearing up and we were setting up.  There was something good in the air, as soon as we started the drops came dropping in.  People filming us, in an hour we had a pot full of coins and big smiles.  A few days before, we had been busking at Rijks museum, and we seen this girl who was playing before us.  She was playing bass accordion and singing these stunning opera songs.  The whole massive ancient tunnel was alive with this beautiful sound and she had a crowd and a bag full of coins.  After we had a few sessions of slow drops, we much needed a bag full of coins, and that night we got it.

As we were packing up to go, we got a phonecall from Bart, he was having a party at a house boat and wanted to see if we would come and play some music, there is a fridge full of cold beer and a room full of warm people.  We got to the house boat and felt in such good company.  We started to play and they really enjoyed it!  We were in great spirits and feel it will always be a special night in our memories.   Bart put the hat round and got us a donation for our rainy day fund to Berlin, and the next day the same happened!  Another beautiful gig in a house boat with beautiful people and food. Another kind donation and we left Amsterdam that evening on a beautiful high. Whenever I arrive in this city, I will always feel I am coming home.  Wherever I go or see, Amsterdam has a place in my heart like no other will and on that last moment as we were leaving Bart found a fusion ticket for Nizha, and everything just felt so right and perfectly in place.  We had a ticket and a bit of money to get to Germany and a ticket for the best festival in the world.
Before Berlin we were stopping off in Groningen to stay with my dear Danni, Wytze and Flitz who I met and went through something big and special with at the first Magneet.  I was gonna be working the coffee bar again with them, and this I truly LOVE!  I take a pride as I am cooking the best coffee on the festival on a motorbike with an oven, baking the best most sweetest home made cakes on the festival,  being with the best people you could be with.  Danni is a festival pro, and seeing her at work is brilliant and good to feel a part of.  It's a little festival family and we all just have a good party with eachother, eat good food and keep the coffee bar cooking with love and good coffee!  You always feel at the end that you have just gone through something with someone that will always give you a bond.  Me and Niz had become very close after spending almost a month living on the road and busking together.  After over a week of not playing any music at the Fusion, we were excited by the road to Berlin and getting back to Busking and exploring the place we had heard only great things about.

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Friday, 24 May 2013

Cremate My Care

Last Sunday, that strange orange ball in the sky showed its wayfaring self.  It had been lost behind chalky grey windy skies for the last week.  I set out to town to do some busking, as the previous night I had spent my last penny on watching one of the best bands ever 'King Twit' and dancing crazily at Kazimier gardens.  The worm came out, and tore my jeans, dirtied every part of me but it was worth it!  The next morning, I felt hungover for the first time in a while.  It dawned on me, that for the last 2 years, I have been drinking more days of the week than I havent.  I thought will someone come and give me a mug of beer and say 'Congratulation, your are well on your way to becoming an alcoholic'.  Although I wasn't in the mind set to go busking, I had to because of the weather.

When I got to town, it was crazy!  For a start there were accordion players EVERYWHERE, then on church street everyone with their amps, I thought 'Shit, where am I gonna play' I was beaten to the best spot by seconds by this Dylan wannabe LIPA boy.  He said he was gonna play there for 3 hours, and so I dug out a few spots to play till then.  I was doing alright, made about 20 quid, couldn't resist a pint, and buying some tobacco.  When I came back to the spot, he played for another hour while I waited.

The moment I set up, the drops came flying in.  It had just turned 9pm, and there was a buzz in town.  I made 60 quid in an hour ana half.  And waddled to the train station with two back pockets full of silver and gold.  Phew!  I think part of the feeling of being down that morning was because my jar was empty.  I had spent it all.  I had used a big chunk for a disasterous busking trip down to Hebden Bridge, and going out on a few dates.  But now I was back up to a jar full of quids, and could relax a little during the week.

Monday started with rain, wind and coldness all over.  I always thought 50 shades of grey was just a description of the British summer!  When the weather is bad, I stay in and learn and write new songs.  The wind has lasted all week.  Violent wind that makes a short dash to the smoking greenhouse a body tenser!  So I bought some smoke, and just went about getting a few new songs together to maybe record.  Plus I finished the book 'The Master and Margarita' which I reccomend to everyone!  What a great book, a few of the lyrics of this new e.p are inspired by it.

Last night I went to the legendary Radio Ray's Moon Apple Studio (Radio Ray is the Mike Oldfield of Space Rock :) and recorded 3 tracks.  The first one has some nice lyrical luminosity, the second one is a way of getting over a sad memory, and the third is just an idea for a big song in dropped D I am doing.  3 demos, but I like the freshness of them.  It is a way to get things out of yourself, and release them into the world.  And it worked!  As I was walking home at 2 am it dawned on me that I love being single.  Sure it's sad when you get really close to someone then break up, but recording this e.p made me feel much better about things, that's the power of music.

As I was walking home, the wind was calm, and I though, Fate!  Tomorrow let's have a nice calm day, so I can get out busking!  Alas, the wind is pushing as violent as ever and I'm debating wether to head out.  The one thing that makes me want to leave England right away and head for Berlin is the weather.  I cannot be arsed with a summer of grey after the Winter I have had.  I think after the Free Rock n Roll weekend at Kaz Gardens will be my last weekend in Liverpool for a good while.  I have really enjoyed this recharge but am prepping myself to leave her shores for a long while again.

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Tuesday, 21 May 2013


It's been two weeks back in Liverpool now, and God, do I feel good!  Life is good as a busker and someone who needs music all around him.  I have been making very very good money from busking even in comparison to what I made in Amsterdam!  And even though there are buskers EVERYWHERE here, I can still make almost a hundred quid each day.  My diet has been bacon, egg sausage, beans, bread, chips, pasties, tea tea tea, and all the good food I was brought up on.  I have loved it.  Seeing my family, friends, bands, places, bumping into people I know several times a day.  But where were we?

I watched the sun rise on the English channel.  We had been on the bus for about 8 hours.  I hadn't really slept.  I forgot to bring a book, and for the first 3 hours of the journey, there was this beeping buzzing sound that was almost sub conscious, I thought am I getting tinitus or is it someones phone, or wha?  I never found out what it was, but that made sleep impossible.  I was feeling good about getting back though.  The driver of the bus, was a southerner, but with one of those proud manners of being a bus driver.  You know that kind of Britishness you get from someone who enjoys his job a bit.  It was a good sign, and made me realise I was ready for a little dose of home.

On my way to central station I found ten Euroes at our busking spot.  I thought, 'thank you Amsterdam'. She always looks after me! When we got on the ferry I bought a pint of stella and a bag of crisps with it.  Tasted gooooood, was so windy smokin outside on the deck, but I could start to taste and feel England getting closer.  When we got back on the coach I smiled as we were driving through the English roads and sign posts and language.  Hello old blighty.

I left a heatwave in Amsterdam, the weather was gorgeous.  And was forecast to be for a while, then when we hit England, it was cloudy grey and rainy.  That's the only thing bothering me, as I know last year England didn't get a summer at all really.  A few nice days, but heavy heavy rain that some places even got badly damaged from floods.  I have just spent winter outdoors, and really fancy some sunshine.  We got to Liverpool and it was still cloudy, but then once I started walking down the streets it cleared up and went so beautiful   When the sun shines on Church Street it looks like the pavement is gold.  There was only one place I was heading...

Hello Mello Mello....The hub of the creative, crazy and beautiful souls of Liverpool.  It just oozes music into the city, is built on good motives by people who are all brilliant musicians, acrobats, poets, producers, actors, directors and sometimes all of those!  I enjoyed a cup of coffee and catch up and got myself on the guest list for the Sound City at the Kazimier later that night.  I arrived back in Liverpool with the same clothes I left in.  Those brown pants were done for, no buttons at the font, holes in the crotch, but they served me well!  Anyway, I looked like a tramp, hadn't slept, was dirty and didn't have a penny to my name. I jumped the train to my mums house and like the last time I took the journey, felt like I had never been away......

My plan was to make use of the fact that you don't need a permit to busk in Liverpool, so I could use my amp and maybe even save a little money!  I hadn't told anyone I was coming back, as it was all a last minute thing, but my sister told my mum the day before so she was expecting me. We had a good cuppa tea, egg and bacon butty and I dug out an old pair of jeans and top, showered, and got some batteries for my amp.

I got the train to the city and there were buskers everywhere!  I thought shit, I won't make anything here.  But I set up in between a few and started 'singin me heart out' within ten mins I had made a tenner, and then this girl came and set up right next to me!  I kept playing, but then the pain of hearing two different songs playing stopped me and I went over.  I said what's up love?  Why you setting up right here?  Noone wins then, we just make a bad sound.  She said she always plays here, I tell her I have just got back from Amsterdam and will be here a lot over the next month.  I let her keep her spot, as the one at the top of church street had just become free.

I dashed up and played, within the hour my bag was full!  Made over 50 quid, and went to the gig at the Mello and Kazimier.  Enjoyed a nice drink, seeing my friends but most importantly being around musicians and music.  There were bands everywhere as it was sound city, and I met an old friend Alicia at the mello who said I could crash at hers.  We went back accompanied by an Argentinian Rock band who then played a gig in her house.  Not sleeping for 2 days, I found a floor and crashed to the sound of music being played in a living room, with 2 lovely dogs sleeping by my side.

The next morning the sun was beaming!  It was derby day, Liverpool V Everton and town was buzzing!  I found my spot and played for an hour, people were really responding to me.  Talking to me, girls dressed in cow outfits dancing and shaking their udders in front of me.  The electricity of Liverpool was buzzing, and I realised more and more how special a place it truly is.  Though there are buskers every few metres, here it is something that is respected, people happily give.  It reminds me of that saying that the poor are the most generous of people.  They respect musicians here.  They don't video or take pictures, just come and chuck in a few quid, dance, sing along, or kiss you.  The streets are alive with the sound of music and love.

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Sunday, 19 May 2013

Better You Give - Better We Live II

With every part of me, I hoped, felt and thought that March would be a great month.  I felt it was gonna rain down spring blossoms, and tulips everywhere, and that I could finally say the Winter was over.  Instead, it snowed, rained, the wind blew harder than before, and I would have to wait a bit longer to welcome in the spring.....

So after the Reggae album, I was a bit detached from recording, I just wanted to busk.  As did Dominik, who had given up his job, spent his last bit of money on a portable PA system and loop station.  We became a team, and we were getting a good set together.  We never rehearsed once, we just went straight to playing.  We had a golden ticket with the busking permit and the equipment to put on a real show.  We didn't want to waste a second, and all through that miserable March month, we gave Amsterdam a shine with our music.

It was a Friday, and I looked out the window in the morning and there was some nice blue skies, it was still bitter cold, but I had a good feeling about it.  We met at Central Station, smoked a joint and drunk a coffee and was about to set up when a dark grey cloud carrying some snow unleashed itself on us.  Dominik is a very determined lad, and was still eager to set up and play.  I worried about the equipment and said maybe we should play just at the entrance to the station.  It was unheard of in Amsterdam, you cant just set up a PA inside the station and play, but we did, and the police came on us in a second and once they seen our permit wished us good luck.

We had just set up, and then we heard a voice coming from the station, 'You can't play music here' it was Virgillio!  The brilliant percussion and drummer from Italy who had been involved in the reggae album.  He had just come back from a trip to London and was with his guitarist friend.  They played the set with Dominik and made a nice chunk of money, I felt a little left out just watching but left them to it.

Although it ended badly with the reggae album, I had good feelings towards all the people involved except one.  Raffa, he was poison and a con man who pretended to have cancer and couldn't walk.  But people had saw him walking.  The rasta was a legend, but turned on me because of Raffa.  Virgillio was just an amazing musician and guy, lot of respect for him, and his guitarist friend.  Even Gabriel Cage who funded the whole operation was a good guy at heart, with all his mad characters.  Dominik was a good friend though.  I liked his mentality to just steam roll ahead and do it.  After their set, me and Dom went for a smoke, then went back to Central at the same place and played a set.  We did great and made even more than what they made just before.

It was snowing all day, and biting cold, but we still stuck at it.  We had 3 days a week we could play on the permit, and so we were not gonna waste a session.  We started to overwork the spot though, playing there 3 or 4 times a day, then the spot starts to reject you.  There is this woman, who sells a magazine like the big issue, and she constantly says this 'Dog daaa, dog do daaa' or something like that.  But her words could not be heard over our playing. We seen her say to the police and point at us, so then came 2 officers who were hunting for blood.  They looked at Dominiks permit and said that Central station is seperate to the city, and the permit has no ground here.  They then came to me, and said that because I have no permit, they will be arresting me.  I had no ID or nothing, as they routed through my wallet they found my BBC ID, some business cards, letters, photographs, but were still intent on arresting me.  I tried to be as charming as I could and said how much I love the city and stuff.  After a while they backed down, and said they would let me go, but we cant play together anymore, and especially not at central station.

I was starting to question busking with the PA and stuff.  I felt it was taking me away from acoustic busking, and the road I had set out on.  It seemed like Amsterdam didn't like loud music, and it was creating a bad energy.  Plus the bike we would carry the gear on was massive, it would hold up all traffic, run into people, and was so heavy to ride.  After playing just acoustic on quiet street corners, and feeling that the city really did love that, to blasting out a PA with a trumpet and disrupting the city I was doubting wether it was the right thing for me.  It attracts the police in a second, it stops the homeless from selling their mags, it just felt like it was the wrong energy for Amsterdam.

We were making quite good money though, but we were spending it as fast as we could make it.  Enjoying the Amsterdam ride.  I had kind of moved in with Maud and said I would pay her some rent, as I really thought March would be the start of making good money from busking and the tourists would double.  I was still busking with Dominik, but told him about my doubts.  I was feeling we were not respecting the city and it was starting to reject us.  I thought of how me playing at Waterlooplein even in the winter would sometimes look after me with like 30 euroes an hour, I always felt I had to respect the city, not be a burden or a noisy disturbance.  Amsterdam is such a quiet city, and they like it that way.

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Zappas Vibrations

Although I speak with so much love for my studio space, it does come with its challenging sides; mainly, the noise. You can have it all cos...