An OFFICIAL Blog from the Olympic City

Hello from the Olympic City!

It was back to work for us with a run of four performances to and fro.

But wait!

There was one more event to tend to here in London: Watch the Olympic torch relay! The poor torch has been crisscrossing the UK like a pinball for 68 days, has passed through the hands of 8,000 “runners,” and we weren’t going to let it pass us by. Thursday morning, just around the corner from Sandra’s flat and right on time, a parade of buses preceded the torch. We could tell these were official Olympic buses because they were clearly marked by official sponsor logos and were blaring music approved by an official committee. We were lucky enough to see not just the torch, but witness its transfer from one runner to the next. It was much ado about something and a great way to start the morning. On our way back to the flat, a woman stopped me to ask if I’d gotten photos because she missed it. I had and showed them to her. The can of beer in her hand and her disposition demonstrated clearly why she had missed the torch. She was drunk. It was 8:45 a.m. Well done! A gold medal performance!

It's the OFFICIAL Samsung Olympic Torch Bus!

It's the OFFICIAL Olympic Torch Exchange! Note the security team dressed discretly in running clothes. The photo does not show their in-ear radios.
With our official Olympic duties done for the day, Ned and I headed southwest via train for a return trip to Portsmouth where our first performances took place in June. That seems like a decade ago. We had no travel delays and arrived at the RMA Pub with time to spare.

Now here’s the deal: Sometimes on tour there’s an offer made for free accommodations. It’s always a gamble, but being the road warriors we are, we were game to give them a try. We made the quick walk to the “house” for inspection. There are beds. Check. They have blankets and pillows. Check. The bedroom windows do not open. Check. Permanent residents are one dog and one cat. Check. There’s cat food strewn all over what appears to be the kitchen floor. Check. OK, where’s the bathroom. We can’t find it anywhere. Hmmmm…. During his search for the bathroom, Ned steps in a big pile of dog crap on what appears to be the living room floor. Check. We’re outta here! After a few phone calls, and with the help of Nick, the promoter, we were safely booked at a B&B for the night. Check.

The evening’s gig at the RMA Pub went fine and after our day of travel and accommodation travails we were happy to find a nice Indian restaurant just up the street from the B&B for a late dinner. Yum... madras with lamb.

Friday morning we were up and at it, leaving the B&B and on to the InnLodge for our second night’s accommodation, then off to the downtown area where Ned’s going to do some promotion for the evening’s gig and I’m going to walk to Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard to see the HMS Warrior which I had missed in June.

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, you know that I inflicted harm to my right knee while jogging in London one week into the tour. It HAD been getting better. However, the 3.5 mile roundtrip walk to the port was not a good idea from my knee’s point of view; its been reminding me of this tactical error ever since. On top of that, they don’t sell tickets to see individual attractions at the dockyard. To see the Warrior, I would have had to buy a $30+ pass. Mission not accomplished!

Friday evening at the Old House at Home Pub was fun. We had Adam, a Brit we met the night before, sit in on bass. Adam runs a music program at an American-British school in Oman and was on vacation. He was a trooper and played quite well. The only downside to the evening was that we competed with the spectacle of the official 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony. Many stayed home to watch the event and, I admit, I had a hard time not watching it on the Pub’s big screen while playing.

It's the OFFICIAL Old House at Home Pub Crew - Nick (promoter), Ned, Adam (sitting in on bass) in back and our opening act, King Sized Robots. They were good!
Quick fact before leaving the island city of Portsmouth: You wouldn’t suspect it while being there, but Portsmouth is the second most densely populated area in the UK and thirteenth in Europe!

Saturday morning we made our way back to London’s Victoria Station, met Malcolm and Sandra, and caught the train for the short trip to Kent to play outdoors at the Summer Breeze Groover 2 Festival at the Lower Bell Pub. The weather was perfect! As they say in the UK… “Ah, the English summer! The best day of the year!” And so it was. Though our music was unlike the Top-40 review played by the band preceding us, our friend Roger Humphries gave us a warm introduction. Roger had clout with the audience being a resident of the area and having his own popular country band. We played well and were well received. I still get a kick out of how many people, often musicians, who are amazed at the sounds of the cajon. Well, three gigs down and one to go… and my hands are holding up fine.

It's the OFFICIAL Action Shot from the Summer Breeze Groover 2!
It's the OFFICIAL Olympic Welcoming Crew at London's Victoria Station

Sunday’s London gig at Ain’t Nothin' But Blues Bar is a big one. The venue, located in London’s West End, has a great reputation and wasn’t easy to book because WE are mostly something other than the Blues. Nonetheless, the three of us hit the stage playing for an international audience… people from the UK, Russia, Spain, Hungary, the States, you name it. In fact, a German fellow asked where in the States I was from. I said, “Idaho” and he said, “Oh yes.” Assuming he was thinking of Iowa, I mentioned it was in the West, near Seattle (Seattle’s always a safe conversation reference point for Idaho). He replied, “Yes, I know it. I studied six months at WSU in Pullman, Washington.” Thus, he not only knew where Idaho was, he had been to my home town of Moscow, Idaho, on many occasions. Small world! Back to the gig… we kept the crowd going throughout our two-hour performance. Ned pulled out all the stops to play up-tempo tunes some of which I had never played on cajon; now THAT was interesting! They didn’t let us go until we had given them a proper encore. Mission accomplished!

It's the OFFICIAL Photo at Ain't Nothin' But Blues - Sandra, Ned, Janet (Malcolm's mom) and Malcolm!

There you have it, four performances in four days and my hands are fine. While I fully anticipate the official Olympic drug testing committee will ask I submit to tests, I assure you there was no doping involved or chemicals otherwise applied to my hands. Let’s see the Chinese cajonists do that!

Cheers from a once again cool and rainy London!  But, before I leave…

Happy Birthday to Natalie back home as she celebrates her OFFICIAL “25th” birthday! I wish I could have been there, but her workmates Suki, Bridget and Sheri surprised her at our home this morning with coffee, flowers, a homemade card and a special birthday hat. My love to you, Natalie,... I'll be home soon.

Until next time... an OFFICIAL Ciao! ~ Todd

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