MORE PHOTOS from the 2012 UK TOUR!

I’ve been home for two weeks - and it feels great - but the UK 2012 Tour lives on in images! … with even more to come!
This album, along with the first four, brings you along the tour through July 28.
Because Google+ / Picasa DOESN’T make viewing options intuitive, here’s HOW TO VIEW:

OPTION 1 - To view as a slideshow without captions – click on the slideshow button on the right side of the page.

OPTION 2 - To view WITH captions – click on the first photo on the page (the one of downtown London) and then use the > button on the right side of the screen to advance from photo to photo. Captions are located at the upper right of each image.

To begin viewing CLICK HERE

Cheers! ~ Todd

It’s a Wrap! And shi’...

Oh Cornwall! I hardly got to know ye!

Ned and I trained it from London’s Paddington Station to St. Austell in Cornwall on England’s Southwest peninsula this past Wednesday in beautiful summer weather. We settled in, jammed with other passengers and baggage, for the relatively long three hour trip. Ned was working new songs, I was working photos and neither of us was paying much attention to announcements made along the way. Thus, we were caught a bit off guard when we heard the kind voice over the intercom say the next station was St. Austell as the train rolled to a stop. Damn! Quick! Shut down the laptops! Grab all the stuff! Whew, we made it!

Standing outside the train I looked down. “Ned, that’s not your suitcase!” In our rush to get off the train Ned grabbed a gray suitcase from the jumble of bags he thought was mine and said “Got your bag,” and logically assumed I would grab his. But I thought he said, “Get your bag,” which I did and assumed he had his. Feet from the train car, we made a mad dash to open the door, get the wrong bag back on the train and grab Ned’s bag. We made it with seconds to spare; we can only imagine how the rest of our day would have unfolded had we not.

With disaster averted, we hopped in a cab and made the short ride to Radio St. Austell Bay for a live interview and performance with host Sheila Vanloo. It went fine and, unlike last week’s interview in Norwich, Sheila had nearly as many questions for me as she did for Ned. It was fun. For color and street cred, I ended all of my responses with "…., and shi'" (see end note of this blog for further explaination of "and shi'"). It went like this: “Todd, do you have family back home?” “Yes I do! My wife, Natalie, is home in Boise, Idaho, and my son, Simon, is a student at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, and shi’.”

Done for the day, we went on to the Sedgemoor Heights Bed & Breakfast. It wasn’t far from the radio station. Actually, in St. Austell nothing is far from anything else. It just seems that way because there are no straight roads and everything’s uphill. At the B&B we met our host, Ray Worman. As Ray showed us around his home, we learned he had a great interest in music, quite a collection of vinyl records and a super stereo system to boot! We were going to get along nicely. Completing our check in, I asked Ray, “What time is breakfast?” “Half past eight,” he replied. “Until what time?” I asked. “Half past eight,” he replied. That was settled. Breakfast is at half past eight.

Thursday was open, so off we went via bus to Mevagissey. Just seven miles away and on the Cornish coast, Mevagissey is small port village populated by tourists and tourist shops as well as fisherpeople and fishing boats. It was a nice place to spend part of a perfect summer day. The remainder of the day was spent napping back at the B&B followed by eating at the Hop & Vine Pub. Did I mention they sell beer there? They do!

It's the Full English at Ray's B&B... at half past eight!

Mevagissey on the Cornish coast.
Before moving on, I want to address something we found disturbing while watching the Olympics at the B&B—Horse dancing as an Olympic sport. We don’t know its official “game name”—probably “Equestrian Precision Movement to Marching Music”—but it’s really horse dancing. The horse does appear to get quite a workout, but the rider, who’s all decked out, does not demonstrate great athletic prowess. It’s like going to a really boring rodeo. If dancing horses, why not dancing poodles?

Friday morning and we were off to Truro, about 15 miles further inland for our live interview and performance on BBC Radio Cornwall with host David White. For some reason, Ned did not allow me to speak on air and shi’.

Back in St. Austell we headed to the Eden Project Cafe for the evening’s performance. The cafe is associated with the Eden Project—a widely acclaimed conservation project in creating large domed “biomes”—a few miles outside the town. Our performance to an attentive audience went really well and was a great way to end the tour. Ray was there to see the show and helped us lug our bags back to the B&B at midnight. But the evening wasn’t quite over. Ray, Ned and I sat in his home’s courtyard and enjoyed chatting over a pint until 1:00 a.m.

Our B&B host, Ray Worman, and Ned showing rock fingers as we depart Ray's place in St. Austell. Note Blue, Ray's dog in the background. Funny dog to play catch with!

As I write this final blog of the tour, I’m on the train to London. Tomorrow this time, assuming the airport Gods are feeling content with themselves, I’ll be on my flight home. This tour is a wrap. It’s been a long one, but I’ve seen a lot, played a lot and met great people. And it’s the people I didn’t expect to meet, but did, that leave the greatest lasting impression. People like Joe, the owner of F. Cooke’s Pie and Mash Shop in Hoxton, or Ray at his B&B in St. Austell, or, yes, even Geoff, the angry London cabbie. You just can’t predict the appearances of people like these.

Special thanks to Sandra for taking such good care of me all along the way. And, of course, thanks to Ned for having me along and to Malcolm for being a great tour mate. Whether as a duo or trio, we made music happen. And a big “see you again soon” to Janet, Erika, Roger, Carol, Chris, Marianne, Sue and other friends over here I’m doubtless forgetting.

Finally, HUGE thanks to Natalie for encouraging me to do the tour and for holding down fort back home at the height of summer’s heat. There’s a cool mountain lake in northwest Montana waiting for us, Natalie!... and shi’.

Until next time, from me and 900,000 of my closest tourist friends who will converge on Heathrow tomorrow morning…

Ciao! ~ Todd

P.S., More photos will be posted via mini-blog entries over the next few weeks as the remaining series of images are processed.

END NOTE: Malcolm turned us on to the phrase during the tour; it became a favorite refrain. Street language drops the "t"...

From the Urban Dictionary - "And shit."..

Something you say at the end of your sentence for a varity of reasons. Being too lazy to finish your sentence and not having an actual verb in your sentence are common causes to throw in "and shit."

Also used to make things that aren't really as interesting as you had thought in your head seem cooler.
"yo bobby's over we're playin video games and shit"

"yeah then we played. . .and shit."

UK Tour 2012 - Photo Album #4 For Your Viewing

Photo Album 4 is available for viewing!

The album, along with the first three, brings you along the tour through July 24.

To begin viewing, CLICK HERE

I hope you enjoy the photos... more are coming!

~ Todd

Sightseeing-Gigs-More Sightseeing! It’s an Olympic Tri-Blog-a-Thon!

Time’s passing by on our 2012 UK Tour and I realized there were a few items on my London tick list remaining to be tended to between performances and the tour’s end.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Thursday late afternoon and off we went for traditional English cuisine at F. Cooke’s Pie and Mash, a place I’d learned about watching Bizarre Foods on the Travel Channel. The restaurant is located in the working-class London neighborhood of Hoxton and is unassuming; brightly lit by sunlight with simple tables, chairs, sawdust sprinkled on the floor and an elderly woman working the counter. The meat pie was covered in a green parsley liquor, or gravy, and the mash was… of course… mashed potatoes. Nothing really too bizarre about all of that although I admit we skipped the other specialty of the house—the pickled eel. As we were finishing up, the shop’s owner, Joe, came out from the kitchen and asked, “Are you the Americans?” We replied, “Why yes, we are!” Joe proceeded to engage us in a fine conversation about food, the superior quality of French cheeses and his travels abroad. While the pie and mash was nothing to write home about, although that’s exactly what I’ve just done, our time talking with Joe certainly was.

Moi, Joe (holding a copy of Ned's CD) and Ned outside the F. Cooke's Pie and Mash - Hoxton, London.
On our way back to the flat we hopped off the bus to have a pint at the Eagle Pub. I didn’t need much encouragement to have a pint, but having one at the Eagle was a cultural experience because it’s famously mentioned in the nursery rhyme Pop Goes the Weasel… “Up and down the City road, in and out The Eagle. That's the way the money goes. Pop goes the weasel.”

Pop Goes the Weasel at the Eagle Pub!

The next day Ned and I were on the train, this time to Norwich to play at the Chapel Arts Centre. Ned’s friend, Erika met us at the station and drove us to her home where she entertained us with a nice cup of tea during which she admitted she had borrowed her son’s car to pick us up. She hadn’t driven in years and actually spent time the day before brushing up on her driving skills. Honestly, we wouldn’t have known the difference; driving on the wrong side of the road scares us in general. Tea time over, Erika drove us to the BBC Norwich radio station for our live interview and performance. The 20 minute session consisted of light banter between Ned and Steve, the program host, as well as performing two songs. I think Ned would have let me speak on air but was fearful I might start talking like a London cabbie suffering from Tourette's syndrome. It was probably a wise move on his part.

Malcolm joined us for the performance at the Chapel Arts Centre where we appreciated playing for a “listening” audience as opposed to a “Give me another pint!” audience. After the show, as well as the next morning, Erika was kind enough to show us a bit more of Norwich. Like so many English towns, Norwich is steeped in history and deserves more time than our schedule allowed. Still, it was fun to see a bit of it. Thanks Erika!

Live on-air performance at BBC Radio Norwich!
Well, back to London for a night and then off Saturday morning for our performance at the Seahorse Pub in New Romney, Kent. As you might suspect from the pub’s name, New Romney is on the coast. It’s at the very southeast tip of England. And, unlike most of our destinations in the UK, is not served well by train. Sandra made quick work of the drive in the rental car, adeptly avoiding London’s Olympic Games traffic and negotiating the narrow country roads.

After checking in at the fine Captain Howey Hotel, I made the short walk to the beach and discovered an interesting event taking place: A carnival complete with machines that spin you around until you want to puke and candy and pop to ensure a productive and colorful puking episode. The odd thing was it was SO American; the rock music blaring and the painted images on the puke-inducing machines. The only thing they got wrong were the people working the carnival. They were much too clean and well kept to be authentic carnies. It just goes to show there’s always room for improvement!

The night’s gig at the Seahorse pub went really well. It wasn’t a large audience, but our friends Roger and Carol Humphries, Chris Shilling, and Marianne Baker and her parents were in the house. We played as a duo and enjoyed one of the highlight performances of the tour. After the show we chatted with the audience and, before saying goodbye, our host and pub’s owner, Sheena, opened up the kitchen and served us a midnight dinner. It was a night to remember.

Nothing British about this rodeo carnival ride!
Sunday was a day of sightseeing on the way back to London. First up? The White Cliffs of Dover! They are quite white and aptly named. We hiked most of the trail along the top and stopped often for photo opportunities. At one point I found myself laying on the ground and leaning a wee bit over the cliff top to take a picture. As I stretched my arms out, I reflected upon two things: (1) I am not familiar with the geologic stability of the top of chalk cliffs and (2) back home, the National Park Service would have similar cliffs fenced off and marked with signage reminding visitors that falling off a cliff is often harmful. I carefully nudged away from my cliff side perch… but I got the shot!

Leaning out to get the shot at the Cliffs of Dover.
Having survived the Cliffs of Dover, we made a quick “look-n-shoot” at Dover Castle and then drove inland to Canterbury. There, Marianne and her mum, Sue, joined us for a walkabout of the walled city (their home town), its cathedral, and then off to enjoy Pimm's No.1 and lemonade accompanied by meaty things dipped in batter and deep fat fried at an outdoor cafĂ©. It was a perfect way for us and our 20,000 best tourist friends to cap the day! Thanks go to Marianne and Sue!

It's Dover Castle seen through the entry archway.

In Canterbury Cathedral.
Back in London, Ned and I had two days off and it was time to work that London tick list again.

First on tap was taking the bus to Abbey Road, famous for its recording studio, Abbey Road Studios, and the “Zebra Crosswalk” on which the Beatles were photographed for the cover of their album, Abbey Road, on August 8, 1969. You really can’t miss the crosswalk because it’s the one with a couple dozen people hanging around at any given time of day waiting for traffic to clear so they can pose for pictures imitating the album cover. Here’s how it works: When there’s a break in traffic, subject and photographer simultaneously walk into the middle of the street and take the photos. One funny thing was watching people “pose” as if they’re walking rather than just walking. Try it and you’ll see how hard it is to convincingly pose a walking motion.

Back to our photo shoot, Ned and I quickly joined the fray and made several passes across the road while snapping shots in rapid succession and keeping an eye on traffic. We don’t know if people have been injured in pursuit of the snapshot, but it’s highly likely as the crosswalk is not controlled by stop lights. While we were there, one London bus driver just laid on the horn as he approached and passed through the crosswalk. He wasn’t stopping for anyone, tourist or resident.

Just a few steps down the street are the studios protected by a short white wall and iron fence. The wall is covered entirely by graffiti. Thus, you can leave you own note for the Fab Four, living or dead. But, if you want your note to last, you’ll have to make repeat visits because the local council paints over the graffiti every three months!

Ned on the Zebra Crosswalk on Abbey Road!
Moi on the Zebra Crosswalk on Abbey Road!
Before ending our day, we stopped by Camden Market for a look around and a late lunch. The market is a hip spot stuffed with shops of all kinds, street food from across the globe and the occasional sign suggesting pickpockets make their living at the market.

At Camden Market you can find almost anything... like getting a tattoo and later having it removed!
Today Ned and I were up and ready to tackle the last item on the London tick list—to see an event at the 2012 London Games! Our event of choice was the Men’s Triathlon taking place in and around Hyde Park. Being a free event, 500,000 of our closest tourist friends tagged along. The Piccadilly Line was jammed packed. While standing in the humid, stuffy subway car, the thought crossed my mind that airlines ought to study this method of maximizing passengers per square foot. Out of the Tube and a quick walk to the park, we arrived in time to see the competitors complete the last four laps of the bike race. Those guys were cookin’! Viewing the running portion of the event was impossible, so we wandered a bit and stumbled upon a huge viewing area in the middle of the park where we watched Great Britain take the gold on a giant screen. It was a proud moment for our host country and for Ned and me it was very cool to witness the reaction of the crowd.

The head of the bike pack during the Men's Triathlon in and around London's Hyde Park
The crowd erupts as Britain's Alistair Brownlee wins Olympic Triathlon gold!

All for now from the Olympic City! One gig to go way over on the southeast coast in the Cornwall area. I’ll have at least one more official blog entry as our 2012 UK Tour wraps up.... and a few more photo albums!

Ciao! ~ Todd

UK Tour 2012 - Photo Album #3 is here!

Please enjoy Photo Album #3 from the UK Tour 2012! Click HERE

This album takes you along our visit to Bath, Liverpool and back into London, ending on July 20th.

As you might suspect... more photos are to come!

Ciao! ~ Todd