Bine's Tour Report 2000

Part 2

Birmingham 01.10.2000
Early start again after another weird night this time not the 'aftershocks' of a great show - hoarse or not - but the anxiety of what lies ahead. Since having to check out of the hotel at 10am I spend the rest of the time at Northampton Greyfriars bus station. Although it's easy to find the coach station the info on the screen makes a great read.

Destination: B'ham International   Airport Departs: Sorry, no further departures today. WAAAAH. What happened to my bus??? The Nat Exp Office is closed (naturally), the station is eerily empty on a Sunday morning and there's little me with a slight panic. The timetable on the Nat Exp Office actually states the bus as going to its final destination Liverpool at the time I thought it would - so why doesn't it appear on the screen? Checking for Liverpool results in the same thing as Birmingham Airport: No further departures. There is one little touch screen computer though and (do you hear the relief?) that finds what I am looking for on the second attempt for bay 27. Thank God.

A phonecall to the Infoline helps to ease the nagging feeling (a bit) and after phoning Sylvia it's decided that I indeed will go to the Airport - whether I'll have to find some way to go to Oxford or be picked up by Sylvia for the NEC remains to be seen in 3 hours. Well, I figure that if belief can move mountains we should be able to will Michael to good health again!!

As arranged yesterday I try phoning Pam from 3pm onwards from the Airport to find out whether she had phoned the NEC but she's not in! The next half hour is a frantic arrangement of phone calls with Sylvia telling me she can't get through to Pam either and telling me the NEC says it's looking hopeful. During one five minute break I finally get hold of Pam and we arrange a meeting at 7.30pm at the merchandise stand so I can get my ticket. Considering how all the other arranged meeting plans went this does not necessarily make me feel better. Sylvia and Ralph are going to pick me up from the Airport after dinner but a time is not set.

Retracing my tracks from last year's NEC preparations I have a slice of pizza in the same place as last year and at 5.10pm I take position at the departures building and look out for Sylvia & Ralph and their new Volvo. They arrive soon after (so that's one meeting gone well) and instead of going to the NEC straight away we head towards the 'Little Owl' and have a drink there during which there are some rather rude comments made about my frog (serving frog's leg is one of the harmless ones, hahaha). Finally we arrive at the carpark and we head towards the NEC via shuttle bus where we run into the first small problem: I cannot get to the merchandise stand to collect my ticket since I need my ticket to get to the merchandise stand...

So we agree to send Sylvia in to look for Pam and Ralph stays with me and scans the arrivals, since we are early we expect Pam any minute now...

Sylvia comes out after about 10 minutes and says she cannot find Pam so she goes back in to keep looking. While the steward directing the increasing stream of people is quite amusing ('Yes, Alan Ball, special guest Max Bygreaves and Des O' Connor in the Christmas show!' - 'Umbrellas down, tickets out!') it starts raining and hearing the same joke over and over again does get tedious after some time. Ralph and me move beneath a roof towards the side of the main entrance near the box office. There are rumours about a jam on the roads leading towards the NEC and at 7.15pm I'm not really nervous yet, hey, in Northampton the tickets took their sweet time...but at 7.40pm Ralph says that he's got to go in since otherwise Sylvia might be panicking. I'm left with my own thoughts and although buses keep coming there is still no sign of Pam. What could have happened?

7.50pm Tension rises as the crowd thins out but a couple of buses are still arriving.

7.55pm This is not looking too well, the last person waiting with me has her ticket now so I'm left with an older man to stand in the cold and the rain. He doesn't really seem concerned - I wonder whether he's waiting for tickets or something else.

8.05pm If there's anything you want to torture a Michael Ball fan with it's happening right now: Be at the venue knowing you have a ticket but not having it while standing in the cold and rain - and suddenly you hear a well known (fabulous sounding may I add - at least from where I'm standing...) voice booming out of the arena: 'Let the rivers run'. And I do. If I'm not allowed to have a slight nervous breakdown in that situation then I don't know...

8.15pm The man next to me finally takes pity (or is he fed up?) and wants to know whether I'm ok to which I answer yes. Rather unconvincingly apparently, because he doesn't buy it and leads me to a steward explaining what I told him rather incoherently: 'This lady's friend has the ticket and she hasn't turned up so she cannot get in...' to which the steward's reply is to send us to the box office where the man starts explaining again: 'This young lady's heartbroken, because...' and he hasn't finished when everyone in the box office whirls around and says: 'SABINE!' Result of this: I'm in even bigger shock and I can't really remember what happened to the man who initiated it all...

One lady in a yellow/orange top tells me that my friend had arrived early and placed the ticket with them in the firm belief that I would go and check with them (which never occurred to me). The lady hands me the ticket and wants me to proceed but quickly alters that and says to her colleagues she'll take me. Past the merchandise stand and the first of the stewards (all of them must be really impressed with me falling apart...) lets us pass as in fact do the rest. Naturally we have to cut across the whole of the stalls (and I apologise to anyone who might have been disturbed by that) and afterwards I'm grateful nobody uses their torches but listens to the lady. And at last we arrive at our destination to a very surprised and befuddled Pam who thankfully gives me a hug and lets me collapse on my seat, while the nice lady quickly explains what had happened and leaves the ticket with Pam.

It must have been the end of 'You're still the one', because I think we heard: 'Looks like we made it - look how far we've come my baby.' And I swear I'm not making this up. I'm just really grateful that I'm a) there and b) sit away from the stage so that Michael hopefully hasn't noticed all the commotion (if he/you did...sorry). He sounds really good. Whatever they did to him must have worked wonders.

Now, for those who know the NEC there are three screens put up and from our block and seat the left one is exactly opposite us. How often do I look at the screen? About twice. It is far more fascinating to see the 'real thing' buzz about the stage, it doesn't matter to me that he's much closer on the screen...After 'You're still the one' the tie is discarded again: 'Do you mind if I take my clothes off?' - (you can fill in the answer from the audience...) - 'Careful, it's early days...' which leads into the introduction for 'If tomorrow never comes' explaining that the genre of 'new wave country music' is well represented on the new album and how there is a similarity to songs from the musicals with a striking lyric, telling a story and having a really memorable tune.

There is a nice addition to the introduction to the musicals medley which follows 'No matter what', 'a song that was taken to No. 1 by Boyzone - it was aaaaaaaaaaah (as in shriek not in commiseration)'. And since the little known Andrew Lloyd Webber needs some exposure we get the introduction to the three composers having written some of the best shows of the modern musical theatre, the medley comprising songs describing different themes of love, different aspects of love - 'now, that is a really clever cue for a song' leading into 'Love changes everything', 'Last night', 'All I ask' and 'Losing my mind'. Leading to the interval, taken from one of the greatest shows, are the songs dealing with different kinds of loss, 'Empty Chairs' and 'I dreamed a dream'.

Come the interval it is obvious that I have to tell the story (and be introduced to Letty who is sitting next to me - Hello!) of my coming late to Linda (who I had met in Northampton on cancellation night and am to see again in Edinburgh) and Pam - and suddenly have someone pinching my neck to see Terry! He and Val had been anxiously looking around for me just to find that they couldn't find me. So I tell them what happened and we basically just enjoy seeing each other. Initially I wanted to see Sylvia and Ralph but they are nowhere to be seen. Pam tells her side of the story that she had arrived early, placed the tickets at the box office, alerted just about every steward to my arrival (obviously not the ones outside) had her hubby call me on the mobile phone (and that didn't work for some reason) and saw Sylvia and Ralph stride in at about the same time as the band arrived so she couldn't check with them as she would have been caught out.

The second half is stunning. Not only because the Titanic reappears with 'My Heart will go on', followed closely by 'Walking in Memphis' with the 'little number' and the 'delta blu-hu-hu-huuuuues'...There is a special dedication for 'You bring the best out of me' since the Olympics have just finished and apparently (so Michael tells us) the British team has had the best results since 1928 (?) and NOT been battling for the bronze in the table-tennis. And still Michael says that someone else will turn this into a big hit. Don't let anyone else do it - do it yourself!

There is the odd joke or two about the ramp again when Michael complains about the grill where he stands being SO hot (but no one listens to his complaints) that he feels like a flame grilled whopper (with melting shoes...) and if he sits down now (as indeed he does) his bum would look like a waffle - ruining the atmosphere for 'Love on the rocks' a bit...

He must have been better, since 'Someone else's dream' reappears as well. If ever he has to leave out songs again (touch wood that he doesn't) he really shouldn't leave out the latter, because that completes the block of self-written songs so beautifully with 'Never coming back, aforementioned 'Someone else's dream' and 'Just when' displaying personal experience and indeed versatility.

Now, the NEC is an eerie and rather cold place, but after 'Why haven't I heard from you' (a song which 'kicks ass' may I quote - and may I add, you haven't heard from me, because I certainly don't have your phone number - THAT'S my excuse...) and 'Why do fools fall in love' with the now famous 'Michael Ball Care in the Community Gospel Choir' and the inevitable rush to the stage for 'La vida loca' telling the story of how one woman makes Ricardo maaaaaaaaaaad - the place is rocking. Whether it is mutual joy about him being better again or something else - who cares! Everybody enjoys the Rock 'n' Roll medley and the encore in the black leather jacket begins with 'Hot Stuff' and ends with us getting one more after 'One step' although 'I'm knackered' but we hear 'You made me love you' which ends in an 'I love you, Birmingham'.

I meet up again with Val and Terry to be introduced to Pat Collier and friends who after hearing that I'm one of those forum lurkers threatens to put a message on there to get me out of hiding (may I say she hasn't J - oops, she has now...). It is well late into the night when Linda and Pam and me head back to Pam's car which she has fitted with a bag to her antenna to find it again but with only two cars remaining and one of those being Linda's it is not that hard to find Pam's car...

So we start our journey towards Oxford. Pam has a rough idea about where she's going (emphasis on 'rough'...) and suddenly asks ME of all people if we are going the right way towards Oxford. Not that I'm really paying attention??? Now, all goes well (phew) and we arrive at her place at about 1am to be greeted by a very ancient and lazy dog called Judy who doesn't really care who's coming as long as you leave her in peace - and a rather energetic ash-grey poodle called - Ashley. Pam says that he just about likes everyone - so why do I have a funny feeling when he starts growling at me. It doesn't necessarily help that Pam has never seen him like that before, so it must be me and dogs in general (remembering the three labradors who I had the great pleasure of sharing my B&B with at Castle Howard this seems to be an ongoing thread...). Or could it be...I've got Hosi, my cuddly toy frog, in the jacket so his head sticks out of my shirt. Since I have to get rid of my jacket anyway I get rid of Hosi as well - and wouldn't you know, suddenly Ashley loves me! Needless to say that Pam and I are both relieved since it could have been a looooooong couple of days with him not liking most people know, you rarely go to bed straight after a concert, so we don't either. So we sit there memorising bits and pieces from the show, play with Ashley and chat until about 3am in the morning. Thank goodness that I can sleep in and don't have to get up for any scheduled breakfast in a hotel...

Oxford 02.10.2000
As I am allowed to sleep in today, I do. When I finally move myself out of the make-do bed Pam greets me with the remark that not too long into the future she would have come up to check whether I am still alive...I get my breakfast and while I watch Pam work get all the necessary information to head into Oxford city centre to go in search of another internet café to get in touch with a couple of people. Most importantly my two friends who are literally packing their stuff to head to Glasgow and are desperate for any news on Michael's well being.

I head back to the station after doing the emails, since I have promised Pam to be there for a 6pm dinner. Actually I've got just enough time to check for some posters at the Apollo and sure enough, there they are with the video cover from the Albert Hall tape.

What I get for dinner? A begging dog - not to eat though, but Ashley obviously wants to taste some of the traditional roast beef with Yorkshire pudding and gravy - and lots of it. Yorkshire pudding is not bad actually - the gravy reminds me of Christmas though, because it tastes a bit like goose sauce...after dinner I get a call from Iris who wants a brief update and is rewarded with Pam shouting 'Hello' - great update J ...

The evening ends with a little conversation with Alan (Pam's husband) and it's my chance to say 'thank you' once again for having me stay and most of all for answering the phone and passing all the messages, because every time I try phoning Pam I get Alan on the phone first.

Oxford 03.10.2000
Yesterday Pam and me agreed on a 2pm ish departure and I also promised to get up earlier than yesterday. And so I do. While I have breakfast Judy is swaying next to the table as if to say 'Give me something' which I don't and Ashley wants to play ball (no, I won't even go into that...).

At around 2pm we make our journey to one car park where Pam is certain she doesn't have to pay since the barriers are always up at night. Otherwise it will be a bit expensive, but I trust she knows what she's she wants to head for the stage door straight away I am not the one to dissuade her from that but I will stay with her even though I have my ticket already. We take position opposite the stage door since there is no one there at this hour...but pretty soon afterwards a few people appear, Sheila and Louise being one of them. I actually contemplate getting to the front of the theatre again as I did last year with Ulli, but Pam makes me stay with her as we change positions and trek over to the stage door where Pam takes over the job as the door-opener. More people gather and I meet a new face in Jenny, who has brought her daughter along, who is not as hot on Michael as her mother seems to be...

After this there is one moment of excitement when we hear Michael seemingly singing out from the stage which results in a lot of people storming over to see what is going on and then realising that it was just a tape...

Shortly after 4pm we get the next moment of excitement as Malcolm and the tour bus arrive, with Allen, the tour manager, going at the front and clearing the way. Not an easy task with everyone being pushed on the pavement since the stage door at the Apollo is really uncomfortable. Last year Malcolm managed to get the bus really close to the door so that the side door would open and let Michael go in fairly quickly. This year he isn't even trying because of all the people...

This time Malcolm drops Michael off through the official bus door and well, he is in - this time all in blue, how many of these hooded sweaters does he have? - and Pam having been door-opener is on a high so she says she wants to go we and there and everywhere really.

Since she is successful and seems to realise that I'm not that hot on shopping we head for the pub opposite the stage door as this is where her friend will meet her.

To my delight Sylvia and Ralph turn up as well and Ralph gets some drinks (what else, still not too happy about my orange juice...) and next thing Sylvia tells us is that the theatre is on fire and the show is cancelled. Hahahaha.

No, seriously, there are fire engines there - but the bit about the cancellation is not true. And no jokes about Michael being hot stuff and setting the stage on fire...

While we are all at our table two officious looking people enter the pub and when we decide it is time for group photos the lady - one of the people - offers to take the picture so everyone can be on it, which is rather nice of her...

After heading back to the theatre, settled comfortably into my seat, I hear the 'speech' about the photo business and the small instamatic (spelling?) cameras for the first time. We are sitting on the right hand side, second row, allegedly restricted view, but apart from the opening I don't see much to worry about. As a precaution Pam and me have organised some ear plugs as we are sitting right in front of the speaker barricade at the right.

And I see the lady from the pub again, she is one of the bouncers and on our side of the theatre...

As I expected, I am not able to see the proper opening from my place, but what I can see is that the first row in the centre has a real high mean age...but to my surprise although they don't get up for 'Let the rivers run' they do seem to enjoy themselves a lot J .

Today I'm glad that Michael regularly goes from left to right on stage as that means he is close to us sometimes and that means 'close' as in 'close'...The tie is not even brought on stage today which deprives us of the first strip of the night - what a shame, but Michael sounds good. I have tried the earplug in one ear, but after two songs I decide that it's either both of them, but that gives me a funny feeling or rather hearing, or none - and so I go for none to get it un'ear'plugged...

During the interval Sylvia wants to meet Ralph again who is sitting in the centre block, so I give her money to get me a programme which I haven't managed to get as yet...Sylvia returns from her break without a programme (but I will get one eventually...I hope) and tells me that Ralph had someone tapping his shoulder every time he wanted to take a picture and even Sylvia (sitting next to me and close to the security lady) has taken some without any trouble in the first half...

The second half begins with Michael having changed into the sparkly tie outfit again with me really looking forward to 'You bring the best out of me' and of course not being disappointed...'Oh what a circus' is followed by a very original introduction to 'Love on the rocks' which is from the most successful studio album to date and 'thank you to everyone who bought it. And for those of you who didn't - I'd like a word afterwards...' That cannot go uncommented as someone shouts something I don't quite understand, but it is greeted by 'Oh, of course, now suddenly no one bought it' and a giggle J . You really asked for that, Michael, which he acknowledges by turning to Callum and stating the very fact...

As we all know, the kick ass-song 'Why haven't I heard from you' is a bouncy, uptempo, fun song - which for me seems the perfect opportunity to get the camera out, but before I even get the bag open I've got the fist in my face. Well, not literally, but the hand on my arm with a definitive 'No'. Well, thank you, so much for equal opportunities, I'll probably stay away from the pub across from the stage door from now on...

The introduction to 'La vida loca' ends in a bit of a turmoil as people start getting up too early and they are reprimanded by a 'don't panic'. Obviously the security people have no clue as to what is happening or going to happen because the only thing they can think of, or namely my favourite security lady (yeah...) can think of is getting to one lady, who has been pushed in my row where I have moved up towards the aisle since Jacky and Sylvia have pushed forward and tell her to 'get back to your seat, you can't stay here'. Oh heavens, either let the bouncers know what's going to happen or take them away but this can really spoil the atmosphere. The poor lady addressed like this doesn't know what's happening and the security guard leaves her alone eventually - why she chose to pick on her in the first place will remain a mystery. As an encore we get her male security companion pushing forward with a knob in his ear and crouching down at the front...if looks could kill we would all be dead by now...oh, yes, in case you're wondering, the concert is still going on...and after the false start the Apollo is finally allowed to rock the night away. At last.

When it's time for the encore and 'Hot Stuff' starts, all of us having seen concerts already are a bit surprised that there is no clothes change tonight, no leather jacket, no black shirt, aaaaaaaaaah. But 'Hot Stuff' is played so fast that the clapping really hurts - had to get anywhere in a hurry? During 'One Step' Michael decides to give our side the inevitable hip movement for the two beats after 'I know what's right'...

'You made me love you' is the farewell song and it is all over for another night. Outside the theatre, Sylvia and Ralph introduce me to yet another nice young person and her mum (names forgotten, sorry), who are really lovely, and we head towards the general direction of the stage door, with Michael already gone and Pam and Shula waiting outside. I say goodbye to Sylvia's friends and finally have to say goodbye to Sylvia and Ralph as well, while Geoff is trying to sell them his new CD...

Milton Keynes 04.10.2000

Getting up at a reasonable hour again, but Pam has promised to take me to the coach station anyway. And so she does after taking the picture she promised Penny yesterday (Penny's picture of me at the Derngate didn't turn out - she should consider herself lucky really...) and where I have the great honour of having Ashley on my arm (if only...) before he joins us in the car to whine to Michael's music all the way long. And it is a long way...

At the coach station the goodbye is a short one, since luckily we will see each other again in Glasgow and I finally head off to Milton Keynes with a very nice female bus driver who asks me whether I know where I'm going (um, right this moment I think straight onto your bus?) and agrees to let me know when we reach MK Central (the railway station) as I found out that my B&B is closer to there than the Coachway. I've done this trip last year as well, so the highlight comes along as on one of the roads we overtake a lorry. What's written on the side? 'The mighty whopper'. Yes, thank you...

In the evening I also manage to get a glimpse at the last Mini being driven off the production line on the TV, but I am puzzled to see Lulu driving it. The solution I read when already back home where Kerstin tells me why Michael and Tony weren't there.

Glasgow 06.10.2000
'Just throw something down your face' - yes, good idea as it is only five minutes between start of breakfast and the arrival of the cab to take me into Milton Keynes Coachway. The cab is on time and first thing the driver asks me is whether I'm heading south or north to which I answer 'north' since I am thinking of Glasgow of course. 'Good, there seems to be some heavy traffic going south on the M1'. It takes me few seconds to realise I told him rubbish as indeed the coach is going south towards Luton Airport and not north on the M1. But with a safety margin of one and a half hours I hope I will be ok, even though the coach itself is late arriving at Milton Keynes Coachway...

We make it to the airport well ahead of any trouble and I can already head over to the easyjet check-in. For some reason or other we are late when it comes to boarding and when the time finally comes we are reminded that we say our name for the person checking and collecting the cards. When I say 'Frenz' he says 'I want your name, love' and again I tell him 'Well, it is Frenz' 'OH!'. Yes, well, oh, there we go J . I don't really think he can check all the names that people chuck at him, but he's nice anyway.

At Glasgow Airport I get a ticket to go to Buchanan Bus Station which is in the centre of Glasgow and from there I can walk along Sauchiehall Street to get to the Argyll Hotel. Outside the terminal I find the bus, but it doesn't say that it goes to the bus station so I ask the driver and he grinningly points out whether I haven't seen the small sign on the front window stating that he is going to the bus station while the cheek presses a button to change the destination on the big sign as well...thank you, so much for lovely Scotsmen... J The journey takes 20 minutes and from the map the nice lady inside the airport has given me I know that we should be able to see the Clyde Auditorium at one point - and we do. It looks nice from the motorway, but I'm fairly astonished that said motorway goes straight through the city centre...charming.

From the coach station you fall right into the Royal Concert Hall   - oh, where the 'Musicals & More' video was filmed of course...through the pedestrian zone past a number of shops and onto Sauchiehall street where at some stage there should be the hotel really.

After unpacking and watching a bit of the telly I finally check out the way to the SECC and using the map I get to a tunnel that passes over the Expressway and straight over to the SECC. It's a shame that the windows are as dirty and stained as they are because otherwise it is the perfect spot for taking a photo of the Clyde the place is not that interesting in daylight and without anything taking place I head back and find a much quicker way back to the Hotel, which leads through roads not even stated on my map...

Back at the Hotel I want to take the chance of a lazy evening and hopefully an early night as with the arrival of my friends I think the nights will be fairly short...

I have promised to call them as they have already met up and so I do. My mobile phone bill will be enormous with all this 'out of country' calls, but who I tell them that everything is ok - well, apart from the cold that I have been rewarded with from Oxford onwards and I tell them that I already checked out the SECC. And I promise to be there for their arrival at the airport tomorrow morning. ....

~ Continue with Part Three ~

04/09/2004 14:32

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