Random Reflections From a Wandering Walnut

Donald Stewart, Matt Allwright and Davie McGirr picked me up at Reading Station and we headed to a BBC studio to do a live interview before starting our two and a half thousand mile journey to Barcelona and back  that would see us play eight concerts in six days and raise thousands of pounds for Alzheimer’s Research UK. You can find out more about the charity side of our trip on Davie’s Blog

The interview started badly. Donald thought it would be appropriate to tell the presenter that we would all be fine in a motorhome for a week because we had a rule of ‘No Solids’ in the loo. The presenter disagreed!

Then it was time to play a tune and we discovered that I had to stand about one hundred yards away from the rest of the guys because the lack of any sound equipment meant that that was the only way to balance my pipes with the guitars, fiddle, ands voices. Who says the pipes are too loud?

Once we were over the Channel we had a simple rule. The rule was that when we stopped the van we had to play a tune. So at the first service station in France Donald and I enjoyed a few jigs while Matt and Davie collected some euros. Next stop saw Mat and Davie sing a couple of songs while Donald and I collected the money. 

And there the battle commenced. Would the pipes and fiddle combo collect more than a couple of guys bashing a way at guitars while singing some songs? I’ll let you figure out the answer for yourself.

We left Reading on the Tuesday and arrived in Barcelona five days later having played concerts in  friends’ gardens, vineyards, restaurants and service stations on the way. 

We had a grand night in Barcelona on Saturday where we played to an audience of around 600 at the Centro Asturiano, managing to get them all up to dance to a bit of An Dro. 

A little post-gig malt watching the stars sparkle on a cloudless Barcelona night, or rather early morning, was a highlight of the trip, but don’t ask me what the four of us were talking about for hours before the sun came up. 

Showered and fed and watered on Sunday morning we headed back up into northern Catalunya  for a couple of gigs near Vic, then one final show at Kathleen Crawford’s La Clota Restaurant in L’Escala. 

From there I headed back to Barcelona for a day or two to try to set up some gigs for St Andrew’s Night and Burns Night later this year and early next year, and the other three drove all the way back to London.

I was glad of a real bed in a real house in Barcelona rather than another couple of nights in the van but I wouldn’t have swapped the experience for anything. 

Four guys sharing a motorhome for a week was great fun and was only beaten by four guys sharing songs, tunes, and stories for a week. 

Musically it was a great journey. Donald and I got to think in verses and choruses instead of parts and Matt and Davie had to think about tunes parts, as in “Why are we playing these eight bars again, and why do we go back to the beginning of the tune once we’ve played each part twice?”

And for me I got to do something I’ve never ever done before. I drove on the right side of the road. I’ver always managed to avoid hiring cars when on holiday but I felt that I had to play my part and take a turn driving. I never thought my first time would be driving into the centre of Barcelona at peak hour on a Saturday in the height of summer season in a three-and-ahalf-ton motor home and I have to pass on apologies to the traffic lights in Calle Numacia that got in the way on a tight turn. I don’t think too much damage was done. Except to my pride.