TO CANADA
Ahh British Airways, “the world’s favourite airline” claims the ageing slogan, the accuracy of which is questionable in 2015 yet if the bustling club lounge is anything to go by, it’s as popular now as it ever was. I couldn’t find myself a seat when I rolled in on a busy Monday morning at Heathrow Terminal 5. Most of the crew were on this flight to Vancouver but I still hadn’t bumped into a familiar face.
I decided to wait in a – very British – queue for the one remaining functioning tea/coffee dispenser, the other two were clearly over-stressed with demand. It saddens me to learn that BA invest so heavily in a ‘machine’ to deliver what could only be a sub-standard cuppa. Now at the head of the growing line, I couldn’t bear the concept of tea being delivered in such an impersonal manner so I pressed the button marked ‘Cappuccino’. The device rumbled, crunched and squirted into action at a snail’s pace whilst patient travellers behind me observed the process with grim-faced intent. I then pressed the button,’espresso’ knowing full well that the Cappuccino wouldn’t cut it. I merged the two to create a half decent, bespoke brew.  I spotted a seat across the vast room overlooking North runway 09L/27R – these numbers denote heading in azimuth degrees by the way – and proceeded to observe as jet after jet touched down with graceful ease. My iPad ‘plane finder HD’ app enabled me to learn all about every craft arriving this morning, including, origin, age of plane, number of flight hours etc. Maybe we would be flying today in one of BA’s 24 shiny new Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s (engine fire not withstanding) or perhaps one of the dozen or so monster A380’s? Alas no, when I arrived at the gate, we were welcomed aboard a clunky, ageing 747, complete with tiring fixtures, fittings ‘and crew’. This plane was delivered to BA the year after DS ended their reign which makes it 23 years old. However, the 747 is a true monument to aviation design and I have met and know of many pilots who won’t fly anything else. By now, the English contingent, band and crew were aboard and spread across the cabin evenly. It was great to see everyone again looking so fresh faced and well rested. The cloudless sky beckoned and we took off on time and enjoyed a supremely uneventful and smooth flight. Apart from the our steward’s reluctance to serve a second cup of tea on request, it was most pleasant. The food was bloody atrocious though. Yep, still prefer Virgin.
Vancouver international airport was partly cloudy, immigration was smooth and we were soon at the Shangri-La hotel with half of the afternoon ahead of us leaving us to fight to stay awake in order to speedily overcome the effects of jet-lag. Coming from East to west is not usually too bad. The UK band party met early evening for a delicious steak meal at The Keg right next door which facilitated a sleepy escape.
The next morning, I was up at the crack of Sparrows and ready to hit small white balls. What better way to acclimatise than golf? Morgan Creek was the chosen club and Vancouver golf buddy Gordon Magnusson, who arranged golf at Furry Creek the last time we were in town kindly obliged by setting up a tee time. It was glorious. In the evening, I met up with some of the boys at the Tap and Barrel, one of many craft beer bars cropping up not just across Canada and the US but at home too.
The Asian population of Vancouver is huge, in fact in one area known as Richmond, half of the population is Chinese. Apparently there are whole sections of that area without so much as an English road sign. This accounts however for the wonderful Asian cuisine available everywhere here. You don’t have to go far for a great Dim Sum, Soba or Dynamite Roll. For the Sushi lovers that we are, it’s top drawer.
Wednesday was designated a production day which meant that the crew loaded in our production into the Queen Elizabeth hall (rather appropriate I thought in light of her record breaking reign) and an evening band rehearsal. Hints of dwindling cerebral resources were evident as we ran a few tunes but as always, the memory banks soon fire up, muscle memory swings into action and things become familiar once more.
Show day began early with mild jet-lag still in the system, re-acquainting ones self with the hotel gym was high on the to-do list. Getting in a shower, then running back to the bedside table to get glasses so as to correctly identify shampoo bottle seems to happen all to often these days. Either my eyesight is getting worse or hotel shampoo lettering has entered a new era of indecipherability.
Now that we are in North America, one sad omission to our usual arrangements is the loss of our German driving team. Here, we use local transport as distances mean the ‘leap-frogging’ cannot work and whilst drivers can be well trained, clean and courteous, there always seems to be something. Today it was speed. Even though only a dozen city blocks were covered, demonstrations of testosterone and horse power of the Mercedes S550 is wasted on us.Nevertheless, we were on the stage and ready for a soundcheck by 4pm, Ruth Moody being in the area came along to enhance what looked like it might be a fun evening.
By the time everyone was in the sold out  theatre, there was quite a buzz which peaked as we took to the stage. I’ve written about the feeling we get when the band re-convenes so I won’t bore you with repetition suffice as to say, it was better than great. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of this band. If this show was anything to go by, this final leg of the tour is going to be quite spectacular. We are all looking forward to many more nights like this and the upcoming itinerary looks like fun all the way.
We stayed at the venue and celebrated with a small Gin and Tonic and toasted the beginning of another wonderful leg of this extraordinary tour.