Laura Veirs at the Tunnels

Despite sub-zero temperatures and a slowly weakening immune system it wasn’t too difficult to leave the warmth of home and head down to the Tunnels for a relaxed night of music from a couple of artists all the way from the North-West of America. It was a very civilised affair with tables and seating filling the venue. On stage a single microphone and a banjo indicated that there was to be only solo performances tonight, despite both artists having bands of their own these days.

First up was the delightfully quirky Clyde Petersen, lead singer of the collaborative music project Your Heart Breaks. She entertained the crowd with a series of songs that took us across the United States, and through a series of not altogether successful relationships. A consumate story teller her lyrics were full of little gems of pop-culture, my favourite coming from the song Torry Pines, which illustrates the level of crazy her Mother achieved through the lyrics:

“Cos you got into a fight with your Mom who did believe, she could speak to Deanna Troi telepathically, you know that psycho-crazy bitch from Star Trek:TNG who could read everyone’s thoughts, your Mom said she could do that to me”

Her songs were all accompanied by her simple-but-effective guitar playing, but later efforts brought in some percussive and vocal extras, all done through her pedals, and culminated in a whole series of audience participation in the song God Speed John Glenn.

Laura Veirs

With minimal equipment to changeover Laura Veirs soon took to the stage with her acoustic guitar, opening up her all too brief set with Pink Light, the first song off her latest album Saltbreakers. Over the next three-quarters of an hour she played through a great selection of songs from her back catalogue, though emphasising Saltbreakers, as well as playing a couple of her favourite traditional songs on the banjo.

The songs translated very well from the lush arrangements on the records to this more spartan setup, and her voice was as beautiful as you would expect. Her music is the sort that manages to bring a smile to your face, and despite the lack of other instruments there was still the same sense of whimsy and other-worldliness that her songs so easily evoke. She also warmed very quickly to the audience and was soon telling us stories including a past trip to Aberdeen where an argument with a promoter earned her a “You’ll never play in Aberdeen again!” to her recent flights across the Irish Sea in the terrible weather.

Her set was way too short though and even after the encore which included both Rialto and Riptide there was a feeling she could have gone on another hour or more, such is the charm of her music.

As it was I had a hurried walk back through -5oC temperatures to the nearest taxi!

More pictures in my Laura Veirs Photoset on Flickr.

Youtube user Trippinflags evidently attended the gig and has posted this video of Laura performing Riptide, the final song of her set.

New Zealand Part 1


And so begins the great holiday journal. New Zealand: North, South and Stewart Islands in just 34 days. I’ll try to keep it brief and informative and where possible link to further information about this incredible country that should definitely be high on people’s to-visit list.

New Zealand Map

The Journey

According to my watch it is some ridiculous time of the morning and the bright sunlight of day is attempting to find its way into this sleepy aircraft of ours. From the map in the screen in front of me I know it is the former USSR below us, away to our south the Himalayas begin their great march towards India, and ahead lies China and our refuelling stop in Hong Kong. At our cruising altitude of 11,430m its a chilly -50 centigrade and so far I’ve covered 6,500km with many more yet to go before touching down in Auckland, New Zealand.

The day started under bright sunshine in Northallerton where I caught the train down to Stevenage. From here it was an uncharacteristically quick car journey around the M25 with J and her mum to Terminal 3 of Heathrow where we crawled through the endless construction sites and into the car park. It doesn’t seem like a place worthy of sending people off to exotic and exciting destinations but it was all we had.

We made our way through to the Terminal itself, a grim 70’s town center shopping mall where after checking in (only about 4 hours early just to be sure!) we enjoyed sushi and a sandwich before going through the indignity of taking our belts off to get through airport security. We killed time in duty free and a “quaint Irish pub” before heading off to our gate where a shiny looking Boeing 747 stood in the late evening sunshine. On its side was the famous Whale’s tail of Kaikoura, a place we hoped to be visiting. Boarding was delayed by about half an hour or so but we eventually were on our way, bound for the southern hemisphere and much adventure.

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After more than 11 hours flying time (including watching 300 and writing some of this journal) we reached Hong Kong where in sweltering 35 degree temperatures our airplane was refuelled and again we were on our way. Taking off over the water we saw the high-rise of Hong Kong nestled in amongst dramatic mountains – it looks a surreal and interesting place to visit – and then we were away over the South China sea passing into the night and flying over the Phillipines, Indonesia and then the northeastern coast of Australia. The dawn arrived with a blanket of cloud which we descended through to reach our destination, Auckland.

NZ_Day1-2 008

Arrival in Auckland

New Zealand, known to the Maori as Aotearoa or The Land of the Long White Cloud was certainly living up to its name as we got our stash of cereal bars, polos and locketts through (bio)security and out onto the wet and windy concourse from which we caught the Airbus to take us into the city centre and our hostel.

Everything was going fine at first as we twisted through the streets of downtown Auckland and we were fairly confident of our destination until our friendly bus driver stopped calling out the stops and we suddenly found ourselves heading up and out of the city! We went and asked what was going on and in no time we were racing across a busy road to get a second bus coming the other way which this time delivered us straight to our hostel, Base Backpackers on Fort Street.

Given the nasty weather we investigated the comically upside down TV, our bunk beds and then had a quick nap before heading out onto the main shopping street, Queen Street where we got a New Zealand SIM card and a few other things before heading for a tasty pizza at the Kiwi Music Bar and Cafe – a cool little pizzeria where a Flying Nun pizza (mushrooms, olives and pesto)[^1] was served by a cheerful guy whose bar had entertained the White Stripes on their first visit to New Zealand in 2002. It was then time to check e-mails before succombing to the jet lag.