Monday, 12 October 2009

Good and Bad

Here's a tired and annoyed Nigel playing "Headlock" in Oslo, after a heroic battle with it's one way traffic system and nightmare parking. N.B. I wish you could have seen the strange collection of faces staring at me from behind where Jonno was filming. The Doors were right...people ARE strange when you're a stranger (you can see all the music videos I've uploaded so far here: http://www.youtube.com/user/thefoxes)




Since getting back from my epic travels with Jonno, good things and bad things have happened.

Bad Things.
1. I've still not been able to get a replacement for my much loved Mickey Mouse t-shirt. As you can see, it appears to be sold out. I'm going to write a real, physical letter. Honestly. If you can help me find a replacement (size small) you will be richly rewarded.
2. We lost in the football against Ukraine. It's ok though, we still qualify.
3. I am out of coco-pops.
4. I have spent WAY too much money. Care to have a guess on how much the trip cost Jonno and I....NOT including replacing all my stolen stuff?! Go on....
5. My smashed phone is beyond repair according to Professor Technician Brother with a Beard.

Good things.
1. I've finally organised and put up the full set of photos from the European road trip. Click here to see them! There are some really great photos here! I wish I still had the night ones from Paris. Ho hum.
2. I had a fantastic time playing at "The Haymakers Sunday Joint" for Doug on the Isle of Wight. Met some lovely people, and watched some great music.
3. I've finally managed to put "Get Me" up on my Facebook page, and a new version of "5476 Miles" both on there and my Myspace. Feedback welcome, as long as it's good.
4. Speaking of which, I will be travelling 5476 miles next month. I will need to buy a new suitcase for this (see blog on "Disaster" for more details). The duck will NOT be coming with me, he's hibernating like...er... magic ducks do.
5. There are a LOT of exciting things happening with my music and the band. I can't really talk about any of it yet for various reasons, especially because of how dreadful it'll be if it then doesn't happen! (which is possible...this is the music business, most people are [insert suitably dreadful word here] Read "Kill Your Friends" by John Niven or "Powder" by Kevin Sampson for more details.

Oh, I've still not decided on a new name for this blog. Might just leave it as it is to confuse the stupid.

I'll leave you with a short video of Jonno and I talking about how expensive it is in Copenhagen, and the billions of bikes in the city. My stuff was probably being stolen just as this video was taken. Ha!



Much love,

Nigel. X

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create."
Albert Einstein.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Amsterdam and Brugge


Firstly, if you want to drive in to Amsterdam - don't! The streets are flooded with bicycles, and it doesn't welcome cars. Due to being hungover from our Hamburg gig, photo above, we left Germany late after a very nice lunch with Christina (I hope your door is ok!) and it was already dark by the time we entered Amsterdam. We must have spent around two hours hunting for a space, ALL of which you have to pay for, even in the suburbs. Not only that, but the road signs are either non-existant or tiny tiny tiny...by the time we found our space (it cost 45 Euro to park there for the day) it was about 10pm, and a long walk to the station to meet my old school mate Rich, who owns a lovely flat in the heart of Amsterdam, and the red light district.

Rich's flat, which he's renovating, is awesome and has lovely original wooden beams (see, I pay attention!) and a more awesome view of "The Sex Palace" across the street (as you can see from the photo). I'd never been to Amsterdam before, but of course had heard about the women in the windows...it was still a bit of a shock to see it in reality though. The thought of paying for sex (other than emotionally) has never entered my head, and this only flickered for the briefest of moments when looking at some truly beautiful girls trying to get our attention from their windows. It seems like ALL tastes are catered for however, and some of the ladies on other streets had...um...a bit more to love, and on one street, more penises. It's a good place to people watch, especially seeing the sheepish look on guys faces as they leave the brothels, and sneaky, slightly shadly look of those selecting their lady pick 'n' mix...

You really don't need to smoke in Amsterdam to get high, as a huge number of streets have "coffee shops" with chilled, happy people in, and the sweet smell is unavoidable when you're outside. Thought of Bill Hicks, and how he wanted to make pot not only legal, but mandatory ("Shut up and smoke this.." "Woah, cheers dude. For a moment there I was taking life seriously!")

There is another side to Amsterdam however, which is one of incredibly beautiful and well preserved old buidings, quiant little art shops, elegant boats on the canal and a generally friendly, welcoming atmosphere. By total chance, we parked our car on Prinsengracht street, which, at number 267, also happens to be the street where Anne Frank went in to hiding in 1942. I'd only read her diary for the first time last year, and it had a big effect on me - so Jonno and I went to her house, and it was an incredibly moving experience. On one hand, it made me thoughtful and sad about how many millions of innocent people suffered and died during the war, but also filled me with a kind of happiness in seeing so many people queuing to visit her hiding place, and the thought that her greatest wish was to become a famous writer and how happy and amazed she'd be at how big an impact her diaries have had, and how positive their influence has been. If you've never read her diary, I'd really strongly recommend it. There are few other books of any kind which will make you want to sieze the day and follow your dreams, in a way Anne sadly was never able to.

Long ago, my Dad wrote a song called "Call Girl" which I always knew I'd have to play in Amsterdam, the video for which is below. I don't get stage fright, but it was a little unnerving playing this song in the heart of the red light district not only because of the lyrics, but because I'd no idea if an attack from a brothel house bouncer was on the way...I guess the girls aren't really used to being entertained themselves....



The drive out of Amserdam and along to Brugge in Belgium was the worst we'd encountered on the trip - lots of traffic and big delays. It was worth it though for Brugge, perhaps the most beautiful city we'd visited on the trip and on par with Stockholm in that if I had someone special, I'd want to take them there! It's a town entirely surrounded by a moat, and you have to go through a castle gate to enter it, a theme which continues throughout as it's like a medieval town, with virtually no modern buildings, and the most wonderful cobbled squares where you can relax by the fountains and watch horse drawn carriages clip clop by.

We only had a few hours there sadly, but I'm definitely going back one day. The little photo I've uploaded on the right really doesn't do it justice - I'm going to upload a whole feast of photos from the trip over the next few days, but for now I suggest you google Brugge, and you'll see exactly what I mean. Disney can only dream of making somewhere this fairytale, special and real.

Due to picking the wrong lane in Calais at customs we missed our ferry by 3 minutes, and had to wait an hour for the 11.15pm one. Jonno's war cry of "I HATE YOU....YOU C**T" a few seconds after a polite "thank you" to the ticket man will remain in my memory for a long time.

We're back in England now, and I'm having to slowly buy all the things which were stolen when our car was broken in to. I used to live out of a suitcase, now I'm just living out of a plastic bag - pretty cool, eh?! We really did have quite an adventure, and I'm sure I've missed loads out in these little blogs, but you get a general idea, and will have more when I upload the pictures and videos.

Total distance driven over the last ten days: 4,040 miles (to put that in perspective, if there was a bridge across the atlantic, we could have easily reached Austin in America).

Countries visited: England, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands.

I'm thinking of keeping this blog going to talk about all the things going on with The Foxes, our new manager, recording the debut album, touring etc....what do you think? Oh, and I think it'll need a new name too - can you suggest one? (be nice now...)

Thank you for reading, and for all your kind messages, either here or on Facebook, which really meant a lot when we were on the road. Thanks to Jonno too, for being a great travel companion.

They say travel changes you, and I think this is true. I feel good....better. In the words of Anne Frank, "I know what I want, I have a goal. I have opinons, religion and love."

I'll leave you with video of "Get Me" recorded next to a huge and beautiful lake in Sweden. The acoustic recording is here on my myspace.



Much love,

Nigel.

P.S. If you're close to the Isle of Wight, I'm playing a solo acoustic gig there on Sunday - details here. Blog will follow...

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Hamburg

Sadly, we could only stay a few hours in Stockholm due to the need to drive an epic distance to Hamburg, so we left the same night and drove for a few hours before stopping off. Cleverly saving money, we decided to sleep in the car that night. When I woke up at 4am, the temperature had fallen to 1 degree above freezing...the inside of our car was literally colder than a fridge!

Hitting the road early it didn´t take us too long to defrost, and we were in the car for a mere nine and a half hours to reach Hamburg. There was only a brief period of road madness, with us both screaming, but a quick stop off for ice-cream restored sanity. By the way, the bridge to cross over from Sweden to Denmark, and and another in Denmark (there's no other option!) are REALLY expensive...around thirty of your earth pounds....each. We've now driven over three thousand four hundred miles since last Monday.

Anyway, the last time we were in Hamburg was last year when The Foxes played at the Indra Club, so it felt surprisingly familiar. Once again, we stayed with our friend Christina who also suggested a venue we could play at called "Freundlich & Kompetent" (Friendly and Competent), which is run by students, and is really quite a funky and relaxed place. It's about time we had a bit of luck, and we walked in JUST as another band from the U.S. who were due to play there pulled out. So we did a quick soundcheck and after that were asked to headline! Not bad for a totally random gig quest. It went really well, and after a couple of encores (the German audience were lovely) it was time to sample some items from the bar. Thanks to the staff there for taking a chance on us and letting us play, to "Autumn Fall" and especially Christina who suggested we ask there and let us stay in her new flat.

We're just off to have some lunch before heading off to Amsterdam, we'll be staying with my old school friend Rich who lives in the centre of "the red light district", whatever that is :-) Expect an interesting blog tomorrow....

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Oslo and Stockholm

Last night in Oslo was great. We managed to get a random gig at an Irish bar called The Dubliner, and were glad to be in from the cold as it was FREEZING last night...memories of the sunny German countryside seemed incredibly distant! We spoke to Gemma at the bar (who was from Birmingham!) and she kindly agreed to let us play. There was a stage, but no microphones, so we just got up and played - it went very well and we had quite a laugh, me especially as Jonno wasn't drinking, so I had his share of the free drinks. As always, we mixed covers with The Foxes songs, and "Something About You" and "Trauma Town" went down especially well. Of the covers, we're enjoying doing "One After 909" - will do a video of that one day.

Huge thanks to Gemma for letting us crash at hers after the gig, and for all the wine! I've been quite delicate all day!

A big hello (are there really different sizes?!) to the guys we talked to from Leeds and Scotland who stayed for the whole set, and to Olga from Germany who came to see us play (I'll email you!).

The last thing I'll say about Oslo is that it's INCREDIBLY expensive...and that's from someone who spends much of his time in London. To put it in a global perspective, a Big Mac meal cost somewhere in the region of eight pounds.

Some of the lakes and forests we drove past were fairytale pretty, and though it was cold, the sun has been shining down upon us all day.

The drive to Stockholm took about seven and a half hours, but was worth it - this city is beautiful. You can really tell it wasn't ever bombed...there are some beautiful buildings, and the most amazing cobbled streets. Everyone seems happy here too, and there's a very pleasant and relaxed atmosphere in the tidy little streets...it's the kind of place I'll take someone special one day.

Tomorrow, we've decided to go to Hamburg and so far we've driven over 2,500 miles...and walked something that feels like that far.

Well, we're off to play in those cobbled streets, and do a video of "Sweet Little Wonder" for obvious reasons.....

Monday, 28 September 2009

Sweden to Oslo

Apologies for the lack of blog yesterday, due to a lack of both laptop and internet. I've seen something of the awful flooding in the Phillipines which really puts what I've lost in perspective. Thank you to everyone who left a comment or sent me an email, message or text (I can't reply to texts due to smashed screen)about having all my stuff stolen - it's nice to know you care!

Yesterday was a long driving day, and we explored the most incredible countryside in Sweden, with lakes bigger than Wales, and VERY windy islands which we reached by boat (the west coast of Sweden) which had huge rocky outcrops and breathaking views (literally...it was very windy). Most places were closed as it's out of season here, but it was a nice change to be out of any urban area and really explore 'local' areas. There are some lovely photos and videos on the way when we get back to England.

Speaking of videos, we stayed in a little hotel in Sweden last night - watched Hitch and Walk Hard (the first was actually pretty good, and the second VERY funny) on the TV...but were then pretty surprised to find that two of our normal, Swedish terrestial tv channels (out of about 8) then without warning started showing hardcore pornography...I mean, proper hardcore. The next day on the same channels, there were childrens programmes. How bizzare is that?! I know what you're all thinking, and no, Jonno and I didn't sit there watching it together. For long.

Oh, I've just remembered I uploaded another song from the German countryside in the happy happy days when I had clothes....(my Mickey Mouse t-shirt will be sorely missed)



Today we've been exploring Oslo...well, much of the day we were exploring the incredibly frustrating road system in the city, with one way roads, hardly and road markings and impatient drivers, as well as pedestrians who just walk randomly in to the road (which reminds me of Exeter...) We were also stopped and questioned at the border, but managed to avoid the full body search.

We did a song in front of the Royal Palace, and were approched by a friendly local who asked us if we knew any gospel songs....anyway, we've got a couple of gigs in the town tonight, so hope to earn some dinner and petrol money, so we'll see how it goes!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

DISASTER

We had a lovely day exploring Copehagen, spoiled only to return to the car at 4pm to discover a window had been smashed, in broad daylight just outside the hostel, and my suitcase with all my clothes had been stolen, along with my rucksack and laptop. So I've lost all my photos and video of the trip, all the Foxes photos, music, personal photos - everything. This on top of waking up this morning to find that someone had accidentally smashed the screen of my phone. Copenhagen has not been good to me. For some reason, they didn't take Jonno's suitcase, so I guess that makes me more fashionable in the eyes of the thief, which is some consolation.

Initally annoyed, and a touch upset by these events, it could have all been far worse - people get killed every day by accident or design, and I have my health and a head full of memories of the trip, and it's just....STUFF, isn't it?! I refuse to let this ruin the trip, and we're going to carry on and head off to Oslo. Not sure what I'm going to wear, but....

Sadly this means there'll be no more photos and no more video until I get back, but we'll still be taking pictures with Jonno's phone and my broken phone, so there'll be plenty on the way. The car might be a little chilly with the broken window but it's only small, and we'll get it repaired somewhere on Monday.

You'll be glad to hear that both my pillow and William the Duck were not taken, and are safe.

From Berlin to Copenhagen

It's been a LONG day. Waking up this morning was not a pleasant experience, and we left Berlin a mere four hours later than planned...but hey, we made the plans so we can change them. Just before we left, Marie (pictured right) took us round a Turkish market close to where we were staying, one of the highlights of which was a woman serving freshly squeezed orange juice inside a big plastic orange. Thank you for being such a good host Marie - see you in London in a couple of weeks with Tina.

The drive to Copenhagen took about 8 hours, but was through some beautiful countryside, and we crossed one of the longest suspension bridges in the world to get from one island to the other in Denmark (which cost the equivalent of £30!)

The Danish language seems impossibly difficult to pronounce or understand - here is a photo of the kind of thing we're dealing with (yes, whatever this says, apparently I needed to know at a urinal!)

We've just spent the last three hours walking round Copenhagen. There are bicycles EVERYWHERE. I've never seen so many, even in Cambridge. There are cycle lanes on every single street, and hardly anyone wears a helmet. It's also an exceptionally expensive city - I never thought I'd think London prices such a bargain. Two bottles of water? Five pounds please. It's like one big festival! They use Krone here, and there are about 8 to a pound. The high prices might explain why almost everyone was drinking cans of Carlsberg in the streets! More exploring tomorrow, as we arrived at 10pm, which didn't leave us much time and we're both pretty exhausted.

I'm going to leave you with a video of Jonno and I attempting "Something About You" at around 3am last night in Berlin - big thank you to my German friend Katja for coming to watch us play for so long and for filming! It was a random choice of song, so apologies for repeating it so soon after Paris :-)

I haven't actually watched it back, so I hope it's vaguely watchable!

You can hear the original acoustic version on my myspace: http://www.myspace.com/iamnigel

Friday, 25 September 2009

Berlin....



Ok, this will have to be a very short post tonight, as Jonno has passed out, and I am absolutely off my face on weiss bier...drrrrrunk......

....well, the reason is, Maria showed us round Berlin today and showed us some amazing sights. We saw the Berlin Wall (a piece of which you can see on the right), the Reichstag, and across the river.

Berlin is very different from the other German cities we've been to...you can really see where the new buildings have been built (and they're huge, slick and pretty impressive new buildings too) but it seems to lack the charm and substance of Dresden, or somewhere like Graz (a place in Austria I love)...

Anyway, we played for over four hours tonight in the Tacheles in the heart of Berlin, and met some wonderful people...my fingers are bleeding from playing, but it was worth it tonight because of the people we played for...

More videos up soon...we met some really nice Canadians, Americans and Germans tonight...here's a video of "Let it Go" in front of Reichstag, which was built before the first World War, and you could see the bullet holes from WWII from the other side of it...

Tomorrow is Copenhagen...it's Jonno's turn to drive, hence I'm ok having had my head smashed through with a slice of lemon..wrapped round a large gold brick (if you know what I'm talking about, I probably love you with one exception...if not, bad luck....)

Anyway, here's a song I did in front of the German parliament...a stupidly long drive ahead of us tomorrow...good night....

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dresden, beautuful countryside and Berlin.

Today has been...brilliant.

First of all, here's the video from last night which was filmed deep inside Nuremberg castle:



We woke up to glorious sunshine in Nuremberg which followed us for the rest of the day, and headed out for a daytime explore of the city. There was a busy market, and lost of bustle, every kind of food you could imagine...but mainly sausage. We breakfasted on a rather tasty Nurnberger Rostbratwurst mit Sauerkraut, and headed out towards Dresden via a few forests....



I can honestly say, the German countryside we saw today was breathtaking...we diverted off the autobahn and drove through a couple of tiny villages which seemed to have not changed in the last hundred years! Stopped off by a rocky out croft and randomly found a load of caves to explore - bonus. Speeding off to Dresden, I realised that I'm still not used to the fact that you can cruise along the autobahn at 85mph, and EVERYONE except trucks will overtake you. We actually saw a pretty massive crash - but considering everyone is driving about 130 mph, I was surprised we didn't see more.

We were keen to visit Dresden, not least because despite it's fame in having been so heavily damaged during World War Two, we'd heard it was very pretty and the reconstructed buildings were worth seeing...and it really is. You can see big gaps in the town where clearly buildings would have been, and there were still sections where the destroyed buildings had not been replaced - but the rebuilt buildings were well made and beautiful, as were the undamaged sections like the F├╝rstenzug, though my favourite building of all was The Dresden Frauenkirch, which was almost totally destroyed during the war, and was been completely reconstructed in 2005...here it is:

The car's doing well! It's an Astra, and we've not named it yet...any suggestions? A girls name please. I've also brought a mascot, William the Duck...I know.... :-)

It only took a few hours to get to Berlin from Dresden, and we're staying with the mother of Tina, from Magic Photography, who has photographed us live more times than I can remember! Tomorrow, we'll be exploring Berlin and trying to find a gig to play....failing that we're just going to play on the streets and see what happens.

I'll leave you with the video of one of my Dad's songs, "One of these Days" which we filmed at the rocky outcrop in the countryside...it's actually gained a lot of special meaning for me over the last few months - enjoy!

Nigel. X

P.S. thanks to everyone who's got in touch from the mail out we sent before we left - you're all lovely.

Belguim, Luxembourg,Nuremberg


Hello!

Since leaving England yesterday, we've driven over 840 miles and have just got in after a night out in Nuremberg. Exhausted, but we've been having a wonderful time. Just a quick update...



Paris was amazing...far better than I'd imagined and full of beautiful people. Despite Jonno being there, it really seemed like a romantic place...something happened to me on the metro which really showed me that side of it! The Eiffel Tower really was impressive - I'm sorry there are no photos today (UPDATE - fixed!), but the wi-fi isn't working here, so I'm just on the hotel computer. I've also seen the video from yesterday isn't working - thanks YouTube, I'll see if I can fix it soon (UPDATE - fixed, see below) I did a song in Nuremberg Castle tonight (amazing acoustics), so will stick that up as soon as I can too.

We drove through Belgium, and had lunch in Luxembourg and on to Nuremberg tonight. Inside the city centre is a huge castle, and there are some beautiful buildings inside the city walls. Parked next to the Cathedral, was a red Routemaster London bus...a number 12 to Notting Hill Gate, where we DJ at Death Disco. A bit odd to see it there! The German food and beer are great, as are the costumed serving wenches.

Tomorrow, we head to Berlin...keep an eye on my text updates on http://www.twitter.com/thefoxes


I apologise for the fact that this is such a dreadfully messy and haphazard blog entry...I've hardly slept and have just walked across the city! :-) Bed time...

Much love,

Nigel.

P.S. driving on the German autobahns is a LOT of fun.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Paris!


After getting a good 3 hours sleep (due to watching a fantastic film with called "Zombie Strippers") and driving over 300 miles, we've arrived in Paris which is, according to Alan Partridge is "a city of French people..." and he's right but they're all rather good looking and surprisingly friendly!



The photos here are of the white cliffs of Dover (obviously) and the Eiffel Tower which we're just about to go up. Apparently, it was only meant to be temporary, and many Parisians thought it was an eyesore when it was first built. At the moment, Jonno and I are sitting drinking £7 beers in a French wine bar on Rue De Grenelle....tried speaking French, but was spoken back to in English - didn't complain.

The drive here was not bad at all - I'm very impressed with how the French don't sit in the middle lane of the motorway, and how speed limits here are basically 80mph. Just trying not to think of the fact that the toll road cost £20 to get to Paris from Calais....

Well, we're off to go up a big climbing frame, and enjoy some of the Parisian night life. Tomorrow: Nuremberg, Germany.

I'll leave you with a video Jonno filmed of my doing the most romantic song I've ever written, in the most romantic city in the world.....


Friday, 11 September 2009

In the beginning....


...there was the word. Several in fact, and they make up the start of this blog.

My main reason for doing this is because Jonno and I are hiring a car and will be driving across Europe for two weeks this month. It's so rare that we have any time off that we decided to do something interesting, and as all other plans have fallen by the wayside recently, and as Alex and Geve are off doing their thing, taking our guitars and going places we've never been and meeting strange new people seems like the thing to do!

We'll be driving through France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Norway...if you live in one of those countries and can put us up or show us round, email me - nigel@thefoxesband.com :-)

Leaving England date: 20th September. Returning 2nd October unless we get arrested earlier.

I'll be blogging whenever I can - no promises of what really happened or the full story, but there'll be photos and I'll be putting together a video at the very, bitter end.

I'll leave you with Winston.

"This is not the end. This is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

Nigel.