Newcastle, England

We arrived in Newcastle last night after our show in Belfast and pulled up to a little boutique hotel where we are staying. I'm sure it must be an old, converted office building that has been given a new, ill-fitting incarnation. Look, I'm not a spoiled type, it takes a lot for me to complain about a hotel or a room. As long as it's clean, has a shower and a half-way decent bed, it'll do. I once knew a guy who would change hotels if he didn't like the chocolates left on the pillow. Not me. That said, this hotel is amazingly weird, inefficient, tiny, dirty, fixtures broken, stinks of fish and there's not even a clock in my room. I had to call down to reception this morning to find out what time it was, but there was nobody on duty so no answer! The kind of place that makes you wish for a Holiday Inn. Let's put it this way, you don't want to walk around bare-footed on the carpet, not in my room anyway. The description in our itinerary of the place was'...If you've ever searched for a dog-friendly boutique hotel in Newcastle.' Right.

Of course the concept of a gym is far too abstract for this joint so I was directed to a very good one just a few blocks away and put in a couple of hours there. After that I was completely starving and headed straight to the nearest Pret-A-Manger. For those outside the U.K., Pret is a chain of sandwich stores that is second to none in my book, incredibly fresh, delicious and interesting sandwiches. My latest fave is their sliced chicken breast with avocado and rocket...genius. The fact that you can also get a darn good latte there is a bonus not to mention desserts. Seems like there's a Pret every two or three block in England's main cities, I sure wish we had them in the States. Actually, there is one in Manhattan but that's a far cry from Nashville.

Tonight's show is one of those that we look forward to, Newcastle City Hall. Similar in inconvenience to the Edinburgh Playhouse for the crew, except smaller. The capacity is less than 2,000. The far ends of the upper balcony wrap around to the edges of the stage and you can nearly touch somebody sitting there. Because of the size and difficulty loading in, it becomes a very stripped-down evening in terms of production but is more than made up for in excitement and performance and tonight's show and audience was no exception. Mark made mention that the first rock and roll show he attended was here and he sat in the balcony. The Newcastle crowd always gives Mark a brilliant welcome home.

After the show we had the usual party in the City Hall bar at the front of the venue, seeing old friends and acquaintances we look forward to visiting with. Loads of great hors d'orves courtesy of our caterers, Angus, Chris and Steve and drinks a-plenty. When all the shouting was over it was back to the absolute crappest hotel ever where we, en masse, took over the little bar downstairs and continued the party. The bar tender invited me to mix my own martinis, a very dangerous invitation that I readily took him up on. Behind the bar I went, deftly wielding the shaker, ice, gin and vermouth! We most certainly have a hands down winner for the worst hotel of the tour, but the little bar downstairs ended up being very cool indeed.

So long,