Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Seeing The Alarm on both sides of the Atlantic

May 2018 will go down as one of the most amazing months of my life. It took me until the grand old age of 52 years to make it across the Atlantic to America for the first time. I'd always wanted to go to New York, and I was able to achieve that dream, and get to see The Alarm play there at the same time at The New York Gathering. This trip took plenty of planning, and there were many times during the build up when I feared that it might not happen. A poorly dog, my mate Prince, was an ongoing issue, and then my brother had a cancer operation just before I was due to fly out. Thankfully fate smiled kindly on me, and I was able to make the trip.

If I had made this trip a couple of years ago, I would have been able to list a few names - people who I met on the trip. However, life is very different for me these days, and there are simply too many names to mention of the people I met out there. I enjoyed meeting each and everyone of you there, and the warmth and friendship extended to this solo traveller from the UK will never be forgotten.

I flew out of Heathrow on the Thursday morning, which potentially made getting to the Thursday night gig a potential problem if there were any delays. All went to plan, and I arrived in New York at lunchtime local time. My Alarm baggage tag worked a treat spotting my suitcase straight-away. I was a bit nervous about getting the train into the city from the airport, as I had no idea of the public transport system, but as someone said to me that half the fun is the adventure, so I got on with it, and within the hour I walked out of Penn Station into the heart of New York City.

It was an awesome baptism into the city. The Empire State Building immediately presented itself to me, and I casually walked past Madison Square Garden and Maceys. I certainly was an Englishman In New York as the song naturally came into my head as I walked towards my hotel. It soon became quite easy to work out the road system, and it was probably the most logical road layout I have come across in a major city.

A quick shower, and I decided to walk to the Slainte bar for the pre gig meet up before the show at The Bowery Electric. The walk was not without incident as a native New Yorker grabbed hold of me and my camera, and took me to the Blondie mural which was so impressive, and pushed a photographer out of the way so he could take my photo for me. The fact that the photographer was doing a photo session seemed to matter very little. But we all ended up having a fun chat.

It was a little surreal walking into the bar and seeing West Ham v Man Utd live on the TV screens. The bar soo began to fill up with fellow fans, and it nice to hook up with Cathi and Dean also over from the UK, and the lovely Lily who could not have done more to make my stay in New York as good as possible. It was the first time I had properly had the chance to chat with the legendary Barney too. Then it was a procession of being welcomed by the locals from start to finish.

The Thursday night gig was a small affair for a lucky 150 or so people who had the early tickets. Not sure how I manged to be one of those, but I was really glad that I was. Once in the venue there was a meet and greet with Mike Peters. I'm not usually one for that kind of thing, but having travelled a few thousand miles I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity. I don't know Mike that well - the occasional handshake and hello. As soon as he realised that I was Tim over from England he was pushing the microphone into my hand telling me to tell the audience all about my fundraising. I had no idea he was aware about all that, in spite of the fact that I do go on about it rather excessively on Facebook! 😆 Backtracking a little one of the first people I bumped into you was the ever friendly and genuine nice guy Smiley with his usual big hug greeting. I then had a chat with Jules who as ever was giving her time to everyone. I managed to avoid the Mastermind quiz. My knowledge of The Alarm is not that great in terms of facts. I love the music from the start to the present day, but specifics elude me.

Mike played a solo set to begin with, which was outstanding. Always a joy to see him play Majority, especially in such a small intimate venue, and of course in New York City! At one point I was prodded in the back, and it was another legendary Alarm figure Cindy Sivak saying hello to me. After a short break the whole band came out to do a set including Deeside and Superchannel, which blew the roof off. Quite stunning! By the end of the evening I had been up for a very long 24 hours, so I headed straight back to the hotel and crashed.

Although I didn't really suffer from jetlag, the time difference did mean that I was awake very early every morning whilst there. Friday daytime was rammed full of sightseeing before the pre-gig meet up later that afternoon. I faced my fear of heights by going up The Empire State Building to get the most amazing views, and then headed through Times Square to Central Park, which was just beautiful. I returned to the hotel via Grand Central Station to meet with Andrew and Suzanne Wallach.

Before heading out to New York, I'd arranged to buy the stunning spiral poppy painting done by Andrew, who is an amazingly talented artist, and Andrew and Suzanne kindly bought a copy of my Lives & Times fundraising book. The guys were also staying at my hotel, but sadly just for the one night, but it was great spending a bit of time with them. The painting is now hanging in my living room.

My hotel was perfectly placed for the Friday night gig, as it was literally just around the corner from the sold out Gramercy Theatre. The bar next door The Dog & Bone was well populated late afternoon, and it was great to meet some more friendly faces including Graham Lampen, who had so kindly sorted out my flight for the trip. The larger than life Peter Simmons was on fine form, and really nice to meet him.

The gig was in two parts. To start with Mike played a 30th anniversary set of Eye Of The Hurricane. This was another chance for me to see the set he played in Llandudno in February, but as ever you pick up on different things, and Mike also played some of the songs with modified arrangements. It's an album I love, so I was captivated throughout. After a short break the full band came on stage, and played a blistering two-hour set. It was very special seeing the band I love play across the ocean in this amazing city. After the gig it was back to The Dog & Bone, and time for farewells as people went their separate ways. I still had a day and a half left in the city, which was spent seeing as much as I could including the 9/11 Memorial, going on the Staten Island Ferry to see The Statue of Liberty, and walking The Brooklyn Bridge.

The warmth and friendship shown to me in New York by so many people will stay with me forever!  I can't thank you all enough. It was a trip that was everything I had hoped it would be and more... I really hope that I can return there sometime soon. 2019 perhaps? You never know...

As fate would have it a mere two weeks after New York, I went to see The Alarm at The O2 Forum in Kentish Town, London. This was back on familiar home territory for me, and meeting up with so many friends that I have made over the last couple of years. Long gone are the days of me hiding away at gigs on my own. In fact when I walked into The Bull & Gate pub next door to the venue, Smiley, James and Jules were there enjoying a pre-gig drink. I should point out that typically Transport For London decided to close The Northern tube line that weekend, which made getting to the venue very interesting. I had my first ride a red London double-decker bus for 25 years or so, and it was actually quite nice seeing some of the sights of London on a bus.

Before heading to the venue, I was back on bowel cancer book work, and met with former Alarm roadie, now television presenter and genuine good guy, Gareth Jones aka Gaz Top. He was really lovely and couldn't have been more helpful. I think his chapter in the book will definitely be of interest to the fans of the band.

Always nice to see Dave Sharp play live, and he played a superb set to get the evening going. He was well received, although the early start meant there weren't as many people in the venue as might have been the case. Then Jericho followed with a great set full of energy. Mark Shaw was on fine form and he and the band went down very well. 

The Alarm then stormed it! It was a set pretty much the same as I'd seen in New York, but that made no difference to me, as I wouldn't tire of seeing the band live. Songs from  the early 80s combined with songs of the present day pretty seamlessly. It was nice seeing the band play in a decent sized venue in London. Travelling back on the bus was interesting in a lightning storm, and typically I missed the last fast train back to Reading, so I had to travel home on the snail train!But back to The Alarm, and I hope that the momentum that seems to be building with the band at the moment can continue. A new album, Equals, comes out in June, and hopefully will win them new fans, and bring  back some more of the fans from yester-year.

Life has changed very much for me since my mum passed away in 2016. Out of the sadness came the positives, and my bowel cancer fundraising has been supported by so many fans of The Alarm, and as a result my life has been changed dramatically. I have emerged from the shadows, and made friends with so many wonderful people. I can never thank you all enough for the support for what I am doing, and welcoming me into the fold, it means the world to me. 

So what next? A Smiley gig in Ascot in September, and then The Gathering next February in Llandudno. After that I'd love to see the band in Scotland, and if the opportunity presents itself to return to New York I'd love to gop back. It most certainly has been a merry month of May!

To see my New York photo album click here.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Jonathan Agnew Talking Knowl Hill Cricket Club

Back in May I travelled up to Lords to meet Jonathan Agnew from Test Match Special. This was an absolute highlight for me being a big cricket fan. I travelled up after work, and managed to get into the ground after play had finished, on day 1 of the 1st test between England and New Zealand, to meet Aggers under the media centre. The reason for the meeting was to photograph Jonathan for the new book, Lives & Times, I am writing to raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity.

In just the few minutes we had together I managed to get the photo for the book, a photo with the Beating Bowel Cancer charity tie for the Facebook group that raises awareness about bowel cancer, and a photo of myself and Aggers. Jonathan also very kindly did a short video message for the Knowl Hill Cricket Club side I play for following our disastrous 48 all out the previous week. It's worth a watch and the following week we scored a much more respectable 159 in a drawn match :)

Wednesday, 15 July 2015


Last week there was a welcome reunion with my Australian friends from Sydney. Andrew and Kellie and youngsters Zac and Maddie were on a three week tour around Europe. Their time in the UK was limited to just 4 days so there was only a small window of opportunity to meet up. So we got together on day one of the first Ashes Test in Cardiff, and this was the first time I had seen them since 2012 when they came over for the London Olympics.

We originally met at the cricket in Sydney back in 2007 and as always they got into the spirit of the occasion. Andrew and Zac looked particularly fetching in their patriotic dresses! They are a great family who work hard, but play hard too making the most out of life. It was fantastic seeing Andrew looking so healthy after having major surgery to remove a benign tumour from his brain at the end of 2014. The ex-QPR footballing legend is planning his next Ironman Triathlon!

Sporting encounters between the two countries are always a great event with the traditional rivalry. The ground was sold out and the game swung both ways on the opening day. Happily for me, and not so much for these guys, the cricket went very much in England's favour. England recovered from a shaky start to reach 343-7 at the end of the day's play, and went on to win the Test by 169 runs. It was the first time I had been to see the cricket in Cardiff, and it was really well done. The walk from the railway station along the River Taff, through the grounds of Cardiff Castle was stunning.

Unfortunately they had to head straight back to London after the day's play, and back to Australia a couple of days later. So hopefully it won't be too long until the next encounter whether it's in the northern or southern hemisphere.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

My 2014

So another year passes, and as ever it's been a year full of the usual ups and downs. However maybe for the first time in a few years there have been some pretty amazing events that have happened to me that have blown away the disappointments.

Having just said that the year did start in a disappointing way, as I had hoped to be in Sydney celebrating my brother's 50th birthday. Events during 2013 had unfortunately conspired against me, and it was such a shame to miss out on it. I am hoping I will be able to make a return trip to Australia sometime soon.

As Winter drew to a close I decided that I wanted to put together a second book to raise funds for the Beating Bowel Cancer charity. The first book published in 2012 creeped past the 300 sales mark during the year, and raised £500, but I realised that it had pretty much gone as far as it could. I wanted to try something different with the second book and widen the appeal, so I decided that I would go with the specific theme of photographing people. At first I thought I would mainly go out photographing random people in everyday situations, but this quite quickly developed into a quest of photographing the well known alongside the everyday people. So for most of 2014 I have been on the most incredible journey meeting and photographing some amazing characters. I have been in photo pits at concerts with bands like Status Quo at the Hammersmith Apollo, and in fact I even managed to get thrown out of a pit whilst photographing Clare Grogan of Altered Images. There was also the unforgettable experience of meeting Horace Panter of The Specials and seeing both his worlds as musician and respected artist. I went to the legendary Abbey Road Studios and put a guitar track down on the world's longest song. I have met people associated with bowel cancer such as Ben Richards, Phil Parkes, Matthew Wright, and John Shuttleworth. I had the wonderful experience of seeing a dress rehearsal of the Rock Of Ages play in a rehearsal studio in London. In the world of sport I met Sir Steve Redgrave on the banks of the River Thames, and the real treat of meeting my footballing hero Charlie Nicholas. Mick Channon on the gallops was also pretty special. As the year drew to a close I met the cast of Stomp, Carrie Grant doing voice-over work, and most recently Gail Porter who had me upside down on a ride at London's Winter Wonderland. All these experiences and so many more will be documented in the book, which will be called "Lives & Times" and if all goes to plan the book will be coming out in the Spring once I have done the final few photos. The book has also made a big difference in me, and the meetings and photographing people has made me so much better at communicating with people. When the book is finally finished I am not sure what I will do with myself!

The other fantastic experience was the trek up Mount Snowdon in September where our group raised almost £2700 for Beating Bowel Cancer. It had been a year in the planning, and once the fundraising began in earnest a few months before the climb the support of everyone proved to be quite staggering. For the weekend we were blessed with fantastic weather giving us great views going up the mountain. It was a diverse little group of us bringing together friends from different walks of my life, and the way everyone clicked and got on famously was particularly special.

It has been a steady year work wise, with the business still ticking along nicely. As ever it has been a year where taking any time off has been difficult, but where possible I have had the odd half day here and there, and some of the photo opportunities with the book have meant shutting up shop early and transferring the work phone to my mobile. Maybe moving forwards I might be able to do this a bit more. Holidays are not really possible but the occasional long weekend is something I should aim to do a bit more.

I will gloss over my cricketing summer! To say my form with the bat was disappointing would be an understatement. Rather worryingly I have got a painful elbow injury which doesn't help, and I am hoping the doctor can sort it before next summer otherwise I might have to think seriously about whether I can continue playing. The injury is impacting on being able to lift stuff at work so it needs addressing.

2014 was another great year for gigging. I started the year going on my usual pilgrimage tosee The Alarm in North Wales. Throughout the year I attended gigs on a regular basis seeing Status Quo, Dodgy, From The Jam, Carter USM, The Charlatans, Embrace, The Stranglers, James, Billy Franks, The Rifles, and The English Beat. 2015 is shaping up to be another good year with plenty of gigs already in the diary!

The dating saga in 2014 has been a bit of a mixed bag, but ultimately been unsuccessful once again. I have pretty much steered clear of Internet dating sites, but going into a new year do I try them once more? I have to admit that a part of me is more than ever wondering am I destined to remain on my own, but there is also still a part of me with plenty of belief that there is someone out there for me and it could happen at any time. 

The final bombshell of 2014 was the return of mum's cancer. Having been in remission for a couple of years a cancerous nodule on her lung was discovered at her annual check up in November. This is once again a secondary cancer from the bowel cancer, and mum faces an operation to remove the nodule on January 14th. Typically mum is pretty determined about it, and has put everything to the back of her mind over Christmas before facing up to the operation in the new year. The operation is the best way of removing the cancer, and although the operation is not very pleasant, mum has had the procedure performed twice before after the initial operation on the bowel, so she knows what to expect. Her determination and the way she bounces back from these setbacks never ceases to amaze me, and hopefully she will be back to full fitness and her eccentric ways before we know it!

I am sure 2015 will be full of highs and lows, and I wonder what I will be writing this time next year? I try not to set myself too many goals. The main thing is health and happiness for everyone. I do want to rid myself of the negative thoughts I sometimes allow to drag me down at times, and to try and look for the positive spin on things. A little more self appreciation about myself would not go amiss too! These two things are perfectly achievable and begin as work in progress tout suite! 

I am sure for many 2014 has been a wonderful year, but I know for many it has been a tough and challenging year. I wish one and all a very healthy, happy and successful 2015 x

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Another Year Passes

Celebrating my birthday recently in 2014 I came to realise how comfortable I am with my age at the moment and I didn't feel tormented by it as I have been in some years gone past by worries about how old I am, where I should be in life etc etc etc. There are a number of possible reasons for this. Over the last year I have lost a stone in weight so am feeling much healthier, fitter and generally better about myself. I have also slowly begun to be happier with myself and to enjoy where I am in the here and now and stop worrying about the future. I concede that this is still work in progress, and I still have a way to go. This year in particular the occasion was lovely, we spent it at The Shire Horse in Maidenhead, a pub mum lived at when her parents ran it for over 30 years or so many years ago. My niece Anna was as ever the star of the show. The top photo is lovely with Anna being flanked by her 2 ugly uncles!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

A Breathtaking Sunset

This was a moment that I really had to capture on camera, and so fortunately on an October weekend taking my mum to visit my sister and her family I had my camera with me in the car. We were driving from Maidenhead to Alvescot and once we got past Oxford we were treated to a breathtaking sunset. I was able to pull my car into a parking area on the A40 and climb up a small grass slope to take this photo.Actually I took 4 photos together using my camera's panoramic setting and merged them together as I really wanted to capture as much of the scene as I could. 

I have always been enthralled and captivated by sunsets and some days they can pass me by, whilst ones like today they grab me. I think the sun setting in the west against a backdrop of gathering rain clouds produced a pretty spectacular array of colours.

My recent interest in photography most recently captured in the fundraising book I produced to raise funds for Beating Bowel Cancer (details here) has had to take a back seat in recent months so this photographic opportunity will hopefully see the start of a renewed period of photographic activity.

Friday, 23 August 2013

Harvest Time

The long cold winter seems a long time ago as we have endured a vintage summer with plenty of sunshine and high temperatures. As summer begins its decent into autumn so begins the harvesting of the wheat fields at work. Having worked at Medmenham for 13 years I more and more appreciate such things and it reminds me of childhood adventures at Littlewick Shown on the August bank holiday weekend when the straw bales were used as benches and it was always a great adventure for us children whilst the parents were busily involved in the horse show section. Mum being a keen horse woman ran the horse show section for many years with dad helping out with the gymkhana section. Every year the weekend before the show we would go up and help set up things which was probably more fun than the show itself for us children as we were able to ride in the back of trucks and even have a go at driving them as we got a little older. Bales of straw will always remind me of those days.

In many ways when I look for a shot that represents an English summer this gets pretty close with the bale in the foreground in nice contrast to the bales in the distance. This post harvest period will not last too long as pretty soon the fields will be ploughed and being prepared for next year's crop.

It's always interesting to get a different view on things and by literally having my camera on the ground I was able to get right up close to the stalks left after harvesting. I didn't even spot the fine webbing until I transferred the photos to my computer.

What a summer it has been if you are a Brit... It started off with the British Lions winning in Australia and nicely finished off with England retaining the Ashes at cricket. Let's not forget Justin Rose winning the US Open and Mo Farah a double world champion. Pretty soon these achievements will all be nestling into history and we will no doubt be enduring harsh and extreme winter conditions and counting down the days until next summer.