Stockholm, 12 May 2004... h's Diary
In 2004 we published some extracts from h's diary. Travelling to Norway...
Pulled back my little curtain and recoiled as the white light of a sunny day blasted my retinas through my wide-open irises. As the blurs cleared and the white calmed down to colours and shapes, I could see that we were parked on the Stockholm waterfront in the centre of the poshest part of town. Tonight we play the Chinese Theatre which is situated next to (and co-owned by) the fabulous Berns Hotel (the place to currently hang out and be seen in Stockholm). I love this city. All Ingmar Bergmann's ghosts are here. The old town and the waterfront are so beautiful and haunting. I have sometimes walked alone through the old town late at night to discover it almost completely deserted, and I've felt like a time-traveller wandering through an empty city during the 15th century. It's another world entirely from England. And yet, during the day, it's bustling and as glamorous as Mayfair.
It had been arranged for us to have lunch in the café of the Berns hotel. I threw some clothes on (no underwear – I seem to have run out...) and wandered into the conservatory where most of our scruffy band and crew were already assembled – bleary eyed and decompressing from yet another night on the bus. The interior of the adjoining room is among the most ornate interiors I've seen anywhere – a rococo frenzy of amazing plasterwork, paintings, frescoes and chandeliers. It could be the interior of a palace. Two immaculately uniformed and beautiful waiters (one female, one male) were coming and going, taking orders and providing desperately needed coffee to band and crew. The waiter was young, blond, tall, elegant and never stopped smiling. Can't imagine why... Having grown up here, tall and good-looking and surrounded by a seemingly endless supply of the most beautiful girls on earth, it must have been a struggle to stop grinning even in the most worrying of situations.
Quinner had asked us all yesterday what we'd like to eat here today and it had all been ordered in advance. I thought I was ordering dinner so I'd opted for the roast pork and mashed potato. Bizarre then to watch it arrive in front of me so soon after rolling out of bed. Pork for breakfast? Oh well... no different to bacon and egg really. It’s all in the mind. The food was lovely but I couldn't relax as there were interviews to do. Quinner took me to a room in the hotel where I had a couple of radio phone interviews – one to Goteborg and another to Greece. Managed to squeeze in a lightning shower before the phone rang and there was a DJ from Goteborg on the other end of the line. 'Can you hold on please for 2 minutes?' she said. 'Sure! I'll go and put some clothes on,' I said. She probably thought I was joking.
After that I had to hang around 'til 2.00 pm (too much time to sit and wait/not enough time to go anywhere) for the Greek phoner. Shame really, as it was a gorgeous day out and I wouldn't have minded a wander round the old town… True to form, the phone never rang at 2.00 so I let the TM know and he managed to sort things out - the phone rang at 2.10 and I spoke to a guy from the Greek radio station who told me there was a power cut at the moment and maybe they could do the interview at 2.30 when the power was restored. There goes another precious hour out of the day then... Bugger. How the hell are they going to organize the Olympics?! It'll run about as smoothly as a nativity play in an infants school... (Sorry Greece. As I read this now from the vantage point of November 2004, I couldn't have been more wrong. It was one of the best-organised and most impressive Olympics ever.) 'I'll give 'em 'til 2.30 and then I'm off!' I thought. The phone rang at exactly 2.30 (!) and it was the Greeks saying that power was restored and they could now do the interview. The radio station is in Thessaloniki (I think) on the Greek mainland and our single, You're Gone is currently no.3 on their playlist. We had a pleasant chat – I think the DJs were fans. Makes a change!
Whoopee, it's 3.00pm and I am now FREE til 4.30! Went outside to discover that the sun had gone in and the temperature had dropped ten degrees – it was now pretty damned chilly. Apparently at this time of year, if the wind comes in off the sea, the temperature drops like a stone because there's still a lot of ice out on the Baltic, so it's like having a huge refrigerator waiting off the coast. I crouched freezing in the street while Freddie Bilquist took a few photographs, before hurrying back into the Berns Hotel to write the diary in the café. Bumped straight into Ian and nattered to him for a while instead... Managed to write a few words before I was needed at the gig.
Wandered over the road to the Chinese theatre where soundcheck was already getting underway. The Chinese theatre is a lovely old art-deco place, designed for drama and musicals rather than rock 'n' roll, but Marillion's live show works as well in this environment as it does in a rock club. The sit-down audience situation, combined with the natural reserve of the Swedes was going to make for a pretty low-energy audience vibe, so I adjusted my psyche accordingly for the show ahead. Sometimes you need a reaction, and sometimes you can decide it's art and forget about the crowd completely. This was to be one such night. Soundcheck went by without incident although the vertical 5-floor climb to the dressing rooms deserves a mention. (After a 150 minute show, you need oxygen...) I returned to the room at the Berns to relax for one whole, blissful hour before wandering down to the bar where I walked straight into our ex-personal assistant, Smick Hardgrave who emigrated to Sweden after falling in love with his (now) wife, Helen who used to work at Stanbridge Farm where we wrote Holidays In Eden. I haven't seen Helen for many years. Another Stanbridge girl, Ulrike had also come along. No one had aged even a day in the 10 years that have passed (must be the fresh air or something in the Swedish water) and it was great to see them and catch up and reminisce about drunken japes in fancy dress etc... all those years ago.
Showtime arrived and off we went. I remained well and truly inside the music throughout and this was to be one of my favourite shows of the tour to date. By the end of the show, the audience gave us an ovation. This is equivalent to full-blown hysteria for Swedes, so I knew we'd hit the spot. Afterwards I had a drink in the Berns with my old chum Per, who works for the UN in Sweden and once showed me round the UN building in New York. He's now based back here in Stockholm and something of a 'big wig' It was good to see him. His meteoric rise up the diplomatic ranks hasn't altered him at all. We eventually said bye-bye to our chums who were, by now, the right side of several sodas, and returned to the bus where I climbed into bed for the relatively short trip to Malmö in the south of Sweden.
First posted on the Web UK website in 2004.
backgroud image ©Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se