Thursday 31 January 2013

                                            Legends of Brocklehurst Chapter 12

Even though I had a few grand saved, I still needed to earn money as having a sixteen year old son is not cheap. That caused a problem. Most of my "working" contacts were in Manchester which meant travelling there if I was to make money, often with a few over night stays. This was at odds with my intention to spend time with Mark. Neither could I start to "graft" in Carlisle, which is like a village, with everyone knowing other people's business, plus while I knew a few of the local villains, it wasn't enough to trust them. Not a situation I was willing to risk.

Then a solution presented itself. It was the era of copy clothing but when it was still legal to sell copies as long as you told the buyer they weren't originals.

A relation of Stan Bowles , my ex footballer friend, was heavily involved in this business so I approached him, and bought a few hundred pounds worth of clothes. My idea was, through Mark, I would have a ready made outlet to the youngsters of Carlisle. It was a total disaster. My choice was so far out of sync with those I hoped to sell to. Then Mark suggested he came with me on the next trip to pick up clothing, and help me choose the styles, and colours. Luckily my supplier took back my unsold items. The new clothes which I bought were sold quickly. Within a few months, I was hiring a van, going twice a week to Manchester with Mark, and replenishing my stock. Shortly after that I was earning £1000 a week. Almost as good as the average for my usual clandestine operations, ( working for a few weeks, then having plenty of leisure time between graft, ) and no laws were being broken. Mark was also getting a good wage being on a percentage.

I was still gambling, and one day Mark came with me to the bookies when I had a tip. I put on £500 at 3/1. The horse won earning me £1,500 in under two minutes. However I have never been so nervous watching a race. The chance of my son seeing me throw away so much money on a bet made me cut back on my gambling in the future. Shortly after that, I actually went two years without having a bet.

There was one complication to my new business which nearly got out of hand. There was another guy selling copies in Carlisle, and had been doing so before me. With me being in competition, it hit him hard as he wasn't getting his supplies direct. I found out they came from my guy via a third party. I suggested that I could supply him at a cheaper rate than he was paying, and both of us should keep our prices the same. He refused so a price war broke out. Obviously he wasn't happy, and couldn't compete so he asked a local heavy called Paddy to get involved. After receiving a drunken, threatening phone call from this would be villain one Sunday afternoon, I arranged to see him at his home early the next day. In my world if you have an issue with someone you never take the problem to that person's home if they have family living there. I knew the guy, and he was a big drinker, and lived alone. He had broken the code so going there didn't bother me, and it is always a good time to visit people after a they have had a heavy weekend.

Just as I entered Paddy's living room that Monday morning his phone rang. His face drained of colour as he listened without replying. He put the phone down, and said he no longer wanted to get involved in this arguement. I had arranged a known "face" in Manchester to ring him at exactly the time I arrived at his home. He had been told what to expect if he became involved in my business. That was the end of that, and the other guy stopped selling copies so my sales improved even more. Maybe he should have taken me up on my offer. Although I didn't like Paddy at first, I met him by accident soon after in a pub. he apologized, and bought me a drink. We were never best friends, but he was excellent company, and when he told the other locals what had happened I was shown more respect. Sadly he died a few years ago.

Time flew in, my relationship with Mark progressed well, and I was very happy living back in Carlisle. Then in November 1991 there was some exciting news from Neil. Rush were to tour Europe in early 1992, and he wanted me to resume my duties as his driver. There was no hesitation, and I replied, by letter, that I would be delighted.

As soon as I heard about the tour I phoned Chris Lea in Manchester, and once again we spent hours talking about where Rush would play. Having done one tour, and knowing what my duties would entail, I was really looking forward to this one. There was no nervousness, or trepidation, only a tremendous feeling of anticipation.

Early January 1992 I received a package from Anthem in Toronto containing all the information about The Roll the Bones Tour. Although the itinerary schedule was smaller than the Hold Your Fire one, it was much better produced, and looked so much more professional. I quickly checked the dates, and found out there were to be six shows in Britain, and eight on mainland Europe.

The venues Rush were to play were as follows :

Friday, April 10th Sheffield Arena.

Sunday April 12th NEC Birmingham.

Monday April 13th NEC Birmingham.

Wednesday April 15th SECC Glasgow.

Friday 17th April Wembley Arena London.

Saturday 18th April Wembley Arena London.

Tuesday 21st April Music Hall Hannover.

Thursday 23rd April Sporthalle Koln.

Friday 24th April Festhalle Frankhurt.

Monday 27th April Eissporthalle Berlin.

Tuesday 28th April Frankenhalle Nurenberg.

Wednesday 29th April Scheylerhalle Stuttgart.

Friday 1st May Zenith Paris.

Sunday 3rd May Ahoy Rotterdam.

Monday 4th May Travel Home.

One thing was apparent straight away, as well as many more shows, there were also plenty of days off between venues. Some wonderful European cities I had never visited before. I had always wanted to see Paris, but Berlin was the place which really excited me. The Berlin wall had only been down for a short while, and I knew Berlin was becoming a new vibrant city that people from the West could now see fully for the first time. This wasn't just going to be a tour with a rock band, but hopefully a very educational trip as well. I couldn't wait for it to start.

Later in January I booked a last minute holiday to Thailand. I needed a break before the tour, and had always fancied visiting there. As was the norm I went on my own, but as usual soon found like minded people, and had a wonderful time. One guy I met was called Dave. Although he was originally from Leeds, England, he now lived in Amsterdam so I arranged to meet up with Dave while I was there with Mr. Peart. Like most people, when I mentioned the tour, Dave hadn't heard of Rush, but said he would come to the Ahoy gig in Rotterdam. Also I had been told that Jackie, Neil's partner, and Selena, his daughter, were coming to Paris. I was really looking forward to meeting " The Girls " as he called them. Neil had planned three days off to show them around Paris. This would give me a mini holiday, all expenses paid. A trip to Amsterdam seemed the perfect idea.

I had to go to Manchester, to the same accountants as before, to pick up the expenses for the tour. I used the visit to catch up with my friends in the Barleycorn pub. We had a great night over indulging in alcohol, and Chris, and I enthusing about Rush's latest European tour, even if Chris was more interested in the music side of things than me.

This time I was to fly to Frankfurt to pick up the tour car. Neil had chosen a Mercedes 350 sports Coupe for the first part of the tour, but we were going to change it for a Mercedes Estate Car later on. This was for when Jackie, and Selena came to Paris, as we would need more room in the car to drive the Peart family back to Southampton, England at the end of the tour, from where they would be sailing to New York on the QE 2.

I thought it would be a good idea to take Mark with me to pick up the car, with me. Obviously I paid for his flight. After having cleared it with Neil, on Saturday 4th April, we flew from Manchester to Frankfurt. After an enjoyable evening sampling the delights of Frankfurt, bright and early Sunday morning, we picked up the Mercedes from Budget Hire Car at the airport. Even if it wasn't in the same class as the 750i BMW which we had used on the previous tour, it was still a great car to drive. I drove as fast as was safe, and was possible in the traffic, and made good time to Calais, France, to catch our ferry. On board we had an excellent meal, and bought twelve cases of cheap beer, and of course some cigarettes, all duty free. The trip home to Carlisle was done non stop except for visits to services for petrol, and other necessities. I wanted to get home in good time as I had a few final arrangements to make before I was due to pick up Neil at Heathrow on Tuesday morning.

We arrived at the cottage about 11-00 pm. We had done the trip in less than fourteen hours including the ferry journey. Mind you I did have a break from driving when I let Mark drive for an over an hour on the M6 in England. The fact he was in control at all, never mind touching speeds of around 150mph, wouldn't have gone down well with NEP, or those at Anthem, but I knew Mark was a good driver, and had no worries on that front, although I didn't tell Neil until well into the tour.

I took a case of those imported beers into the cottage, and we both had a couple of bottles. I also took a sleeping tablet as my mind was still in overdrive from the long journey. I can't remember Mark going home, or even me going to bed. The next thing I knew the phone was ringing just after 9-00 am. It was my bank telling me my various foreign currencies were ready for collection.

Even before I opened the curtains I felt something was wrong. As I looked out of the window at the empty drive, and lane, I realized the Mercedes wasn't there.

I was due to pick Neil at Heath Row Airport in just over twenty four hours, and the tour car was missing !

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