Tales from the Rails – arbitrary lines and true connections

And we’re back! Here I am on the train from Hamburg to Amsterdam. At the risk of starting on a rather mundane note, the weather is amazing! I’ve never been on tour in the hight of summer, and so far I’m thoroughly enjoying the blazing heat (it’s 30 degrees today).

Last night I played at a hotel bar, with a very fine whiskey selection I might add, just around the corner from Hamburg’s central station. The show was organised at rather short notice so I was all the more touched to see so many familiar faces. Over the last year Hamburg has most certainly become a home away from home – and I’ll be back again in just over a month for a show at the very cool Mobile Blues Club. Thank you to Michael for all your help, to Sven, Josephine and Patrik for being an awesome tour family.


The tour began a day prior to Hamburg with a show at a Festival in Bordesholm in North Germany. There’s a certain set of questions I get asked a lot. One of them is whether I get lonely travelling on my own, to which the answer is always a very confident no. Firstly, I can’t ever really feel lonely – I have far too many Beatles songs stored in my brain to keep me company if all else fails. Secondly, if you travel alone you’re far more likely to connect with people you meet in a more meaningful way. I don’t have a tour bus to hang out in and I don’t have band mates or tour managers to hide behind. This does make my travels more tiresome, but it also makes the experience infinitely richer.

I met Christine Hankel at a living room concert on my last Germany tour in Kiel (also North Germany). As I was due to play in her home town the following day, she offered to put me up for the night. During the course of the evening she told me her life story and I was fascinated by her style, her grace and her open nature. I remember studying her face while listening to her stories – the lines that time had carved did not disguise her striking features and I remember thinking what a beautiful young woman she must have been. We talked into the wee hours of the morning and by the time we bode each other good night, I felt at home and in the presence of a friend rather than someone I’d just met a couple of hours ago. I doubt this would have happened if I had travelled in any other way. When Christine asked me a couple of weeks later to perform at the street festival she organises every year in June, I of course said yes without hesitation. This date in the diary, as well as a general musing on whether I could book gigs in Italy, was the foundation of this tour.

Christine, me and oh my, it's the lord mayor photobombing!
Christine, me and oh my, it’s the lord mayor photobombing!

So here I am! It’s now day three of this particular adventure. I’m playing two shows today – first at a poetry Festival in a suburb of Amsterdam, then at a living room gig in the heart of the city and I have a feeling it’s going to be a very good day indeed. As it happens, the train driver has just welcomed us to the Netherlands – hurray for open borders, hopefully one day the very concept of a border will be no more. Who needs those arbitrary lines anyway? Not I.

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