This was the one everybody was curious about. Reading down the list of dates on the tour, every show was in a well-trodden town except this one. No one I spoke to had played here either, indeed few had even heard of it. Turns out it's a newish venue, built on the University of Hertfordshire campus.
After wandering round the college grounds a little I decided to grab my bike and see what I could find. Turns out not much. My progress was hampered by the first real day of autumnal weather, and I struggled through wind and rain to negotiate the roads and roundabouts around what googlemaps insisted was 'town centre'. All I could find was an Asda with a small parade of shops behind it. When I asked a lady in one of these shops where the town centre was, she replied "this is the town centre".
En route back to the venue I cycled past a sign for 'Old Hatfield'. That sounded more like it! With soundcheck fast approaching I had no time to follow it though, but perhaps that's for the best. In my mind Old Hatfield can now remain the quaint and idyllic hamlet I imagine, in stark contrast with the New Hatfield of actual experience.
The student crowd were curiously sedate as the show began. Adam later joked that perhaps there wasn't much else to do in Hatfield of a Friday night. To be fair though, there was a hard core in the middle of the room going nuts. The sound onstage was the best so far this tour, thanks to an Egyptian monitor engineer who to our surprise (and approval) wore a bright red fez throughout the gig. By the end of the show the rest of the audience had loosened up and were dancing too. It feels good when we manage to win over a difficult crowd. No doubt down to our singularly irresistible charm. High point of the night: closing the set with Blitkrieg Bop.
Mingling in the dressing room after the show, I met some of Peter's old friends from back in the Filthy MacNasty's days. In particular I enjoyed talking to a charming and articulate Glaswegian architect by the name of Murray. While studying in London, Murray rented a flat opposite Filthy's (a pub where Peter used to work). He told me some funny stories about when Pete and Carl would end up round his playing songs till the wee hours, keeping him up when he was supposed to be concentrating on exams. Ah, the good old days.
'The good old days': A chronological equivalent of the 'grass is always greener' phenomenon. What is nostalgia, exactly though? The past hasn't gone anywhere- It's right there. We're walking on it. I've always been fascinated by the 'Tralfamadorian' understanding of time, as expressed in Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five. In this view the past, present and future are not linear, but all occupy the same space and are experienced simultaneously and continuously. It's a nice idea, but truthfully I get nostalgic all the time...everyone does, right? Good book though.
Next up, Leamington Spa. No fear of being baffled by the topography there- it's without a doubt one of the prettiest towns in Britain. The main thing I remember about it though is the inexplicable fact that Tammy Wynette's pink Caravan sits incongruously backstage at the venue we're due to play. Beat that, Hatfield. Not that it's a competition, mind...