Tony Penultimate

MS Europa/Chinese Embassy

After returning from our two date tour of Ireland (Dublin and Belfast) our next gig was on the tuesday - 24 hours later on board the MS Europa cruise ship which we'd played in 2016 and 2017. There are in fact two MS Europas and unbeknown to us, we were due to play the second more modern ship which we'd last played in 2016 when we'd flown up to Scotland to play a concert, while it was docked near Edinburgh.

We'd played the No 1 Europa in 2017 They are both enormously opulent ships which sail around like some kind of floating department store, catering to peeps who are willing to fork out 12,000 Euros per week!Unfortunately, due to a very high tide and the threat of flooding, the Thames barrier had been closed, preventing the ship from docking at Greenwich further upstream. This meant that we (well me and Viola and her boyfriend Ben - out of the picture) had to meet at our Greenwich hotel and then schlep all the way down to the salubrious district of Tilbury on the estuary in the pissing rain.Changing at Limehouse - Tilbury is miles out of London on the Gravesend line, Ben, ever the wag, said to me as we waited mournfully, staring at the rain "We'll all in up in Gravesend in the end"! We met the rest of the band at the depot where the incoming cruise ships dock from time to time - there is a vast hall where the Empire Windrush docked in 1948 bringing many Carribbean immigrants to work in the UK. Display commemorating the arrival of the Empire Windrush. and this interesting plaque about a German prisoner of war - very enterprising! One of the anomalies of playing these kinds of ships is that you cease to be in the UK, but move into international waters, so we all brought our passports.and went through security - just like an airport really (yawn).

It goes without saying that the place was like a 5* hotel with a huge reception and pianists in every bar, bands in every restaurant - we are appearing as a sort of international cabaret act I guess.Poster advertising our show 

The band arrive on deck for a coffee prior to soundcheck - more rain... and this is Tilbury (in the rain)Some of the acts who have appeared here - (including the ubiquitous 'Mr Rod' - hand on chin top leftish) - a German Rod Stewart impersonatorSoundchecking  and this was what I remembered about the first time we played on the ship in 2016 - the most fantastic display of everything you'd find in a top end restaurant. Doug (sound engineer) and myself had a large plate of oysters and lobster followed by fillet steak, followed by the finest cheeses etc etc.  I felt a bit disgusting after this display of trenchermanship (I don't know about Doug?).After this epic meal we were informed that it was time to make a short film promoting our Chinese tour in October (keep an eye out for it on our social media pages) - we sung a Chinese rock song......The gig, when we played it at the phenomenally late hour of 10pm was a straight run through of approximately 8/9 numbers which came in at 49 minutes - pretty good when we'd been told to make it fifty! There was an audience of perhaps sixty people which made a change from the usual whooping and shouting of larger venues we play and I think it went down well. We also missed our friend the super camp Entertainments officer Randle who we've seen the last two times we've been here.So after we've played, it was straight back to the hotel in Greenwich (a 45 minute bus journey, arriving at 11.30) where we crashed out, ready to get up and go to the Chinese visa centre for midday. I decided to travel with Ben and Richie up to the City where the visa place was located.Arriving up at Bank station - we looked at the map and headed for Jewry Street and the visa centre with our luggage in tow.The only trouble was that the address was actually Old Jewry Street which was in an entirely different place (a simple but tiresome misunderstanding, the sort of thing that is not uncommon with the Ukes) which meant that we had all taken our luggage for a forty minute walk around the busy City of London streets, teeming with dawdling lunchtime office workers and worked up quite a sweat. Are we nearly there yet? 

 However we arrived in time and met up with manager Jodi, handed in our passports and submitted our fingerprints ready for the tour.

 

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