Aug 7

Back in Leffe, Italy

Category: mark saul band

We’re back here again at the gorgeous chalet in the north of Italy, on our last day here in this magnificent place. I wish you could hear the amazing sound I can hear from where I’m sitting. It’s midday, and there are bells tolling all over the valley, coming from every direction. To my right, I can hear a mellee of four different bells in the one tower. slightly to the left of that, there’s a single bell which has been bonging away to itself, a little lower than the others. Then further off to the far left, there’s another bell, more sonorous and grave. All the bells here in the valley seem to be set to slightly different clocks, and the chiming for midday seems to have lasted a full 5 minutes.

And just when I think it’s all over, more bells start, bubbling out a merry four-note tune. it’s really like something out of the Sound of Music, or perhaps Heidi. The air is clean and warm, there are wild flowers blooming on the hill below our chalet, the birds are tweeting, the butterflies are flitting, and we have to go back to Scotland tomorrow!!

Ahh, the boys have just come back from a walk, and Simmo managed to capture some of the Bell Pealing Goodness on his camera, here tis for your viewing pleasure, along with a small bit of footage to throw our amazing sound engineer into stardom. Jamie deserves more credit than he gets, he’s just incredible at what he does. Here’s Simmo, Jamie and the Bells of Leffe.

Arriving back to Leffe late last night, we found the Locanda deserted – yesterday was a Sunday, and the family who run the place take the day off. We knew that there would be no succulent meal and luscious wines waiting for us on our return, so we’d stocked up on vitals at a roadside store, along with the mandatory Italian red wine.

We suspected that red wine could cause us a sliiiight problem – being a rock band who drink more beer than wine, not one of us had a corkscrew. Initially, we thought the problem might be solved by getting someone at the bar of the roadside pitstop to cork the bottles, and we’d just re-cork them for the road.

Bad idea. You’d think these guys had never opened a bottle of wine before in their lives – after a bit of arguing amongst themselves about the best way to do it, one of these lads proceeded to stick the corkscrew straight into the cork, through the plastic cork cover, and start mangling the cork. I had to put a stop to it, and tried to get them to just GIVE me the corkscrew so that I could cork them myself. Confusion and frustration running high,, fuelled by language barriers, finally I just took the bottles of wine back, in the hopes that some kind of miracle would magically conjure up a corkscrew once we got to the Locanda.

Unfortunately, we were short on miracles last night and hard core rockster Dave began to burrow the cork out of the bottle, using a number of handy, if slightly inappropriate tools. You’ve not experienced frustration until you’ve tried to burrow out a cork with a screw, a pair of scissors, and a spoon handle. Much of this process was caught on camera, but alas, we are sans the requisite lead to transfer it to a computer here. Hopefully over the coming weeks, we’ll order one and make you a little camcorder montage of the tour…

Dave did finally manage to get out the cork, and the night ended with the winos amongst us sitting out here on the terrace, overlooking the lights of Leffe in the valley, sipping hard earned (by Dave at least) wine, and munching on an ad hoc meal of prosciutto ham and cheese on semi-stale bread. We managed to filch some olive oil and balsamic vinegar from the condiments tray outside the deserted restaurant (alas, no corkscrew!!), and finished off the night sharing rockstar stories from the road (and when I say “sharing”, I mean they talked, I listened and laughed. I fear I have no rockstar stories to share, but for the ones I share here, having lived a thoroughly folk-star life. My stories would consist of things like “oooh, do you remember that time I had VODKA in my raspberry and lemonade? Those were hardcore days, man…”)

So we have one more gig here tonight, another mystery gig. Most of our gigs here have been mystery gigs – we know little more than our starting time, and sometimes not even that. But that only adds extra spice to the already spicy time we’re having here. After tonight’s gig, it’s home again to Scotland, for some hardcore UK festivals. And back to work for me for a day or two.

Mark and the boys have just come back from a walk, and you should SEE the blisters on Mark’s feet, not from walking, but from burning his feet on the hot tarmac. Gorgeous day, but not so nice if you feel like frying your feet:


… ouch! Possibly more than you needed to see?  Eeee!  So if you see Mark limping at any gigs in the UK or Europe, you know why!


So our “mystery gig” tonight was at something quite unexpected – a pork festival!!  I kid you not, 5 days of live entertainment, and lots and lots of roast, spitted, fried, and barbequed pig.  By the time we got to the gig, we were already hungry as buggery, so when we found out that it was a pork festival, all of us rubbed our hands together with glee.  All of us but one.  Poor Simmo, it must be tough being the only vegetarian at a festival which celebrates the myriad ways that pig can be cooked, eaten and enjoyed.

Kinda surreal to see our band billed on a poster all about pork:


But very cool to see the backdrop to the stage during sound check:


All of us but Simmo feasted on pig.  Ribs, prosciutto ham, roast, everything.  They gave us local cheeses to go with it, and chips which were probably cooked in pig fat.  To Simmo, they served… a dried up tortilla folded in half and filled with a meager helping of Nutella.  Remind me never to become a vegetarian.  I actually felt guilty chowing down on all this tasty pig corpse while Simmo was sitting there, looking ravenous and slightly (make that very) cranky.

With the exception of Simmo, who really hasn’t been properly fed for much of this leg of the tour (with a few very notable exceptions), all of us were vastly amused by the very IDEA of a Pork Festival, let alone the fact that we might be playing as entertainment for it!  Here we are, rockin out onstage to PorchetFest 2006, Italy:


And as it turned out, it was really good fun, the crowd, though a sit down audience (who could even THINK about dancing after all that pork?!) were appreciative, and we sold the last of our CDs (thank god we don’t have to lug any home!)

Farewell Bella Italia, we hope to see you again next year!


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