October 2016 UK Tour Diary - Day 1 - Cambridge
Five minutes to showtime backstage at Cambridge Junction, and a gale of incredulous mirth interrupts the alarming barrage of warm-up vocal clucks, hums and tubercular snores leaking from our dressing room.
Attractive blonde fiddle-playing Common Thread vocalist Mairead Furlong has got an email from a total stranger. He's called Rob.
Rob concedes his email is quite cheeky. We all agree on that point at least.
Rob could be a hopeless romantic from a Richard Curtis movie.
Rob could also be a dangerously unhinged nutjob.
Rob has, he explains, "made a bet with a friend" over who will be first to date a singer.
It's an odd subject for a wager. Megan and various Threads check amongst each other. Nobody's heard of Ladbrokes laying odds on romantic encounters with lady vocalists. We've only ever bet on dog races or football matches.
If Eligible Bachelor Racing really is a thing now, even if there's a special Internet Voyeur Derby running at 3.15 at Epsom, the mildly disturbing subtext of Rob's mail suggests you'd still be lucky to get 75/1 on him each way.
Well versed as he clearly is in the latest betting trends, Rob is certainly a Man Of The World. In fact, he'd go so far as to say he's a "good looking charming Oxbridge-educated journalist".
Rob's Oxbridge education evidently didn't stretch to enlightening him that "I stumbled across you online / and you caught my eye" is not a tenderly poetic couplet that's ever graced a Shakespeare sonnet, and that the Bard's lack of an iPhone probably wasn't the only reason for that.
Mairead forwards the email to her fiancé, whose reply - basically an electronic shrug - hardly suggests Rob's irresistible advances pose a major threat to their relationship.
Not saying the bet's hopeless Rob, but perhaps try a slightly less ambitious choice of lady singer. Beyoncé, for example.
We assemble in the wings. Cambridge Junction 1 is an 850 capacity venue, a choice which, even though we're supporting the (bloody good) CC Smugglers, who've been enjoying lots of recent Radio 2 airplay, might be described as "ambitious". We steel ourselves for the echoing solitary clap of a single audience member in a large empty room.
We walk on. The place roars. Blimey. It's only bloody full. The crowd are warmly appreciative and the cheers get louder as the songs keep coming.
There's some customary first night glitches. Feedback makes it a bit of a struggle - the monitor engineer is oblivious to our irate looks, being apparently absorbed in the complicated act of staring at his shoes - but the enthusiastic audience reaction suggests we get away with it...
We have a few drinks watching CC Smugglers smash out a spectacularly good set then head back to our glamorous overnight accommodation.
There's evidently some mix up with our executive suites at the Hilton and Crowne Plaza, for tonight we luxuriate at Cambridge Youth Hostel.
Actually it's a decent place with particularly good storage for personal effects, as the video below shows...