Monday, 31 August 2009


In recent years, when I've returned back from a holiday - whether on these shores or further afield - I've tended to find the transition from holiday mode back to home/work mode an increasingly difficult one to manage, at least within the first couple of days or so of that transition.

Apart from the various - and obvious - benefits and attractions of a holiday, I think it's also about having the space for ideas to flow, ideas which otherwise get submerged by work related concerns and by routine, and so on and so forth.

I mention this because events like the one I played at on Saturday night also give me some of that space, albeit in a very different manner: a space in which I'm forced to engage with what's around me, the stuff of my everyday life and surroundings, rather than a blissful removal to a completely different location.

Thing is, it's just as good, because it reminds me that I can be part of things, feel more connected than I often allow myself to.

Anyway enough of such semi-abstract musings, the main thing to report is that the event was really good, memorable and enjoyable all round (it was a fundraiser for a good cause too). The atmosphere was warm and lively, and a lot of people turned up to see a number of weird and wonderful bands playing.

I played a relatively short set - around 20 minutes - since there was a fairly tight schedule to keep to. I seemed to get a very, very positive reaction too - in terms of immediate audience response, and also in terms of comments afterwards. It's given me a bit of a boost again, I must do more of this stuff.

What I've been left with in the aftermath (apart from ringing ears) is a feeling of increased confidence in such things, more than I've felt for a while. Time to capitalise on it.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Gift/ tension

I was given a gift last night - unexpected, out of the blue (I wonder, if one were to look into the blue beforehand, would it mean there were no surprises?), and very welcome also. A very generous gift.

It was laced with a certain something: the words, it's one less thing that you would need to deal with, should anything happen.

The anything in question being the passing, timely or otherwise, of the giver.

I didn't focus on this too much though: I'm playing tonight, and I'm a little nervous. OCD comes into play - how many times do I need to check I've got all the leads, power cables, plectrums etc that I need - and, what if the laptop crashes, what if the guitar strings all break, what if my fingers fall off and so on and so forth. Yes I'm tempting fate, but I like the tension.

Then I remember, it should actually be fun. Plus, after a couple of beers, and having to deal with the rigours of setting up, soundchecking and so on - the actualities rather than the what ifs - then the OCD should fly out of the window (checking 3 times that it closed the window properly after departing), and the whole thing will be over all too quickly.

Thursday, 27 August 2009


Sometimes I catch myself and wonder what I might look like should I reach a ripe old age (dependent on what the definition of a ripe old age might be). Then I remember my paternal grandfather, born in 1898 (and dead by the late 1970s), and it occurs to me that I'll possibly look like him more than anyone else.

His name was Evelyn. I remember him, as an old man of course, whereas I was a child. I do remember his eyes being full of spirit as much as his body was weary, and I can but hope.

Monday, 24 August 2009


I'm playing again soon, and this time some of it is going to be more guitar-based. I was a bit concerned that my fretwork might be getting a bit too arthritic to hold it together, but I don't seem to be doing too badly.

Sunday, 23 August 2009


I intervened and possibly stopped someone getting the shit kicked out of them yesterday evening while I was on the bus. The guy who would have been on the receiving end of said kicking was behaving and speaking in a way which appeared like he was trying to wind anyone up and to get a reaction out of them, and it was clearly in danger of working.

I'm not sure why it felt safe enough to intervene, but it did. Just one of those judgment calls I suppose. Plus I didn't want my evening spoilt by the prospect of yet more violence on the bus, I was on my way somewhere nice. Thankfully the other guy who sounded ready to deliver a beating listened to me, and nodded his acknowledgment when he got off.

I'd made the assumption that the one doing the winding up had some sort of condition: he didn't appear drunk but his behaviour was obviously inappropriate and rendering him vulnerable to violence. He now started roundly and imperiously denouncing me, I told him I was having nothing to do with him or his conversation and I moved further away from him. Not that that deterred him, he carried on more loudly.

The last thing I did though was ask him a question, and out of the resultant babble of slurs and accusations that uttered forth he did let slip that he had a condition. I suppose it could have been this that made me feel safe in the first place in terms of intervening, the assumptions I'd made put me into work mode: I felt calm and didn't let him get to me.

I did go on to have a lovely evening, but I carried a sense of weariness at the back of my mind: too often there seems to be needless aggravation of one sort or another, and I'm sick of it.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

A note of thanks... the driver who pulled up alongside me whilst I was cycling along a remote countryside lane earlier this evening, wound the window down and issued forth a series of expletives around which were anchored some semi-coherent words concerning the fact that he doesn't pay his road tax for the use of cyclists (I wonder if he might have used a shorter word beginning with "c" though) like me.

For one thing, I can't say that I felt particularly intimidated. Nor did I betray any response other than to stare at him as he spoke and then drove off (I'd like to think that I looked impassive in my shades - just allow me that indulgence will you? Thanks), and in fact I felt a sort of pity when I saw him do the same to another cyclist further along the lane and up the hill. Well, when I say pity, what I really mean is that I found it all a bit pathetic, and wondered what he was trying to compensate for.

The thanks are in order though, for the fact that the annoyance and anger that it provoked in me meant that I shaved a good five minutes off my time for this particular route, and I feel thoroughly invigorated as a result.

Good job really.

Saturday, 15 August 2009


For anyone else too, but for Fire Byrd first and foremost at the present moment in time.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Journeys, planned

It's a very different experience, walking on your own. I know the territory in the photographs from a number of visits over the years, whether on foot or en velo. Each previous time has always been in the (welcome) company of others: friends who are experienced navigators and mapreaders, often in challenging conditions. As such, I've always left the planning of the routes, and the navigation itself, in their more than capable hands.

So while I was away the other week I did a couple of lengthy walks, and a couple of bike rides, which required me to do some mapreading and a certain amount of planning. I think one reason I've shied away from this side of things previously, is that I thought I had the best of it in terms of just being out there and making the most of the scenery rather than having to keep referring to a map.

How wrong I was: I feel now like I've got so much more thorough an overview of the landscapes I was traversing through, due to the very fact that I needed to refer to the map on a periodic basis. I feel a little richer for it.

I think I also gained from the very heavy rain that was present for a couple of days. I was never going to let it deter me from getting out there and walking or cycling as mentioned. On the first day of "proper" walking (as opposed to the few miles down to the pub in the next village, where the previous bit of film was shot) I spent a few minutes stood under a tree, making use of what shelter it afforded me, as the rain came down relentlessly, and wondering if it was absurd to carry on with my planned route: in the end I realised it was more about whether I had the confidence to carry on with it and so I steeled myself against the weather and strode out once more.

The sense of liberty this gave me felt quite tangible, and an hour or so later when the rain had eased I was wondering how on earth I might have doubted that the best option would be to press on. Thus, after a mild blip, I really got into my stride (yes, quite literally I suppose), and made the most of my time strolling through beautiful scenery.

I think the other motivating factor was that the couple of pints (or so) that I would be having in the local pub later on would feel so much more satisfying for the fact that I'd enjoyed making the effort, and had a fulfilling day.

I've chosen the pictures fairly randomly from the few days in question rather than arrange a few in sequence : I may post more, it was difficult not to take pictures which turned out well.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A journey, remembered

More photos and/or film from last week will have to wait: for some reason, I had a compulsion to post the following memories from around 9 years ago:

I remember getting on the coach to London at midday, and finding myself sat next to a bloke who was built like a brick shithouse, and who was also very genial. We talked about many things for the duration of the journey to London, sparked off by one of us making a comment on how so many of our fellow passengers seemed in a mad rush to get on the coach first.

I remember being at the coach station in London and having an hour or two to wait. I phoned France (not all of it, mind) and left a message, Je suis en route. I also had to stop myself staring incredulously at a man who was wearing orange dungarees and a matching headband.

I remember setting off from London Victoria on the coach after a few minutes delay, someone was on the wrong coach and refused to get off. I felt a little anxious because, according to the itinerary, I was to change coaches in Lyon with just 15 minutes to spare. I decided to stop worrying about this and let things be as they may: we had been on the road for mere minutes when our coach broke down on the fast lane of the M25 (during the start of rush hour on a Friday afternoon).

I remember that sat next to me was a chap called JS (I still remember his name), a youngish guy, also very genial, and of mixed heritage. He was travelling to part of France to inherit some property and farmland from an elderly relative who had recently died. We too talked about many things, not least our concerns about the competence of the coach drivers. He laughed out loud when, as we drove onto the ferry at Dover, I told him I was going to the bar - but I won't be happy if I see either of those fucking drivers having a beer.

I vaguely remember having a drink at the bar on the ferry.

I remember it being very late in the evening as we drove along French motorways, and that there was something very comforting about being on a stretch of the Paris-Reims route for the second time that year. All the previous times I'd journeyed on that stretch of road had memories of good times attached to them.

I remember The Matrix being shown on the onboard TV screen. It was late at night now, and the film was a very odd one to watch while drifting in and out of a very transitory sleep.

I remember we stopped at Dijon for a short break. It was perhaps an hour or so after first light, so it was magically quiet: I marvelled at the early-morning mist and the bright-but hazy sunshine. I was fatigued through lack of sleep, but somehow this seemed to enhance the beauty of that particular moment.

I remember the coach station at Lyon, and that we had miraculously arrived there with time to spare. Lyon is a city that I've travelled through a number of times and that I would like to explore, but never had the opportunity. The most time I've spent there was changing coaches on both the outward and return journeys, within the confines of the station interior. This mild frustration was very much with me on the occasion described.

I remember the coach stopping at Orange, and me wishing JS all the best: he was completing the final leg of his journey to a rural estate near Avignon. He seemed an all-round good bloke, and I wondered just how much this inheritance might shape his future, possibly even change it beyond recognition. I liked that travelling relatively long distances by road meant that you spent time with people you might otherwise never meet: fascinating, interesting people who add a whole extra dimension to the many elements of the journey.

I remember Montpellier as being sun-bleached, but by now I was more keenly anticipating my destination rather than savouring the journey for its own sake.

I remember finally disembarking at Beziers: another phone call and then I browsed the bookshop next to the station whilst waiting for a lift. I saw a copy of Umberto Eco's How To Travel With A Salmon printed in French (naturally), whereas I had my own copy in my shoulder bag. I was tempted to buy the French copy so that I could try and read the two in tandem to help with my language skills. I clearly made the right decision in not buying it, I still haven't got round to reading the English edition to this day.

I remember arriving at my destination, a small holiday village, some 27 hours after the journey had begun. I had Emmental with French bread, followed by a slice of melon. Then we began drinking, and both the form and content of my recollections are far less ordered and significantly more chaotic than the ones I've recounted above.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

A golden moment

Just one of many. Expect me to bore you with more in the next few posts.