Phil Collins – Part Two of Two

A revelation about that Adele chick’s music came to me recently.  It couldn’t have if I wasn’t in the frame of mind I am now.  See, without providing any specific examples to support the argument, Collins’ music to my mind taps in and relates to people’s emotions.  Adele’s, on the other hand, manipulates and exploits them.  Again, I’m not going to provide evidence.  It’s just the way it is, or at least the way I see and hear it.  And I’m seeing (and hearing/tasting/smelling/feeling) things pretty bloody clearly these days, finally.  It seems to me that an artist of any persuasion should be very careful to relate to instead of exploit people and their emotions.  I can’t blame Adele for doing so.  She does have a wonderful voice.  And she’s also at once the product of a relentlessly capitalistic culture and commercial music machine.  Collins, too, is a part of and a product of that culture and machine.  Yet he I’m sure chose long ago to stick to the path of creative purity and it paid off for him through not creatively bankrupting himself or emotionally cheating his fans or his connection with them.  I, and we all whether we’re creative (in the ironically strict sense of the word) or not are capable of that choice, too.  My choice is to be true to myself, to the people around me, and to the things that I do, creative or otherwise.  And now it’s a deliberate, instead of just instinctive, decision.

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Me, camped by the Squamish River, British Colombia, Canada, late 2012

I did end up reading a Wikipedia article about Collins.  (Still not sure if he has a book or books.)  And, incredibly, it contains information which fits almost eerily perfectly with my comparison of him and Adele.  Apparently, in 2014 “Collins announced in an interview with Inside South Florida that he was writing new compositions with the English musician Adele.  Collins said he had no idea who Adele was when he learned she wanted to collaborate with him.  He said ‘I wasn’t actually too aware [of her].  I live in a cave.’  Collins agreed to join her in the studio after hearing her voice.  He said, ‘[She] achieved an incredible (indeed) amount.  I really love her voice (doesn’t everyone).  I love some of the stuff she’s done, too (funny how derivation expertly masquerading as originality can, at first, avoid appearing to even the most savvy sensibilities).’  However, in September 2014, Collins revealed that the collaboration had ended and he said it had been ‘a bit of a non-starter.’” (http://bit.ly/1FMxC7h).  I was surprised to find this, but I was not surprised by what I read.  The link to my situation is obvious: not only had I come to finally realise the truth about myself, I had also come to realise (perceivable, based on my limited sensory experiences) truths about the world around me to the point in which I had inadvertently made a coincidentally-timed observation about one musical artist and his dawning distaste for another.  To wit: my interpretation of the above Wikipedia excerpt is that eventually Collins discovered he had creative conflicts with and differences from Adele.  Of course, those who are fans of the latter, but not the former, might infer differently.

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Sunset, Venice Beach, Los Angeles, California, New Year’s Eve 2012

The future is bright.  I’m now capable of more consciously effectively operating in reality.  I understand the world better than I ever have, even if I still have many, many problems with it.  And I understand my place in that world better; indeed all but completely accurately.  Though that’s not to say I think I have some special place in the world beyond that which I might make, with others’ help.  Why is the future bright?  Firstly because it always has been, or had the potential to be.  And secondly because I’m now better able to realise why it is, or certainly can be if I play my proverbial cards right.  I’m free.  Not free in the sense that I can do whatever I want.  Not free in the sense that I’m capable of anything.  Free in the sense that I’m capable of what I want to do, as long as I’m conscious of those things – some of which might also be things I want to do, albeit with lesser priority – I must sacrifice in order to do what I want to do.  I certainly want to write, as evidenced by the fact that I am right now and have many times previously.  I certainly want to love, as evidenced by the fact that I am truly in love with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met (again, besides my mother).  And I want to live.  And I will live not haunted.  Not scared.  Missing nothing.  I am, alive.

Phil Collins – Part One of Two

All my life, I’ve been haunted.  Or scared.  Or missing something I could never quite comprehend, much less expect to discover.  With the sometimes benevolent and other times malevolent benefit/detriment of hindsight, I’ve wondered if it’s been because I was born 10 weeks premature.  Or because I was never truly born, but instead surgically removed from my mother (via caesarean section).  Or because as a result of my prematurity, my first few days and weeks were spent in a humidity crib, when they otherwise would have been spent bonding with the most important woman, at least by virtue of creation, I’d share my (but not all of her) life with. Maybe.  But I’ve since realised it almost certainly (albeit not actually certainly) had nothing to do with missing something I’d had trouble finding.  Or holding on to a never productive pain I probably just imagined from an immediately but progressively (but not always quickly enough) less painful childhood.  It really was about imagination.  Or more particularly paranoia.  But that’s all.  I’d imagined certain horrifying realities about my life and ignored or repressed actual, more pleasant ones.  I could never be as free as I deserved until I accepted that some pains are normal; and others are the product of fantasy and fear and paranoia and, simply, poor influence or advice or treatment.  No more.  No more.  No more.

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Me, Melbourne to Adelaide and across the Eyre Peninsula to Cactus, south of Penong, and back to Adelaide surf trip, 2011 – photo Ross Dudgeon

Phil Collins has always been an artist I’ve admired and enjoyed, albeit not known a lot about or patronised to any serious degree (I’ve never bought any of his music.  I plan on doing (or downloading) so.  And at least reading a Wikipedia article about him.  I wonder if he has a biography/autobiography?).  An ex-girlfriend of mine used to listen to his music in order to get pumped up for our first few dates.  It worked (arguably to ill-effect, eventually).  I for one, like I said, have always enjoyed his music but, and this relates to the point of this piece, whenever I’ve heard it I’ve had frustrating difficulty figuring out what his name was.  It was always on the tip of my tongue or brain.  And even with time it would never pop into my head.  (Apparently when we experience such “tip of the tongue” moments, our conscious mind might give up but our subconscious usually continues working on the problem and offers the revelation later on.)  I’d just hear his music again at some point later, and experience the same frustration at not being able to figure out who it was by.  Over and over again, kind of like how life feels when you’re not enjoying it.  Or avoiding enjoying it.

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Sunrise over San Francisco Bay Bridge

Again, no more.  It fits perfectly with the enormous corner my life has turned, and the not so horrifying or debilitating truth about who I am and my current and potential place in the world.  I used to struggle to bring Collins’ name to my mind and/or lips (perhaps it’s no coincidence that my first name is “Colin”), just as I used to struggle to be honest with myself and avoid engaging in paranoid fear about the almost completely self-invented lies I for some reason perceived as terrifyingly true.  Not long ago, after I turned the corner (unashamedly aided by psychoanalysis and depression/anxiety medication) in my life I was listening to the radio and one of Collins’ songs came on, and I was able to summon his name.  Pretty well straight away.  Finally!  It felt so good.  So symbolic of what I’d been struggling for.  Struggling to be honest with myself.  To love myself, non-narcissistically.  To be unafraid.  And my reward, or one of many, was the ability to put a name to some wonderful music which, it’s now obvious, so tellingly and symbolically happened to be by someone who shared my name (albeit switched with his surname, and an extra L added.  It’s always annoyed me when people add an extra L to my first name).  Fear is useful, sometimes.  But even if I still had rational fear, I had forever, I hope, lost the fear to rationally realise.  I was free, of that.

Splendour in the Grass 2014

Sticky Fingers' gathering crowd

Sticky Fingers’ gathering crowd

Wankers are unavoidable at music festivals.  Such as, at Splendour in the Grass 2014, a surly looking blonde plain Jane neighbour vaguely overheard calling this solitary scribe a “loser” (maybe because I, y’know, spent some time actually enjoying the live music, instead of just sitting back at the campground engaging in inane conversation and getting hydro stoned and drunk on smuggled vodka); the genius who walked past me while I was sitting, notepad at my side, waiting for Sticky Fingers to begin their smashing Saturday afternoon set and came up with this pearler of a question phrased as a statement: “Taking notes there buddy?”; and, last but certainly not least, a bloke donning oversized Native American headdress who stepped in front of me at the start of First Aid Kit’s appropriately soothing Sunday GW McLennan tent appearance.  I simply stepped to the left while aiming a scowl at the back of his obnoxiously and culturally insensitively feathered head – as I imagine 10 or 20 people to my rear also did.  Such people constitute the dark side of the culturally open-minded almost to the point of anarchistic atmosphere bred by indie-leaning music festivals.  But they are, thankfully, in the regrettable minority.  Those that agree would even this year include the cops who, despite gouging a kilogram or two of contraband substances from drug-detection-dog-sniffed punters, gave the vast bulk of this year’s attendees’ behaviour their tick of approval.  Either way, it’s agreeable to believe the festival’s organisers are right now plotting to ban “Indian” war attire from all subsequent Splendours.  One can only hope, or else start a counter-obnoxious online petition for their banning.  Such pretension must be either stopped or roundly ridiculed.

Native American headdress wearing wanker neighbours

Native American headdress wearing wanker neighbours

Honest John's Used Cars

But then there are the festival legends, who roam in blessedly greater numbers.  There was the guy who, surely in jest, wanted to high-ten me while I was carrying two cups of some evil Bundaberg Rum concoction, and I shrugged at him.  I saw him again only moments later after downing one of the drinks but between lit cigarettes, and compromised with five for him.  Then there was the Red Frogs volunteer who gave a shoulder ride to one of his female colleagues up, I kid you not, the entire hill leading to the Amphitheatre Stage.  And finally the young man on bended knee in the dust between the Food Court and Global Village lacing up his girlfriend’s high-tops, in an act of festival chivalry I’ve not yet seen surpassed.  One other had the best of intentions, if not effect.  It was the Friday night and a cold blue mist had settled across Camp C, giving it the atmosphere of a cemetery.  I’d just unzipped my tent which lay at the campgrounds’ extreme eastern edge, and was gazing lovingly at my foam mattress and doona, when my neighbour tempted me with a mini baseball-bat-sized joint his flame-haired girlfriend had rolled up.  I’d just said goodbye to Angus & Julia Stone who blessed their fans with transcendent return to form track Heart Beats Slow, and had decided to skip crowd ambushed Friday headliners Outkast.  But it was so shamefully early, that I decided to partake.  Right after two deep lung lighting inhalations, the fear began to take hold – when my neighbour then decided to mention something to the effect that the weed was one of the eight strongest on offer in Australia.  The paranoia ranged from conviction that I’d wake up in my own filth, to being gang-bashed, to having my battered tent set on fire, to being framed for same heinous crime; until I finally swam to the bottom of the rabbit hole, and slept.

Skywhale.  Think I read an article about this a while back.  I believe it's travelling the country as an art installation with a message relating to fertility or femininity or some such

Skywhale. Think I read an article about this a while back. I believe it’s travelling the country as an art installation with a message relating to fertility or femininity or some such

Side of stage for a very Violent Soho

Side of stage for a very Violent Soho

Two nights later, stars above the Amphitheatre Stage dance before my drunk on full-strength Gold Bar liquor eyes as I literally lie in wait for Lily Allen to appear – as she eventually did, looking like a slutty soccer mum who proceeded to hip thrust around incandescent baby bottles with cannabis-print-jumpsuited backup dancers gyrating around her.  It was all too much, but also not enough, so I retired finally to bed this time sans a savage stoning.  Almost 60 hours earlier, and Aerling had established itself as the pied piper of Splendour by dragging people over the hill and toward the stage with the aching, minimalist and romantic music they used to kick off this year’s revelry.  DZ Deathrays at 20-to-2pm the same day got the rock rolling in a fashion only equalled by Violent Soho, Kingswood and Courtney Barnett, respectively, over the following two days.  The Preatures’ Is This How You Feel? climaxing set failed to disappoint, thanks in large part to Isabella Manfredi’s cartwheeling and Tina Turner-esque screaming into the microphone.  The Presets were a fucking awful replacement for London Grammar, so I almost sulkily boycotted them; Interpol bored the shit out of me; and I can confirm Danny Glover aka Childish Gambino was off his fucking head, as far as I could see from the Wine Bar, before catching the Stone siblings, dodging Outkast and submitting myself to the horror hydro of Hades mentioned above.   On Saturday, at 2pm, Sticky Fingers’ keyboardist emerged first, shirtless and hairy-chested, and grew an increasingly open-mouthed look of total stoke on his face on account of the several thousand gathered to enjoy such gems as Australia Street.  Later that afternoon, shortly before Violent Soho had the amphitheatre running red with ear blood, it had still not – but would – rained water.  But, kind of ominously, what did rain upon Splendour was an eerie snow of ash from nearby cane fires. This really freaked out even the out-of-towners who hadn’t submitted themselves to psychedelic substances.

Splendour's heart

Chai Tent foot stompin'

Chai Tent foot stompin’

After Gossling straight afterward soothed the edge off it, Violent Soho’s set was the too early peak of my own Splendid Saturday.  I was bunkered down from the rain in the Gold Bar during The Jezabels; missed Foals because they’d been moved from my printed schedule to second-last on the lineup upon replacing Two Door Cinema Club; and City and Colour were a sad, droning spectacle which played to probably half the crowd Outkast had the previous night.  I went to bed early, which on Sunday allowed me to catch the end of The Creases “sitting in the park, smoking cigarettes till dark” (Static Lines), ironically during their noon set.  Even Carlton Dry tasted pleasant in the gentle apricity of that Sunday of Splendour 2014.  Skaters followed up with such songs as Give Me One More Try.  Then Kingswood came on at quarter-to-two to confirm that while rock is certainly not dead, it is prioritised far too lowly by today’s festival organisers.  Their wall of sound smashed me so solidly I couldn’t venture near any speakers again until Courtney Barnett (rock goddess) and First Aid Kit (be still my aching heart) all but ended my festival at the GW McLennan tent.  It was about this time that I ran out of drink tickets, and spent the rest of the night – prior to naively giving Lilly Allen a chance – huddled by the Gold Bar’s fire.  There I met a woman in her mid-40s whose presence in the VIP area was quite inexplicable; another in her mid-30s who was there to conduct a case study of some vague purpose; and a man by the name of Michael who was “mainly looking to get laid”.  A pity he didn’t sooner realise that attractive and amorous young or not so young women would not have settled for anything less than someone rich and/or famous in that particularly elitist area of the North Byron Parklands.  Still, I suspected that somewhere on the festival grounds a feathered headdress wanker was right then bedding a young maiden of live music.  At that grotesque thought, I grimaced into the firelight before plunging into the amphitheatre one more ill-fated time.

Sunday sunset at the GW McLennan tent

Sunday sunset at the GW McLennan tent

US and UK – Emerald, Isle Be Hungover tha Whoale Taime – Part Four

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In Dublin’s fair city, Where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone, As she wheeled her wheel-barrow, Through streets broad and narrow, Crying, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!” For the rest see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Malone

It was one of my favourite walks of the entire trip – the doomed search for jazz through much of Dublin’s inner-city by cold yellow Christmas week-eve lamplight.  And walking I certainly did do a lot of, through Los Angeles, San Francisco, Vancouver (and Squamish), Las Vegas, New Orleans (despite or in spite of illness), New York, Brighton and London over the preceding two months.  Las Vegas was probably my least favourite, for obvious reasons.  While probably Edinburgh would go on to be equal favourite with Dublin, and New Orleans – again despite and in spite of illness.  I knew instinctively, as I was not engaging in the normal upper-body exercise I would while back at home, that hoofing it was the only way I could stay fit while simultaneously exploring the world without being tied-down to motorised tours which would have deprived me of unique experiences.  Plus, any kind of exclusive pursuit of exercise, such as a gym visit, during the journey would have distracted me from any number of other, more pertinent pursuits; from eating local cuisine to indulging in cheesy tourist attractions to drinking with people I’d never met before and might never see again while enjoying music the likes of which I would be hard-pressed to find anywhere else but at so many right theres, and right thens.  If from beside a hospital bed one day when I’m an old man a doctor tells me those particular walks had damaged the joints in my legs beyond repair, I would lean back, put my hands behind my head and sigh gleefully at the memories.  You might say I’m being overly emotionally nostalgic, but you, sir or madam, were not there.  None of you were, or rather none at all times.  And that was somewhat the point, though those of you whose company I would have welcomed at any time know who you are.  I thought often of home, and the many gentle souls I’d been blessed to have known who inhabited it.  And the knowledge that my journey was presently spurring me ever closer to home only increased, no, lit a raging life-enhancing fire under my enjoyment of it.

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My first stop was the Le Bon Crubeen, on Talbot Street, off Gardiner Street Lower.  From photos of its inside I don’t recognise it, and believe I was much more likely to have actually entered the much more charming looking Celt Bar or Celtic Lodge which stood to either side.  Either way, no jazz, though my notes tell me there was meant to be traditional Irish music playing at one of those places later on that night.  From there I crossed the river to the Temple Bar’s Button Factory, on Curved and off Eustace Street.  It was closed, which was unsurprising as it seemed more of a live music venue than a bar.  And this in many ways regrettably was a Wednesday night.  I might have then stopped in at Fitzsimons for a stoic stout before trying Olesya’s Wine Bar on Exchequer Street.  No dice, but I did have my third drink there.  At JJ Smyths on Aungier Street, off Longford Street Little, there was a DJ playing so I didn’t even linger long enough for a beer.  Then further east on Dawson and near Anne Street at Cafe en Seine I found yet more absence of jazz, yet “probably” had my fourth drink – which shows things were already starting to become vague. By now you’re probably feeling close to as exhausted as I’m sure I felt, though less fortified through drink, at the disappointing nature of the quest.  I guarantee its end is worth the wait, though admittedly was more pleasurable for me first-hand. Further south and not far south-west from St Stephen’s Green The Village turned out to be a cavernous, underground and “busy as hell” sports bar with barely a hint of music which certainly wasn’t jazz managing to make itself heard above the relentless din.  Then, ultimately, at a guess about 10 km from my first dry port of call, I came across The Sugar Club south-east of St Stephen’s on Leeson Street Lower.  It looked like a brothel, not that I’m well-versed in such establishments, and also appeared to be the only possible entrance to the six-storey apartment block rising above it.  Green paint-fronted Houricans Pub sat silently next door at an hour of the night I could only guess at, while I sized up the club from the street.

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If not a brothel, then the place certainly looked like a night club.  Or even a gay club.  Not since a brief indulgence in (straight) night clubbing during my early 20s had I willingly entered such a place, so I was reticent to say the least.  But it was my last option, and I’d not yet heard music from within though the venue was clearly still open.  So I gave it the “what the hell” treatment, if partly because I was freezing and thirsty and sobering up.  The absolutely perfect (no other word/s to describe her) little hottie at the cashier said to my shock that there was a choir, um, playing?  No, performing, I guess.  That there was a choir performing within.  As in the street, I baulked.  And again as in the street, I said “what the hell” to myself, handed over 12 euros and decided to (hopefully) enjoy what was certainly the first choir I’d ever paid to witness.  And perhaps not the last, because it was simply incredible.  There were solos mixed with group singing of classics and Christmas songs.  Can’t remember any specific song titles, but the fact that I enjoyed their festive flights of fancy says a lot.  Plus there were some gorgeous young women in the choir, and the crowd – though they’d seemed to have without exception dragged their boyfriends and husbands along.  One particular brunette of the choir stood out for me, and in fact barely escaped my gaze when I wasn’t filling up on Guinness at the bar.  She ended up winning a best-dressed prize, which may or may not be a standard thing for choirs.  The tasteful, shimmering silver cocktail dress certainly deserved the award at least as much as she did for being the one wearing it.  In one of my few meaningful engagements with another human during my time in that city, I recognised an Australian accent at the bar mentioning to the staff in not exactly these terms that they must have been struggling to understand his drink orders on account of the antipodean twang accompanying them.  We bonded instantly over shared larrikinism for which while abroad our kind is not only tolerated, but encouraged.  Then he disclosed that he’d followed the love of his life to the very corner of the earth in which we were standing, and that he and the Irish she had only recently brought a son into a cold, wet yet beautiful part of the world.  At which point, naturally, and sadly, I thought immediately of Emma.

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Eruptions

Inspiration is something so often, and too often exclusively, attached to creative pursuits such as writing.  But I think it’s something that troubles so many of us.  Choices are simple, from the point of view that when the time comes for any choice we all know better than anyone else which to make.  Even if in hindsight we can see it as being the wrong choice.  And subsequently learn from it.  The inspiration which leads to a choice being necessary is entirely less predictable.  Waiting for it can be frustrating.  In the waiting lies indecision.  Impatience.  Impotence.  Because during the time between one choice and another, we can decide on how the former went and what we’ll do when it’s time to act on the latter; but know so many things can happen of our choosing and not in the meantime which will change the choice we’ll have to make.  So we, to use the cliché, live in the moment.  To forget the mistakes of the past is to repeat them; failing to plan is planning to fail.  True, mostly.  But to only live in the past and/or future can hardly be to make the right choice in the moment.  Sometimes an intuitively informed understanding of the present leads to the best choices.  Which is what brings me to my laptop at 12.02am, on a Wednesday.

If I was cynical I'd say some people have too much talent, but it becomes more clear to me by the day that such a thing can be almost infinite in supply

If I was cynical I’d say some people have too much talent, but it becomes more clear to me by the day that such a thing can be almost infinite in supply

The privilege of blogging is a pleasant curse: pleasant because I’m under no obligation, financial or otherwise, to engage in it; and cursed because I’m under no obligation, financial or otherwise, to engage in it.  The incentive is as powerful as the deterrent.  This means inspiration, or a sincere motivation to write something I at least believe to be worthy of giving the time and mental energy to, is crucial.  And of an entirely different type to that found in, say, a newsroom.  There’s always a lot of motivation behind writing the between three and six news stories required every day of a 7-or-8-or-9am-to-5-or-6-or-7pm working, desk-bound journalist.  The boss has urged me to write the story, a contact has urged me to write the story, public interest has urged me to write the story, financial independence has urged me to write the story, or fear of losing my job has urged me to pull the story out of my arse (which is different from lying, because as long as you can get people to sincerely say certain things, any story idea no matter how abstract can be brought legitimately to life).  Blogging, on the other hand, is truly something which requires patience and an often arrogant energy in which to justify the pursuit of.

The reason I’ve titled this particular blog Eruptions, is because that is what this type of inspiration is like.  Similar to an actual volcanic eruption, it may not happen very often, but when it does it really feels like an explosion of creative ventilation and indulgence in personal opinion or storytelling.  Not many people may even read the finished product.  (I’m lucky to get an average of more than five people reading my individual posts.)  But that’s irrelevant to my inspiration, even though I must admit a larger readership would probably drive more frequent posting.  There may be ways to influence a volcano’s eruption, but anything you can do will be as effective as trying to surf on a banana leaf.  To force inspiration you can drink a 6-pack, smoke a joint, go for a walk, have sex or engage in whatever helps you dismiss the inherent mundanity of life from your consciousness.  But generally you’ve just got to wait; preferably until you’re close to a computer or typewriter.  Many writers espouse the virtues of writing things down wherever and whenever possible when not at one’s primary writing instrument (these days most likely a laptop, as opposed to typewriter or notepad).  But within the context of the above simile I’ve been using, I’d liken such note-taking to smaller eruptions of volcanoes isolated in both time and space from the enormous, earth-shattering eruption sought in the form of relieving and published in whatever form written expression.  Volcanoes might be affected by the past, and have an influence on the future.  But when they’re sending house-sized flaming boulders miles into the distance, they’re living for the present in much the same way sincere inspiration operates.

And then there's some of us who are more talented and inspired than we even know

And then there’s some of us who are more talented and inspired than we even know

There’s not a lot more I can say about inspiration.  Such a fickle, elusive thing; whether snug in its embrace or not, to actually write about it is to try and describe such a monumental thing as love without sober objectivity.  Futile.  But, there are two people I’d like to reference in relation to inspiration.  Both extremely talented.  And both, I assume in relation to the first and I’m sure in relation to the second, whom I believe could relate to what I’ve written above: that inspiration is as predictable and creatively rewarding in scale as a volcanic eruption.  The first is an increasingly successful singer and songwriter.  Her musings on how a creative outlet is for her a “kind of longing.  I feel it under my skin, a sensation I can’t describe but I’m sure others can relate to”; but at the same time frustration at the fact she can’t “decide to simply switch it on and off as I please” connects to creative foundations of my own I laid during childhood.  (And the fact that she wants to “become a role model, non-sexualized” speaks at once of her humility and (at I believe only 19-years-old) innocence – because she is in fact very beautiful).  The second is a (more successful than he probably thinks he is) journalist, comic and, well, monkey king, who writes such things as (but certainly not limited to): “Yesterday, Scar-face told me she had rabies, bit me on the neck, and offered out some sort of syringe which she said I needed to take as soon as possible if I didn’t want to die a most painful death.

“I’ll give it to you,” she tittered. “But you have to put a ring on it first.”

“I think we’re done here,” I said, climbing to the top of a tree and waiting for the first signs of madness. Or whatever symptoms humans get for rabies.

 

Please enjoy their contributions to the brave new world of sincere blogging beatification, and (hopefully) understand more fully through my sharing of them the meaning of what I’ve written above:

http://superfoodrockstar.com/ and also, from a musical perspective: http://www.astamusic.com/

http://wideworldseeker.wordpress.com/

Falls Festival Byron Bay, 2014

A party was in full-swing by 9am on the final day, Friday January 3, of Byron Bay’s inaugural The Falls Music and Arts Festival.  It had started at dawn, and ended about noon when a long line of cars began rolling over baking grass and frypan gravel roads through the venue’s single exit to the outside world.  A thousand or two triple j broadcasts and Bluetooth playlists mingled with revving engines to, finally, and for many, reluctantly, depart North Byron Parklands’ rear car park.  So ended six days of music masochism, mini-dust tornadoes, widespread heatstroke and rain only on the previous Sunday and Thursday nights – culminating in US rockers MGMT headlining with a performance many murmured as disappointing.  It’s a set I fail to remember, aside from vague drunken recollections of psychedelic wizadry.  Oh, and an at least 200-strong flash mob two-stepping and clapping along to Electric Feel, up the back of the amphitheatre, as the rain began to fall.

Amphitheatre Stage

Amphitheatre Stage

For me, at least, the whole thing began on the second day of 2014.  Dismissive of hour-or-more-long and very depressing looking waits for showers, I picked up two female French-Canadian Falls attendees on my way out of the festival toward Brunswick Heads – where I aimed for a dip in the Pacific Ocean surrounded by the most beautiful women in the world: music festival women.  Not to mention holiday makers from all over this fucked up lonely piece of space debris.  They were aiming for Byron, but settled on Brunswick where after some small talk about travel I dropped them at the beach.  We agreed to meet again for an 11.30am pickup and return but, after they wandered off, I was forced to weigh up their worthiness versus making Asta’s grossly too early 11.50am set.  (When you take into account the drive, passing through security from the car park, drinking some water and then walking what seemed like at least a kilometre to the Amphitheatre Stage, I would need at least 45 minutes to make her show.)  I chose the latter – leaving them behind in a spectacular yet very alien little coastal town, with little but earlier advice to “look for a dust-coated car” for the return journey.  Time was an ever-scarce resource.  And I had little to spare them.

The Tasmanian singer-songstress emerged on-stage in all her high-cheekboned Saxon splendour, clad in white leggings, hotpants of the same achromatic colour and shimmering shoulder-pads with yellow, red and blue tassels descending from them.  Her first “oooooooo” of I Need Answers sent a shiver between my spine and soul that no other act of the week had managed; except perhaps The Wombats, but in an entirely different way.  One or two hundred punters there at first, to see what was that stage’s second act of the day, turned into one or two thousand by the third song, after they flooded over the hill from catching the Kite String Tangle at the Forest Stage; or finally recovering enough from flowering hangovers seeded on New Year’s Day to actually move from the campgrounds.  She said it was her best gig to date.  Her gratitude was as sincere and as loudly expressed as the admiration that inspired it.  Then in a flurry of phosphorescent tassels, she disappeared backstage.

From the amphitheatre's northern hill, looking north-east across the festival and camp grounds, unfortunately using a smart phone

From the amphitheatre’s northern hill, looking north-east across the festival and camp grounds, unfortunately using a smart phone

It was a pity, mid-afternoon two days previously on New Year’s Eve: that Clairy Browne and the Bangin’ Rackettes’ poor crowd-management skills were equal only to their impeccable live performance.  “There’s always gotta be 10 fuck-wits in the crowd,” Clairy admonished.  “If you keep throwing those fucking glow-sticks, I’m going to fuck your shit up,” she said, with right-middle finger not subtly extended toward the stage-front crowd.  Needless to say, a shock-and-awe-style hail of glow-sticks followed this tirade.  The Roots’ amphitheatre set was planned to ring in my own quite solitary new year, but a vague recollection that I enjoyed their music (other than The Seed (2.0), feat. Cody Chestnutt) proved unfounded.  It just wasn’t Auld Lang Syne sorta music.  Even techno would have worked better, and I haven’t liked that shit since I was 25.  So instead, the countdown was spent at Falls’ The Village adjacent small-stage, lounging with two Carlton Drys, a cigarette and listening to Rapskallion’s cabaret-style Spanish beats and genuine confusion as to exactly what time it was.  Minutes into 2014, I was accosted by a lesbian gumboot saleswoman and her male and female fellow-stall attendants.

They were searching for The Party, but I could not help them.  (This was because I had, ahem, “work” to do the next day, beginning with enjoying Chet Faker at noon, and wished not to sleep in.)  After witnessing a cowboy version of Iggy Pop who’d – deliberately, of course – forgotten to button his fly, in The Village, my notes I’d planned on diligently keeping throughout the week ended quite prematurely with a scribble on the Friday morning of The Traffic Jam: “No NYE kiss.”  Luckily, I did not completely drown my memory in lady liquor.  From the first day, Monday, rarely did I not see someone enjoying one of the many swings scattered below the grounds’ many larger trees.  In The Village earlier that first evening a strange shadow-animation film played, in which a Chinese prince was trying to save his lover from the Emperor.  And earlier that day, a girl fell from her chair and started having a seizure while I waited a step away for my lunch burger at the food court.  Her friends quickly rallied to her assistance, which left me standing there all in an awkward mild shock, thinking: “Holy shit.”

Rapskallion, January 30, The Village

Rapskallion, January 30, The Village

At some unidentifiable time and day I had a chance encounter with my best mate’s brother in law, who was gloriously decked out in an orange hi-vis vest and rubbish collection tongs.  His colleague said they’d be on-site until the following Friday, not only collecting piles of wind-blown waste but also taking down tents many festival goers simply “walked away” from come Friday.  Mid-afternoon on NYE, a good looking blonde girl with adult braces confused me no end by loudly calling my name then embracing me in a hug as I wandered deliriously back to my tent for a nap.  I not terribly quickly  realised she was the girlfriend of a good mate – who would arrive New Year’s Day in the trailer park area, with another mate, his girlfriend and her friend.  I woke during that eventual nap, on my back, spread eagled and with my hands behind me, to a girl saying: “That looks like some kind of an invitation.”

My startled-awake response was, regrettably: “Shit!” which she and her friend responded to by walking away, laughing.  Later again that afternoon I was interrupted, from reading, by who I thought was the same woman.  She asked what I was doing, and I responded with “What do you think?”  She said she’d walked past before and I was doing “something similar”.  Confused, I said: “Oh yeah, um, you’re that girl who said something like, um, ‘That looks like a good invitation’.”

“That’s a bit forward, mate,” she said, curtly, and walked away.  I spent the next half-hour silently bemoaning my awkwardness.

The music itself really started on the first day of 2014, with Violent Soho’s heavy grunge and punk rock.  That’s without being dismissive of Chet Faker, The Paper Kites and The Preatures, who played earlier but were largely missed.  After drunken trailer park conversation ranging from pornography to spirituality, Bonobo – or was it Bombino on Thursday? – played in all their kaftan-clothed rock splendour.  I shook The Ruben’s Sam Margin’s hand and congratulated him on his epic set, after I’d successfully taken a photo of him with a member of Falls’ staff.  One hell of a down-to-earth dude, that guy.  The Cat Empire really got thousands of feet vibrating the ground with their high-energy brass instrumented good-vibes.  Chk Chk Chk, Vampire Weekend and Flight Facilities all played late that night while most punters were in the final stages of drowning in too-expensive, mid-strength liquor.  The first had lots of people on-stage.  Vampire Weekend played that Diane Young song.  And I can’t even find a Flight Facilities song on YouTube I recognise, let alone remember from their set.  Actually, they clashed with Vampire Weekend.  Loathsome things, music festival set clashes.

From the amphitheatre's northern hill, again

From the amphitheatre’s northern hill, again

Then the final day began.  I still don’t know who the hell Oliver Tank is, though triple j will likely remind me during the coming months.  I mean I could do some research (read: Googling), but that shit smacks of effort.  Although I do enjoy a little Kite String Tangle, while I walked past their Forest Stage set on my way to Asta they played a song I’d, not for the first time, heard on the radio on my way from abandoning the French-Canadian girls in Brunswick Heads, anyway.  Then there was Gossling.  Hers has gotta be one of the cutest voices in music (even though you may argue it’s a carbon copy of Julia Stone’s).  The John Steel Singers threw their bricks from their overpasses, as they like to do, at the Ampitheatre Stage from about 2pm.  Then between the Singers and the Violent Femmes – missed Pond, damnit – there was more drunkenness and scoping out incidental bogan and hipster nudity at the Trailer Park.  It wasn’t quite Woodstock 1969, you understand; but considering our age of social media, mobile phone cameras and  misguidedly deepening conservative values inspired by barely deserved wealth, it was pretty damn groovy.

After dark, London Grammar’s Hannah Reid appeared quite unceremoniously at her stage-front keyboard.  At one point and in her delicious voice she wondered aloud just how many Forest Stage punters were witnessing her performance.  As if on cue, and it probably was, floodlights illuminated her thousands of admirers and she gasped.  I have it on good authority that Neil Finn performed well.  During his set, I was drinking a couple of Jack Daniel’s Honeys in the VIP bar’s uncomfortable wooden outdoor chairs amid developing rain, which would ultimately kill my camera.  “It’s amazing just how many excellent lyrics he’s responsible for,” sagely said my photographer friend, who had a professional interest in some of the photos he took on my doomed camera whose memory card thankfully survived.  The Wombats.  Ridiculous name for a British band.  But, they were awesome.  Possibly the best act of the whole fest.  Crystal Fighters’ headlining of the Forest Stage defines my experience of music festivals: I was too drunk to remember.  But their LA Calling song is pretty ace, so I would have been psyched to hear it played live, if in fact I did.  God, and perhaps one day a skilful psychiatrist, only knows.

Big bloke, loud shirt, beard, rope swing and enthusiasm = epic

Big bloke, loud shirt, beard, rope swing and enthusiasm = epic

Come 9am Friday, the sound of apparently every single set-up in the campground being disassembled seemed right outside my tent.  It was as if everyone had turned Evangelical Christian and gone to bed early the night before, instead of cramming into the Jack Daniel’s Barrel House by jumping its fence and listening and shuffling to bad house music until 2am-ish.  Like I may or may not have done.  Of course they were wasting their time, unless they were planning on walking out and hitchhiking.  In fact when confronted by the horrendous car queue, many people almost re-set-up their tents in the parking lot, while waiting for the fuzz to stop breath-testing drivers either side of the only automobile exit from the festival grounds.  (I actually have no idea if or where the cops were doing breath testing, but these things are entirely predictable.)  It was pleasant in many ways: sitting in my car’s open hatch, reading, smoking, drinking water which almost evaporated before reaching my lips and listening to many songs that had actually been played at the festival, on triple j – who were aware of just how bad the queue was and were playing tunes deliberately designed to soothe our frustration.  The only unpleasant aspect was some drivers who bigotedly thought their time was more precious than others stuck in the same situation, and would periodically beep their horns.  I guess Clairy Browne was right, after all: there are always 10 fuck wits in any crowd.

Apple of Our Isle

ASTA_2013

Asta’s the kind of singer-songwriter who makes you grateful there’s much more to pop vocal life than X Factor’s cookie-cutter commercialism. These days you’re probably hearing more from New Zealand’s Lorde, who has, willingly or not, all but hit the mainstream.

But since gaining indie diva darling status by winning Triple J’s Unearthed High of 2012, our own Asta has been out there shaking worshippers from venue rafters with her infectious dancing and alto crooning.

Read more

Red Deer Music and Arts Festival 2013 – First Half

Blurry smartphone photo of Kingswood

Kingswood rocked so hard it was almost scary (and were in fact blurry, going by the above smart phone photo). This is about all I can remember from their Red Deer Music & Arts Festival 2013 performance. Not sure if it was the bass bleeding my ears or the BYO beer soaking my brain cells, or both, but the devastation their set wreaked remains but a shadow on my rock and roll soul. Then shit got real hazy. I can vaguely remember my brother hoisting the empty of all but soft drink esky on to his ex-personal trainer and labourer’s shoulders, as we prepared to depart for more alcohol. Then I recall us saying hi to three couples gathered around a campfire on a property between the festival site and the house we were staying at. They said nothing in return. One of them may have cocked a gun and spat tobacco at our feet. Then finally my brother passed out in front of home base and, despite my best efforts, would not be roused so we went to our beds instead of catching headline act The Grates. I woke up with barbed-wire-wounds on my hands, possible concussion from falling over deer fences and to sunlight hitting my hungover eyes like a truck.

Beardmance

Beardmance

In regard to malevolent figurative or actual trucks, as proof “these things come in threes”, the festival’s story from my perspective began early on Saturday September 7 – while most of my fellow countrymen and women were busy misguidedly ushering in Tony Abbott’s xenophobic and economically elitist right-wing government. Brisbane City had gloriously revealed itself from my mobile vantage-point atop Mount Gravatt, as I steered my car north along the Pacific Motorway. Presently one of those orange-texted traffic conditions signs stated there was congestion on the Riverside Expressway, beside the CBD. “How bad could it be?” I thought of the expressway, that I’d never had any trouble with especially at noon on a Saturday. Margaret, Elizabeth, Turbot and Herschel Streets into the city were all missed as rat-runs I could have used to escape traffic inching along the expressway. I needed Kelvin Grove Rd, which after becoming Samford Rd would lead me to Mount Samson, under whose evening shadow Red Deer would be projecting its progressive vibes north, south and eastward.

Journey to and from the festival

Journey to and from the festival

After an hour spent feeling the skin on my right arm sizzle in the spring sun I finally discovered the source of the congested calamity, where the M3 split from Coronation Dr and usually took cars north toward the Sunshine Coast. All manner of emergency vehicles had blocked the ramp, where a truck (the first of “these things”) had apparently lost its shit and crashed. Trusting in my metallic-voiced GPS, I had no choice but to continue along Coronation Dr then turn north along Park Rd, Milton, and get back on track. When I was confronted my yet more traffic, and I swear my sun-shrivelled right arm shrieked in alarm. An ALDI truck (second of “these things”) was sitting under the rail overpass, and someone was motioning for it to reverse. “Ah,” I thought, “it’s ok: he’s just waiting for the right moment to back up and deliver his German-owned and probably Asian-made goods.” Then the truck driver got out and wandered around his truck, shrugging. The horrific reality of the truth finally hit me and almost had me returning home convinced the gods were angry with me that day: the ALDI rig had gotten stuck under the rail bridge.

Red Deer

Eventually, of course, I found myself on Kelvin Grove Rd, from whence there were no more traffic related problems. I was frustrated at a service station about 30 minutes later by a fat old guy in full bits-per-inch futuristic army camouflage, who was taking forever to choose his brand of bogan juice (energy drink) and blocking access to the good old fashioned water I wished to purchase. Talk about two worlds colliding. Then at Samford Central shopping centre, I left my wallet open while handing over money for my salmonella chicken wrap to the decayed-teeth late-teen chick apparently in charge of the entire shop at lunchtime. “That’s a nice photo,” she said.

“Thanks,” said I.

“I look like a criminal in mine, because you’re not allowed to smile anymore.”

I tried not to hesitate too long while also trying to avoid staring at her brown choppers, before saying: “I guess I’ll keep mine (taken about a decade ago, when I was 20) until I die, then.” The awful drive had all but killed my good spirits. Had she not been friendly, I may have snapped when after a 20 minute wait I brought the food toward my lips and noticed a piece of chicken at the wrap’s edge was barely cooked. With valiant calm I threw the offending morsel out, took the plunge on the rest of it and continued on to the house I was staying at nearby the festival – while trying to ignore imaginations that my stomach was already sending bad-meat-bacteria to my brain that might ironically render me a vegetable for the rest of my life.

Coming up: Bec Laughton

Coming up: Bec Laughton

Red Deer Music and Arts Festival 2013 – Second Half

Bobby Alu

Bobby Alu

The beginning of the end began as it always does: with that first sip, while we sat on the veranda looking down the valley toward Lake Samsonvale. Red Deer was audibly already in action somewhere nearby. After a short walk down the road the four of us set foot through refreshingly lax security into the dual-stage festival while Bec Laughton was in the middle of shaking her little pink hotpants through a jazz and hip hoppy set. I’d decided to take the $400US Canon I’d bought last year in San Francisco. And it was the catalyst for my being accosted by a Hawaiian shirt wearing rugby union playing type. He insisted on taking my photo, citing the somewhat dubious observation that photographers rarely have their photos taken. At some point during his drunken rambling a young blonde woman poked her head past him to wish me a happy World Beard Day, and disappeared. Then my brother joined us after using the men’s and immediately clashed with the large loud shirted and overbearing photographic sympathiser. Understand, the only “music” festival my brother has ever been to is the pill-popping and flesh flashing Gold Coast Spit event: Summafieldayze. Moments later, I told him he needn’t bring the same levels of testosterone-fuelled defensiveness required at that aforementioned celebration of boganism to Red Deer. We sat down with our two friends as triple j’s Sarah Howells began a very blues and rootsy dj set, and were almost immediately confronted by a horrific sight.

Sarah Howells

Sarah Howells

Many people had returned to their BYO couches and beers from the stage-front after Bec Laughton. One young blonde woman, carrying at least 40 kilograms more than was healthy, had also returned to her group which happened to be sitting right in front of us. It was time for her to change out of her party dress into warmer clothes and, my God in Heaven, did we get a show. Details aside, let’s just say we by her getting changed in front of us had unwittingly and not pleasurably been ushered “backstage” to her performance. I tried harder than most around me to avoid looking at, while stifling laughter, the train wreck unfolding in front of us. Think of my reaction as being similar to Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now, repeating: “The horror. The horror.” Fortunately, a man wearing a bear onesie who had just won Howells’ costume dance competition walked past, and I put “the horror” behind me by congratulating him. One of our number headed off to get and then return with pizza, and we sat in the last of that day’s early spring sunshine washing them down with cold beer while Bobby Alu strummed his way through some folksy reggae grooves. All 1000-or-so of us were collectively aware that Tony Abbott’s iron-budgie-smuggler right-wing reign was about then being ushered in across the nation around our left-leaning, progressive bubble. Such anxiety could have contributed to the couple of scuffles that broke out nearby. Or it could have as usual been about women. Or perhaps some bogans might’ve gotten through hard to spot security. Impossible to be sure. As the sun set behind Mount Samson and the temperature dropped, I headed back to the homestead to collect my jacket – a trip for which I sacrificed listening to The Dashounds’ apparently bunny-suited drummer bash out some tunes.

Matt McHugh

Matt McHugh

Turned out the best way to get past the deer fence separating the festival’s VIP camping area and the property at which I was staying, was to simply fall almost spastically drunk over it. Then another couple of barbed wire cattle fences were surmounted, and I was away, my possibly emphysema-afflicted lungs struggling to power me up the hill. I was momentarily stopped by the fact the former serviceman head of the household had locked up the house tighter than a hillbilly fortress. Fortunately, some of the beers were stored outside. Plus his wife ended up responding to my text messages in query of a hidden key, and eventually appeared to unlock the place so I could get my leather. The return journey was vague. Memory had already become unreliable. The alcohol had reached my brain. Chance Waters’ future car commercial indie pop was lulling Red Deer’s crowd into a false sense of security upon our return. I remember by this point we’d lost the other two of our number, one of them being pregnant and all, and the other being her husband. I’d become engaged in a deep and meaningful bromance with the guy sitting next to me on the esky, who was literally my brother. We continued our D ‘n’ M as Kingswood took to the stage and shattered the peace for kilometres around. It was a lot like trying to carry a heartfelt conversation through the first sparks of a violent revolution, so great was the noise and so frenetic the mosh pit. And considering what was taking place in Canberra about then, I wouldn’t have objected to an actual uprising. It was about this time that things had started to become weird, in the form of the attractive lone young woman who had been loitering close to my brother’s left for several minutes. I leaned in front of him and said something like: “Hey, how are you?” And she vanished to our rear in a flurry of blonde hair. Then we had other problems. Kingswood had finished, as evidenced by rivers of blood from peoples’ ears beginning to dry on the grass and in a large pool in front of the stage. The Grates were yet to hit the stage. But alas, we were out of piss. And we both fully intended on returning at the time, but barbed wire wounds to my hands remain better evidence than actual memories that we even tried. And ultimately failed.

Hangin' with Pikachu

Hangin’ with Pikachu

US and UK – I Lived By the River – Part Four of Nine

Somewhere in Oregon, US - November-ish, 2012

Somewhere in Oregon, US – November-ish, 2012

Portland, Oregon, was as you may remember a progressive Pacific-north-western American city I missed while riding a dragon (Wicked Camper) from California to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. This is a little regrettable because since then I’ve learned without much effort more about the city’s vibrancy, despite its almost year-round wet-and-cold-weather. Such weather was itself credited by I don’t remember who in a magazine I can’t recall the name of as being the reason why Portland’s creative culture was blossoming like a sunflower despite or perhaps in spite of regularly dark clouds above. Because such foul weather more often than, say, on the Gold Coast, forced people inside to paint, strum guitars or write fiction. Now, at this point of my US and UK journal I’m in London, and the reason I’ve taken you back to Portland is to make a comparison between the two cities. By no means am I going to suggest that London is not nor never has been an international artistic centre. Hardly. But while Portland and the US north-west it calls home is known as a cultural “up and comer” (Lonely Planet), I felt London was long past its prime in that regard. Of course even or maybe especially for such an ancient city bohemian blossoming in whatever art form must come in cycles, but I couldn’t help but detect a certain stagnation, weariness or perhaps arrogant complacency in that old world town.

I'm posting either too many or not enough photos of London.  Hard to guess when I've started posting as I write.  Oh well. . . .

I’m posting either too many or not enough photos of London. Hard to guess when I’ve started posting as I write. Oh well. . . .

While this feeling was evident, to me, everywhere I went in London – it was no less keenly felt in Clapham, where I was presently riding the bus with young Kristy. We were sitting atop the double-decker heading along Clapham Road back to her townhouse somewhere in or near the Brixton area. At some point during this trip I remembered, loudly and vocally, that during late-2011 London had been rocked by widespread rioting in response to corruption, depressed economic circumstances and, I believe, isolated police brutality. Clapham itself, as Kristy confirmed, had on August 8 of that year been hit by more than 1000 disaffected youths who laid siege to Clapham Junction – one of “Britain’s busiest train stations” – through an orgy of violence, destruction, looting and general anarchy. When I much too loudly started discussing these recollections Kristy shooshed me, then glanced around the bus as if sensing danger. And finally that event brings me to my point: the only thing progressive I sensed about London during my time there was a distinct undercurrent of social angst and anger. But, hey, the Global Financial Crisis was kind to no-one, not least the British. And at least in the UK, unlike Australia, its people bother to notice their elected representatives’ corruption and contempt and voice their disapproval of such outrages. The whole “she’ll be right, mate” sentiment is something that must make our wealthy and powerful rub their fat pink hands with glee. Back to where I left off with the last blog post. . . .

Didn't go inside Shakespeare's Globe - too expensive

Didn’t go inside Shakespeare’s Globe – too expensive

Even with Google Maps streetview I really can’t figure out which Clapham pubs I’d been to during that Friday night in London with Kristy – a pretty friend of my half-sister and brother’s sister. Even memories of the first pub we visited, after leaving central London with her two full-bodied buddies, are hazy due to the amount of gin and tonic I was drinking. I remember enjoying myself immensely, though, and that the atmosphere was quite amiable – despite the fact that being a long way from home and escorting three women I barely knew through an area I knew even less well was a decidedly foreign experience for me. Still, we chatted and danced and drank and indulged in that time-standing-still atmosphere unique to Friday nights out or pleasant sexual experiences. The pub seemed a microcosm of that not-quite-eternal city; it was standing room only, unless you could actually find a seat on the sides of the room. We had, and it was warm inside so I’d removed my scarf, jacket and second jacket down to but a t-shirt and jeans. Not long before leaving entirely I stepped out for a cigarette quite bravely without wearing warm clothes and when I tried to return, they were closed. Of course the pub wasn’t actually closed, but that’s what the security staff told me. I said my friends and jacket were inside, but they were indifferent. So I stood there jumping slightly up and down with my arms crossed for warmth, until the meat-heads said I could go back inside to get my stuff, under one condition: they’d be following me. Naturally, once I’d taken a few steps inside and turned around to check I was being followed, the bouncers had lost interest and were nowhere to be seen. The fuckers were merely messing with the rare Australian guy who’d mindlessly followed a beautiful woman to Clapham.

London Bridge from the Thames south bank

London Bridge from the Thames south bank

So after I uncharacteristically kissed her friends goodbye European style (one kiss on each cheek), Kristy and I headed for hers via another pub to visit the bathroom and the abovementioned bus ride which could have turned ugly due to my indiscretion. Unbeknown to us, Kristy had lost her wallet at either the second pub’s toilet or simply anywhere within the first. We got back to her flat and I was all ready to make my move – I have no idea how but it’s happened before and hope I manage it again – when she discovered her wallet was gone. That’s a big thing these days. I mean all those cards can be painful to replace and anxiety-inducing to possibly have on someone else’s person. Actually, it probably was worse to lose a wallet back in the days in which money wasn’t electronic. But still, she was hardly pleased. And it was hard to pretend that the hour or two she spent on the phone with places she’d been that night – investigating the location of her misplaced treasured possession – were arousing in the slightest. At least her couch was comfy. In the morning. Well, 1pm really. The next afternoon I didn’t give her so much as a hug before I stepped out of her door and onto a street that was more bewildering than any I’d yet come across during the two months of the trip so far, because my smart phone and hence only real means of navigation had died. I regret not hugging her. At the time I was planning on seeing her again that night, for the 12 Pubs of Christmas. That, I should explain, involves while dressed as Santa visiting and having at least a couple of drinks at 12 pubs (or taverns or bars) – or as many pubs as you can before you wake up in bed the next morning dressed as a less-than-jolly Saint Nick, wondering what the fuck happened. I’ll explain later on why I regretfully didn’t make it to that event. It had something to do with an unplanned twilight stroll through the slums of east-London. I also regretted my phone being dead. Regardless, and filled with fragile confidence constantly battered by a savage hangover, I set forth boldly down the road with extremely little idea of either where I was or where I was going, surrounded by very Dickensian-looking inner-suburban London.

I would have taken photos of Clapham, had my phone not depleted its battery.  God knows my camera would have become lost/stolen, had I taken it. This is Westminster, backgrounded by a simply mesmerising dusk sky

I would have taken photos of Clapham, had my phone not depleted its battery. God knows my camera would have become lost/stolen, had I taken it.
This is Westminster, backgrounded by a simply mesmerising dusk sky