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England looked so beautiful from the air. Possibly an unremarkable observation if you live there, but for me it's pure Tolkien. Even the man-made rises fringing the runway, dotted with trees, was intensely and indulgently verdant. I first, properly, had a chance to be inside a forest when I was sixteen. I saw it from a distance at a school camp to Lake Tinaroo on the Atherton Tablelands north of Cairns. It was on the other side of the lake (that itself was manmade, the product of damming up the river and flooding the valley - submerging the Chinese goldmining community that had made the place their home. You can still dive what's left of the ruins.)

The buildings were on one side, the pine forest (again, a manmade plantation) was on the other. I had arranged to skive off something and attempt to walk around the lake. Figured it'd take hours but worth it if I could spend even five minutes vanished inside it. On that day I walked for hours, and never made it, though a stray dog kept me company the entire way. I'd seriously underestimated the distance and so headed back. Felt bad having to leave the dog, at the end.

A year or so later I arranged a camping trip with Eric and Drew. Got dropped off at the township and hiked around the lake. Finally go to sleep inside that forest.

Lifting off from Gatwick and looking out the window showed a countryside deeply emerald and carved into floppy squares by rounded, fluffy treelines. And, man, did I just want to get out and walk.

It wasn't until that moment, actually, lifting higher, that I properly realised just how long it would be before I was back in the UK. August at the earliest, possibly longer. Until then it had felt like I was just stepping out for a bit. And then, abruptly, it vanished beneath the clouds, green submerged beneath white, a flash of riverwater and that was that.

DK went back to Istanbul and walked the streets where his mother grew up, visited a few landmarks. It was quite a significant experience for him. I'd like to have the same. I think I'd like to feel some kind of connection to history, even if I can't sensibly claim any kind of role in it. I've had Russian cabbies assume I was Russian from my look, I've had Americans and English people assume wonder if I was French. It leaves me feeling a little insubstantial, not really knowing. Like I was built and installed, cold and abrupt and stand-alone, rather than concieved as part of a genetic continuity.

Captain just announced we're on approach. Holy crap, I can see the archipelago. It's beautiful.


May. 19th, 2010 11:46 pm
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Gatwick. Attempting to tap their wifi. Spent most of today on trains. A tad knackered. Three hour flight to Helsinki, navigate the bus system, catch up with J, shower and probably crash.

Net speed is better here I think. Might attempt to upload the last half of the Museum and Bridge albums.

I have no idea what time we fly to Berlin tomorrow. Was under the impression it was early-ish.

It was good talking writing with [ profile] cavalorn last night, actually. I think he and Dmetri would really hit it off.

Still no word on the cabin. It may not happen. Shame, but then half of Helsinki is a great big pine forest. Very much down with the idea of days spent hidden in it somewhere with a laptop, a thermos, sandwiches, and this goddamnmotherfucking manuscript. I mean, my art.

One of the things Adrian and I talked about was about the whole well-refilling thing when it comes to creating for a living. Been about as bone dry and sore as it's possible to be for a really long time. Noticed that nothing's really fazed me for a while now. Not working for the trip (despite the occasional token argh), not the technicalities, not volcanoes, not finding myself outside London by accident on a day when time's critical. It's all good. Still, I've yet to face the Terrible Finnish Language Barrier, but... eh. My only real concern is the fact that I havent yet hit on a hook for an article. Gotta be one there though.
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I'm sitting in a cafe, just before marching to the tube station to get a connecting train from St Pancras to Gatwick. Flight's on, so I'm off.

This morning I managed to miss London Bridge station and wound being catapulted deep into some seriously green and pleasant land. St. Alban's to be exact. Glad I got to see the countryside, at least. Even if I couldn't afford the time. But I made it back, narrowly avoided a fine in the process, packed, got the bartender to print my ticket and now I'm here.

Last night was one of the single best nights I've had in a really, really long time.

Adrian really is a dead ringer for a Hugo Weaving/Ian McKellen hybrid. We've been talking on and off since the alt.gothic-on-Fidonet days of the mid-Nineties. Fantastic to finally meet him. Good to see Dave after so long as well. London seems to suit him well. Karen was fun as ever - though I still remain unconvinced of the fundamental efficacy of engram transference in preserving an individual (did I even say that right?)

So we drank, talked a hell of a lot, laughed, drank, ranted, drank... Really must do it again. Hopefully in August. And now I really have to run.

May 18th - The Dev 002

Dev album (4 shots)
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No Cenotaph for me. Postcard day. Mailouts. Poot. I'm sure it'll keep. Even if Fateless gets nabbed I'll be back before the proofs stage.

Dev in 10. Hang in there, liver.
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It's drunk old man karaoke night, tonight, here at the Palace Hotel Ballroom.

Actually, pretty much everyone's going for it. Just listened to a flat, ear-splitting rendition of 'Perhaps'.


I lack the words to describe what it's like realising I have 3 hours in which to experience the British Museum. I imagine it's a little like what a bibliophile feels as a library burns. What do I save? How long do I have? Which items are the most important? If I make it back in August I'm setting two days aside. It's quite simply the most incredible museum I've ever been in.

British Museum 17th May 193


Before that, though, I stopped back at the Bishopsgate Pret to get a sandwich on the way back from Matt's. There was a woman sitting at the table next to mine: middle-aged, a bit weathered, beige pantsuit, had the kind of perm that just looked like she'd left the house in a rush. Was making business notes in a newsagent-bought red hardcover, and her phone was probably a generation too old to keep up with the Joneses in a leather slipcase that showed just a little too much wear. I had my coffee, read, and then the person she was waiting for turned up: young, tall, a good dark-blue suit, expensive tie, groomed. Looked like Draco Malfoy by way of Gordon Gecko. The woman's attitude flipped from quiet and studios to chirpy-desperate. The guy, however, was a professional wall of slate. I think this was my first look at a very specific kind of British fear. At first I couldn't work out if this was a blind date, or if she was somehow answerable to him, or if she was actually interviewing him for a position and doing a pretty bad job of it she was so desperate for approval. If I'd seen this sort of chatty desperation in a film I might wonder if it was a bit much. And throughout it all Mr. Malfoy only took the occasional note with his good pen in a clean ledger strapped into his black leather zip-up valise. It was... well, it seemed a bit like sorcery from where I was sitting. Never seen the like.


Apparently Andrew Lloyd-Weber has written a sequen to The Phantom of the Opera. It's called Love Never Dies. It's running here at the moment. Blurbs seem positive, but never been a fan of musicals.


An Australian and an Argentinian girl are talking to the rockabilly barman at the moment. One lost an iPod, the other lost a bunch of pounds and pesos. They think a couple of residents here went through their gear and ripped them off. Spiffy. Looks like I'm spending another night with my gear stuffed under the blanket near my feet.


After the museum I headed to Hungerford Bridge. A few people have looked at me oddly when I mentioned wanting to get there, pointing out there's 'better bridges' in London. It wasn't about the bridge: it was about the position and the time of day. Leigh and Dmetri both have a soft spot for it - it's something quintessentially London for them - so I got there yesterday a little after 8 (but not before wandering through Leicester Square, Picadilly Circus, and walking down a long street to have Trafalgar Square slowly reveal itself the way it did the last time I was here. That was really lovely actually, just hanging out there for twenty minutes and watching people crawl all over the lions.)

May 17th Afternoon - Museum, Squares, Bridge 010

So I crossed the Square and got onto Northumberland Avenue and climbed the stairs up to the bridge. Hungerford Bridge, really, is a set of double train lines with a walkway to either side. One side gives a 180-degree view to the south, and the other to the north (houses of parliament, Big Ben, the Eye, etc.) Both sides fill the vision, the light is soothing and beautiful, the air is cool, and everything feels like it's the way it's supposed to be. You can take in most of the city with a single glance. I recommend it.

While I was standing there I realised I was phasing in and out of the conversations people were having as they walked past.

A girl in her thirties talking to a guy: "You can't write a character with a good vocabulary if you don't have one yourself. Do you know what I mean?"

Two white-haired old ladies: "But he did what he said he was going to, so that's all right."

Two tall, young, thin guys in pinstripe pants: "Slightly?!"
"The things he comes out with. The best homosexual character on TV by far."

Two husky guys speaking animatedly in Russian.

Two American women: "It's funny. But it's so poignant. But what I use Starbucks for is wireless."

A scruffy, unshaven guy in an anorak carrying a bottle in a paper bag talking to his female counterpart: "Are you a damn sight safer innat?"
"Well I..."
"Are you safer innat? Imagine if you called me..."

Two women in their late twenties with an accent I couldn't place: ""
"And you're ready for action!"
"I take... I take two days off so I sleep. And sober."

May 17th Afternoon - Museum, Squares, Bridge 037

May 17th Afternoon - Museum, Squares, Bridge 056

Trafalgar/Hungerford album here.


Today me, Cav, Dave and Karen finally get the Dev thing happening. Looking forward to it.


Evidently MTV has not one but two reality shows about teen pregnancy: Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant. I know this because they've both been on above the bar while I've been writing this.


Today I was supposed to get to the Cenotaph and actually walk through a running action scene I blocked into Fateless. Make sure it actually works. I researched the locale heavily - right down to emailing the curators of the main building I used - but nothing beats being there. Hopefully I'll make it. Yesterday's photos are taking forever to upload. Thinking I shouldnt have upped the image quality of the shots. May have to downcrank it again. I only wish I had a better idea of what they actually look like. The Eee is a great little thing, but it can't compare to a 22" screen. (Actually, this is goingt to take hours. The shots are only 2 meg. Must be the connection. I'll upload the rest later.)


So I got back late last night, after the bridge, and checked in around 9 - just in time to miss the kitchen. Grabbed a kebab instead, got a Wild Turkey and Coke and sat down to read. A woman sat down on the couch across the room with a half-empty pitcher of something. She wasn't drunk, just seemed bummed. All the action was in the other room, I was dead on my feet, packed the laptop and on the way out asked if she was okay. She told me just moved back here from Malta, got a job in a stall just outside the bar and that tonight was her first date with a friend of a friend. He'd ignored her all night, she hates London and wondered if there was any way she was ever going to get out of here. Decided she was finishing her drink and going home as she's not a mug. At which point her date rematerialises from the other room, sees me, and that's really all it takes to renew his interest in her. She thanks me for listening, gives me her Facebook address, kisses me on the cheek and heads out with him. I felt really sad for her. She wasn't naive, must have been late twenties or early thirties... if anything she seemed like she was all too familiar with the depressing way the world works and just kind-of sucks it up and gets on with getting on. I wished her well but knew there was no way on Earth that was going to end well.


DK gave me the address for an editor at The Age RE doing a few travel articles. I need to get onto that.


Breakfast today consists of two large burgers and a half of Kronenberg.


This detailed update spanning 12 hours or more courtesy of crap upload speeds.


No volcano news (can't get the Easyjet site to load - probably overtrafficked), but if Gatwick shuts I'm considering chunnelling it to Paris and flying direct to Berlin.


British Museum Album Part I

Trafalgar/Hungerford Album Part I
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Today's fun hostel feature: whenever a drunkard bumps into the panic bar on the fire escape every alarm in the building goes off. This happened three times during the night and twice over breakfast.

Woke at 8, recharged and updated over Corn Flakes, got a proper breakfast down the road and then tubed it to Liverpool Street Station via Moorgate. [ profile] ed_dirt was meeting me on Bishopsgate Road in two hours so I found a Pret with access to the Cloud and got a coffee. Tried to reorient myself on where I was with Fateless, wound up feeling desperately lost. Couldn't remember what the hell I was doing with it. Had a better grip on it after an hour or so. Got a text from R, who was curled in bed in Melbourne trying to stay warm. Put a smile on my face. Watched a scene unfold in the eatery as I was packing up: a tall French guy with a Seventies-era cop moustache-and-shades, wearing a blue Autobot hoodie, kaleidoscope pants and golden shoes was trying to fast-talk something out of the manager for free. As I left she came over and asked if I'd like a coffee. I explained I was okay and about to leave. She said it was on the house and I could take it with me. So that was pretty cool.

Matt was waiting for me where we agreed and he took me over to the Ten Bells just off Fournier(?) Street. Next to a 3-400 year old church. Great place to drink and in all likelihood older than my actual country. At one point I needed to use the bathroom and discovered the place was actually built atop what can only be described as a secret piss dungeon. Impressively awful enough that I had to take pictures. The only wandering monster I encountered while wading through the ammonial miasma was a half-drunk punter who seemed to ask himself 'what is this leather-jacketed man doing down here with a camera?'

Matt's one of those people who are really easy to talk to, and we back-and-forthed for about ten hours about... God, what did we talk about? Travel, England, prison, relationships, absent fathers, comedy, literature, movies, life and death, photography, Cuba, France, Germany, growing up, small towns, booze, drugs, mistakes, Jack the Ripper, Huegenots, kids, cats....

He and his wife were good enough to put me up in their seriously beautiful place, two of his four cats colonised me, Matt made a tasty-as-hell fish dinner and eventually we passed out a little after midnight.

Woke this morning, had a cup of coffee, said goodbyes and wandered back down Brick Lane. The previous night Matt had pointed out the Standard as the best curry place in London. He took Tom Waits' tour manager there once and the guy was blown away. Dmetri's been telling me for nine years now that I need to get a curry from Spitalfields, and I've missed it again. It was 9am when I walked past. Even if it hadn't been shut at that hour I couldn't have faced curry for breakfast.

Rather than walk staight back to Liverpool Street Station I wandered around, found Petticoat Lane as the vans were unloading the stalls for the day. Just walked around with the sun on my face. But I do want to get to the British Museum today, so I cut it short, took a few shots and then headed back to Camden. Better get moving.

The ash cloud has shut down Heathrow again, but so far Gatwick flights to Helsinki are still operating.

Full Flickr album here.
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I write to you from here.

The punks in Camden remind me a little of that gorilla from Ishmael (the movie adaptation at least): domesticated, and unaware of it. I walked out of the tube station the first day I was here and there's a full-kit punk standing, holding a sign reading 'Ask this man about Dr Marten's boots'. The next day there's a couple more, and charging tourists for photographs.

You haven't really had the hostel experience until you book a bunk, enter the dorm, and find the three frat boys youre sharing with have managed to sleep in all 8 bunks and used yours to store beer.

Both Adrian and David couldn't make it yesterday, so Karen and I met at the Dev before heading to Slimelight. And then someone I knew from Melbourne walked in the door. Fucking weird. Talked for two straight hours, traded contact details, and I came away with the rising conviction that I might be able to live in Berlin for a year.

I love the Dev. There's just no place like it in Melbourne, or Australia really. It's the Gothpunk embassy. We own it. It's great. Inside, outside, spilling onto the street drinking, laughing, hugging, the way it used to be in Brisbane in the mid-Nineties before the entire scene vanished up its own half-smart boutique sensibility. Effing brilliant, seriously. And some seriously striking-looking people.

Went to Slimelight. They opened early as it was the final UK gig ever for Voices of Masada. They were supported by Mumbles (2-piece, v.good impersonation of early-era Eldritch, right down to the Porsche sunglasses), and Luxury Stranger (the best of the three). Watching them set up I figured we were in for something heavily Cure inspired, if his hair and paunch were any indicator. Turns out I was only partly-right: Luxury Stranger sounds like what The Cure would sound like if they let go. Singer came on with thick whiteface and a red-painted hunter's mask across his eyes. Wasn't sure about it until they started. The paleface gave him a kind of Pinhead-esque cast to his face and mouth, and once he started sweating the mask bled thick and red down his face. Combined with their energy and the exultant sound of the music... pretty damned good. Worth a listen. I bought their CD. If you ever have the chance to see them live I'd definitely recommend them. I took a few photos.

Flights out of Belfast have been canceled due to volcanic ash clouds. They say London will be shut down on Tuesday, but probably clear come Wednesday. I fly out for Helsinki on Wednesday. 12 hours later we fly to Berlin. If Gatwick closes I may have to just flat-out buy a new flight straight to Berlin or Leipzig depending on when it clears.

I really don't want to miss Berlin. I've always known this trip was legwork and research and recon. I really want to know Berlin.

The Irish bartender here looks like Erik the Red, loves goth, usually wears dark blue eye makeup and tells me the one place an acupuncturist won't touch is the tongue. Apparently a misplaced tongue piercing can paralyse the face for life, poison the blood, or give you a somethingorother endocarditis - meaning your heart valves rot but all you get are flu symptoms. He had his done, his mother flipped, and at that point he went into a tongue-piercing-related seizure. Had to go to the doctor and get it removed with pliers because it'd scabbed over. Had to bargain with the doctor not to tell his father as they were best friends.

OK, laptop charging. Two hours work, then off to meet Matt at Liverpool station.
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Last night we drank pints of good English cider and watched the sun go down over Camden Lock. I'm going to walk around today and take a few shots for Fateless verisimilitude (not that I really need it at this stage. It's just a kick being back here so long after writing that scene.)

London Leg May 13-15th 2010 061

Kicking myself that I didn't align the photo more carefully but... eh.

I keep thinking about Doha though. It was so goddamned desolate. Dry, hard-packed clay. The whole place was one big hazy pancake of it. Made me want to just pick a direction and walk. Wishing I'd gotten some shots out the window on approach (instead of departure) as the architecture of the area really leapt out: the kind of boxy, narrow, stepped, rectilenear architecture you just don't see in the Western world - themselves arranged in rectileaner plug-and-play patterns. And some beautiful salmon-pink mosques contrasting with the sandy colour of everything else. It was really something.

The contrast between Doha from the air and London really got me as well.

Flickr album here. Maybe 15 shots. Can't really correct or mess with them on a Eee, but I probably will once I get home.

OK, better do some Fateless before the market, then the Dev. Turns out [ profile] reddragdiva can't make it due to last minute family things, which is a shame.


May. 15th, 2010 02:59 am
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Well I'm in London after a 24-hour flight. High point: getting enough sleep to roughly be in synch over here. Low point: dropping toothbrush on the floor of an airliner's toilet.

I'm in the bar at Belushi's on Camden High Street. The bartender just looked up how to make a flat white. The degree to which he got it wrong is kind of adorable. It's in a massive mug and tastes like roast dirt, but I kinda need it. Also, as I walked in they were playing Mother Russia. Now it's that band Bret Anderson had whose name utterly escapes me for some reason. The track's Animal Nitrate, at any rate.

In the time it took to get the coffee two people actually ordered pints of Fosters. One with lime. Had a moment of feeling like I was standing in the Australialand exhibit at Disneyworld. I think the last time I actually saw Fosters advertised we'd just gotten our first colour TV.

Everything's pretty much as I remember it here. Striking how much it felt like I've never really left, even though I was only here for 2 weeks ten years ago. I think I'm actually in the same dorm as well.

No idea when I'll be able to post this. The place has free wireless but it doesn't actually seem to work.

I'm off in half an hour to meet [ profile] valkyriekaren at the Dev, then go get something to eat I think.

J texted me excitedly, saying she's got the WGT tickets. I think we'll be there this time next week...? I think?

Wishing I didnt have a book to write, but I think this could be a good thing. I'll let you know how that goes, but I'll keep it brief.

R gave me a bunch of experiential assignments to do while I was away, and I'll post the homework here. I think it'll be cool. I told DK about it and he asked if I'd do something for him. He wants me to stand on the Hungerford Bridge at dusk. He said I'd understand why when I did it.

Turns out we were supposed to go to Manchester after Edinburgh, but J's going to head to the Netherlands instead. I think that gives me 18 days spare, which means either I'll be able to do Paris with DK (or by myself) and/or Amsterdam, come home a little early if the cash is hurting, or maaaaybe do Cairo if that somehow works out. I may also do that at the end of July, not sure. Depends if R gets there or not.

Hey, the net just woke up. Might send this while I can.

In short: I'm alive, I'm awake, I'm about to go have fun.


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