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Monday 24th, 2010. 2:23pm. Caffe Ritazza, Hauptbahnhof, Leipzig.
Marek doesn't have any net connection whatsoever. Dunno if that's a floor-height thing, a building thing or a Marek thing. Probably the latter.

Scanned the train station from the iPhone, found a few open connections, so bought a slice of landkuchen and a black coffee. Two old ladies sharing the bench with me, people-watching. Chuckling at the six foot bald guy in black plastic pants, furry jacket and Cleopatra makeup. Then the next, and the next. Kind-of sweet actually. After nineteen years I think the locals are finally beginning to enjoy having WGT here once a year.

Last night was the last night for me. I could go see Gitane Demone - she's the only act left that's really caught my eye - but we've got to be on a train for Dresden at 7am tomorrow morning. J's off with Marek, Richard and co to check out some experimental stuff. I've got four days of backlog to clear, the editor at the Age to email, the website to update (way overdue), three days worth of photos to transfer and a city to wander around which I haven't really had a chance to do yet.

So last night I was at Agra, about as far from the middle of Leipzig as you can get. Massive agricultural show area usually. Saw Faith and the Muse (very good), Diary of Dreams (absolute standout), Lacrimosa (showy, I left after two songs) and Alien Sex Fiend (really very good, but they came on at 2am and we had to leave halfway through.)

Diary of Dreams was absolutely the best though. That's where I had my WGT experience, right there. Brilliant, just brilliant stuff.

Quickly learned to get to the front-ish of any crowd by spotting the biggest guys moving where I want to go and hitching a ride on their bow-wake. Got decent shots as a result, and loved the gigs.

Something I jotted down during Diary of Dreams: "My feet ache but my soul is elevated. Once in bed the situation will be reversed."

Random Stuff

'Fat' in German is 'Fett'. No idea what 'Boba' translates as.

'Grog' is German for a hot-water-and-rum toddy.

Seriously. Diary of Dreams. Holy hell.
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Turns out the kebab joint down the street is entirely vegan. LOTS of goth traffic from the Felsenkeller venue across the street. J's been speaking Deutsche to the owner - a skinny, bearded and likeable long- haired fellow - and I just worked out he's Californian.

'Ein currywurst mit frittes und ein schwartzkaffe, bitte.'
'Sorry man, we're totally out of frittes. They have a habit of running out. Can do you bread though.'

I pretty much laughed my arse off.

So breakfast that morning, however, was vegan curywurst and fries in a remoulade. FRICKIN' TASTY. One thing J said that's dead on: when the Germans do something they do it right, and they really do organic well. Nothing half-arsed. With an organic lemonade. Cheap too. 4.5 euro. They play Motorhead and Biohazard. The skinny guy spends all day dishing up plates of hot fake meat and rich red sauce, everyone likes him.

They have a thing they do in bars over here: you may a deposit on your glass. You get it back when you return it. Saves on cleaning. Smart.

Felsenkeller hosted most of the gigs we were after and it was only 2 blocks away. Beer very soapy, however.

We saw Twisted Nerve (really good, and methinks the lead singer fashions himself on King Mob), Bollock Brothers (not too bad in a scousy, middle-aged football hooligan-by-way-of-punk kinda way), Madre del Vizio (godawful), Bloody Dead and Sexy (I left halfway through, J bought their CD) and Sexgang Children (polished, arty up the wazoo, Andy Sexgang reminds me of Dmetri after a lot of drugs and no quality control.) Again, photos, bandwidth.

Kebab joint working overtime at night as the street chokes with goths. Guys and girls in hoodies and kaffirs resting on longboard skateboards sit outside, on the sidewalk, eating massive pitabread falafel with both hands, laughing amongst themselves. One takes notes or sketches or something.

iPhone now keeping track of five timezones. Don't want to text someone at 3am their time.

One thing I like about the UK and Europe: old ladies bring their dogs into pubs and cafes. Just feels comfortingly sane.

Nary a tram ride where I haven't overheard the word 'schwartz' from a local.

When I do lapse into English out of desperation I find myself doing so in a softly-spoken Spanish - and only occasionally - German accent.

We skipped the club, knowing we'd be wrecked for tomorrow.
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Saturday, 22nd May, 2010.
Last night was spent down at the Felsenkeller (again, holy crap the buildings.) I'll upload photos, again, once I get the bandwidth. The linked website doesn't do justice to the atmosphere of the place once kitted out with a stage, amps, lighting system and a shitload of discarded booze and trash at the front door.

We wound up seeing Decadence and Joy of Life, both perfectly terrible. It only got better from here.

After that we trammed it into the city, J and I had a couple of long coffees at a beautiful little place and then walked to the annual 3-night WGT club 'When We Were Young.'

Walking in was a scene anyone who has ever watched a vampire film set in the modern day is familiar with. Arched doorway, dark inside. Eyes adjust to reds and blacks as the pound gets louder. Through another door, out onto a mezzanine, music deafening, and looking over the balcony a writhing and strobing dancefloor presents itself.

It was ludicrous just how quickly an idiot grin slapped itself on my face. It was exactly like stepping through from one side of the screen to the other.

In short: three levels, great music - all of it new - and the crowd had made an effort. A real effort. Trad punks, lingerie goths, candy ravers, angels of death, loose-clothed boys with backpacks, Russians dressed like sex assassins, the trenchcoat brigade, you name it. That's the club we walked home from, mentioned in my 'dawn' assignment from the last post. I didnt take a camera to it though, alas.
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I'd love to illustrate the next few entries with photos, but I'll have to link to them later. The upload speed here is dreadful, so it's taking hour to get Flickr updated.

Friday 21st May, 2010. 1:46pm. Berlin.
Had about 3 hours sleep in the 48 prior to last night, and the lead in to that was pretty much a solid week of bad sleep anyway. Last night we shuttered all the windows, made the loft black as black, and passed out for nine hours. Woke feeling a bit drugged, but the foot-and-a-half of clouded remove that had settled on me was gone. The air was getting in and the sunlight was letting me see. Nice. Now I feel like I've arrived. Just in time to leave for four days, but we'll be back in Berlin for five after that.

I learned more German in one day as a result of being put up by a man who speaks very little English than I would have in a six-week course I think. I'm still at the point were suddenly needing to use German results in me falling back on English, only to remember the German phrasing two seconds after doing so. But the fact that I managed to go from zero to semi-competent in one day on heavy exhaustion... not too shabby. J seems to think I'm picking it up really quickly, and I have to admit that navigating the place in German does leave me feeling all cosmopolitan and shit. It's actually a really beautiful language, with a really lovely texture, that's gotten something of a bad rap aesthetically.

I never before noticed the German habit of using 'so' as a thinking word. I'm hearing it about the place but Klaus did it all the time. His place is very quiet - it was just him while we were there as his wife was out of town - and I'd periodically hear this deep, stentorian and warm "Zzooohh..." roll out from some other room. Made me think of some likeable giant, the Rockbiter from Neverending Story or Ludo summoning the rocks. It was really quite a sweet thing to hear every now and then.

We're getting a lift to Leipzig via the automotive equivalent of CouchSurfing. Klaus' mysterious and absent daughter Daisy arranged it for us. And then we're staying in a six-person sharehouse for WGT, which is going to be something of a party joint I think. I'm someone who needs a dose of space at least once a day usually, and all the gigs are at night, so as long as I remember to slow down a little when I can and then get into everything else when it happens I think I'll wind up having a really good time. Much as I love learning a new language I'm hoping to meet some English speakers at WGT. My brain could use the break.

Dinner with Klaus last night at his favourite restaurant around the corner. Owner knows him. Had appetisers of fried sardines, veal in a cream sauce with capers and eggplant. I had the salmon with white asparagus. Amazingly good. Klaus had something more practical and traditional and I think J had the pasta. Toward the end of the meal Klaus' friend Katja came in and joined us for a glass of wine. She hasn't spoken English in a long time but does it well. Obviously nervous using it though. Ex-journalist, escaped from East Berlin when she was 17. Aside from a short stint living in scattered townships she's been a Berliner all her life. She lives in the apartments right next door to Klaus' shop. Hard not to imagine she secretly harbours feelings for him, given their close and affectionate friendship and the way she dotes on him, but that may just be me being obvious.

She told us about the family of swallows that nested in her eaves during winter, and on her balcony I think, in a pile of pine needles. Burrowed in. Would wake her every morning with birdsong, and when she opened her balcony doors she was greated with a great gusting cloud of swallows taking flight. She became quite attached to them. Says there are two she keeps an eye on, and named them both. Can't remember the names, but they were aristocratic and sweet.

We wanted to pay, Klaus beat us to it.

Next morning we ate breakfast at a bookstore cafe. I understood enough of the menu to see all the breakfast stuff involved cheese, meat and bread. So it was pumpkin seed and white bread for me, with thin slices of hot spiced salami, good Swiss, cream cheese, proscuitto and black coffee. Surprisingly not heavy and kept me going most of the day.

After that we returned to Klaus' apartments, J finished some work, I wrote an entry for this, we squared our gear and were farewelled at the door. Klaus shook my hand, kissed me once on each cheek and then we walked for the U-Bahn with our packs. Sad to think I probably won't see him again, and wished yet again I'd spoken better German.

I made an album of how we spent the day before leaving. The shots are annotated so I'll let them do the talking.


Around 3:30-4:00pm
Three-lane highway in either direction. I'm in a van, headed toward Leipzig. Two hour drive. J took shotgun to keep the driver company, given she speaks the language. Turns out to have been unnecessary as it's all happening in English. Deep, deep forests line the highway to either side. The occasional expansive green (or vivid yellow canola) field slides past. Techincolour beyond belief, even muted through the anti-UV tint.

The van has three rows of seating, I'm in the middle passenger-side. There is a Vietnamese couple behind me with a toddler in a capsule seat. She's pregnant, he has the look of a man resigned to his fate and seeks solitude in his earphones, and the kid is a giggling screamer but she seems to have a handle on keeping him hushed.

J and the driver talk education, goths, the weekend, the social system. I join in briefly and occasionally but the sound of the engine makes it difficult to contribute or even follow sometimes. Glad she did though. Still not used to the driver being on the side opposite to what I'm used to. If I'd volunteered shotgun I would have definitely gone and climbed into the driver's seat by mistake. Could have been hilarious. -ly awkward.

Wind farm up ahead.

So much hotter here than I expected.

Wind turbines widely spaced in a broad, deep field of green. Oversized. Like they're the only real things in the picture and we're all scale models down here. A dozen fans turn blades the length of lorries slowly and majestically in perfect, natural synch with one another. I think these things might just be the first manmade things I've seen in a long time that I consider to be both practical and truly beautiful. It's like watching twelve collosal, peaceful... things... turn to face their God against a flawless blue sky. My brother told me a German company has been hired to install a windfarm just north of Cooktown on the windiest point in the country - an old lighthouse promontory that families have been going to for ages. Everyone's angry it's going to make the place ugly. I can't imagine these things making anywhere ugly. I look at them and everything is suffused with "Its okay. Everything's going to be okay."

But yeah, it's hot: 22 degrees C. Which is cold by Melbourne standards but it's bright, and I'm sweating in my jacket. Gonna do this light.

New commando pants are serving well. Cash and receipts on left leg, phone and Moleskine and passport and map on right.

Passing Worlitz turnoff (how the hell do I get an umlaut on this thing?) God canola makes for a beautiful field, especially sectioned up by green bush and treelines half submerged in all that sunny Picasso-like colour.

Crossing the Elbe.

Random: a tiny, white, boxy, old-style two-floor house(?) overlooking a field by the river. Massive green plate, tiny white impractical folly feature. Narrow white bike trail running across the precarious-seeming top of the winding green 'dam' between the field and the river. Could look in the top floor of the 'house' from there.

Might visit Dresden before returning to Berlin. Klaus' inspiration is the collection housed in the castle there. He showed us a thick Teschen hardcover of what the castle contains. Spoils of war for August the Strong I believe. And gifts. When I get internet connectivity I'll see if I can find something online about it and post a link.

Invented a new word today: "Stahlbrotchen" (again, need extended character set): translates (I think, roughly) as "buns of steel.) We did a lot of walking yesterday, I did a lot of walking before that, and the apartment in Leipzig is at the top of five flights of winding stairs with no lift.

So, Stahlbrotchen.

I can see a farmer alongside a field, driving a flat wagon pulled by a team of two horses.


Around 5:30pm.
Driver dropped us off at the carpark across from the magnificent train station. A line of goths qeueing to get their wristbands from a demountable office placed there.

Got that sorted then headed into the station. Needed a map to find the apartment.

The interior of the train station - the main space - is mostly a two-tier shopping mall with the trains on the top level. It is goddamned gorgeous. Vaulted, gothic, and I realised that stuff like this was going to be everywhere. Also, the place was filled with people in black, with neon extensions or fuzzed-out leg-warmers, or PVC whatever or facepaint or leather and studs. It was a mallpopulated by 50% regulars and 50% schwartzenkinder (I just made that up.) It was actually really, really funny in a warm and fuzzy way. A mall half-full of stylish revenants doing really banal things, like buying pizza, recharging mobile phones, reading a paper, whatever. The locals are clearly used to it but still a bit amused. And a lot of the more mainstream stores have thei black stuff propped up in the windows.

Finally found a map by leaving the station and hitting the lobby of the Novotel across the street. Decided we need food. Had just sat down to get a plate of pasta and a glass of red when J's mobile got a text: Marek (the guy we're staying with) was leaving for his gig in 40 minutes. Reslung the packs, headed out, crossed the street, deciphered the tram network, and made it here just as he and his fellow musicians were leaving (Marek plays acoustic in a four-piece folk outfit called... Quellenthal? I'll check for a link once I get the 'net happening.)

May 21st 2010 - Leipzig Day 1 066
Marek on the left. Nowhere near as sombre in real life. Quite the opposite.


Morning of Saturday, 22nd May, 2010. Around 5:30am. Walking from Statdtisches Kaufhaus near Augustusplatz in the centre of town to Kathe-Kolwitz-Strasse to catch a tram back to Marek's.
Before I left R gave me some assignments to do while away. One was to wake early enough to witness a sunrise, and describe the experience from start to finish. I realise now that what I noted as we walked wasn't exactly the experience of the sunrise but the experience of trying to get home at sunrise. I'll have to do this again. Anyway, here's an expanded version of what I tapped out as we walked:

Exited 'When We Were Young' (WGT's annual club/party that runs all three nights.) North on Neumarkt. Silence. J's boots. Street cleaner with trolley. Pale cobbles. Classic German architecture. Valleys of cut stone blocks and arched windows. Steel light. Chilly. Cold PVC pants. Click click. No one else around. Stopped for directions by a likeable guy, looking for directions to WWWY. Passed by lone cyclist. Pommes Genuss stand lit but shackled. Trash blankets the cruciform park we passed on the way to the club, back when it was dark. Squads and squads of rowdy, organised drunks had colonised it, making it their own, and now they were gone. Pigeons feeding on McDonalds wrappers, picking their way through clear glass bottles and smashed glass. The whirr of the Pommes stand's heating unit. Old lady pushes a trash cart past the white cafe tables to our right. Cathedral in salmon-pink light. A lone cab hushes past. Flock of pigeons from the park swoop past us from behind, through the wide plaza space. Four people wait for a tram, talking animatedly. We keep walking. Ravens fight on cafe tables. I photograph a chair installation. We get to the tram stop we need. There's a couple there, laughing. 20 minutes til next tram. We walk to the 13 route instead. Wandering ponygoth checks the timetable there, waits, leaves. Across the street a man places a thin vase on the gutter lip and phoographs teh flower leaning in it. We wait. Traffic. Tired. Sore feet. Longing for shower and sleep. 3 minutes to tram. Big building with moat sits across from us. Green letters read 'Kommunaler Sozialverband Sachsen'. Photograph dome and spires at far end of curving street with the iPhone against morning light. Tram arrives. Deep Hum. 15 and 7. Need 13 or 3. Sun glints off metal, blinding. Cold out here. Tram arrives, we leave.
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Currentlz in <Leipyig wrestling with a QWERTZ lazout kezboard.  It's a bit conusing.  Cant respond to LJ stuf here but will do properlz sometime in the next coupla of dazs.  Have a good one!
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Landed at 9:20pm Helsinki-time last night. Sun about twenty degrees from the horizon, a smeared molten ball behind the clouds throwing out cold shadows in hot light.

May 19th 2010 - Enroute to Helsinki 008


Called J, let her know I was in, grabbed my pack from the turnstile and found the 615 Keskuseen bus. Had the stop name, but counted it as the 18th from the airport just to be safe. Proud of myself that I spotted it nine actual stops in and got off.

J met me, we went upstairs, I met Trond, Aano and Outi, witnessed a boot crisis, packed for Leipzig, we got three hours sleep with the sky still light at 1:30am and were on a bus at 5. At the airport by 5:30, and noticed a bunch of other people in black, with challenging haircuts, obviously traveling on a similiar itinerary. By 6:30 we were airborne. 9:30 we were in Berlin. Klaus picked us up at the airport. J considers he and his wife her German parents. He struggles with English, but then I struggle with German, so with J in the middle we make do okay. Been here a day and I'm already conversing semi-okay with people in stores and the like. German is much easier than French.

So Klaus takes us back to his place. Honestly, I couldn't lie about this and keep a straight face. Klaus is an artist working in reclaimed ivory, Chinese antiques, jewels, coral, and sundry other things and sells his works to Hermes and the like in Rome, Paris, Shanghai and elsewhere. His place is by the river, his front room is loaded with art and artefacts like a chair he made from antlers, swordfish snouts mounted on jade plinths, barracuda skulls projecting golden jeweled lances from their mouths, 100-year-old ivory horses from China... the list goes on. We get the place to ourselves for a week once we get back from WGT. I'll snap a few shots.

Klaus served us really good coffee in Moroccan china, pieces of rough-snapped chocolate, Blanc & Noir chocolates, and cookies. So sleep was out.

IMG_0476


J and I went for a walk after while Klaus retreated downstairs to his workshop. Walked by the river, through the gardens, saw camels through a gap in the fence, visited a cathedral that was blasted to ruin in WW2 (and I got 2 Grand Marnier crepes that were so goddamned delicious and sensual to eat it was almost criminal)...

May 19th 2010 - Enroute to Helsinki 079


... and now we're in a bookstore drinking more coffee and doing netstuff before heading out to look for clothes. And tonight we're in an Italian restaurant, which is apparently very good.

And tomorrow we hitch a lift to Leipzig.

When we get back I want to check out a bar in a hotel on the Alexanderplatz that Matt recommended. World's largest fuckoff aquarium. 4-storeys tall. Barracuda and the like.

And finally: we passed this on the way to the Cathedral. The plan is to find someplace on the night that has people, a widescreen TV, and is serving booze.
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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.

Random

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 [livejournal.com 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 my...free 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: "...rest."
"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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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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. [livejournal.com 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 [livejournal.com profile] reddragdiva can't make it due to last minute family things, which is a shame.

London

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 [livejournal.com 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.

Gertrude's

May. 9th, 2010 12:47 pm
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Photos fromthe going-away thing are up here. I'm only sorry I forgot about the camera 'til halfway through the night; there's a bunch of people I wish I'd snagged shots of.

(And if there's any shots of you on there you'd rather weren't, just let me know and I'll take them down.)

New York

Mar. 21st, 2010 09:36 pm
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Just booked the flight. I land at Newark, Tuesday 29th June at 2:20pm. That'll give me time to swan around the city, be there for the 4th, hopefully meet Howard if he hasn't lit out for the holidays and then get my arse to Cleveland.

I depart New York on the 20th of July. I figure that gives time after getting back from Lebowskifest (Christ, I never in a million years thought I'd be going to that - which is AWESOME in its randomness) to hop a flight and all the rest.


The best thing about all this? It wasn't happening five days ago. And now it's bought and paid for.

THIS IS WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. FUCKIN' YAWP!


PS: Got the idea that at some point I want to take an icebreaker from Argentina to Antarctica. Wondering if an acquaintance still spends six months at a research station in the area. Beginning to feel like the purpose of my life is to learn how to travel anywhere for sod all.

I AM LOVING THIS.
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