A short preamble: Once again it’s taken far too long… hence it’s hardly a weekly review. As this seems to be how these posts work I found the new title more appropriate: It better describes what I’m writing about and gets rid of counterproductive temporary constraints. It is, of course, also a nod to one of my greatest teachers, the inimitable (and rather fictional) Dr. Faustroll, founder of the science of ‘pataphysics.
As always, I hope you enjoy my ramblings:
Autumn has always been my favourite season. It may be, because of childhood priming based around my October birthday. It may be for other reasons. Maybe it’s that purported Austrian morbidness, a pleasure of watching nature get ready for the death of Winter. All, of course, ideally while sitting cuddled up in man-made warmth as rain and wind create a Ganzfeld effect conducive soundtrack. And that’s pretty much how it is on this first day of Autumn 2018 as I’m – finally – setting out to writing this long overdue post, looking back on much more than the events of one week, while listening to some music I haven’t put on in aeons.
I do admit I had a first incomplete draft already, but that one ended between the rock of writer’s block and the hard place of aporia. This morning I woke up with the realisation that it was better to start anew. And thus, what better motive to set out with, than a reflection on that penultimate of seasons.
Funny enough, as I scrolled through my Instagram stream, I came across the following quote, which – synchronicity? – seemed to support the idea: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” – Albert Camus. Now this did look a bit, pardon the pun, flowery for a French existentialist, who usually would do a better job at hiding the shreds of romanticism underlying their philosophy. And so I googled for a confirmation of the source. It turns out, this really is taken from Camus writings, from his play The Misunderstanding (Le Malentendu) 1944. But it does looks somewhat different in context. Read more about this here! Another quote about autumn that I encountered all over social media, especially Twitter, are the following lines from Keats’ Ode to Autumn (1920):
“While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;”
Although, my personal favourite would probably be:
“Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–”
Not the least, although that’s quite a jump in reference, because Autumn is a great time for music, with a lot of new records/songs being released. But more on that further down.
Keats, of course – and it is partly for this segue that I bring him up here -, is one of the celebrity alumni of King’s College London and once lived in a house near that University’s Guy’s Campus where these days I work in the library. There autumn means start of term, a influx of hopeful new students and the return of the more seasoned ones and, generally, the busiest time of year for us librarians. Which is why I decided on a little getaway before it all goes down.
After I had already been south (Lisbon) this year, I decided the way to go was up north: Scotland, home of the Highland Single Malt, Angus beef, cliches of men in kilts playing the bagpipe (based on truth to some extent, I’m afraid) and already a while on my list of destinations. It wasn’t my first trip up to the Highlands, but a return to lands travelled many, many years before.
The first time I travelled to Scotland was in an almost mystical era now long gone: The mid-to-late 1980s. An evil ruler, Margaret Thatcher, was still in her Ministerial Prime, depleting the lands of their school-milk while upstanding miners went on strike until there were no more mines to go on strike for… (no, I’m not trying to paint an accurate historical or political picture here) In those days Heavy Metal was still largely frowned upon, Punk, whether dead or not, was over and had not succeeded in much more than bringing about Postpunk and with it the New Romantics. It was neither the best of times nor the worst. Although you might find factions strongly claiming either to be true.
Anyway, it’s history and in it I was merely a young lad accompanying my dad on his first trip as the part-time travel guide he was just setting out to become for many years to follow. He had been approached by an old friend of his who was organising bus tours to places near and far and who was looking for a guide for one of “his” buses going on a trip of England, Scotland and Wales. Knowing that my father had lived in England (well, London) for a number of years and had travelled to various places on the island, he deemed him to be in a good position to do so. And, so legend has it, my father was immediately taken by the idea and agreed.
I no longer recalled how exactly I managed to blag myself into being allowed to accompany him and my mother on this trip, but I do remember that Scotland, even though we only spent something like 3 days there, had made a big impression on me. Crossing the border at infamous Gretna Green, it was mostly Edinburgh, St. Andrews, the Edradour Distillery in Pitlochry and a one day round trip through the Highlands, Loch Ness and all that, as I recall. But it was enough to acquire a taste, and after doing the same trip again two years later and, having in the meantime seen Highlander, and become a bit of a fervent fan of a band called Marillion who’s singer at that time was a Scotsman from Dalkeith going by the name Fish, I had become somewhat fond of the lands of Alba.
And so, by what exact ways I no longer recall, I made it happen that in the Summer of 1990 I went to stay for three weeks with a family – the McKenzies, with whom I sadly lost contact since – in the small highlands town of Conon Bridge in the Black Isle region just north of Inverness.
I think it’s fair to say that this was one of my first big adventures. A few months short of 16 I travelled by train, from Graz to Salzburg where I changed for the night train to Ostend, on to Dover on the Ferry and on to London where a friend of the family took me in for a night. Early the next day I boarded the train that was to bring me up to Inverness. It’s one of those funny things – I’m pretty sure that back then this train left from Euston (as they do now). Maybe King’s X or St. Pancras (doubtful). But for some reason I remember it as leaving from Liverpool Street Station. Don’t always trust your memories.
What I do remember is that it was a long journey. I hadn’t had a reserved seat and so I kept moving around between seats changing for newly vacant ones when I had to give up another that had been reserved for a new stretch of track, finally ending up with 3 Scotsmen, their crude jokes & a sizeable collection of Whisky. And a penchant for some mildly mischievous fun to be had with that young lad from abroad.
By the time I arrived in Inverness I was ever so slightly tipsy (which I hid very well from my host family – or so I’ve ever since convinced myself: “I’m just tired from the long journey”…) and my vocabulary had expanded considerably into rather unspeakable strata of language (which I also kept my host family in the dark about). Travelling widens our %]##£$$$%& Horizons… In many ways.
I did encounter a world quite different from what I was used to up there, in many more ways than geographically. Pretty much a middle class boy who had been in private schools all his life so far, suddenly I found myself on a small housing estate on the fringe of a small Scottish working class village. It seemed even smaller when I revisited the place as part of my trip this year. With only a small Spar in town (in the meantime Conon Bridge has a decent sized COOP), the only supermarkets a town or two over, if I remember correctly, we bought most of our supplies of sweets off the Icecream van which made its regular rounds. Had I previously idealized Ice Cream Vans as some almost fairytale-esque institution, driven by Justified Ancients who made everyone a 99 (or something like that – the song I’m alluding to only came out in 91, but the image was in my head previous to that), I was to learn that they sold pretty much everything that is unhealthy, including Benson & Hedges, John Player Special or Silk Cut. We (the daughter of my guest family who was about my age and myself) weren’t allowed to smoke at their house, so we often hung out at an older friend of hers, a single woman in her 20s whose name I forgot. (Yes, it all comes out now…!)
Out of work and hence home all the time, her small flat had become a kind of sanctuary for a lot of the kids on the estate who could do there, what they weren’t able to do at their parents. I still recall a young red haired girl of about 8 or 10 or something who used to be there constantly , usually licking self-made cider ice-lollies and “stealing” sips from our beers and our half smoked cigarettes. All this while we watched ‘Allo, ‘Allo (it felt like more than a little coincidence when I turned on the TV in my Inverness guest-house all these years later, only to stumble upon an episode of that series airing just then), Eastenders (I think. I mean, it must’ve been then… I don’t remember anything of it, but the intro theme still gives me the creeps…) and other TV “highlights”. Or listened to music. Generally not much that was of my taste, but I did hear UB 40s Kingston Town for the first time there – my first conscious encounter with Reggae, if watered down reggae at that – and was introduced to the all time great by Andy Stewart: Donald Where’s Yer Troosers.
There were a couple of young boys to who I was The Nazi for the whole time of my stay. They weren’t punk enough to beat me up. At first they gave me v-signs and all, over time, however, they became friendly. But my nickname – The Nazi – stuck. Yes, those were simple minds/simpler times…
Occasionally we’d take the bus into Inverness, where apart from one time where we went ice-skating on the local ice ring, we mostly hung out at the Shopping Centre where I haunted the small Our Price record store (also see this ad from 1990!!), maybe a HMV and possibly others. I remember that in these days some Boots stores sold records. Also in Inverness I had my first encounter with Chips & Vinegar. I did not like it. Other, classics among white-trash culinary delights, like Crisps in a bun or Noodles on Toast were a bit more down my alley. And I all first ate them up there in the Highlands.
Looking back now, I can’t help but think that I was a bit of a plonker for not having made better use of my time up there – see more of the highlands, visit a few more places, go hiking. That kind of thing. But let’s not go on a search for lost opportunities now. These waters have long passed under bridges, joined the ocean, evaporated, formed clouds, rained down and passed under the bridges again. I did visit friends of the family in Dundee on the way back, from where I also went on a day trip to Edinburgh. Places I’ve yet to revisit. This time round I focused on Inverness, Conon Bridge and a short stop in the nearest town, Dingwall. It was an interesting feeling revisiting these places after so many years. – Actually the realisation of just how many years it had been since I that summer (28) was one of the strangest things about it. There wasn’t a lot of recognition, as my memories had faded to the degree that I had only meagre “visual outlines” to compare the present day views to. I’m generally more likely to remember stories than places, names than faces… A lot of the memories I’ve written about here came back dimly when I revisited the places and took on more and more concrete shapes over the course of writing this. A bit like the development process of photos, metaphorically speaking. Listening to music I had listened to at the time helped as well. I find music generally to be a good trigger of memories… But let’s not forget that this was not just about trying to go back, it was also about experiencing the presence, taking in the beautiful landscape, getting to know an Inverness I hadn’t known before – including a little pub tour on the Saturday night or a 360° view from one of the turrets of Inverness Castle and then a look at the history of the Highlands at the Museum.
After two days, full of walking and going around on local buses, I took the coach through the scenic highlands down to Glasgow where I enjoyed the hospitality of other family friends – it is, indeed, a blessing to be from such a well-connected tribe.
Glasgow, somehow, was still mostly terra incognita to me, a city passed through rather shortly ages ago, and since then more a place of – not always favourable – tales and stories. Things I read in interviews with musicians who grew up there (this one with Rose McDowall who I’m looking forward to seeing live soon comes to mind – or the dark comedy of TV show Rab C. Nesbitt to name just a few examples. My impression was a different one, although I – by far – didn’t see everything. The town centre around George Square looks almost pomp & empire, with other more affluent areas I drove through looking nicer and less cramped than London. But those were just surface impressions.
My hosts were nice enough to show me around quite a bit: We visited the Riverside Museum (official page), an interesting Zaha Hadit building, in form of a wave full of old (and newer) Cars, Trams, Trains and other modes of transportation – including The Tall Ship moored outside the Museum on the banks of the river Clyde and the Hunterian Museum and Glasgow University – where we encountered fresher’s week in full swing – as well as, nearby, the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. A special favourite of my hosts was Glasgow’s very own Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his personal home turned museum as well as his House for an Art Lover were part of the tour, as were some places outside Glasgow: Culzean Castle down on the west coast (and, in passing on the way: Robert Burns Birth Cottage), Loch Lomond (once in the rain, a second time with a wee bit of sun on its bonny banks) and, to complete the Highland experience, a guided tour of Glengoyne Distillery to round off the trip. And thus, after 5 days up north I returned to London by train, a head full of memories and a memory card full of photos. (There’s a few at the bottom of this post, as usual.)
The weekend after coming back should’ve been all about getting sleep and relaxation, but – alas – it was not quite to be. At least not on the Saturday. Once again I was to travel to places of the past if not outright back in time. Sort of. At least, this time round, the journey took me not quite as far, but merely to south London, specifically Crystal Palace. It does take a good hour to get there via Tube & Overground, so not a trip done lightly. But I had struck out big time that day and had both, good reasons and an occasion. And how often can you claim that?
Crystal Palace Park is home to a number of Victorian concrete Dinosaur sculptures and that Weekend the small charity who are looking after them had organised for an open day to raise money and awareness for the preservation of these unique historic artefacts. Including the opportunity to actually go on a guided tour to the small Island in the lake where the figures stand. Funny enough, I’m not actually that much into dinosaurs Admittedly Jurassic Park is among my guilty pleasure flics. But other than that I don’t pay too much attention. Those monstrosities from the 1850s, however, somehow had fascinated me since I first heard of them. And then first seen them, almost six years ago when – and I mentioned I had reasons and alluded to places of the past – I stayed in the hostel aka The Lodge in Crystal Palace for about two weeks while looking for a suitable flat after I’d just moved to London in October 2012. Yes, time has gone by fast since then. I’d often wanted to revisit, but once up north it always seemed just such a long way to go.
It’s a nice area, and a nice park. Although I must admit that I was somewhat shocked at how much hipster-ification (the metaphorical metastazisation of gentrification: a mushrooming of pram &/or MacBook fiddlers filled, pseudo-woke/social justice based – or pretence thereof – business-modelling with more cafes and eateries than a sane population needs,… stop me! I could go on…) had progressed in the Upper Norwood triangle which I had had remembered as a somewhat nice place in London. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not riding an anti-bourgeoisie cliche-train here; I’m just wondering why the middle classes insist on all that Communist-Cafeteria style while at the same time spending silly money on fancy crap, when things could as well be comfortable and stylish and about the simple, but real pleasures: a decent espresso is really all a coffee ever needs to be! Keep the pumpkins for Halloween… But I digress.
Well, the park is beautiful and the weather played along nicely with sunshine and all that.
I had you waiting (desperately, I’m sure) quite a bit for this latest update and now I’ve made you read all that… But fear not, we’re on the final stretch now. The bit where I mention some music that you may or may not want to give a listen to.
Let’s start with dark Idol outfit Necronomidol, who have an album coming out just about now. Official release date is September 29th and apparently it was already available to buy at shows in Japan. There are also some reviews already appearing on relevant English webpages (as well as some footage of new forms being performed live on youtube) you can already get an idea of what this album is going to be about. A few days ago they also released a promo video for the track “Strange Aeons” and it turned out pretty good. The song was previously released on a single of the same name, but this version was re-recorded and sounds a lot better and punchier.
I’ve also mentioned BiSH. Recently two of BiSH’s members, Aina The End & Cento Chihiro Chicchi released their first double a-side solo single on the 19th of September. The music videos (Aina & Chicchi) had been published a couple of weeks ago and fans everywhere waited for the single to be available. (It is now, and you should get it!) On that day, however, a sudden, big surprise made ripples on the social media sphere. Without any previous announcement, in proper guerrilla style, fellow BiSH member Ayuni D released a mini album & video with her solo project Pedro. And I have to say, it’s the best of the three. But have a listen to the lead single/video yourself.
And then(I think I might be shaking up the original sequence of events, but who cares) we suddenly also got an announcement that a new Maison Book Girl album is due in November. And the same day we also got a music video for the B-Side of their latest single, Elude, the brilliant おかえりさよなら (Okaeri Sayonara). Watch it now!!
Last, and maybe the most exciting releases mentioned here…. Tentenko! I’ve previously mentioned the announcement of the Tentenko Vinyl album on London based Toothpaste Records, and now it is finally here. While I’m happy to accept that not everybody may be into the whole Idol pop thing, if you’re into electronica, synthpop or similar genres you should definitely give Tentenko a listen and not hold her (awesome) time in BiS against her in any way. (And why would you…) Head to this link for more info, to prelisten and to find your best option to order.
Before you head off to check out all that lovely music, here’s a couple of pictures… And a friendly goodbye until next time. Thanks, as always, for reading!