year four or three, depending on how you count a missed pandemic year. no less life affirming.
year four or three, depending on how you count a missed pandemic year. no less life affirming.
“come on daddy, into the sea”, said the two year old. and so there we are: me, two-year-old, five-year-old, heading into the waves.
about as life affirming as it gets.
as aberporth, mwnt is a gift to be passed on. the final moments of our trip, between houses, between cities.
how she’s grown – school starts in a month
childhood memories can wither when exposed to adult realities, but sometimes you have to roll the dice. from family-when-a-kid to family-as-a-parent, aberporth is a gift to pass on. and, truly, one of the most idyllic days was had.
300km around london… why not, eh.
i’ve always liked looking out of the windows of trains as the landscape scrolls past sideways. no different in a mini-bus, but now there’s a video camera in all of our pockets, with the perfect form factor to simply press flat against the window and capture that sideways scrolling effect.
i’ve got hours of such footage from india, but the one day trip of iceland was more manageable, and so there’s actually an edit. here’s the trip, in less than two minutes.
lava cave, clearly showing signs of recent caving-in. with so much surrounding tectonic activity, we don’t go so far in.
it was a day of rainbows; late summer sun punctured by the spray of waterfalls or the heavens simply opening up.
i had this dream of mountain biking in iceland. i thought what better way to use the one day i had than that; a real engagement with the landscape. but iceland is not cheap, and the options i found were prohibitively expensive.
but, there is one tour operator that has some biking as part of a ‘best you can do in a day from reykjavík’ tour. there’s a dc-3 abandoned on one of the black sand beaches, a good kilometre walk from the road. tröllaferðir decided this would be more fun using fat bikes (and, no doubt, quicker on a jam-packed day). so much fun. the attraction of the dc-3 quickly paled in comparison in roaming the undulating landscape alone. totally made the day for me.
have you ever wondered what a flash flood on a glacier would be like? neither had i. the guide decides it’s time to get the hell off; water should be sluicing down the sink holes, not spurting up and out.
…uh oh, here comes the rain.
find where a glacier comes sliding and scraping out of the mountains down the coastal plain, put on crampons, grab an ice-pick and hike. pretty grand, and as a lover of black and white the ashen detailing made it all the better.
but oh-look! while the valley outlet is still in sunshine, the glacier isn’t any more…
i waded barefoot into the river to get a straight-on shot of the waterfall, partly for the derring-do and partly to get all the other the tourists out of shot. but overall i like this first shot best, popped off just walking from the car park: you get a sense of scale from the band of people in their brightly coloured jackets.
frank lloyd wright’s falling water was the countryside retreat of a pittsburgh industrial mangate. no way i’m not going to hire a car and go see. it looks like all the photos you’ve ever seen; the way the sound and airflow changes as rooms turn into balconies is a revelation.
hotel room view for the d-fuse show install. welcome to pittsburgh, quite the view.
too many wonderful driving moments and panoramic sweeps to mention, let alone try and convey. but, perhaps, this starts to conjure the epic.
and when you’re not staying in a castle, things can be just as picture perfect.
if you’re staying in a castle, fishing comes on the agenda. what, oh what, a spot.
family holiday #1. seven hours on the train, hire a car, and… the cairngorms. not often you get to stay in a castle.
and don’t get me started on the dog looking over the castle battlements, surrounded by sun-rise photoshoot brides.
…sunsets and their aftermath doubly so.
…and when not eating honey, let it be octopus.
to the greek island of santorini, to sit on the edge of a volcano crater with a week’s supply of yoghurt and honey…
pub on the park at 9pm, dunwich beach 6.45am. 120 miles, from brixton. surreal isn’t the word. a snake of red lights, forever there for the overtaking, yet always stretching as far as you can see.
it’s now a bit of an institution, and thats a good thing. as well as the great semi-organisation from southwark cyclists, there were pubs staying open late, hot food at the ready; cycle shops setting up bacon buttie pit-stops en-route; cheering locals (whether pillars of the community or bemused yoofs just out of the pub); even a man in dressing gown at 5am, stroking his cat and telling cyclists the route goes left. all really quite special.
to the sea, week two: brixton-bexhill. if you ride, this is the one. more miles than brighton, but such better form – you hit countryside and the right kind of hills much sooner, and importantly, instead of croydon. chose bexhill partly to ramp up the miles, but mostly because i wanted to see the modernist delight of the de la warr pavilion. it lived up to expectation, like stepping into an alternative future. even better, in the pavilion, the current gallery show is mark lecky’s fabulous ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’, which has the windowlicker VHS sleeve as one of its items. nuff said.
struck out into the sun atop the glorious bike with earpiece directing me to brighton. after wind and rain for what should have been summer so far, it was truly revelatory to be swooshing through the countryside, summer air flowing past as the roads dipped and peaked through the stunning countryside. oh, blue sky, oh, sun!
i could post pictures of india endlessly - series upon series of market sellers, colonial hill stations and the narrow gauge railways leading up to them, school kids running around, food, food, food and more food; even just starting to construct a list brings on a paralysis of choice.
that all said, such concerns start to pale against the memory of visiting this lady, my wife’s one remaining relative in india. the match-maker for my mother-in-law’s parents, no less. such a testament to life in a country so full of life: a hundred years old, memories clear, mind sharp, still in touch with the family diaspora, and such a sense of humour. simply inspirational.
for such a painted-up country, there’s a surprising lack of graffiti… that was until kochi, which is positioning itself as an art destination and is now home to a load of absolute stand-out work, gradient-shards of neon floating around stencilled birds. vexta was the tag, and now home i discover thats not a kochi local but an australian brought in by the biennale. might not fit the touring narrative quite as nicely, but inspiring for all. turns out, there’s a really nice documentation film: https://vimeo.com/61270585
to drive a main route india is to see this block-font scrolling past ad infinitum. i would see it in my sleep, outlined in day-glo.
thats not a billboard, its a house. any surface next to a road gets painted up, advertising political parties or cement.
train doors open. so great. hours spent just watching india go by, field of view unencumbered, wind on your face. but something else here, one of the great contradictions of india for me: the women so sartorially attuned in a riot of saris and decoration, the men unthinking in ill-tailored western beige.
advertising cement is massive in india, and the tag-lines are great: ‘as strong as family bonds’.
2000 kilometers on road and rail around southern india: so much was seen side-scrolling, out of the window. entry number one needs to anchor us in india, so cue the ox-cart.
all in all, it can all feel a bit disney-like. but there was one temple, a little of the beaten track, that was as if the gods of graphic design injected all their worth before fleeing in the face of the gaudy onslaught.
but these photos have been misrepresentative: for the temples are full! of! life! – especially on an auspicious day to be wed
and most wonderfully, occasionally acid trumpet
these temples err towards being mini-cities themselves, complete with street signs.
cue crazy temple gateways, so over the top you don’t even notice the gaudy neon signs so often now part of them.
to india for adventures. cue the temple elephant!
after sun, rain, double rainbow, and much pastel reflections, time came to swap east beach cafe for the west: just underneath where the sun is setting is a fish and chip shack positioned perfectly to see these fireworks being laid out on the beach.
day trip to the sea for food, architecture and fireworks. when a local heard a burger shack was going to be built on the beach in front of her house, hubris and quite some wonder ended up with her buying up the site and commissioning the awe-inspiring heatherwick studio to build something entirely more interesting. the cafe by day and restaurant by night is a resounding success - architectural marvel, was packed out for lunch and yep, twas tasty.
…just didn’t expect to find it embattled by fairground. its there, somewhere in the picture, honest!
to wilderness festival, to help cock and bull do their thing. raising money and awareness for jamies farm, tis a good cause and host of the most excellent farmer olympics. hay bales turn out to be surprisingly big and heavy, eggs explode all the better for being thrown further than you’d think, swill buckets can blindfold ‘sheep’, and most of all the punnage just didn’t stop coming.
the hay bale toss got really quite high: here’s the jamie of jamie’s farm giving it quite the oomph
is quite a number of years, crossed doing what – and with – he loves.
you never quite know whats going to take flight at a festival, and suffice to say nobody had heard of million way but they blew the festival apart. not sure it would work at home, but live nobody could resist their groove.
back to the wilds of radnorshire for sheep music, the home festival of friend louis. thankfully, this time it almost didn’t get washed away, and its charm shone. one field, with one of everything that a festival needs; everything done to a standard, probably by your village neighbour.
and where else could the backstage you have access to be that of the tea tent, complete with a fridge suitable for storing a car boot load of prosecco to share amongst friends.
quite the weekend: friday night at the ill-fated bloc festival in east london; saturday night at a wedding party masquerading as a mini-festival out in the countryside. after two nights-as-days-themselves, riding my beloved mountain bike with vj kit, tent and allsuch on my back, the sun came out just as a picture postcard scene of hardy’s wessex emerged out of the grind of a life-sapping uphill. suffice to say, i lay there for quite some time, oh-so happy and quite unable to get back up.
austin is quite the city, turns out texan brash is a miraculous tweak to san-franciscan anything goes. that you could take a few minutes walk from the convention centre and be washing down amazing trailer tacos with craft beer in the loose back yards of a street of run-down wooden shacks sealed the deal for me, after my years working the motor shows. that, and this bar. far from the beery sixth street, this was a place where the hours drifted by, the beers were happily supped, the two-step danced.
to austin on the academic tip. which austin? breakfast made it explicit, eating waffles shaped like that in a sports bar.
away to the wilds of wales for a birthday weekend, car laden with soundsystem and booze. aaah.
winged an extra night in lancaster and took the clockwork orange out for a ride across the moors. was all going swimmingly – route suggestions from friendly local walkers, no less – until the only route out of the moor was blocked by a bull, multiple mothers and their calfs. mmm… thats not something to open the gate into.
here we are outside LA nearing palm springs, wind turbines and freeway, and rail track just out of this shot seeming to also be transporting mile-long trains of new cars. the turbines, somewhat ironically, power las vegas. might be a cut too far for endless cities, but couldn’t help linking seeing pensioners acting out their retirement program, trundling around on golf carts in courses terraformed out of the desert with thoughts of america’s by-gone obsession with space… infinite expansion and resources on the new, intergalactic frontier.
my university research has directed me to the interaction, media and communication group at queen mary. a side benefit of which is being amongst the kind of people who find cheap group break where booze is a priority. and so: brno in january. featuring proper pubs with intriguing jars of pickled… stuff.
who would have known that a seaside weekend in october would be blessed by best of summer weather. amazing.
less camera friendly as this blissfully unaware shot of nephew and parents, some fine sand castling was had: true, simple pleasures to be found between quantity surveying, tidal passages, castle defenses and the inevitable destruction.
…should always be epic, with snoop in the sun, or stevie at sunset. and people stretching to infinity.
for a proper photo review of glastonbury, check the amazing big picture site
…should always be made to this standard, drum’n’bass crystal clear with a funktion-one rig in the surround, or there should be twenty other people in a tiny tent busting moves and playing the fool.
…should always have funktion one sound systems, or failing that, be a boat on wheels with a battered piano on the back and a whirring propeller above, complete with suitably rough-hewn crew.
…should always be this glorious. the crew camping should always have a perfect space by mat, pictured, shaded under a great oak. the rota should always have your vj shifts grouped together on the same night, and not that first night. there should be friends, new and old…
to cornwall for extended family anniversaries of various kinds. and so great: fishing village clinging to the hillside, so steep that cars can’t really get a look in; roaring fire snug against the cold, bracing spring-time sea air knocking the cob-webs out… and building sandcastles and diverting streams with a four year old. obviously, all for the four year old’s benefit. obviously.
having been contained in butlin’s service-station-like core and chaletville suburbs, it felt amazing to enter the seaside town proper on a glorious crisp day and have that fry-up of the gods.
the bloc weekender: a blur of beats and waterslides that causes a week long hangover. but some real highlights among the dross (of course, the music, the culture, was so much better when i was their age…). and salt’n’pepa. surreal, but strangely amazing.
and props to the man at the car rental lot. i’d made sure it was a no excess policy, and he barely batted an eyelid on seeing the state of the car. “i think we might have to levy a valet charge for the interior”… if you’d had seen it, you’d have been happy to pay it too.
time for a little enumeration:
so its at this point, at 5pm, exploring bold new tests of exhaustion and still before breakfast, that a bridge guarded by a thousand monkeys appears as if straight out of a rudyard kipling story. one of the more surreal emergency stops i’ve ever had to do. took a minute or so to have the where-with-all for the camera to be got out, before we passed through it really was covered with them.
aged 19 i’d promised myself if i ever was to ask that big question of someone, it would have to be here. and so it was.
moreover in a day where circumstance truly played havoc with our lives, such a test of endurance and commitment couldn’t have started something better. and i get to say i almost killed my girlfriend – no: fiancee! – in the process.
the plan had precedence. i’d done it on zero budget, hitchhiked hundreds of kilometers, rode the side plates of a 4x4 in the warmest clothes i had as the freezing pre-dawn desert flowed around my feet… but this was not to be history repeating. so instead of romantic ideas of walking around a serene crescent dune as sun broke across it, we have taken the three steps forward and fallen the two back, climbing up the face of a mountain as the noon sun approaches.
amazing once you’re there though. with nobody else insane enough to still be around at this time of day, at the top of it all you truly are the epic.
…well that is the highest looking dune in the desert known for the highest dunes in the world. guess where we’re going.
this whole trip was pretty much built around getting back to sossusvlei. orange sand, blue sky, trees on one side lush, green and alive and the on other salt-wizened casks with the air of having been petrified eons before. oh, and if it wasn’t surreal enough, oryx walking around - they might as well have been unicorns. the colours are primary, but its the early morning light that carves across the twisting contours of the dunescape and makes every surface a study in texture. such were my memories from a final hitch-hike zen adventure before returning to the uk to start university.
2010, and the reality is a bit more sun-bleached, and its a few hours later into the day that started overcast. but the texture is still there… 700px is just not enough here, but you can start to see.
to come: amazing thunderstorm spectacle over the wide vista leading out from the petrified dune cliffs we’re standing on.
…everybody must have their own, that perfect drink at the perfect place at the perfect time.
i will never tire of driving through endless, epic landscapes on a single dirt track surrounded by oryx. pure magic, pushing the landscape beyond the sublime. cameras don’t quite cut it here.
a long way from anywhere, we’re driving out of what couldn’t have been a better rally stage if it had tried. i think to myself, quick roadside stop. get out the car, hear a quiet noise. not a good one. engine? no… thats air from the tyre, its still hard but that has to be the sound. business finished, turn back to the car, and the tyre is completely flat. not the best situation in which to replace your first tyre, but i couldn’t help wonder at the timing. ok so the twisty, hilly, gravel road was as likely as any to cause a flat, but thinking i needed to get out the car, and then stopping at the exact minute in which the tyre completely deflates. subliminal something.
when the bottom fell out of deutsch-südwestafrika, all the fine horses were abandoned to the desert with the retreat (well thats what i was told at the time). which makes for a bizarre sight a century later.
lüderitz looks pretty much exactly the same, but its definitely not the place as i left it. it was like the wild west, a diamond rush bringing young divers seeking their fortune from all around the world coupled with a still fresh from independence fishing industry push. in the original diamond rush that made the town, ordering champagne at the bar meant a crate, not an individual bottle. when i was there, we drank in the same bar and the life-skill was passing the neverending bottles of spirits around without passing out soon into the revelry. now, all is quiet, and the newspaper i made also in quite different times. it had reached the impressive full-colour tabloid spread the previous year, but since now had already closed down once and a repeat wasn’t looking so unlikely.
sitting in the time capsule bauhaus apartment we rented, it felt like a tardis, time melding outside.
i knew the lighthouse keepers. my head exploded as i read neuromancer at the top of the lighthouse. but now it is automated, and the couple divorced. so it goes.
there is, however, a coffee shop there now. with additional sign reassuring locals that it does serve beer despite the name. better, and unlike town, it hadn’t closed just because it was saturday. progress!
desert dunes reclaiming an abandoned town once full of riches… ahead of global warming, kolmanskop fell foul of a crash in commodity price, and now its carcass sits 10km outside lüderitz as a tourist attraction. wandering the abandoned “hospital, ballroom, power station, school, skittle-alley, theater and sport-hall, casino, ice factory and the first x-ray-station in the southern hemisphere”, seeing the play of light and shadow on the dunes and dutch architecture, its almost embarassing to have a camera: where to start.
“surreal colonial relic” lüderitz is where i spent a formative year producing the local newspaper of an african town, along with two equally fresh-from-school girls. and small towns being small towns, despite the fifteen years i’d been away, it wasn’t long before beers were appearing with the still-as-eccentric büchters. giel du toit, where else but the yacht club bar.
the town i was a volunteer in for a year - fresh from school to produce the local newspaper and give the locals a relevant source of english, their new national language - was a strange town, and the single road leading to it was a fitting journey. a portal morelike, the landscape gets stranger and stranger, until you’re surrounded by a duel between desert and moonscape. the sand sign is no joke: sand dunes drifting across the roads; gale force winds sandblasting anything and everything.
and this is why gravel roads are bad. on the flipside (unfortunate use of language there), this, the first time i have actually come off the road in a car, was all quite smooth and … a controlled out of control. i’m kinda glad it happened just to know where the limit can be. gravel roads are a tightrope act, that is for sure.
if you’re coming up from south africa heading toward lüderitz, there’s a pretty big corner you want to cut. but its all gravel roads, and you don’t want to get stuck on one with hundreds of km on either side. so the ‘sod it, only live once’ right-angle turn off the main north-south road towards the fish river canyon felt all that sweeter to get there just for sunset. just epic. thats a 180° view, its canyons within canyons within canyons.
space: check. quiver tree: check. definitely feeling like a namibia i remember deep inside.
and when things get bigger and emptier, how far your car can go on one tank of gas gets really quite important. no such thing as a pop-up petrol station: getting a petrol can for the boot wasn’t an act of hubris.
…bigger, and emptier. straight roads to the horizon: yep, thats namibia.
after 1,000km and two days wonderful driving we hit namibia, the country i can still sing the national anthem of having spent a year there when i was 18. no longer the majestic pacific coast of the garden route, past the lush farmlands of ceres, now a farm stall means biltong and not much else, and the landscape around grows bigger and emptier, bigger and emptier…
the title says it all. look closer.
here, all looks innocent. round the bend, the path peters out and you’re scrambling over 45° rocks with waves crashing around you. truly wonderful, and so refreshingly… well, the national parks service really don’t mind you being on the edge.
got to knysna comfortably before sunset, to join a vision of family life: kids swimming in the river, grandparents helping with the braai (aka bbq). a veritable idyll, quite the trick character-from-times-past james has pulled relocating his corner of the office from london to south africa.
church, church, church, church or church, anybody?
the hero of addo - and yes, against elephants fighting, rhinos mowing, giraffes silhouetted against the open sky - has to the dung beetle. driving is tricky as you have to avoid them, being a protected species and unable to fly out from underneath your wheel, but what heroic effort they make, and look rock hard in the process.
what other animal has poise, a mohican, snarly tusks… warthogs rock!
in africa, got to check out the locals, right? lions: check. apparently the rest of the party were worried about being eaten. i was worrying about focus. strange how a lens displaces you.
having spent the previous day editing the live cinema documentary while the others were out a-walking, i seized the turn of the weather to make a dawn sprint up the nearest hill. well worth it, amazing 360° views showing the plains beyond and the mountain ridge cloud forest rising up that made hogsback feel like some kind of displaced england. but here we have the three hogsbacks, the rising sun, and some proteas just to prove we’re really in sa. and photoshop cheese, pfft.
this is one of my favourite photos ever, for reasons i can’t entirely explain. hogsback felt a little like a scout camp: tin roofs, furnishings from another age, and lots of walking.
a 1950’s volvo, dirt roads, and marion’s schoolhood friend leading us down the roads of different era of her childhood: hogsback, south africa. marion’s 30th birthday present had been a ticket to south africa, and here we were.
and sitting there some beers later, on the hillside of mauer park, i find myself once again marvelling at how damn marvellously definitive the fernsehturm is. or rather, i’m drafting a definition of true greatness, criterion the moment when something transcends cliché and tourist exposure, when the city feels like a second home after a decade of visits and you still are there marvelling… and so on.
trouble is, you take the photo and it turns into a windows desktop
on from oxford to a day or so in the countryside. and quite the bed & breakfast: four poster bed, and - am i really seeing that - two swords lying in the corner of the room.
it was pretty much spinning the top gear all the way for those final 40 miles, i can’t say my spinning was as fast as scott could have or the few who did storm past us (perhaps retribution for us stomping past so many on the earlier uphills!), but it was damn speedy and there was no point in stopping for lunch: we were in sunderland by two. and the dream of a celebratory and anaesthetising irish coffee, the thing that had kept me spinning those last ten miles, turned out better than i could have imagined. mmm, aaaaah; as we quietly deflated into shells of people.
the second day was one of two halves, separated by the most appreciated hot chocolate and scone i’ve had for years. up and down and up and down the valleys and villages of the pennines, then some amazing long descents and ‘hand of god’ tailwind moments speeding through moorland so desolate they mark the road with tall posts as if you’re adrift at sea. and just when we thought we’d climbed a hill so steep and high there couldn’t surely be another, and then saw we weren’t even at the top but it instead just flattened off a little before winding way over a hillside far to one side, there was a signpost off the road, a welcoming cafe, and the memory from last time that this marked the point where you joined an old railway path and it was 40 miles hardpack sloping gently to the sea…
its not every morning you (well, i) wake up at 6.30am with geordie banter all around and people already taking their tents down. in my memory, this moment is forever dedicated to cumberland sausage baps and baked beans. mmmm.
when i cycled the c2c before, it was over four days and we carried our luggage with us in panniers. i imagined this is how we’d do it again, until i saw the curveball of the c2c-challenge, which was happening on one of the weekends we were thinking of doing it. and so with a simple “i’d be up for that” from scott, the whole idea of a leisurely coaching-inn-strewn jaunt was transformed into a two day sprint with the luggage carried.
having your luggage carried changes everything, it has to be said. you can cover so much ground, and with such a sense of freedom. the price to be paid however, was that the campsite arranged by the challenge was the other side of the highest point of the whole british cycling network, which you approached already having traversed 60 miles up and down through the lake district. the sun had gone behind the clouds, a headwind had made itself increasingly known, and the danger sign only added to the feeling of “this will break you. do not doubt it”.
…although taking it one by one scott did get this nice sequence of a stream that needed to be forded.
and here we are having taken the “file under batshit barmy” option of scott taking his old, part exchanged, of-unknown-strength road bike over a mountain. it was called “the old coach road” after all.
and it might look ok here, i wasn’t quite in a position to take the photos while carrying my bike up the straight up bits or plunging downhill with stones flying everywhere. it turns out that this indeed was an alternative route, with the main route staying on-road and staying much lower down on the other side of the valley with the trunk road going through it. i can’t remember the exact wording in the map i looked at with some fellow riders in a cafe later, but it was something like “very rough, unsuitable for touring bikes, only to be taken in good conditions”. no mentions of 1970’s racers =]
…having got a bit up the hill / mountain / range, there was a junction. one way looked ok to cycle, the other looked very off road. too off-road for the C2C. straight up, super stony. so we go round the bottom of the mountain till this photo, where the route has veered way off back down, us going “this ain’t right”. at this point i curse the bravado of not buying the C2C route map (its signed! we’re doing it with 200 other people! this is a two day sprint - we won’t be taking an off road options!), and pray for a data connection. if only i had taken a screenshot: the options were chicken out and descend to the trunk road in the valley pass, or take this winding solitary route, paging through screens and screens of mountainous googlemap nothing, which obviously was the C2C route. well, i’m on a mountain bike, and i’m damned if a mountain is going to get in my way. scott, however, is on a 1970’s road bike…
30 or so miles in, many hills traversed, lucked out with lunch at the lakeland peddlar. buoyed with enthusiasm, we follow the signposts of keswick, and all is good (well, as good as starting again uphil with cold muscles after a lovely lunch in the sun can be) until we get to this signpost. which points straight up over a mountain…
…and here we are a few hours in, admiring the rather beautiful lake district, sun shining and the world seeming a rather wonderful place.
a fair few years back now, i cycled the C2C aka sea to sea aka coast to coast with loz, a friend from university times. i remembered enjoying it so much, i vowed to do such a thing at least each year. well, many years later, i still hadn’t, and at a geeky workshop met an american staying on the route of the C2C who said he had done a load of long distance rides. jump-cut to a few weeks later, and here we are at the beginning of the ride grinning inanely…
…to eat lots and lots of ice cream. got to space out the espresso somehow.
to cap a weekend of code, ikea and whatnot, headed to the free paradise gardens festival for a valedictory beer on the latest sunset of the year. it all turned magical after the last act, as the steam fair was deserted but somehow still lit up, a surreal playground of victoriana beckoning; strings of white bulbs lifting glimpses of a bygone age out of the void of the park. union jacks, steam engines and more pomp, carved wood and gold leaf than you could doff your hat to.
ok its sardinia not sicily, but we knew we’d arrived when dessert was cassata, cassata, or cassata.
halfway from the tuscan coast to sardinia, delivering the yacht to its new home. sunset at bonifacio, always stunning as the sun sets down the fjord-like ravine.
finally met vade, guru of many quartz composer, openGL and cocoa issues i keep on running into. having discussed the aesthetics of patch-cords, lego space ship design, and the easy gains of openGL display lists for spk-calligraphy (more soon) i think fabric based computation was an expectation too far… and apologies to anyone directed here by google expecting miracles.
cheap or coming in quantity it doesn’t, but oh my: this is the good stuff. props david, i ended up buying two more.
toby meet leo. the deal of staying in this flat is that the dog gets walked three times a day. as david pointed out to me: i’m a professional manhattan dog walker. and wow - i never realised: what a way to meet people. to the point where you have to run everywhere just so you don’t get stopped every minute.
and all I can say having finally got to it, is that it absolutely lives up to expectations and then some. the art was secondary, the building represents some kind of platonic perfection to me. i’ve often thought of my own artist abilities that i can do form but not colour, and the guggenheim perhaps exemplifies this. every angle inside is a white-shaded graphic composition of wonder.
yes there’s the statue of liberty and whatnot, but of all the views of new york this is bizarrely my favourite, as if a city cross-section from a kid’s book was brought to life in front of you.
from dc’s retro futurism metro, to the rat cages of the nyc subway. definitely in new york now. 24hour operation for the win, tho. tube take note.
took advantage of the flights to washington connecting at jfk for a few days in new york. and as if to prove we were there, there’s a wooden rooftop water tower outside the window. might well be usa generic, but to me the stone tenements are iconic of nyc.
from boat trips, through a pub, to club transmediale’s daytime venue. amongst the madness, a laboratory table of improvised audio-visual tinker toys. very cutely, all leading off one power strip.
week of web-dev over, time for some r&r.
mo was also in town for transmediale, and we found ourselves doing the tourist ticket on a boat up the spree. with glühwine. and snow. and more glühwine. brilliant.
in berlin for avit dev camp: there will be a new website, the door has been locked until its done. berliner kindl, meet todd’s kindle.
…good theme for a party, unit-b1.
of course, the sunrise was just a prelude to a day of thunderstorms. dived under the boat to check for something wrapped around the propeller - nothing. almost a shame, we had the subaqua gear all ready. turns out the 25-year-old fuel tank had 25 years of silt in the bottom that with all the pitching around had finally decided to clog the fuel intake pipe. so here is the fuel intake system being redone, thanks to the local mechanic and the wonders of his workshop-in-a-van driven out to the end of the pier we were towed to.
the one absolutely redeeming thing through all of this, is that unlike this happening in british waters, there was no getting cold: the sea was quite warm, the rain and night sailing was an inconvenience as opposed to survival against the elements. and thats a huge thing.
the night before: yacht, hours offshore. headwind, rain, swell. motoring straight into it. nose scooping up waves over the yacht. whether a leak or a hatch not tightly sealed, water sloshing down through my bedroom in the fore: bed and bags soaked through. then, the engine just stops and won’t be started. sail back easily but risk be blown against the shelterless shore bar the one marina we left from? sail into the wind, zigzagging slowly to where we were going and try sailing into a bay and dropping anchor under sail? the latter. hours later, sunset has passed, wind is dying, the lighthouse on the headland that marks the entrance to the bay has been dancing in front of us for far too long as windshift after windshift after wind dying after wind teasingly blowing. finally, wind plays a friendly hand and we’re into the bay, anchor chain meticulously prepared and the sound of the waves crashing on the beach seemingly meters away, furling the genoa, turning into wind, crossing fingers, dropping the anchor, hoping it will hold: can’t really be a plan b.
after tossing in the waves all night - not the best for sleep - clamber out to see a beautiful sunrise, and the facilities of the harbour across the bar.
when i was 18 and worked in africa for 12 months, email hadn’t really happened, the internet wasn’t something you had at home. so i spent a year in that place, and was totally there - there was the distraction of an outside world, but only passively, once a week through airmail newspaper or occasional letter; my community, my world, the thing i could actively act within, was wholly there.
this i thought, as i got out the laptop on top of a cliff in french corsica, pointing the evdo stick across the waters to italian sardinia and the 3g networks i could hopefully get a line of sight on, to check email and post this… at once having a break from ‘life’ and definitely not.
‘a curious bay with mountain walls of stone to left right, and reaching far inland, a narrow entrance opening from the sea where cliffs converged as through to touch and close.’
so said homer. and if all is to be believed, this is us through that gap.
not sure exactly what the odds were of actually being at the tip of a certain fishing harbour at the certain time on the certain day to rendevous with a certain yacht that actually would be passing to whisk you onboard… but having started the journey in rio, it was nice to be picking my way down to the harbour and see the telltale two masts coming across the bay.
the next day, a perfect sail in perfect waters with perfect weather, beating up towards la maddelina
the texture of lisbon is great: it hasn’t been gentrified and tidied up that much, so there is the decay from times of empire, graffiti, and a wonderful heritage of tiles. and check the crown topping the street lamp.
this is a real one. i love it that you can barely read where its going to.
lisbon is one of the best places to spent a day between flights: the airport is near the centre, and the centre is full of cool old trams to go ride about on that wind their way up cobbled streets. although this is the tourist one, so it doesn’t count.
how do you get from rio de janeiro, brasil to sardinia, italy? took some web-fu, but had its benefits: stepped off the overnight flight at lisbon, picked the guardian up as it was delivered to the airport, got in a taxi and went to have breakfast in a classic cafe. perfect.
definitely in brazil: carnival time. and lots of ladies with cocks, although this time of the kind you’d find at a massive gay pride truck sound system clash.
what do you see if you head out the hotel after breakfast in copacabana then?
#1 - a marathon
#2 - a religous parade
#3 - a lady with a cock
and if #3 isn’t wtf enough, this is missing the hell’s angels procession, supertrikes and all, following a mini virgin mary in the back of a pickup.
still jetlagged and having spent far too much of the past three days in flight, had the surreal experience of chasing the sun back from eindhoven. saw it set while taxiing to the runway, took off at 7.35, saw the sun rise as we gained height and chased it over the wing outside my window to land at sunset, at exactly 7.35 british time.
olga took me to a dance performance at the nice film / theatre venue plaza futura. wasn’t going to turn down something interesting, but really surprised myself just how much i enjoyed this performance. the sheer physicality was something to behold, as seemingly damaged people continued to… damage themselves, but i think it was the character-led and somewhat theatrical approach that made it come together for me.
well, we did have to get back in time for dinner - still hadn’t done peking duck!
ok, a film reference used in vain… but oh did this beer taste good.
having somehow found the energy to run the last leg, i suddenly found myself dizzy and not quite having reached the level… loosing which way is up isn’t a good idea on stone steps all the way up a mountainside. bill, here, says it all…
eeek. at least this bit wasn’t on top of a mountain to compound it.
the funny thing about the great wall, at least the section we hiked - janshinling to simatai - is that you get this immense sense of a fallen civilisation, and yet as a british person used to redbrick buildings, its all somehow familiar. which is a weird feeling, given its one of the most genuinely awesome things you’re likely ever to see: just comprehending the front required to build such a barrier across the highest ridge around is hard enough, let alone reading there’s 56,000 km of it. even if it were a tenth of that, it would still be beyond any scale or man-hours i can imagine. and hello jo, picking her way down.
and those stairs can get quite steep. in fact, further up here i had the “can’t go back, don’t want to go on” moment: you’re on top of an outcrop thats on top of the mountain, the side walls have broken away and your peripheral vision is telling you there’s a lot of nothing surrounding you, the stairs have got steeper and steeper and now the finale is to branch even higher off the ‘floor’ of the wall to reach into a watchtower passageway. yes, i’m not a climber.
and they would build it to skirt along the top of the ridge, too. only just realising its mostly stairs.
standing on our watchtower, watching the sun set out of one end of the passage, i turned to see the moon rising, perfectly framed. this is slightly later, once the orange hues had left and the full moon risen somewhat.
…oh no we hadn’t, and what a sunset it was. the layers of mongolia receding into the distance, as if a carefully graded set of ripped papers.
the spirit of adventure calling, hiking the great wall had to be done. striding up a valley side, sweating despite being in the shade, worrying that we’d missed sunset… cresting the brow to find…
…and the noodles were really good too. not to mention wiping the memory earlier in the trip of black chicken bony offcuts in water, which wasn’t the best introductory restaurant experience to a country.
china is no tourist destination for the timid: here we are, nice and prepared with our destination already prepared in chinese characters, and the taxi driver shrugs his shoulders after five minutes and we have to get out and take lucky dip with another. you can do the same with a map, even if you’re pointing at tienammen square, i had the driver struggling for a few minutes until i realised that it wasn’t going happen unless the map was in chinese characters not pinyin (chinese in roman characters).
working hard, socialising hard, 8-hours out of bodyclock… was all good but certainly a challenge in a country that doesn’t really get coffee. so the first time i felt the rich liquid of an espresso slipping down my throat, it was like as if an orchestra had struck up all around my body. and after a suitable pause, to follow that with a fine jasmine tea ceremony… ahh, beautiful.
…which, as you wonder around the forbidden city and so on, makes you wonder how a nation can so comprehensively lose it. so i’ve read wild swans, know my basic history with the cultural revolution and so on, but nothing on this trip ever get close to me understanding how in the last century they could have just chucked all this away and replaced it wholesale with, well, not good stuff ranging from super-drab urgh architecture to the nastier manifestations of a totalitarian regime.
with such a neat photo showing classic and modern, it would be easy to say “there’s china in a nutshell”, except of course thats anything further from the truth. modern china has a number of things going for it, but they have nothing to do with 5,000 years of cultivated civilisation.
the beijing yap forum a success, onto some rest and recreation… you’re not going to fly straight back unless you have to, are you now. first up, check mao overlooking tienammen.
i am standing where they used to tie jet engine to the ground and turn them on. thats where the thrust went.
strange gig, and not entirely in a good way.
nuff said. although again some artistic license, those exact set of photos don’t quite fit the 7x4 format here.
birthday treat, a return to the old manor of victoria park for a radiohead gig. didn’t quite expect the stage to be that big… wow. thanks mark!
…and a perfect summer’s evening too; no hassle, good conversation, and a fire to play with.
after max’s 30th mashup in birmingham, straight off the train and to stokefest. superlovely day, england looking stunning, ended up with old friends and akira in a rooftop party, djs blaring. quite the weekend.
…land of easy landmarks. turn left at the castle and pyramid is an easy one to remember.
never one to stay still, my travel really has gone overboard this past year. so with environmental guilt, a hatred of airports, and commercial gains, i booked my itinerary to node08 (london - frankfurt), mapping (frankfurt - geneva) and back (geneva - london) entirely on trains. it felt good doing so; the actual travel was a pleasure; yes it cost more, but not actually that much more.
the only complaint? the new german ice may be snazzy and fast (four hours paris-frankfurt), but there’s no such thing as a power plug in second class, so its reading books rather than working on laptops. come on, we’ve even got wifi on the london-newcastle route!
the fares are often cheaper: £40 geneva to paris, first class departing 5am, in paris by nine. the kicker is that you have an extra journey as its london-paris-frankfurt, not london-frankfurt. ↩︎
…cliché, but oh so pretty sitting in the gardens of an amazingly formed new museum as the sun went down. hard to make out in the twilight of the photo, but l’tour eiffel was framed by classical parisian apartment blocks flowing into something reminiscent of the huge sand worms of dune, twisting out around and above you.
for the three people who will know what this is, it was worth the wait… mmmm, zip!
seeing the onset of christmas in los angeles was just turning from amusingly surreal to plain wrong, so it was nice to get back to a real winter, beautiful sky and all.
according to santa monica’s noticeboards, “winterlit” ↩︎
and your hot tubs in the garden in balmy november. you can’t quite see it in the photo, but there’s even a stars and stripes with a golden eagle atop the flag pole in the garden beyond. right… cab! LAX, thanks.
…or rather, a lost weekend in la. or rather rather, the lost few days from the show closing to flying back. technically a monday, tuesday and a bit of wednesday, it certainly felt like a weekend after the two weeks straight of 10pm finish motorshow days. and perhaps fittingly, my camera decided to break the minute the crazy few days started their roll and magic itself back to life towards the end. so here we pick up the scent, could we be in a musician’s bedroom?
goodbye to two weeks in the standard, and its rooftop bar. a little los angeles self portrait on the final time down… moderation kills the spirit, especially at the rooftop bar.
into taxi. los angeles continues to not be pretty until the moment of walking into the hotel, when things go from the horrific to the sublime. this is one hell of a hotel, i’ll spare you the image of the shower.
so: my laptop tells me its 4am monday morning, my body has pretty much either been packing and lugging boxes or sitting on planes for the past few days, a proper night’s sleep is something seemingly far in the past and its too early to go to bed over here. there is a friend djing in santa monica in an hour or so though… who can tell whether its a good idea in this state…
15 hours later, arrive LAX. the journey has been constant light, beautiful views. however, descent to los angeles and its not pretty. there’s something about the sprawl i instinctively freak out about, and without the sun to bleach it clean, its not a welcoming sight.
up at 4am tuscan time to start the journey to los angeles. prop plane over the alps to münchen.
2007 is a year for harris birthdays, me 30 and mother 60. a feast is laid on to celebrate the latter.
my room bare, so the final night in the house spent on the sofa. wrong. shortlived, however: fly to pisa and meet family ensconced in a tuscan villa for the week. just the night for me, though.
back to punta ala with a rising wind and rain clouds on the horizon. good timing, and nice to finish easily doing 6 knots fairly close hauled with only a few more knots of wind. not bad for an out-and-out cruiser. break over, back to reality.
quick buzz round the yacht mid-sea. glad it didn’t run out of petrol. and don’t think the little tender and its outboard are winning: the yacht can easily outrun it.
and gazing at the sunset sky, i saw the cross wasn’t the only thing positioned on the hills around.
not the best photo, but you can get the context and the (very big) small cross on the highest point behind. and to make the point, the bells rang for mass just once we were moored.
oh do i want to take the tender in there one time and investigate properly. preferably with some friends and as many cameras, lights and props as we can muster. there’s even an indiana jones quarry car rollercoaster in there if you look closely. and check the rock on the lower right, the mining is for iron ore but the cliffs are just way crazy beyond the orange.
…and this is only half way up the mast, chin on the spreaders. took a false start to have the guts, despite having done this years ago and probably without the harness back then. again a bit of stitching to get the view.
…which was the halyard, needed for pulling up the main sail, unless when it it’s wrapped around a light fitting high up on the front of the mast and you can’t flick it off from the deck. so having swum down underwater, it was time to climb up a tall pole.
up early for the long haul round most of elba. distinct lack of wind meant a motoring jaunt, but that did mean anchoring in a quiet bay for morning coffee and a swim to inspect the anchor’s holding was both easy and most pleasant. except the sea was of course cold and salty and it hurts when you dive down. and while i may have felt quite smug at the time of this photo, i didn’t know the state of a rope about five-ten meters above my head…
that view is just shy of 180° thanks to a little panorama stitching
out of porto ferrario, and a nice beat across the top of the island to marciana marina (as in marciana-by-the-sea, there ain’t a marina here, just the fishing harbour with some visiting berths). miraculously, the tack round the last headland pointed us right at marciana, and the course held right up to it - the photo is us nearly there with marciana marina visible on the shore, and marciana nestling in a valley above.
pick up sónar pro passes, lose the bikes, talk avit backoffices. long story.
a town with a wealth of riches?
computers packed away, and back to the coast. a swim in the sea, a walk on the rocks… putting the world to rights, one contemplation at a time.
todd showing eloi and sean artificial eye’s 3l/thrill vj app… on the veranda, aaah, life was easy.
showing eloi and sean my live cinema work and the state of play on macs, with vdmx, quartz composer and image kernels
find eloi at the most cool ‘la fabrica’, a converted factory now full of dance studios and suchlike, having a beer after documenting his video feedback installation coded with open framworks. its processing for people who want c++ performance.
in barcelona rendevous with todd thille / synesthete.com and sean of skynoise.net; hire mopeds, head upcountry with the mission to find eloi of telenoika’s country retreat. most importantly, via a maximum of crinkly bits. 2km of curves? bring it on.