Ghost to Girl From Mars

IT may have largely wandered down a musical side street – at least very loosely – but this blog started out as a home for travel writing.

The post-pub conversation which gave birth to the Travel Marmot* was about bringing my own writing from out on the road together in one place, as well as a place for advice articles and for other would-be travel writers to find a home.

The last of those never got further than a vague idea, the middle one remains a largely unmined seam of subject matter – there’s a huge list waiting to be tackled – while the first one worked fine. It is just hampered when you are not out on the road.

Which is why we took the diversion on the other journey from A-Z through my iPod.

And that journey cut across the early days of my travel writing, when this blog – and most of those which can be found all over the internet – was largely unthinkable.

Back in the days when internet access was not the given it is these days, newspaper offices had one – two, if you are lucky – machines in the office to be shared on a needs-must business.  Very slowly if you were trying to download a picture or send something via dial-up.

My first bout of travel writing was from fairly exotic climes – The Bahamas.

Newly arrived at a paper in Wales, they somehow decided to pack me off as the company’s representative at a golf tournament for the winners of regional tournaments around the country. We had done the press for the Welsh heat and got to send somebody.

The workload was, frankly, not over demanding. The Welsh winners came from outside our area so nobody was interested in a report on the golf, so all that was left to do was swan around a few golf courses, hang around the hotel pool and bar, pop into the basement casino and enjoy the day trips and activities put on by the tourist board. All at someone else’s expense.

A few hundred words for features never even touched on the unfortunate injury suffered by one of the golfers enjoying a ‘massage’.

Not all press trips are that exotic – most are weekends away a lot closer to home – but over the years managed to blag my way on to a fair few trips (mainly skiing, at least once because they thought it was a well-known ski writer of the same name).

Prompted looks of horror from at least three accompanying PR folk – one when we stumbled on a dead wolf painting not quite the picture he was envisaging outside our lunchtime stop on a mountain in Serbia, another when she realised one of the journalists in her charge was lying in a frozen stream,  trapped under the snowmobile he had crashed in northern Finland.

The third – a fairly regular travel companion – was just horrified at the mention of calling it a night. It was about 2am and it was becoming tough to focus, especially in the midst of a pool battle with two Finnish gold miners, but  she shamed me in to staying up. And making it up for breakfast and a morning on the slope just hours later.

Not me – they are still upright. Got a lot better

The trip which came to mind on the latest section of the A-Z journey was a touch warmer and was in October 2001 (thanks Google, dating courtesy of the trip coinciding with David Beckham’s goal against Greece which took England to the World Cup and more disappointment).

This was more golf, albeit slightly closer to home on the Algarve. A larger group was split across three villas, the four younger lads (it was a few years ago) handed the keys to one with a swimming pool which made fielding on the leg side rather perilous in a long afternoon game of garden cricket.

The trip produced some of my finest golf (not saying much) as even the bad shots seemed to ricochet off the cork trees back into the fairways with one stunning victory over a Sun reporter and a guy we nicknamed Lou Carpenter, who never forgave us for nabbing the best villa and not being included among the younger crowd.

We also had access to a hire car and, for some reason, the others agreed to one of my compilation tapes as the main source of music.

Know there was some Nick Cave on there (Tupelo, probably) which did not go down well. There was definitely some better received Moldy Peaches (Downloading Porn With Davo). And there was Slobberbone.

Gimme Back My Dog, picked up from an Uncut sampler CD, became the song of the trip. At least for the four of us, not sure the rest of the group were quite so enamoured when we hosted a final night barbecue round the pool.

And it was a pleasant, largely forgotten surprise as it popped up at number 4,000 – of, currently, 13,330 – in the latest section from Neutral Milk Hotel (largely passed me by, but seemingly worth further investigation) to probably Ash’s finest three and a half minutes.

We went through ghosts, giants, gifts and girls with a fair few old dependables – Pixies (the wondrous Gigantic, twice), The Smiths (Girl Afraid) and Ryan Adams, two versions of Gimme A Sign and three of Gimme Something Good (one of them twice for some reason).

And there was GI Blues from Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, which goes back even further than my first bout of travel writing and who bring a fair few stories which we’ll get to eventually. Probably when we get to S.

The song comes from a different perspective, but one verse did catch the attention and works today:

Look away John F Kennedy
Look away Franklin D Roosevelt
Look away George Washington
Thomas Jefferson and Brother Jonathon
Look away Bob Hope
Look away Uncle Sam
Look away Ronald Reagan
Look away Dixieland

Look away indeed. Especially if you happen to be on Twitter.

  • That’s it for the blog for 2017 – Happy Christmas to anyone who has bothered to read this far.

Back soon with the now traditional new year state of the nation post and my pick of the past year’s albums – after wading through the pile of downloads after scouring everybody else’s lists.

In a twist of fate, the daughter of the man who took the conversation about a website seriously and created it while some of us were still lying in bed is poised to feature somewhere in the end-of-year lists.

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