In The Act to Irene

NOT a regular poster on Facebook – bar the links to these posts which may have brought you here – but do tend to have it running in the background when online.

Among the promoted posts, things its latest algorithm seems to think will interest me (based on what evidence, not sure anyone could explain), ads for items searched for once weeks ago and birthday reminders (happy birthday to one regular reader), there is the odd item of interest.

For the traveller, that includes keep tabs on friends around the world or their ongoing overland trips – thankfully, starting to happen again after an understandable hiatus.

And, courtesy of changing the cover picture on the first anniversary of each day from major travels, it provides a daily reminder of places and experiences from simpler times.

Two years ago today, that was swinging in a hammock on a boat down the Amazon for six days as reality was suspended between Manaus – the epicentre of Brazil’s Covid crisis which bit for the first time within days of our departure – and Colombia where the virus brought us crashing back to reality.

Seven years ago, we were being encouraged to make a ‘donation’ to the police in the Congo before being allowed to make our way to the coast, having spent the previous morning digging a lorry out of a huge pothole, while 12 years ago the clock was ticking on the final few days before my first lengthy overland adventure.

All of those are chronicled on this website, writing about the journeys providing the reason the blog exists in the first place.

And in among them winds the meandering, often faltering, journey through my iPod from A-Z, filling the gaps between travelling – at least that is the plan, the silence of much of the last couple of years suggests otherwise.

Facebook reminded me this week that it was eight years ago that the idea of blogging such a journey would plug those non-travelling times, the first post arriving a couple of weeks later ahead of a sprint through the early tracks which ended with the first of several breaks when combining it with writing about African travels became too distracting from more important things.

Enjoying Africa for one.

Another, planned, break followed while in South America and despite good intentions and a brief flurry of posts in the weeks after returning, it has been sporadic at best since. Non-existent might be more accurate.

But it is time to get writing again, time to get back in the habit.

So to kick off that resumption, time to recap what all this A-Z Challenge is all about for any more recent arrivals, as well as checking out where it has reached in the seemingly never-ending trip through I songs (close to three years and counting).

  • My iPod decides the order

Not as simple as it seems  – A Day In The Life is first in the list, as it was when things kicked off all that time ago. But punctuation, definite and indefinite articles can get a bit confusing.

A-Punk was once the opening track, as was (A Belated) Invite To Eternity by Stornoway which has now been listed under B.

The latest section from The Von Bondies to Beach House (in a move designed to ignore any sensible SEO advice, each post is titled by the two tracks which bookended the latest chunk) was fairly simple for all that.

Billy Bragg’s The Internationale slots in after International Velvet by Catatonia, which is probably a good thing or the  stretch of songs starting The would be as impassable as much of the Congo.

  • No skipping

Each song needs playing in full so that it registers as having been played in my iTunes library.

There is the odd exception – for some reason, a Soundtrack of Our Lives album among a few other songs have appeared on my iPod in poor quality – but have stuck rigidly to my rule.

Long silences stretch the patience – Holden’s Intentionally Left Blank was just annoying while the 14 minutes of silence in the middle of Into The Storm by Lift To Experience was mystifying.

Although it did add up to stretching it out to 28 minutes, 57 seconds and the longest track to date. Fourth longest overall.

  • It’s the tracks that count, not songs

Multiple versions of the same song have to be listened to – covers, live versions, alternative versions or songs appearing on multiple albums or sources.

The most so far is five – one cover and four of the original in various different guises.

This chunk saw three versions of Infected by The The and two apiece for Inside Me by Jesus and Mary Chain, plus the wonderful Into Your Arms by The Lemonheads.

  • No revisionism

There’s some rubbish on there, but nobody put it on there but me (even if the reason is lost in the mists of time), so there’s nobody else to blame.

Except for Bono and his band of merry men who conspired with Apple to deliver tracks into my iTunes – ignored and steadfastly not downloaded to my iPod, although a quick look at what is to come (best avoided, to be honest) suggests a change of iPod has done it automatically.

My mood at the time may depend on whether a new rule is added.

  • New additions count

When this journey started, the A-Z was 11, 235 tracks long. That has grown – despite periods of little or no additions – to 15,636 with more to come when pre-release downloads appear.

At the end of each letter, there is a quick catch-up for any additions since that track’s place in the journey was passed.

Previously, this has been  a pretty quick sprint through a hundred or so tracks, but the current playlist of tracks from A-I waiting to be rattled through runs to 564 songs and will take a day and a half to work through.

That is partly down to the length of the I section, partly down to the amount of music downloaded over the last couple of years and largely down to those lengthy breaks.

May well have to split that into a few posts, once the remaining 150 or so I tracks have  come and gone.

  • Breaks are allowed

This rule was  meant to allow for  a short break to listen to new albums as they arrive, but sheer practicality has seen it stretch much longer at times.

And with good reason, not just because other things were squeezing my time, but it means each fresh start brings a new drive to plough through the next chapter.

This latest chunk has taken its time, the undoubted highlight being Invalid Litter Dept by At The Drive-In, one from the Relationship of Command album which remains one of the prime choices when a bit of noise is needed.

It was, that and The Lemonheads apart, not the most inspiring chunk although there was a couple of tracks from The Joy Formidable who always leave me thinking they need more exploration.

And that is sort of what this whole A-Z journey is all about.

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