The Enemy to Everybody Knows

THE last entry’s diversion from the direct A-Z route through my iPod, travel and the standard ramblings of this blog into politics and the point of protests elicited a range of responses.

It was largely positive and addressed some of the key points raised from the opening weeks of President Trump’s stay in the White House (and wherever he has popped off for a long weekend playing golf) .

So let’s address those key issues one by one.

  • The Queen Is Dead is the best Smiths album. This one has been argued at length over  more than a few pints and, whatever the merits of their eponymous debut album – its most common competitor – as a complete work from start the finish (the mark of a truly great album), The Queen Is Dead cannot be beaten.

Hatful of Hollow does have its supporters (including one very welcome regular reader who stated its case again) and it is a selection of excellent songs.

But that’s what it is rather than a coherent body of work or a studio album meant to be treated as such.

Let’s not get started on The Bends v OK Computer.

  • President Trump’s dismissal of somebody who dared to disagree with him over his travel ban as a ‘so-called judge’ brought to mind a certain type of person equally as keen on sharing their opinion while trying to silence any contrary ones – the local newspaper letter writer.

Nowhere else do you see the phrase so-called used quite so often – so-called councillors (regardless of any election result), so-called expert (well, yes… that’s probably why they were quoted, it’s a way of avoiding fake news), so-called doctor (yep, seriously had that one a lot) and so-called journalist, especially in the midst of complaints about something not included due to legal reasons (what with all that so-called legal training people don’t seem to accept journalists go through to distinguish them from the keen amateur).

My favourite of all the letters placed on pages (or consigned to the trash) over the years was the one which escalated through a list of so-calleds until it hit pay dirt by describing someone as a so-called person…

Fake news indeed

  • This blog will not fall into the same lack of respect with somebody’s title, it is not Trump it is President Trump. Fascist, loofa-faced, shitgibbon yes (to quote Pennsylvania State Senator Daylin Leach), but always President. President Fascist, loofa-faced, shitgibbon.

He did, after all, win an election. Which brings us to…

  • The response which has become common place to anyone expressing a contrary opinion to the one which won any vote since last July – you lost, get over it.

Since the Brexit referendum (and if we are going to have another referendum, can it be to vote against the word Brexit?), it has become the standard response to anyone less than pleased by the outcome and unwilling to just shrug their shoulders and disappear.

To which the standard answer is no.

Elections, referendums, any vote are a snapshot in time. Yes one side usually wins on that day and we should work to smooth over any differences and work together to make that electoral decision work.

But it does not mean voicing opposition is ruled out by the result – UK elections come with the bonus of appointing an official opposition (of varying degrees of usefulness). One of the great things about living in a democratic nation and lands of the free is that it is positively encouraged, as opposed to stamped on in so many places.

A fan of President Trump

Refer you back to the last post and how voicing a contrary view is stamped upon in so many parts of the world (as witnessed by those looking over their shoulders and talking in hushed tones while sharing details of everyday life in Zimbabwe) while standing up and making your voice heard has proved far more effective a weapon of lasting change than violence over much of the last century.

And just because we don’t like the result does not mean we are necessarily trying to overturn it – yes, you won, most of us accept that, but who says we can’t have a say on what happens next? Especially when nobody can agree what winning actually means.

  • One final question which came from the last post: Will I be visiting America while President Trumpgibbon is in office?

The answer was swift and simple – yes. Why not? Especially now Sweden seems to be off the travel list.

Having given it more thought, however, it is not quite that simple and why it was asked makes sense.

But whatever the thought processes and reasons for not going under President Trump, they are outweighed by a couple of simple facts – it is, despite so much of what we are seeing on the news (fake or otherwise), a wonderful country crammed full of friendly, welcoming people.

It has lured me back time and again over the last decade or so on a series of holidays and journeys that have taken in 39 states (some more comprehensively than others) and there is so much unseen in the quest to complete the set – more on that to come in the next few weeks.

There are two weeks booked off work this summer and the long-awaited planning for my next trip is starting to look Stateside – where and how depends on what remains in the bank account when the final damage of my run-in with the taxman (thankfully, given this morning’s final form filling, almost over) is assessed.

Fenway Park, Boston

New ground into some of those 11 remaining states? Revisit some of the places which deserve more time? Or let the Red Sox schedule decide (basically, back to New York or Boston)? Possibly, given the early flight prices, a combination of a couple of those.

Whatever the choice, there’s no intention of boycotting President Trump’s USA. That’s if they let me in.

And if you need any greater argument of why it is a country worth visiting, just try some of the music from that part of the world which punctuated the last section of the A-Z on my iPod from Roy Harper to Ryan Adams, who sneaked in behind Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows (from just over the unwalled border) having previously dropped in with two versions of English Girls Approximately.

We had some REM, albeit with Everybody Hurts – one of the handful of their songs which is really well known but which is nowhere near their best, although it is another which gave its name to a blog post – Ernest Borgnine by John Grant (no video as they all come with a very long and very rude intro) and Enfilade from At The Drive-In’s career highlight Relationship of Command (I’ll be the hyena, you’ll see…).

And, mixed in with quintessentially English moments from Harper,  The Jam (Eton Rifles) and Half Man Half Biscuit’s Evening of Swing (Has Been Cancelled), we had my current obsession Drive-By Truckers’ tale of immigrants making a new life for themselves in America.

Which seems fitting.

  • One last point… that’s it for the politics, at least for now. Hopefully for a while, but that may be in the not so large hands of others.

Back to the normal bobbins next time.

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Embassy Row to Enemy

He had the makings of a leader, of a certain kind of men
Who need to feel the world’s against him, out to get ’em if it can
Men whose trigger pull their fingers, of men who’d rather fight than win
United in a revolution, like in mind and like in skin
Ramon Casiano, Drive-By Truckers

I AM not a political person. I’ve got my views but would like to think they are based on right and wrong rather than left or right, liberal or conservative, red, blue, orange or green.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always had an interest – wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) last 25-plus years as a journalist without it or a healthy degree of cynicism – and picked up bits from all sides and anyone else with something worth listening to.

All that melded together to form a belief in cradle to the grave provisions for all, but mixed with a capitalist streak that always felt the best way to pay for all of that was not by the state owning the means of production, but by private enterprise reaping the rewards and allowing the masses to share in that prosperity (which would be nice). But as my favourite political argument goes, each belief and political system falls apart as soon as humans and their weaknesses get involved.

And if that hugely-simplified paragraph made no sense and is full of holes, that’s why I generally stay well away from political discussions. Much happier sat in the corner of the pub arguing which is the best Smiths album.

I’ve certainly never felt the drive or the need to go on a political demonstration or march. Until now.

Like many people, I took to the streets in reaction to President Donald Trump and (among other things) his travel ban on people from a range of mainly Islamic countries who have not had the good grace to do business with him.

Protesting Cheltenham journalist style

When I say took to the streets, it was more a gathering on the pavement in sedate Cheltenham than a million man march on Washington or a student blockade of Tiananmen Square, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.

And having got the bug, I’m up for anything you’ve got for me to rebel against – Brexit, the state of the NHS, idiots who stand outside football grounds on transfer deadlines day. You name it.

Being Cheltenham it was all very polite (the major heckle for speakers to deal with was ‘speak up’), well behaved and good humoured – they even had the decency to hold the protest on the opposite side of the road from the bus stop for my journey home from work.

There were several hundred there, rather more than a few sceptics had predicted, and there were some fine impromptu speakers in the middle of the gathered crowd, even if the chanting was slightly self conscious and none of it was likely to have the new occupant of the White House quaking.

So why did I turn up at the protest? And what difference will a few hundred people in Cheltenham make?

Not a lot, I’m more than happy to accept that. And the same can be said for those who turned out in London, Cardiff, Norwich, Boston, Washington… the list goes on.

But put them together and keep going, one day it might make a difference. It just might be what starts some momentum building that becomes unstoppable. Or simply influences somebody in a position to be heard to take the plunge and speak out. And who knows what can happen then?

The National Mall in Washington DC looking towards Lincoln Monument. Non-protest day

Standing alongside me in a picture at the protest is my colleague Aled Thomas who summed up well just why it is important for one person to speak out in his regular column – and like him, this blog will soon be back to the silly jokes and ramblings it normally specialises in

I am not overly comfortable in getting too embroiled in political arguments, so will let better-qualified people dissect the minutiae of this new US administration – besides, by the time you read this, there’ll probably be some ridiculous tweet, declaration, appointment or downright lie that has taken it all to a new level.

Check out Hannah Dunleavy’s take on the first week of the new administration and, if you fancy it, she then tackled the second week. By the third, think it was all too much.

But she’s American I hear at least somebody shout. What’s the American president got to do with a boy from Gloucester, England?

Directly, not a lot. But that doesn’t mean I can’t care and can’t get angry.

Over the past few years, my travels have taken me to a few places that have left me feeling angry, bemused, bereft and struggling to understand my own race.

But time and again, the people who had nothing to give gave it anyway, the places we were warned against turned out to be full of wonderful people and the ones who had nobody to talk for them deserved somebody to shout on their behalf.

In South Africa,  if people hadn’t stood up and made their voices heard (however hopeless it seemed at the time), would apartheid have been swept away?

In Zimbabwe, despite warnings not to engage in political debate as you never know who is listening, several locals were desperate to share their situation as a proud nation continues its slide into even further chaos under Mugabe’s rule.

Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre

And at some point on trips around Auschwitz and the Genocide Museum in Kigali, Rwanda, there are inevitable questions. How did anyone allow this to happen? What would I have done?

Not likening President Trump to any of those regimes. Not yet anyway. But if nothing else, standing out on a cold street in Cheltenham is worthwhile to keep his self-serving lies and bullying tactics front and centre until somebody is in a position to stand up and make a difference.

Starting with some ‘so-called judge’.

It’s been a busy few days away from protesting, which partly explains the delay in finishing this post and also why it was a relatively brief sprint through the A-Z iPod Challenge.

It took us just 50 tracks from Embassy Row by Pavement to, perhaps fittingly, Enemy by Buffalo Tom (via, possibly even more fittingly, a track from Frank Ocean’s album Channel Orange).

It also took in several songs which always take me back to my travels.

Sunset over Lome

Endless Art by A House was on the playlist which was a trusted companion on the Trans Africa trip, while First Aid Kit’s gorgeous Emmylou takes me back to early evenings watching the ships go by as the sun set from the beach in Lome, Togo and Emergency 72 by Turin Brakes joined the select group of songs which have provided titles for blog entries (thankfully, I think, without people realising why in this case).

Even Endlessly by Mercury Rev reminds me of travel, although as the soundtrack for spending 48 hours sprawled on a French ski resort sofa near to the bathroom with food poisoning.

And, perhaps most pertinently, Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind which was pretty much everywhere during six months on the road in the USA and brings back great memories of the country and why it is worth us caring about.

  • Sorry, still no playlist. I’ll launch a protest about why that’s not working, see where it gets us. Until then, relying on videos. Some of which are a bit odd.

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E-Bow The Letter to Elvis Presley Blues

TRAVEL took centre stage this weekend, although not to the extent the man in the wheelchair who did his best to run me off the pavement on Sunday morning would have liked.

Not quite sure what led him to his conclusion a long journey was in order as fast as possible.

Perhaps it was the slightly scruffy hoody in the rather salubrious surroundings of Kensington High Street, the lingering outside a branch of a well-known electrical goods shop to discover it didn’t open for another hour or my reaction to the cyclist who had  shot out in front of a bus, vociferously (and less than politely) haranguing the driver for daring to prove his horn was in as good a working order as he had just proved his reflexes and brakes were.

The hand gesture from the cyclist to my passing comment was predictable, the sudden appearance of the guy in the wheelchair from a shop doorway was not.

Have done my best to avoid being run in front of another bus, my efforts were rewarded by his request – tidied up considerably for a family audience – for me to get out of the country and return rapidly to my point of origin.

Back where I come from…

Not sure he was expecting to be answered in English and that Gloucester was only about 100 miles away, but some bee had got in his bonnet and not sure any response would have convinced him of my right to be setting foot in his country.

All rather bizarre and out of keeping with the rest of an enjoyable weekend, catching up with friends, being a bit of a tourist, getting some travel inspiration and firming up a few ideas for further trips and the future of this website.

The event that drew me and huge crowds – must have been about a million and a half of them, huge crowds, massive, whatever any pictures or official figures may suggest – was the Adventure Travel Show at Olympia.

It is, for the travel geek, a chance to discuss future travel plans and form a few new ones with a wide array of exhibitors – particularly my old friends at Oasis Overland, who managed the not inconsiderable task of getting me round Africa in (almost) one piece – and to listen to a few talks from people who have been there, done that, written the book to prove it.

And it was sat in one of those talks that something struck me.

Why do I miss it?

Most of the talks were hugely entertaining, inspiring and were almost enough to have me scurrying for the nearest tour operator and getting the credit card out.

But one struggled to keep my attention and as my mind began to wander, something became clear.

That million and half people who had crowded in (or some alternative, slightly smaller, number if you are really after facts) to some of the more popular talks heard about any number of unusual journeys.

And all of them had a  passion for travel and exploration – they wouldn’t have been there otherwise (unless somebody had brought them in just to clap, laugh and cheer at the appropriate moments… maybe too much time spent watching the news).

Unicyclist and chipmunks not pictured

But how many of them are really going to walk solo across the Kalahari, ride a chipmunk the length of Route 66 or unicycle up Everest? Not too many. Otherwise it would get a bit crowded with a million and half people crowding into a desert, never mind the centre of a major capital city.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to do something adventurous, hitting the route less travelled or doing it in an unusual manner. Nor is there anything wrong with writing about it, be  it a blog or a book – if they are as entertaining as some of the speakers at the weekend, sign me up for a copy.

But having ignored that request to return rapidly to where my kind came from, a hunt around the travel section of a large book store revealed two main kinds of books – guide books to specific places and the tales of those very specific adventures.

Which leaves a middle ground – a place worth heading to rather rapidly for the future of this website.

The vast majority of those few hundred in the audience (sorry, facts are facts, no alternative, regardless of who won a vote) and those outside at the show visiting the stalls will head off with a guide book and explore new horizons. The top shelf of my bookcase will testify for my willingness to do just that (or just to read about these places).

But a good number of them will sign up with one of those exhibitors for something in between, an adventure and a journey of a different kind – breaking fresh ground for them, but organised to varying degrees by whichever firm comes nearest to their needs.

And where is the stuff for them to read? What is available is usually on those firm’s websites, some of which are better written and better presented than others. It provides the facts, but does it really provide the colour? The truth beyond the itinerary, what to pack and what excursions you can do along the way?

That’s the gap in the market which this blog is going to attempt to fill in some small way – the stories, the colour, the (sometimes harsh) realities and, yes, the smells of overlanding.

Like the crowds for Trump’s inauguration (and unlike the following Women’s March), my experiences will not come close to filling every available gap.

But over the coming weeks and months, this blog will share some tips, advice and stories about overlanding – hopefully with contributions from people with far more experience and any readers, please feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

We’ll see where it takes us.

And for those of you here for the A-Z iPod Challenge, don’t worry that will continue alongside the travel articles (which, after all, was the initial point of this website).

There’s still a long way to go on that one after reaching a couple more landmarks in the latest section from REM’s E-Bow The Letter at 2,900 to Elvis Presley Blues by Gillian Welch.

It took us past the 10,000 to go mark (possibly not for the first time with the fairly regular additions to the collections) with Each to Each by The Gutter Twins at 2,907 and beyond 3,000 with The Stone Roses’ Elizabeth My Dear.

Along the way there’s been old favourites – Ease Your Feet In The Sea by Belle & Sebastien, Eat Yourself Fitter by The Fall – and a pair of triple appearances from The Beatles, Eight Days A Week and Eleanor Rigby, while Godspeed You! Black Emperor soundtracked most of a journey home from work, although at 17.58, East Hastings clocks in at one of their shorter contributions.

The picks of a not particularly inspiring selection were Elephant by Jason Isbell, Elevator Operator by Courtney Barnett and, maybe slightly surprisingly, one of last year’s best tracks, Eat Shiitake Mushrooms by Let’s Eat Grandma.

But hey, nothing should be counted as a surprise from the last 12 months.

  • No playlist on this entry – technical issue that’s beyond my understanding. Normal service as soon as possible.
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Ablaze to Drunk And On A Star

IT has become something of a tradition in the relatively short life of this blog to write a state of the nation-style post, assessing the world around me and my place in it as we enter a new year.

And it is rapidly becoming another tradition that the good intentions to have that piece written on New Year’s Day are derailed and delayed.

Two years ago was spot on, written in a candlelit bar on the Ghanaian coast on a quiet first night of the year, albeit not posted for another two weeks due to the lack of wi-fi.

But last year, it took until January 23 before what became the penultimate entry for 2016 to see the light of day, so writing this nine days into 2017 is positively punctual. And a form of rebirth.

That entry 12 months ago announced the break this blog was going on which was supposed to last a few weeks, months at the most – not, one brief return aside, a year – and an overhaul of the design of the site.

Finally that prediction has come true – the new look you have hopefully spotted, albeit with a few minor tweaks still to come, and a return to regular articles both in the A-Z Challenge and working my way through the travel pieces (this is the Travel Marmot after all) which have been on the must-write list for who knows how long.

Travel remains close to my heart, even if there is none on the horizon – something that does not sit easy and there is a real itch to do so something about it.

My bed for the night, right, on New Year’s Day 2015 in Elmina, Ghana

So how did we get to that point?

That post on 2015 was written sat in the power-free, darkened bar at a small eco beach resort with the camp pets curled up on my feet or alongside me. Away to my right, the occasional sounds of some of my fellow travellers mixed with the sound of the Atlantic with a night in my one-man tent at the side of the volleyball court awaiting me.

This post is written sat at the desk in the corner of the front room of my flat. To my right, the sound of American college football is coming out of the TV with workmen outside dismantling the ice rink which has taken over the square  at Gloucester Docks for the past few weeks.

Food will not be cooked over a fire from the (newly) well-stocked fridge and bed will be, well, a bed. A proper bed. And between now and heading under the duvet, there’s all the modern conveniences to enjoy.

Not to be underestimated or taken for granted. Especially now, probably for the first time in six years, my life is firmly settled and fully unpacked.

If this new-year post tradition was in place in 2010 – round about the time the earliest entries in this blog were written, albeit initially, on a different website – it would have recorded a similar story.

It was about 50 miles away across the border in Cardiff, but there was a steady, responsible job on a newspaper and my own house (well, mine and the mortgage company’s). Everything was pretty much sorted, running smoothly and normal.

Sunset over Elmina – almost time to start writing

Right up to the decision to jack it all in and go travelling.

And since then, my life has been in a sort of limbo, living out of bags, on the road, with large chunks of my clothes or belongings in storage and even when back to what seemed like normality and even running a small company in my spare time, there was never that feeling of being settled. Of putting down roots. Of permanence.

There was always another big trip somewhere down the line, even before it was decided on what it was going to be.

But sat here now, everything is out of storage. There aren’t even things in bags, clothes are hanging up (unironed and wrinkled, but hanging up) or folded in drawers – now the Ikea packages have finally been put together –  books are in strict order on the bookshelves, furniture from my rented-out house in Cardiff surrounds me (the new tenants did not want it) and this week marks a year back on the payroll and in the office across the Golden Valley in Cheltenham.

Life is settled. Life is, pretty much, good. Life is not in a state of limbo.

Well, sort of. And that sort of is why there is no travel planned. Bar a couple of ideas and one plan made over a few drinks at a Trans Africa reunion which are being suppressed until that state of limbo is totally over.

Many of you will know the new year brings not only a delayed Travel Marmot blog post but also a tax deadline and that is what is largely delaying any plans for the future.

That end of January deadline is pretty much taken care of, all the relevant paperwork shipped off to the accountants. It is another tax issue which has everything on hold and explains me actually having an accountant.

That decision in 2010 to leave Cardiff was not meant to last this long. Always thought my future involved me returning there and moving back into my house.

But no, bar a couple of months between tenants, that house has been rented and there is outstanding tax to be paid. No attempt to dodge tax, just a breakdown in communication and, in my case, organisation.

So while the wait goes on for the final amount payable, there is no spending and until there is a clear idea of the budget, travel plans are on hold.

The moment the payment is made, the planning starts ( and if my boss reads this, don’t worry. That’s travelling little and often, not another lengthy, quit-my-job option. Probably).

So that’s me, what about the A-Z Challenge which forms the centrepiece of this blog at the moment.

That last, solitary post which popped up a few months ago wrapped up the end of the Ds, so to set things up neatly for the new year and the regular return of this blog, it has been a case of mopping up the A-Ds which arrived on my iPod over the last 12 months.

It was a fairly lengthy list from Ablaze by School of Seven Bells to Drunk And On A Star by Kevin Morby from 2016 albums, a few older ones missed while on the road  and any others picked up over the year (a flurry of catching up on Teenage Fanclub’s back catalogue for starters).

The normal, slightly longer than normal, playlist which accompanies each A-Z entry is below but what were my picks for 2016’s best albums?

Was going to do a proper top 10, but opted against that. Plenty of good albums last year, just not much verging on the great as most struggled to keep the quality throughout (sorry guys,  Bowie’s Blackstar is good, but would people really be raving about it the way they do if it wasn’t for the circumstances?).

So, in no particular order, my pick for 2016 are:

  • Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (not an easy listen, especially in light of his son’s death, but worth investing time in)
  • American Band – Drive-By Truckers (my current obsession and next band on the gig list)
  • A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead (who had the great idea of a track listing running from A-Z)
  • Going, Going… – The Wedding Present (surprisingly good from a band largely overlooked in recent years)
  • Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest (the type of band this A-Z Challenge was designed for as could well have slipped through the net, but kept popping up and catching my attention)
  • Schmilco – Wilco (not all Wilco fans liked it, but fine by me)

And bubbling under or worth more of my time in the weeks to come are:

  • Blackstar – David Bowie
  • 22, A Million – Bon Iver (Really need to spend more time on it)
  • Here – Teenage Fanclub (What prompted that re-examination)
  • case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs (Bit hit and miss, but the good bits are well worth it)
  • Chaleur Humaine – Christine And The Queens (Surprised my self with this one. Tilted one of the songs of the years)
  • A Sailor’s Guide To Earth – Sturgill Simpson (A bit more time with this one and could well be bumped into the top list)
  • Head Carrier – Pixies (Jury still out, last addition to the iPod. Could go either way)
  • Meet The Humans – Steve Mason (Slipped by me a bit, another that needs further examination)
  • Babes Never Die – Honeyblood (Some great songs but does tail away)
  • I, Gemini – Let’s Eat Grandma (We hit the Es next time – we’ll see more of them then)
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Don’t Stare At The Sun to Dynamo

HEY, how you doing? It’s been a while, what you been up to?

Hopefully, the return of this blog is rather more an encounter with someone you have been hoping to catch up with rather than bumping into someone you haven’t seen for ages and quickly remember exactly why.

Like most of those e-mails, phone calls or get-togethers you really have been meaning to do for ages, this blog was never supposed to take this long.

Yes, the plan was supposed to take a bit of a break and come back refreshed with a new look and a few fresh ideas. Just not this long.

That break was started back in January so it has lasted most of 2016 and the observant among you will notice that not that much has changed. Precisely nothing to be exact.

There has been plenty of fiddling around in the background and even a couple of abortive redesigns which were so close to making the grade. Right up to the point when something techie stalled everything or the new look which seemed so attractive one day, suddenly lost its charm at the next log in.

And having spent large chunks of the intervening 11 months involved in redesigning part or all of a couple of newspapers, believe me what looked good one day or in your mind, can look far less effective, eye-catching or user-friendly when you go back to it. For user-friendly, read it creates more work.

There will be a new look. By the time you read this, even by the time it is posted, there may be be a new background picture. By the time you look again (hopefully not that long), it could well have changed again.

Suggest that could be what happens in the next couple of months, trying out a couple of designs and seeing what works.

So what’s happened during almost a year of blog silence? Anything interesting? Has 2016 thrown up anything worth talking about? No, thought not.

img_1455
No idea what is about to happen next…

There have been a long list of events since the blog went on a break which have had me sitting at the laptop ready to type or composing articles – rants in a fair amount of cases – on the way to and from work.

In a rough sort of order… David Bowie, Farage, Gloucester’s poor form, Trump, unexpected brilliance from Gloucester, Hereford at Wembley, Boris Johnson, Trump, Muhammad Ali, Farage, Brexit, Farage (getting the rant bit?), being told to stop complaining about Brexit (no, that’s democracy), the Olympics, Gloucester’s poor form (new season, same story), more issues with tenants, the taxman talking rather more about money owed than poetry, Trump (more rants), more out-of-the-blue brilliance from Gloucester (reliable only in their unreliability), Leonard Cohen, Farage again, any number of other dead celebrities who were part of my childhood… all nearly got the keyboard tapping away. We will get there in the coming weeks.

To say nothing of what has been going on nearer to home (including why a lack of time and, frankly, surplus energy has also been a factor for the longer than planned break), music and travel. You know, the subjects which this blog is built around.

There has not been that much in the way of travel. After spending most of 2015 observing a fascinating chunk of the world on the road (well, the dirt tracks for large chunks – if we were lucky), 2016 has been spent largely observing a mystifying world from the comfort of my sofa (now the cheap one bought out of need has been replaced by the one my latest tenants didn’t want).

SAM_0022
The right choice

There was one trip Stateside, introducing my nephew to the delights of Boston and New York – thankfully, he seems to have come down far more on the side of the Red Sox than the Yankees – but travel has mainly been confined to honing the bucket list and planning future trips. More to come on that after a new idea was planted in my brain a couple of weeks ago.

So what of music? After all, this is in the A-Z iPod Challenge section.

It’s not been a bad year, a few new discoveries and some old favourites rediscovered (The Wedding Present live in Bristol tomorrow for the second time this year after a gap of nearly three decades) and enough decent stuff in the last 12 months that a rundown of the best could form an upcoming post.

Which is all good as there has been plenty to listen to with the task of listening to the contents of my iPod from A-Z on a hiatus with the blog – it had to be really or there would have been too much to catch up on.

But when the break was still looking like a short one, there was a fairly lengthy chunk from Don’t Stare At The Sun by Richard Hawley, via Downtown Train by Tom Waits at number 2,700 and the longest track so far – all 27.37 of Driftin’ Back by Neil Young and Crazy Horse – to Dynamo by Johnny Marr, at the time track 2,799, at the end of the Ds.

Along the way were a couple of tracks which would certainly make the long list if Desert Island Discs decided a travelling production journalist was a suitable guest – Driver 8 by REM and the wonderful Dry the Rain by The Beta Band (you know, the one John Cusack tries to sell to unsuspecting punters in High Fidelity).

And there were plenty of other great tracks of varying vintages, topped off with Don’t Talk by 10,000 Maniacs, Don’t You Fall by The Be Good Tanyas (who always bring back memories of sitting on the banks of the Yukon on a lovely summer evening, inevitably being bitten by mosquitoes), The Door by Turin Brakes, Down About It by The Lemonheads, Drunken Butterfly by Sonic Youth, Duel by Propaganda and Duet by Everything Everything, with some Jam, Nirvana, Buffalo Town, Belly and Lloyd Cole thrown in for good measure.

So normal service is resumed – bar a catch-up of the A-D tracks bought in the meantime. More of that next time, once I’ve worked out how to get the photo library plug-in to work again after all this time…

 

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