Everybody Knows That You Are Insane to Eyes Wide Open

There’s the day job, the travel company I run in my spare time, the personal blog website which needs some serious work, sleeping, watching rugby and the gym (yeah right – guess which one has gone by the wayside), so who planted the idea for a new blog in my mind?

THE above message popped up in my Facebook timeline earlier this week in one of those On This Day messages.

There’s a slight amendment from the original, rules of the blog mean names are largely left out of posts so the person responsible can keep his Cornish anonymity.

It came as the blog sparked by that idea reached a landmark, so thought it would be a good idea to have a quick catch-up on how we got from there to here, what here actually is and where we go from… well, here.

That Facebook entry was written in February 2013, so how have things changed in the intervening four years?

The day job remains, in principle, the same. There has been a change of title and a move of a few yards across the office, albeit bar a lengthy detour around Africa and – even more of an adventure into unknown territory for someone from Gloucester – to Bath for a couple of months.

And the way newspapers (remember them?) are put together is a bit different as websites have moved front and centre to everything we do.

The travel company is, sadly, no more. It was (and remains) a lovely idea, based far more on a passion for travel than any entrepreneurial drive.

Still think it could work given the time and money to reach a critical point where it has momentum to roll along.

Sadly we did not have either of those and eventually something had to give, especially as that passion for travel was causing extremely itchy feet (not 100 per cent cured) and that African detour forced a decision to be made.

The time may be right to start sharing a few tales from those days and the main irritant which kept us occupied and became known as The Troll. Even now, choosing my words far more carefully than he ever did.

There is still plenty of rugby being watched (as the next post, already partially written in my head, will attest), a fair amount of sleeping and not enough time in the gym (even though it is actually visible from my flat nowadays).

Which just leaves the website…

Travel Marmot existed four years ago, courtesy of a friend who got up early and built the earliest version before presenting it over breakfast the morning after we had kicked around the idea of transplanting my travel blogs from a hosted site and expanding.

At the time, all it had on it was those posts from  an overland London to New York trip copied across from another site and a few additional articles, which was supposed to be the way it developed.

Until the idea of blogging the A-Z trip through my iPod came about.

The journey had started once before but came to grief somewhere early in the C songs, but had long meant to pick it up again or start anew – a suggestion made aloud in the office which was picked up on by a colleague who came up with the blogging idea.

It took a while to start – a quick look into the archives will tell you that while the idea was made in February 2013, the first post outlining the journey ahead and the rules was not written until March 2014 – mainly because of the time being spent on Epic Overland (the travel company).

But when the decision was made to call time on the business and plan the African adventure, Travel Marmot got a new lease of life and the A-Z journey began,

And three years on we have completed A to E, Eyes Wide Open by Radio 4 rounding off the latest letter at track number 3,222.

It has not been a direct journey – it has not taken almost three years to listen to the first five letters. There’s been a couple of long breaks along the way when travelling (and struggling to find internet access for those blog entries), the need for a rest from it and time demands of work conspired to limit the writing – the listening has never been an issue.

When it started, there was 11,235 tracks on my iPod, which has risen to 12,907 (and you can add 12 from Prisoner by Ryan Adams when it is uploaded to my iPod).

E has actually been the shortest part of the journey so far with 323 tracks (if anyone’s interested, A was 605, B was 871, C lasted 758 and D 765). F awaits – a few asterisks elevating the first track alphabetically – with 514 to come.

Shortest of those has been Ask for Janice by The Beastie Boys (11 seconds), the longest Driftin’ Back by Neil Young and Crazy Horse (27.37). Both will be beaten.

The final section of the E tracks, which kicked off with a blast of Queens of the Stone Age, brought a fair few familiar faces from this journey.

The Wedding Present have popped up as much as anybody (alongside Ryan Adams) and we had three versions of Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft, which is worryingly 30 years old this year.

Fellow regulars Radiohead (the beautiful Exit Music (For A Film) and Everything In Its Right Place twice), New Order (Everything’s Gone Green), REM (Exhuming McCarthy), Half Man Half Biscuit (Everything’s AOR and Excavating Rita) and Belle and Sebastian with Expectations, twice.

Beautiful South (Everybody’s Talkin’), Teenage Fanclub (Everything Flows, twice) and Manic Street Preachers (Everything Must Go) are less regular but welcome visitors, while Rival Schools popped up for a rarer visit with Everything Has Its Point.

And we have even seen the evolution of my relationship with rap.

Back when The Wedding Present were introducing their chattering guitar kitchen sink drama indie pop classics three decades ago, rap had no chance of breaching my jingly jangly ghetto.

But then De La Soul – represented here by Eye Know – arrived with their classic debut album Three Feet High And Rising and things started to change.

Slowly. Ever so slowly. The wonderful Arrested Development followed suit and over the years there has been a gradual exploration of some of the classics – much more old school than what is happening now, but at my age can say that about a lot of music.

Can’t say know much about rap, but know what I like and NWA popped up twice with Express Yourself.

And we’ll see more of them very, very soon…

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Ask to Ayla

“The paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar
I think she’s clever cos she stops people dying”
Avant Gardener – Courtney Barnett

A LOT of border crossings are littered throughout this blog and, with a trip around Africa heading up, there are plenty more to come, complete with plenty of hanging around, filling in forms and no apparent activity from anyone involved.

But this is the first border for this journey through my iPod, arriving at the end of A section – all 537 of them.

We’ve gone from A to B and are about to embark on the trip to the C, via 755 tracks (to be honest, the journey’s already started but just haven’t had a chance to catch up on the blog over the past few days).

After last week’s detour on the subjects of my tenants and Gloucester’s sacking of Nigel Davies, it’s back to the main business of the music.

There’s been no real movement on a new director of rugby (although a big-name signing looks imminent), while the cleaners and decorators have been in to my house and, most importantly, the tenants have opted not to contest losing all their deposit – not that they had much of an argument.

So it is back to the music and another trip to Cardiff tomorrow to clear out the stuff they left – with a few therapeutic bank holiday weekend trips to the tip – to help make real inroads into the Bs.

The final stretch before the alphabetical border was, like many actual frontiers, a weird sort of no-man’s land just waiting to reach that final track – Ayla by The Maccabees – with a surprisingly high number of songs beginning Au, Av or Aw.

The aural equivalent of “are we nearly there yet?” Courtney Barnett

Highlighting that final drag was Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett – my current musical obsession away from this journey.

It has emerged as my favourite track from her combined EPs, A Sea of Split Peas, as she somehow manages to shoehorn Uma Thurman, pseudoephedrine, asthma puffers, radishes and a chorus about having trouble breathing into a tale of suffering anaphylactic shock while gardening and makes it sound like another mundane Monday.

While agreeing with her view that paramedics are deserving of more credit, as a confirmed non-musician it is hard not to empathise with the view that “the paramedic thinks I’m clever cos I play guitar”.

Anyone who does anything well – particularly those who make it look easy – attracts my admiration, particularly musicians.

Despite a few stabs at tackling even the most basic things, it always proved beyond me – largely due to a lack of patience when younger and the guitar teacher who had seen my sister through a variety of grades insisting on constant repetition on basic classical techniques when all that was in my mind was imitating the guys with guitars on Top of the Pops.

It didn’t help that my childhood fingers barely reached the positions he was seemingly trying to force them into.

“Anyone can play guitar”, Thom Yorke once sang (a song sadly missing from this journey as Pablo Honey only exists in my collection on cassette), but my efforts proved just how wrong he was.

And we are the better for it as a lack of any noticeable musical talent has meant the option has been to listen to it and that’s fine my me.

This section started with listening to Ask – Sharon Van Etten before the better known song of the same name by The Smiths, who have been surprisingly quiet through the opening stretches of this journey.

Ask is not towards the top end of my favourite Smiths songs, although something has to be pretty special to work its way into those higher echelons.

Asleep, which followed a handful of songs later, is creeping towards that level which we will explore in depth at a later date.

Belle and Sebastian have also been noticeable by their absence (without checking, complete up to this point) which was rectified by Asleep On A Sunbeam – again, not in the pantheon of their great tracks but they have a fairly distinguished list of those.

REM have managed to pop up more regularly so far, but have continued the trend of doing so with some of their lesser tracks – generally the ones after Bill Berry left and… that’s a long rant we will save for another entry.

But the boys from Athens, Georgia (which is looking increasingly likely to receive a return, slightly longer, visit on a post-wedding* road trip later in the summer) appeared with one of their better later efforts, At My Most Beautiful, and hints of their early splendour with Auctioneer (Another Engine).

There was more Americana from Bright Eyes (one of the slightly overlooked acts which has piqued my interest so far during this trip) with At The Bottom Of Everything and White Denim, who chipped in with At Night In Dreams.

That song popped up a day before they performed it on Later… Live. Interesting to watch it on the small screen instead of live in Bristol, which would have been the case but for the clash of dates. That’s one for this week instead.

We had two trips to Australia, first with the Manic Street Preachers (whose song of that name was once used to advertise Wales ahead of the Rugby World Cup) and then The Shins, while we reached 500 with The Attack, one of two songs in this stint from Les Miserables. Happily with no sign of Russell Crowe.

And to wrap up the As, we retracked through the three A tracks added to the list since this journey started (been a bit quiet adding music in the last few weeks) – Advance Upon The Real by Perfect Pussy (a mix of noise and ambient background, but be careful Googling them), Algiers from the welcome return of The Afghan Whigs and Amber Veins by Eagulls.

So to B…

*Not mine, think that might have cropped up before now.

 

photo by: kingArthur_aus
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