John, I’m Only Dancing to Juxtapozed With U

Traditionally, a new year brings two blog posts, but 2023 has been a bit different and one event warrants a post of its own. In keeping with tradition, the other two posts will follow – and be later than planned.

Let me tell you a story. Are you sitting comfortably (or as comfortably as those of us of a certain age can manage)? Then we will begin.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl from Australia. Little in stature, not age. Otherwise this story could get a bit creepy.

Bitten by the travel bug but caught in a work maelstrom, she dreamed of heading off on overland travels and a return to Africa.

Finding a spare few moments at work on her birthday in Canberra, she started googling overland travel companies and the big yellow trucks of Oasis Overland caught her eye.

Digging deeper into trip reviews, she spent time reading a blog of the Trans Africa journey around the continent written by an English bloke. And wondering exactly why it had a picture of a marmot (well, probably, let’s just roll with this for dramatic effect).

A few years passed and, after saving up her Monopoly money – sorry, Aussie dollars – our heroine (oh Lord, that one will come back to haunt me) finally booked a spot on one of the big yellow trucks. Not in Africa, but to pastures new in South America.

As she and her future travelling companions prepared for the trip, emails started to fly, a Facebook group was set up and one of those posting started to look familiar – the African blogger was chipping in on truck life ahead of adding a new continent to his travels.

And, as she sat in a Quito cafe the day before everyone was due to meet up at the start of the trip, the English blogger posted a (not so) fresh-off-the-plane picture with the view from his hostel terrace across the part of the old town she was exploring.

She was unable to work out where our clearly jetlagged romantic lead (hey, if she can be the heroine) was posting from, but as the travellers assembled at the pre-trip meeting the next evening, she recognised the English guy listening patiently to a monologue from a bearded American.

Not sure the two spoke much to each other that first night. Or even until he jumped in on the back of her haggling to grab the same rug (both lost somewhere in Brazil) at a market in Otavalo.

They definitely did speak during a freestyle game of Jenga in a bar and, over the coming weeks, began to chat more and more, spending an increasing amount of time together. Pretty much from the moment they were cursed by a random busker in Lima.

To cut a long story short – via becoming a couple in Argentina, being forced apart by the premature end of the trip in Colombia, daily video calls across the globe in lockdown, a couple of visits to wintry England and the quest for a visa – our heroine welcomed her Prince Charming (yeah, OK, that might be pushing it a bit) to Australia.

And on August 14, 2023, on an island off the coast of Queensland, the travel tale written by a single bloke from Gloucester officially became a two-handed affair with the girl from the beaches north of Sydney who had first stumbled across his ramblings several years earlier.

And somehow still agreed to marry him.

It was not a big wedding – the elopement package at Fitzroy Island giving a clue to the plan – in the middle of a two-week exploration of Queensland, but in a secluded garden (if you forget about the overlooking hotel balconies) overlooking a beach, the story which started with tales of Africa and took root in the wilderness, cities, beaches and jungles of South America had its happy ending.

Well, at least this chapter. There’s plenty more to be written yet.

And, keeping with a romance which first linked its romantic heroes via this blog (in which the bride has long considered herself to be the star), there was even a link to the A-Z iPod blog – which makes it a lot easier to shoehorn into this tale, even if it briefly threatened to derail the whole musical journey.

Having mopped up the remaining J songs – the shortest letter yet at 233, although not for long – from David Bowie to the groom’s former Cardiff neighbours the Super Furry Animals, the alphabetical trek had reached track 7,311 out of 15,960 (for now).

The latest section saw us through more Johns, Johnny and Jonny, Jonathan, Jolene, Jorge, Joy (with oven gloves and in Leeuwarden with a couple of Half Man Half Biscuit outings), Julie (working for the drug squad) and a fairly lengthy list of Justs – Radiohead, Feeder (Just A Day), REM (two versions of the glorious Just A Touch) and Jesus & Mary Chain (the equally glorious Just Like Honey, twice) – before the wonderfully bonkers clash of cultures which is The KLF’s Justified and Ancient.

Which is not a comment on the groom’s age.

And for a while, that looked like it might be it for the iPod – a key component of the A-Z.

Dragooned into action to supply the music throughout the ceremony – downloaded at the last minute after a failure to agree on anything – it was hidden in the groom’s back pocket with his phone to avoid an unsightly bulge in the wedding photographs.

One of the pictures which almost ended the A-Z trip through my iPod

Which would have been fine, if some of the photos had not involved the happy couple sitting on some rocks on the beach.

Thankfully, the spider web of cracks on the screen does not have much impact on its use – more thankfully, the fairly new and rather more expensive phone was unharmed – and the big day did not claim a casualty.

Tradition in these blog posts dictates several videos or links being posted to songs from the latest section, but if we cannot break the rules on this post, when can we?

So let us sign off with a song which should rightly feature in the next post catching up on new additions from A-J, but one which means a lot to us – the bride was given a crash course in some of the finest British television over her trips up north, developing a couple of obsessions with plans to escape to the country and live in a big house full of friendly ghosts.

This formed one of the songs on the playlist for the wedding, as we signed our lives over to each other.

And the words seem to fit. As long as you don’t dig too deeply.

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Girl From The North Country to God Save The Queen

Production journalist, endangered species, traveller, blogger, Gloucester rugby & Red Sox fan, indie kid turned melancholic Americano. Views partially obscured
@robglaws – Twitter profile

THE endangered species reference in my Twitter profile was partly a joke, partly a response to the latest round* of journalism redundancies and partly because… well, it’s true.

Anyone who spends their working life dealing with print rather than digital news these days can be excused for feeling like a dinosaur.

And if there was any doubt, somebody told me just that.

It was supposed to be a few drinks with old mates, back in Cardiff. It just happened to coincide with a leaving do at my old paper, so the old mates were supplemented with a fair few of a newer generation of journalists.

And many of them have known little else than a digital first approach to reporting the news (or at least whatever gets the requisite hits), so perhaps should have expected explaining my role in producing a physical product would provoke a question along the lines of ‘what’s it like to be a dinosaur?’.

The person involved was escorted to the bar for even more refreshment and those of us who have worked through the digital revolution from print deadlines to web hits were left shaking our heads and muttering something along the lines of forgetting more about journalism than he had learned.

But his words stuck with me. Is that the way the new breed look at those of us left in print only? Is that the way the powers that be see us when any future cuts are made? And are we really little but a relic of an era long gone?

Would certainly hope my skills do not consign me to extinction. Those skills learned over the years and views on journalism hewn through battles to hit deadlines and many an evening over a few beers when we all would have made top-class editors. Not even averse to producing something on a website…

There’s certainly a place for those skills, be it reporting or subbing whatever the platform they appear on. Best practice is just that, whether you are trying to tell an accurate, well-written tale on paper or on screen.

It is not for nothing we send out a weekly style guide to our reporters.

Or that reports are appearing of one newspaper operation that has come up with the novel idea of employing people to check copy before it goes on the website.

Employing subs, imagine that.

There is one aspect of my life where the dinosaur tag does sit pretty comfortably. Watching television.

It may seem odd to many people, but my viewing habits are largely based on the TV schedules.

Programmes sit unwatched for weeks, often months, on my recorded list (still refer to it as videoed or taped), even series that have had me gripped for a few episodes before missing one for some reason.

And the same is true of my Netflix subscription. There’s a lengthy list of (reasonably) carefully chosen films and programmes. Just rarely get round to watching them.

Call me old-fashioned, but there’s something right about the pace and routine of watching a series in weekly instalments rather than in one or two binges (usually late at night).

Even when there’s nothing on – Tottenham v Rochdale and the inane witterings of Robbie Savage (the personification of the trend to celebrate the inept) in the background is as good a reason to tap away here rather than delve into the delights of Netflix.

And if there’s one thing guaranteed to stop me from choosing that glittering box set, it is being told by any number of people that ‘you just have to watch it’.

Which is why that present of the first few series (that’s series, not season – one for the style guide) of Breaking Bad remains unwatched on DVD and Netflix.

And the box sets which will get me rambling in evangelical fashion (The West Wing and The Wire) were first watched, usually late at night in both cases, on TV and repeatedly on DVD. Not long completed a trawl through both terms of President Bartlet and the streets of Baltimore provided refuge on the journey around Africa.

But maybe times are changing. The dinosaur may just about be catching up with, well, catch up.

Long way to go on Game of Thrones (still in series two as keeps vanishing off Now TV, picked up on a free offer that seemed a good idea) and could well wrap up the first two series of the excellent Detectorists in the next few days – somehow only caught excerpts on initial showing.

And finally got round to watching Stranger Things. It took a while – the first episode watched before the second series had even started before watching every episode over the course of several weekend evenings.

Very good it was too and suggest the third series will be watched as it happens. Or somewhere close.

While much has been written about the music of Stranger Things as a bit of a nostalgia fest, not sure many of the 1980s offerings on the latest stroll through the A-Z journey on my iPod were to be heard on our visits to Hawkins (although an awful lot of my ’80s nostalgia does involve Winona Ryder).

Don’t remember too much by The Smiths (Girlfriend in a Coma), Half Man Half Biscuit (God Gave Us Life and Give Us Bubble Wrap) or The Wedding Present (four versions – live, Peel session, acoustic and original – of the still wonderful Give My Love To Kevin) soundtracking things the right way up nor upside down.

The latest section took us from Neil Young and Crazy Horse to… well, more Neil Young and Crazy Horse (well, the Sex Pistols’ song of the same name to be totally honest but the neatness appeals). and spanned the decades beyond the 1980s – from The Beach Boys (God Only Knows), the Pistols through Blur (Girls & Boys) and Black Box Recorder (Girl Singing In The Wreckage) to last year’s Travel Marmot album of the year by Public Service Broadcasting (Go To The Road).

But the two highlights came from the mighty John Grant. Impossible to pick which of Glacier and GMF to include on the playlist, so they are both there.

Enjoy. Just be aware, GMF does stand for what you think it might.

Been called worse.

  • *Not the last

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