Sunday, March 4, 2012

If you want to be a writer...

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your typewriter
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or fame,
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody else,
forget about it.
if you have to wait for it to roar out of you,
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-love.
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to sleep
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.
- Charles Burkowski

Monday, February 6, 2012

We Are Augustines and Admiral Fallow - Next Big Thing?

Londoners have been besieged by cold for a week now. It may seem silly to whinge about cold in London of all places, however after our delightfully temperate winter we were not prepared for the frostiness to come. Before last week I had not double scarved or stockinged once, and now I am festooning myself with woollies every time I step outside.

And so, with chattering teeth and blue lips, we descended into the chilly gullet of Borderline just of Charing Cross Road to witness two hopeful Next Big Things. But by the time we had wrapped a raw paw around an over priced cider the cockles of our hearts were being warmed by the folky arrangements of Admiral Fallow. A wonderful Glaswegian indie outfit, with a delightfully sweet sound which is rounded by flutes, clarinets and tambourines, their sweet sounds soon flushed my cheeks and brought the feeling back to my toes as I began to tap them. Perhaps it’s a peculiar pleasure of mine, but I really love being able to hear a singer’s accent in their singing, and singer/songwriter Louis Abbott sounds so delightfully Scotland, he makes me miss my wonderful Scottish family. With his big bushy beard it is somewhat surprise that any of his singing actually reaches us, however it does, and this melodic voice combined with his sort of jerking motions about the stage, and humorous self-deprecation between songs, made for a very likable character. They ended with an acoustic version of Four Bulbs, which was absolutely exquisite and gave me the shivers I had managed to shed half an hour before.

So if you like Mumford and Sons, Noah and the Whale and the like, then Youtube these guys because they are a real treat.

Nicely warmed by the folkstars the crowd headed to the bar to replenish drinks before returning to their spots, determined to secure a good view for the main attraction. We, like many, were there to see We Are Augustines. From New York city, I last saw them in December where they blew me away with a free gig at The Wheelbarrow, and I was anxious that they should show me that same power again. For a three piece band (guitarist Billy McCarthy, bassist Eric Sanderson and drummer Rob Allen), they make a helluva lot of noise – it seems like there should be ten of them up there – and by the end of their performance you do indeed feel that they have nothing left to give, they are sweating and messy and spent, it’s wonderful to watch. With a slightly bigger stage available to them at The Borderline, their show was a lot more physical, with McCarthy flinging himself about the place, careening into mic stands and amps and his band mates, performing with the same passionate that he channelled to write his music. The Augustine’s album, Rise ye Sunken Ships, is based largely around events leading up to the death of McCarthy’s brother who suffered with drug problems and schizophrenia, and every performance seems to be soaked in the desperation and pleading of that period so that each song is emotionally charged. As my friend Tim (an ace BS detector) said: ‘I detect no Bullshit here’. Their live set seemed almost painfully honest, driving home the songs on the album with an edge of anxiety that cannot be faked.

But despite the heavy issues dealt with on Book of James and their other songs, they do not stray from the making of solid Rock ‘n Roll. Stuff that makes you bop and bounce and lash about. They sweat, and demand that the crowd do. Songs that sounds quite calm on the record are thrashed out, whipping the audience into a frenzy. They follow in the footsteps of Bruce and Tom Petty – great songwriters putting together great music with pounds upon pounds of passion. Needless to say by the end of the gig, we were well warmed up.

Listen to these guys if you like The Gaslight Anthem, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, or Bruce Springsteen.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Girls who read Part 2

I know, I know. It's been a while. I am getting back in to the swing of things, so here's a little plagerism for starters...

by Rosemarie Urquico

Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilightseries.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.

Or better yet, date a girl who writes.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Review(ish): Pixies and Starboys

Who doesn't love a freebie? If it's gratis I'm there like a bear. This is the reason I have done a lot of things I wouldnt usually - because if I haven't shelled out for it I don't discern. This is a good thing - it opens me up to a multitude of experiences that I would never have had. It meant a couple of years ago I got to see Britney Spears in all her lip synching, costume changing, booty shaking glory. And I enjoyed it (okay this enjoyment may have been trebbled by the shooting off of a glitter cannon at the end - my first experience of one) despite myself. It was a spectacle. A show. Everything a pop concert should be.

So when my housemate proffered Pixie Lott tickets for free, I thought why the hell not. I could do with a bit of razzle dazzle, some glitter and a lot of zany outfits.

Now this freebie stuff is not all fun and games - if I am going to do something I will do it properly and so there was homework to be done. Pixie Lott is a familiar name and face from the papers, but I couldn't have told you one song she sang, so I plugged her name into YouTube and went for the play list. Frothy pop tunes emmited from my laptop, her little girl lost voice sometimes drowned amongst the dischord that is modern pop. And it seemd Pixie has an aversion to trousers of any kind as in each she bopped about in most of the videos in a leotard with elaborate sleeves. Hmmm...

But with my 'try everything once' mindset fixed firmly in place, off I went to see Pixie Lott. She was playing at the Kentish Town HMV Forum. My lovely friends Jo and Anna were my companions for the evening. After establishing we were at least 10 years older than everyone in the standing area we headed up to the seats, away from the tide of adolesence.

The opening act was Starboy Nathan - should I be mortified to say I don't know who this fellow is? In complete ignorance when we heard his name we actually took bets as too what he might look like and what he might sing. I felt even more out of touch with the youth when they joined in to his choruses, chanting away with the fervour of the initiated. How to describe his act? To be honest it wasn't a performance or style of music that appealed to me - all synchronised moves, pubescent thrusting and plaintive crooning. But that is not to say he is not good at what he does. Having watched snippets of this year's X Factor offerings over the last two weeks I notice that while most of them have some talent - they can sing or dance - in a cruel irony what they are all missing is the X Factor. And this is why even the winners, despite getting launched on an international platform, having a guaranteed #1 written for them, and Simon Cowell's media machine behind them, all fade into obscurity. So, using X Factor as my only real mainstream pop barometer, I will say that Starboy Nathan has the star power that seems so conspicously absent from the show's contestants. He has presence, which is more than I can say for most of those vapid Cowell creations. It seems no matter how much cash you throw at it that X Factor, much like love and class, is something money can't buy.

So onto the main act. As you already know my Pixie knowledge was lacking, and from the bits I had seen online I was prepared to be under whelmed. But she endeared herself to me early by skipping on stage bare foot, and donning little cat ears. She launched into her set with a trio of dancey numbers, all a bit over produced and consumer driven if you ask me, but the swirly light show was mesmirising. In between she chatted to the audience in a rather endearing way, and I was impressed that she was in an outfit that covered her bits for once - a short, black, backless dress, with a sequined Peter Pan collar and sleeves. I think I might describe it as evening Alice in Wonderland couture.

After the dancey numbers she slowed down into some more soulful numbers and I was pleased to hear she actually has a lovely voice. There was no lip synching, and without the computer generated cacophany of the faster songs her voice was impassioned and quite stirring. Cry Me Out is an impassioned ultimatum song. All around women were pounding their fists, flinging their hands out in diva stance and belting out the chorus and I realised that this was an act usually performed in front of bedroom mirrors and into hair brushes. Moving smoothly into Mama Do the atmosphere was transformed with an air of rebellion and defiance as she song of forbidden love. All quite generic and well worn, but again I was impressed by her singing ability and her unpretentious performance.

While it wasn't quite the big drums and guitar riffs I favour it was an interesting and I suppose some what educational evening. My only complaint - Pixie only had one outfit! Take some lessons from Britney... I was there for feathers and rhinestones!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Wonder of the World

I am a musical aficianado of sorts, an obsessive appreciator. I can talk musical history, appreciation, origins, even throw in a few technical terms, but that is where my musical ability ends - in appreciation, not creation. I am not adding to the catalogue, I am not making music, I am not furthering the cause. I play no musical instrument and hence keys and chords mystify me and I look upon those who know a major from a minor with an air of reverance and more than a little envy.

And so with this sense of enigma in mind, I set off with a friend to find him a guitar. After looking in a catalogue, and deciding that a £60 Argos guitar with complimentary carry case was totally un-rock 'n roll, we headed to Denmark Street. Located behind Tottenham Court Road station, it is like Harry Potter's Diagon Ally - a hidden gem lined with guitar shops and musical book stores.

From the windows of half a dozen shops gleam the wood and paint of every type of 'axe'. Electric and acoustic jostle for elbow room and my eyes darted back and forth, taking in metallic paint jobs, inlaid wooden roses, straggles of strings and pedals ripe for pushing. Outside most of the shops a rock veteran or two lurk, pinching their cigarettes between calloused, nicotene stained fingers.

Some of the stores cater purely to the professional, and they smirk at our beginners uncertainty, but others patiently take down Fender after Fender and encourage us to hold them, pluck them, strum them. Shyly we make our first tentative sounds, listening to the difference in woods, in strings, in necks. We know nothing and yet nod appreciatively as one after the other's sound is described to our novice ears.

They are beautiful, and I feel like I am at the pound and should take each and every one of them home. I wonder which ones will belong to owners who will take a few lessons and cast them aside, and which ones will be used to sing a lullabye, write the next Stairway to Heaven or smashed in a fit of punk rage. I hope they will comfort lost adolescents and be toted belovedly across countries, and that they will be used to make more great rock 'n roll so an appreciator like me can keep appreciating. My friend didn't buy the guitar that day, decisions like this take time. But it looked so comfortable in his arms I hope he does soon.

"Years will come, years will go and politicians will do fuck all to make the world a better place. But all over the world young men and young women will always dream dreams and they will put those dreams into future years there will be so many fantastic songs...they will be written, they will be sung, and they will be the wonder of the world..."

- The Count in The Boat that Rocked

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Beatles vs The Rolling Stones

The tide of the long weekend has receeded, leaving behind the detritus of four days spent in and and out of every pub in South West London. Among the empty bottles, broken records and cigarette ends however floats an eternal question. Raised in the early hours of some god forsaken morning, it caused the same flared tempers, frayed nerves and impassioned speeches it has been illiciting for decades... That's right kids, it's the big one:

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

The inner torment this question poses to the undecided is indescribable. Angie or Elenor Rigby? Ruby Tuesday or Penny Lane? Paint it Black or Yellow Submarine? My mother singing sweetly to her namesake (Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds), my aunt in throes of excitement over the cheek of Jagger in a lace dress in Hyde Park circa 1969. Kurt's greatest influence being The Beatles, ensuring that Nirvana had a melodious quality without which their music would have descended into cacophonic chaos, and while Punks like to believe they had distanced themself from produced Rock, The Clash and The Sex Pistols both site The Stones as heavy influences. Where would we be without London Calling? How could I live without Nevermind?

The Beatles changed everything - they took the mundane and made it special, their music made all the little things, the every day, into art, so that not only their lives took on a fabled new meaning but so do ours. Penny Lane was a junction in Liverpool where Lennon and Mc Cartney met to catch a bus into town, while Strawberry Fields was the name of a Salvation Army Children's home around the corner from where Lennon grew up. Yet they are both in Our Ears and in Our Eyes, There Beneath the Blue Suburban Skies. Starting a revolution so in keeping with their generation, they believed that All We Needed was Love - the little hippy corner of my heart still believes they were right. Later they took the world on guided psychedelic tours of their souls, through Tangerine Trees and Marmalade Skies. They urged us to Come Together, they asked us to Let It Be. When I want to escape, when I want to understand, when I want to ask questions and hear answers and find myself in another time they are who I choose.

The Rolling Stones are a rolling sexual revolution. Nothing is more convincing of the raw sexual magnatism of Rock and Roll than the fact that men and woman have drooled over that motley crew of misfits for generations. Granted, the first thing that springs to mind when looking at Mick Jagger's lips is fellacio, but still - the music turned them all into the most unlikely of sex gods. The plaintive notes of Jaggers voice make me want to Try and Cry for Angie, and make me Miss Ruby Tuesday. With his urging I would go out and Paint It, Black, and even if I Can't Always Get What I Want, If I Try Some Times, I Just Might Find, I Get What I Need. The Stones take you where you want to go, but probably couldn't go by yourself. Jagger's highly sexed mewling teamed with the hedonism that is Richards unite to make every base instinct, every buried desire okay, in fact commendable. And so I choose them when I want to get lost, when I want to drown, when I want to be free.

And there you have my argument - perhaps less lucid when slurred out at 5 in the morning while being chased around the kitchen by a mad man with a metaphorical gun urging me to CHOOSE, but no less fraught and heart felt. Why should I have to choose?

They are both so eternal for me, both so necessary. So I shan't...SO there!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Long live Queen

Sorry about the crappy photo it was taken with my phone

Music has always coloured every era and every experience for me. From my earliest memories there is a soundtrack strumming in the background of everything I have seen, done, felt. Those who grow up with music can never be cured of the addiction. We need to be surrounded by sound in all that we do.

When I was a mini there was music everywhere - we listened to that radio on the way to school in the mornings, and alternated between Rod Stewart and Neil Diamond in the evenings, so that I travelled home with Maggie May and sweet Caroline. Weekend mornings the house was filled with Abba and The Beatles, Crowded House, The Rolling Stones and Led Zepplin. My dad told me tales of Elvis and Pavarotti, my auntie indocrintated me for hours with Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, and my cousin made a shrine for Guns and Roses. I chose Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan for myself in the early years, and later Alanis Morissette, The Cranberries and Nirvana.

But growing up the main source of music, and what it meant, was at parties. My mum had a riot of ridiculous and wonderful friends whose thirties were their glory days. On the weekends the gardens and bedrooms of suburban homes would be crawling with children hiding and seeking, chasing and catching, playing and squabbling, while downstairs the 'adults' cranked the tunes and let the good times roll.

Parties would start with Roxette, Bryan Adams, Bon Jovi, and then roll on to Dire Straits, were air guitar was obligatory. Fleetwood Mac and The Beach Boys would jostle for air time with Roy Orbison and Chuck Berry, and mixed CDs of greats would have you taken from Eric Clapton to Bob Marley in minutes.

And just when everyone should have been going to bed, the night would kick up a gear as a theatrical thrill poured out of the speakrs and made its way through the house - someone had found the Queen catalogue.

Freddie Mecury's voice has a hypnotic quality - all in its thrall are immediately turned into pouncing, posing, mincing, majestic rock stars. It's (a kinda) magic - there is no stopping it. Suddenly you are all platform heels and glitter, feather boas and operatic delivery, you are Brian May's 'fro and his electric guitar. Confidence flies through you harder than any line of cocaine and you are strutting and pouting through every song. This is the power of Queen.

They are part of a select group of bands whose songs I knew every word to before I could possibly be expected to understand what they were singing about. I heard them through walls when I was supposed to be sleeping, I crept down stairs to listen to them when parties had exploded. Watching the peculiar and fantastic dancing it inspired I longed to be part of the rock 'n roll tribe my parents and their friends had all been initiated into. There is no party Freddie can't fix, no mood he can't soften.

And so with this emotional attachment to Queen, this belief that they are mine, that they were a birth rite, I went to see Stormtroopers in Stilettos. The exhibition was set up in a warehouse just off Brick Lane and was an installation piece with a space dedicated to each of Queens first 4 albums.

It was wonderfully executed, a multi media indulgence in the extreme, with video, audio, photographs, letters, costumes, quotes from Queen members and other musicians. It was immersive - as though you had slipped back into their sequinned, irreverant, ridiculous world for a little while. In the beginning you read tales of Freddie just hanging around this fringes of the hipster/glam rock scene, watching Hendrix night after night all over London, sewing all his own costumes and singing at student parties. Imagining that life made me want to trade everything in for a flat in Shoreditch and a pocketful of rhinestones.

As you move through the space you are aware of their music developing, they draw more and more on the theatre that would become their trademark, experiment with every type of rock, and you listen as Freddie gains the confidence and depth in his voice that Rock hasn't seen since.
The exhibition it beautfully and lovingly put together, by people who obviously new and loved Queen and their music. There is so much to read, to watch to absorb I wish I had gone more than once and taken more time. Its a sensory treat for anyone, but for a real fan its a feast of information and a window into a band (and a time) gone. I left feeling full and overwhelmed by their magnitude, but also very sad that I could never see them in all their live glory. Long live Queen!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

City Image of the Day - Layers

Spotted off Brick Lane

Okay at first glance it just looks like a pretty stern face, a large and quite talented rendering but so what... Well this has been made completely from peeling away layers of posters that were once on this wall to create a picture. I know?! The artist has added nothing, but purely by peeling away has managed to create this image... Awesome!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Girls Who Read

I am not very good at finishing things, so apologies that I have not yet completed my Asia postings...they are written by hand, they are waiting, but I just need to type them out. Sorry.

Coming back to London I launched into my new job. It's insanely busy, and most days I run around like a headless chicken, with no real life/work balance what so ever. So this is just a plagerised post from someone else, something sent to me by my sweet friend Riz, that was so brilliant I wanted to repost it. I will return soon, dear readers, with more posts from my own mind I promise, but until then, enjoy...

You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

"...because nothing sucks worse than a girl who reads. Do it, I say, because a life in purgartory is better than a life in hell. Do it because a girl who reads can describe the amorphous discontent of a life unfulfilled - a vocabulary that parses the innate beauty of the world and makes it an accesible necessity instead of an alien wonder. A girl who reads lays claim to a vocabulary that distinguishes between the specious and soulless rhetoric of someone who cannot love her, and the inarticulate desperation of someone who loves her too much. A vocabulary, god damnit, that makes my vacuous sophistry a cheap trick.

Do it, because a girl who reads understands syntax. Literature has taught her that moments of tenderness come in sporadic but knowable intervals. A girl who reads knows that life is not planar; she knows. and rightly demands, that they ebb comes along with the flow of dissapointment. A girl who has read up on her syntax senses the irregular pauses - the hesitation of breath - endemic to a lie. A girl who reads perceives the difference between a parenthetical moment of anger and the entrenched habits of someone whose bitter cynicism will run on, run on well past any point of reason, or purpose, run on far after she has packed a suitcase and said a reluctant goodbye and she has decided that I am an ellipsis and not a perios and run on and run on. Syntax that knows the rhythm and cadence of a life well lived.

Date a girl who doesn't read because the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.
Don't date a girl who reads because girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the cafe, you in the window of your room...The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colourful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed properly, of someone who is better than I am... You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take you Hemingway with you..."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thai Time

The bus conductor is sweet and dweeby looking. He diligently hands all new passengers a damp towellete, sealed cup of waterand a ration pack of chocolate biscuits. After each stop he pours dainty cups of pepsi watered down with ice and served on a tray with a straw. During one of these pepsi breaks I ask him what time we will arrive in Chantaburi and he says six o'clock. Upon looking at his watch and seeing that mickey's hands point to ten minutes past six he smiles and says seven. I once asked Evie if Thai time was like African time. It seems I have my answer.

But it's okay, it's dusk outside, my favourite time of the day and I'm travelling by myself and not stressed, so I turn to look out the window at the country side sliding by. At that moment we pass a fleet of spirit houses sparkling in the dying sun.

I arrive at the River Guest House in Chanthaburi at about 8. I am pretty sure I have been ripped of by the cab driver and the quaint sounding guest house is a shithole. I feel like Leonardo Di Caprio in The Beach, and keep wondering if someone is going to slip me a map to the promised land and then end it all. But where else am I going to go? So I pay my money, catch up with some people online and then head upstairs to my room which is a blessing purely for the aircon and hot water (which I paid extra for). I take a shower, not sure if I am getting cleaner or dirtier, and afterwards sit down on my bed and look out the window at the view of the bridge, festively lit up, cars crossing back and forth. The bridge and their lights however have lost their charm at 3am when I still can't sleep due to the intermitently loud traffic flying over it. Oh well. Cambodia tomorrow.

But alas, no! The minibus drivers who usually ferry to and from the boarder have decided that the four of us who want to cross are not a good enough reason to go, and so we will have to wait and come back tomorrow - sorry what? Another day and night in Chanthaburi, and this overweight white girl with giant red curly hair is now target number one for all tourist scams. Suddenly all my romantic notions of the intrepid traveller are in tattters and all I want is my own bed. I head back to the River Guest House, pop down my backpack and regroup. Comisserations are offered to me by two Swiss men, the one of whom has several long hairs sprouting out of his nose and curling into his mouth which makes it difficult for me to concentrate when he explains alternative border crossing options, however they all require a half days travel and I decide to stay put until tomorrow.

And so I go for a walk in Chanthaburi - it seems the city is a centre for gem trading and every shop twinkles at me with beautifully cut jewels. Ah if only I could go home with a pocketful of rubies, but I am just looking for something that vaguely resembles western food as my tummy is not too happy with me. On my mission I stumble upon a little Thai massage parlour. Foot massage 150 baht. I look down at my poor feet - burnt in a reverse sock tan from my time on the kayak, swollen from all the hours of bussing, one still showing signs of the London cankle - not happy! They deserve this. And so I enter and the experience is much as Evie said it would be - my masseuse chats to her friends, and for the first half of my 90 minute massage watches and sings along with the strange combination of hindi music videos on tv with Thai subtitles. They are all shot in London, all in the 80s - there it it, my home, as seen through the eyes of two different cultures. Someone changes the channel and it's King Kong and it't not been dubbed! English! Not only that but now my masseuse and I share word - King Kong. And so every now and again she looks at me, smiles and says King Kong, and I say King Kong, and we smile and she continues, and my feet are glad for the massage, and I am glad for Adrian Broody and Jack Black and Naomi Watts.

Later I am back in my room and listening to my music and for the first time in years I am just listening, and doing nothing else. As I press the head phones into my skull I really hear the music, and I search for things in the audio I have never heard before and I find them, and I am glad I am stuck in Chantaburi, glad for this strange day in limbo.

Friday, January 7, 2011

When was the last time you said 'I was there'?

Evie and I advertising for buckets :)

Koh Phangan obliterated all of my Koh Samui rejuvination and most of my holiday budget in 3 days of what can only be described as 'end of the world' party madness.

We had secured accommodation in Chaloklum, a sleepy part of the island on the opposite side to Haad Rin. This, in fact, was a blessing because if I hadn't escaped the debauchery for a few hours every day I may well have died. It's a pity that we didnt get to spend more time exploring and soaking in the pristine beaches, and everything else the island had to offer, but it was not to be.

To explain, while it was not full moon, every New Year Koh Phangan hosts a 'full moon' party anyway - this is Haad Rin at its most crazy! 30 000 people gather on the beach to see the clock hit 00:00. Shit seems to start up on the 30th (well that's when we started) and carry on right the way through to the 2nd.

There are a few vital bits of information you need to understand what goes down here:

Uniform: LUMO
It's pretty much your average 80s aerobics class. Lumo is lekker, flourescent is fly, just imagine you made sexy time with highlighters. There is loads on sale, along with UV beads, glow sticks and war paint. The more lumo the better - helps you find your tribe.
Weapon of Mass Destruction: Buckets
Remember those bucket and spade sets from when you were little? Remember the sandcastles, and collecting shells, and filling the moat with water? Well forget all that because these little buckets will fuck you up! On average a bucket contains a half bottle of vodka/whiskey/rum, one can of sprite/coke/fanta, and one potent little bottle of Red Bull (apparently laced with amphetamines and illegal just about everywhere else in the world). Add a scoop of ice and voila, who needs drugs?
Mission: Survival
Yip, pretty much making it til sun up, and if you still have all members of your tribe accounted for when stumbling onto the Song Tao (read bakkie with open canopy) then bonus points.

Round 1
And so we set off on the thirtieth fresh as daisies, and just on a mission to get the lay, and then get an early night ahead of the celebrations - PAH!

At this stage i should tell you that our crew had doubled - Evie and I had been joined by Phia and Chantal, hardened veterans of the Thai party circuit but still Full Moon virgins. Chantal's island cred was doubled by her ownership of a 'koh phangan tattoo' - a large roastie/scab garnered from a motorbike accident. And Phia lumo-ed up from the get go in a fabulous orange dress. And se we were off, sharing a taxi with four more Chaloklum residents - 3 mad Canadians (ey) and a Croatian.

Arriving at the beach things were already falling apart - we defintely had that feeling of arriving late to the party. Shroom shake victims couldn't feel their faces, drunk boys had lost their shoes, and everywhere inebriated people were (literally) playing with fire. And so we bucketed up and entered the fray. The evening flew by in a blur of lumo tattoos, foam, Italians, Aussies, and inappropriate behaviour...It was seven in the morning, the sun was rising and we were climbing into a songthaew with three other South Africans (seven of us in total) and a semi stalker who looked a helluva lot like John Lennon. And there we were, hands clasped against our hearts, singing the national anthem into the phangan wind as we wound our way home.

Round 2
No one felt very smart the next morning, and this was not aided by mine and Evie's choice of breakfast, Macaroni Cheese like you have never witnessed before - 30cm long noodles in a watery tomato sauce with a sprinkling of cheese and an unidentifiable meat - Never Again!

But we had sucked it up by 7 and were headed back for more. We met up with our beloved Aussies, Meddie and Louise, at Mellow Mountain where they had certainly taken a turn for the mellow (and paranoid) but were soon cheered by our vivid presence. We were lumo to the max! And Chantal and Phia were like seeing double in a pink/orange vest and tutu combo. They were soon dubbed the Kardashians, despite the fact that the could not keep up, and we kept losing them.

The Kardashians with Meddie

A blur of buckets and beats led us up to the anticipation of the count down, and as we ended 2010 and entered 2011, our sacred sixsome was so in love with each other, we swore to be back together a year later. The beach then unleashed upon us their fire power and Evie was heard exclaiming "I'm in a dome of fire". We danced and jumped and jammed, and made new 'friends' and lost them again, and ended up bumping and grinding with our Canadian/Croatian crew until morning again. Meddie and Louise left us with tears and promises to reunite, and we lost a Kardashian to the night, so Phia, Evie and I made our way back home. Chantal returned home at lunch time with tales of drowning (she says in the sea, I maintain in a bucket) and we all vowed to never drink again.

Round 3
But come 9pm on the first and we were all ready for one last hurrah. we hooked up with the Canadian/Croatian connection and went to dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in Haad Rin, where if it is possible the staff were more addled than we were. The post mortem of the previous evening unveiled suprises and gales of laughter, and before you knew it we were drinking again. We headed down to the beach, which looked like a refugee camp for some sort of natural disaster - so many lost souls, a lot of whom were newly tattooed (yikes). A little more dancing, and watching all the party victims and it was four in the morning on the second and time to put us poor kids to bed.

And so was the tale of Koh Phangan. It has taken me 9 days to get that much straight, but I am sure there will always be parts missing - probably washing up on the beach in Haad Rin with hundreds of unclaimed flip flops...

Again, more pics to be added when I can upload them

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Aussies in Ang Thong

Picture of the sea taken by Meddie on our way back to Koh Samui, will add more pictures to this post when I can download them off my camera

Our Secret Garden was so beautiful, our beach so restful and secluded, that it was hard to work up the energy to leave it, but we (and by we I mean Lei our wonderful travel agent) booked a day trip to the Angthon National Marine Park. This cluster of 42 islands is about 90 minutes and a world away from Koh Samui, and just about one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

We took an early boat with our tour operator, which was staffed by a host of real characters who handed out breakfast and sea sickness tablets. Evie did not take this as a good sign and so she took her pill and we headed for the upper deck. Thanks to my Dad I was brought up on boats and so am pretty much immune to sea sickness and have me some good, strong sea legs, and so while others lurched and groaned, I dangled my feet over the side and smiled into the sea breeze.

On the upper deck we found ourselves sharing a sun mattress with a pair of Aussies. Now we had already been made aware that the world was ridiculously small - the night before we had met some Northern English lads and discovered one lived around the corner from me in Earlsfield, and the other had recently visited SA to see family in Amanzimtoti (Evie's home town) - but nothing had prepared us for this. Our mattress mates were good naturedly mocking our accents while telling us typical things said by their token SA work mate, Bryce. They were recounting some ridiculous Bryce-isms when I said 'Hang on, Bryce McNamara?' and the said 'YES!' Ah! I know about one person in the whole of Oz and the know him too! And so it is that the universe ordained tht we should meet these insane Aussie beetches and so it was. So I introduce to Maddie and Louise, our island sistas sent to make everything doubly as funny, ridiculous and inappropriate. Maddie (or Meddie) can only be described as the love child of Madonna (Medonna) and DeeDee from Dexter's lab. The godesses blessed her with the most brilliant sense of humour, but to pay for this she was not granted a social filter, and therefore 3 hours with Meddie can be a little like reading a rather intimate medical history or love letter. She had us sharing horror stories in no time. Louise is a land lover. As soon as we were off the boat her green hue receded to reveal Greecian skin and black curls (damn her). Little did we know then, but this glamazon is a man eater of epic proportions. Phangan partiers didnt stand a chance (but this shall be revealed in good time). She also has the most contagious laugh in the world that rippled right across the water, reaching Evie and I in our kayaks.

That's right - kayaks! I haven't been in a kayak since a Spirit of Adventure camp in matric, but here we were maneouvering a giant green beastie about the water. But just in case you thought kayaking was a spot of fun - you are mistaken! Not with Herr Evie at the helm. Urged on by our German guide ('Do not use paddles as veapons') the usually placid Evie took on fuhrer proportions as she barked 'LEFT! RIGHT! LEFT! RIGHT! RIGHT!' and insisted we 'win' - no medals, no trophies, no one noticing, but we won anyway.

It was exhilirating though, and when I fell out of the boat, legs and arms like jelly, I was glad to have done it. After collapsing on the beach for a while we made the trek up a set of treacherous MacGuiver type stairs for ten minutes to reach an amazing view point over looking the island and a gorgeous lagoon. I am a city dweller, and living surrounded by my towers of concrete and wondering at man's Art and Architecture, its so easy to forget that nature had that ability first - the ability to take our breath away. And so we contemplated and marvelled and then headed back to the boat for a simple Thai lunch and a little cruise to our final beach.

The four of us collapsed on the beach for the afternoon, three of us lost in the swaying palm trees, Meddie just fearful of death by coconut. It was an afternoon of laughter and plotting for the reunion and madness that would happen on Koh Phangan...