swlwtw Sneak Into My Room

Ilona put this onto me and I gotta admit it’s remarkably cute. I’ve listened to it numerous times now. The lyrics kinda reminds me of Kids on the Run by Tallest Man on Earth but more upbeat and quirky.

I know I should…

I know I should have written more and I have so intended to but alas the streets have been calling me to wonder and wander and I’m busy planning the next stage. Ahh its gonna be so exciting.

So last night, before meeting Michele’s friend Astrid, Beau and I got tickets to see the New York Knicks basketball team when I am in New Jersey. Might even have a look at the Jersey Shore! I haven’t seen Beau since some good nights in Ljubljana in 2009. The night before Steve and I are seeing the Yankees in New York and the night before its to Philadelphia to do the Rocky Steps Dance and have dinner and drinks with Dave Gordon, a New York doctor we had some good nights with in Estonia. After all this I have a few days in New York with Steve and Lucy and hopefully catching up with Ola from Nottingham.

Then its off to Germany to see Viola, Michelle and Oscar before biking/boarding in the Alps with Emmo (and we’re gong to Liechtenstein) before I fly to the Balkans to meet Mirella in Serbia and maybe Elena from Nottingham if she makes it over. I’ll fly back from Dubrovnik via Macedonia to see friends and then straight back to the work I love. The summer and the autumn university return are sorted.

Before all this I’ll be in Canada for about 10 days before that staying with Ashley and Tommy, Debs and Ronnie at Niagara and their assorted little ones. Got a night in Toronto with the guys and a day wandering Ottawa and a date with destiny!

Alas just before this, I have a final weekend in Colombia, spending time with Gab and Natalia, Claudia tonight and maybe a music festival this weekend with MGMT and TV on the Radio. And on my last night Manu Chao is playing a huge free gig, just like he did 6 years ago in Mexico City.

Sorry for the list of stuff and to bore you with details. In the meantime, I’ll be working on my Spanish and some pieces about relationships here, Medallin and Bogota, the small colonial towns, craziness up north, coffee country and food! Its been an amazing time. Now off to get a present for someone…

Liverpool are Dire

I wouldn´t normally comment as quickly as this and I was planning a blog later in the week about it but having seen Liverpool just lose to Wigan at home, everything I thought is coming true. LFC´s problems are immense and especially because they aspire to win the league. This isn´t a team in transition or under construction. They are going backwards.

The defence is creaking and only survives at all under Kenny´s defensive tactics. The midfield is a one-man show and even Gerrard is ageing. Downing was never good enough. Did anyone notice Henderson was subbed or playing? Carroll and Suarez aren´t doing it. But ultimately it can be summed up with 3 points from today´s game.

1. If you aspire to win the league or even get in the Champions League, you don´t have a player like Charlie Adam starting any game. You don´t have him in the squad.

2. When chasing a game at home, if your best option from the bench is Shelvey, you haven´t got a hope.

3. I said here that Kenny was done as a manager, eye for talent and tactician and its coming truer by the day.

Tomorrow Newcastle are playing WBA. Win that and we are 8pts clear of LFC for 6th place. 6th place!! Liverpool play Newcasyle next week. Lose that and its 3 on the bounce. Kenny could be in trouble. The real question is whether LFC can finish above 13th! They are only 6 points ahead and a game behind.

Villa de Leyva

We`re in Villa Leyva right now in the mountains of Colombia, north of Bogota. It’s an old colonial town with whitewashed buildings surrounding the largest plaza in Latin America. Its cobbled streets host restaurants, art galleries and cafes.This weekend is a long one. The streets predictably packed with parents roaming as the kids chase the pigeons and the dogs sniff each other. Friends sit drinking beers on the steps while young couple take pictures.

I`m here with Gab, Natalia and Claudia. Last night we went to Claudia`s father`s country house, deep along the dark, rough roads amongst the rolling vallies. There are no lights out here and the sky had clouded over. The house was pretty sensational. Using the local igneous landscape as structural support, wide panes of glass support the high, peaked ceilings. The daughter`s bedroom actually contains a massive boulder as part of the side wall.

Claudia`s father Eric is Swiss but moved here over 30 years and says he could never move back. The lifestyle and I imagine, the lack of rules and a woman snared him. Dinner involved using the open fire to slow cook the salted short lion of a cow. Coupled with some Swiss cabbage made by Claudia, some hash brown potato and Spanish wine, it was delicious.

The true event of the evening was meeting Rex, Eric`s Fila Brasilero. One of the four banned breeds in the UK, Rex was not only big, athletic and energetic. He was also hungry. His breeding wasn`t the best. As a pup he was fed too much bloodied meat, developing intestinal problems but now, nursed back into health by Eric after he adopted him, he was full of beans. He was a truly intimidating sight. His best friend Scratch, the German Shepherd wasn`t as interested in us or the food but he out-matched Rex for size and apparently strength.

The town got quieter the next day. Gab, Natalia and Claudia left along with most of the crowds.They have to work. Every day is a long weekend for me right now. I decided to stay and read and write a touch. I have about two more weeks in Colombia and for the last six weeks, I haven`t been able to stop, read, think or even study Spanish as much as I wanted. Still I have this year for that.

O’Ryan’s Belt

With all this talk of Jupiter and Venus being in close proximity in the sky right now (and St Patrick’s Day tomorrow) , I was reminded of one of the funniest moments of my life. It’s loosely connected to the stars through some man-made haze. I hope it comes across ok because this conversation really happened.

I was with Emmo in the small town of Punakaiki on the West coast of New Zealand´s South island. It was 2008. Punakaiki itself isn´t very famous apart from the Pancake Rocks which funnel the Tasman Sea into spectacular displays of water fireworks. The sea can be rough there. The winds whip up the waves and it comes together on the West Coast. Kiwis call it the Wet Coast.

Despite its limitations of one hostel, store and pub, the place (I can’t even call it a town) is peaceful with rivers to canoe up, some trails into the verdant forest and great views. I´d stayed on my first trip to NZ and was determined to stay again. I wasn´t let down.

The hostel was now owned by a German and I arrived at the same time with a German girl and two Brazilians. That night I persuaded them to go to the pub down the road. I wanted to watch some rugby. The two locals in the pub had never met Brazilian girls and were frankly astounded taking me aside as if I was their pimp. We all went out for a smoke and then the Kiwi locals invited back to their batch when the pub closed. We all went.

Kiwis use the word batch to describe a beach house. I’d stayed in one on Coramandel with Mel a few weeks earlier but the locals promoted this one as the oldest in town. In a town of maybe 20 houses, I’m not sure what status that deserves. So after some beers and a lot of smoking, we were all pretty baked. I went quiet and started mulling over the world while Emmo chatted away. The two locals went out for some air. What happened next still makes me giggle.

Upon returning, they were discussing what they’d seen particularly in the sky. Once the conversation started I had some clairvoyant instincts. I could feel the smile coming all the way from my intestines.

‘So its called Orion´s Belt then…yeah.’

‘Which bit?’

‘That bit, up there.’

‘It looks more like a bucket.’

‘Yeah I suppose.’

By this point I was smiling away. Sure being stoned helped but I felt I saw the joke coming and yet had no idea these two could inadvertently pull out this comic masterpiece. After ten seconds of confused silence, one turned to the other and with dead-pan seriousness said,

‘I didn’t know the Irish were into astrology.’

I completely exploded in to hysterics, turning away to face the fire and laughing until my guts could take it no more. Tears were rolling down my cheeks and I was gasping for air. The Kiwis had sat down and Emmo was laughing at my uncontrollable giggling. I’m not sure if anyone except me got the joke. Or even if there was one.

We left soon after that. The air was cold and I continued gasping and giggling. I went to bed and woke up radiant. It was time to move on.

No Suitcases

There is a bar in Melbourne on Brunswick Street called the Labour in Vain possibly the best bar in the city and certainly the most honest. LP introduced me to it in 2004 and we found ourselves there on many occasions. In 2008, on my second and longer stay in Melbourne and on my very last night in the city, Os and I went for a quiet drink there mostly on my insistence. That drink predictably lasted many hours and Ossie somehow got me to the airport to fly to Queensland to catch up with LP in Cairns the next day.

But what struck really about that night (apart from the huge Aboriginal woman) was the attitude of the staff and customers to modern conformity and finance. When a group of suits came in having watched an Aussie Rules game across town, the slow murmur went up..´no suits, no suits.´ This murmur continued until the newcomers, the outsiders, decided it wasn´t the bar for them. They didn´t have the tattoos or t-shirts of the rest of us. They belong to a different thought and process.

Travelling right now, I see a few changes, part of the gentrification of travel, notably suitcases, small laptops, clothes from home and couples. By suitcases I mean those little drag-along cases dragged awkwardly into hostels. While there are always exceptions to the exception, backpacks, the owning and taking responsibility for your choices, the burdens we choose, are part of what differentiates us as travellers from tourists, as explorers to mere consumers.

The small laptops is indicative I suppose of the addiction to the internet and fundament of social networking. I see very few people actually working or researching etc. Facebook is open constantly, some searching for bus timetables occurs but most evenings are whiled away longing for home. The last night in Salento confirmed much though. Like a forum of travellers, 8 people and 5 nationalities sat round a simple table, swapping stories, ideas and advice until the early hours. Those in the hostel living room were long gone to bed. They missed out. There was a team to join, a community to build.

The couples comment might seem a little odd and churlish and again there are many exceptions. But I have also increasingly seen couples using hostels as cheap hostels where they are able to cook and stay sleep together. That in itself is fine. My only gripe is that couples sometimes don´t make any attempt to integrate or meet therefore missing out on opportunities to truly travel and cheating the rest of us of 2 narratives.

Now all this needs to be kept in some perspective. I am in Colombia and you don’t see too much of this. Internet can be slow or sparse. Dorm rooms dominate and the travellers tend to be of the more adventurous variety. The lack of infrastructure and fears for safety guarantee it. But I can only imagine what more accessible parts of the world are like. I might be wrong and the internet can be helpful in finding new places. I remember actually having to telephone a hostel to find if they had spaces for us before the internet was there. Or asking at the bus station for places to stay. Or even more hilariously Steve and I getting onto the internet in LA when we were pups and not actually knowing any websites to look up. Times change eh and so do I. I couldn´t live without the internet myself these days. Its a too useful tool. But right now, I got people to see.

DSCF8334So I am still in the mountains, the zona cafeteria staying with Gab´s brother and family. His little niece, 2 year old Silvana is brilliant, full of fun and games. I´m not sure what playing doll does to a man but I´ve been playing ´put the baby to bed´a lot!

I´ve written immense amounts of late. Quiet times without the usual distraction have been good to me. Gab´s family are lovely and really helped me out. His little brother has shown me round various small, country towns and farms. Its all very pretty round here which undoubtedly brought my head back from the 2 week blitz around the north coast. Gees.

DSCF8289Had some decent conversations of late too with a few old friends and flames. This year was always going to be something special. Once I sort out Uni (I´ve applied for references now), work and the like, lets see where I am. I´m planning New York and Montreal right now to catch up with old friends and make anew while the Balkans look to be back on the menu! And what´s strange as well is I am looking forward to getting back and getting into it all. Maybe not more than my plans for tomorrow but I can feel it lingering. Ahh life eh…