Well, here I am on the train to Peterborough, my bum slightly sore from the Jobsworth guard charging me a further 18 quid for my journey! Knew I’d forget something……… my railcard! I dread to think how much a ticket to Inverness would cost! Will investigate further…………
After much phaffing from 6 a.m. I managed to get myself out of the house just after 8.15, and at the bus stop a good 5 minutes prior to the Witham bus arriving. Didn’t get too OC leaving, tho’ my DM’s dropped mud on the carpet just as I walked out. Oh no! OC Terence said “get a cloth, fire up the vacuum, do something!!!” Fortunately sane Terence had the upper hand and said “Bollocks!” and that was that.
It must have been some sort of omen. A road sign just beyond the crossroads at Wickham Bishops. The sign that said “Weak bridge ahead” I mean, what’s that supposed to mean?
Weak as in Dude speak, Southpark style weak? Or weak as in “the 350 tons of bus you’re sitting on will probably crash through this woefully constructed bridge it’s about to cross, and if you don’t get crushed in the fall you will surely get washed away by the rapids like current of the river below”. How comforting.
So, can someone give me a clue? Is it a “don’t be alarmed, we’re just saying, it’s a weak bridge, alright?” kind of thing. Or should we be on the alert? “Hmmm…….. the sign says weak bridge, hopefully I won’t be killed as the bridge collapses and the bus drops to the waters below, just……..well just keep your wits about you, that’s all.”
God I love this country.
Well, we left P’boro about 2 hours ago, thankfully I was able to upgrade my ticket to legal without a rail card status, for a mere £6.50, phew!
So I’ve had my head in my netbook pretty much all of that time, sending emails and surfing, and checking Dick Dale’s health status, which judging by his extensive tour itinerary; seems pretty good.
We just hit Newcastle, way-hay!
I’m in a very quiet carriage, this is mostly due to the fact I’m surrounded by computer nerds, all connected to the free wifi. There’s several Asians, and a white guy in front of me, all tippy tapping away on their keyboards, knees a quiver as these chaps are wont to do!
It’s incredible. When I was the age these chaps are all I cared about was Sex, Rock’n’Roll and drinking, nowadays these kids live in Cyberspace! The Gameboy generation, Very proficiant technicians but as for life skills………..? Well, they seem like quiet, nice kids, but geeks to a man.
And it makes me glad to have been born in 1957, of a generation that saw the Ramones and Elvis, who along with the Beatles undoubtably had the biggest influence on modern culture.
I believe Elvis not only brought popular music into the modern age, but as a result of Him the modern age really began, post 50’s space age. Put another way, he sexed up culture and music more than than anyone had done before, with a style so new and unique no one has surpassed it since.
As John Lennon was quoted as saying when Elvis died “Before Elvis there was nothing”.
The savage young Silver Beatles of the Hamburg years looked like perfect hybrids of Elvis and “Wild One” Marlon Brando, with a side order of Velvet Underground…….Lennon was also quoted as saying “Elvis died when He went into the Army”, well I understand what he meant, but the blueprint was there. And the Beatles rocked it hard.
They became the most famous Rock’n’Roll band ever,the most famous people ever, along with Elvis, not only influencing ALL music that came after them, but just like Elvis before them, changing modern culture and indeed the way people behaved in our society. Moptops, Beatle suits, drugs, meditation, LOVE, PEACE, IMAGINE……….
But could they have done it without Elvis’s original blueprint? I don’t think so.
And of course the Ramones, whose name Dee Dee borrowed from Paul McCartney, who would sign hotel registars under the alias of “Paul Ramone”. The Beatles influence on them is undeniable, Powerpop. I’ve already waxed lyrical about Da Brudders, but suffice to say, the memory of seeing the Ramones still hangs loud and proud in my memory, like a strange and wonderful sex I’m never gonna have again.
So come on you Gameboys, show me the Elvis of your generation………………….
Mountain bikes. What a swizz they are!
I finally arrived in Inverness just before 8.30 p.m., found a Co-op and bought some wine, then met my niece Cathy. who drove me to my sister Helens cottage in Loch Luichairt. Her house is in a fabulous location, on the edge of a mountain. It used to be a bothy, and was converted by the estate in late Victorian times, but the actual date of origin is unknown. The cottage is between 300-400 ft above sea level, and if you go up what she laughingly calls the hill, that’s a further 2-3 hundred feet. Do we see swarms of these mountain bikes? Is the hill infested with cyclists determined to scale the dizzy heights? Do we nonchalently don our bike clips and hare up the hillside? No, no and thrice no! There’s not a bloody bike in sight! We NEVER bump into anyone CYCLING up the hill. “Oooh hello Jocky, nice bike, off up the hillside are we? Going right to the top ay? 700 feet up that away?” It don’t think so, it don’t happen, I’m afraid.
So to recap, no we never see a single solitary “mountain” or any other kind of bike 5-600 feet up, it’s a myth!
So why call them mountain bikes? Do these bikes give you the superhuman ability to cycle up munroes and such? No!
Do these bikes enable one to perform incredible feats of strength? No! Are these bikes shaped like a mountain? No!
SO WHY CALL THEM BLOODY MOUNTAIN BIKES??
On one of our daily jaunts up the hill, Helen took me to see the old School house. It’s empty right now but we were lucky enough to bump into Hazel the house keeper, who showed us round. Like the few other houses locally it looks like it was renovated and modernised in Victorian times.
It’s a pretty spooky looking place, the Dorma windows have a distinctly Gothic vibe.
I expected to see some ghostly figure in the photo I took of the Rowan tree through the downstairs window, but actually the vibe of the house is peaceful and serene.
The Rowan tree is “very Scottish” as Hazel put it. Sometimes they are called the “Mountain Ash”, they are found in most mountainous regions including China and the Himalayas. The name “rowan” is derived from the Old Norse name for the tree, raun. Linguists believe that the Norse name is ultimately derived from a proto-Germanic word raudnian meaning “getting red” and which referred to the red foliage and red berries in the autumn.
Hazel said they are great trees for warding off Witches. The European rowan has a long tradition in European mythology and folklore. It was thought to be a magical tree and protection against malevolent beings. It was said in England that this was the tree on which the Devil hanged his mother.
The density of the rowan wood makes it very usable for walking sticks and magician’s staves. This is why druid staffs, for example, have traditionally been made out of rowan wood, and its branches were often used in dowsing rods and magic wands. Rowan was carried on vessels to avoid storms, kept in houses to guard against lightning, and even planted on graves to keep the deceased from haunting. It was also used to protect one from Witches. Often birds’ droppings contain rowan seeds, and if such droppings land in a fork or hole where old leaves have accumulated on a larger tree, such as an oak or a maple, they may result in a rowan growing as an epiphyte on the larger tree. Such a rowan is called a “flying rowan” and was thought of as especially potent against witches and their magic, and as a counter-charm against sorcery. Rowans protection against enchantment made it perfect to be used in making rune staves and to protect cattle from harm by attaching sprigs to their sheds.
We went upstairs and I looked out of the west window in the back bedroom(that strangely had a Kangeroo skin rug on the floor by the bed!) and took this wonderful shot of the mountains, truly magical.
Sadly, after 8 peaceful and meditative days it was time to go home, big boo hoo!
I had to catch the train from the local station which is a half hour walk from Helens, so oft I trot at 7.15 a.m. along the very dark mountain road, with a wee torch Helen loaned me. To be honest it was quite a gas, the stars were beautiful and I caught glimpses of the waning moon. And then it started to rain………really heavy! By the time I got to the “request” station(yep, you stick out your hand and request the train stops!) I was pretty soaked, but fortunately I didn’t have to wait long for the train.
There were a handful of people in my carriage, I got the impression they were students, one of the lads was off his head on something. He kept trying to make conversation, “slurry slurry slur slur cigarette jocky?” “Sorry mate, I’m type 2 deaf and I can’t read your lips. And I don’t smoke.” That shut him up, kindof.
It reminded me of when I used to take Alfie to see the audiologist at St Peter’s.
We’d get to reception and guess what? The receptionist was Welsh. And her voice was comparable in volume to the sound a green fly makes landing on a blade of grass. In fog. Silence was actually louder!
That was that wag Shiva having a little chortle…..
After a short pause in Inverness, we were away again, bound for Glasgow.
It’s a lovely scenic journey, Avimore and the North sea prior to, and the beautiful mountains before Dalwhinnie.
I’ve got my headphones on, tripping through the mountains with Big Star, Andy Williams, JD Souther, the Pretenders and Curt Boetcher.
Pretty soon we’re in Glasgow and I had a full 40 minutes until my next train, so I figure a beer and some hot manjari. I went to the bar at the station, very cosy, with several red haired Celtic honeys(or taggies as Jed called them)serving a nice pint of heavy and a hot pie. So far so lovely.
I left this very comfortable scenario a good 15 minutes before the Euston train departed, figured I’d get settled in my seat and hook up to the wifi. But where the hell was my train? There was no 14.42 to Euston. I checked my ticket, the train to Euston was from Central NOT Queen street! Sheer terror and panic gripped as I hailed a cab in a vain attempt to get my connection. The cab driver was jolly nice, Glasgow seemed jolly nice, a beautiful old fashioned Carousel in the square outside the station. But it was futile, I arrived at Glasgow central at 14.50 and my heart sank…….
£107 on my Lloyds credit card later I was close to throwing myself under the 15.42 train rather than getting on it. God I was miserable. A hundred and seven bloody pounds, how am I going to pay that back……talk about being out of consciousness!
But it just got worse. Having got on the train, a Virgin train, low and behold, welcome to England, no free wifi. You want wifi Johnny no prob, £5 per hour. So I had a dram and thought hmm… a visit to the loo. I couldn’t believe it, I was aware I was in short distance of the toilet, not just because I could see it, I could smell it too, utterly disgusting!
Now come on Mr Branston sir, I bought the bloody Faust tapes y’know! And Camenbert Electrique,(I must dig that out!) I helped you on the road mate, helped you build your blinking empire, fer Christssake, the least you can do is keep your kahzis in order!
Bet you don’t have to do a number in a smelly potty, why should I?
Well anyway, I eventually got home around 10 p.m., after an amusing bus journey from Chelmsford with Andy Jasper, regaling me with tales of him dressing up as Gene Simmonds at some Metal festy. Scarey huh?
Peace……….and Happy New Year everyone!