thoughts

Travelogue/Travelodge

Travelogue to Travelodge, we took the road to little England, a land that has gone quite to seed, a land of smiles and good intentions, but sadly low on willpower. A land with heart disease.

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England; no country for old men, but we've travelled south to see one. Oh how you've let yourself go, but then, weren't it ever so? Ours is not a city of dreaming spires and genteel similes shared, it's a city of creosote, concrete and dogshit, lazy racism, casual homophobia and maccy d's. We were always overfed and undernourished, we were always here. We've always wanted someone else to blame, we've always been held to ransom by the same elites. Nothing has changed. The only difference is Russian 'bots and a Waitrose. 

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We pass Pray for Tommy Robinson graffiti in a blur, marvel at her faux-leopard-skin covered crutches, and eat an airless breakfast surrounded by massive, tattooed men with tiny hands clutching smartphones tightly. England sizzles in it's juices. We keep on driving, now on the Dorking road, along mellow sun-streaked ghost holloways, once arteries through a forest that stretched from Essex to the great chalk plains, fragile leather soles swapped for black liquid bones, already half auto-maton.

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Finally, we reach the coast, and a little corner of a foreign field. This is where my stepfather lies. I water a thirsty shrub and clear away some brambles. Forever England, just off the bypass and in-between the housing estates. On the Monarch's Way, widely spaced beech trees hang from chalky Downs, flinty drove roads meander through coppiced woods. A shotgun rings out, spooking the dog. Piles of aggregate stir slightly in the heat haze. The traffic churns on and on, around the roundabouts. England burns. 

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But back on the road, people are unfailingly kind. And in London too, there's a kindness in the crush that doesn't fit the narrative at all. Jan from upstairs offers to lend a hand, Mike and Debbie from across the road have noticed that Dave hasn't been around lately. Our parents might not take your help - they live in fear - but help is there. Dave has delirium; not only a metaphor but a real medical condition. He doesn't recognise his own home, his own fate. The meek can and will get fucked. England waits, ready to wake.

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Dark Days

This was written a few weeks ago, and the pictures taken in early January over a 24hour period between Glen Coe and the Port of Appin. Given events of the last few days, it seems a pretty naive experiment now, but whatever, I'm throwing it to the wind.

To my own mind at least, we've crossed some lines... so be as kind as you can to each other out there. Don't drunk tweet, bite your tongue before trolling. There's only us left, and language matters. And if you want to even begin to understand what's happening, follow the one true god. Follow the money.


Shortly after Christmas we walked above Balquhidder on a fine cool winter’s day with deep light, shadow play on the hills, glowing green and red and a hint of snow white above us. I breathed in the life of trees deeply, cradled their presence in my neural network like the roots held the soil, fed back to each other and maybe even to me? Permission for a few hours to bend, not forced to break. A reminder of rest, safety, home. We’ve been trying to get somewhere else, buy a house. Turns out that wasn't sustainable.

The next day we went into the city. The streets slowly filled with the bored, the drunk, the rich and the poor, all buggered and beggered by it all. I watched the eyes of those who walked past the homeless, embarrassed to blankness, voided credit card hearts. My daughter moaned to see mickey fucking mouse one more time, and instead I gave her a pound to give to the old man slumped outside Schuh with a dog. Rats on a concrete ship.

I take my daughter to a ‘fun day’ held between a scrap yard full of twisted metal and a motorway. It’s run by Good People who Mean Well in a church car park. There’s not a blade of grass in sight. This is normal. But we are the lucky ones - the wrong class maybe but the right colour at least, enough money to eat well. Our homes have yet to be bombed, our friends have yet to be taken to the gulag, our bodies have not been ransacked for organs.

We try to teach our girl about about Usnea, old man’s beard - tinder, antibiotic, a lichen cure for ills from athlete’s foot to strep throat and flu. We may yet achieve escape velocity, but there’s no place deep enough in the woods that we can hide from this octopus, no place that can resist.

But in my cornered mind on the darker days, we have to prepare. She must learn to cut wood, navigate, self rescue and self defend, grow, kill, gut and cook food, write code and speak Mandarin. She may have to do more. It’s a big ask, to make plans for war. The terror of parenthood, and the burden of children. The war we waged on the world came home, didn't it.

There’s an idea that if you ignore our certain bitter end in a fart of crocodile tears, famine, dis-ease, anomie, digital atomisation and chemical rot, then you are running away, turning a blind eye, avoiding the painful and inevitable; that you are, sin of all sins, a coward. But what if all that was a distraction, fake news, a temporary aberration from another normal. What if the weather was all you needed to know? Then only a tree bending in the wind with it’s roots in the ground would be real, and all the concrete and glass in the world would be a mirage.

Rest with me a while. I need to catch my breath here, lean on this branch, before we try again.

Paying attention

Following the example of a few folk in the last few months and years, I've signed up to a form of crowdfunding. The page has gone live today. It's called Patreon.

I've explained a little about why on the above link, but perhaps it's worth saying here what I like about the platform. What's nice is that patrons are free to come and go as they please (I'd prefer the former option!), and that creators can add more works as they go. It's not a one-off thing, but a flexible and ongoing system of support. I have a few ideas fermenting for if I ever finish the book, and this may well be the place to launch them. Just having a container to put things in can be a catalyst to progress things beyond the concept stage in itself.

Back in the here and now, there's some starter rewards in the shape of postcards, calendars and book discounts, which hopefully will make it fun for people to show some love and allow me to try a few new things until world domination or the next magazine deadline, whichever comes first.

So that's it. Please go and check it out, and pledge a dollar or 3 if you can. And as ever, a huge thanks for paying attention, whether you are paying or not.

This be the verse

Just returned from a beautiful, challenging 9 days away with the girls, camping, walking and biking in the North West. It'll end up as a few, perhaps more commercial things, but why show that here, now? The camera looks both ways, they say, and men especially like to watch, don't they? We're awash in cliches but I'm obliged, like my stepfather before me, to document our time together - joyous and fraught both. A futile gesture but sometimes it's all we've got.

I'm a bad parent. I get it wrong every day. Just like my parents before me. But I won't grow a daughter that doesn't know how to be outside in the world. Her world. That would be an unforgivable sin.

Some rules, self imposed: First, no easily distinguishable photos of my daughter online until she's old enough to decide whether or not for herself. I'm alot less concerned about daily fail sexpests than google mail realities. Second, a single, manual focus, 40mm lens. Because discipline, and proximity. Finally; Focus, not sharpness.