Posts Tagged ‘travelling’


This is the first day my head is not in fog. Ordering a macchiato is safer. Near a river is a joy, a city on a river (a working river) is even better. People are good, it is the ideas that are the contest. Old cities, low cities, are better than new cities, tall cities. I think Duncan Speakman is my shadow. The pace and cadence of an old river, an old city, a region. This wind teaches stoicism. It is a shock to see fields from a city centre. Riparian milieus. The forest here are weeds at home.

A Certain Loneliness

I still find travel strangely affective. I fly across half the world with the hardest part of the exercise always the queueing – security, passport control, boarding, disembarking (Dubai), a bit more security, boarding, disembarking, passport control – get on an express train, cross a couple of platforms, find the train to Bristol and, about 30 hours from when I stepped onto the plane I am where my night is now day, day night, summer is winter. I walk along the river, buy some shaving creme (I only have carry on and my tin at home would not have made it through customs as it is exceeds the 100ml rule) at a supermarket with local currency from the ATM. Everything is nearly the same but different. Accents, the body that I self medicate with caffeine to bluff it into its disturbance, smells, a biting wind, a nautical city. That I can be somewhere other in the world, and there it is. Perhaps, elegantly, it is my 1960s working class Australian childhood. The only family holiday a trip one year to Lakes Entrance (I think if you grow up in Victoria a holiday to Lakes Entrance is as inevitable as the penguin parade) with air travel something exotic that people on TV got to do – like dinner parties or having a study – with Enid Blyton then later Arthur Ransome populating my imagination. This contrast, of manners, propriety, verdant domesticated woods and fields that become almost familial, a tacit correctness and acquiescence of class and landscape in knifed edged relief to the heat, razor light and resolute indifference (my mother returning home to don gum boots and armed with a long handled shovel to decapitate a brown or tiger snake in the bush block next door) of my forests and fields makes England (for it was always to England that 1960s Australia still looked for comfort and self definition as this was before the national self confidence that triumphed through the 1970s) and western Europe this place of not home, of imagination, of an other who’s distance ensured and guaranteed its impossible centre to our conceptions of the world.

Then there’s the body, playing catch up. Waking at 2am in Bristol and it is lunch time at home. I have learnt there is nothing to be done about it. I work. Knowing that a wave of tiredness will come in one, two, maybe even three hours, and I’ll sleep again. You need to be pragmatic about such things when you trust yourself to being international air freight. It is, wonderfully, a quiet hotel.

DRHA First Taste

Sunday morning, 9am kick off and I did a workshop on RDF and marking up literary works. Used the Brat Rapid Annotation Tool with the OntoMedia ontology. Now have a much better understanding of RDF and linked objects, and where, why, and how it might be used.

The conference is DRHA, and the acronymn spreads out to be the Digital Research in the Humanities and Arts. I think it is what the earlier Digital Resources in the Humanities (DRH) might have become, but I’m not sure and if it was that then a lot of the people I’d expect to be here aren’t. So perhaps I’ve got the wrong end of the stick there?

We’re at the University of Greenwich. One of those places that photographs well with all its empire power enormity on the banks of the Thames below the Royal Observatory (from the workshop I could see the queue forming to get in up the hill), but inside it’s all a bit shabby really. (Turns out they have fantastic new facilities being built just near by for the department.)

Spent last night in an AirBnB booked apartment a nice 25 minute walk away. It too was on the river. The apartment’s owner lived there, and the socially anxious person I am, well that just doesn’t really work for me. I was jet lagged after the 24 hours flying and 3 hours on trains to get to Deptford, so got shown the place, my host went out, I showered, walked to a supermarket got some stuff to eat and then sat on the bed eating before crashing about 7pm London time. Woke and started doing stuff at 5:15 am, and since my host was asleep in the room next door, and being a good former working class boy where, really, you’re not to make a fuss, I tiptoed around my room – not even daring to go out to make a cup of tea – until fish when I showered, packed, and left. All without seeing my host. The electricity substation, humming away, 5 floor below wasn’t great either. The view, that was splendid.

Have wandered around Greenwich town centre (that might be supposed to have capitalisation), very picture postcard London. Greenwich market (had a great lamb and haloumi wrap), the Cutty Sark, pubs, and so on. Lots of languages, a lot of organic food. Sort of the opposite of the Deptford High Street I walked down yesterday. That was takeaway of various immigrant varieties, Greenwich is wool, not synthetic, organics not fish and chips. More later….



Second full day of a research retreat at Strathvea, a guest house tucked away on a ridge up above Healsville. Encamped with a small group of colleagues from the nonfictionLab, we have spent the first day presenting creative nonfiction work in progress, looking ‘inwards’ at what draws us to the work, the material, the idea. Today we start what you might call the ‘academic’ writing where we now look outwards. What is the work about, how? What theoretical framework does it use, or what is the problem it is attending to? How and why should it matter to others, as an idea?

It is intense, and that everyone had gone to bed by 10pm the first night I think reflected the effort of this sort of all day concentrating making and then hours of listening, critiquing, testing. I am working on the first small scale version of a video series with the working title About 7am. It will take a year to make, simply because I need to film something everyday for a year, and May is done so I’m using that material to begin to sketch the work. Yesterday I heard some great writing, and today we are to write and then share around 500 words of that. I’m hoping to bring some of the essayistic that I heard yesterday into my writing today. Though as I sit by the window watching the crimson rosellas and king parrots run through their through daily protocol of access to the seed table, I’m feeling a bit intimidated by expectation, the quality of yesterday’s writing, and of not knowing where, how to begin from the list of what now feels like flimsy in my mind.



Dopplr is a social site that lets you share your travel with others and it works out your carbon footprint. I’m not sure what it means to see that someone else is travelling, though I guess if you see people travelling at the same time to the same place, or who have gone to somewhere you’re new to, that could be handy. Still, interesting combination of social software, maps, and the green economy.

Ah, from the email after I subscribed:

Dopplr is all about serendipity – meeting up with friends and colleagues on the road or in people’s home cities. So we encourage you to invite travellers you know to join too.


Dopplr gives you email alerts about coincidences in your trusted network. If somebody is coming to your town, or happens to be travelling where you are, you can get an alert in your inbox. Initially we’ll send you weekly alerts; you can change your email settings at

Two Trains Travelling To and Fro

This is another lumiere rhizome. One was shot while travelling from Paris to Brussels on the TGV while the other is the return journey a few days later. I really like travelling on trains. Much more room than on planes (well, I guess I might not think that if I travelled first class, but like that’s ever going to happen), and you get to see sky and land and sometimes places too.

Two Trains

Lumiere Eels

Brussels Non-Place

My second visit to Brussels. I caught the train from Paris, and as someone from a large country (like Canadians, North Americans, etc) the idea that I can get on a train and only 90 or so minutes later I”m in a different country, different language (well not quite, Brussels is bilingual with French and Flemish), and in many ways a different culture. Well, that’s just thrilling. Dammit.

Once in town I had a lot of time to kill. I’m staying with friends here, but they’re not home for two hours. I have no intention of sitting on their door step for two hours, after twenty six hours of travelling, so am sitting in the mall at Bruxelles-Midi (an exemplary Augé non-place) in a Häagen-Dazs having very bad (very bad) coffee, a too chocolaty milkshake (but I guess it is Belgium) listening to pop music. Why here? It was the only place I could find with an available power point as the PowerBook is dead as. So, I drank my not good drinks, keep trying to finish my presentation, before arranging to get to my friends J and N’s. It was very grey outside, dull, the sort of colour if you were a set director (and cynical) you would ensure if you wanted to suggest a city of bureaucrats.

This is where I’m a poor traveller. I should have locked away my suitcase in a locker, caught a train the short distance to the city centre, and just hung out in the medieval square there. But I was tired, wannted a shower and a shave, and needed to finish my presentation. Saturday is the declared relaxing day where I’ll see something local before saddling up for the long voyage home.

On a Jet Plane…

Got Jim White’s “Transnormal Skiperoo” which came out October one, Jenny Owen Youngs‘ “Batten the Hatches”, Joe Henry’s “Civilians” and Mary Gauthier’s “Between Daylight and Dark” as new company on the iPod, still deciding what book I need to read, and a presentation to write. Today I leave for Brussels. A good near eight hours to KL, then eleven or twelve thirteen to Paris, and a couple of hours on the train.