Just refused to sign the bit of paper.. Normally a formality.
Just last week a polar bear was spotted near Akureyri, which is just near Skagastrond… They come over on the icebergs, from.. Greenland I suppose. Or the Arctic. The place I played at up there, Kantrybaer, was Iceland’s first (possibly only) country music bar, started by Iceland’s first ever country music singer, Hallbjörn Hjartarson, some 35 years ago. Upstairs is a radio station where Hallbjorn DJs or programs country music 24 hours a day.
In spite of Ludo and I’s best efforts I still managed to miss my train to Paris come Monday morning, and with it all connecting trains to Lecce, and was forced (the horror!) to spend another night in Bretagne.
Anyway I met one of the stunt women, she seemed nice, all stocky, tanned, toothy and friendly.. she said the movie *spoiler alert* has something to do with astronauts. Also met a high frequency energy healer called Max. She was a sassy New Yorker of about fifty, not a bit flakey as you might expect of someone with her job description. “Are you getting any sort of aura off of me, Max?” I asked, not impolitely. “I’m not here to work honey”, she replied.
Remember me? I’m the one who had your bayybbeeee nowww.. That’s for you Tim old chum.
Woke up a bus driver.
Along with other new friend Danielle, we climbed a mountain, Spakunofell, where legend says the prophetess Þhordis (Thordis) combed her hair every day with a golden comb. In the 10th Century. Iceland is full of amazing stuff like that. Sagas. Took us six hours to climb that mountain. We got lost on the way up.
In Iceland in summer the sun never really sets. It goes just under the horizon.
Now present for two presidential elections.. France, in Lannion, with HITS; and Iceland, in Skagastrond, a small fishing village of about 500 people, right up in the north, where the aforementioned NES artists residency was located. Run by a Brisbane gal named Melody with help from Loppa the dog.
There were other collaborations.. in England.. Before Ireland and Iceland. There was one with Michael Tomlinson. One with Christa Vi. One with Bjorn Baillie. There were gigs, at The Good Ship in Kilburn and at The Ridley Road Market Bar in Dalston. And at the Lazy Bishop festival in Farnham, where John is from. Wandering with Phoebe and Tom around Dublin. Coffee.
Went and saw Aaron and Ben’s band CIVIL CIVIC at The Macbeth in Shoreditch. So good. Instrumental two piece.. Really cool. Japanese noise band first up. A lot of people in Sonic Youth shirts. Am I old, is that what that means? Must consult I Ching.
I’m writing this bit, now, in Lecce, Puglia, Italy. The bottom of the heel. Outside the cicadas are chirping and screeching and there’s a dry wind from the north east, down from the mountains of Serbia and Croatia, I am told, over the Adriatic and here. I’m thankful for the breeze, as is all of Puglia.. Last week it was 44 degrees. I guess now it is around 32 or something. Feels bizarrely enough like being at my sister’s cattle property on a summer afternoon.
Got bitten by a silky terrier in Binic. Who gets bitten by a silky terrier? I didn’t feel so bad though, because apparently it bites everyone.
Jonathan Richman. The Velvet Underground. Lou Reed solo. The Go Betweens.
I have acquired a new pair of boots courtesy of Tourette’s, as I killed my beloved winklepickers climbing up a mountain. Also got a good hat from Tom.
Iceland unlike France is a parlimentary democracy (like Ireland and.. Some other places) so the President is largely a ceremonial figure (like our Governor General), wheeled out for state dinners and such; however the current President did win the hearts and minds of the Icelandic people by effectively vetoing a piece of legislation that would have required Icelanders to pay back $5 Billion to Dutch and UK investors after all their banks collapsed in 2008.
There must be an I Ching app.
As I had missed the markets I was unsuccessful but I found some dry stuff and also made some kick arse cous cous.. A Moroccan french girl even gave it the thumbs up. Authentico. Butcher was hilarious. A translation impasse attained, I found myself resorting to the time honoured tourist technique of steadily increasing the volume of my spoken English.. “how.. MUCH DOES IT COST?”.. Managed, eventually, to rein that in and go back to hand talking.
Serial cat hassler. Wandering the streets of Europe taking photos of random cats. This blog has requisite Internet approved number of cat pictures.
As I wandered up to the bar carriage, I came across a young man playing the ukelele, near the baggage racks.
In spite of this they seem a very agreeable lot. Considering how sexily close it is to the Arctic Circle, Iceland is rather warm, only reaching -15 in the depths of winter and climbing to a very lovely 9 – 22 for my visit. I forgot to mention that the scenery will melt your face.
There was Bastille Day in France, spent partially on a bus between Lorient and Binic. Jubilee, Bastille Day, 4th July. Embassies. Elections.
We were both waiting to use the bathroom, at the embassy. The budget for mini hamburgers was as large as the queue for the toilet was long. The toilet queue was where all the real networking got done.
Italians like to stay up late. Tomorrow night I am playing at a bar on the beach near here.. The thing doesn’t even start until midnight, and it finishes at 7 in the morning.
I went to Ireland, before Iceland, one letter the difference, vive la difference!, which was also grand, green, amazing. Played in Cork, Galway and Dublin, zoomed around on the bus. Saw Ray Davies play in Galway. Met a Go Betweens enthusiast in Cork.. Well, two of them actually. My host, Adam, formerly of Wellington, was a keen exponent of antipodean pop and rock amd we nerded it up big time.
He was a scout, on his way to Turin, for a scout jamboree.
A scout from Belgium, shrouded in mystery.
I have finally stopped listening to Azealia Banks.
They had mini hamburgers, and Samuel Adams’ Boston Ale. Ola would have liked that. Assorted US expatriates present, including some of the crew who’d been working on the new Tom Cruise movie, ‘Oblivion’. The apocalypse continues, in Iceland. Local farmers weren’t happy with Tom pushing everyone around, a sort of ‘We grew here, you flew here’ situation that was for once entirely understandable.
I have already posted about this blog on Facebook but here I am at 3.00am tinkering. That’s the future. No copy control. Tobias’s friend Oswaldo wrote a romance novel! He is also a journalist, and promotes concerts. The Kronos Quartet came and stayed here, when they did a show in Lecce. With Philip Glass. One Ell or Two? One Hell Or Two? Fore di Capo!!
I took full advantage of it by attempting to record a five track EP whilst I was there. Did four songs, including a cover of “I Heard Her Call My Name” by The Velvet Underground. That’s the fourth Velvets cover I have attempted whilst over here. Pattern Recognition. Still have to do vocals for some others. Iceland… Phew.
Just visited the Castle of Otranto with my wonderful hosts here in Lecce, Tobia Lamare and Cecilia (and Oswaldo and Antoinetta).. Amazing. Cannot explain. Turkish. Battle. Catacombs. Andy Warhol exhibition.
The other wind is the Sirocco, from the south, Africa, over the Mediterranean. It is humid. Sometimes the humidity reaches 90%. It’s all a lot like North Queensland.
As I drank a beer and pressed my nose on windows to the left and right, gazing out at the jaw dropping alps passing by on both sides, I heard the young Ukelele player pluck the unmistakable riff to “Riff Raff” by AC/DC, a song very close to my heart.
After Lorient, Binic.. Beautiful Binic, and Ludovic Lorre, proprietor of Le Chiland Qui Passe (The Passing Ships). A beautiful little cafe on the marina. Scene of some disgraceful expatriate behaviour on my last visit some three years ago; I was keen to make amends.
L’espirit du e’scalier
Scene also of the increasingly famous Binic Folk & Blues festival, which has played host to a number of Australian bands over the years. This year, Dan Brodie, Jamie Hutchings and Suzie Stapleton are all performing, as are Burn In Hell. Aussie pride. I played four shows over two days, including a cameo at a 50th birthday party, and I think they were all good. I exhausted my supply of CDs in any case.
Seems pretty reasonable to me; as far as I can gather no one in (itl.) Iceland (itl./) got their bloody investments back.
I have written lots of songs.
I got here after 30 hours on trains from St Brieuc via Paris, Milan and Rome. The humidity and heat. It makes everything sort of surreal, as Australians know well. Last night I played outside at an Irish pub.. They have them in Puglia too. They are ubiquitous. I must go.
After Tim and Helen’s, it was on the train to Lorient, a place beloved of many Brisbane and Australian musicians.. Le Galion, and Jean Baptiste, the paratrooper. Had a fantastic couple of shows there.. I stuck around for Friday the 13th and decided to repay JB’s hospitality by cooking him and his business partner Crystal (as well as a few patrons) a traditional lamb roast. This entailed a visit to almost every supermarket and store in Lorient in the quest for fresh Rosemary or ROSMARIN.
One day as I drank beer at Kantrybaer with Tourette’s, the radio station played “The Pub With No Beer” by Slim Dusty. Played a bunch of Slim Dusty. Was it random or did Hallbjorn know?
I read “The Man In The High Castle” by Philip K. Dick. It had a profound effect on me. Truly amazing.. In its portayal of obsession with imaginary (or real?) contemporary cultural ephemera it reminded me of William Gibson, and Antiques Roadshow.. Or Gibson now is like Dick. Of course. Chilling. The I Ching.. I must get a set. The ending.
Tonight I ate fettini di cavallo.
TOM COONEY THE MOON AND THE LIFFEY
I SAW RAY DAVIES PLAY IN GALWAY. Thanks Gugai!
I told Max that I did sense an amazing sort of energy about Iceland, that I kept forgetting everyone’s names and sort of stumbling about in a beatific daze.. Whether that was due to the stunning scenery and fresh air, or to the local spirit, Brennivin, aka “The Black Death”, is another question entirely.
Two embassies (or one High Commission and one embassy, to be precise, as we’re still ruled by England, true story!) ..while in Iceland I managed to sneak in with other ‘artists’ from the NES residency to the 4th of July party at the American Embassy in Reykjavik. True story.
On my iPad I have every Asterix and Tintin comic, scanned (I HAVE BOUGHT THEM ALL SEVERAL TIMES)… Asterix is from Bretagne. Probably somewhere between Lannion and St. Malo or something.
This required a trip back to Cork but Ireland isn’t that big and I was just grateful that crisis had been averted. I spent the next few days giving money to every beggar and busker I saw, which in Dublin particularly is a fairly hefty outlay, but I felt the karmic balance had to be redressed. More on that later.
Anyway they voted the old President back in. Meanwhile I hung out with the arists, a motley collection of printmakers, painters, installation..istas, a Danish collective and a rapper from NZ, Damien aka Tourette’s, who was writing a novel. We hit it off and even did a collaboration.
It was due to the hangover I sustained drinking with Adam and his awesome Irish housemates (on the topic of the Jubilee: “No person should have to bow or kneel to another person.”) that I lost my wallet in the bus station in Cork. Cards, and €80 cash.. Realised, too late, on the bus to Galway. After some frantic texting and what not it was located at the bus station; someone had handed it in. With all the cash in it.
Apparently Þhordis buried treasure up there on the plateau that looks like some strange spongy lunar otherworld. But you can only find it if you’re a woman, virgin, never read the word of God (the Christian one), never had cow’s milk.
One embassy, one high commission, one Jubilee
Whilst in Reykjavik I did three shows, the biggest at a place called Cafe Rosenberg with my patrons, landlords and all round excellent fellows 1860. They have been described as Iceland’s Fleet Foxes which seems reasonable enough to me – I’ve not listened to much of them (Fleet Foxes, that is) but I’ve heard they go alright. 1860 certainly go alright and their back story and general vibe was very reminiscent of The Gin Club’s.. Started as a side project, lots of members, a sort of Indie The Band thing. They organised my gigs and let me sleep in their rehearsal room which was amazing.
After Iceland there was a brief layover in London. More shenenigans in Dalston. Having it large, etc. Down the offie. Made my first cous cous. No, that’s not a euphemism.
I got the ferry from Portsmouth over to Brittany again. Brittany, Bretagne, Breihz. English, French, Breton. From St. Malo to an ancient farmhouse in the woods and a couple of nights with new friends Tim and Helen. Extensive collaborating, soul searching and red wine drinking was done. Tim is an English ex pat who has lived in Brittany for a number of years. He has quite an interesting musical career which I won’t go into here. I will just say that he, Helen, their beautiful two year old Isabella, plus two or three cats, were all tres hospitible.. The same cannot be said for Betty the goat.
Trendy bars across Reykjavik hummed with the sounds of people quoting Top Gun and speculating as to Mr. Cruise’s choice of sexiness and religiosity, neither of which I am prepared to speculate on here as he just seems frankly like an excellent fighter pilot and an above average assassin. Can also race cars and sell athletes.
Hello again weary readers, whoever you are.. Tolerant, open hearted, kind. Envious, no doubt. I would be. I am one lucky hombre. When this trip began, I would say to everyone, well, it’s not all luck (and here I find the lack of italics in nearly all iPad applications frustrating).. You know, sure, I got a grant, but I’ve been plugging away for so long yadda yadda yadda yabba dabba dooo.. Well, I have abandoned all that. I am lucky, and I am grateful. And that’s it. Here comes this month’s exciting installment, rambling.. Sorry if it’s too long for you but I am too busy doing stuff to write newsletters all the time and besides that gets boring quickly. Go get a cup of tea.
SHANTI SHANTI SHANTI
Lecce, 21st July 2012