A Travellerspoint blog

It's Scott Bass

Where da b-line?


Travelling with a pair of electrically impotent double A powered speakers has – paradoxically - added a new dimension to my listening adventures. I recall a time, but a few years ago, in a very austere hostel in Gran Canaria (named after dogs, not birds it transpires) and my friend - erstwhile audiologist and reformed musical fascist: Max (he’s mellowed over the years bless ‘im) - commented on the distinct lack of any actual bass, and therefore any interest, in my diminutive little speaker array (incidentally, the manager of the hostel didn’t find them quite as inoffensive as Max, nor our response after he complained about the noise at 3am). Whilst it is certainly true that the speakers themselves aren’t capable of reproducing the very broad range of frequencies present within the modern musical canon, I know the albums I listen to well enough to fill in the bassline shaped fissures myself: right in my own mindbox. Clever huh? And fun. For all the family. To me this makes listening to music more of an ‘active’ experience. Why have the speakers lazily reproduce the bassline when you can step up to the bar and imagine it in your head with all the rich, sonorous, belly-kicking grandour it so proudly deserves. This argument parallels my issues with reading the work of Tolkien (et al goblineous et hobbit est takete stuff): I need an actual ‘role’ when I read; a ‘purpose’; an element that stops me from being little more than a passive observer of an artwork taking place in my general vicinity; which seems to care little – if at all - whether I consume it or not. Tolkien tells me everything and even offers me bloody maps so I can imagine where it actually happened too (‘In the Kingdom of Oprah, by the straights of Tarragon, amid a sham of a mockery of a mockery of a sham sits bugger all’). When the book offers up such an avalanche of facts and figures, plot and sub-plot: what do I get to do? I know who a character’s mother is, who his friends are, his ancestry, his deams, his beliefs, his fears. I know what happened, what is happening and what will happen (for it is foretold…probably, it’s been a while since I read it) so in the end I kind of think that it - the story - doesn’t really need me; the story can take care of itself. In the meantime: I’ll be in the pub.

I prefer a book which allows me the space to complete aspects of it by myself; that takes me to a dropping off point and allows me the opportunity to create my own resolution; that lets me (the reader, not just me, that would be very selfish) close its narrative arc. In a traditional romantic resolution do you need to see the couple actually living happily ever after? Or is there a possibility that actually attempting to show the period after they realised they actually love each other will turn out to be rather tawdry. I mean, living happily ever after: It’s bound to be well boring isn’t it? You know when a friend says ‘we’re just SO happy, it’s amazing, just being together is enough really’. Well yes…for a while; but forever? Happily ever after? I think not. They always come back a few years later after that ‘cute little face she does when she doesn’t like something’ has transmogrified into ‘that face she makes that makes me want to punch her fucking head in’. Living ‘happily ever after’ will always be a complicated and messy affair of sturm and drang, bob and weave, Jekyll and Hyde, so I think the open ending offers the opportunity to imagine a (purely fictional) resolution more powerful and rewarding than any that could be written. So here’s to the unwritten, the unsaid, the implicit and the ambiguous; although when I get to hear my music with actual basslines again I may well change my mind. I’m fickle that way (and in most other ways).

Posted by jjmaurage 23:45 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Sartorial Suggestions

Or why fisherman's pants are stupid

A friend (who will remain nameless...because I can't remember who it was) told me that when they were in India, a taxi driver saw a group fo backpackers wearing floaty cotton pants, head scarves and elaborately crocheted 'authentic' Indian garb and laughed, saying 'why you all come here and dress like Victoria era Indians?'. Can you imagine Indian people arriving in Britain now and taking to wearing pinstripe suits, bowler hats, umbrellas and growing elaborate moustaches? Yes, I can too. But nevertheless, the question remains: what should the modern traveller be wearing? I do try and opt out of it and follow the notion of 'I wear what I wear, that's just who I am, that's how I roll' but there are practicalties to think of. I just bought a pair of nice flip-flop type things (or thongs to the antipodeans and yanks) because all I had was a pair of converse style trainers, and my-god...my feet REALLY hurt. Am I the only person who can't work out how to walk in them without tripping up constantly and digging deep furrows into my lilly livered western tootsies?

There are a lot of contradicitons in the 'traveller' doctrine. Despite our pasty white/pink faces we want to 'fit in' to our surroundings; to 'blend' with the locals. We don't want to eat and drink with the 'farang', we want to hang out with autentic Thais (or whatever country we're in) and we buy clothes in the country that help us blend in. Except the Thais tend to wear jeans and often trainers, just like we do back home. So there's no need to change clothing. But who wants to wear jeans and trainers in the searing heat? So we go to the market and buy some 'ethnic' Thai clothing worn by Thai people 100 years ago. Job done. Sometimes in beach resorts, the farang (and I have done this...I admit) will not bother wearing any shoes, because it's more comfortable to walk around without them. The Thais say that only dogs and poor people don't wear shoes.

In our attempts to be comfortable, but also to fit in with those travellers around us, farang in South East Asia have adopted a uniform of sorts that is actually quite specific and to go against it by wearing different clothing sends quite specific messages about who you are and what you stand for. So YES, I've bought some floaty cotton tops for the price of a small cup of Starbucks Coffee and now I feel cooler (in a temperature sense) and don't feel like I'm making a point of looking 'different'. I will NOT wear the stupid fisherman's pants though. Floaty top: Yes. Stupid trousers: resolutely not. Ever. Why the weird bit at the top that folds down? Why? You look like a tit, and you even KNOW you do but do it anyway.

Incidentally, travellers seem to be much older this time around. There are loads of them my age and older. Apparently the kids have stopped coming this year after all the Airport protests and Fires and things...

Posted by jjmaurage 22:42 Comments (0)

The Departure

Or how I REALLY strung out my 'leaving' Brighton.


I must have 'left' Brighton at least 3 times. I tried not to tell people I was coming back after I'd said an emotional goodbye to them the first time, and in any case I knew it would just look like I was only going to see my 'special' friends after the weekend of leaving do's where I said goodbye to most people. I don't really like the idea of certain friends being more specical than others as a general concept - some friends are just fit into your life better on a daily basis and some on a 6 monthly basis: not because you like them any more or less but just because of the practicalities of life. I would NEVER have a facebook list of 'best' friends; where would that leave everyone else? Who wants to be in the Vauxhall Conference League of friends? Why not go the whole hog and put your friends into 3 or 4 different leagues and have a series of promotions and relegations every year based on merit? Or split them onto different websites like acquaintancebook or dontknowyouverywellreallybutfeltthatIshouldaddyouanywayafterwemetatthatpartyandyousomehowfoundmebook.

I do think that it's only prudent to seperate friends into different categories for online communication though, rather than having one big amorphous facebook group that's only mildly interesting because you don't want your mother/boyfriend/pupils etc. to know what you REALLY get up to. Facebook seems to be going through a lull as people realise that far from offering a space to be 'you' it offers a space to be a sanitised version of you that is, frankly, a bit dull (I did see a status update once that said The weekend is here, charlie and pills and a right good munting' - brave, but unusual). You don't really want to go mixing up your munters with your mother do you? (admittedly I have a few friends who fit both categories, but they're the exception). Anyway, I've digressed, which is likely to be a feature of this blog, so you're going to have to get used to it.

It WAS particularly emotional leaving Wales for the last time as it has been amazing staying there; John and Sarah are very dear to me and Snowdonia is just a stunning place to live; I can't wait to go back.

The actual departure was from 2 other dear friends Kristian and Hannah (I spend a lot of time with couples...me as the gooseberry third, does that mean something? Am I searching for parental figures? John and Sarah and I jokingly pretended I was their son whenever the three of us went out together in the country...a son with specific characteristics that I won't air in public...). It was a funny old night. Kristian made an ace Thai curry, forgetting that I was flying to Thailand the next day and then the cap for the airbed turned out to be lost, so my bed for the night was lying deflated and impotent on the floor: its one purpose in life swiftly removed for the want of a little plastic spongle (or whatever they're called). I slept on the couch, except the couch is quite short so I had to stick my legs out diagonally onto a pouffe for the night. It didn't really matter as I was getting up at 5 and my mind was working overtime; it was highly unlikely to allow me the pleasure of sleeping.

When the alarm went off it was still dark and very cold. As departures go it seemed underwhelming: Kris and Hannah were (obviously) still asleep and I was sneaking out to the taxi trying not to wake them; but when I opened the door...the street had been dredged with a thick covering of cornfloury snow - and it was still falling. Behind my bitter, sarcastic, cynical exterior lies a hopeless romantic, and the sight of the snow caused a surge of syrupy emotion. My reverie was clearly not shared by the taxi driver who complained about it ('bloody typical it is') for most of the journey to the coach station. As is usual with taxi drivers I joined in with his complaining in a both hopeless and shameless attempt to form some sort of bond with a 'proper' male. I often talk about Glasgow Rangers circa 1993 (which was the last year I knew anything about football) with taxi drivers as a get out when they ask me if I 'saw the match last night' for the same male bonding reasons (I read yesterday that one of the year's new words was 'bromance' - which is a non-sexual relationship between men). For a start Mr Taxi Driver: which match? How am I supposed to know which match was on? It must be important to have gained the position of definite article, this much I know, but beyond that: nothing. As an early attempted get out (every army has retreated at some point), I generally say that I don't really follow English football hoping that will be the end of it; they might think I'm an English hating Scots bastard (they probably think Scotch bastard actually but I'm digressing enough without pointing out that objects are Scotch and people are Scottish or Scots), but at least there's something manly about xenophobia whereas not following football is something akin to raping dogs or stamping on kittens ickle heads. If they actually know about Scottish football then I say it hasn't been the same since the early 90s when it stopped being Scottish and they started buying foreigners and English people. I then have a bunch of names and key events at my fingertips because I was GENUNINELY interested in football back then. This was before I discovered women and music.

So anyway, having built this all up massively I arrived at Pool Valley, got on the coach and fell asleep till we got to Heathrow. Nothing interesting or funny happened during the trip, which was a waste of my bloody time.

Next stop...Mumbai (for a couple of hours, and believe me, that was enough).

Posted by jjmaurage 12:39 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged transportation Comments (0)

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