Tag Archives: holiday

Festival as social object

Bude jazz festival 2010This is the parade band from Bank Holiday Monday in Bude. Marching up Belle Vue past the spot where I had been busking the day before.

An interesting part of attending a small-ish festival in a small-ish town is the way that local people react. My experience of SXSWi in Austin – much bigger affair of course but probably proportionately so – was that I was surprised to find that lots of people weren’t even aware that the festival was going on.

Not so in Bude, I suppose it helps when a band plays loudly around the main streets of the town, followed by ladies waving umbrellas.

The point is, that the festival acts as a mediating point between people. It gives them something to connect about – that might not be positive. I didn’t hear anyone say this, but doubtless there are people muttering about the crazy jazz people and how they should keep the noise down.

My personal experience was that it eased social interactions everywhere. Just carrying my uke around marked me as one of the crowd. Getting up and playing in the street – I busked both of the mornings that I was there – helped this enormously and for the first time, I found my presence not only tolerated but actually welcomed.

The owner of “Sweets and Treats”, the shop you can see above wanted to know all about my ukulele and my playing. He sent his daughter out with bottled water to keep me going and chucked a few quid in the pot himself as well as encouraging me to come and play closer to his shop when I set up a little further down the road on the second day.

I don’t know what was going on in the shop while I was playing, but I imagine that I became a social object to help smooth things between him and his customers, a talking point, a beginning of conversation, no matter how irrelevant to the actual sale of beachballs and suncream – the fact that I was there and could not be ignored was enough to make things easier for him.

And I imagine that the whole festival works like this too. Especially when a parade is going through, people can agree to love it, agree to hate it, or disagree completely, but at least they connect, rather then just walking along in their own little worlds.

interrail day 7

170820091866I’m realising that much of this feels like school trip reporting – we did this, then we went there, then we did this and then we went to sleep. It has been a bit like that but I hope I’ll be able to write something more reflective once I’ve laid out the bones here.

Day 7 was Sunday. This seems to have made the streets of Nice more busy, especially it being mid-August, what with sunday-trading being a mortal sin ‘n’all (it turns out – I saw it on the telly, I’m not going to research it further, find your own link, I’m on holiday – that this weekend was the beginning of sunday trading)

We started with the (predictable but still severe) disappointment that is le petit dejeuner – particularly severe given that I don’t eat bread or croissants or butter or jam and so was restricted to coffee. So I watched Ewan chew his way through a baguette and then it was back to the handy supermarket.

NiceI’m having trouble now remembering. The morning was spent on the beach – I went for a swim and spent the rest of the time, really not looking at topless women, no really trying not to look, or at least, not to stare – trouble is, every time you look somewhere else, a new one wiggles into place. For example, the amply-proportioned lady underneath the red striped parasol in this picture promptly sat up just after I put my camera away.

The afternoon and evening consisted of food and catching up in my feed reader and going for another walk and some crap french telly in our room. Oh and getting bitten by fleas in the room too. Thanks.

Ah yes, I remember, the other thing was I went over to the train station to book the tickets and found that it being a Monday in mid August when lots of people are going back to work and school, there were no places on the train I’d wanted to get to Paris. In fact there were no places on any direct train to Paris on Monday. Or any obvious indirect routes. So I had to (well actually I was quite pleased to, it made for a nice treat after our hotel experience) get an upgrade to first class on a TGV from Marseille and we’d have to get the slow local train there first. I booked the Eurostar tickets back to London at the same time – it started to feel like we were near the end.

interrail day 4

No pics yet because my phone’s running out of juice and there’s only wifi down in the hotel restaurant.

A train day today (as is tomorrow) as it takes a surprising 9 hours to get direct from Berlin to Vienna – those of you who, like me have a rudimentary grasp of geography south or east of Calais, might have imagined that Germany and Austria were right next to each other so it was probably a bit like London to Cardiff – well it is except London to Cardiff via Edinburgh.

Thankfully, the Northern Czech countryside between the border and Prague is as stunning as South Wales (yes, that’s a compliiment!)

Otherwise until Prague, in our compartment we had a German emo couple and German chap with an oriental girlfriend who couldn’t do anything for herself, a noisy Czech family with us from somewhere unprounounceable in the middle down to the still unpronounceable but memorable Brno in the south. And then a couple of female scandi navian interrailers from Brno down to Vienna.

I was not in the boy’s good books when we found that I’d chosen the hotel for it’s proximity to the Mitte station and we came into the Sud and because I hadn’t looked at the map properly, I decided it was walkable. I won him back with a large doner kebab.

I’ve also promised him a taxi when we arrive in Milan tomorrow – little does he know what Italian driving is like…

Tomorrow is our longest single journey door to door though it includes an hour waiting for a connection in Innsbruck – we leave at 9.40 in the morning and don’t get there until 8.35pm.

So we’ve been as far east as we’re going to go, now we’re heading south west. And no I haven’t published the full itinerary yet, I like to keep you on your toes.

interrail day 1

The bells that kept us awake live hereI’m in Europe, yes, I know we’re all in Europe but y’know, the bit over the sea. Day 1 of several zooming around the continent with Ewan, on trains. But to get here we flew first to Amsterdam. The security theatre including shoe x-ray had me wishing we’d gone for eurostar there as well as back.

I didn’t really notice how seedy Amsterdam was until we arrived in Berlin which is generally trying to be very smart and stylish. But yeah, day 1 – we flew out of Gatwick at 1.30 so arrived at Schiphol at 3.30 local time. Ewan needed feeding and we needed change for the ticket machine so had a little stop at Burger King before getting the train into Amsterdam Centraal. Our hotel was a little walk from the station – would have been littler if I’d been paying attention. Didn’t really take much in when we got there, just dumped our stuff and put the air conditioning on as it was getting muggy outside.

Went for a walk around the ‘hood to take the air and find some food. found some sex shops, ladies in their knickers and coffee shops along the way. Last time I was there it seemed the coffee shops were quite discreet, now however Amsterdam was under a thick haze of dope smoke and the multitude of other tourists doing that special slow tourist walk that infuriates me in London, but even more so when on holiday because I’m supposed to be chilling out about that sort of thing.

We had a curry and pootled about a bit more.

Back at the hotel we found that the a/c was making funny noises. Every now and then it would buzz, like a buzzer on a quiz show. But it wasn’t regular, so just when I thought it had stopped, it would suddenly do it again and make me jump out of my skin. Also we realised that the church next door really was ringing every quarter of an hour….

I went down to reception to talk about the air-conditioninug. “Which room are you in, shir?” said the clerk in his perfect Amster-Englischh “410”

“Oh yesh. The air conditioning does make a noise in that room, I found out lasht night”

“So what can we do about it? My son’s gone to bed and we’ve unpacked, I don’t want to move!”

“Well you’ll have to talk to the manager about it in the morning, oh and it will keep making the noise after you’ve switched it off, just not so often”

So I went back and switched it off and it was true, it continued to buzz just a little less often gradually. So we opened the window and tried to get to sleep. It wasn’t easy as I became convinced in my half sleep that someone was going to climb in through the window from the balcony opposite. buzzz. clang-ding-dong. silence. silence. buzz.

And then the headboard started making noises when I moved. A clacking sound that I first decided was the boy snapping his teeth together in his sleep and I thought it was more like a crocodile. Eventually I did drift off for a few hours but it wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’d had.

Oh dear this all sounds like a dreadful gripe. I’m actually having a lovely time!

Travel day

I’m in the USA for the first time – just had my first american breakfast (burp) which also included sightings of Linda Gray and Larry Hagman – you know that you’re in Texas when…

Before yesterday, I hadn’t been on a plane for more than 4 hours and never been on anything bigger than an airbus. So being on a 777 with individual movie screens made it not as awful as I’d imagined a 10 hour flight to be.

I watched Kung-Fu Panda which reminded me that there is no special ingredient. Then I listened for some random reason to one of Dave Winer’s earliest podcasts which reminded me that you don’t find out what your business model is by thinking and watching other people, you find it by doing what you love doing. And then I watched the new version of The Day The Earth Stood Still which reminded me that shit movies do still get made.

I don’t know how much blogging I’m going to do before SXSWi kicks off on Friday, right now, I’m enjoying being on holiday – we’re just going out now to explore.