Thursday, December 20, 2007

Gallery 00001

Just a few photographs taken through 2007. Click on each one for a larger version.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I await the sound of your footsteps with jittery excitement. First I hear the faint, reverberating echo of the metal steps being ascended, and then the hollow clack of your flat shoes across my rooftop garden. I then listen for the final soft swoosh of the door opening before your voice bursts my senses. Always.

What a sweet blissful anticipation it is. A skittery feeling that builds up throughout the day, and one that can only be quelled by your embrace. The order of sounds announcing your arrival like a miniature countdown, one which only I am privileged to hear. Always.

Wherever else I might inhabit in the years to come, it will be these sounds I remember. A sequence invoking a Pavlovian response. An inward smile, an outward smile, and then a rush to greet you, to investigate your day. To love you. Always.

Monday, November 19, 2007


You never lose the childhood wonder of snow. You remember that first morning view from your bedroom window, the landscape transformed, everything draped with the cleanest, purest blanket you ever saw. Sleepiness forgotten as an energy fills your soul, you just can't wait to get out there and do snow things. Any things, and every one of them is fun. Very cold, mostly wet, but always fun.

Even though it is still early evening, it is so very dark. I am a long way from any town, and wet snow swirls unevenly, breathlessly, caught in the conical beam of my headlights as I drive through the hills. Each soggy flake is reflected brightly in a mesmerising onrush before fading rapidly to the unknown darkness beyond. It tingles me, and even if this harsh wet sleet is not quite movie-like perfection, it is still a magical special effect that momentarily transforms my windscreen into that childhood window.

As we get older snow becomes a negative thing. An obstacle to the successful completion of our day. Our lives. We once marveled at its alien purity, now it is just an annoying part of the most annoying season. A hindrance. It is something to be removed either by ourselves, or preferably by someone else whilst we stay warm.

And yet children find no annoyance in snow, even if they are cold and wet they won't leave it alone. We are so much happier when our lives are at their simplest, yet we strive to complicate our lives, every day, by chasing happiness. We should think of revisiting simplicity like this more often, and remember how even if a snowball hurt, it didn't really matter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


What can I say? Simply the most awesome name for a burger van I've ever seen! And I've seen a few...

Friday, September 14, 2007


Just a few short weeks ago this was the view I had. Nearly 3,500 feet above sea level here I stood, gentle tendrils of cloud hanging in the damp air. How tempting was it to stand with my arms outstretched, feet on tiptoe, as if my body had to somehow attempt to outwardly portray the exhilaration I felt within. I settled for a very big grin, wide as the view.

This was Snowdon. It was as if history itself paved the way for me to enjoy this view, or at least 150 extraordinary men did - building a unique railway to the very peak of the mountain - so that I might see an almost identical vista to that which those early passengers did, nearly 110 years ago.

So here I was, presented with an almost unique pairing of different histories. I thought about how those early patrons must have felt, seeing this most amazing sight for the first time, a view which had previously been available only to those very intrepid few who might venture to climb Snowdon the old-fashioned way. And though even to visualise life 110 years ago requires a ragged-edged black and white imagination, I then thought to imagine the larger scale of history that created this incredible landscape. The millions of years of precipitation guiding the contours of rocks on such a massive scale.

A mischievous wind breathed life into the scene, billowing all around and through my clothes. The sound created by this turbulent fluttering became my only soundtrack to this cinematic panorama, as the damp grass rippled in harmonious waves down the hillside, weaving wherever it could find purchase amongst the jutting rocks and shale, all the way down to the green twinkling copper-tinged lake below.

Friday, August 10, 2007


It always seems so very strange to me how the acoustics of a room are changed so dramatically by removing even the smallest items. A cabinet, a table, sometimes even a poster will do it. I find that the change in the effects of sound within a room genuinely affects me on a personal level. It fills me with a tiny melancholy, mixing up the excitement and unknowingness of impending change in my life with the mournful sadness of an empty room. Of course, any room starts off bare, but as you slowly fill a room with things - with LIFE, you don't notice the echoes leaving. It's only when you deconstruct and remove items that you notice the change as the ghosts return.

I'm leaving the building I've worked in for so many years. Today is the very last day. Slowly the ghosts have surrounded me as everything has been removed until all I have left is a desk and this computer. In ten minutes time even the internet is being switched off, and I will be locking the door for the last time on a place I have laughed and lived and spent so much of my time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Sunrise, sunrise.
My whole being jiggles imperceptibly in a lovely shuffle, tuned to the rays of light peeping around the curtain's edges - warm tendrils caressing me awake.
I look at you in this light. Sometimes I find you asleep, lids closed and breathing so softly, but mostly you look right back, an inescapable smile tentatively peeping around the corners of your mouth. We might be like this forever, floating gently as if suspended in amber, each rapt in the other's gaze. There's nowhere else we want to be.
The most tender part of the day. Eyes accustoming themselves to the light, heartbeat increasing oh so slightly at the brush of movement alongside me.
The day ahead has the unknown in store for us. There will be all sorts of unforeseen activities ahead for both of us at work or for friends - but this shared morning light is ours alone to treasure and to think about when we are apart.
Sunrise, sunrise.
It lasts for such a short precious time. The alarm always intrudes. Most people's alarm clocks wake them up, but ours is a last minute warning of impending reality, and that magical feeling fades slowly away - as it does each day - soundtracked by the morning soundtrack of buses and cars drifting through the open window. Inevitably, the day intrudes - it always does.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Green space

What you see above is what I see each morning (click the picture for a lovely big version). This (sadly) isn't my garden, but I live opposite this lovely park and enjoy it every day. Occasionally, I might choose a long detoured route home just so I can walk through this beautiful green space. A busy road is shrouded directly behind that line of trees but you would hardly know it, with birdsong being the only soundtrack to this peaceful place. Giant green sentinels shutting out the noisy reality of 2007, exchanging a thousand exhaust pipes for a gentle stereo rustle as the breeze meanders through this leafy panorama.
Just like my countryside post of a while back, being in this place allows room for the mind to truly breathe. Away from the stifling world of endless decisions, thoughts made here can meander from one connection to another without intrusion from the pressed-for-time world behind those trees.
You can wonder at the enjoyment which this simple space brings to so many people. Later in the evening a kids football session will take place here, literally with jumpers for goalposts as if to prove the timelessness of this space. But for now it's just me under a damp grey sky, planning nothing in particular and enjoying every precious second.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Another "guest post" ahhh. Nice oblique lyric from Editors, soon to release a new album. This song 'Blood', taken from their debut 'The Back Room' shows off a nice descriptive minimalism. Join the road.


This wicked city just drags you down
You're with the red lights, your side of town

Don't say it's easy to follow a process
There's nothing harder than keeping a promise

Blood runs through your veins, that's where our similarity ends
Blood runs through our veins

There's nothing believable in being honest
So cover your lies up with another promise

Blood runs through your veins, that's where our similarity ends
Blood runs through our veins

If there's hope in your heart
It would flow to every part
If there's hope in your heart

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Evening Rain Part 2

I guess after my rainy post of a few weeks ago, this one seemed impossible to not write about. There I was mesmerised by the visuals of rain without the physical effect. Snug indoors.
Here I was, 3am in Dublin city centre, and it was raining. Rain like I hadn't seen in the UK In years - a thick vertical forest of water reflecting the light from a million pubs as it splashed downwards on its journey to the pavement. There was no time for musing on the beauty of concentric circles when the pursuit of a warm taxi was a far more urgent consideration.
I was told that after taxis were deregulated in Dublin a few years ago, their numbers swelled from 2000 to something like 13,000. This fact didn't help much as it seemed nothing was going to stop for us that night. They were already full or going somewhere else. And it carried on raining - even heavier I thought, or maybe that was just part of my rapidly developing persecution complex.
So we walked home. Clothes and shoes and jackets soon became one sodden squelchy mass as we danced around puddles and precarious pavestones. At the half-way point I started smiling. There was this sudden moment of realising that I could do one of two things. I could be a miserable, conceited and very selfish bastard and bemoan the unfairness of it all in a "why me?" way, or I could enjoy this experience. I enjoyed the rain pouring through my hair and somehow being funneled down the back of my collar. I enjoyed the crazy laughter we all had at this shared misfortune. It felt like freedom, childhood memories of tasting raindrops, and mostly I just enjoyed the sensory rush of being reminded how ace it is to be alive. Or at least, knowing what it is to get thoroughly pissed on in Dublin. It all seems so simple.

Comment posting

It was only a matter of time. With apologies to those friends and readers who do occasionally post a response here, I am being forced to change the comment posting procedure to enable me to check comments. This is due to my being plagued by a particular sad Russian spammer in the last couple of weeks, who it turned was also spamming the boards of disabled children in a particularly insensitive manner.
I love to hear any and all responses to anything I write (yeah, I know I don't write enough), and I would like to stress that I am not doing this for reasons of censorship.


Friday, May 11, 2007

Evening rain

As long as I am nice and snug indoors, the rain is my favourite kind of weather. Just ordinary rain, the kind where you can't quite see it, it's presence revealed only by the infinite concentric circles each drop forms in puddles. It's nearly silent too. There's none of the drumming or thrumming or pitter patter or any other description of sound evident other than the swoosh of cars driving through it, leaving tiny bow waves of tread pattern on the road that melt away as swiftly as they appeared.
When it's constant and steady, as it has been here for a few hours, those circles seem to become a repeating loop that could last forever. If you watch them long enough you feel you might discern the point at which the patterns begins, as you're otherwise mesmerised as each expanding circumference is swallowed up by another. Sometimes it feels so metronomic that you imagine it might never end.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Real Deal

Britain has a new talent. And I'm talking about a genuine talent here, not just a person with a vague ability to not bore you on television, which seems to be the only requirement for celebrity these days. No. I'm talking about a person blessed with a true gift that we can admire. A gift to inspire us to be better in ourselves and reassess our own goals.

I'm talking about Kiran Matharu. She's 18, a girl of Indian heritage, and she plays golf like you would not believe. Basically, she's Britain's ass-kicking answer to Asian-American wunderkind Michelle Wie, but without the attitude. In an interview for this month's Golfpunk magazine, she chats about her iPod playlists, her myspace site and her favourite TV shows. Oh, and the fact that she can consistently shoot 70, 71, 69... At the moment Kiran is the best-kept secret in British sport, being more famous in India than over here, but that can only change. She's at the beginning of her career, but how amazing would it be for her to realise her potential? You're not telling me that British Asian kids aren't crying out for a mainstream hero/heroine to call their own, being stuck year after year with the increasingly nihilistic corporate banality of hip-hop culture or TV celebs. Talking of which, here's a wonderful fly-in-amber snapshot of Kiran's London visit for the Golfpunk article - which seemed to me a real Join The Road moment:

"She's been looking forward to this, but rolling in the studio straight off the train from Leeds, dragging her Puma travel bag behind her and with her mum and dad in tow, she betrays not the merest hint of excitement. Vernon Kay walks past, flanked by the sort of people who would be screaming 'Out of the way! 'A' list British celebrity coming through!' if they weren't trying so hard to be cool. It's a moment - the toothsome ex-model who reads autocue for a living striding purposefully past one of the most naturally gifted young sports people in Britain. Oblivious to it all, Kiran shows us her new pink grips..."

I should link to Golfpunk because I've shamelessly stolen their copy, and it's brilliant. Also, here's Kiran's site. Oh, and a great BBC article about her here.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Wide eyed and helpless

My finger hung poised over the sunroof button the second I sat in the car, the rays bursting in as the motor whirred the roof backwards, always too slowly, the mechanical creaking evidence of its wintry inertia. That single button press sets in motion a whir of wholesome activity - a season's worth of fun and breathlessness bundled into a single day. A tangle-haired barefoot run in the park transformed us into 2K7 hippies. Daisies were picked and stored carefully for a necklace probably never to be made - we'll just pick more next time, when they're long enough to be tied. It's a learning process! That doesn't matter because there was a slide to climbed again and again and, oh why not, again. Ice-cream vans were chased after and caught (with a special ice-cream van catching net ha!) and oh so difficult choices were made as to which one mummy would like and which one would I like and which one would be the best one of all for Amelia to have. We nibble at twirly coloured ice-pop until brainfreeze sets in and our tongues have turned green, and we rock to and fro on the big swing bench. One of us can touch the ground with our feet. One can't yet. Both of us giggle.

Cars were soaped and rinsed and the high powered mist of the jet-wash made beautiful shimmering miniature rainbows in the sunshine, before making our shoes sopping wet. We practiced our alphabet too, but had trouble with the letters 'm', 'n' and 'o', so we just shouted 'mellow mellow' instead which just summed things up nicely and it seemed the perfectly formed philosophy of any 4 year old.
The Sunday tiredness descended like a blanket, school in the morning, and ice-cold milk was drunk straight from the fridge before lids began to sag too much. The sunroof stayed open for coolness, Norah Jones for lazy smiles and a Wurlitzer tinged soundtrack for the homeward journey of a little day worth being alive for.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Jagged shards of electric guitar

It is never my intention that Join the Road become a series of gig reviews, but what can I do about these things as they happen? Music is an all-consuming passion for me. It shapes the way I think, it chooses my path in life. For better or for worse, and I never complain.
Wilko Johnson is a bona-fide guitar hero. Four decades into his career, beginning with 'seminal' (for once a use of that word with real resonance) Canvey Island R&B crew Dr. Feelgood, and still up there stronger than ever. And there I was too, been there before, knowing, needing another jolt of what Wilko provides. What only he provides.

No electronic tricks, no pedals or Pro-Tools, Wilko's guitar spits venom. His eyes piercing the gloom of the grimy room and, clad as ever in black, he sprays forth an unending stream of angular chopping stabs and sawed-off shards of notes pouring from the blackest of all Telecasters. Truly guitar as weapon. Sheer musical invective, addictive to behold. It's a purifying, almost binary noise. From hands to strings to pick-up to amp to your ears. You can feel the ching like you're playing it yourself, and you can smell the metal of the strings.

Heroes begat heroes, and Wilko's is Mick Green. The 1960s pioneer of a style where a single guitarist in a band is forced to fill the shoes of both the rhythm and lead playing. Rhythm is the rock solid basis, the lead part is the manifest excitement. Precision timing is required, all at 100mph. Couple this philosophy with Wilko's angular stage strut, once famously described as like a clockwork mouse fixed on a rail, and you have a stage performance to truly behold.

Wilko always did leave in his wake a sea of disbelief and shaking heads as people try in vain to comprehend the man's playing style. Unique and almost impossible to replicate (believe me I'm constantly trying). Your eyes seem to witness the calm rhythmic motion of a hand moving across the strings that does not, surely cannot, correspond with the sputtering, stuttering staccato aural fireworks to which you are listening.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Summer this way comes

It's definitely coming. I can feel it. I sense the spring in people's step. Perhaps that's just the effect of winter wrappings finally being banished to the back of the wardrobe for another year, but I can definitely sense something. There's a new tingle to be found in stepping out on the newly bright mornings and feeling a crisp warmth from the sunshine. A renewed excitement in another year finally getting interesting.

I say all this as a springtime justification for changing the site layout and taking the chance to add a new picture header. (Sharp eyed fans will recognise the title font!) Very professional, if I do say so myself. I've just moved to the new Blogger, and it makes all of these things so very easy to do now without scurrying through pages of html code.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Million Smiles An Hour

I can only straddle a crestywave of positivity today. I'm tinkering around. I'm listening to music very very loud. I'm writing stuff. S'all good.
Earlier on I drank the milkiest frothiest coffee. I ate the crispiest bacon with buttery perfect toast. Now I'm charging batteries. Metaphorically and literally.
It's raining outside, but it's a good rain. The sunshine is waiting around impatiently, occasional rays shooting through the clouds and glinting off passing cars like some secret semaphor.
I'm surrounded by stuff today - hundreds of microjobs that won't do themselves. Washing up, writing, reviews, letters. I want to spread positivity today and clean my plates. Is the world ready? One step at a time, cutlery first.
Every surface in my house seems piled with pulp - paper upon mag stacked high. Football, music, videogames, fiction, politics. My eyeballs cannot deal with it on their own. I'll absorb it all and then go pop! A word that demands an exclamation point.
Every time I stretch in a mini-yawn I do a little move of my head like a Kali-dancer in time to the music. I'm probably on stage somewhere in my head. I sometimes shiver with the thought of the unknown and the undone.
I'm going to go do.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Lost In Music Part 2 : The Be Good Tanyas

It all seems so long ago now, but certainly it was just as cold. Back into the other side of last year, early December maybe. I remember mistakenly parking my car in the staff car park and being chased by a lady for once in my life - wearing a luminous jacket. But we got there in the end, out of breath and shedding layers of clothing, getting comfortable, acclimatising to the warmth.

Oh I had so been looking forward to this concert for an age. We had arranged it months beforehand, having a choice of seating as a reward for booking so early. We chose front, not front row but near enough. If you're sitting in the front it doesn't matter the size of the room - it's always intimate.

The Be Good Tanyas are a trio of Vancouver Canadian women who play what they call 'porch music'. Or that's what I read. Maybe they came up with the term to appease journalists, or perhaps lazy journalists, ever on the lookout for a pigeonhole, coined it for them. Whatever. It's a term that fits them perfectly. Whatever imagery you might think up based on that phrase it's probably correct. Armed with an assortment of stringed instruments; banjos, mandolins, guitars, theirs is a music of drifting lilting beauty. They gather up and distribute gentle swaying motion that gathers momentum through the evening, every strum, every fingerpick motion, every perfect harmony, every note interlocking to form a unique motion drifting sensuously under your seat and moving up your spine. This isn't a cliche, you could feel it.

As I said at the beginning, this is all hindsight. I'm now here in February listening to a Be Good Tanyas album (their first, Blue Horse), lilting my head just like I did those few months ago. The band create such an impression it just all seems so vivid.

If you wanted to instantly point someone in the direction of their sound, you most likely would mention 'O Brother Where Art Thou', the Coen Brothers' love-letter to downhome southern music. But that doesn't do justice to the eerie alien quality the Tanyas possess. The songs may seem simple in structure, but are then layered with a production that renders these songs utterly otherworldly. Deeply resonant, swathed in reverb, the melodies shining through the darkness. They mock supposed progressive rock. You are transported elsewhere.

It can be a very uneasy place to be. Original songs are mixed with traditional ones. These songs should have a familiar air to them, but you are left feeling like you've been missing something all these years of hearing them. They give everything they sing a true dark side.

Live, with a further visual element of seeing these three women, both innocent and all-knowing, the effect is compounded with a hint of unspoken evil, and amplified by their old-fashioned dress.
At the centre of all of this is singer Frazey Ford, commanding the stage. In a floral-print frock, with her hands resting imposingly on her hips for much of the set, she surveys the audience serenely with an unreadable glint in her eye. It can't be nerves but could it be disdain. We sit transfixed, we love it. And don't get me wrong, there is much love here. I've seen Ford and (fellow vocal) Sam Parton's harmonies and singing described as 'buttery', and that too is perfect. It's not a sugary taste, but a lovely warmth. It carries through as another layer, another texture to that spine-touching sensation I mentioned earlier.

Frazey calmly (she does everything calmly) lifts her eyes skywards and informs us that the roof here in this venue reminds her of "a big 'ol gypsy caravan". She's right, I think. I'm glad I was there too.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A cynical new year

I'm a devout cynic, or so I'm told. If you are of a similar nature then you might notice that no-one ever tells you you're a great cynic, or one of the best cynics they've ever heard - they just call you a cynic, plain and simple. As a cynic you come to relish the negative, pouncing on the slightest encroachment of doom and gloom into your life, until you find joy only in those aspects of it. Human beings have not come this far technologically or socially (if I'm being cynical I would say that we haven't come so very far at all) by being this way. Cynicism is tolerated, not fully accepted as part of human nature, and it is only the fact that here in the UK it is a national past-time does it proliferate so much - but we do not praise it in others, except from fellow cynics.

It would be pretentious of me to suggest that I have deliberately waited so long into the year before posting here on Join The Road, but the vague compunction I felt in NOT writing some sort of 'new year' piece drove me even more to not do one. I just hate those endless feature columns in the newspapers that retread the same tired copy about how hard it is to keep one's resolutions and how the 'post-Christmas blues' are so common. Most of them usually start with some sort of discussion of how the newspapers always talk about such things. What a surprise - yet again the media has nothing interesting to say.
So now here we are, right in the middle of January, hopefully with all the cliches packed away in the attic ready for next year. The unrealistic resolutions have by now already been broken, along with most of the attainable ones too, and we are all now looking to a new year that will most likely resemble the one we have just seen. For my sins, I cleaned my house and bought some new energy-efficient lightbulbs. Rock n roll, or what? 'Practical cynicism' I like to call it.

But, as human beings, we are drawn to the romance of what a new year could bring. Perhaps it is only vaguely defined, but hidden amongst all of the media blather and pub talk surrounding the new year is the tangible thought that things could be different - our lives could be better. - and the blank-canvas of a new year allows us to express it verbally and communally. Most of us, if we admit it, spend the MAJORITY of our time dreaming of goals to be attained, and the new year period is the annual celebration of that. Being cynical, you might therefore describe the new year as being a celebration of pre-determined failure, but only if that is how you choose to look at it.

Personally, I feel conflicted this year. I'm old enough to recognise my own failings, I know that my routine is not without satisfaction and plenty of happiness, but have an underlying sense that I could achieve more - whilst not fully understanding exactly WHY I should feel the need to achieve more, or for that matter know what defines 'more'. If I ever get there, will I know, or is there some part of me, as a human, that always wants something else?
One thing I do know is that a large part of my routine will be irrevocably altered this year, and decisions will have to be made to combat this change. And that is exciting for me. Like many people, I don't so much need a push as a bloody hard shove to get me moving, and it excites me. Nervous for sure, but exciting nonetheless.

The cynicism is still there, like a tiny brake on my progress. Always ready with a constant excuse, blaming the speed at which the world and culture moves for my own limitations, offsetting my positive attributes with a not-so-witty, downbeat riposte. If I could learn to break free of that... attitude, the new year would be TRULY exciting.