Category Archives: travel

Flying Nun Records’ 30th anniversary

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Back in the day, I was a co-founder and contributing editor for a local fanzine called Blast!, We were  essentially a small group of University of Melbourne students with some (emerging) Quark Xpress and Photoshop skills, who threw together a publication about culture, music, art and so forth. I pretty much concerned myself with the music articles, interviewing (mainly) Australian bands and reviewing (free!) CDs. I also organised launch and benefit gigs to help to fund our shoestring operation.

Issue number four, happened to coincide with a trip to New Zealand. Ostensibly, a trip to the ski fields of the South Island, it also provided me with the opportunity to harass Paul McKessar, at Flying Nun Records HQ, which at the time was in Auckland, to give me the contact details of some of his charges who lived in Dunedin, the spiritual home of the label. As I said in my editorial for that issue:

From New Zealand with love…As regular readers would know, I love to promote the local scene and Australian artists; just look at…the back issues of Blast! However this edition has interviews with Robert Scott of Magick Heads, The Bats and the Clean fame; David Mitchell and Denise Roughan of the 3Ds; Alf Danielson and Norma O’Malley from Chug; and David Kilgour of The Clean and Stephen.

November 2011, is the 30th anniversary of Flying Nun records. So in recognition of that, I have iPhone OCR’d my article from August/September 1995 and grabbed some photos from my photo album. Reading the article now, I realise I didn’t actually describe what the music sounded like. This is probably why my music journalism career didn’t take off. So I’ve added some 2011 notes and embedded some examples of songs, along with some minor copy edits.

For an overview of Flying Nun Records, here is their Wikipedia entry.
Here is a 2009 article from The Guardian about the label.
Here is an Oz/NZ playlist I have on Youtube which has a Flying Nun Records documentary on it.
Finally, here is FN’s “Greatest Bits” compilation. 30 years, 40 tracks, 20 NZ dollars!

I give you “A Pilgrimage to Aotearoa”. You can read it “after the jump”

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Cycling traffic lights — Budapest


Bonnie Dundee in 2010

Tay River Bridge in Black and White

After William McGonagall’sBonnie Dundee in 1878

Bonnie Dundee in 2010

Bonnie Dundee, fair Scots city set back a little way from the chilly North Sea.
Her reputation is there for all to see.
She is the City of Discovery!

What other town in a foreign land
can claim “Jute,  Journalism and Jam!”
and boast a large statue of Desperate Dan?

Famously, it was sometime in the year 1883.
In the river, a large whale the residents did see.
It was big, noble, grey and black.
But since that day, a whale, to the Tay has never come back.
Tho’ it could be because they harpooned it in the back!

Unlike that fateful hour in 1883,
There is a distinct lack of visibility
on this second Friday in October 2010.
Unfortunately for all learned men,
casting my eye towards the Tay,
The fog means no river can I see today.

I can say with a clear conscience that Dundee is as delightful
as the city of Paris with a Tower designed by Mr Eiffel.
She’s as good if not better than others I can give mentions.
Such as Copenhagen, New York, Berlin, London or Athens.

The city has many fine Tescos and large shopping malls,
Overseen grandly by the the fine Dundee Law!
The people around town are lovely and merry,
From Fintry to Lochee, the West End and down to Broughty Ferry.

What other town in a foreign land
can claim “Jute,  Journalism and Jam!”
and boast a large statue of Desperate Dan?

One day a whale may return to the estuary,
of the famous, Silvery Tay that flows into the sea.
The harpoonless residents will once again say, as they have often said to me,
“Welcome to the famous city of Dundee!”

Apologies dear reader for my ridiculous doggerel
I will bid you “Good Morning, Good Day and Good Night, one and all!”
My poem was inspired by Dundee’s famous William Topaz McGonagall.

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Breakfast at The Griffin Hotel, Brighton.

The Griffin is a pleasant B&B, with hospitable proprietors, a tasty breakfast, comfy rooms and a great location. What more could you want? I had two nights there while attending the 2010 dConstruct conference.

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How many Metros I’ve been on

From Metros from around the world

Melbourne wasn’t on the list.

LondonParis RERParis MetroNew York
San FranciscoSan FranciscoBostonOslo
MontrealCalgaryMunich SMunich U
Vienna SVienna U TokyoKyoto
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My palmarès – Part 1

“Well that’s my feat, I don’t want to diminish it/Came in third that’s a podium finish….Came in third, honourable mention/Booked my seat at the losers’ convention.”-The Fauves

Lines from “Podium Finish”, from one of my old favourites from Melbourne, The Fauves. I recommended clicking the play button on the player that I’ve embedded below to use as a soundtrack for this post. This and other b-sides are freely downloadable from their website.

Anyhow, this post is to inform you that I’ve added to my cycling palmarès in the past couple of weeks. For those of you that don’t know, a palmarès is the French term used in cycling that translates as “prize list”…so a list of wins, places and other notable results that you’ve had in past races.

I’m not that much of a cycle racer. Despite liking cycling a lot, I don’t have the dedication to train enough to race seriously. However, once in a while I enter a (semi) competitive event and have had a couple of modest successes.

This is how my palmarès (I use that term in the loosest possible sense) looked as of 2 weeks ago.

1st Montmorency Hillclimb. Montmorency, Victoria, Australia.

Not as impressive as it sounds. This was a short sprint held on the slightly uphill main drag of this outer suburb of Melbourne as part of a community festival.

Other results:

23rd 4 July. Cycle Messenger World Championships. Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

I was pleased at this result in the CMWC, held just up the road from my old stomping ground in Calgary. I know I always bang on about this but I think that cycling 8hrs+ in constant rain (about 10° C) to qualify and then 5 hours in intermittent rain during the final is an achievement. I even finished ahead of Kevin “Squid” Bolger. It was an improvement on not qualifying for the final of the European Cycle Messenger Championships in London the previous year. At the very least, it’s a good war story to tell at the pub!

Over the past 2 weekends I’ve added a couple of distinctive results. The first of which is:

Other Results:

5th 27 May. Gran Fondo Cymru (Sporting Route). Bala, Gwynedd, Wales.

Gran Fondo Cymru 2007

This event was held in Snowdonia National Park in Wales and last year, Gerard and I participated in the inaugural edition of this cyclosportive as detailed in the posts “A Hill too Far” and “To Ride or to Puke”.

In 2006, we did the 180 km/110 mile Gran Fondo route, but this year a variety of factors (not least laziness) meant that we were both under-trained for that distance…not to mention the Welsh hills! Therefore, we decided that the 60 km/40 mile route was the go, seeing as we’d already shelled out £25 to enter and also paid for accommodation.

Although this felt like a bit of a cop out for a while, the nearer the date of the event, the more it seemed like this decision didn’t seem such a bad thing when we saw the weather forecasts. The whole weekend was forecast to be one huge downpour with max. temperatures fluctuating between 1° C and 10° C, depending on when the Bala page was reloaded.

The profile you see above is downloaded from Gerard’s GPS unit and you can see that even though the distance was only 60-70 odd kilometres, there were still some hills to be reckoned with.

The first half of the route was into a stiff wind…at its worst maybe 30mph. Also, the spikes in the second half of the ride were pretty draining, exacerbated by the incessant precipitation and the cold conditions…probably about 3° C before windchill on average. I recovered quickly enough to have a strong run in the last 10km back into Bala to clock a time of 2hr 42min 54sec, placing me just off the “podium” in 5th. The caveat here is that all the super strong cyclists were all busting their butts on the 110mile Gran Fondo route and the 125 mile Super Challenge but not bad nevertheless. 5th out of 68 finishers, according to the official results sheet (85-ish starters).

Doing a 3 hour ride instead of an 8+ hour one had other advantages apart from spending less time in the freezing Welsh weather. It also meant that I wasn’t completely knackered like I was in 2006 and was able to enjoy my afternoon and evening more this year. The trip back to Oxford via Port Meirion was also quite pleasant…the sun came out!

However, I promise to train earlier and more frequently for next year’s GFC!!

Stay tuned for my account of extending my palmarès further by getting on the “podium” of last Friday’s Oxford Bingo Alleycat!

Travel Chaos!…The BBC’s favourite phrase.

So I mentioned that there was some snow forecast…and they were correct, about 10cm I guess. Speaking of Canadians…they’d have a chuckle at the state that Brits get into the few times per winter that it snows. I have heard the phrase “travel chaos” on the radio and TV this morning about a dozen times. I guess this is because no one has winter tyres/tires on their cars and there some but not a lot of snow clearing vehicles

So, these factors and the fact that such seemingly innocuous things as “leaves on the line” stop trains in the autumn, means it’s not surprising that “chaos happens”.

Oh well, at at least the rolling news channels will have something to talk about that isn’t to do with carnage in Baghdad. There hasn’t been travel chaos since before Christmas, so we’re overdue!

Computing on the move

At the end of last year, Bruce came to visit and blogged about being pleased that there was Wireless internet access on the somewhat mis-named Oxford Tube…which isn’t a train but is the 24hr bus service linking the 60 miles between Oxford and London. It’s available for free on all of the buses but I expect that there might be a charge once it gets out of trial mode. Anyhow, I’m typing this right now on the GNER train between London and Glasgow, speeding up the East Coast Main line on one of their “Mallard” trains. You’d think it would make more sense for us to get the Virgin train up the West Coast line, as it goes through Oxford but for unknown reasons, symptomatic of the Jerry-built UK train network, it works out to be a lot more expensive this time round. Heading to Dundee for Xmas, it was the other way round. They’ve got Wireless access on this train as well but they are charging more than I’m willing to pay for it:

30 minutes £2.95
1 hour (60 minutes) £4.95
2 hours (120 minutes) £7.95
24 hours (1440 minutes) £9.95

Also, I nabbed a Vodafone 3G laptop card from work, so that I could check emails. The only problem with that is that there is only intermittent 3G coverage and the rest of the time it switches to GPRS which is not great. When the 3G is cranking though, the performance is pretty good. Web pages are a bit slower but not to bad. Using MS Outlook via a VPN connection to my work is hit and miss though. Outlook seems to crash a lot waiting for server connections etc. So I decided to stop working and write this. I’ll wait until we reach York and hopefully consistent 3G so I can post it to the blog.

Cycling facts

Above – Edmonton 2004

If you’ve delved into the eclecticism of this blog at any point, you’ll know that I quite like cycling.

Here are some facts that you may or may not know about me and cycling:

  1. My first bicycle was a little, yellow Star Flyer that I had in New Zealand. It had stabilizers/training wheels for a while. The coolest thing about it was the AM radio on the bars and the grip that made a motorbike noise when you twisted it.
  2. I won a little, local race called the Montmorency Hill Climb in the year 2000 in Australia. This isn’t quite as impressive as it might sound but it’s still an achievement.
  3. I was a cycle messenger/courier in Calgary for a spell in 2001. It was only for 9 months, so I’m still technically still a rookie.
  4. I was with the only slightly elite Elite Fleet Courier
  5. My courier number was 134.
  6. My friend Jonny’s number was 126
  7. Being a cycle courier was an awesome job which changed my life…I thought I was into cycling before 2001 but it was nothing compared to after couriering in Calgary.
  8. I thought about working in London when I arrived in the UK but decided against it.
  9. I competed in the European Cycle Messenger Championships in London in 2003.
  10. I was 23rd in the 2004 Cycle Messenger World Championships in Edmonton.
  11. I have three bikes at the moment. They all have names.
  12. One of the tenets of my life that I try to abide by is, “An International Man of Bike shall never be anchored by the mundane”. It’s debatable as to whether blogging about it automatically nullifies that statement or not.

In point 3 I mentioned that I am technically still a rookie. Here’s a video of someone who is definitely a “vet”. Kevin Bolger, New York City’s most famous messenger….

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