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Return to Eigg

There wasn't much chat on the ferry back to Mallaig - the drones of the lone-piper having been long since drowned out by the pulsating hum of the Cal Mac's engines. These had also taken their meditative effect on our sun kissed and tired bodies as people stared at the skyline. It very much reminded you of being in a car as a small child: resistance to relaxation was almost futile. Our eyes were focused on the ridiculous beauty of the Cuillins, Small Isles and Nevis range which were crystal clear, all around: Tiree and Coll south and fading. Some porpoises popped up after the long legged jelly fish were stealing all the limelight and instigated some chattering amongst the humans. It was the way travelling should be: the polar opposite of sitting in an airport lounge. We also hadn't slept much for the past 3 or 4 days, being either wakened by the warmth of summer, talking to interesting and like minded people late into the night or having waited to hear a really good band. The weariness was certainly for good reason.

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Posted by stupot at 10:38 PM Tuesday 22 Jul

Is it on the Trolley?

We are now served on our trains by a retail manager who serves from the retail trolley. This used to be known as the drinks trolley or simply 'the trolley'. Retail feels a little formal doesn't it? Theres an honesty about 'the tea man' or 'the tea lady'. Sure, they sell other shit, but deep down most folks want a tea - maybe with a wee cheeky bit of shortbread on the side. These managers always seem to work alone as well which makes me wonder what they are managing- the crisps? And are they on a managers wage?!

I remember visiting Italy and seeing the kerfuffle that happened at interchange stations on the platforms as overheated passengers angled for cold, fizzy water during summertime. I recall watching guys selling from vast pots of chai in india on Michael Palin's aroud the world. The tea man in India was respected and there was theatre. He was an important part of the journey.

It now seems incredible that we are allowed to buy hot drinks at all given their scalding heat on a rocking carriage. Who could deal with such a balancing act? We are now offered packaged hymogony, probably best described on a thomas cook flight to greece where, having travelled past juicy, fresh watermelons served off a cart by the side of the road, we are offered pot noodles and cup a soups, instant coffee and maltesers.

Bring back theatre and informality to journeys!


Posted by stupot at 08:18 PM Friday 13 Jun

Apathy, not Independence, is the Worry

It now appears that I am going to vote YES at the impending referendum on Sottish Independence.

I don't think of myself as Nationalist but I've always been an Independent - although not necessarily in the context of National questions (Perhaps like others, the thought has only been in my mind for 5 years - before this I had never considered it). I have no allegiance to one political party and vote differently at local and national levels. I read updates from both sides on the debate of going solo.

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Posted by stupot at 10:46 AM Wednesday 6 Feb

Tiree Automatic 3 Partick Thistle 0

tireewaves

The weather was fairly average when we left Glasgow, for the time of year. With our destination as wild and remote as Tiree there was no-one expecting calm and sunshine though; hiking boots and layers kept us overdressed for what was a quiet International airport but requiring the usual ridiculous security search (I'm tempted to let my trousers drop every time I take off my belt such is my contempt for authority), blast of perfume and hanging about in the ground floor gate which preludes most light aircraft island flights.

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Posted by stupot at 05:05 PM Wednesday 2 Jan

GOING COLD TURKEY

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RANNOCH STATION - PITLOCHRY
40 miles

I'd had a brief week after our holiday in Turkey with some late nights and weekend working and so was looking forward to getting away again for some physical excertion and spending some time in a part of the country I (realised last year whilst driving through) have sadly neglected from my travels.

I'd mapped and calculated the route 2 months previously, booked the accomodation and then basically gotten back to a very heavy shift of work. As with 2011, there were last minute adjustments to the bike (at Rannoch Station) and also a reminder of the route on the train up. We were only focussed on the fist day and it was to be a pretty straight forward roll to Pitlochry so we got moving along the lochside and headed toward Kinloch Rannoch past silver birch, fern, the first of many serious (victorian) civil engineering projects and toward lunch. I'd been to the village in my childhood but more recently in June to visit Mr Penman so I was confident the hotel would do alright scran.

The pub at the back was closed so we were ushered in to the Hotel proper with it's tired surroundings, tired music and tired staff. They were actually playing bagpipe laments at lunch time - "the older clientele like it". Amongst sporadic chat the visitors looked like suicide might be an agreeable alternative, the saving grace being a baby's gurgling and a stuffed, ginger badger that Ross had found an affinity with. A young Caribbean guy came in with three 50 somethings. I met him outside when we were packing up as he had come out for a macdoobie. Grenadan's certainly show up locals for friendliness and welcome. On the way out the young staff had suggested that playing popular music would be "a tragedy" so I started singing the Bee Gee's classic as we left them to their 1970's tartan take on tourism.

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Posted by stupot at 05:17 PM Sunday 16 Sep

RUM and MUCK on EIGG

EIGG_camp

We'd never been over to Eigg and despite being quite at home on the Mallaig line I had no idea what awaited us on Eigg - how open or cliffy it was in reality. What mystical beasts lived there. There was a few obvious AWAY GAME friends on the train and at Arisaig more gathered from cars to stow inside the wee Sheerwater vessel that Captain Ronnie would use to take us to our new (temporary) society. Moods were good, expectant, happy to meet all these new interesting people. We nibbled sunflower seeds on the boat and the sun baked us as we drew closer to the island. The nationalities were becoming obvious - it was predominately a Celtic mix of Scots, Welsh and French - the latter being the suave ones with the good skin, cool shades and tartan blankets.

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Posted by stupot at 11:37 AM Tuesday 24 Jul

Hitting the Wall

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CARLISLE - CORBRIDGE
50 MILES

There was bunting everywhere between Carlisle and Corbridge: my route didn't really take in many towns but the hamlets I rode through were dripping with Union Jacks in stark contrast to the new summer greenery and subdued hues of Cumbrian stone houses. I thought about what tourists must think about these beautiful little places with ancient oak trees on village greens - it's a long way from Glasgow and I was feeling pretty alien myself. Like being in another country....

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Posted by stupot at 11:43 AM Tuesday 5 Jun

dripping with grafitti

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St Peter's seminary lies just north of Cardross, before Helensburgh on the Dumbartonshire coast. The setting is slightly elevated, amidst woods and by a large burn which acts as the soundtrack to an otherwise lifeless space. I knew of the work of Gillespie Kidd and Coia before I knew of their name, my school in Ardrossan being close to St Peter in Chains Church on the south beach. I've since known of them via St Brides in East Kilbride and the BOAC offices in Sauchiehall street, Glasgow.

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Posted by stupot at 10:33 AM Sunday 23 Oct

A National Question

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Last week I went up to Forres with work I'm doing with the Art School's Centre for Design Innovation. It's a relatively new project and I'm still fully getting my head around it. After meeting the team and being part of a day designed to look at and understand what the Centre is, we headed to Aviemore where there is a live project on-going with a major tourist attraction. Weather continued to be outstanding, but with it came the huge gusts of winds characteristic of the country.

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Posted by stupot at 11:28 AM Sunday 2 Oct

A FARMERS TAN

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TOBERMORY - ARISAIG
60 miles

So the sun finally put on a good show - there had been a suggestion on Monday night that shepherd's were to be delighted on Tuesday but things stayed decidedly average on for our mountain goat trials. Chris had gotten up first and went for a wander shortly followed by me with the SLR - the light and strength of blue in the sky was phenomenal. We bought plentiful supplies for breakfast and had three courses - porridge with strawberries, bacon rolls and pastries with a cafetiere of coffee. I'm sure hostelling didn't used to be like this: it used to be a lot worse.

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Posted by stupot at 09:50 AM Sunday 7 Aug

Disposable Living and Greed

There was a guy that used to drink in our local pub when I was still a teenager who was a John Peel fanatic. I suppose we all were, but we didn't go after the really obscure sounding bands like he did. He liked to find out about bands before anyone else and so went after them all with vigour. I, rather childishly, used to make up groups to see if he'd heard of them and invariably he had. The point here, although I'm realising already that it is quite a diluted one, is that no one likes the person who preaches about the fact that they were doing something before everyone else. A sound test would be striking correctly in stocks and reaping the rewards. Unfortunately I only claim to have been a junkie and advocate of reuse and all that other green stuff. Even before the hippy's got into it.

The Disposable society we now live in upsets me.
Recently I've noticed a huge example which puzzles me - the new Scotrail rolling stock. The existing trains (burgandy and cream), especially those used in Ayrshire and the central belt, are, what I'd class as pretty new. They're in good nick - they appear to run well, they could perhaps be cleaned a little more often, get a new paint job and be reupholstered but that is superficial. Carrying out extensive mechanical testing and repairs wouldn't cost £430 million would it? Does everything have to be retail therapy - does it have to shine? Update the digital information displays could be on the cards if you want to get rid of some budget. What about the money put into buying more staff or upgrading rural waiting areas? How about telling disabled people and cyclists where on the platform you should stand for the carriage you need?

If the Scottish Government had aspirations for the rail network in Scotland then surely it should scrutinise the fact that Scotrail surcharges commuters on the main artery of Waverley to Queen Street and then squeezes them on to packed carriages. It's a great service - one I use frequently and that works very well, but cutting the carriage length immediately after rush hour looks greedy. It makes people suspicious of your motives. A typical return ticket is valid only for a day. Who makes that law and with what reason? Why issue a ticket valid for a week when you can profit from the same person having to pay the same price again? (Singles are pretty much invalid - a return is 10p more to Edinburgh from Glasgow).

More people would have less of an excuse to take the car if simple but inclusive options like lengthening trains until 10am and from 4pm (Jesus - working hours aren't in the 1950's any more) and maintaining a standard ticket fare were in place.

With the need for new Trams in Edinburgh and this new rolling stock for around the country - we've managed to spend £1billion. Not quite understanding how political parties' manifesto's balance themselves financially - quick sums like that help me know where I'd get money for hospitals.


Posted by stupot at 01:28 PM Monday 20 Jun

Amersfoort

I downloaded the wallpaper* amsterdam city-guide which I thought was a good idea, and it was - despite all the spelling mistakes and the fact a physical book would have been easier to navigate with: just as a real map beats google in the quick reference stakes. In any case it was easyjet's city guide on the plane which suggested I visit Amersfoort, and based on their pretty good suggestions for Glasgow and Edinburgh bars (Gandolfi and Blue blazer) I thought I'd get on the train on Monday. The place was dead on arrival - it appeared that no-one else was taking the hot tip. Or it was Monday morning. The weekly holiday, as it turned out, didn't make me feel so bad about not wanting to get out of bed on Mondays. I should move there. People started their days slowly as I wandered in the crisp November weather eventually finding the medieval gate to the town and getting a few sketches done. Soon it was populated as normal and I headed back to Amsterdam on my favourite double-decker trains in anticipation of seeing Gorillaz that night.

amersfoort


Posted by stupot at 01:41 PM Thursday 18 Nov

Clockwork by Clockwork

On Friday we headed over the river to the Citz to see A Clockwork Orange. As a fitting tribute to Anthony Burgess' story we took the Clockwork Orange and, as we didn't appear to stop at Bridge street, walked under the ominously dark railway arches and over barren waste ground to reach the theatre from West Street. It was a departure for Laura who had last seen daylight over Princes Street Gardens. The lead actor was convincing and the fight scenes were well choreographed so we enjoyed the evening despite the leg room. The citizens is a tiny, traditional theatre in the Gorbals area - just a stones throw from the Merchant city and perfect for an after show drink.

Citz


Posted by stupot at 01:01 PM Tuesday 19 Oct

Solstice in Morar

The sands of Morar is a beautiful spot - 40 miles west of Fort William. The scenery is spectacular as six of us make the trip up to celebrate the longest day. It's a long drive but well worth the winding roads to be met by the natural beauty of the place. It doesn't get fully dark this far north and we were granted good weather, camping on the silver beach itself, soaking up sun, eating from the fire and watching the steam train pass on its way to Mallaig. It's a long winter but trips like this are so much more appreciated as a result.

morar


Posted by stupot at 10:59 PM Monday 21 Jun

Ooter Hebs

So it appears that young Mr Third and I have almost concocted a route for some Outer hebridean cycling. He having the upper hand of a past visit and knowledge of the Topography, it looks like we'll arrive Monday 5th July (not wanting to interupt the Sabbath), do the Uists on Tuesday, an easy exploration of Harris on Wednesday, up to Garenin on Thursday and over to Stornoway on Friday for the ferry, bike bus and train back to where the masses gather. And sod the wind and weather - there's no predicting from where it will come.

outer hebrides route


Posted by stupot at 04:43 PM Sunday 13 Jun

Direction Obsessive

Some people are more aware of direction than others. Some people can't read a map or tell you where North is even when they're standing outside on a sunny day. I am one of the people who works it out in almost every new situation, location: office, house, midway through a train journey - even on the ferry on the way back from Orkney (when we had boarded late, in the dark, sleeping in a windowless berth) as soon as I lay my head down I knew north was basically in the direction of the shower.

Usually I can't understand why others would not want to know - which begs the question why I need to know. Certainly - It's usually unnecessary. Direction, or rather orientation, is not something I think much about - like making coffee in the morning or drawing or riding a bike - it's something that, despite initially requiring much thought, just gets done now on auto-pilot. It's a skill of sorts (all be it an irresistible impulse) which, many years from now in a peculiar hostage situation in South America may prove to be useful.


Posted by stupot at 12:01 PM Tuesday 4 May

Tram workers

I had 10 minutes to kill whilst I waited for my prescription. As my Chemist sits on the old west approach road from Haymarket to Princes Street, it's a perfect place to watch the tram work happening: which appears to be a lot of guys making sense of layers of cabling and pipework from different eras. (They uncovered a mass grave on Leith walk last year - now, whilst I'm not in agreement with the works in general, and get a bit frustrated with their unfastidious approach to managaing time and money - digging up a mass grave must bugger up your deadlines a bit). Everyone wears fluorescent jackets on site. Gaffers have clean ones with a blue border which reminds me of the tiling on stairwells in Glasgow closes. There are three colours of helmet which I am also curious about.

tramworkers


Posted by stupot at 05:23 PM Monday 15 Mar

The Toon

A cold, cold wind runs through Newcastle train station in December. Luckily a warm, quiet coach and a hip flask eased me back to Edinburgh after Christmas. Drawn on the cover of an over used sketchbook with sign pen and white pencil.

Newcastle Station


Posted by stupot at 01:18 AM Wednesday 30 Dec

Modern Etiquette #164 - bleeding ears

The buses in Edinburgh are pretty good. There's a decent amount of them and you know when the next one is coming. 60 years ago there used to be a problem with men in bowler hats and pipes playing 78's on old gramophones - the space they took up, not to mention the poor sound quality and racket. 30 years ago the 'Boom-Box' and 'Walkman' became equally annoying disturbances on a quiet journey and, with the advent of ear-plug headphones, I thought the syndrome of leaky music was over.

bus

Continue reading "Modern Etiquette #164 - bleeding ears"
Posted by stupot at 04:59 PM Thursday 5 Nov

North Bridge

I passed through Waverley Station car park on Saturday and glanced a grand view above me, up to the heavens on top of the old Scotsman building. I vowed to come back and managed to within the week: it's a quiet, open spot - seldom used - in the middle of town. An audience of pigeons would occasionally clap their way off a nearby platform as intercity passengers arrived readying themselves for travel to York, Inverness or London. A boy starts to cry somewhere above and out of sight and a solitary red balloon drifts up into the distance.

northbridge


Posted by stupot at 12:39 PM Sunday 18 Oct

ma-na

Although we're a terribly civilised nation (even i f we do say so ourselves), the most civilised are often the most disgusting.

mobile pin stripe


Posted by stupot at 10:50 AM Sunday 2 Aug

Taste

Been taking some images off my phone - this original, if optimistic, application of chalk for advertising in the meadows, Edinburgh. I think the rain actually held off.

taste


Posted by stupot at 11:35 AM Monday 20 Jul

beta-blockers and temazepam

This is just a model of the new trams - albeit at 1:1. We're still a few years off the real ones rolling down the street but lot's of people are keen to get in for a nosey - despite the controversy of the project. Inside it looks rather like, well, any other type of public transport you get on. The council are taking advantage of the digging up of the roads to put new water pipes in but they've a long way to go to regain public favour. The saga continues and taxi drivers keep taking their beta-blockers and temazepam.

edinburghtram


Posted by stupot at 05:10 PM Saturday 28 Mar

(not) grim up north

After being in Kyoto I took the Shinkansen to Morioka - almost at the top of Japan's main island - and stayed with old friends from Glasgow. It was good to get into more rural surroundings and break out the long-johns again. This was the view from their balcony with frozen rice paddies in the fore-ground (apparently deafening with the sound of frogs in spring), shinkansen flying by at high level and ski slopes to the back. The onsen we visited was near these slopes: a magical place.


Posted by stupot at 11:31 PM Tuesday 9 Dec

Real Slow

I really love trains. Seeing my dad off on the old fossil fuel locomotives with their compartments, the means of escape to the big city as a teenager, the way to travel through Europe by seeing places and meeting people, the disbelief of a shinkansen approaching for the first time, getting on one as you would a plane and seeing the sky when you bank, sitting at a table with an ever changing view and having no-where to go. gradually arriving somewhere and understanding the climate, architecture and agriculture before you meet the people.

Continue reading "Real Slow"
Posted by stupot at 10:17 AM Friday 25 Jul

Manchester

Popped down to Manchester today for work - I used to go down quite a lot about 5 years ago with the company I worked for and I really enjoy it as a city - despite most people I speak to having little good to say about it. The office I was visiting is in Deansgate so I got off the train at Oxford road and managed to make my way past Harry Hall Cycles for what has become part of my routine when I visit. It was the first time I'd been in since his passing last year. Last time, I bought some arm warmers and as my knees have been playing up a bit I decided to get some knee warmers today. The neoprene wrap I wear sometimes is a bit too thick for summer so these look good. I was not surprised to find out that my goat-like legs equate to a size S. The amount of passengers on the train back was horrific to start with but eased up past the Lakes. I felt, for the first time in a long time that I needed to be wearing a watch so hastily drew one to get over the urge. I'm thinking about getting a tattoo without hands and adding in for appointments.


Posted by stupot at 10:34 PM Friday 11 Jul

Kopenhaven Torsday - Fredag

a day of trains. a peaceful roll through the countryside. helsingborg. malmo. danmark. turbines. blustery beach houses. grey to sun and back. houses growing out of fields. no roads. different rocks. feminine pylons. off at Kopenhaven. dirty air. white caps on trucks. drunk. hotel in red light district. confusing tourist information prices. beer in 7-11. manic streets. fast bikes. incredible buildings. wide streets. amusement park. timeout. side streets are needed. sit with a beer and people watch. rickshaws scream by with tanned bear chested drivers. best chicken and bacon roll ever. six quid but.

Continue reading "Kopenhaven Torsday - Fredag"
Posted by stupot at 01:12 AM Sunday 29 Jun

Leth-Eilean

GEARASTAN - TOBAR MHOIRE DIST: 61miles

It's been a long winter. The sun deprivation was getting to me. Scotland's not the first place you might choose for guaranteed rays but if you get it, you get it good. May is always a good bet and it didn't disappoint. I started the Islands tour the day after Jeni and George's Ceilidh in West Kilbride to celebrate the new vets opening - a great time was had by all but it has to be said that young lassies cannae burl no more. The seventy year olds were throwing us 'round the hall!

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Posted by stupot at 06:35 PM Tuesday 27 May

manchester

I'm doing some drawings right now for an ad agency in Manchester who are compiling an annual report - they're mixing the drawings with photo's and it seems to working pretty well - especially the more linear, which suits my style. Should be nice to see the finished article when it comes along.


Posted by stupot at 10:01 PM Tuesday 4 Mar

fossil fuels

Coal certainly seems to have been the running theme over the past few days. With the visiting Japanese, the first half of the week was devoted soley to seeing the west coast. We first visited the mighty Mount Stuart house on Bute (funded largely by coal sales) and then today we headed to Mallaig on the Jacobite Steam Engine also powered by the black stuff - flakes of which are landing on me as I write, through the old slide windows above the table. The type of train is one which I just remember as a child when our local village station still had two functioning platforms, a bridge and a waiting room. We'd see my Dad off to work having his ticket inspected and boarding through a narrow, hinged door with handle, two steps up. Now that everyone drives and our railway stations have become lifeless and trains sterile, it was nice to remember how we used to do it. Some of the best views in Scotland were helped by the rare summers day and after a picnic overlooking the harbour, we headed back to Fort William on the Hogwarts Express.


Posted by stupot at 09:17 AM Wednesday 15 Aug

clocks


I notice there hasn't been any entries regarding food or trains since I've been back in Scotland - it's no coincidence. Infact I've used trains a fair amount since I've been back and still find a romance much more like that of the ferry than cars or airplanes. It's the being able to wander freely and sit across from and talk to your fellow passenger which must make the difference. Even if the prices are a bit high. There's a real grandness to British stations and Glasgow is no exception. Sadly the old, large faced clocks have been replaced by digital ones but such is life......


Posted by stupot at 06:41 PM Friday 13 Jul

kang - kang - kang

level crossings are an integral part of most neighbourhoods. I can't imagine living right beside one but the bar I was in the other night was by the tram line and after a while I had gotten quite used to the noise. You get accustomed to being very up-close-and-personal with trains here. I like how colourful level crossing's are - the one near my house has a shrine behind it which is the only place you can find old trees in the city. Usually they have their sacred straw and paper bow wrapped around which now-a-days feels more like a good luck charm to ward off the real estate people from knocking them down.


Posted by stupot at 06:46 PM Wednesday 7 Mar

bicycles, bears and bad knees

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The indispensable Kansai scene has just released its March edition with a cheeky article in the travel section featuring two very handsome designers. You can see the original blog here.


Posted by stupot at 07:03 PM Thursday 1 Mar

the damp

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Damp is not a word I often associate with Japan. Glasgow yes, Osaka no. Okay, so August here feels like the inside of a Ugandan greenhouse, but winter is generally the exact opposite - dry to the point of walls creaking. We kind of missed out on early autumn this year instead jumping rather abruptly into a late cold, grey and dreich time of it and not being the biggest fan of the local electric heat sources, I've eschewed the heaters so far but my bloody clothes aren't drying on their own. Yesterday I took the fast train through to Tokyo and it being 12.30, the lunch boxes were broken out immediately. Good looking people ate beautiful but healthy food on the fastest train in the world and I considered I might be coming out my recent Japan slump. Despite the train being full of scowling charcoal (possibly myself included), I was beside an ageing woman who reminded me of a child riding a train in that way that the very elderly do because there's a bloody good chance it'll be their last time. She continually pointed out the colours and (very) low lying mist, which were indeed a beautiful combination. She never tired of it and I wished that I would spare more time to do the same. It rather put things in perspective. I wanted to have a deep discussion with her about life but I settled for pinning her against the window, when her daughter went to the toilet, demanding laundry tips.


Posted by stupot at 07:39 PM Wednesday 22 Nov

getting to school

I walked to school as a kid in a sleepy coastal village. the fresh air mixed with an over-active imagination meant that it was a great way to start the day as I wandered the small streets and lanes. Then I started cycling to school as I got older and presumably wanted to buy a little time in the morning. I still cycle to work whenever possible: it helps me waken up, gets me a bit of excercise and importantly, means I interact with people and have experiences enroute. It's also fun. In Japan, for younger kids, the school run is by and large done by mothers on bikes. there's a lot of sheperding done (often by retired men) and because of the busyness of life and crampt streets - It can be a bit dangerous at times (though Japanese kids very quickly adapt to their surroundings).

Continue reading "getting to school"
Posted by stupot at 09:42 PM Thursday 12 Oct

brothel-chic

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A couple of people, over the past few weeks, have given me a wry smile as they've passed me on the bike, my crutches resting over the handlebars. I've resisted taking the train where possible because the amount of effort involved to actually support myself getting to those elevators, or the right exit, is so demanding. I knew it before but I now have hard evidence that building standards in Japan are a world away from those in Britain. This is good and bad. on the plus side you get nice looking interiors with funky, uneven details in Japan which find their way into lots of international design magazines. The blind are also catered for extremely well - organised crime having not only a massive interest in concrete but also in yellow, sensory floor tiles. On the down side though, you get stairs at dizzy angles with handrails that seem to be designed for that 5th percentile of hobbits.

Continue reading "brothel-chic"
Posted by stupot at 11:21 AM Wednesday 20 Sep

labyrinth

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I had a meeting near shibuya today in daikanyama. nice gaff: all the fashion names (APC, 45rpm etc) seem to have their main shops and headquarters there. as a visitor, the yamanote line was an enjoyable exercise in information graphics and whilst tokyo does it much better than osaka, it's also horrifically busy. to be honest it's the first time I've been squeezed solid against others and hopefully I won't do it again in a while. terribly uncivillised. I did take the advantage of groping some young women as I read it was 'de rigueur' last year. the information is great though - exactly what you need: amoungst other things - tv's telling you how long til your next station and where the exits are relative to your carriage. basic, but so rarely available elsewhere. every design student should visit tokyo.

now I've got the weekend in kyoto which will be a welcome relief.


Posted by stupot at 11:55 PM Friday 21 Jul

Fujisan - day 2

I woke at 4 o'clock to the sound of a local cockerel who liked the sound of his own voice, having woken me twice before during the night. I'm not the heaviest of sleepers and the window being open certainly didn't help. I turned over after the hundredth 'ko-keeko-ko-' (as they say in japan) and woke fairly soon after to the sound of the hotel alarm I'd set and then again 5 minutes later to the sound of my mobile, flashing and gyrating on the side board which resembled a piece of furniture from the same doll's house as my bath, the portable TV hanging over the side precariously. as I took that special five minutes contemplating the day ahead I realised the other noise I was hearing was rain hitting the fire escape and tree leaves outside and then as I sat up and saw my jersey I realised I was here to climb a very big mountain as fast as my legs would allow......

Continue reading "Fujisan - day 2"
Posted by stupot at 01:37 PM Monday 12 Jun

Fujisan - day 1

to be perfectly honest, I still get that childhood excitement when I ride the shinkansen. everything about it says air travel opposed to just getting on an ordinary train. the sight of a wingless airplane approaching the platform is like going back in time to when trains were really respected for their engineering and speed with the barriers protecting you from the edge of the platform suggesting you are about to experience something altogether more thrilling and exotic. inside - the roof lights, the windows, the food trays - all of the interior is like a plane. when you bank on one of the few, but long corners you see the ground out of one window and sky out of the other. even the conductors are referred to as crew - it's fairly subtle language which works well.

Continue reading "Fujisan - day 1"
Posted by stupot at 12:06 PM Monday 12 Jun

happy and sad

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it's funny riding the train - the grey suits and sad expressions surrounded by all the cheerful, cute and colourful advertising. I spotted this poster, half cut, on the way home the other night.
in the sobering light of day it still seems rather offensive.

Continue reading "happy and sad"
Posted by stupot at 06:59 PM Monday 27 Mar

the future

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I was looking around the train yesterday and saw the familiar sight of so many commuters catching a cheeky 40 winks when I spied a chap further up the carriage who was slumped forward with eyes shut and seemed to be deep in sleep. then, suddenly, his hand reached to his mouth and he gulped down some canned coffee, swallowing it he tilted his head back briefly but his eyes remained shut. and then he resumed his lifeless pose.

how we have progressed from being monkeys.


Posted by stupot at 09:59 PM Saturday 11 Feb

silent laughter

there was these two folk on the train having a conversation. it was a very open and animated discussion yet hardly anyone noticed or understood it.

sign language must be a great ability to have.


Posted by stupot at 08:55 PM Tuesday 1 Nov

mask.jpg


Posted by stupot at 01:29 PM Monday 31 Oct

(hallowe'en) mask

for all the glowing reports that japanese trains get, there is one element that lets it all down: the human one. for starters there's the well documented groping on the sardine like rush hour trains that led to female only carriages (like there isn't enough segregation in the country as it is). there's also the fairly frequent and extremely selfish exploitaion for suicide (it's often said that JR lines have cheaper 'clean up' costs for the bereaved and so it's therefor a more popular choice). but more sinister and anonymous, are the ill that use public transport as a very effective petri dish to spread germs. I'm no hypochondriac but the full, bronchial hack of a cough I heard on saturday evening on the train I was sure would come back and haunt me. on monday morning I crawled out of bed thinner and a lot weaker than when I had entered it on saturday night.

all of which brings me to masks. here these are worn by those with a cough or something catchy so that they don't spread it. granted when you first see people wearing them you think it must be because of something far more deadly but in fact it's often just mildly sick people being thoughtful. like a bicycle helmet though - there's often a feeling that they are a bit unnecessary or unfashionable but it's just another necessity in the world of compact living.

if only the bloke on the train had been wearing one I might have had a weekend and got to wear my other mask to the hallowe'en party. boo.


Posted by stupot at 01:26 PM Monday 31 Oct

japanese men don't get stage fright

having a single fish in japan is usually a pretty public affair if you're male.
seeing a sober business man pishing in the street is perhaps becoming slightly less common but seeing a bunch of old women and some schoolgirls pass you on your right as you settle in at the urinal in the station takes some getting used to.

I remember visiting a bar where they had a unisex toilet and you were confronted with 10 glass cubicles on entering. tentatively you step forward, into the cubicle and when you turn around to close the door you can still see out. only when engaging the lock did the gel sandwiched between the glass turn opaque and you could kind of relax. it's a bit like that here but without the gel or the glass.

also - I've nothing scientific to go on but I have recently had a hunch that japanese guys are slightly more vocal when they're dropping off the kids at the pool. it could just be the universally sad truth that toilets, with some of the most horrendous, boak inducing noises, are also quieter than your average shrine. the few times in my life I've begged for elavator music were infact in public toilets and not in lifts.

so if you pop in for a jonny cash when you're out-and-about, be prepared for the feeling of being watched.............it's probably true.


Posted by stupot at 11:45 PM Thursday 13 Oct

swinger.jpg


Posted by stupot at 06:36 PM Friday 7 Oct

virtual golf

you see it alot in japan. sometimes you can be walking down a quiet street and you glance into a joiners workshop and he's taking a break to do it. often, when people are hanging around waiting for a train they do it. I know a guy who does it waiting for his food to warm in the microwave. in any case, practicing your swing is as much a national pastime as actually playing. with prices to do the real thing often matching the stereotype, most people make use of the free alternative. so put down your psp, go somewhere public and make an arse of yourself - this is even cheaper than the driving range.


Posted by stupot at 06:26 PM Friday 7 Oct

brunapology.jpg


Posted by stupot at 02:44 AM Thursday 14 Jul

...get miffy to do it

the epic saga that is the Osaka station refurbishment continues. actually I've no way of justifying that last statement but it has surely been a while. certainly since we arrived almost a year ago. anyway - for the apology notices, JR has employed dick bruna to do some posters, miffy style, that rocket off the cute scale and in turn must surely keep the customers happy. who could possibly comlpain that miffy is taking 'a bit too long with the steel structure'. it's a clever tactic.

on another note, I thought the trendy shopping area beside the station was very aptly named - 'Gare' - in keeping with the love of all things french in japan. unfortunately, Yuka tells me, it is pronounced 'Gary' in Osaka. just like wot it is in essex. so close, yet.......


Posted by stupot at 02:40 AM Thursday 14 Jul

platform.jpg


Posted by stupot at 11:26 PM Saturday 9 Jul

one friday night in summer

arriving at the station after work tonight, tired and in need of a shower, we found a backlog of trains and would-be commuters going nowhere. immediately we decided it was a 'human-accident' and sure enough on the white-board upstairs it's written in big kanji. another business man takes to the tracks. and all we can say is how it would have been cheaper to do it on the JR line.

the departure boards were lifeless and so we voted to go to the pub and so there we were toasting the person who had put us in this position (it's funny how fate arranges things).

we eventually ride back toward the city and watch as train after overflowing train screen past us in a solid blur.

arriving home a little weary I was soon blessing cold showers, as I sat hosing myself down. then I went to the balcony and do the same to the plants as cheers from a baseball game in the park nearby occasionally float over. more frequent, like a background hum, are the almost continual zapping noises coming from the insects being drawn into the electric killers lying in wait beside the floodlights.

then as the floodlights are turned off and electricity flows into the rest of the neighbourhood again, fireworks bang and echo off the buildings without celebration. they just keep exploding as if someone is trying to break the atmosphere and get rid of the blanket of heat. and I wish them well.


Posted by stupot at 11:23 PM Saturday 9 Jul

it takes all sorts

so here we have a very normal train scene in japan - albeit without the sleeping business men and soft porn.

you have the school girl with attitude, the shamed business woman who is embarassed to take a call in public and so covers her mouth as an apology(but takes it anyway), then the oba-chan who's protected from the sun so much she looks like she works in a nuclear reactor whilst pampering two little elementary boys with their safari hats and insulated water carriers. we could be in Dubai, but no - it's down town osaka. to be fair the heat is starting - and it's pretty serious stuff.

I think on average two thirds of a carriage can be asleep at one time. today I certainly counted two thirds and I think that is typical. perhaps more so on the early commuter trains.

other anomolies in Japan include those who sleep standing, the female only carriages, the extreme make up artists (discussed seperately), school children travelling en-masse (& occupying several carriages) as well as the stereotyped, but very real sardine tin phenomenon. being unable to move your hands on a train is certainly a novel experience.


Posted by stupot at 08:19 PM Saturday 11 Jun

shinkansen.jpg


Posted by stupot at 12:21 AM Wednesday 1 Jun | Post comment (1) comments

faster trains

so the shinkansen is a bit of a cliche when people talk about the whole phenomenon and japan in general. and true, you can still find a cheaper route to tokyo by plane. but then why would you want the hasstle of flying when you could turn up in ShinOsaka station and be in Tokyo two and a half hours later. guaranteed. and the cliche is the people talking about it. the actual experience of riding the nozomi or hikari is one of the most civilised journeys one can take. sod the cornering on fancy cars, when this thing tilts it feels like you're flying. the name itself, 'new, specific line' is as japanese as the regularity of its departures. still thirty years on, the system is flawless and trains will leave a station near you about every 10 minutes. incredible. that's alot of trains. the shame of the Niigata earthquake which derailed a shinkansen for the first time in late 2004 was a national tragedy - despite it being completely unpredictable and causing no serious injuries. it was still the first time.

talking of injuries, check the 'track-kill' marks on the picture of the train above. answers on a postcard as to the breed of animal whose fate was sealed by my trip to Nagoya.


Posted by stupot at 12:19 AM Wednesday 1 Jun

unrefined but practical

Japanese trains are by and large clean, efficient, reasonably priced and accessable. the tragedy on the 25th of April was a real shocker for everyone here. but highly unusual.

there really isnt any superfluous decoration on trains in japan like there is in the UK. all those tightly packed seats you need to squeeze past in order to get thru the carriage. all those seats that are re-designed every 2 years with nice fabrics. ergonomic looking push buttons to open the doors. but the trains never work.
in Japan simplicity (not in the beautiful sense, but the functional) is all there is. big wipe down areas. no places to cram fast food wrappers into. seats lining the windows (but with blinds). and shed loads of advertising and handles for sleeping commuters to attach to for stability during a dose.


Posted by stupot at 04:02 PM Tuesday 26 Apr

bikes and trains

baginuse

the sight of bicycles on trains in japan, much like in france and italy, is rare. however the reality of taking a bike on a train is made particularly easy with the use of a bag.

japan, in being the 3rd biggest user of bikes after China and the US, have many bike related problems not least parking, theft and accidents (cyclists account for approximately 10% of the 9,000 road accident deaths each year - but this figure appears to be dropping - source: national police agency).

The positives surely outweigh the negatives though, as vast numbers commute, shop and even use cycling as a sport (there are approximately 1 bike per person of working age in japan).

Continue reading "bikes and trains"
Posted by stupot at 06:42 PM Tuesday 28 Dec

make up

a source of frustration on japanese trains, for some, is the application of make up by young women.

this is not simply an update of lipstick, but rather too often, full face make up. involving as large a mirror as possible (resting delicately on a moving lap), foundation powder (flying everywhere), mascara, liner, blusher and lipstick.

although this has travelled like an uncontrollable virus, it is obvious by the facial expressions of fellow passengers that it is still not accepted. make up doesn`t affect pace-makers, it doesn`t really interupt the silence and it is surely a right of the individual. so the rail companies have not instigated any laws.

for many the problem seems to be embarrassment. it`s surely a personal activity. a private activity? making yourself beautiful is really telling people on the train that you`re pretty average looking. perhaps even unsightly.

for others, it`s the invasion of their privacy that is concerning. consider a mascarra brush falling on your good coat. it happens. it has happened.

perhaps some guerrilla tactics/environmental art is needed. comments welcome.


Posted by stupot at 03:58 PM Tuesday 28 Dec