c a m b o r n e t o b e r l i n

[ 09:16 saturday 27 december – great western train, camborne to london ]

pulling out of redruth the sun surmounts the horizon, sending long shadows racing across the frost-crusted fields and heathland that stretches to the north coast. the sky is perfectly blue. a friendly spaniel slithers under the seat in front and nuzzles my hand. three stops into the journey and the train is only sparsely inhabited but the forest of white reservation slips sprouting from the seat backs suggests it will soon be crammed full of people returning to the capital after christmas. once i reach london i’ll have two hours to sort myself then set off for stansted airport and a flight to berlin for the twenty-fifth chaos communication congress and the new year celebration.

christmas in cornwall with my family has been delightful. yesterday we walked from helston along the river to loe pool then out to the sand bar. meg joined us with her two daughters, whom i’d not seen since my caribbean trip in march 2007. we arrived at the beach just as the sun was setting. the long silvery waves fell upon each other in slow motion, blazoned orange-red in the dying sun. i walked to the edge of the surf with a sound recorder to capture the crash and fizz. after some minutes’ recording a big wave caught me unawares. retreating rapidly backwards i fell ignominiously on my backside in the water. my camera and recorder emerged unscathed so the only injury was having to walk back with cold wet trousers.

this was my first christmas without grandparents. it didn’t cast a pall over the celebration but i suspect we were all thinking of granny and missing her.

: c :

p a r i s

[ 09:38 monday 24 november – eurostar 9019, gare du nord, paris ]

a cold clear-skied morning in paris. four minutes to departure. the carriage is a-bustle with people stowing luggage and finding their seats. a cursory scan suggests three quarters tourist to one quarter business. that ratio would have been reversed on trains two hours ago.

i came over on saturday morning to see claire’s exhibition at the espace porte de champerret. this is my first visit to paris since i won a traveling scholarship from my school to come and investigate electro-acoustic music in 1989. somehow i’ve always travelled further afield. paris was so close it never occurred to me to come.

thinking myself very ingenious on saturday i strapped on my backpack and pedaled down to st pancras on my folding bike, expecting to throw it in the luggage rack for the journey then have my own wheels in paris. but at check in i was greeted with a firm insistence that the bike could not come unless it was packed in a bag “for security reasons”. what? in what conceivable way is a folded bike less of a security risk if it’s in a bag? i could understand if the company wanted to prevent their trains being dirtied by oily bikes, but i hate that we’re expected to nod in acquiescence at patently absurd rules if they’re justified by security. anyway i didn’t have a bag so the bike wasn’t coming. i tried to dump it at st pancras’ left luggage but got the same “it needs to be in a bag for security reasons” mantra. so i trudged across the road to the left luggage office at kings cross who took it without question. by this time i’d missing my train but the eurostar folks were kind enough to rebook me on the next service.

over the last couple of days i’ve done a lot of walking, exploring different neighbourhoods without any map or particular objective. saturday was crisp and cold with clear flat light. yesterday it rained all day, undulating between gentle patter and full-on deluge. on saturday night we all ended up at “point ephemera”, a club in an old industrial space by the side of the canal near stalingrad metro. then last night i met pierre at an event in belleville where the walls had been covered in tin-foil, a band discharged a krautrockish drone, two girls danced  together semi-naked and a cocktail based on tomato juice and tequila was liberally dispensed. it was charming.

i spent several hours yesterday afternoon at “les puces”, a market at the north-eastern periphery of the city. it was like a huge casbah, gorgeously photogenic in the fluorescent light and rain. most of the stalls offered generic hip-hop apparel, cheap north african leather goods and chinese trinkets. but i found a few vintage clothes emporia and some inventive small-scale designers. the best find was upstairs in an indoor section of the market. walking past at ground level i spotted a mannequin in victorian dress so i went up to investigate. what greeted me was a staggering collection of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing from all over europe, curated by a delightful couple. there were embroidered peasant clothes from romania and the balkans, servants’ liveries from mid nineteenth century parisian households, military uniforms. but what caught my eye was a louis xiii herald suit, made for a paris theatre at the end of the nineteenth century, consisting of a jacket and calf-length doublet, made from scarlet and celeste wool, decorated with braid and brass bobbles. it fitted me perfectly and was ridiculously cheap so it’s here on the train back to london with me.

: c :

vote for “one click organisations”

[ 14:13 friday 21 november – the trampery, dereham place, london ]

i’m involved in a project called “one click organisations” whose goal is to provide a free website for social entrepreneurs where they can create and manage a legal structure for their organisation. the project’s been shortlisted for social innovation camp and if it’s selected a prototype will be built over a weekend in december. the choice is being made by public vote. if you’ve got a moment please do cast a vote and spread the word. the deadline is sunday.

– cast your vote here
– project details here
– facebook group here

one click organisations is a ground-breaking project and it will solve a significant headache for thousands of social entrepreneurs. thanks for your help!

: c :

f o t o s : miami, stromboli, blue ridge mountains

[ 01:51 tuesday 18 november – haggerston road, london ]

today i was finally well enough to return to the trampery, still coughing and sniffling a bit but basically myself. over the weekend i was still quite weak but succeeded in enjoying myself judiciously. on saturday evening i went to the cinema in bethnal green with sergio and pradeep. during the last quarter of the film the projectionist got confused (or drunk) and messed up switching reels. the screen went dark, the house lights came up, people started to look round uncertainly. sergio, shameless as ever, pulled out his phone and dialed the number of the box office: “the film has stopped, what the fuck is happening?”. the reply “there is a technical problem” was immediately relayed by sergio to the rest of the audience. he then told everyone they should demand their money back. after several minutes the film started again, made it to the end and people started filing out. sure enough a crowd formed around the box office and the manager gave everyone free tickets for another performance. i doubt people would have demanded recompense without sergio’s prompting, it’s not the english way at all. i love the way sergio stirs things up.

herewith eighty-one more photos.

: miami (vii 2008) :
17 photos of miami in a tropical storm, illicit drum circles on the beach and recording with shemoel.

: stromboli (viii 2008) :
41 photos on stromboli and ginsotra with friends.

: blue ridge mountains (ix 2008) :
23 photos trekking in virginia’s blue ridge mountains with butterflies, snakes and incredible weather; plus forays to the maryland coast and washington dc.

: c :

f o t o s : vii – ix 2008

[ 22:35 thursday 13 november – haggerston road, london ]

for the whole of this week i’ve been confined to barracks with an extraordinarily vicious flu. leaving dalston’s moustache bar at four on sunday morning i was surprised to discover my voice was a couple of octaves below the regular tesitura. thinking nothing of this, i continued to rampage through a surreally ghastly poetry event in stamford hill and bebop night at uncle sam’s on sunday evening. however on monday i woke up to a fever and a complete inability to speak. i still feel grim today but i’m unmistakably on the mend. the most productive thing i’ve managed to do in the last few days is whack another batch of photos on the web.

: london (vii-ix 2008) :
17 photos of friends, parties, music and merriment in what laughably passed as london’s “summer”.

: foo camp 2008 (vii 2008) :
19 photos at tim o’reilly’s techno-futurist retreat under canvas in sebastopol, california.

: california (vii 2008) :
21 photos of seaweed at bodega bay, san francisco and visiting vajra at the zan center in san francisco.

: c :

e l e c t i o n

[ 22:05 thursday 23 october – dulles airport, virginia ]

dulles airport again, on my way back to london. being in washington two weeks before the presidential election has been deeply bizarre. news media are saturated. nick-nack shops are stacked with election trinkets, typically including lifesize cardboard cutouts of the two pair of presidential and vice presidential candidates. verges are peppered with placards supporting one party or the other, not just in the city but in the remotest corners of countryside. driving around you can tell a lot about the demographics of an area from the balance between mccain and obama placards, the same way variations in shrubs tell you about the underlying soil.

at the weekend, out on the maryland coast, the mccain faction was decidedly in the ascendent. at breakfast on sunday morning i naughtily eavesdropped conversations on neighbouring tables. one woman was seriously arguing that obama was a sleeper agent for a hostile power: “you know there are literally thousands of these sleepers waiting for the call”.

22:56 / on the plane, ready to take off. only forty-five people in economy so i’ve got a row of four seats all to myself!

: c :

g a l e s v i l l e

[ 10:41 sunday 19 october – galesville, maryland ]

landing at dulles yesterday afternoon something remarkable happened: the border protection officers let me into the country.

on my very first visit to the united states in november 2002 i walked blearily up to the passport control booth at san francisco airport, the officer swiped my passport and looked up at me with an expression that didn’t bode well. “i don’t know what this means” he said. “they want to see you out back”, scrawling a big red cross on my immigration papers and pointing me to the secondary screening room. i sat for an hour in the bare fluorescent-lit room, terrified, before i was called up. it became clear the officers believed i’d visited the usa before and was lying about it being my first visit. eventually my dazed brain made the connection with a new passport that had been stolen in transit from the passport office in 2001. presumably someone had tried to enter america with it, had been refused and this had triggering an alarm on the database when my passport was swiped. after another half hour they agreed to let me through but they made it clear there was no way to remove the information from their database so “it would be a good idea never to book flights with tight connections in future”.

thus it has been that every subsequent trip (and there have been a great many) i’ve been despatched to secondary screening and treated with more or less suspicion, each time having to explain the situation anew and pray the officers would be sympathetic. the moment when the officer in primary passport control swipes my passport, does a double take and commences to look at me as a suspected criminal rather than a legitimate visitor has become all too familiar. there’s always a slight fear in my mind that one day i’ll arrive more tired and crotchety than usual and inadvertently make some sarcastic comment that would result in an officer deciding to use their power to refuse me.

so yesterday when i arrived at passport control and the double take didn’t happen my heart started beating a little faster than usual. there was no disbelieving question “are you sure you haven’t ever been denied entry to the united states?”. no red cross on my immigration papers. the officer just took my fingerprints, carried on looked bored, stamped my papers, wished me a pleasant trip. i didn’t fully believe it until i’d collected my luggage, passed through the import check-point and passed into the arrivals lobby. but it was true, i was through without having to visit secondary. it made me feel surprisingly different about the country. for the first time my reception by the authorities wasn’t characterised by suspicion, delay and indignity.

i’ve no idea what changed. maybe the original database entry expired after five and a half years? perhaps the officer in primary was incompetent or dozy and failed to notice an alert on his screen? it will be interesting to see what happens next time.

having arrived i had nowhere booked for saturday night. before leaving london i’d done a quick search for interesting-looking places on the maryland coast and jotted down a few numbers. as i was waiting to pick up my rental car i phoned a few of them to see what was available. only the “pirate’s cove” at galesville had space so i booked it, collected my car, fed in the gps coordinates and set off.

galesville is a little harbour, popular with yachties, at the edge of chesapeake bay. the shore is lined with simple clap-board homes, decorated with pumpkins and candy ready for halloween. “pirate’s cove” provides the only tourist accommodation in the area, with five rooms above a seafood restaurant next door to a boat yard. i’m sitting having breakfast now with sun streaming through the windows and a steady breeze blowing in across the bay. i plan to drive down the coast to walk in one or two of the coastal reserves. this evening i’ll drive back up to washington ready for a string of meetings to commence tomorrow.

: c :

p o r t h e r a s

[ 20:53 saturday 4 october – roskear road, camborne, cornwall ]

this morning i woke at quarter past six, took a train from london bridge to gatwick then flew to newquay where i was greeted by anna and adam. since the age of seven i’ve been making the journey up and down from cornwall by train or car. the sheer time this takes (london is six hours) gives it the character of an epic undertaking and accentuates the feeling that cornwall is somewhere separate and different. crossing the river tamar, fixed by athelstan in 936 as the boundary between england and cornwall, always provokes a gulp of emotion. in contrast making the journey by air is very strange. from london it barely takes barely an hour. there’s no symbolic moment when the frontier is crossed and no sense of a great journey. one departs, one arrives.

that said, it does open up the miraculous possibility of traveling down on a friday night or saturday morning, spending the weekend in cornwall then returning on monday morning in time for work. indeed the commencement of low cost scheduled services between newquay and london in the past decade has created a new class of weekly commuters with a consequent escalation in cornish house prices.

this afternoon we drove through the wind and rain to the village of morvah at the far north-western tip of cornwall. parking in a field we walked down the valley to portheras with its white sand beach and jagged granite cliffs. the atlantic rollers were combing in towards the beach with the wind pulling spray horizontally from their crests. i love being on the north coast beaches on days like this. everything is contrasts of grey and white, bleak and strong. for me this is one of the most characteristic moods of the cornish landscape. we had the beach to ourselves except for a hardy dog-walker.

from portheras we walked up the cliff and around to the lighthouse at pendeen watch. arriving at the cliff-head we were exposed for the first time to the full force of the south-westerly gale. it was so strong that it was impossible to open one’s eyes looking directly into it. from here we walked back inland through pendeen village and bowjewyan, cut across a field and managed to get ourselves somewhat lost. at this point my phone’s gps came into its own. i was able to pull up a satellite image pin-pointing our location and plot a route back to the car. along the way we found a sheltered hedge smothered with marvelous blackberries so we stopped and gorged ourselves. now we’re back home with the wood-burning stove blazing and our sodden clothes hung up to dry.

yesterday was london’s first truly cold day since april. when i got home after eddie prevost’s improvisation session i reluctantly got a heater out of storage and plugged it in.

: c :

d u l l e s

[ 17:46 thursday 11 september – washington dulles international airport, virginia ]

i’m sitting with a cup of tea at the end of concourse b, a vast white featureless corridor stretching as far as the eye can see. it’s actually been extended since i was last here and it now takes about twenty minutes to walk from one end to the other. i fear washington dc is a city i will never learn to love. it’s unrelentingly conservative, populated by blandly uniformed people and apparently lacks any iota of experimental culture. people hear wear clothes to go out in the evening that folks elsewhere would choose for the office. that can’t be good, can it?

monday afternoon’s presentation at the network roundtable went rather well. i was launching trampoline’s new technology for analysing and visualising social networks so it was a well-informed crowd. from time to time i sense a buzz in the room when i’m talking and this was such an occasion. the subsequent days were spent meeting various customers. this included my first visits to a couple of intelligence agencies. i was expecting terrifying security procedures but in fact it wasn’t much different from a typical international airport. the most bizarre experience was at the one and only agency that permitted me to bring in my laptop (though not connect it to the internet). here a man was specifically employed to stick a sort of rivet into my laptop’s microphone socket when i arrived and remove it again on my departure.

after an afternoon meeting at fort meade i made an impulse decision to drive out to the maryland coast rather than face the rush-hour traffic battling to get into washington. i picked a random point on my gps and half an hour found myself at the edge of a tranquil creek with neatly- tended lawns descending to the water and chesapeake bay beyond. i sat on the bank and watched the sun set over a power station then drove back into town.

yesterday evening i was walking down seventeenth street when a fellow in a kilt and flat cap strode past in the opposite direction and bid me good evening. i returned the greeting and we both continued on our way. but everything about this encounter was so wildly improbably that after a short while i stopped, stood pondering a moment then turned and ran back the way i’d come. he was walking at a good lick so it took me a few minutes to catch up. when i reached him i told him he was the first person to greet me on the street in the last three days in washington. we walked and talked together for the next thirty or forty minutes. he was kelly, born of irish parents who’d moved to nevada to run a petrol station. he’d come to washington a year earlier when he was kicked out of home.

chance encounters like this do more than anything else to remind me how wonderful the world is.

: c :

b l u e r i d g e m o u n t a i n s

[ 11:29 sunday 7 september – skyland lodge, blue ridge mountains, virginia ]

yesterday afternoon i flew into washington in the remnants of tropical storm hannah. the last half hour of the flight was excitingly bumpy and when we landed at dulles rain and wind were lashing the tarmac. i rented a car right away and drove west into the blue ridge mountains, which kaz had recommended as an escape from washington. as i rose higher wraiths of clouds were forming and swirling mysteriously around trees in the strong wind. several times i stopped to watch and take photographs.

there are two lodges in the hundred-mile stretch of mountains where tourists can stay. after looking on the internet last night i booked a room here at skyland lodge. the building was constructed in the early twentieth century from stone and wood on a plateau a thousand metres up in the mountains beside stony man hill, the second highest peak in the range. when i arrived everything was bathed in cloud. i checked in then straight away hiked up to the peak of stony man hill. the view from there was magical, with an apocalyptic black mass of storm clouds overheads, glimpses of the shenandoah valley spreading out in the twighlight to the west and twists of cloud swirling over me.

overnight the storm played itself out and i woke this morning to clear blue sky, birdsong and the sun filtering through the trees outside my room. now i’m driving to the northern end of the chain for a six mile hike. time permitting i’ll do another hike after lunch. i’m hoping to see deer, bears and turkey vultures amongst other beasts. the whole range is covered by the shenandoah national park so the habitat is relatively pristine. this evening i’ll drive back to dulles and check into the hyatt ready for my presentation at the network roundtable tomorrow afternoon.

: c :