Posted in London on Saturday 4th March 2017 at 11:03pm
I've always been a little nervous about guided walks. From the awkward, rather typically British issue of trying to identify your fellow walkers at the outset - ideally without actually asking anyone - to the tricky etiquette of dispersing at the walk's end, they're a minefield. I once thought I'd like to lead walks - the idea of ambling around places I love with a respectful and engaged bunch of people both asking questions and adding their knowledge was attractive, if unlikely. Of course the reality is often different: bored tourists "doing" the sights, loudmouthed know-alls trying to upstage the guide, people with no spatial awareness causing minor traffic incidents. Guiding walks wasn't for me. In my attempts I also realised a simple truth: firstly most people just aren't as interested in the minutiae as I am. I've often thought I was boring or lacked the capacity to engage people - but as I've grown older I realise I'm just engaged differently. I've learned to live with this, and find myself surrounded by people who are at best encouraging, but at the very least tolerant of this. So today I approached a group of unlikely looking people assembling near Tower Hill station with some trepidation. We were going on a walk together - which for someone who jealously guards his excursion time, was a remarkably intimate association with strangers.
Today's trip focused on locations from The Long Good Friday - the 1980 movie which launched Bob Hoskins on his path towards being the nation's 'loveable villain' figure in Harold Shand, and which almost didn't see the light of day due to the inclusion of the then horribly ever-present IRA as the bad guys. Or perhaps more accurately as the worst of the bad guys - there are no good guys in the film. In some ways, despite the brash edge-of-the-eighties optimism, the glamorous yachts and the presence of some weirdly prescient tropes which would haunt London for decades to come, the movie has no redemptive ending. My first viewing of the movie years back left a couple of impressions - that London was unrecognisable for the most part, and that it kickstarted a good number of British acting careers. John Mackenzie's clear vision that this should not be the London of red buses and black cabs had wrong-footed me. But as I've walked the hinterlands of the city over the years, I've come to recognise Harold Shand's London - sometimes it is buried, sometimes it lurks in the most unedifying areas, often it requires a mixture of research and imagination to conjure it from the anodyne glass and steel of the modern city. But it lurks not far from the surface, buried under the very Thatcherite dream which Hoskins invokes as his yacht passes under Tower Bridge at the beginning of the movie. The regeneration of the docks, the opportunities for investment, London positioned as a European capital - calling the shots, not taking the bullets. Those predictions which must have seemed so outlandish to anyone who knew the dereliction of the Isle of Dogs and Royal Docks in the 1970s, now elicit a gasp of recognition followed by an ironic guffaw: the European dream is close to being over, the '1988 Olympics' which Shand proposes happened - if a little later than scheduled.
Our guide was the placid, knowledgeable and powerfully-voiced Rob, who called the group to order and set out the plan. We'd walk for a couple of hours, visit a number of locations used in the film and chart the progress of Harold's dream towards the Docklands of today. He'd play us contextual clips of the movie on his iPad - so we could gauge just how much had changed and how much remained of Harold's manor. I surveyed my companions - there were of course stereotypes: the older guy who sticks to the guide like a minder and engages all of his time between stops in discussion, the gent with the expensive camera who wanders all over the place taking endless shots of everything but the subject at hand, the middle-class intellectual couple who roll their watery eyes at each other when the discussion has to be simplified or edited for the sake of time or sustaining group interest. We shuffled off, over the messy tangle of crossings outside the Tower of London, over the neck of Tower Bridge where Police were zooming to some sort of incident involving a group of yelling tourists, and towards the Thames near the huge concrete hotel. This was the first point at which imagination would be challenged: we were asked to picture warehouses - full of spice and indigo, a river teeming with ships waiting to unload. Some had waited weeks, some even longer. The Pool of London was jammed and dangerous - haunted by river pirates who took advantage of the vessels stuck here waiting to be unloaded - some in the most violent of ways. London needed new docks and new suburbs to support them - and so St. Katharine's Dock was constructed. By the time Harold Shand was mooring his luxury yacht here, the dock was deserted and in disrepair. Several of the large, impressive warehouses had already fallen to new development and only the Ivory House remained fully intact. Today the view was surprisingly similar if the skyline beyond the warehouses was discounted, along with the modern housing which had sprung into being on three sides of the basin. In the corner the Dickens Inn tumbled towards the docks, its provenance not entirely honest - being some form of reconstruction from recovered materials on a new site. The marina was busy with boats which would have rivalled Harold's for style and opulence. It was clear from the outset that this walk was going to deal in contrasts.
We progressed towards Wapping via the river front, recalling the shot where Hoskins was framed by Tower Bridge as he gave his rousing, patriotic call to 'the right people'. It quickly became apparent that this walk was unwinding two narratives - the fictional world in which the movie played out, and the uncannily similar events which followed just a few years later via the London Docklands Development Corporation. Shand's own 'corporation' fell prey to retaliatory attacks by the IRA and we saw the corner opposite Scandrett Street where, by virtue of a limited budget, a plywood East End boozer had been constructed to be blown up. We stood below, picturing the sight from the ground, where Shand's car had been seen arriving from the narrow street beside the then abandoned school buildings. Just a short walk around the corner we found the squat, yellow brick St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Apologetic and a little featureless outside, the interior was elegant and lofty, with brightly decorated iconography and dramatic columns climbing to a surprisingly lofty ceiling. Outside we strained to see St. George in the East over the rooftops, as the scene where Shand's mother narrowly escapes a car bomb was a composite with Hawksmoor's striking edifice playing the exterior while St. Patrick provides a fittingly non-Anglican interior. We didn't head for St. George this time - but I'd spent enough time stalking the environs to be able to picture the switch perfectly. Around the next corner we found Dundee Street, with warehouses now converted into flats and offices. Above the street, bridges crossed between windows completing the image of gentrified dockland living. It was here however that a young Gillian Taylforth played the young women who discovers a dying security guard nailed to the beams of the floor in a perverse play on the film's title. The religious imagery is deftly done - temptation, betrayal and sacrifice played out in the slightly distended timeline of a single day.
Approaching the Limehouse Link Tunnel, the story shifted from the plans which Harold Shand had for a new city, to the events which took place here in the 1970s - Michael Heseltine's helicopter flying low over the abandoned wasteland on a return from an abortive excursion to Maplin Sands. His development of the LDDC with the plan to free the area from the shackles of council inertia and the too-and-fro of the same old guard in Parliament. He gives them comprehensive planning powers and just enough money to buy land and sell it cheap. At the same time, London Transport scoff at serving the area with any sort of serious service, and instead the Docklands Light Railway springs up - a budget train-set to fit the low-rise developments which are springing up. Heseltine wants to see people living and working here again, but it's slow - painfully so - and far too glacial for Nicholas Ridley who follows him into the Environment brief. He has a new vision: leveraging private capital to spark life into the Isle of Dogs. The Canadians arrive but want the infrastructure before they commit. Soon the DLR is expanded, the Limehouse Link digging begins - possibly the most expensive road project ever in the UK at that point. Slowly the towers climb from the water. But - abruptly - the market crashes and everything stops. The abundance of empty office space across the major cities of the UK and Europe makes a folly out of One Canada Square, the tower which glowers over the island with a baleful pyramid and an ever present smear of smoke at its apex. It may as well have been burning money.
Then the IRA make their own leap from fiction to fact - this time in a genuine and devastating way. On 9th February 1996 the two-year long ceasefire ended with a huge explosion under the DLR on Marsh Wall. Two men, local newsagents, were killed in the blast which left a huge crater in the ground and destroyed one building, and damaged two others seriously. I remember a DLR trip through the area some weeks after the bombing - the shell of the Midland Bank building with its empty windows and flapping blinds standing eerily beside the track as we swerved and dodged around the tight curves between docks and offices. This and a range of other IRA actions in the City of London and Manchester achieved what no amount of government money had managed - it created a market for decent office space. The development of Docklands was perversely rejuvenated and soon Canary Wharf was at the very heart of the plan. Soaring from the mirror-like surface of the former docks, new office towers grew swiftly with the emblems of international banks blinking into life above them. As we arrived at Canary Wharf it was nearly impossible to imagine this was the site of Harold's betrayal in the movie. His blood-soaked stagger from the yacht with a Lear-like howl towards a focused, cool Helen Mirren took place at a point before any of this could be imagined. The deserted dockside with its rank of low sheds along their edge didn't promise this kind of future, and at this point in the movie with his betrayal complete his scheme to bring prosperity seems unlikely to succeed. Now, the impressive brick sheds are the only surviving reference point - housing the Museum of London in Docklands, they are busy with visitors. Across the dock, the glassy torpedo of the new Crossrail Place appears to be moored alongside the office towers, the uncommissioned platforms sitting far beneath the water. The walk ends here, the story complete and Harold Shand's dream delivered despite his almost certain fate at the hands of a young Pierce Brosnan. Using the movie as a lens through which to view the change wrought on this part of the Isle of Dogs was a surprisingly clever ruse, and I can't help but feel that our rather oddly matched group of walkers would never have been assembled for a straightforward 'Docklands history walk'. They might have sniggered and sighed at the names of Conservative politicians of the 90s, but in doing so they missed a point - the plan in its original form was to remake part of London very much in its own, older image. What happened here, what has grown as a strange, disembodied and distinctly transatlantic city beside the city, is as much the result of subsequent governments of both parties' losing grip on the financial sector.
Suddenly, I was alone in the midst of the new city. The group dispersed, even the guide's most ardent hangers on finally leaving him to head for the station. The small square, tucked in beside the replica of the West India Dock Gateway with its elaborate model ship, was windswept and empty. Construction on both sides of the square meant no-one much was heading this way. I tried to decide what to do for the best. The guided walk had taken a little longer than I expected and I'd not thought through my options for the afternoon. I decided to grab a bite to eat before trying to complete a stretch of walking I'd meant to cover for some time - the perimeter of the Isle of Dogs. First I had to negotiate the mall which sits under One Canada Square. I'd been here before, many years ago, and I knew there was a small supermarket near the DLR station. Getting there was a challenge - I'd never arrived at ground level before, and even the concept of 'ground' was less than fixed here. I found a lift and ascended from the sub-zero floors towards the surface, which was in fact the level of the bridge carrying people across to the soon-to-be Crossrail station, finally finding myself at the store near the DLR which was, today at least, closed for engineering works. Purchases made, I retraced my steps out into the broad square and perched beside a cool fountain to eat and plan a little. It didn't take long for a uniformed 'Canary Wharf Estates' employee to take an interest. After wandering around the general area for a little while he plucked up the courage to come nearer. "Going to be long?" he enquired? I took a silent slug of water and said "Not much longer, just having a breather before I walk a bit more". He looked like he wanted to ask more questions - but he was young, inexperienced and a little unsure. I suspect he'd have found it easier if I was a rolling drunk or an itinerant begger - someone he could legitimately move on using the powers he had on the private estate. Instead I was a reasonably polite, reasonably tidy chap who had happily answered his question. "Well, take care then - and no hanging about" he managed before he scuttled back towards the building. I dusted myself down a little, took some defiant shots of the building towering above me, and headed along the edge of Crossrail Place. At the end of the walkway where the building petered out and the dock resumed, things were a little ragged. There are still rough edges to the Canary Wharf estate, and if one walks to the perimeter they soon become apparent. Turning alongside Bellmouth Passage I climbed stairs and crossed a street near empty offices, finally escaping the estate via Trafalgar Way. The staffed sentry post was active, the private police force beckoning cars forward to have credentials checked while flagging buses into the site. I looked across the broad empty area surrounding Billingsgate Fish Market, and across to Balfron Tower and the towers of Stratford beyond. It was a surprisingly sunny afternoon, though you'd never know it inside the estate, where the buildings reflect only each other.
I found myself not far from an area I'd walked some while ago, near Poplar Dock Marina. Ahead was the route to Blackwall and Leamouth, but I turned south cutting through a carpark to regain the A1206 as it started a long curve around the island. It soon became apparent that trying to use the river path was going to be a fruitless and time-consuming endeavour. The path was frequently broken by developments, sending me scurrying back and forth to find a route south. Instead, once over the impressive Blue Bridge I stuck largely to the main roads, with a brief excursion into the Samuda Estate. This rather forlorn range of London County Council blocks from 1965 looked tired and careworn, and at their centre stood the stark and impressive Kelson House. This twenty-five storey tower, made up of neatly interlocking three-level maisonettes, was modelled on Le Corbusier's UnitÃ© d'Habitation, with access via a separate slender tower on its western side. It wasn't as graceful or bold as Goldfinger's similar efforts, and was altogether more workmanlike and British in appearance - a building which could grace any city centre perhaps? That it survives is testament to a tenacious island population who have, on the whole accepted incomers and immigrants rather like any dockside community. However, in the 1990s the area had a period of more chequered history, electing the first ever British National Party councillor in Derek Beackon. Beackon appeared to be as surprised as anyone to find himself on Tower Hamlets Council, and struggled to manage the complexity or scale of work expected of him. Perhaps not surprising as his prior role in the party had been as 'Chief Steward' - effectively the organiser of the team of Skinhead bodyguards who circled the leadership in public. Beackon's 'rights for whites' agenda was perhaps surprisingly aided by the local Liberal Democrats who published their own literature complaining that the predominantly Bangladeshi group rehoused from Limehouse when the Link Tunnel was built were given priority in 'luxury' accommodation. With Labour and the Lib Dems locked in an idealogical struggle during the 1993 election, Beackon crept in by a margin of only seven votes and immediately failed to comprehend what was possible at the local level. His colleague councillors walked out in protest at sharing the chamber with an immoderate and loud-mouthed fascist. When the seat was again contested in 1994, Beackon was ousted by a concerted campaign by Labour, and while the white working class roots of the island persist, there is at least a sense of a shared community in this oddly isolated zone again.
Pressed for time, I began to consider my options. The plan to circuit the island back to Limehouse was possible, but I found myself rushing ahead and not taking in my surroudings. A steady procession of buses beside me on Manchester Road had been reassuring at first - a potential quick way out if time got tight - but now they felt like a nagging pressure. At Island Gardens I decided to rethink my plan. With the DLR out of action the square outside the realigned route was busy with people teeming from the Rail Replacement Services. Beside the shiny, winged modern station the brick viaduct which had originally carried the rails here was still standing. I recalled previous visits, long before the railway burrowed under the river, bailing out here at the end of the line and regarding Greenwich across the river from a bench in the small park. Seized by a sudden desire to relive this experience, I headed into the gardens and found my way to the river wall. The Thames buzzed with life - river buses and motor launches scudding over the brown waters. The Greenwich foot tunnel's domed entrances flanked the park, emerging beside the impressive bulk of the Royal Naval College across the river. Beyond, green space stretched away up towards the observatory. I lingered for a moment, before heading back to complete my loop around the island by bus. There was unfinished business on the island - and much to be explored within the deep loop of river - but for now at least, it was time to head back to the mainland.
Posted in London on Monday 4th March 2013 at 9:40pm
Flying has always been a solitary experience for me. Save for one ill-fated trip to Glasgow which I took in the company of a small group intent on birthday revelry, I've always been in the company of my own thoughts. Over the past few months I've spent a lot of time flying - and a lot of time thinking...anticipating strange new adventures to come, or miserably regarding a return to reality. In either case, I've rarely slept, and looked too often at the moving map telling me how many of the 4792 miles I'd covered so far. The thing was it didn't feel very far at all...the journey to Heathrow was fraught with obstacles, but once I was in the air it was a mere few footsteps. That was of course until my last jaunt with it's abortive first attempt to pressurise the cabin and a return to Heathrow.
But that seemed like a lifetime ago. This flight had been different. In company I felt calmer, the flight felt shorter, I even slept a little. The last hours dragged of course. We were eager to land - and we did so in suprisingly pleasant weather, not unlike what we'd left in Seattle. It was cold and bright - still Winter in March here. We lingered a while in Terminal 5, just enjoying being here without the pressure of a departure. Then the complicated journey began - five huge suitcases were lugged onto the Heathrow Express, trollied across Paddington and then into a taxi for the short run to Leinster Gardens. The grand but peeling stucco houses of this western corner of the city had been my first taste of London many years ago - but now they took on a new significance. We were back.
Our first excursion after washing away the inexplicable film of grime which air travel seems to leave, was eastwards. We headed out of the hotel and made leisurely progress towards Paddington. It became clear pretty soon that we weren't too far away at all - just at the end of Praed Street, in territory which I'd not walked since getting lost trying to walk from the station into Central London around twenty years ago! On that occasion I'd accidentally zig-zagged off the straight path and managed to get confused by the endless rows of plastered white buildings. It took a moment of panic and an A-Z to get me back on track - no GPS, no 'phone. Just a sense of direction and a map which would eventually become scuffed and torn from similar wanderings. But this little village around the station was more extensive than I remembered. A host of little restaurants - exhibiting a range of cuisines and degrees of dilapidation - alongside charmingly disorganised hardware stores, newsagents, hotels and almost concealed Orthodox churces with mysterious inscriptions on their gates. I remember finding myself here and thinking that the Bureau de Change and Aberdeen Angus Steak Houses were so metropolitan, that this must be London. My view has altered immeasurably over the intervening years, and our eastward bus step described this arc via St.Pancras, Clerkenwell and eventually the City.
So, if you'd been in the English Restaurant in Brushfield Street tonight you might have seen a tired but happy pair quietly reliving an earlier meal, savouring the novelty of being in the same place again, then slipping out into the chilly night to head back to the western suburbs. The entire journey to arrive here - from the Edgewater Hotel, via SeaTac and Heathrow, then the 205 bus route - felt like a single curve. Nowhere felt very far from anywhere anymore. The tiny village at the bottom of Praed Street could be anywhere.
Posted in SHOFT on Sunday 4th March 2012 at 10:03am
This is by my reckoning, the one hundredth post on Songs Heard on Fast Trains. I still sometimes wonder if I'm not completely barking up the wrong tree here, scribbling away about music I love, and somewhat randomly hitting and missing releases depending on how the blog fits in with real life. Still, it keeps me busy and it organises my thoughts - two incredibly important things just now, so it's likely you're stuck with me for a little longer. It also seems fitting that this landmark posting should go to The Douglas Firs - a band I've not written about before, but which has lingered in the background of my listening for sometime. Last year's "Happy As a Windless Flag" slipped by unremarked here, really only because of my own bad time-management - but had it made these pages i'd have written about dark, sometimes impenetrable and confusing music which is oddly, almost perversely addictive. This EP, while essentially a collection of field recordings and fragments recorded since the album, continues in that curiously compelling vein - and at the same time documents the metamorphosis of The Douglas Firs from one-man bedroom recording project to a full live band.
Available as a download, or a austerely packaged cassette or CD, this EP gives away few secrets from the outside. Even my normally astute mail thief neighbours failed to steal this one which perhaps hints at just how oblique and anonymous the release is. Beginning with "30.11.10", an echoing drone of background noises and feedback which surrounds a distant bass melody, it's clear that this isn't going to present lots of hit pop tunes. "What Remains" continues in a similar musical vein, but adds Neil Insh's plaintive, high vocals along with cascades of guitar and washes of percussion. I'm struck here, as on the debut album, that what sets The Douglas Firs apart from most other acts is that events in the background of songs are often far more important that the immediate foreground. Despite being quite noisy and fairly sonically challenging in places, this is never in your face - never overblown. The skill in building these cinematic scenes becomes increasingly apparent on "Ghost Wardrobe" which takes a simple bass guitar and violin coupling, and turns it into a sinister but beautiful sheen, which has an oddly perfect fit with the theme of spectral bedroom furnishings!
On "Something There" we're faced with a curious chorus of voices, sometimes sweetly harmonic and sometimes insistent and imploring - but always over a weird, industrial background of wind and traffic. It's unsettling and confusing - is this the sound of the Highlands where The Douglas Firs began their journey, or the urban edgelands of Edinburgh? In either case, there is a journey at the heart of this song - a strategy which always appeals to me. There are more conventional songs here too, and "Frameworks" is a example in its gentle acoustic interlude. Possibly the most upbeat composition here and driven by an undertow of bass guitar, Insh uses his high voice to struggle with structures and forms here - vocally and lyrically. Meanwhile "Church Hill" centres on a wavering, uncertain vocal and spartan piano notes which cluster around an echoing drumbeat. Like most of the vocal pieces here the mood is reflective and distant, with an obscure and pervasive sense of melancholy. Despite the simplicity of the instrumentation, it's a surprisingly warm and engaging piece. The droning opening of "The Dream, September" mocks the 'pipes and shortbread tin' stereotypes which scupper Scottish music all too often in the eyes of the world outside. This glitchy, atmospheric shimmer slips from channel to channel in the headphones, providing an interlude before we're transported once again via "South-Folk in Cold Country". This has more than a hint of the sounds of the early New Zealand DIY scene in its sparse instrumentation, military drums and stentorian vocals. There are familiar hints of impending discomfort with the troubled observation that "the indication that all is not fine". Taking advantage of the expanded line-up of the band, distant brass and piano accompaniment add depth and somehow this starts to pull together and make sense of the widely varied sounds which have preceded it.
The pieces which make up this release, whilst not designed to belong together in any sense, have conspired to become a whole which is sometimes shadowy and indistinct, but at others incredibly direct and accessible. The simple recording technology and experimental nature of "ep1" don't always make for easy or comfortable listening, but they document the processes of a band developing and changing, providing some beautiful sound pictures along the way. If the developments here are the future of The Douglas Firs it's going to be a very interesting one to watch unfolding. This is the soundtrack to a movie which will never be made...don't let it become a lost gem.
The Douglas Firs - Frameworks
This release is available from 5th March as a simply packaged CD or Cassette, along with a digital download from Armellodie Records. Proceeds from this release contribute to the recording and release of the band's forthcoming second album. You can read more about The Douglas Firs here.
Posted in SHOFT on Friday 4th March 2011 at 10:03pm
As last month's performance indicated, Debutant is in no sense a dedicated seeker of rock star glory. So, it perhaps shouldn't be a surprise that this album sneaked out quietly - indeed it's more of an unexpected release than anything creeping out of Radiohead's stable this month! Preferring to let his music speak for itself and throwing in perhaps the ultimate self-deprecating barb, it's important to point out that this album is entirely free. As ever it's easy to dismiss or overlook something you get for nothing - but to overlook this work of surprising breadth and clarity would be criminal. In part the album collects some of the Debutant music which has been circulating around the web for some time - not least the tracks which appeared on the split 7" with Conquering Animal Sound on Gerry Loves Records. Indeed, "Thirst" opens the proceedings with a gently strummed guitar and whispered, reverb drenched vocals which hark back to Galaxie 500 - particularly when the keening guitar melody sneaks into the mix. Debutant's voice doesn't feature hugely on the tracks collected here, which is perhaps a shame because where he does add vocals to the intricate layers of guitar work the music is lifted and spins in new directions. When he sings, his lyrics are obscure, guarded and indirect - tiny tales, of which we only get to see a small part. The simple acoustic backing on "Silencing The Guns" belies a bitter, whispered lyric which seems to reflect on the horror and pointlessness of fighting a war - but again, Debutant is careful not to give too much away. He seems much more comfortable to deliver the atmospheric beauty of instrumentals like "Yeah! Currahee!" which slides quietly in before ascending via layers of almost choral guitars. It ends with the shimmering chords dancing around like voices in the roof of a cathedral. On good headphones, the effect is blissful and transporting.
The centrepiece of the album is the epic "King of Doublespeak", clocking in at near six minutes in length and as ambitious and remarkable in its scope here as when performed live. Opening with the almost painfully understated couplet "Excuse me while I think out loud/but my heart is on my sleeve", the track climbs through a gently picked opening before layers of blissed-out feedback wind around the melody - just occasionally drifting out of control before being gently coaxed back into the current. Its hard not to completely love this song, which perfectly sums up the Debutant experience. "Thirst" also makes two further, very different appearances as Parts 2 and 3 take a more traditional song structure based around precisely picked acoustic guitars as Debutant whispers "brightness fades and voices echo" effectively describing his own delivery as the album closes on a quiet and reflective note.
It's been easy to get frustrated watching Debutant play down the release of this album via social media. His quiet lack of confidence and air of self-deprecation hides a remarkable ability to build layers of whispered vocal and twists of intricate guitar melody into something quite considerably more than the sum of these simple parts. It's simply not right to let this release go unremarked - this first collection of Debutant's music signals a triumph of the simple DIY spirit over the tendency to over-produce which seems to be creeping into all kinds of music just now. Download and enjoy, but send your encouragement because we need more of this stuff!
Debutant's 'We Stand Alone Together' can be downloaded from bandcamp for free.
Debutant - King of Doublespeak
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.