Category Archives: Travel

Locke (2013) – one man *in* his car.

Locke (2013) is a high concept movie without the Bayhem explosions, like Phone Booth (2002) in its situational drama but set in our everyday more altogether maudlin and depressing British existence ….

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One man, one car, one mobile phone with hands-free kit, one 90-minute journey. Seldom do we see a ‘travel’ movie in which the visual exterior landscape is totally irrelevant to the protagonist’s crumbling world. It’s a film as much about sound as the image. And it makes a concrete pour seem quite the arresting topic. A must see.

 

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Whicker’s War.

Alan Whicker, that mustachioed gentleman traveller, the original dapper vagabond. It was in the last great daring crusade that he honed his craft as the director of cameramen of the Army Film and Photo Unit (AFPU), or the “Army Film and Punishment Unit”. This two-part documentary is cracking. We seldom get the filmmakers as subject matter, the images of war taken for granted (our YouTube pleasures). Their sole purpose was to document. It’s our record of that struggle, the spearhead evidence offered to new generations. Their weapons were film reel.

Whicker talks of the danger of seeking that ‘perfect shot’. You may get it, but that entails being up close. And then you’re dead. Only Oliver Stone’s Salvador (1986) comes to mind here, *the* photojournalism masterwork.

N.B. More than half of Whicker’s team were killed or wounded.

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Under the Skin (2013) – unexpected chuckles.

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A truly mesmerising and disturbing picture, Under the Skin (2013) is film as art, an elusive, visually stunning meditation on identity and immigration. It’s also one of the few films set in Scotland that doesn’t wallow in hooligans or smack. There is one scene in it, though, that made me piss myself. Scarlett Johansson’s alien character meets a bloke in the Highlands. He cooks her a microwaved ready meal, a.k.a. a TV dinner. Scarlett Johansson – a READY MEAL.

That’s how the charming Scots treat their women. Romeos.

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It was raining in Edinburgh today.

Shock horror.

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One of my ‘hobbies’ entails hanging about the back of buses when I’m bored and taking pretentious ‘art-farty’ snaps of pish. Here is Edinburgh’s Lothian Road. It’s raining. Some folk had umbrellas but others didn’t give a fuck. I love this city like George Best did ethanol.

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Cargo ship cruising.

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We’re all familiar with the cruise ship; if one of the luxurious vessels hasn’t been sampled chances are we know someone who has like Magellan on champers wined and dined on the ocean. Less familiar as a method of travel is the cargo ship (or freighter). It’s a romantic pursuit, the lone traveller chilling in the shipping lanes, kicking back in a wee cabin with nothing but a salty meal and a classic novel (there are no casinos and restaurants on these vessels). It costs a fortune, though some have found ways to circumvent the hefty price through pulling the journalism card (“I’ll blog about your boat”). It’s also dangerous, or so the movie Captain Phillips (2013) informs me.

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And it’s also time consuming. Apparently, it takes a day of sea travel to cover the same distance as an hour of that on a plane. The cargo ship semi-stowaway must therefore cherish the downtime. If I had the cash I’d give this a go. I’m sure some grandiose thoughts and ideas would arrive from staring at all of that sea. It’s the journey not the destination ….

Further reading/viewing:

http://www.freighterexpeditions.com.au/cargo-ship-travel-things-you-should-know

https://www.gonomad.com/1560-freighter-travel-faqs

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/cruises/articles/cruising-around-the-world-on-container-ships/

 

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Titanic: Part II.

The unsinkable ship, iceberg right ahead, Jack and Rose, Billy Zane, Celine Dion, John Jacob Astor, brandies and cigars before the descent. RMS Titanic is the most often told, popularly celebrated of all maritime disasters, continuing to fascinate new generations through the sheer fatalism of its first and only voyage. Now weve got this replica cruise in the works. 3458-titanic-ii

Why bother reading history when you can live it, or even remake it? Its like we have to go one better and prove that were smarter than our doomed ancestry. Whats next? A Hindenburg re-enactment? The Challenger shuttle Mark II? I might start doing Omaha Beach tributes at Portobello. If you book it they will come.

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Further reading:

http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/whats-on/whats-on-news/titanic-replica-ship-clive-palmer-10903118

http://www.titanic2ship.com/

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Return to Malta.

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Sliema. 

I actually saw some of Malta this time. It was another story two years ago, my most salient memory then of pissing my pants mid-conversation with a lesbian volleyball player from Berlin. It wasn’t because she was particularly amusing; I just forgot to physically transport myself to the bathroom (ah, those were the glorious melted days). Anyway, I was on a quest to right my wrongs. I didn’t pack nappies but made an executive decision to cut back on the Southern Comfort.

In Malta, buildings are yellow. I don’t know why this is. Regardless, yellow contact lenses will accompany you throughout your stay. You may even listen to ‘Colours’ by Donovan when the time feels appropriate.


More yellow was found on the rooftops. Puffing an e-cig on the hotel roof whilst watching a documentary about the Battle for Malta in WWII is officially my best breakfast yet of 2017. I imagined some wee local ducking under a deckchair as a Stuka dive bomber flew overhead circa 1941, and thanked the heavens I was born in the ’80s.

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Low point:

Listening to a musical troupe of Irish women on a ‘hen’ trip strangling the proverbial Bagpuss each morning with synchronised ‘singing’ was not enjoyable. I meet them once, scowling at the creatures in the hallway on the Friday morning. I hear them, though. A lot. Absolute racket. How and why hotels tolerate such species I will never know. My ears bleed so much my legs begin to get affected. I hop in a taxi to the pub.

 

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A hero taxi driver rescuing me from the ‘singing’. 

Highlight:

The Saturday was vaguely cinematic. I felt like one of those alienated characters in an Antonioni movie as I walked around the island with a bottle of water and a hip flask. I didn’t have a conversation with a single person, and I didn’t mind. I arrived back to the hotel and smoked a cheap cigar on the balcony before napping under the sunset. One of life’s little moments of pretension … punished immediately with mosquito bites. My leg is that of a leper for the next week. Peaks and valleys and all that.

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Lunch atop a Skyscraper, 1932.

New York Construction Workers Lunching on a Crossbeam

For about a decade I thought this image was a shot of construction workers enjoying a lunch-time nibble on the Empire State Building. Only last year was I told the building wasn’t the site of King Kong’s last hurrah but 30 Rockefeller Plaza, or 30 Rock for short (now recently renamed the Comcast Building).

Weirdly, Sir Alex Ferguson brought me here. In a TV interview with Fabien Barthez, Fergie explained to his old goalkeeper the importance of the photograph (it adorned his office wall), that it encapsulated with its 11 men dangling on the 840-foot girder classic themes of sacrifice and teamwork, and of realising the impossible. A cultured chap for a football manager, one would of course expect this kind of art on his wall, and not Vinnie Jones crunching Gazza’s testicles.

Widely credited to Charles C. Ebbets, the snap has a staged, advertising feel to it, but is nonetheless quietly subversive in its details. This is the Prohibition era, yet the bloke on the far right is hogging a bottle of whiskey (fuck the system!). Researchers have identified him as Gustáv (Gusti) Popovič, a lumberjack and carpenter from Slovakia, who would at the end of WWII be killed by a grenade. He even sent his wife this photograph, on which he wrote, ‘Don’t you worry, my dear Mariska, as you can see I’m still with bottle. Your Gusti.’

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Immigrants building the future, eh. Many photographs are considered great merely on the basis of their functional quality (a photo is a photo is a photo), others also have an accompanying historical value which enriches them, surface components opening up human dramas outwith the artefact.

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United  ̶A̶i̶r̶l̶i̶n̶e̶s̶ Shambles

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This whole United Airlines calamity is I feel best summed up by the above hoot of a meme.

Just to recap, planes are hell. Many passengers stink – it’s like being plonked next to a skunk. Another hefty minority clearly struggle to match a ticket and seat number, and another fifth are extremely loud creatures. It’s a microcosm of society. Anyway, you are all packed together as tinned sardines, doing anything to drown out the image of your flying machine plummeting into a mountain. Some watch movies to escape these thoughts, others try and have a sly wank in the bog. My own wee personal technique is to guzzle alcohol like it’s my last day on the planet. It works.

And now, as if air travel wasn’t bad enough, we now have to put up with the crew (or airline ‘authorities’) turning on the passengers. Brilliant. Ever get the feeling you’re living in some kind of comedy sketch show?

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Auld Reekie in pictures(!).

Behold the spring delights of Edinburgh in this wee montage of recent snaps I’ve taken. No poverty or bar brawls here; it’s my propaganda piece.

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