Archive for the ‘walks’ Tag

Adventures in the Writing Trade: Day 3

I had a momentary fear of death experience this morning. Quite sobering.

I was out for an early walk on the North-East corner of the island. When I reached the 30 minutes from base point, on a narrow path above sea cliffs teaming with bird life, I sat on a small rock facing the sea/edge/void and did my short daily meditation which I almost never do daily (two days in succession on Lambay is a good run for me). Then turned for home. As I was approaching the green stile for the cross-fields path for home I noticed a small track on my right, the sea side, towards the furthest headland. I felt compelled to take it, while I was there to take a few minutes to get to the farthest point, suppress my vertigo tendencies, carefully take the muddy trail and get onto that land’s end. I was glad when I got there as the view of the cliffs was better and, more importantly, you suddenly felt among the birdlife as gulls suddenly appeared rising above the cliff edge straight in front and silhouetted geese cut across the small bay. Uplifted by these creatures I turned to go home. As i walked over a ridge between me and the path home, suddenly there was a deep gully there. I felt like I somehow had got lost on a solitary rock cut off from the mainland. Where had the path gone? How would I get back to the mainland of the island? I tried to quell the panic. I stopped thinking about the writing I was going to be doing (now) and brought my attention fully into the present. I concentrated. I considered options. I backtracked to try to figure out where the path I had taken onto the headland was. Needless to say I figured it out, hence me sitting now in front of A General Map of Ireland to accompany the report of the Railway Commissioners shewing the Principle Physical Features and Geological Structure of the Country (constructed in 1836, engraved in 1837/38).

IMG_7481 panorama view from summit trig point of lambay island county dublin ireland

There’s something life-boosting about such experiences however minor. I had another one yesterday. A bit less intense but the same underlying primal feelings. I surprised myself (usually a good navigator) by getting lost on a solo lunchtime walk to the summit of the island, the trig point a.k.a. The Nipple. After enjoying the spectacular view from Lambay Island’s highest point I started down but soon realised I wasn’t getting back onto the track I had arrived by. I was going down a gorge which was narrowing – I wasn’t sure I could get out of it, whether there was a cleared way through to the foothills. My rising panic was witnessed by wallabies, silhouetted on ridges against the darkening sky, like they were the ones in control of the situation. I had encountered my first Lambay wallaby on the way up, bouncing away as I disturbed its peace. Eventually I saw a more chilled one up close in the ferns. Lovely looking creature. Lambay started with just three wallabies as an exotic pet of the current custodian’s grandfather. In the 80s Dublin zoo was getting rid of its wallabies and asked if he’d take seven more, all female. He did but it turned out there was a rogue male in the batch. There are now between 400 and 800 wallabies on the island, depending on whose estimate you go for. I eventually found another route down and the moment of fear passed, again leaving a certain aliveness in its wake.

IMG_7476 wallaby on lambay island county dublin ireland

Where’s Wally?

Yesterday’s early morning walk was flatter and safer. As I rounded the South-West corner of the island I walked past a large group of seals slumbering on the beach. Some took to the water as I approached, while others were shaking themselves from their slumber. Curious eyes and dog-like snouts started appearing from the waves as the bolder ones checked out the red North Face jacket (kindly donated by Enfant Terrible No. 1 for my trip to the Gaeltacht in South Donegal last month).

IMG_7455 seals at lambay island county dublin ireland

I noticed after a while how much plastic had washed up on the shore. First an unidentifiable moulded shape that looked like a piece of our kitchen bin at home. Then small plastic water and drink bottles, many of them. Gallon bottles. Fishing detritus. A child’s toy. Footballs. Tennis balls (apparently a container load had fallen into the sea a while back). A slider type shoe. I thought it would be cool to come back and organise a beach clean. Probably quite a few bags would quickly fill. What would they do with them on an island? I asked our host back at breakfast – Do you ever pick the plastic off the beaches? It just comes back the next day. Sometimes our guests come back and present us with bags of rubbish they’ve kindly collected. Her eyes roll. Oh yes, how foolish of them! I try to convey non-verbally. What could they be thinking? Note to self: scratch the beach litter pick.

After warning up with yesterday’s Simple Pleasures post, I began the research on the Collaboration book project I am doing with my old colleague and friend, Doug Miller. The most interesting part of that session was using my online network to start to triangulate the areas of most interest. I put out this question into social media – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter:

Linked In post 2019-09-06

I used an image by Rockwell Kent which its Russian owners, the Hermitage, love for its depiction of working men collaborating. It’s set on the other side of Ireland, on the West coast in Donegal near Glencolmcille. The neighbours have come to help Dan Ward build his haystack, something he can’t do alone and effort he will reciprocate in a place where for the individual to survive (the isolated valley of Glenlough) he must collaborate with his fellow beings in the hood.

The ideas and thoughts coming back from the online call-out were considered, generous and informed, with a nice sprinkling of humour. After lunch I took advantage of a touch of sun for that wallaby walk. Then another afternoon sunshine session in the grassy yard between the wings. The day passed quickly. I felt vaguely disappointed not to have cracked through more but I had worked consistently and with focus so back off self, have a bit of patience!

At the end of the day I spotted a beautiful burst of evening sunshine, threw on my petty criminal Nikes, and trotted down to the harbour. All to myself. At the end of the harbour wall, French Lieutenant’s Woman style, I had some moments standing on the ledge at the foot of the solid wall contemplating the waves. Then a stroll along the short beach, turning back to catch that perfect moment of light…

IMG_7492 lambay island harbour white house cottages county dublin ireland

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Where Are We Now? : Day 2 in Bowie’s Berlin

So in the absence of a professional (i.e. Thilo Schmied) I had to opt for a DIY Bowie tour of Berlin to mark the end of this sombre week.

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Starting out from Rosenthaler Platz in Mitte I headed west to Friedrichstrasse where last time I was here (a year ago) I picked up a copy of Zeit, a small box set of Bowie’s four Berlin-related LPs – what a difference a year makes. Zeit waits for no man.

I took a small diversion past the Berlin Ensemble’s theatre (Theater am Schiffbauerdamm) where Brecht set himself up in 1954, as a tip of the cap to the Baal EP which showed me another dimension of Bowie in 1982.

Next a walk across Potsdamer Platz to set the Where are We Now? trail in motion:

Had to get the train
From Potsdamer Platz
You never knew that
That I could do that
Just walking the dead
Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse
A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe
Just walking the dead
Where are we now, where are we now?

There are a few panels of the Berlin Wall on display on the north side of the place and then a significant stretch of the banal concrete sections in Niederkirchnerstrasse (on the corner of which was the Blackstar poster above). The bands graffitied on that section indicate how frozen in time it is: Blondie, Madness, Lee Perry all get a painted name check. A few more individual sections stand in the grounds of the apartment blocks adjacent to the Hansa Studio in Köthener Strasse. It all helps get you in the ‘Heroes’ frame of mind. I tried to figure out where Bowie might have seen Visconti and his lover from the studio windows but it’s hard to figure as two walls are blank and there’s no obvious spot where the Wall would have been in sight from the front or back of the Hansa building so the lovers’ kiss remains in the imagination (which is probably where it actually was anyway).

Outside the Hansa Studio was a small shrine of candles and flowers, a child’s drawing and an empty wine bottle, as well as a black star. A couple of people stopped briefly to have a look. We listened to Breaking Glass on my phone there outside the building where it was recorded, and to ‘Heroes’. I took a few photos which I’ll upload when I get home – don’t have the gear with me.

Next stop was a bigger floral shine. This one outside Bowie’s old apartment (and Iggy Pop’s) at 155 Hauptstrasse in Schöneberg. That I do have a couple of photos from on my phone – I wonder why we still call it a phone as it’s about the last thing I ever use it for! The photos and messages lay nestled in pristine ice.

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Where Are We Now? At his front door

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Feeling Low

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There was a small gathering there, a shameless paparazzo getting in everyone’s way without caring, to remind us of the sort of crap DB had to put up with thanks to Fame and how it puts you there where things are hollow. It was an interesting sight to see but itself had a certain hollowness, people wanting to connect but in a slightly chilled way.

We went next door to have a drink to warm up at David & Iggy’s local (now called Neues Ufer). I had a read of Peter Doggett’s rather over-muso The Man who Sold the World: David Bowie and the 1970s whilst having a bet about whether they sell more cheese cake or apple strudel in Ufer. The cheese cake was good. The coffee hit the spot. The candle light added to the vibe. The Jean Genie suddenly put its head above the chat noise as daylight faded.

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The last leg was over in Charlottenburg.

A man lost in time
Near KaDeWe

I checked out KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens), the largest department store in continental Europe. Then round the corner to the Ellington Hotel in Nürnberger Strasse…

Sitting in the Dschungel
On Nürnberger Strasse

Besides hosting jazz greats from Duke Ellington (the Thin Black Duke) to Ella Fitzgerald, from Lionel Hampton to Louis Armstrong (the Black Star), it was the location of the Dschungel night club, Studio 54 but at Nürnberger Strasse 53. We ordered up some suitably sophisticated cocktails to toast the Big Man containing all sorts of goodies from cinnamon  to absinthe. Got a bit of a buzz on; admired the art deco architecture, fixtures & fittings; and walked on down the road… as we walked past the Gedächnis Kirche (Remembrance Church) the bell tolled six.

Last stop of the day – the Paris Bar, arty hang-out of West Berlin prior to the fall of the Wall, a haunt of Bowie and pals. Now the East of the city is one big arty hang-out. On the wall, subtly placed among the floor-to-ceiling art works, is a slightly faded photo of Bowie beside a modern painting. It was a place for birthdays and special occasions among his circle so a fitting place to round off the day. We did our Desert Island Discs (again) after dinner over coffee – it’s been a few years since the last time and there will have been minor shifts though I haven’t checked back yet. Things move on.

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I’m going to put the addresses etc. of the above Bowie Berlin spots in the next post in case anyone wants to visit any of them in a DIY kind of way.

Sometimes I feel the need to move on
So I pack a bag, move on, move on
Well I might take a train or sail at dawn
Might take a girl, when I move on, when I move on

Somewhere someone’s calling me when the chips are down
I’m just a traveling man, maybe it’s just a trick of the mind, but
Somewhere there’s a morning sky bluer than her eyes
Somewhere there’s an ocean innocent and wild

[Move On from the 3rd of Bowie’s Berlin trilogy, Lodger – the one that got me a fantastic voyage to Vienna]

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Not so Low now

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