A Cheeky Walk: A Walk on the Wild Side

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Not the most promising weather for a walk

This weekend I had Hazel Rah staying. Having a visitor is great, as it means you can go to all your favourite places with them – and it’s even better when the visitor knows Brighton as can suggest the places they love. Hazel also wanted to do a Cheeky Walk, as did Laurence, my old boss at Crunch, so we decided to do the Walk on the Wild Side, a 1.5 mile walk around Central Brighton which takes about 4 hours because of the different activities.

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Me, Hazel and Laurence

This route focussed more on the Cheeky than the Walking. It starts with the Haunted Hotel at the end of the pier – it’s fair to say this has seen better days. The Helter Skelter was closed due to bad weather. The highlight of the pier was the Dolphin Derby. Laurence narrowly won.

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The pier is FUN!

The instructions suggested a visit to a Tarot Reader, but they were all closed due to the bad weather. I wasn’t too bothered: if fortune tellers were any good, they would have known we were coming and briefly opened. We also looked on the stormy beach to find witch stones, which were pretty easy to find.

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One of the highlights was talking with the bored woman in the Rock Shop. She was surprised to see visitors, particularly ones who actually lived in Brighton. We talked about rock and sweets shaped like anatomically-correct genitalia. From there we went to the Mock Turtle. This has a reputation for being one of Brighton’s finest tea-shops but was pretty terrible. Laurence was given a used cup and the toilet’s towel was hung in a heap behind the door. Maybe they were having a bad day.

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I found the spider cat

We hunted for Griff Rhys Jones in the Colonnade Bar (excellent gin selection, by the way), engaged in petty vandalism, were trailed by security guards in the museum and looked for gifts in Snooper’s Paradise. We met up with Kim and Nathan near CyberCandy and found a German-themed gift for Kim. The Basketmakers was packed so we rounded the day off with lunch in the Eagle. A bizarre walk, probably designed for better weather, but it’s fun to be a tourist in your own town.

 

Petty vandalism

Petty vandalism

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Kim with Currywurst-flavoured energy drink

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Hammer and Tongue on April 2nd

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If you look closely, my name is on this poster.

Back at the start of March, Rosy asked if I wanted to be local spoken-word artist at Hammer and Tongue in April. I suggested I reworked the piece I did for Artists, Models, Inc a few years back, “adding audio/visual elements – basically, a psychogeographical response to Brighton.” Over the last few weeks I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what I meant by that, and reworking the original piece so much that only a few sentences of the original remain.

So: I’ll be performing this ten-minute thing at Hammer and Tongue, this Thursday. Doors open 7:30pm at the Komedia Studio and entry is £6 on the door. I’m pleased with how it’s turned out and looking forward to see what the audience make of it – I’m aiming for either blank incomprehension or rapturous applause. The Infamous Muffy Hunter saw it last night and liked it, so that’s a good sign.

Also performing is Hannah Silva. Rosy has been trying to book Hannah for some time. I recently read Hannah’s book Forms of Protest; the poems are both gripping and experimental and I can’t wait to see them performed live. It’s going to be an amazing evening – and it’s the night before the Good Friday bank holiday, so you can all stay out late!

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Season Notes 3: winter is over

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Winter has been interesting. Looking back, I did a lot more than I thought I had – and there have been some big changes.

Some things that happened: I saw in the New Year with a lovely quiet party, then went for a New Year’s Day Walk. Inspired by that, I decided to do all of the Cheeky Walks this year and have so far done 6 out of 21. I visited the Chepstow Mari Lwyd and the de la Warr’s Ladybird exhibition; organised three Brighton Java sessions (one I spoke at one but wasn’t happy with the talk); restarted the Not for the Faint-Hearted Sessions; wrote 32 daily blog posts in Two Towns about psychogeography and adventure; had a great surprise-night-out at 8 Miles High; went to Mathilda’s Slash/Night2; started a programming blog; enjoyed watching The Babadook and Bitter Lake; saw the eclipse on Brighton Beach. I didn’t have any interesting nightmares.

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I finally made the leap to working for myself. I handed in my notice at Crunch in January and now have my own company, Riddlefox, and will be starting my first contract at the end of April. To celebrate the new company I bought an actual fox:

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Fox in the shop – I’ve not yet put it up at home!

I also made a trip to India, visiting New Delhi, Mathura (leaving after three hours), Bharatpur, Dausa, Pushkar, Mussoorie, Rishikesh and Haridwar – not bad for two weeks. I have almost sorted out the photos and will probably blog things in a week or two.

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Pushkar is still one of the most beautiful places in the world

Probably the biggest event of the winter was my Mum being ill. We all had a difficult wait before she went for an operation the day after Mothering Sunday. She seems to be recovering (as well as settling into the new house with Dad). It’s going to take some time for things to get back to normal (or, rather, a new normal) – but, thanks to the work of the doctors and nurses, we’ve been delivered from something that could have been much worse.

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The last two Season Notes have both featured disappointment at how underwhelming my reading is. I finished 35 books in the winter of which, as usual, few were any good. Viv Albertine’s biography Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys was inspiring and heartbreaking; after 6 months, I finally finished ST Joshi’s massive Lovecraft biography; Release It! was one of the best technical books I’ve read

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I met the clown Tommy Tickle at the Catalyst Club

Despite doing a lot I still feel disappointed by what I didn’t do. I only sent out the novel a couple of times; I lost a lot of weight and put a chunk of it back on. I’m having treatment for my hip but still not running. I still feel busier than I should be and I’m still keeping to-do lists, despite knowing they’re bad for me. I should either do something about these things or stop caring.

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The first sign of Spring in Brighton is when the Carousel is rebuilt

Spring is coming and it will soon be warm enough to swim again. There are so many exciting things on the horizon: the General Election, gigs by Eddie Argos and the Nordic Giants,The Brighton Fringe Festival, my 39th birthday and Glastonbury (Kayne West!). I have upcoming performances at Hammer and Tongue on April 2nd, at the Catalyst on April 16th and at the Odditorium on May 28th (you can subscribe to the new mailing list if you want updates on these sorts of things). I’ll also do some promotion for my secret Lovecraft short story project. And there’s my new contract. Life is good.

 

A Cheeky Walk: The Albion Trail

Brighton and Hove Albion's Goldstone football ground

Brighton and Hove Albion’s Goldstone football ground

Yesterday was another Cheeky Walk, this time the longest one in the book, the Albion Trail. This starts at Hove Station and passes all three of Brighton and Hove Albion’s local grounds (the third is 75 miles away in Kent). I was joined by Jamie, Jen, Debbie, Sarah and Rams the dog.

None of us had much interest in football but the walk took in a lot of wild spaces in the town that I didn’t know about. We went through Hove Park, Three Cornered Copse, Withdean Park, Ladies Mile Nature Reserve and Stanmer Park. The National Lilac Collection, inside Withdean Park, looked underwhelming but is meant to be spectacular in May/June. Connecting these open spaces were a few legs of relentless suburbia:

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The full walk was 9 miles. By the time we reached the Swan Inn we were famished so stopped for a bite to eat. The Swan is a traditional pub but it seems to have taken on some gastropub traits. Note the ‘deconstructed’ Cheese and Onion Baked Potato that Sarah was served:

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I’ve now done 6 of the cheeky walks this year and have 15 to go. On Sunday we’re doing the Walk on the Wild Side, a 1.5 mile walk whose diversions and distractions are estimated to take 3-4 hours.

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Albion’s old Withdean ground

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This is supposed to be an old Druidic stone. None of us believed that.

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Withdean Park is full of friendly dogs

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Some Upcoming Performances

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After a quiet winter, I have a few upcoming events:

  • On April 2nd, I will be performing at Brighton’s Hammer and Tongue as local poet. I’ve promised Rosy a psychogeographical multi-media spoken word piece about Brighton. I’m not entirely sure what that means so I am frantically working on something that fits the description. If that fails, expect something about Clowns. Tickets £6 on the door open, doors 7:30pm, show starts 8-ish.
  • On April 16th I will be speaking at the Catalyst Club. The Catalyst is a Brighton institution, where three people speak about their passions. The subjects in question aren’t announced until the event starts, so you don’t know what you’ll hear about, but it is always interesting. Come along and find out what I’ve been researching.
  • I’m waiting to hear about a Brighton Fringe event, as well as a festival booking in August, doing an expanded version of my talk, The Internet Will Destroy Us.
  • Not for the Faint-hearted continues and I will be announcing the April event soon. If you want to come along, submit your email address in the signup-form.

And, if you want me to email you updates about what I’m up to, there is a mailing list - just signup on that form. I will be announcing a new postal project soon.

Slash/Night 2

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Maddy Hughes, Muffy Hunter and Lego Hannibal Lecter

Slash/Night 2 happened way back in mid-February and was amazing. I organised the first Slash/Night because I am fascinated the culture of slash. The second event was organised by Muffy Hunter and Mathilda Gregory, which meant I could sit back and watch – although I was roped in to running the lights and sound, which I was brilliant at.

The programme for the event included Naomi Alderman reading a slash story about her own characters from Zombies Run!; a Hannibal choose-your-own-adventure fic, Rude; a welcome to Nightvale story; Mathilda speaking about Swan Queen and Muffy talking about The Logistics of Filth.

For me, the highlight was Helen Raven‘s talk on the pre-history of Slash. One of the things I love about slash is how it has thrived underground, with enthusiastic, generous audiences. It was good to hear about the pre-Internet slash days and to see some of the Samizdat publications. Hearing Helen Raven talk about her long career as a slash writer was inspiring too, particularly strange and creative world of Professionals slash.

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Things are getting crazy backstage

EDIT: Muffy has now posted her talk from the night: The Logistics of Filth

Cheeky Walks: A Very British Walk

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After a couple of weeks in India it was back to walking in Sussex today, with another Cheeky Walk (5 down, 16 to go!). This was another one of the countryside walks where the scenery was more important than the theme. The route was a circle, starting in East Brighton park and passing the racecourse, Ovingdean and Roedean. The weather looked like it could be good but settled down to being grey and windy. Still the scenery was impressive and the wind blew the Sunday cobwebs away.

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Caspar has a massive telephone.

The directions in the book are generally excellent, although the walks don’t have any maps. Since you’re not always sure how far away the next landmark is, I sometimes find myself feeling a little lost when we’re on the right track. Having said that, we’ve only got lost a couple of times in all the walks we’ve done, and never badly.

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Today’s team: me, Emma and Caspar

I’d not been to Ovingdean before and was impressed at how pretty it was. We stopped in St Wulfran’s Church, which is a very attractive church. Magnus Volk is buried in the churchyard.

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We ended the walk with fry-ups at Mac’s Cafe. Perfect.

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All being well, the next walk will be the epic 9-mile Albion Trail on the 22nd. On the 29th we’re planning to do A Walk on the Wild Side, which includes a series of distractions and activities.

Concrete Octopus #1 Review

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I remember when I stopped reading the Metro. I was living in Coventry, in a new gentrification development dropped in the middle of some dodgier streets. Every day I took the bus to work and would flick through the Metro when I wasn’t in the mood for a book. One book I did read on the bus was Don Delillo’s White Noise; this was almost 20 years old at that point but seemed to do a better job of explaining the world than the free tabloid.

Christopher Watson’s first issue of Concrete Octopus is a very different thing to White Noise but it reminds me of it. Concrete Octopus’s first issue is devoted to Forced to Flee, an illustrated poem that responds to current media obsessions. While it doesn’t have the explicatory power of White Noise, it is a powerful response to the media. Watson built the poem as a collage of words from newspapers he found on his own commute. (“mainly The Times which I make a point of picking up(stealing) from the First Class section of the train(The Times is freely available to all First Class passengers), and The Metro(which is free to all)”)

By pulling out the words and notions that demand our attention and breaking them up against each other, this long poem questions the media it parasitises. Meaning is withheld in Forced to Flee; whereas the newspaper articles about Syria, ISIS and the ongoing conflict offer a meaning they don’t have. That makes it sound a less engaging than it is – Watson’s own description of the poem is:

“a fragmented feature-length pulp-modernist exploration of the mediascape. It is a mechanical poem which focuses on the narrative of refugeeism embedded in our third-hand experience of the Western imperialist ever-war. Sounds like a laugh? You bet”

But the poem does contain amusing moments and the illustrations are fantastic. Watson is a talented graffiti artist and has made the pictures without the use of Photoshop. Even if the poem doesn’t sound like your thing, you should check out the images. Forced to Flee may not stop the ‘ever-war’, but it’s changed my response to it, and the mediated spectacle that I’m being offered.

Concrete Octopus #1 is an edition of 200. You can pick up a copy at Christian’s readings or Bookbuster in Hastings, East Sussex. There will probably be copies for sale via ebay soon but, if all else fails, email Lurchingadams25@hotmail.com. There are plans for follow-ups which will branch out and involve collaborators.

The Chepstow Wassail Mari Lwyd

I’m a little behind in posting about my adventures. In the middle of January, I went to the Chepstow Wassail Mari Lwyd in Wales. This annual event features morris dancing, a wassail, and what wikipedia describes as people “disguised as a horse”. This disguise involves a decorated horse’s skull and a sheet, along with a lower jaw that can snap at passers-by. I saw the event in the Rites and Rituals film and had to go. It was a good trip and the Mari Lwyds looked amazing.

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A Cheeky Walk: Ceci n’est pas une promenade artistique

This Sunday’s Cheeky Walk was a shorter one, two miles starting at Brighton station then winding through the North Laine and Lanes to the seafront before finishing back at the Museum. A lot of the places visited were familiar but it’s amazing what else you notice when you’re stopping to take photos:

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The morse code above the Albert’s side door, spelled out in spraycans, apparently reads ’Wish You Were Here’

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The Banksy on the building’s side is a reproduction, despite the perspex protection.

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The North Laine has some amazing stencil and sticker art, as well as the Kensington Street Murals (which are currently under threat)

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On the seafront, it was a warm Spring day, despite only being February. The guidfebook pointed out the public art, as well as leading us to the JAG gallery, which I’d never been inside before.

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We finished the walk with a meal at La Choza and a tour of the museum. The shorter walk wasn’t as much fun as the longer ones, and we felt we could have managed a couple back-to-back. But it was good to get out and explore the town on what felt like the first day of Spring.