Hilsea Lines – Hinterland at the city’s edge

•September 1, 2019 • Leave a Comment

Hilsea Lines of Portsmouth. A pocket of untamed wilderness sandwiched between the two thick- crust ends which are the main roads into the island city, the M275 and the Eastern Road. Wedged between these two usually-congested and air-polluted highways; with the M27 overhead north and the railways circling round like barbed wire fencing; one could be forgiven for thinking the Hilsea Lines are the eye of the storm, the anarchic centre of chaos. After all, the roar of trains hurtling along the tracks sounds every 15 minutes and the traffic hum is a constant whoosh in the ears.

But like the most sumptuous spaghetti bolognese; where the eternal, spiralling loop of the roads and train tracks are the fine tagliatelle threads; the meat is the thickets of trees and bushes of Foxes Forest and the rich sauce is the moss-green swamp pools which stretch out for miles. Lush reeds shoot up from the depths of the lakes towards the overhanging weeping willows and outstretched, spindly tree branches twisting and twirl around the great fork of the sky.

It’s a pocket, but one so deep; a tear in the fabric lining; that you almost find yourself in another world though in fact being just yards away from the endless flow of heavy traffic. The swamp pools seem to drift on and on; twisting and meandering this way and that, before disappearing across the horizon into oxbow lakes. It’s a calm at the eye of the storm. A place of discerning quiet and stillness. A place of protection and reflection. People are sparse. In the summer, you’ll spot the odd hiker and homeless wanderer pitching their tent in the exposure of the vast, sun-blasted yellowing fields or within the midst of the sheltering trees. Or anglers setting up their fishing gear and camping out with flasks and hampers from dawn until dusk. At all times of the year, there’ll be a few cyclists and dog-walkers. Or just people taking short cuts from one end of the island to the other as they make way to or from work.

Hilsea Lines is not what you’d call a beauty spot per se, but summer lends a lush greenness and adds colour, brightening its usually stark, rather austere allure. In winter the green shifts to grey and from gold to silver, metamorphosing, Kafkaesque.

Clusters of trees; their entwined, gnarly, battle-scarred arms covered with green sleeves of ivy grasp for each other; entangled limbs creating archways and dens and wild flowers bloom in abundance and in reckless abandon, tangled and unkempt; almost dread-locked together. Dandelion clocks three feet tall bustle for space alongside wild white orchids and thistles. Perennials are scattered haphazardly rather than carefully planted. There are no herbaceous, streamlined borders nor neat rows of planters, but there is something appealing and pure – both inviting and forbidding – about this place. Utterly native. And uniquely special.

Cocooned from the distant rolls of thunder of the trains and traffic, the lively hum of the wildlife here is audible and soothing. The chirping of kingfishers and the flutter of dragonflies is ever-present, as is the buzz of insects and the caw of geese, though many are not easily spotted. You will, however soon find a lone white swan or small shoal of ducks traversing the waters. And white tiger moths and small tortoiseshell butterflies constantly dance gaily alongside as you tread further down the meandering paths which veer off in all directions towards the ramparts and old tunnels.

These hidden, mainly bricked up, disused tunnels, scattered around the higher banks of the outer rampart walls are an explorer’s paradise – and they are numerous, largely camouflaged by layers of moss, ivy and undergrowth but steeped in the city’s rich military history. Varying in depth, size and age, some date back to the 1800s and other parts of the Lines are still used today.

Explore the many smaller trails which veer off from the more well-trodden paths and you will easily be able to find some of the old tunnels, particularly as you venture uphill towards the steep banks. The metal mesh of the fence, formerly prohibiting entry has long been rusted and trodden down and you can easily clamber up or down to discover the small ruinous caverns and shafts.

Most are bricked up or their entrances barred with metal gates; but the crude graffiti displayed on the walls, the remnants of litter and discarded belongings, most likely from rough sleepers belies that many have found this place before – and not long ago either. During my expedition, I came across a slightly larger cave-like dwelling which had been transformed into a makeshift bedsit, complete with armchair, mattress and a sports bag of possessions – but I’m guessing that it had either recently been abandoned or an official had found it, as entry was firmly barred by a steel grille.

But as I continued to explore and navigate this new wasteland territory, seeking more tunnels and shafts, I found my heart racing and blood pumping – not just from the exertion of climbing but from that excited, childlike feeling of discovery and anticipation of what I would find next. Of unearthing something new. Dodging and swerving past the tangle of nettles and thorns which drew crossed swords across the tiny trail, I ventured further into the woods and into the darkness beyond.

Preparing To Fly part 2

•August 21, 2019 • Leave a Comment

August 2019 and I’m contemplating the progress of the Big Life Change, of which I officially, after months of deliberation, started 3 months ago when I handed in my notice to leave my secure and very permanent job in social housing to take some time out, sell my house to downsize and apply to university to do a master’s degree in Creative Writing.

Most recently, while more weeks pass and the bank balance further dwindles during the long, infuriatingly dragged-out conveyancing process, I’m thinking that absurdly it seems that in fact, I’ve actually completed one life span, one full cycle already and now I’m entering my second. A kind of muted reincarnation, if you like.

25 years ago I was waiting for my A-Level results which would confirm whether I got into my first or second choice of university to start my sociology degree. With some irony I reflect; that despite surpassing my limited expectations and achieving a grade ‘A’ and two ‘Bs’ therefore obtaining the golden grades which would confirm my degree course acceptance at Swansea Uni; somehow I ended up living in the city of my uni second choice – Portsmouth. Even more ironically, I rebuked Portsmouth initially (it had not long left Polytechnic status and therefore was still its early developments, both in size and reputation) but in almost a ‘Sliding Doors’ re-enactment, like silly string which twists this way and that, blown by the wind, its movements without destination or intent, I arrived in Portsmouth in March 1998 – and over 21 years later and counting – have yet to leave. It is as home to me now as Wareham ever was. If not more so, as it’s the home of my subconscious choosing. And Wareham was never that.

Time’s almost running parallel; another irony I muse, as I finish my early morning ferry cabin cleaning session and reflect back to 1994. It was summer and I was working part-time as an early morning cleaner in quite a plush, private country club, aptly located woodside, a few miles from my home in rural market-town Wareham. 5 days a week I’d set my alarm for 5am and haul myself out of the comfort of my bed and get on my bicycle and almost in auto-pilot, pedal up and down Purbeck’s rolling hills to open up the leisure centre and start cleaning the changing rooms and facilities for 2 and a half hours. By 8:30am the guests and customers and other staff were trickling in, a steady flow of people about to start their day, whether it be with an intense gym workout, a gentle swim or uniformed, about to man the reception desk or open up the conference rooms and bar area.

By then I was relaxing into the home straight, basking in the satisfaction of my working day ending whilst everyone else’s was just starting; my skin gleaning with a fine sweat from the exertions of the physical tasks. Preparing to cycle home and fall back into bed for a couple of hours. I would be home by 9am and would easily relapse into peaceful slumber until about 11, when I’d surface, feeling both accomplished and rested. And think of the freedom to enjoy the day ahead, when it was still light in the evening and the Isle of Purbeck was at its most enticing and opulent.

A busy hive of tourist activity and new faces as the holiday season was in full throng. I had slept, I had done my work. And now it was time to enjoy the beauty and the bustle and the sheer decadence of being in Wareham at this time of year. I’d hook up with my two best friends and we’d cycle out to the picturesque ruins of Corfe Castle or to the Blue Pool where we’d imagine we were paddling our dirty bare feet in a magnificent lagoon in the tropics. Or we’d trawl the little independent and charity shops, loving that they’d finally sprung to life and booming with trade and sit outside Coppers chippy, gazing at the cute tourist boys and laughing at lost or weather-unprepared ‘grockles’. Thursday and Friday evenings we’d dress up in our shortest skirts or shorts, the tightest cotton vest tops and heels and do the Wareham bar crawl; usually comprising of about 4 pubs; (there were several others but these were disregarded as they were ‘old men’s pubs’); there was an established order to this. The Horse and Groom would be first for a warm-up and to shoot some pool. Ignoring the yokel farmer lads and keeping one eye on our pints and another darting around for new and interesting faces. This would normally be followed by Bertie’s wine bar – small-town Wareham’s attempt on up-market nouveau riche – somewhat compromised by the fact they stocked the entire Mad Dog 20:20 fortified wine range on their top shelf. For the uninitiated, 20:20 was the late ‘80s and early ‘90s West Country equivalent to Buckfast. It was cheap, wholly flavoured with the most and longest E numbers you could think of and never ever failed to get you get completely shit-faced.

Next, after the rather chaotic and at the time the younger drinkers’ favourite The Antelope would be a stroll (or more often than not by this time) a sway and a stagger to the Red Lion, which stands majestically right in the centre of the town square and facing the town hall clock. By day the Red Lion was frequented by Ladies Who Lunch and retired couples. From Sunday to Wednesday the bar was sparsely attended, save for those couples, friends or colleagues catching up for a quiet drink. But by Friday, usually from about 4pm onwards the place would be descended upon by farmers, labourers, shop and office workers finishing for the week, squaddies based at the nearby Lulworth and Bovington army camps doing much the same; visitors and locals alike. It became a magnet for what the tabloids like to call ‘revellers’; but in truth, it was the same as any other village, town and city pub on a Friday evening – a necessary and most welcome relief and indulgence to mark the end of a week’s toil in whichever field that may encompass. And usually that in the form of alcohol and vast quantities of it. I was no different.

Whilst now in my mid-forties, I no longer have the energy or inclination for the pub crawls – though I still have a yen for the occasional binge (though that is another story), in some ways I feel like the 20 year old that summer who was scrimping a meagre wage cleaning for richer people but waiting to embark on a new adventure, and was not carrying the chikku fruit basket on her head.

Because I’m shaking off the layers, shedding the dead skin and the chikku pieces are falling all around me and I am walking on; leaving them behind as they roll gently around the dust-trodden path. I can ignore them and forget them, feeling myself brighten as I grow lighter. I am going to university and I’m a casual labourer; I have no restraints nor the burden of responsibility. I feel myself regressing to my younger self, whilst bearing the lines and scars of my journey which marks my writing. I have everything inside and am now starting to find the scattered pieces of me to put myself back together and make something magical and long-lasting.

Wittering whilst on West Wittering!

•August 14, 2019 • Leave a Comment

West Wittering. The golden child of the Sussex coast. Grains of yellow lint spill freely, lovingly through my fingers. Like pollen, some stick to my sweating palms in the heat of this mid-July day. Yellow glitter; acres of it, stretching out for miles; each golden segment separated only by wooden posts. It dances gracefully under the sun’s glimmering spotlight.

The tide is way way out. A few dozen people are scattered like poppyseeds; bodyboarding or windsurfing over white-tipped crests. Kayaking, paddling. Swimming 50, 70, 100 metres away. Young children splash, small tsunamis amongst the gently rippling waves. Dogs crash clumsily, matted fur soaking into soft wet, charging after bobbing tennis balls. Two mountainous bear-like Alsatians own the strip; panting, long pink tongues flopping, tails wagging ferociously in delight.

On the beach, the sand carpet is plentiful. An inviting welcome mat to tired walkers’ legs and procrastinators alike. Cracks of oyster clam shells lie carelessly with tendrils of tangled black seaweed, baking to parchment under the sun’s relentless glare. A Liquorice Allsorts assortment of pebbles and stones are randomly strewn, lying patiently where the sea has crudely spat them out in its tidal fury.

A few lone tourists and hikers take a short respite and rest whilst water sports enthusiasts are lost to the rest of us, deep concentration as proudly they conquer the waves. The odd sunbather lies face-down or into the crinkled pages of a book, sinking into the soft folds of the saffron shingle, the sun’s outstretched fingers kneading heat into browning flesh.

It’s still quiet; the third week in July and not all of the children have broken up from school; though the few who’ve broken free from the shackles of incarceration celebrate release; they shriek, dance, build structures and tunnels of sand and wood. They throw themselves to Poseidon with abandon as only the truly young and free do. Really, it’s a bittersweet joy to watch. I feel something inside me begin to stir; the fragments of a deeply-embedded long ago memory start to prick at my skin. I feel my eyes closing under the enveloping warmth of the aubade; here I can be lifted and rolled back. Time falling away like the caress of the tiny granules of sand disappearing between my fingers.

Rebellion Round-up August 2019

•August 7, 2019 • Leave a Comment

This year marked my sixth time at Blackpool’s Rebellion superb annual punk music festival since my first outing in 2014. Blimey, those years have passed by fast! I was just as exhilarated to be going this year as all those years ago and this time Jase, my better half would be able to come with me for the whole duration and not just Saturday and Sunday, so it was extra special for this reason.

So, on Wednesday; after the best part of the previous two days spent packing, preparing, hair re-dyeing and stocking up on cat food and litter for the kitties for the time I’d be away; armed with a giant suitcase I boarded the train to Birmingham for the first leg of the journey. Jase met me at the other end and we set off in the car for the second half of the trip, briefly stopping at his place first. No problems on the motorway and we arrived in Blackpool at about 8:45pm. Checked into our B&B, met our friendly host, then a quick freshen-up and we ventured out for a much-needed beer after all the travelling. I took a few snaps of some cool street art which has sprung up in the town before joining the long queue for the bar at the Rose & Crown. It seemed everyone else arriving that day had the same idea! Eventually, beers in hand we found seats and joined my friend and Rebellion regular Lorraine for a natter. There were some bands playing upstairs at The Tache but we’d missed a few already and decided just to have a couple of beers with Lorraine before heading back to the hotel for some necessary sleep ahead of the long weekend. Managed a good solid eight hours so I was happy!

Thursday we were up at a reasonably early time (that is to say before midday) to catch one of my current favourites System of Hate who play melodic but ferocious dark punk. We headed to the Wintergardens where Rebellion is always hosted – it’s a massive labyrinthine, all-under-one-roof maze of stages, bars and even a restaurant. I just love this band since they were first recommended to me a couple of years ago by Jonny Wah Wah and again, they were on top form and had a decent-sized crowd despite the early time slot. And of course a stage invasion by lovable Rebellion mascot Rat Boy! Next, we watched all-female trio The Baby Seals at the Empress Ballroom (which will thereon be referred to as the Sweatbox due to the perishing and unrelenting heat in the place when crowded!) These girls did a solid, enjoyable set and I bought their EP from the merch table afterwards.

We took a break after this to grab a couple of vegan sausage rolls and head back to the hotel for a bit to freshen up as it was already baking hot and get ready for the evening. This also meant me accessorising with various beads, bangles, brooches and baubles, piling on the make-up like Polyfilla to survive the heat, and Jase undertaking hairdressing duties and death-hawking our hair which would largely then not move for the next 3 days. Arrived back at the Wintergardens for Steve Ignorant’s Slice of Life at my favourite venue there, the Opera House. I like the Opera House as it’s grand and resplendent, relatively cool, has the best sound and the option of sitting or standing. Enjoyed SoL as always (never tire of them and Steve is always great to watch).

Next, we headed to the Sweatbox for glam punk ‘n rollers Queen Zee, who we’d seen a couple of months in Manchester at The Membranes’ all-day bash. There was quite a large crowd for them too, and they did a fun, powerful and energetic set. Back to the Casbah stage (aka Sweatbox II!), situated near the venue entrance for American stalwarts D.I who Jase wanted to see as they’d never played here before and then it was time for the fantastic Goldblade who performed an intense, frenetic and uplifting set at the smallest stage of the Wintergardens, the Pavilion (which I like due it’s central location, easy access and intimacy).

John Robb et al did a tribute for the much-loved Kathy Rocker who sadly passed away recently. This gig was for her and showing the big finger to cancer – #fuckcancer. It was one of the highlights of the weekend for me and I thought the best performance of the day. By this time, legs were starting to tire and we sat down at the Opera House to catch some of Spear of Destiny’s set (Kirk Brandon’s voice sounded amazing!) before watching some of Fear, also over from LA, who were headlining the Casbah. Enjoyed what I saw of them, though we’d missed a fair bit but seeing them for the first time was definitely a good way of rounding off the night. Afterwards, we revisited the Rose & Crown (as is de rigeur now!) for a couple more drinks. Sat outside to avoid the heat and got chatting to Spanish punks from Benidorm (with the lead singer Paul also being from Liverpool) Punko!UK who were playing Rebellion for the first time. Headed back at about 2:30am or so for some much-needed sleep.

Bands seen: 8

Friday saw us having a bit of a lie-in and not getting to the Wintergardens until about 3:00pm! First band of the day for us then was the irrepressible Deckchairs, who as always, played straight-up, no-frills, fun, laugh out loud punk with such tracks as ‘We Were Shit’, ‘Benefits Boy’ and Jase particularly liked ‘Wanker in an Audi’ as he has a pathological hatred of Audi drivers!! Again, another band – another Rat Boy stage invasion!

Next, we went to the Opera House to see Interrobang, described most aptly as an ‘agitpunkfunkstorm’, which has ex-members of Chumbawamba, Dunstan Bruce and Harry Hamer. I’d not heard them before and they played an intense, furious, yet off-the-wall set and I found myself really enjoying them and the diversity their music brought to the festival.

Later we paid our first visit (*slaps wrist*) to the Introducing Stage which plays host to a plethora of diverse bands all new to Rebellion and is always worth visiting. I always find that I never really get to see enough bands here and each year resolve to see more but it’s nigh impossible at times, as there so many clashes plus all the socialising you do at the festival, catching up with people you haven’t seen in ages. Which was exactly what happened today and we missed the likes of the Subhumans, Lost Cherrees and The Menstrual Cramps. Anyway, we watched some of the sets here by female bands I, Doris and Pussyliqour. I must admit I preferred the latter, not really connecting with the saccharine sweet harmonies of I, Doris.

With the schedule clashes this time, we decided to miss a few bands who we’d both seen a lot of previously (and were likely to see again in the near future) in order to watch those where it might not be the case, so sadly missed Ruts DC and Rubella Ballet tonight. Went for food at the restaurant there (the food is quite tasty, reasonably-priced, has veggie and vegan options and is nice and quiet) before watching The Membranes (OK, this is the exception but can never miss these guys!), complete with their backing choir at the Opera House. Despite the band seeming to be too far away from the crowd on this stage, as ever, they did a great set; John Robb always puts 110% into his frontman performance and you simply can’t draw your eyes away.

As we’d not seen the UK Subs for some time, we decided to visit the Sweatbox for their set and for the first time this weekend experienced the inferno-esque heat of the place! Deciding on viewing them from the upstairs balcony in a bid to be a little cooler (it wasn’t), nevertheless, it was still a brilliant performance from the evergreen Charlie Harper and the boys. We were singing along to favourites such as ‘Warhead’ (first song I tried to learn to play on the bass!) and ‘Stranglehold’ like loons, along with most people up on the balcony. Great fun.

The Stranglers were the headliners at the Sweatbox and it’s fair to say, were eagerly anticipated by many. Again, the place was packed to bursting and we stayed upstairs. Didn’t get to see much over rows of heads and pillars but they sounded good and played a varied set comprising of old and more recent songs, but justly included the likes of ‘Always The Sun’, ‘Peaches’ and of course ‘No More Heroes’. After this Jase and I were glad to get some fresh, cooler air outdoors and we met up with Lorraine again and went to an alternative bar called The Bootleg, suitably dark and dingy, also with some bands playing an aftershow including Dischord and Abraskadabra. It was a bit loud for talking though and we kept getting pounced upon by a girl who was clearly nine sheets to the wind so after one drink we left and ended up at a new bar next to The Orbiston* hotel which was playing a load of ska music. That was quite good fun and after Lorraine and I doing a bit of dancing round the pool table to The Specials, we got chatting to a few people there before calling it a night at about 3:20am (Lorraine stayed on!) and heading back for bed.

Bands seen: 8

* For the uninitiated, The Orbiston is notorious for its all-night bar situated close to the Wintergardens exit and always makes for an interesting night and meeting ‘characters’!

Saturday saw us arise fairly early to see Punko!UK at the Pavilion stage as we’d promised we would – and was glad we had as enjoyed their fast ‘n furious hardcore set. Guitarist Sam has fashioned it from a petrol can – and it looks great and works really well! Next we saw The Derellas who have been described by Louder Than War as ‘like the bastard offspring of The Ramones and The Heartbreakers’ which, in my eyes is not a bad thing. And certainly true. We saw them recently in Brighton with Scare Taxi and they were great and again today, did not disappoint. We then made one of only two trips to the Arena stage this weekend to catch some of Vomit’s set before a quick return to the hotel to drop off some merch that I’d bought at one of the many, many stalls there and a spruce-up.

Sadly just missing Healthy Junkies (sorry Nina!), we returned to the Opera House to catch Alvin Gibbs and the Disobedient Servants. Enjoyed the UK Subs bassist’s set too, especially with a surprise guest appearance from legendary guitarist Gizz Butt. Afterwards we had a look around the amazing Punk Art exhibition in the Spanish bar and sighted (and added to) the new and wonderful Rebellion Remembers space – which is a memorial dedicated to those no longer with us and of course as the punks age, this list is growing. After this it was time to meet friends Martin, Mireille and Bettina who were over from Switzerland for a (what is now tradition) meal at Pizza Express, handily situated just near the venue. Great to sit down, catch up over yummy food and relax for a while before heading back into the venue. Unfortunately missed Girls in Synthesis who I really wanted to see but we did make it to the Casbah for Maid of Ace who I love and have seen these girls progress rapidly over the last few years and gain a massive following. They are now playing bigger stages and higher up the bill and just take it all in their stride. Just brilliant.

Had a bit of a break for chatting and catching up with friends in the main bar area whilst catching snippets of Booze & Glory and Henry Cluney from the Almost Acoustic stage in the background. We then went back to the Opera House to see The Godfathers – and so glad we did as I thought they were excellent. I’d heard of them and knew they’d been around for yonks but had never heard any of their music or seen them play. A melodic mix of new wave, punk and rock and roll, I just loved them straightaway and vowed to obtain some of the back catalogue ASAP. Best band of the day for me.

We ended with going to see Lemmy tribute Motorheadache at the Sweatbox as Jase wanted to see what they were like, being a massive Motorhead fan and I’d (to my shame!) never seen Motorhead. The venue was much less packed for this gig, whilst still having a decent sized crowd, which made for a more pleasant experience regarding the heat. We were able to get fairly close to the front and whilst tribute acts really are not usually my bag, I actually really enjoyed them and the lead singer’s voice was so like Lemmy’s. They were great fun too and there was yet another stage invasion later on, this time by members of On Trial UK! We ended up going to The Orbiston* afterwards and met up with a few friends (Melina, Rea, Becky) in there but also having a good chat with some German guys and a less so enjoyable chat with another couple of guys who had serious issues, not to mention questionable political leanings!! I won’t divulge the full details here but suffice to say it made for an ‘interesting night’! Quite tipsy by now, we headed back at around 4:30am, rescuing an abandoned lovely cuddly toy Alpaca (now hand-washed and named Alfie) on the way home. Crazy times…

Bands seen: 7 (not good in terms of quantity but brilliant in terms of quality)

Sunday marked the final day already – as stated by the old cliché that time really does fly when you’re having a lot of fun. After our late night (and due to my mind processing everything we’d seen and done over the last few days, it had taken me ages to get off to sleep), we surfaced late again so annoyingly missed some great bands on the Introducing Stage – Nosebleed, Rotten Foxes, Cockwomble and Tequila Mockingbird. But we were in time for Portsmouth’s own Acid Attack at the Arena stage, along with a strong Pompey contingency. They did a great set and we then saw some of Backstreet Abortions at the Introducing Stage to compensate a little for missing the others!

Next up was the much-anticipated (given a previous ban from Rebellion) Conflict who are still one of my all-time favourite punk bands. Well, of course they’re more of a movement than a mere band but it was just amazing to see them live again (my last time was at Another Winter of Discontent – in 2015, I think) and main man Colin was as on fire as ever, clambering on and off the stage and their ferocious set ended, aptly with ‘Mighty and Superior’ (another song I tried to learn on bass!) It’s fair to say I was breathless afterwards and on a real high. After a quick trip outside to the chippy, Jase and I revisited the Sweatbox to catch a bit of The Skids’ set before heading across to the Casbah stage for King Kurt. Again, another clash! I love The Skids but had never seen King Kurt and had always wanted to. However The Skids were a few minutes late going onstage and alas, we only managed 2 songs before it was time for KK whose unique brand of pyschobilly rock were just as fabulous and fun as I’d anticipated.

The penultimate band of the festival for me was ChameleonsVox (aka Mark Burgess, founding member and lead singer/songwriter of the Manchester post-punk band The Chameleons – who also just happen to be my favourite band of all time). I was incredibly excited to be seeing them at this festival as I’d missed their last few recent gigs; the last time I saw them was just over a year ago at Wave Gothik Treffen Leipzig and it was due to be Jase’s first time seeing them. They headlined the Opera House which suited their style perfectly and I was really pleased that there was such a vast crowd there for them – in truth I didn’t know how well they’d be received, especially as they clashed with The Damned and The Dwarves. Mark was dressed very dapper and displayed his usual habitual cool, though I think he was pleased to be there! The set was fairly similar to the WGT one from what I recall, with tracks such as ‘Look Inwardly’, ‘Swamp Thing’ and ‘A Person Isn’t Safe Anywhere These Days’. Classics such as ‘Don’t Fall’ and ‘In Shreds’ complemented the more introspective tracks and the finale was the ever-beautiful and poignant ‘Second Skin’. I found myself over and over and over again having goosebumps and feeling hairs rise on my arms, despite the heat of the crowded room. It ended all too soon, sadly with no encore but I was left moved almost to tears by the experience.

Fortunately, we were still in time to watch the last 25 minutes or so of The Damned and we literally sprinted across the venue to the Sweatbox to see what was left of their set. As expected, it was hot, sweaty and rammed but it was the final band of the final day – and what a band to end it on. Luckily we were just in time for ‘Smash It Up, ‘Ignite’, ‘New Rose’ and ‘Wait For the Blackout’. A perfect way finale to a brilliant few days.

Rain descended as soon people started pouring out of the Wintergardens and as the heavens opened, so did arms, recalling that Shawshank Redemption moment! It seemed fitting therefore, to end our holiday, as we’d started – with a pint or 2 in The Rose & Crown. After a long queue at the bar (again, great minds all thinking alike to quote the cliché ) we found our German friends, a new American friend from the other night (Edward from Badass) and a Pompey Punk friend (Richie) and toasted to a superb few days.

Bands seen: 7

In conclusion, it was once again a tremendous festival and few days away. Saw marginally less bands than in previous years but this was counteracted by the more time spent with friends and chatting with people socially than previously; which is just as much part of the Rebellion experience as watching the bands. There were mad moments which I won’t forget in a hurry and although we didn’t stay out as late as before, managed to keep up the stamina pretty well. The only slight annoyance was the extreme and uncomfortable heat in some of the venues at the Wintergardens, but there was no way we were going to let this stop us from enjoying the festival and seeing the bands we wanted to, aided with a handy portable electric fan which I will definitely take with me again. All in all, a marvellous long weekend and I cannot wait for Rebellion 2020.

Lusus Naturae

•July 18, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I am the sum of all these parts

Scattered, diaphanous fragments, fine-spun

Glass shards which

splatter and shatter

across porcelain sinks and lacerate

scarred bleeding skin inside

my throat

 

I am the totality, the whole

of these spider-thread capillaries which spread

and curdle, clot

into black

Veins; congealed and

Coagulate into

Creases, deep, corrugated,

Pleated

Refolded and redrawn,

Deepening, firebranding my

Flesh

 

Crevices, craters

Split, fracture,

widen;

Fault lines stretch and spread

Down

Sink, slide, gravitate

into chasms

and

all the little pieces of me swirling into whorls

down the plug hole abyss

 

A twisted jigsaw, grotesque

my pieces are

(missing)

mis-shapes and misdemeanors

misadventures and malefactions

that won’t slot into a smooth

finished, complete

product

perfect

Insignificant, incomplete,

 

Bone crumbles to dust as I shrink

I could be encased in an urn or a

cardboard box

My pieces are the grime and dirt of lint

not the ephemeral glisten of gossamer

faerie dust

Recreate me

and I would be

Lusus Naturae

Bishop’s Palace Gardens, Chichester – – an incandescent gem firmly nestled and resplendent, regal within the crown of the city walls

•July 10, 2019 • Leave a Comment

An abundance of flora; radiant flashes of colour astride lush, flourishing green-tipped lawns nestle deep within the heart of the bustling, albeit beautiful cathedral city of Chichester in West Sussex. I still find it almost inconceivable quite how; after the best part of two decades visiting the city on an at-least-monthly basis; I had managed to remain blissfully ignorant of the Bishop’s Palace Gardens’ existence. So many times I’ve boarded the rickety Southern Railway train 20 minutes from Chi’s larger, greyer, poorer, but no less historic Western cousin Portsmouth for a day or evening out. An afternoon of shopping, trawling the superb second-hand shops, markets and antiquarian book shops, indulging in a spot of lunch or full-blown meal at one of the many cafes, tearooms and restaurants, walking round the Cloisters and parks and admiring the majestic cathedral. But until about a fortnight ago – and it was wholly accidentally; somehow I’d failed to stumble across this gleaming jewel in the city’s crown.

Bishop’s Palace Gardens. Even the name sounds grand, opulent, sovereign. The ancient Roman walls surround it, moat-like and firmly enveloping the gardens as though Hercules himself were cradling them in his steel arms; a protector to the bountiful paradise within.

Labyrinthine, winding rows of blooms are in abundance. You will find purple beds of lavender, swaying amidst a haze of mass bee activity. Tall, proud delphiniums dazzling and soaring into the sky, their dancing heads surveying their more stunted but no less stunning compatriots, the vividly iridescent irises and violets. Pink, speckled foxgloves loom in the distance, to a walled backdrop, along with fuchsias, their coral, flushed lips about to pop into a kiss. The brightest begonias, poppies and giant daisy-like asters draw your eye like Warhol pop-art, dazzling splashes of vivid primary colour across a blank canvas.

Beds and beds of roses. Huge orange, peony, red and yellow heads, their petal eyes full with golden sleeping dust lure bees to their inviting lips, while evergreens tower above, their great arms, overhang and reach down towards the grass below, as if to embrace the lush green blades rising up to greet them. The grass verges are vast and liberally sprinkled with tiny daisies and clover faeries unspoilt by plastic or paper poison. You will find no carelessly-discarded cigarette butts here; there is an aura of quiet awe and appreciation – and preservation of the gardens.

People stroll, weaving their way slowly across the winding narrow paths which circle and thread through the gardens. Many linger and breathe in the sweet floral fumes, gazing in wonder at the spectrum of colour, a dancing rainbow in front of their eyes, a veil of peace falling over their shoulders. Casually observing and absorbing, sponge-like, it occurs to me that it is as though an invisible mist; a fine intoxicating perfume cloud of tranquillity drifts playfully above before releasing a potion which seeps down to us, gently kneading tight tired shoulders and softening deep furrows of worry. Its balm soothes, sinks down further still, through starched collars and too-tight ties into bare skin; loosening, relaxing, releasing, liberating. Yes, this is a place of peace. A place of healing.

Some people lie cat-like, languidly across the jade carpets, outstretched limbs and torsos stroked by the sun’s warm golden fingers and the atmosphere, feeling it calm, soothe and meditate. Some kick off their shoes and allow naked feet to breathe; feeling the gentle tickle of green shoots across their toes, the soft breeze kissing them.

It’s a popular spot for new parents with prams and strollers, cradling teething infants to sleep or pointing out earnestly to small children a blackbird from a crow, a daffodil from a dahlia. Chasing greedy pigeons across the lawn. Lessons in wildlife which a classroom cannot give.

Lunchtime break office workers pepper the various benches chewing sandwiches and sipping Costa lattes whilst fingers furiously type on phones, chasing the latest Twitter feed or thumbing the pages of a magazine or well-worn book, surreptitiously checking Fitbits and counting minutes until the return to the rat-race.

Students; high, jovial, giddy with the relief of finished exams giggle with friends, sprawled across makeshift blankets. A besotted new couple, entwined on a picture-perfect date. An inquisitive child determinedly climbing the high banks towards the ramparts overhead. An elderly widower on his daily walk rests weary legs and sits, cloaked in melancholy on his wife’s favourite bench opposite the herbaceous borders.

A seagull pecks greedily at stray crumbs from a pastry before scampering hurriedly towards a freshly-dropped crust. A robin chirps, nestling, almost hidden in one of the many shrubs, watching, waiting. The tiniest spider scurries across my pen-wielding hand while young grey squirrels chase each other up solid trunks and leap from branch to branch, lightning flashes of agility. Yes, this is a special place; a solitude and collective conscious both. A quietude.

Which is only interrupted when a congregation of schoolchildren being led by an exasperated teacher booming orders to ‘stay in line!’, through the main path which slices the arboretum in half, to oblivious, chattering pupils. This parade, lending more to chaos then military precision, marches past, shattering the stillness for a moment as feet stomp and voice soar. But only for moments. Then balance, harmony, equanimity is again restored.

Writer’s Block

•July 9, 2019 • Leave a Comment

I want to write, spew forth lava flow rumination

I have the time, the poise, the volition

The pen and the yen

But not the words

They do not flow

 

Like a tap, too-tightly capped

An Atlas grip and Medusa will

cannot force a single drop

I want to flood and I can’t pour

It’s all steadfastly

Clogged up, cooped up, plugged up

Fucked up

My dam

Is too strong

I have everything inside and nothing to say

 

I am

Void, a blank

Canvas

Ready to be stamped, imprinted on

Emblazoned, tattooed

Painted, like Warhol pop-art

in

Invisible Ink