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The train system in the UK is a little messed up, shall we say? Not just the scheduling, but the pricing too. My return ferry & train ticket (€59) gets me as far as Crewe, which is the first main hub between the Holyhead ferry terminal and the rest of England. I chose to do things that way because I was travelling in a triangle: from Crewe I went east to Nottingham, a straightforward if lengthy journey. After my week in Nottingham, it was then due south to London. Today I headed north-west from London to Holyhead, and as I write this, I’ve just left Birmingham on a Holyhead train.

The whole fare pricing structure here presumes that you will be travelling from point to point and back again. As a result, return fares are only slightly more expensive than single fares. The length of the stay is not a factor, up to a month or so. For example, I could have had a return fare from London to Birmingham for £17.00. The single fare cost £16.90. The same principle applied to my trip from Nottingham to London last Saturday, £42 vs. £43, but that was on the fast train. If I had taken the fast (Virgin) train today, from London to Crewe, the fare would have been £48 vs. £49. I took the slow train, which in practice is costing me an extra hour and £20 less. (Birmingham to Crewe is £11, so I’ve paid £28 vs. £48.). And I won’t get home any quicker, since the ferry runs to a fixed schedule, so the excess would be spent waiting at Crewe station.

The hotel turned out quite reasonable in the end, but I found out that they haven’t actually fixed the web site. The street address is correct, if a bit vague – North Woolwich Road is quite long, and has no street numbers, so even drivers will rely on the map to find the place. It’s popular with truckers, who were no problem; however, on the first night, I was woken up by a drunken couple carrying on a pointless screaming argument below my window. The hotel appears to be piloting a new (to me) innovation: unattended reservation and check-in. If it works, you could literally turn up at the hotel and get a room, if available, without seeing any staff till the next day. Definitely geared towards people in cars, who can just drive to the next Etap hotel if the first one is full.

Bringing the laptop was a bad idea, at least this new Compaq. It’s big and heavy, and I had to take it everywhere I went because it’s valuable. I was able to watch a new DVD (The Witches of Eastwick, even better than I remembered it), but otherwise it’s been a millstone round my neck. Next time I’ll do without, or at least make do with my old & slow IBM Thinkpad, which is much smaller and lighter, and more than adequate for this blog and other writing. At least the weight seems to be where it matters, in the chassis & hinges etc., making this a pretty tough machine, I think.

Now playing: Up North by Bill Bruford’s Earthworks, the live version from Stamping Ground. Must… fight … urge… to… whistle… along. This must be my favourite Earthworks piece of all, by the first Earthworks line-up, featuring Django Bates and Iain Ballamy, who were even then jazz stars in their own right. I saw these guys some time in the early 90’s, and then the Mark II lineup, which temporarily included bassist Brian Gascoigne – also well worth it. Bruford has evolved a jazz drum style all his own, the main idiosyncrasy to my ears is his sparse use of the bass drum, far removed from his work with King Crimson.

Speak of the devil: I’ve just finished reading In the Court of King Crimson, by Sid Smith. Sid is a long-time Crimfan™ who worked for the local government in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and who accompanied the Crim offshoot ProjeKct Two across America as a roadie and merch man. He’s written the first serious biography of possibly the most mysterious group in rock, who had a tendency to break up just as major success appeared on the horizon.

Robert Fripp, the guitarist, is the only constant factor present throughout the 30-year history of King Crimson. He has always refuted suggestions that King Crimson was his band, but the band’s history shows that that was very much the case. From day one, Fripp pushed the band in the direction he thought best, and used all manner of tactics to achieve that aim. At times this meant allowing the others their way, but he soon yanked the leash on them if they strayed too far from the doghouse.

Personally, I’ve never been that much of a Robert Fripp fan, but he’s certainly something to hear when he’s firing on all cylinders. I met him a few years ago, and enquired whether anybody ever called him about film music. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was not that complementary to Hollywood or the people who work there. I’m not surprised that Hollywood hadn’t called since the Neuromancer debacle, but independent film-makers are more open to strange beautiful music. Vincent Gallo actually borrowed an old Crim song, Moonchild, for his film Buffalo 66, for a scene in which Cristina Ricci was tap-dancing in a bowling alley. I’ve always though that King Crimson’s music was cinematic in many ways, and the current band in particular can produce some terrifyingly extreme soundscapes.

My introduction to Crim was more to do with drummer Bill Bruford, who I had heard with Yes, and with Tony Levin, who at that time (1985) was already one of the top names in the bass world, almost mandatory for a budding rock bassist to investigate (alongside Geddy Lee, Chris Squire, etc.). I had been concerned about how Crim might sound without Levin, but Trey Gunn’s work on The ConstruKction of Light is bass of a different colour, quite frightening in itself.

I’m surprised to see that Fripp’s work with David Sylvian is given such scant coverage in Court, since Sylvian was actually asked, by Fripp, to join King Crimson in the early 90’s. He declined, but the subsequent Sylvian / Fripp albums The First Day and Damage (live) are considered by many (including myself) as “lost King Crimson albums”. Both feature Trey Gunn extensively, and the Damage tour was where Pat Mastelotto first worked with Fripp. Both are members of the current King Crimson. Another “lost King Crimson album” is 1970’s McDonald & Giles, which is covered extensively in the book.

Is 1000+ words in 1 hour a good rate of work?

Written by brian t

July 31, 2002 at 3:29 pm

Posted in england, music, travel

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