I am spending a whole day on trains today, as I seek to find a lower carbon route from London to Copenhagen. I visit that wonderful city regularly for work and am likely to need to do so more in the future. In a previous job I used to take the night train, but time pressures pushed me into flying – a bad habit that I am now trying to break. Well aware of the hypocrisy of a climate change professional spending so much time inside a kerosene-fuelled metal bird, I am very much hoping that the day-time rail route proves viable.
I haven’t written any ‘Album of the Week’ reviews for a while, primarily because every time I put on my headphones I just want to listen to Israel Nash. His latest offering, ‘Lifted’, is a hippy Americana chill-out album, that inspires relaxed smiles. I saw him perform at Rough Trade in Brooklyn a few weeks ago and it was an equally blissed experience, despite the inspiration for much of the album coming from Nash’s despair at the state of American politics.
I love New York and visit regularly, but there are many things I still don’t understand about the Big Apple/Big Oyster, and size is one of them. Yesterday I was wedged in so tight between two ample sized pairs of buttocks on either side of me on the subway that I almost missed my stop, so difficult was it to extract myself. In the end one of my fellow passengers had to give me a push.
I was in Ottawa for just under 24 hours, but it made a great impression, particularly the Canadian Museum of History. The quality of First Nation artwork on display is extraordinary, utilising vibrant colour and strongly tied to nature infused with human imagination. Thus, adorning totem poles are variously Thunderbirds, Lightning Snakes, and even Supernatural Codfish. And while the totems were statements of power and, thus, perhaps it is not surprising that they were made ornate, echoing the philosophy of British nineteenth century designer, William Morris, practical function appears not to have been an obstacle to imbuing even the most commonplace objects with beauty. The head-baskets used daily to carry crops are designed with grace, and clubs used to stun seals and fish are shaped and decorated in homage to the fellow animals they are designed to kill. A jet-black, jewel encrusted bowl on display is one of the most beautiful objects I have ever seen.
Markontour is privileged by occupation to have visited most of the great cities of the world over the last decade, but this week I found tranquility, astronomical heaven, and a generous guitar owner in a small town on the California coast.
After six glorious season, Festival No.6’s North Wales run appears to have come to an end. It’s a musical tragedy because there is no other festival quite like it. Hosted in the bizarre mock-Italianate village of Port Meirion, with the peaks of Snowdonia as a back-drop and a schedule liberally dotted with Welsh acts, including a male voice choir as the top attraction – outshining even superb headline acts like New Order, Noel Gallagher, The Manic Street Preachers, and The Pet Shop Boys, Festival No.6 has had a spirit all of its own.
Ah, Green Man. A dreamy festival bursting with beguiling folk and indie music, where the views of Table Mountain (original Welsh version) compete for attention with the bands on the main stage; where the range of craft beers is so extensive they required a menu the length of a short novel; where there’s more vegan food than you could shake a tofu skewer at; and which this year was dedicated to the National Health Service (NHS), whose founder, Nye Bevan, grew up and developed his twin passions for social justice, song and art in nearby Tredegar.