Where were we?

I’ve been on the move since 2015, bouncing from one upheaval to the next. That’s basically what the Electric Holy Road was (is) all about. I’ve come to accept that life is — or is made bearable by — constant movement.

Which was good for a while but has made dealing with lockdown a bit of a struggle.

Don’t get me wrong. I love having the excuse to avoid social gatherings, and using the break in the normal competition calendar to paint what I wanna paint and write more of what I wanna write. I’ve explored memories of my time in rural Australia, made comics, slapped layers of acrylic paint on long-neglected projects… yet I’ve come to a grinding halt on the past weeks, the situation’s weight crashing down on me.

And at times like these, it’s nice to remember the Road. Instead of going to sleep every night, heart pounding and ready for the next life-shattering event, I’ve decided to come back, however briefly, to this blog.

Now, where were we?

Constellations de Metz

LOVE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS

It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? It bears writing about, adding to the history of the moment.

At last counting 60,000+ excess deaths in the UK and the “R number” infection rate near or above 1 — still — across most of the country. It’s abundantly clear the pandemic isn’t letting up here anytime soon, despite the crowds flocking to Primark.

All the while, back home in Australia, the virus has all but disappeared. Life is returning to normal, at least from what I can tell from over here. Friends are drinking in bars together again, eating out. It’s enough to make one homesick. Hell, if we get out of this alive, my first “trip abroad” will be a trip back from abroad.

I could go on for ages about coronavirus…

about the astounding government failures

the way it has made eye contact with strangers impossible

how it has made every surface dirty

how it has brought masks into fashion

how it has reshaped the way I work (and my lower spine, what with all the sitting and all)

how I’ve written countless COVID-19 guides for businesses that all basically say the same thing

“In this uncertain times we’re here to help”

how I have spent the past months fretting over my ineligibility for the UK’s Coronavirus job retention scheme (I started a new role 48 hours too late after being made brutally redundant in January. Who could have guessed?)

how I have suffered tensions headaches and anger and fear and disgust

how my blood pressure must have gone through the roof

how I feel it has both sapped and fuelled my creativity

how it has forced me to closely study the awnings and brickwork of the Victorian houses in the affluent suburb two streets away

how it has brought me to buying Lego for the first time in my adult life

how it brought me back to Electric Holy Road

how it has been a violent and pulsating time

how the flow of time has stopped

how it feels to face the end of the world…

but I guess that would take too long. And, whoops, looks like I’ve basically covered it.

Everyone will have their own reaction to this event, and everyone will have suffered in different ways. And yet, it is a strangely universal suffering. There’s something zen in that.

Some have suffered far more than others though. Far, far too many. All those dinner tables now missing a member. All those struggling to breathe.

There’s no one to blame for the virus itself, except for the unflinching and all-consuming system in which we all play a small part.

We can certainly blame those in power. You have to punch upwards, of course. And that’s where I’ll direct my anger.

60,000 drops of blood, on hands that can never be washed clean. We are inheritors of the cruellest and bloodiest regime on the planet. And the violence continues today.

For prosperity, I submit this post, dated 15 June 2020. I hope — after three months of working from home, confined to the few short kilometres around my small flat, and after scandal after scandal after scandal — we can at least stop thousands more dying.

Though, if I’m honest, I’m not exactly hopeful.

Bike paths by the Thames

THE TRAVEL BLOG THAT WASN’T

Of course, Electric Holy Road began as a way of documenting my travels and sharing them with folks back home. It’s morphed into something weird and ungainly over the years, but for the right reasons.

I believe in honesty and vulnerability. Through a blog like this, I can open up to the world, and maybe help some people to feel less alone in their feelings and experiences. Importantly, I want to use this medium to show that our Internet/social media personas don’t always reflect reality. They don’t always have to be glossy and ironic. Sentimentality is in, baby. Foster Wallace was right.

But I have done some travelling since I last posted here (over two years ago now, can you believe that?). My 2019 strategy was to keep these experiences to myself, but it didn’t help. Instead of using that energy to grow, I festered. Like a bottle of soda, I’m bubbling up inside with things to say and stories to tell, and if I can’t pour out a bit here and there I’m liable to burst.

So, let’s do a quick run-through of some journeys over the last two years.

The Baths of... Bath
The baths of… Bath

Around Old’ Blighty

I’ve explored a good chunk of the south of England over the past years. I’ve ticked off good chunks of London (growing disgustingly sweaty and soot-stained on countless tube rides), but I think you all know enough about this semi-dystopian megalopolis. Moving on.

A trip to Bath in 2018 revealed a magnificent literary city, steeped in history and algae. The largest city in Somerset is worth a visit for its towering, impressive architecture and unmissable Roman baths, but…

My favourite city in the region has to be Bristol. Recently in the news as the birthplace of a new monument-toppling craze, Bristol immediately captured me with its air of possibility. There’s a vibrancy to Bristol I haven’t found elsewhere in the UK, something akin to inner-city Australia.

I’ve popped into the city a couple of times, for work and pleasure, and never left disappointed. Be sure to check out the many strips of independent cafes and restaurants, Cabot Tower and, of course, the bridge over the Avon.

The small Oxfordshire town of Abingdon hides one of the coolest cinema’s I’ve ever been to. Be sure to take a trip out to watch a movie in the Abbey Cinema, doing your best to catch a screening in the converted abbey building (just maybe don’t go on an overly cold day).

IMG_2727
On the way to the loos – Abbey Cinema, Abingdon

I managed to get back home to the gumtrees, wine and sunshine of South Australia for a quick spell in 2019. I crossed 8+ time zones to get back and “enjoyed” the leap from -3 degrees and snowing to 40+ and boiling. But, if you don’t mind, this is one trip I’d largely like to keep to myself. Sufficed to say, it was much needed.

Further afield, I took my first trip on the Eurostar, disappointed to find out I wouldn’t be seeing any fish along the way. With a quick and dirty pitstop in Paris, we arrived in the Lorainne city of Metz to be hosted by distant friends.

Metz is the sort of place I’m surprised I’ve not ended up in before. Having much experience in living in “slightly under-represented or maligned secondary cities” (from my home of Adelaide to Mannheim to Reading), Metz seems like it should be a natural stepping stone on my Electric Holy Road. It’s not quite big enough, known well enough or flashy enough, and yet it is full of heart and character. It’s a hippy city.

Worth a visit are the Pompidou, the cathedral (obviously) and the little wooded areas around the Porte des Allemands. Luckily enough, we arrived during Constellations de Metz, an unbelievable light-and-sound festival that covered the city in whimsical, beautiful installations. I also had fun practising some atrocious French and eating an entire wheel of camembert (which they had the gall to call a salad!)

Temple Neuf, Metz
Temple Neuf, Metz

Luxembourg is not very exciting.

IMG_5442
Of course, I joke. Here is me looking thrilled in Luxembourg

Finally, I took a less-than-comfortable coach journey across the channel to visit Eindhoven in the Netherlands and compete in the Scale Model Challenge (taking home a bronze medal for one of my busts. Not a bad outing!)

Despite the horrors of my long, sleepless journey and cold, uncomfortable wait for an extremely dodgy Air BnB to open, I quickly grew to like Eindhoven. It’s a compact city of crisp design and clean lines, and — like everything else Dutch — sickeningly efficient and “cut to perfection” to the point of being cold.

The city centre at the time of my arrival was buzzing with the annual Design Festival, which seems to be right up my alley and worth a second visit (but not by FlixBus). A few minutes out of the city, the town of Veldhoven sits within slightly more natural surrounds. There, I relaxed and rested in among the autumn colours, consuming some unspeakably rich pastry full of what I assumed to be a sort of blood sausage.

And, well, yeah…

That’s all led up to this point. Now I think back to it, 2019 wasn’t so bad after all. It may have absolutely disappeared into the mists of time, but at least I was able to get out and about, see new parts of the world and come to understand the horrors of midnight border crossings at Dover (in the pissing rain, as well).

2020 is a year of contemplation, forced introspection and planning for emergence. These months have forced me to look inwards and care about my physical and emotional health more than ever before — and that’s vital. But there’s no sense denying it’s been a challenge.

There have been times over the past months — through failed political campaigning, through redundancies and job-hunting, through uncertainty and fear — that I’ve considered giving up and going back home.

But the Electric Holy Road doesn’t loop backwards. It goes ever onwards, further, up and up. No sense looking back, only accepting, learning and taking the next step.

Stay safe, out there!

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