A Place To Bury Strangers @ The Garage.

Thursday 10 May 2018 – A Place to Bury Strangers @ The Garage, Islington.

A Place To Bury Strangers (APTBS) are a three piece band from New York, with an expat New Zealander, Dion, playing bass. They are one of my favourite bands and are touring their new LP ‘Pinned’. This will be the third time I have seen them, though I only seem to have one blog post; six years ago from a gig in Brighton, just before my fiftieth birthday.

I have not been to The Garage in Islington before, but really liked it. Similar to the Dome in Tuffnell Park, it is a decent sized venue, with a big bar and good beer on tap and in the fridge. Venues must be learning that good beer sells. I will definitely come to gigs here in the future, being right outside the tube station on my home line also helps a lot.

We arrived at the venue just as the support act, American duo Buck Gooter took the stage. I had not heard them or even heard of them prior to this morning. I tried a couple of songs on the internet at work and was not overly excited, or particularly impressed. Their first track was very typical of what I had listened to, and I was not looking forward to an entire set of it. However…. They did have two distinctive styles one quite yelly, techno industrial sort of thing with the singer going mental on stage, which was mildly entertaining for while. The guitar player had a much mellower voice and I preferred the songs he sang. It was OK in the end and I mostly enjoyed it.

APTBS hit the stage on time and into a mass of strobes, smoke and noise. The first track ‘We’ve come so far’ was a sonic blast. Playing up for the gig photographer every move in the guitarists inventory was pulled with Oliver Ackermann smashing his guitar at the close of the song. Brilliant 🙂 What an opening!

I stayed up the front for the first four songs, they are an impossible band to shoot with a pocket camera, light, movement and smoke, and very dark. Hectic. There was so much back lighting and smoke that even from the front left of the stage I could not see the drummer, and barely grabbed a couple of fading shots of the bass player.

Mid-way through the set the band descended into the crowd, by this time I was right at the back on a low set of stairs with El. About two thirds of the way in to the crowd they set up instruments and played two songs surrounded by fans, concluding with Dion the bass player, crowd surfing while continuing to play. We could not see any of it, though I was expecting this at the end of the set, so was unprepared.

The previous times I have seen them they have concluded with a storming version of my favourite song ‘I’ve lived my life to stand in the shadow of your heart’. I was pretty disappointed by it tonight, it was not too long, and didn’t go into the manic feedback, droney finale it is known for. It was disappointing to think that was the end of the show. However, there played two more songs, ending on a brilliant long, feedback, droney, mad version of another older track ‘Ocean’.

They were fantastic again, though I am glad I took earplugs!


The Epping Forest Project, Phase 4 – April.

April 2018 – Epping Forest.

April was busy, so I did not get a lot of time to get to the forest. With the New Zealand and Australia trip taking up the second half of the month I only had two weekends free for a wander with the camera. I took a drive up to High Beech Church the first weekend of the month, feeling I had an obligation to myself to do it.

I have not been feeling particularly inspired lately, I am bored with my photography and am going through another low period where I feel every image I take is rubbish, my camera is rubbish, and I cannot believe I am still bothering to take photos. I feel like I should stick to walking the forest and enjoying the images of others more worthy than me.

One of the reasons for deciding to do a yearlong project was to keep myself motivated to take pictures. Going to the forest is something I am generally keen to do and we all know that being in nature is good for mental health so sticking to this project has many benefits.

This walk was over a month ago. I vaguely recall only having a short amount of time, so chose to go a place that was familiar; a gentle slope down into a valley, both sides hosting small glades of young silver birches amongst older beech and scrubby holly and hornbeams. Knowing I should be able to find at least one image there, one for the end of year calendar (I hope).

Though I enjoyed being out, I wasn’t in the right head space, I took a few pictures, mainly because I felt I had to. Perhaps coming back to a place I knew well was a bad idea. The idea of the project was to explore more broadly, yet I am stuck in the familiar. I also hate my camera now, and have started blaming it for my lack of creativity. I hate that it is heavy, that it is old, I see it as an impediment to something. Though I know this is complete rubbish and any block is me. It is not impeding anything; there is nothing to impede.

Spring had only just started, last time I was here the forest was covered in snow, though I was surprised at how little green there was. Autumnal colours were still prevalent, as were a couple of downed trees.

Though this one was not going anywhere at all. I wonder how old it is?

Void of anything that interested me photographically I continued with my experimentation with intentional camera movement (ICM) , or impressionist photography, as I call it. This grove of young silver birch proved a good range of colours to experiment with some vertical panning.

I know this technique has been done to death, and I have used it myself, but I do like the range of options it can provide for image making. The following three images were all taken of a different grove of silver birch, without moving the tripod.

I have also been experimenting with another style of ICM, for a more painterly type of image. I am trying to come up with something that approaches the pointillist style, mixed with classic impressionism.

Mildly disappointed with what I had achieved in the short time I was out, I headed back towards the lovely High Beech Church, my parked car and ultimately, home.

Queensland, a brief foray

Saturday 05 May 2018, Brisbane and Gold Coast, Australia.

I have strong feelings about south east Queensland, and they are not overly positive ones. I go there to see my oldest son, and middle child, Dom; and his daughter Cadence, my second grandchild. If they were not there it is not a place I would visit; even though the beaches are stunning. Anyway, Dom, Cadence and the rest of his family are there so here I am visiting. This was a tough trip, a complicated trip, though ultimately a good and joyful trip, circumstance made it what it was. It is not my story so I am not going to detail it here, but maybe with Dom’s permission, one day I will.

My flight left Sydney at 1:00pm Wednesday, it is a surprisingly long journey of 1 ½ hours to Brisbane. Flying over those lovely Manly and North Sydney beaches and up the coast makes it mostly enjoyable.

Like in NZ I have a rental car. There is slightly more public transport on this strip of coast, but it does not go where I need it to go, this is a car country. I used to be entirely confident (perhaps overly so) driver, but this trip I have not enjoyed driving at all. I particularly hated this Kia rental car, and for the first time I found driving to be quite stressful and unpleasant. Made worse by not being able to sync my phone with the car sound system.

On the first night I stayed in an apartment/hotel thing, with a view of the hospital. Keeping up the tradition on this trip of great views from hotel rooms.

My room was pretty good though and I enjoyed my one night stay, being close to the hospital and far from anywhere else I just stayed in my room. TV, beer and photo-editing, I didn’t need a lot else. Though the hotel restaurant ‘The Stuffed Badger’ was excellent, good enough to mention here. Nice food, good beer and wine and great staff, if you are ever near Brisbane Hospital I recommend it. However, the coolest thing about the hotel was the car lift to the underground car park, I have never used one before, it was a bit exciting. Even with this piece of shit Kia.

The following day I drove down to the Gold Coast, I have two nights in a hotel near Broadbeach beach, not too far from where Domenic and Cadence, my granddaughter live. I decided to stay somewhere nicer than the motel I stayed in last time I was here. I spent a couple of hours with Domenic in the afternoon before checking in to my room.

The sun sets early here, it is autumn and it is dark by 6pm. I took an evening walk along the beach to the main restaurant/bar strip. This area is totally different to how I remember it, though it has been a very long time since I was last here. I am guessing that on this strip five years is considered a long time. I had a bit of a play with some out of focus blurry shots, trying to capture a mood, or an impression rather than something crisp and clean. I wanted the colours to tell more of the story.

Though further up the beach, at the next life saving tower it was just too well lit for any imagination to be allowed.

As you could imagine the coast is very touristy, the focus is families, and groups, hen and stag parties, corporate ‘dos’; not for solo travellers wanting some space and alone time. I struggled to find a bar or a cafe where I could eat a meal, take a drink and sit in a quiet corner on my own, read a book or write. I found somewhere with a booth that was barely good enough. After one pint I ate and left, buying a bottle of wine to take back to my room. Though the experience of not finding a space drained me so much that writing or photo editing was not doable, so I slumped in front of a TV series I downloaded off the BBC before I left London. You didn’t think I was going to try Aussie TV did you?

Friday, I didn’t have a lot to do so went for a walk around before finding a different cafe on the same strip for breakfast, which was pretty good.

You certainly cannot argue that the beach here, and for miles, both north and south, is not magnificent.

Though the construction right behind the beach is frightening.

I had a quiet, ‘me’ day, I met a friend from when I lived in London in 80’s for lunch at a nearby mall, but did pretty much sod all else for the rest of the day and evening. I finished last night’s wine in my room after a listless and un-enjoyed meal in the same seat in the same place I ate in last night.

After checking out on Saturday I visited Dom and Cadence for a couple of hours. It was really nice to hang out with them again, even for a short time. It was Dom’s birthday yesterday; the main visit for my trip. It was  great to see you son 🙂

Though I am not convinced this place is really safe.

On the way back to Brisbane Airport I caught up with my Deana, my ex-wife and the mother of my children. We took a walk along the banks of the Brisbane River, which was nice. The last time I was here was the early noughties, soon after a massive flood that had devastated the recreational area along the side of the river. Like everything in south eastern Queensland, it had all changed in the intervening years.

I hit the airport early, too early to check in; but I was worn, the two week ‘holiday’ was busy, and tiring and the jet lag and too much food and drink was catching up. I just wanted to be home.

I will be back in again in December, with El , with a bit of holiday thrown in too. Japan maybe…

An Opera House and a Bridge. Sydney.

Tuesday 02 May 2018, Sydney, Australia.

Flying into Sydney from the east, from over the Tasman Sea on a sunny day is one of very few pleasures there is in travelling to Australia. The city is stunning from the air; the long sandy beaches, that glorious harbour surrounded on most sides by dark green bush, and by a not unattractive city on the other. Sydney is one of my favourite cities and I spent a bit of time there on various work and social trips in the past. I was looking forward to this very quick visit; less than 24 hours on the ground.

My original thinking was to spend two days here, see a few people and then hire a car and spend a further two days driving north to Brisbane. However, the cost of a rental car between cities was insane, so the plan was changed to a single night and a catch up with an old bestie.

I chose a mid-day flight from Auckland, missing the rush-hour Auckland madness, and the rushing, busy business folk heading to meetings ‘across the ditch’.

This dropped me into Sydney early on a sunny afternoon. There is now a train from (and to) Sydney Airport, something that did not exist when I used to visit in 90s, and it is a double decker!

Airport trains are the best things in the world for a traveller, and this one takes 20 mins to get to downtown Sydney. Brilliant, and my hotel is a five minute walk from the station. Someone thought the train was ‘Wack’, but not me.

This a glorious looking city, though the view from my hotel room is not the best, a bit like the view from my Auckland hotel.

I was meeting Nicole for a drink and dinner after her day at work. I had an hour to spare after I arrived so decided to go for a walk around the mid-town area. I used to know this part of town really well, but with so much building over the last 20 years, I hardly recognised the place, and immediately went the wrong way.

The old Grace department store was reopened as the Grace Hotel sometime in the 90s and I used to stay there as it was close to the office. It is still one of my favourite hotels, though it has been a long time since I stayed there. it was the first ‘posh’ hotel I stayed in.

George St Dymocks. I always love a good book store, and this was a perfect place to meet someone.

The Queen Victoria building, inside it is a premium brand mall. Not a lot of shopping from me, but the building is lovely and I have not been here for a very long time so it was worth a quick visit.

After a brief walk around I met Nicole for a drink and a meal in a very nice south Indian restaurant. The downtown area of Sydney has a lot more places to go out for a drink and a meal then I remember. The attitude to drinking, in this part of town anyway, seems to have changed from 20 years ago. There was a good vibe in the air for a Tuesday night, and I am really liking the feel of Sydney. Dinner was great, it was great to catch up with Nic. I haven’t seen her in a few years, so there was a lot to catch up on!

I was up early on Wednesday morning, deciding to get out for a walk before breakfast and my flight to Brisbane at lunch time. I took a wrong turn out of the hotel again (perhaps my north/south compass has finally aligned itself with the northern hemisphere?), either way it was a good option as I got to see a bit of downtown I would not have seen if I had headed straight to the Opera House, which was my final destination.

Heading through the back of ‘The Rocks’ area I discovered a small remaining section of ‘old Sydney’, old terraces and a sandstone church that have so far survived the rampant and hungry bulldozers of developers. It was really nice. For a busy, tower-ridden downtown, Sydney does not feel too crowded, though there are a lot of tall buildings, there is some sky and some air. These streets just behind downtown, quite empty early in the morning, seemed like I was a million miles away from the centre of a big city. Like a small rural backwater town.

Back down to the water front and I was confronted with another set of hoardings and more construction, the path around the ferry terminal was closed off to pedestrians as another waterfront something was being built. Construction is endemic, London, Auckland, Sydney. Someone should make a t-shirt. No unspoilt view of the bridge from here.

The sun was in exactly the wrong place for a ‘good’ photo of the Opera House, but meh; I like flare, so I was happy.

The public spaces along the harbour front are brilliant. That bridge. Those Ferries. That Opera House. All wonderful, all photogenic. The light was harsh, but who cares. Who would not be happy here, it was 8:00 am, the air was clear, it was warm with a nice sea breeze. Coffee shops everywhere, and people seemed to not be miserable. It was an enjoyable walk, especially for pre-breakfast.

Sadly I had a flight to catch so after walking round the Opera House I headed back up towards the hotel. Stopping for a really nice breakfast and coffee at an outdoor cafe, surrounded by construction and all the noises they bring. These polenta cakes were amazing!

Love Sydney.

Random Auckland bits.

Monday 01 May 2018. Auckland, New Zealand.

I started writing this post about three weeks ago, when I was still in New Zealand. I have just abandoned what I wrote and started again, stripping out everything I was trying to say. I was trying to sum up my thoughts about the visit, seeing my family and friends and the city I was mostly raised in. 

I got stuck, unable to clearly define in my head my feelings, let alone write it all down. This became a roadblock to getting other things done, every time I sat down at my laptop to do something, I would open the post and stare at it, then shut the laptop and walk away. I have scrapped what I was going to write and will leave it for another time, put less pressure on myself.

So here are some photos from my trip to Auckland, from the days I did not walk up any hills.  I was only in the country for eight days, mostly spent with family and friends and time with my lovely grandson Mason who will be four in July.

I took a lot of photos of the wee tacker, he was hard to pin down. he is a delightful lad, very friendly, always smiling; always chatting; and a cheeky wee grin. My son and his partner do not put Mason on social media, so I will sneak a quick photo of him here from when we went to the park, the rest I will treasure myself and share with my family.

Heathrow Airport. I flew Singapore Airlines both ways, and it was pretty good. I do not sleep on planes, even on a flight that is 13 hours and 40 minutes and I have taken a sleeping pill. Thankfully the flights were comfortable enough to exist for that much time in one spot. My travelling has allowed me to zone out for that much time. Thankfully!

On first arrival I stayed in a hotel in Auckland City for a couple of nights, mum was away, but I wanted the space anyway. It has been a while since I spent some time on my own, and I need that time.

My room had great views…

One morning after breakfast I spent some time at Blockhouse Bay Beach. in the 50s this used to be quite the spot, but by the time I lived here when my family emigrated from the UK in the 70s it was just another suburb on Auckland’s second harbour; the Manukau. It is a large harbour, one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere, but it is very tidal and a sewage treatment plant and meatworks on the opposite side to where we lived meant the harbour was not the nicest. It has long been cleaned up, but the 50s glory days are never to return.  I used to belong to the sailing club and sailed with my dad through to the early 80s. I have fond memories of the place, and it is a pleasant link to my late dad. I was really glad I visited, I have not been here for a long while.

Here are some random plants to finish. I have started taking extreme close-up photos of flowers – generally shooting into the sun, and often slightly out of focus. Breaking the ‘rules’, rebel that I am.


Sunday 29 April 2018. Lake Wainamu, Bethells Beach, Auckland, New Zealand.

‘You are here’ the sign tells me, us. However, this is not always helpful. Where exactly is here? The sign may show which way is up, but sans compass in the middle of dense forest, how do I know which way north really is? Getting the map out doesn’t really help. Doubt creeps in. We have been here before, making assumptions, tired decisions, stupid decisions, decisions based on what we know, familiarity leading to contempt. Wrong choices and wrong directions.

I am not talking about life, or a trans-Gobi expedition, this is just a four hour walk in the bush (as we in New Zealand call the forest). Though there was a brief moment on our walk this afternoon when we were not exactly sure where we were. The sign told us, but making sense of that in relation to where we came from and the map we carried led to a brief moment of indecision. We are both experienced in the bush, but have both made directional errors in the past. Nothing tragic, this is hardly serious wilderness, but frustrating and tiring mistakes, ego deflating mistakes, a loss of face as we consider ourselves experts in our domain.

Vicki is my newest Auckland friend, I am guessing we were introduced to each other some time in 2010 when we were both looking for someone to run in the hills with. Vicki wanted someone to slow her down so she could train for ultra distance off-road events and I was just too slow for the other trail runners I knew. We both love the bush and running the Waitakere Ranges trails, and we both like to yak incessantly. We made for good running/walking companions, and she became one of my closest friends. I always leave a day free on my visits to Auckland to ‘go bush’ with Vicki.

The Waitakere Ranges are under severe pressure right now. Kauri die-back is a fungal killer of New Zealand native kauri trees, most of which are found in the northern part of the north island. It has been identified that the fungus is spread manually and with this in mind the Waitakere Ranges are to be completely closed to humans from 1 May 2018. Two days time. As tracks are upgraded and modified; basically made into dull, boring, non-muddy super-highways they will be reopened. It is better than having no kauri, though I wonder if that means I will never be able to walk in the ranges again ? A terrible thought to contemplate. Luckily there were two days to go before the ban, my timing was perfect yet again.

I am now so unfit that the idea of a run fills me with dread, and though Vicki still likes to run she has put together a nice afternoon walk for us, early training for a mega event in January. Naturally this turned out to be more complex than planned. We arrived at the Cascades car park to be greeted by a sign advising that the trails were closed. We were a bit miffed at this as the closure was not due for a couple of days. Ignoring it we carried on, only to be met by a park ranger on the road down to the tracks. We questioned him about the closure, and he informed us that the swing bridge over the river had been washed out in the recent storm, hence the track closure, that was not a pre-empting of the council order.

Luckily Vicki had a plan B. Back in the car we carried on to the dunes at Bethells Beach and the start of the Wainamu tracks. Crossing the dunes was a bit of a slog, I hate being unfit, but we were soon in the mud and walking around the lake that has formed behind the dunes. There has been a lot of rain lately so the tracks were a little muddy, and very greasy. Pretty much how I like it.

Taking a right from the Wainamu Lake Track and on to Houghton’s Track we started to head uphill, always up hill. I have walked up and run down this trail a few times in the past, it has never been dry and I have been on my bum more than a few times coming down. The recent storms had turned the trail into a bit of a river. Though merely wet now you can see where the water had  flowed not that long ago.

Two weeks ago a super storm hit Auckland, there was a lot of wind damage, trees and power lines down, my youngest son had no power to his house for three days; and some were out for as long as ten. The Waitakeres took a battering as well and there were a lot of trees down across the tracks. I guess with the area being closed in a couple of days there was no compelling reason to keep these paths clear.

At the top of Houghton’s we decided to break the rules and walk a track that had been closed for some time. It was slowly disappearing as the bush took over, there were a couple of moments when we had to scout around a bit to find the trail as tree fall and new growth hid those faint traces of prior human passage. I can see how easily it is to get lost here. The bush is spectacular, lots of nikau, rimu and kauri. Punga trees, ferns and cutty grass line the trail.

I wish I knew more about the various bushes and trees, both here and in England. I can see that even in these low hills the variety of plant life varies at the different altitudes and I would love to be able to describe why.

Dropping back down the far side of the ridge we cross the Wainamu Stream, the exiting path slightly upstream from the entry. Luckily the stream is not running too fast, or too deep. I am foolishly wearing long trousers. Good for the cutty grass, but not so good for stream crossings.

The stream marked a low point, a valley bottom. Half way round the walk, naturally this meant a schlep back to the top, to the next ridge. grrrr….  At the end of this track we had the ‘which way do we go now?’ discussion, the signs and the map not helping. Up was the right way, which was lucky as up we went, though we went that more based on feel than fact. Sometimes feel is right. These old signs are slowly being replaced with newer, modern, shiny white and orange signs. None of which I think will last as long at the old wooden signs, signs from youthful walking and camping sessions in these hills.

More uphill, more greasy track and windfall clambering, more bush bashing. This is why I love the Waitakere Ranges so much more than Epping Forest. Epping is not a bad substitute, and it certainly gets muddy and slippery, but it does not have the short steep climbs and the range of flora is limited, it feels less ‘jungle’ Most disappointingly, it does not have all these lovely and photogenic streams.

Our rolling ridge loop completed we were back at the top of Houghton’s Track. It is always so much easier going down, and I only slipped once, not quite landing on my butt; very close though. I was getting quiet tired by this stage, not having had a lot of sleep over the last week due to the time difference from London. The second (or was it third) large whisky late into the previous evening certainly didn’t aid matters, enjoyable as the evening was. We have been walking for four hours and I ran out of water a while back. I know when I am tired as my feet catch every second rock or root and each slippery patch gets closer to catching me out. Even so, I would rather be doing this than walking a mall – which I did yesterday.

Houghton’s Track ends at the bottom of the hill, back on the flat, on the far side of Wainamu Lake from the dunes and the car park. It is a boggy and wet slog back along the Lake Track and was one of the least fun sections of the day. However, it does lead to the lovely Wainamu Falls, looking quite calm and pretty with the right amount of water flowing over them.

Behind us is a valley connecting the falls to the lake,  we had approached the falls up the valley from the other side of the river. We could see the flood flattened grass, the water mark up the bank was scarily high, there must have been a metre of water flowing through here after the rain a couple of weeks ago. You cannot see the normal flow of the stream in this picture, it is off to the right and I could have easily jumped over it. I cannot imagine how it would have looked and sounded as a raging torrent. Like all wild streams and rivers, these can be very dangerous in flood, two young lads drowned not that far from here only a couple of weeks ago.

I had been thinking that we were pretty close to the end as we left the falls, but there was still a way to go. As we rounded the lake an early autumn squall passed, we stopped to don rain jackets, but by the time I took a picture and put my coat on the rain had passed and humidity briefly increased.

The last few hundred metres were mostly spent walking through the stream, it is shallow, but with all the rain it was too wide to bypass. Private farm land on one side and steep sided dunes on the other meant wet and sand filled shoes.

The stream narrowed just before the car park, forcing us to crab walk up a steep dune face to avoid the deeper and faster running water. My shoes were black with sand, and all I was thinking was ‘I am going to have wash these before I go to Australia on Tuesday.’  We soon arrived at the trail head and on to the waiting car, and lovely tin shed near the car park.

It was an excellent afternoon out, my second to last day in Auckland and a fitting end. I am pretty sure there was not more than a few seconds when one of us was not talking. I must note that more than once on the uphill bits I was only capable of a grunt or two. I must get fit again!

Thanks Vicki, I love our walks and talks. Good luck with your training, and don’t get caught Smile x

Graeme Jefferries @ The Wine Cellar

Friday 27 April 2018. Wine Cellar, K’ Rd, Auckland, New Zealand.

I bought the first two Nocturnal Projections (NP) singles when they were first released back in 1982. Both were stolen when the flat I lived in in Green Bay was cleaned out by burglars early in 1983. My small collection at the time was a pretty good representation of the Auckland punk and early post-punk scene and the bands I used to see. Like most independent music in New Zealand not many copies of these records were pressed and I have not been able to find, or afford to buy them if I could find them since. I bought their third EP, released in 1983, and still have and play that now. They were heavily influenced by Joy Division and early Sioux and the Banshees, and those artists are visible in their songs. My favourite track is ‘Nerve ends in the power lines’ from one of those stolen EPs. Fortunately a German label released a CD of all their available music sometime in the 2000s, it is firmly lodged in the car CD stacker.

Graeme and Peter Jefferies were members and the main songwriters for NP and went on to form This Kind of Punishment (TKP) when NP broke up in 1983. I had not heard TKP before they first performed in Auckland in 84/85. I saw them at a gig at the Gluepot Hotel on a bill with three other bands I had not seen before. This live version of TKP was a three-piece with Chris Matthews from Auckland band Children’s Hour, another post-punk band, joining the Jefferies on stage. I think it fair to say we were expecting TKP to be loud, dark, and furious. They were not. Dark, yes. Loud and furious, absolutely not. Tracks backed by solo piano or guitar, I do not recall any bass player. They were mesmerising and beautiful, I have never been to a gig that was totally silent before, the audience blown away by the songs and the music. I was an instant fan.

I saw TKP a couple of other times after that. The final time was in 1985, a few days before I went to the UK to live for a couple of years. They were supporting Hunters and Collectors at Auckland Uni. It was the first and only concert I have been to where I, along with most of the audience, sat on the floor of the venue in stunned silence. A brilliant performance again.

TKP split up while I was living in the UK and Graeme started performing under ‘The Cake Kitchen’ with a revolving cast of supporting musicians, releasing a few EPs and LPs over the years. I have a couple of recordings, not being a fan of CDs I pretty much stopped buying music in the late 90s when vinyl almost completely dried up so have a few holes in my collection, which I will seek to rectify as old material gets re-mastered and re-released on vinyl.

Both of the Jefferies brothers built and have maintained a small but passionate following overseas, particularly in Europe and a lot of their material gets released on small independent labels. Dais Records out of the USA have been working with NP and released two records this week; the first is a collection of all their recorded output, and the second a set of live recordings. I have ordered the first of the LPs and it should be waiting for me when I get home. I am very much looking forward to putting it on the record player. The first two TKP LPs have also been re-released recently, though I still have the original, and increasingly more valuable, first pressings.

I would love to be saying that to support the release of these records that NP have reformed for some shows though that has not happened and is not likely to. However, Graeme performed a solo show tonight and I went along. Conveniently I was in Auckland at the right time.

I met my old mate Jeff at an Italian cafe on Auckland’s K’Rd, a strip of nightclubs, bars and venues that has existed since before my time. We had a couple of beers and a very nice meal before heading along to the venue – The Wine Cellar. I have only been here once before, it is small, with decent beer and an excellent sound system. For a small crowd and a solo show it is perfect.

Graeme was supported by i.e.crazy, another solo performer. I am not sure how to describe her music; dark electronica maybe. I mostly enjoyed her short set. I like the Beard of Bees LP sleeve design as the backdrop.

With no bands being involved there was not much equipment to faff about with so it was quite a quick change of artists and Graeme was on stage on time, and nice and early in the evening. Too early as not that many people were in when he started, most choosing to be out in the bar area. As the place filled up I moved my way towards the front and sat down on the floor, mainly to not be the tall dick standing in the front. I was joined by other sitters soon after.

He played for about 45 minutes, using both the guitar and the electric piano, with songs from all three of his previous bands, I am guessing most were from the TKP years, though there were were a couple of songs I did not recognise.

I was really hoping that he would play ‘The Sleepwalker’ my favourite TKP song, however it was written and sung by Chris Matthews on the ‘Beard of Bees’ LP so I was not surprised it wasn’t played. He did play ‘The Cake Kitchen’s ‘Dave the Pimp’ which I thoroughly enjoyed.

On the side of the stage was Graeme’s flying V electric guitar, I was really hoping he would play it, as that would signal to me a Nocturnal Projections track. Sadly it was not to be and the Gibson SG was the only guitar used all night, it still sounded good. He has quite a unique style of guitar playing, and it was interesting watching him play, along with his quite unique voice and some fabulous songs made for a very enjoyable, though sadly brief show.

I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was over all too early. Thanks Jeff for securing tickets for this sold out show, and thanks for your company, it was really good to see you again.

Rangitoto Island.

Monday 23 April 2018. Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand.

Walking from the hotel to the waterfront Auckland appears to be one large construction site. Just like central London only the buildings are newer and uglier; the harbour not distracting from decades of bad design and poor planning decisions by a variety of careless and care less councils. For 9.45 am on a work day downtown seems lifeless and deserted. There are few people about; some tourists and some who look like the street is their home. Maybe everyone is in their office or school. It is school holidays this week so perhaps everyone has fled the city. Which is precisely what I am now doing.

I arrived in Auckland late yesterday afternoon, stopping over in Singapore for two hours on an otherwise non-stop 27 hours flying from London. Mum is away in Australia until Tuesday so I have decided to take two days off from people, stay in a hotel and just be on my own. I need the space, it has been a while since I had any length of time alone, and one thing I have learned as I have aged is alone time is critical to my mental health.

What I like to do when I am on my own is walk, preferably as close to nature as possible. There is a ban on walking in the Waitakere Ranges; my favoured Auckland walking place, so I am going to walk up Rangitoto instead. There will be more on the Waitakere walking ban in a later post; when I go walking in them.

Rangitoto Island is 25 minutes from downtown Auckland via ferry. It is a dormant volcano, last erupting, when it is arose from the sea about 600 years ago. It is my favourite Auckland sight, being close to symmetrical, and now a pest free reserve. Being created by volcanic activity it is largely made of scoria, and has become, over the decades more forested. As an environment it is unique, I love the place.

I was surprised at the number of people heading over on the ferry, though discovered when we disembarked that there is now a shuttle to the top. This goes some way to explaining those on the trip who were not built for walking up hills. I was not planning on the shuttle, there are a couple of walks to be done. I had a loop planned that takes me past the old bachs (pronounced batches), along the shorefront and then a slog up to the summit, back down again past the lava caves. I had 4 ½ hours, which seemed ample time; though I only made it back with 10 minutes to spare at the end.

Once off the ferry I waited for the rest of the passengers to work out which way they were going; most taking the shuttle to the top, before heading off on my walk, nice and alone. The first part of my walk took me past a number of the old bachs, these were detailed in my last post, so I will only add one photo here. It goes without saying that as a part of Auckland’s limited history, I do love them.

There is a road that follows the shore around one side of the island, to walk it takes just over an hour. It is pretty flat, a good warm up for the climb to come.

The shore line is quite interesting, predominantly dark, rough, scoria, with tufts of grass and a few mangrove sections. Pohutakawa trees are the main flora at this level and they have taken to the rocky shore with gusto. I am surprised that anything manages to grow here at all.

All over the island, the trees and shrubs are covered with this moss like growth, it is both quite beautiful and otherworldly eerie, like something from an ancient primeval forest; where bad things happen…

All along the shore there is driftwood, both man-made and natural, some bleached white and looking like the last remains of some previously unknown deep sea monstrosity.

There was a lovely grove of large, mature pohutakawa trees as I approached McKenzie Bay, these trees are known as ‘New Zealand Christmas trees’ and flower bright red for a very short time around Christmas, a shame to not be here then.

McKenzie Bay is one of the few sandy beaches on the island, the shuttle comes here and I was surprised to find only six other people here, pleasantly surprised I should add.

It also where the path turns inland and a gentle climb to the summit begins. I found this part of the walk less interesting, it was also warm and humid and though cloudy I could feel the sun starting to burn my ridiculously feeble, turned English, skin. I liked this tree, just growing all alone out of the rock.

Soon enough the gentle climb reaches that point when things turn upward, and the steps begin. About 300, apparently. I did not count them.

At about this point the tree line changed and we entered into a different type of forest, there was more soil here, trees have obviously been growing, shedding and dying for longer. Leaving matter for newer generations to grow in. There was a lot of beech, manuka and other trees and shrub species I know nothing about. (Note to self; learn more trees!). Time for a bit of blur action.

After significant time and effort Rangitoto is now a pest free island. No rats, no mice, no stoaty/ferrety/weasely things that kill flightless birds or raid nests of unhatched eggs. This has led to a large increase in the bird population on the island, and this was made quite obvious in the amount of bird call I could hear as I slowly walked up the last flight of stairs to the crater rim track, and almost the summit.

At the summit I finally caught up with some of the other folk who had been on my ferry, as well as a bunch of people who had come on the following. It was a lot noisier up here than on the trail. There is a great 360 degree view from the top, and I was surprised that it was slightly hazy over the city.

As the island is close to the entrance to the Waitemata Harbour ( the east facing of Auckland’s two harbours. The Manukau Harbour has its entrance on the west coast) and the gateway to downtown Auckland there was a military presence on the island for some time. On the summit there is an old observation post, along with the ubiquitous trig.

There was a lot of bird life at the summit viewing area, like many people I stopped to eat the lunch I had bought before I left the city (there is no shop on the island, part of the pest management plan), this obvious attracts the more curious, and greedy of the birds.

After lunch I took the short crater rim walk back to the top of the steps. On the walk I found this building dug into the rim, I am assuming it was some sort of ammunition or dangerous good store. It was has been well visited; inside there are the names of many visitors from a wide range of countries. Germany, Brazil and France all featured heavily, along with this missive from, I am assuming, an Aucklander ‘pigz are dogz’. Got to love the locals…

Heading back down the steep track I came across a few people still struggling to the top, welcoming them with a cheery ‘you’re almost there’, and hoping they would all make it back in time for the last ferry.

I took the short detour to the Lava Caves, these were formed when the island emerged from the gulf, and are tunnels burnt through the scoria by the lava flowing down from the summit. I am sure the island is riddled with them, but these three are all that are publicly advertised. In a rare show of planning I had bought a head torch with me, though the battery was pretty flat and it was virtually useless in the short tunnels. I had a look in a couple, but was not prepared to do any crawling around on my own. Though this 10 metre tunnel was high enough to walk through.

The circular route has been blocked by a slip and the path is closed, though the slip looks quite old, no-one has had the time, money, or inclination to re-open the path. Heading back the way I came I detoured off into the forest for a short way. The forest at this level of the park is wonderful, very ‘Jurassic Park’, rocky and viney, dense and lush, old looking, yet new. It would be great to be able to stay and spend a few hours exploring more deeply. The final ferry is at 15:30, so no time for too much off-piste clambering about.

I took a more strident walk down the final section of the path, looking back up to the summit as I crossed the line between heavy and sparse vegetation.

I wanted to get back to the shore line to have a look at the bachs on the other side of the wharf from where I started my journey, though I did not get the time to see them all before I had to join the throng and make my way to the ferry to take me back to the city.

I will bring El here next time we come to Auckland.