31 March 2005

Found a cyber cafe...

Badass Cafe on International Drive, Orlando has internet access! I really am no good at relaxing for a holiday. I expend so much effort in organising that I have no energy for the event itself. So far I have spent five days in a state of lethargy hardly able to even converse. Only minor things have gone wrong but as usual I blow them up out of proportion.

I so badly want perfection that I get inwardly angry at the slightest setback. Here's a good example: we checked out of a hotel today three days early because it's barely forty yards from I4 and we can't sleep. Mrs virgo is trying to have a good time but I am sulking. I have told her I will start speaking again maybe next week, I'm not joking.

Yesterday we went to Kennedy Space Centre and I began to perk up. What an amazing place! I went there about four years ago but it warrants revisiting. An awe-inspiring and humbling location. Tomorrow we go back to Merritt Island for a walk through the nature reserve. First I need to find a new hotel though. Somewhere quiet.

I only have an hour for $12 and there's e-mail I want to send so I'll keep this brief. I really will try very hard to cheer up I promise.

25 March 2005

Taking it easy for 2 weeks



Last time I will be walking this pier and boarding this boat for 2 weeks. I fear I will feel like I have lost a limb as I limp around on holiday outside the blog world.

To all my kind readers, I want you to know I will be absent from the Information Superhighway until 11th April 2005. As I expect you know I am flying the Atlantic in a Boeing to take a road trip through some Southern States.

Work has been particularly hard this year. The churning relentlessness of aggressive change for its own sake is not conducive to a relaxed state of mind. So you see I am really ready for a complete break. I hope I can wind down enough to enjoy the experience. I suspect Mrs virgo will as usual have to endure a few days of tetchy irritability and over-reaction before calm settles.

We arrive in Atlanta GA on Sunday 27th March, slither into an unfamiliar car and head off on a long, roughly oval route for two weeks. These are the stopping off points where I have pre booked hotels for one or more days:
Macon GA
Sanford FL
Tallahassee FL
Montgomery AL
Chattanooga TN
Stone Mountain GA

The longest stop is four days at Sanford. We have visited the Orlando theme parks a couple of times recently and although I want to be close to the that large centre of activity for shopping etc, I think this is better positioned for trips to the Atlantic Coast. For example I'm looking forward to exploring Merritt Island and other nature reserves.

I will have my Canon to record the view and who knows, there may even be something interesting enough to post here. Our two boys in their twenties are being left in charge of the house. I am hoping it will still be standing when we return...

"Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright
They just seem a little weird"

Cheap Trick – Surrender

21 March 2005

City Walls

Southampton City Walls sit grudgingly alongside modern architecture and street furniture. On a quiet winter's day you can imagine arrowheads emerging ominously through the tall slits and helmeted faces peering down from the battlements. Then an incongruous crisp packet blows across the scene shattering the illusion.

There are windows sitting curiously at pavement level in places, illustrating that the ground has been built up significantly over the centuries. The waters of The Test lapped the base of these walls over 1000 years ago, yet a 2oth century town planner had the temerity to agree to a telephone booth.

I know some of you guys like to see these pictures so I hope you don't mind me putting up a few. There are more to come, particularly of the Bargate but I need to get over to town early on a Sunday to get pictures without people!

(I have been hacked off with Hello lately and you probably noticed I started using Flickr. However despite no help from Hello I think I have solved why pictures weren't displaying. I have renamed them without spaces between the words and these worked today. Fingers crossed.)

19 March 2005

The passenger

There was an old man who used to catch my ferry every morning. Battered brown briefcase, dark blue pinstripe and white pocket handkerchief, you know the type. His folded Telegraph and thin greased hair were daily sights for some years. I never once saw him speak to another passenger though. Short-distance commuters seldom engage in deep conversation but most at least develop travel friends and perhaps exchange a few words. Not this man.

Same seat every morning, cheeks shaved and black brogues polished. He never made eye contact, just seemed to look right through you. Sad, because a study of his face left you with the distinct impression he would be interesting to talk to. Sometimes he opened the briefcase with a soft click and slipped a liver-spotted hand inside. He might have been rearranging papers.

Alighting at the quay he walked purposefully towards the High Street each day. Somehow I always lost sight of him in the shifting crowd. One day last year as we queued to disembark I passed his seat and was surprised to see the familiar briefcase lying unattended. The old man was nowhere to be seen so I flipped the catch and looked inside hoping for a name. The case was empty. I never saw him again.

Green waves still buoy us passengers up each day.
"Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today
Oh how I wish he'd go away."
Hughes Mearns

16 March 2005

Remembering Green Eyes

Like it was only yesterday, do you ever get that feeling? So fresh you can hear and smell it. Certain people, places and times have left that indelible mark on my soul. I can’t wash away the sentiments and they don’t fade with age. I move on but carry the past with me on my shoulders. I drank them into oblivion but they resurfaced. And they’re still here a millimetre beneath the surface and they came out today. This is someone I knew twenty years ago.

If you can tell all that from the piece below then I’ve made myself as clear as I can or you must be a mind reader.

Green Eyes

Fingers lightly tracing my cheek
Green eyes inches from mine.
Entwined hours after meeting,
Soul lovers weeping for real.
Matched as only a pair can be
Dovetailed and blinkered to consequence.
Aching I remember your presence
My white-hot painful repentance.

Are you content now or restless
Your new car, new dog and house.
Trappings like those make you edgy
You need a friend not a spouse.
I condemned myself with a glass for our sin,
Your husband, my wife, both bled.
Am I over you now, do I give you a thought?
I can't get you out of my head.

I probably never said goodbye,
Just left you to scream on your own.
I sped to the edge and collapsed,
I couldn’t live with what we had done.
Gin soaked memories daily
Of a virgo scorpio affair.
I’m sure I don’t love you now green eyes
I just need to know where you are.

When you call me, you have to be dying.
Was that an unspoken code?
One day there’ll be no tomorrow
To carry this crippling load.
Our lives are running out so fast
It’s late but it’s not the last call.
I don’t need to know where you live,
Just don’t die, don’t cry, walk tall.

"We were lovers
We were kissers
We were holders of hands
We were make believers"

The Stills – Still in Love Song

14 March 2005

Mercury Rev

Mrs Virgo hit the shops on Sunday. So after an hour of vacuuming, cleaning and doing virgo scrubbing and tidying I had the rest of the day free for blogging, guitar and man’s stuff. Between clicks I was watching MTV2, Kerrang, The Amp and Scuzz etc... most of Sunday morning like your regular 47 year old kid does. Went out for an hour and returned to a mysterious ansaphone message.

‘S’ from work was inviting me to see Mercury Rev at Southampton Guildhall on a spare ticket. Course I’ll come I replied, work tomorrow but who cares. I have heard a couple of albums but am generally unfamiliar with the band’s credentials. Nonetheless, keen for a second gig of the week, I screamed into town in record time on empty roads.

Support came from “The Duke Spirit” a London trad rock outfit I’d seen before. Debbie Harry attitude but without the looks or the voice. Enough said. Interval time and we ageing rockers swerved to the front with our thinning hair and knowledgeable good looks! I did not know what to expect but I have to say I was blown away by Mercury Rev. They won me over straight away with their entrance. They spent a couple of minutes waving to the assembled crowd of 600 or so and beaming wide smiles of genuine gratitude. Singer Jon Donahue seemed intent on making eye contact with everyone up to 5 rows back!

I was treated to music of the very highest calibre and coming from me that’s praise. Astral and narcotic in the extreme. Vocals were loud and clear, guitar was effects-laden and dreamy, drums were hard and fast, bass deep and sharp and piano high and bright. A thick and moody lightshow washed over proceedings throughout. These were consumately professional performers whose back catalogue I will be giving a severe going over. A rare humility pervaded the show even to the last. An encore was predictable but as the band grew ready to leave the applause quickened and an impromptu “one more” was offered. Sterling stuff.

“I'm so close I'm almost inside
Won't be long before the mystery is mine”

Mercury Rev – Racing the Tide

12 March 2005

A pigeon-hole in the head

Mysterious doors to an ancient way of life are round every corner of Medieval Southampton. My lunchtime walks take me past several examples. Parts of the old walled City sit incongruously beside modern glass and steel.

I try to pigeon-hole many things. People, places, music all need labels and can then be eased into a category. Very comforting to have drawn concrete conclusions. One quite large slot is reserved for stuff I review once and consider irrelevant. Forming an opinion for me is almost immediate and I seldom change my mind.

The doors pictured above could represent the permanent shutters to my pigeon-holes. These doors have existed a long time and don't look as if they are going to re-open any time soon. I am curious to know what lies behind them. Maybe I should re-examine the labels I have applied to life's events. Cut the seals and re-assess.

'I am always right' is a belief so engrained that I don't even question the mind-set, still less the opinions I have formed. Habits of a lifetime are hard to break and I am a creature of habit and addiction. I feel uneasy at the thought of change, perhaps I may just experiment by re-assessing one pigeon-hole first and see how that goes.

"I know what’s on your mind my boy
I can see oh everything.”
The Libertines – Vertigo

11 March 2005

The New Dylan?

 "Bright Eyes” played the Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea on Wednesday 9th March 2005. Conor Oberst has a superb mastery of words although the comparisons with Dylan I have read may be a little premature. Nonetheless he is a true modern poet. The set list comprised all of “I’m Wide Awake it’s Morning” and a couple of tracks from the less accessible simultaneous release "Digital Ash in a Digital Urn." Best gig I’ve seen there in years. “Lua” was worth the entrance money alone. I won’t write a magazine article just some sights and smells.

400 share shoulder to shoulder intimacy. Bathed arena soft deep crimson bleeding into green. Young and fragile, cracked delivery almost shy. Conor Oberst 24 and ancient. Poet, singer madman Nebraskan heart bare in Hampshire. Lank hair features covered eyeliner. Blue sweater no pretence. 6-piece stunning harmony, pounding bass drum thuds my chest. Guitars cutting through cigarette smoke, beer and sweat.

Staccato percussive chop on muted strings. Mandolin sweetness with mournful brass then pedal steel in full sway. His back to us then comment thrown glibly over shoulder. You may like it you may not. You may be indifferent. Old beyond youth ignores cameras popping flash. Near silence greeting ‘Lua’s’ brushed chords. Declared critic of our fried food. Bending upending bottle by the neck eyes staring piercing defying. Pregnant pause when I’m ready not before.

Pure beauty perfect pitch words of love and death. Plastic beer glass underfoot picture phones wave lofty salute. Screaming raging shouting hatred dread all true. Encore unaccompanied breathtaking rich. Plead yearn insist a bard of subtle touch.

“We might die from medication but we sure killed all the pain.
What was normal in the evening by the morning seems insane.”
Bright Eyes – Lua

08 March 2005


The long grass bathed his legs in cool dew. Perhaps ten minutes to the top now. His breathing deepened as the incline rose and his heart pumped. Early morning but the sun was already high and burning his neck. Today June was definitely his favourite month.

Bending to the hill he pushed hard for the last few steps and his blood coursed. He brushed a salty bead stinging the corner of his eye. As the ground levelled he surveyed the familiar scene and smiled in appreciation of his secret hilltop. Rabbits kept the grass short for him up here on the city’s steep roof. He sank to his knees on the soft velvety pile and rolled onto his back. Breathing easier now he looked to the sky and his focus drifted out to infinity.

He stared into the sheer cobalt blanket above. At its terrifying zenith a chalk line was scratched into the blue and at its moving end a silver speck glinted. It carried tiny souls 8 miles high, in heaven's void. His chest rose and fell smoothly, filling with sweet clean air.

A robin in the tight bramble whistled his insistent song to the breeze. The sleeper listened but lay still on the warm grass. Soon he would stand and drink the steep view, see the patchwork folds of the county and the miniature orange roofs. This climb set his world into perspective. He hoped for another 40 summers but he would honour each one as the last.

Big strides took him down. Looking back he saw the rabbits had already emerged to resume their busy chewing. Small hearts beating like hammers, as they cropped his grass sheet. Lower and lower he scrambled leaving the sky behind. On the horizon he saw soft grey smudges and shapes of soft white cotton in the blue above.

"Today is the greatest day I've ever known
Can't live for tomorrow, tomorrow's much too long."

Smashing Pumpkins – Today

05 March 2005


In the aisles of the DIY Superstore most shoppers are thinking about tile grout and paint, not poetry. I find myself gazing at bath taps but thinking, “now what rhymes with suffocate?” In HMV I see a youngster counting a small handful of coins by the singles stand and I feel a wistful tale of compassion forming.

I put too much of myself into this. I’m emotionally drained. Last night I was dreaming about communication. Transfixed in front of a small plasma screen I watched e-mail notices arrive in torrents. Electronic filters ensured they slid effortlessly into their assigned slots, nestled in folders with friends' names, keen for replies. Three browsers are open, switch to tracker see the ISPs, flick from 'compose post,' to notepad to Outlook. Endless cycle. Eyes closed, head in hands, drifting, dreaming...

I am dimly aware of the cursor blinking in Notepad like an impatient foot tapping, nagging me to type. I need a subject so I scroll through a list of half developed ideas for inspiration. Nothing seems appropriate today. More blog comments arrive by e-mail and I scan them quickly... Now I bash out a short poem about tenderness or something. I select an appropriate picture from my camera files. No, wait that needs cropping first. I rub my tired eyes.

Cropped, tinted and tagged the photo traverses the ether and drops snugly into place. Now to finish I need a lyric. Something pithy, maybe emotional, certainly memorable. Can’t think of a song even. What’s my favourite song? I drink a long, long glass of chilled water. I haven’t even looked at my blogroll today, I groan with worry. I think I'm losing it.

Now there’s a tug at my shoulder. “You ever coming to bed?” “Leave me alone,” I snap. “I’m working, I’m trying really hard to...”

“You’re asleep. You’re dreaming. The PC’s not even on!” “It must be,” I mumble in protest. “My friends are talking to me."

“Dreamer, you know you are a dreamer.
Well can you put our hands in your head, Oh no.”

Supertramp – Dreamer

04 March 2005

Georgia on my mind

...and Florida and Alabama and Tennessee. Holidays are on the horizon and soon we‘re off on a two-week clockwise tour of some Southern States. Until three years ago I had never flown, my feet were firmly rooted to the ground. In 2002 I closed my eyes, swallowed hard and flew in a great white bird. Having cracked that fear of flying, Florida has become our regular summer destination.
Previously we stayed in rental villas in Port Charlotte and Haines City but this year we have half a dozen hotels booked starting in Georgia. August school holidays is our usual time as it fits with Mrs Virgo's work. Despite the great dollar rate when viewed from here in the UK, I need to somehow manage a new bathroom this year too, so we are economising with an Easter Sunday flight. We jump in a rental car in Atlanta and drive. More details to follow... Two suitcases have already appeared down from the attic. So! I'm a preparation freak! I'm a Virgo!
Upbeat mood today so we sail the unfamiliar waters of delight. Green Day have just come on MTV giving me 'American Idiot' blazing away in the background. I’m tapping my feet. Am I too old to rock and too young to die? Wrong on both counts.
I used to hate holidays, I couldn't relax. But now I'm learning to like them. USA by 777 sure beats our rusty ferries to France. You'll know I'm excited when I tell you I have about twenty location maps printed off the net, a folder full of hotel reservations, a detailed itinerary and an inventory of stuff to take. (Of course I need nail clippers! And string! And a pencil sharpener! and...)
By nature I tend to see my glass as half empty rather than half full, so you see I can't force happiness. I'm not often going to write an entry which reads: woke up happy, was happy, went to bed happy. I want to grapple with things. Some of my cyber friends have towering issues in their lives that put my situation into perspective. I'm happy today.
"Remember when you were young
You shone like the sun"
Pink Floyd – Shine on You Crazy Diamond

03 March 2005

Spine-tingling highs and lows

Another gratuitous picture of my guitar but today I make no apology. It suits the mood I felt half an hour ago. The missus went out so I cranked up the hi-fi and felt the noise. Now let me say this guys not my favourite but the song is a killer, loud, proud and simple.

Sometimes I really get it, really feel that screaming rush of euphoria. There's no room for anxiety, sadness or worry it's all squeezed out by elation. But it's just too intense to last, like the brilliant flare of a dying star. I felt it just now listening to the crashing opening guitar on "Summer of 69," raw slightly dirty valve-amp power. Well he had one good song in him...

It's like a fierce adrenaline rush and there is this haunting awareness it could be sustained, chemically. After the high comes the low, the sense of disappointment. Nothing can ever be that sweet again. It’s music that really does it for me. Music with all its passion and intensity. Yep popular rock has visceral power. Now gimme my guitar...

"I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it till my fingers bled
It was the summer of '69"
Bryan Adams - Summer of '69

02 March 2005

Blooming gorse

New Forest ponies in the road are a common sight at Beaulieu. You just stop the car until they wander away and they won't be hurried! Last weekend's walk took me to Hatchet Moor where the new gorse was blooming. The vivid yellow attracts ponies, donkeys and cows all of which eat it. Quite alarming, as it must be as comfortable as chewing upholstery needles! However the cattle do have lips and tongues like leather.

There are 140 square miles of ancient forest and heathland just five minutes drive west of my house. I know I'm lucky but it's so close you take it for granted. I've lived in the county of Hampshire all my life so have walked this countryside a lot yet still I'm finding new parts to explore. It's a fantastic escape as you can walk for miles and not see a glimpse of civilisation.

'Hello' Picture Sharing seems to have sprung back to life so images are on the menu again. I couldn't see a monthly limit Grace, so call it a glitch. There that's a bit brighter today isn't it!

On the inside looking out

Why fret over what people think of you? Should another’s opinion even leave a ghost of a trace on your soul? Some sign perhaps but not a scar. To want to be thought well of is so achingly human. It is just so hard to believe those you have come to care about see good in you. Yet common sense says they must or they would not keep your company. Here again I reflect my own sentiments onto a third party. That way it feels less like a confessional and I handle it better.

“You know, you are your own harshest critic!” Yes he knew he was and her words still hammered in his head hours after their utterance. Even that was criticism and it cut him open. He loved her unconditionally as a friend and would lay down his life if asked.

He had waded through stinking swamps for years not caring about anyone. His friends drifted off one by one until he was left only with leaches. They sucked him hollow and fell away when he left the bar. Learning to find good new people had been frightening. His new heightened awareness screamed for comfort not criticism. Since he broke off his affair with the bottle his senses were sharp as any razor.

He had discovered the capacity to love those he respected and he yearned for that love to be returned. Scrambling out of the deepest darkest pit had been a success but the price had been high. Sometimes it felt too high. He judged by his own dizzyingly high standards and his love demanded honesty and kindness in return.

Dimly he heard a friend’s voice calling him, reassuring him. The truth burst into his consciousness. She was really saying he had no critics but himself, everyone else liked him at least a little. He awoke crying hard. Hot salty tears of relief streamed down his cheeks. Now he had to try to explain those tears.

01 March 2005

Check your lottery ticket shadowman

A clumsy oaf walks through doors that are not fully open, bangs his head and cracks his knee. He sometimes breaks beautiful new things and in short is better not trusted with anything fragile. Last December while surfing for Christmas presents he tripped over Blogger. Curious at his discovery he turned round and inspected it, sniffed it, held its to his ear and shook it. Mmm, this deserved further investigation...

He hit the next blog button one hundred times, read and marvelled. Now here was an outlet he might explore. Perseverance uncovered sparkling gems, like-minded people such as he missed in real life. Creativity awoke as if from a coma and roused its companions, inspiration and imagination. He peered into the abyss of his mind and saw words dripping in love and compassion, welling up from the deep and tumbling onto the page.

Cautiously from the shadows he speaks to others now and they reply. He wants to talk about love and addiction and sadness and sometimes joy. He shares pictures and words with new friends he thinks will appreciate them. Writers, thinkers, painters, pipers I thank you all. I'm taking good care of this fragile discovery.

I’ve emerged a lucky man so I’m checking my lottery ticket. A giant heron is flapping lazily over my garden, head down looking for lunch. Life goes on.

“I got plans and dreams and hopeful schemes enough to make you cry
I’m just waiting for that single perfect point in time to give them all a try”
Slobberbone – Lazy Guy