I need your help.

Just over a year ago I was travelling through Portugal and Spain with Canadian smilewright Ella Munro, everyone’s favourite multi-lingual Winnipeger. Good times and a new friend, plus highlight after highlight as we wandered Iberia.
Now – one year later – Ella is coming to Aotearoa.
As you can imagine, I have talked up this fine country of ours, but sadly I won’t be there to help make it live up to the hype. So I’m calling on you, ye readers – those of you who are familiar with New Zealand, at least – what would you recommend to a traveller spending December in the land of the long white cloud?
Anything that jazzes you. Hidden corners that won’t be found in a Lonely Planet, as well as obvious places that just should not be missed! (She should have access to a car at some point, so out of the way is fine.)
Share your favourite places. Even better if you say why they are special, like Karen does in the September 19 entry here.
Go on, click ‘Comments’ and write. Make me a happy morgue.

Beginning to Exist

Well, okay. I think I’m here now. And in the process of figuring how this will fit in with other means of communication.
BLOG OPENING SPECIAL! I have typed up a first draft of a horror movie screenplay called ‘Cold Night’. I will email it FREE to anyone who asks! JUST BECAUSE I CAN!
It ain’t finished – the ending is rushed, it has a saggy middle, and I’m starting to suspect it ain’t scary – but I’m still sorta happy with it.
So, yeah. Here I am. Now, you speak.

a soundtrack

RUNAWAY by Del Shannon
As I walk along I wonder a-what went wrong
With our love, a love that was so strong
And as I still walk on, I think of the things we’ve done
Together, a-while our hearts were young
I’m a-walkin’ in the rain
Tears are fallin’ and I feel the pain
Wishin’ you were here by me
To end this misery
And I wonder
I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder
Why
Ah-why-why-why-why-why she ran away
And I wonder where she will stay
My little runaway, run-run-run-run-runaway
—— Musitron solo ——
I’m a-walkin’ in the rain
Tears are fallin’ and I feel the pain
Wishin’ you were here by me
To end this misery
And I wonder
I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder
Why
Ah-why-why-why-why-why she ran away
And I wonder where she will stay
My little runaway, run-run-run-run-runaway
A-run-run-run-run-runaway

already in motion

and through came the noise, through the wall of wax, whistle-thin, pointed. Brushing someone else’s hair off my page so I can write, thick weeping willows of hair rich in aroma.
mirror writing, despite or because of the noise. I step through and see what I have written from beneath. These are my mirrored words:
“if you mess with this, the karma pigs will oink against your soul”

[morgueatlarge] the aftertaste of chocolate

is in my mouth. mmmmmmm. I had a late-night chocolate crepe. all of europe has a sweet tooth but this really is ridiculous – a delicate crepe liberally sprinkled with sugar and then thick, melted chocolate poured warm into the folded nest and then you just can’t quite eat it fast enough and the chocolate goes all over the white plate and it really is divine…

———-

i am in Montpellier. It’s a great town, elegant and sincere, with a pedestrianised heart that keeps going and going. I’ve found it a bit hard to penetrate the nightlife, much as I found Toulouse by night somewhat impenetrable – both student towns, both very pleasant, but unless you want to stand and drink alone they can be difficult after sundown.

i spent a bunch of days in scenic Auch, west of Toulouse, before heading here. There I enjoyed the hospitality of my childhood friend Julian McKenzie, working in Auch as an English language assistant in the high schools. We’ve had a fine old time, and he’s taken me to a different bar each night, and introduced me to a pleasant bunch of fellow tutors. In Auch there is a cathedral and a statue of d’Artagnan, so I’ve seen both of those about a thousand times as well.

France is interesting. The suburbs look more like suburbs to me than elsewhere in Europe. The people I’ve found to be very pleasant indeed, even as I butcher their language and drop its twitching corpse in front of them and expect them to LIKE IT, okay??? Let’s just say I’m better at listening and reading French than speaking it.

(This is the perfect point to note that I had to jump through numerous hoops to study French in my sixth form year, leading to the pleasant solution of being sent to the girls school down the road for that class… it might even have helped my French a bit. More notably, it gave me a wonderful friend, hey Melissa!)

(okay, it also gave me a good story to wheel out when schooldays talk gets going, but thats by the by.)

———–

the place is about to close around me and I’ve barely begun to write! more will have to wait. I had a coffee in a cafe last night and filled 16 pages of notebook with furious scribble, so there are definitely things to be said.

in the meantime, I’ll just recommend those who have time to check out Krzystof-from-Barcelona’s webpage, its fascinating reading.

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/journal/?pics=small&doc;_id=120

a bientot!

morgue

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[morgueatlarge] Another flashback: San Sebastian

I spent a few nights in San Sebastian. These nights just happened to be over all saints day, which are pretty big-deal holidays in Spain. On arriving at the train station and finding via phone that the hostel was full (despite promising us there´d be no problem when we´d called that morning), we actually listened to one of the room touts at the station.

(Whenever you arrive at any place with a backpack on, there will be someone at the station offering you a room at a handy price. Usually the best plan is to walk past these people, but they can come in useful, as here.)

We ended up in a dinky little room right smack in the middle of town, about two doors along from the big fancy hotel that, the tourist brochure gushed, was where all the big names stayed when they came to town for the San Sebastian film festival! So the location was great, and the price wasn´t bad at all, thanks to some nifty negotiation by Ella.

We went exploring of the old town, which is right nearby, and find large numbers of bars, a reminder that this is a big tourist town. The oddest thing is stumbling on the presence of a fifty-foot woman, well, perhaps thirty feet – I came up to her shin. She was made of cardboard and dressed after Xena, and promoting the San Sebastian festival of horror and fantasy films, which was going on all over town. She loomed at the end of a long narrow street, and whenever we walked through the old town we´d glance down and see this woman with her sword in the air far, far away. It was, I have to admit, pretty fun.

San Sebastian consists mostly of two beaches, which are both beautiful. One of them is excellent, yellow sand and pleasant surf and long and wide, but the other is simply magnificent, a glorious curve of archetypal beach-ness that just kept going and going. Hence the tourist destination. At night the beaches become the domain of groups of teenagers drinking under the walkway, but they´re still very pleasant, and the strange curve of the bay inside the harbour mouth gives rise to interesting surf. At either end of this beach are hills, neither of them too large, one of them rising up over the old town and playing host to a grand lit statue of Jesus, which itself rises out of an old castle/fortress… we explored the fort by night after finding the gate unlocked, which was hair-raising and not exactly informative, but did give a great night-view of the city when we hit the top and relaxed at Jesus´feet.

The other hill is climbed by a cable car, which both Ella and I weren´t interesting in using, so we tromped up the road. It´s on a similar scale to, say, Mt Vic, maybe a bit higher. Anyway, just near the top we find the road blocked by a guy with a road barrier and a sign saying you have to pay a euro to proceed, because, apparently there were restaurants and a lookout up top. Well, we weren´t standing for that nonsense (its the *principle* of the thing), so we settled at the side of the road just in front of the barrier, where there was a pretty stunning view, and hung out. For a very long time. I thought the guy would be perturbed but he didn’t seem to be, Ella was convinced he was having too much fun raising and lowering the barrier arm when cars came up or down to really care about us. He did seem to enjoy raising and lowering the arm.

On our last night in town, we went to a bar for tapas – small snacks that you consume with your beer, arrayed all over the bar surface in an enticing smorgasbord – which served as our dinner. I can´t even describe the things I had, but they were all very nice indeed. Then we found a notice saying there was a free movie at a cinema down the road. So it was that Ella and I ended up watching the ’57 Hammer classic The Abominable Snowman, starring Peter Cushing, in the foyer of a cinema with one other guy and the cinema staff. Peter Cushing is even more dashing with a Spanish voice.

—-

Ella is gone, and I strike out alone for Toulouse tomorrow. From the calls I’ve made, everywhere seems full. Will I find a bed? Will I survive? Don’t touch that dial.

—-

Jocularity from the UKers in the hostel after the All Black´s big loss in the rugby test to England. Hope all of you back home are staying indoors until the riots have ceased.

morgue

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[morgueatlarge] Back in Barcelona. (Okay, with another flashback, but I need to.)

I didn´t talk about Barcelona last time I was here, except to say it was great and I was going to come back. Well, I have.

——

The past few emails you´ve probably noticed I´ve been mentioning this person called Ella that seems to be in all the same places I am. The reason is we´ve been travelling together for the last couple of weeks. She´s Canadian, which (as those who know my history will know) is an instant bonus point, and she´s a writer, which earns another. She, like all the best people, is capable of being utterly absurd and deeply profound, often within minutes of each other, and with complete sincerity for both. (I´m even stealing from her in saying that.)

She’s a Winnepegger. She has long brown hair. (Clear enough mental image for you?) And she´s become a fantastic friend very very quickly. She´s been supporting me through emotional rollercoasters and a nuisance of a cold (which is now all but gone, thanks for asking) and she´s generally an amazing person.

But, in terms of the stories I am telling you, there´s one thing you should remember: she speaks French and Spanish, and she could get by in Portugal as well. The deal is, she´s the translator, I´m the bodyguard. (Stop laughing. Stoppit. Yes, I know, I know. Look, she´s much better at her job than I would be at mine, but I figure I can play the odds on this one a few more days. Just shhhhh. She thinks I know kung fu.)

So we´ve gone to some places I would never have gone to alone. I´d like to take this opportunity to publicly give the big big ups to Ella.

———-

Anyway, so I´m back in Barcelona. Yesterday Ella and I went to see the Sagrada Familia (my third time, still amazing) and Parc Guell (my second time, still amazing). I had been craving getting back to the Park – it´s my favourite place in the city, I think, even knowing that the city is full of great places. The last time I was there I didn´t get to linger as much as I would have liked…

…cue flashback music, go to black and white…

(1) morgue wandering around Barcelona with two reasonably normal looking American guys of a similar age to he… VOICEOVER: …because I´d fallen in with some jumped-up crazy punk rock guys from Fargo, Shipley and Mark.

(2) Mark stroking his beard and thinking about Amsterdam… VOICEOVER: they´d seen some interesting things on their travels

(3) Shipley lifting up his t-shirt and rubbing his nipple, apparently while dancing, as onlookers regard him, appalled. SFX: that “its getting hot in here” song VOICEOVER: and picked up some interesting habits

(4) The trio in montage at Pârc Guell, past the amazing works of Gaudi, strange pillars, crosses on a panoramic lookout, the steps with the colourful lizard, the corridor that looks like you´re inside a cresting wave, and more, faster and faster and faster, intercut with Shipley looking more and more uncomfortable. VOICEOVER: but the real problem was the quart of juice Shipley sucked down at the wrong time.

(5) Montage goes past faster and faster until it´s just a blur and suddenly CRASH CUT to still shot of Mark and morgue hanging around outside the toilet. The door opens, Shipley comes out, shaking his head. He pauses, looks thoughtful, turns around, goes back inside. (Astute observers will note that Mark looks somehow gleeful.)

(6) Different shot. Still waiting outside the toilet. VOICEOVER: the gates were opened, so to speak.

…end flashback, back to colour…

So. This time, Ella and I were careful with our food and drink, and we were fine. It´s a stunning place. We could have lingered for a long time. I´d like to think, if I was a local, I´d go there often. Places like this shouldn´t ever be taken for granted.

Barcelona keeps opening up new possibilities. I could stay a lot longer, but the road onwards is beckoning.

——-

Shout outs to my amigos from Fargo, who I have shamelessly mocked for purposes of your amusement.

morgue

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[morgueatlarge] Flashback to Lisbon

First, Leon followers might remember this from an earlier email:

“Leon has headed off on his own, back to London… He´s going to try and get things going in the theatre scene, and with a bit of effort and a pinch of
good luck I´m sure doors will start opening.”

Well, he´s now working backstage on this thing Ken Branagh is directing. So. Now you know. (The show is called ´The Play What I Wrote´, check out
http://www.theplaywhatiwrote.com/ for more info.)

——-

Okay.

Second, while Percy´s funeral was occurring back home I was wandering the streets of Barcelona alone. I was pretty tired from travelling, and I´d been in a bar with some new hostel friends, and then I just wandered a bit. And I ended up checking my email, and received a flood of messages from people who´ve been reading these emails. And it was actually a really important thing for me. So thanks.

——

Third, because email has been so bitsy and inconvenient and quite frankly I’ve had other things on my mind, I´ve given pretty scattershot coverage of the last several weeks.

Here´s a flashback.

I stayed in Lisbon until Thurs Oct 24. You´ll recall I wanted to see fado, but ended up eating pizza and watching a video with Lisbon native Tanya and hostel-friend Amund. Well, my local contact Rui decided he was going to do something about that, and two nights later he mustered his compadre Ricardo and they went to meet me at the hostel, as arranged by email the day before.
The problem, of course, was that I had completely screwed up what day I was doing what and had in fact crashed out in bed when he arrived. Rui and Ricardo sat in the bar for what must have been hours waiting for me and finally sent the guy at the desk up to knock on my dorm room door. Guys at hostel desks don´t normally do that kind of thing, but there you go.
(Actually, the guy at the Rome hostel kept running messages for me as well.
Maybe I´m a bad hostel guest.)

So I´m just starting to drift off to sleep and there´s a knock and the door opens and the guy says there´s some people downstairs, and I jump out of bed and get dressed and run down, and along the way I realise what I´ve done ´- lost track of what day was what. There was a rogue Munsday in there that threw out my calculations, I guess. (Munsday = that day of the week that either should exist or accidentally does.)

So, Rui and Ricardo are astonishingly gracious, and won´t even hear my
abject apologies and general feeling of foolishness, and we jump in
Ricardo´s car and head down to Alfama. Alfama is the real old town of
Lisbon, the part that survived the 1755 earthquake (hope my date is right
Rui). It´s a hillside crammed with tall and narrow lanes and tiny squares,
honeycombed with small bars and restaurants, full of atmosphere. We enter this little fado bar and order a beer each and sit. There´s hardly anyone in the place. Things get weirder when three of the clientele reveal
themselves to be the musicians and singer by ending their break and taking
the floor. And then they began. There were two guitarists, one playing a
conventional instrument and the other a portugeuse guitar, and the singer. He was an older man, immaculate in suit and tie, holding himself very straight, and he sang and they played and it was amazing. Throughout I was reminded of the flamenco singer I´d seen in Barcelona and his dishevelled
appearance, his movement, the wildness in his song. This couldn´t have been more different, and yet the same in so many ways, deep expressions of
profound sadness, heartwrenching emotion, laying out the truth of life. Rui
and Ricardo said that it was an example of the difference in character between the Portuguese and the Spanish.

The musicians took a break. Rui and Ricardo told me about the history and
importance of fado and soon the musicians returned, this time with a young man singing (yet another of the audience transformed into performer), his voice full and rich, technically brilliant, although perhaps his heart wasn’t old enough to have learned the sorrow of his colleague.

And all of this to Rui, Ricardo, myself, two other locals, and the bar staff.

Astonishing. I recall Tanya´s words from when I was asking her about her nation and culture – “we are a sad people”.

——-

Thanks Rui and Ricardo. And I better also point out that the only impression I´ve given of Tanya is ´don´t waste your time with Fado, eat pizza instead´, which isn´t a very good picture. She was full of love for her country and full of insight about what was around us, and it was thanks to her that Ella and I made our way north from Lisbon to Geres, land of the giant slugs – but that´s another flashback.

——-

morgue

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[morgueatlarge] a train ride

I’m in San Sebastian. There is a beautiful whitesand beach and the sun’s
coming in like it wants to see what’s going on. Not much is, there’s only a
few people, the season is off but the weather’s still on. It’s a nice place
to sit and think.

In the first minutes of All Saints Day my grandfather, Percy Patrick Geddes,
passed away.

He’s one of the reasons I’m travelling. Growing up, it seemed to me that he’d been everywhere there was to go. He and my grandmother Felice drove all over New Zealand, all over Europe, to so many places. I was always finding out about more places he had seen and I’m sure there are plenty more that I still don’t know about. He loved to travel.

He was a great grandfather and a great friend and a great role model. I guess I idolised him without even realising it. He did living the way it was meant to be done.

——–

So I was sitting on the train on the other side of the world from my family and I’m feeling every mile of the distance. I love to travel by train, and that’s another thing I get from Percy, railways man with the train set in the garage; I love to feel the carriage rock, love seeing the scenery scrolling past. The trip from Leon to San Sebastian goes through barrens, wide swathes of brown with low hills scattered with deep green, the sky thin
and grey. I was remembering all the things there are to remember and
feeling the ride carry me forward, a bit overconfused, a bit down, and I
began to wonder if I could even call the image of him to mind.

As if in answer, I suddenly saw him right in front of me, sitting on the seat ahead and facing me, smiling, wearing his thick coat and his hat and smiling that way he smiled. It was incredibly vivid, like my brain was
slapping me upside the head for being so foolish: of course you can remember him!, it said to me, look! And my imagined Percy grinned at me, nodding agreement.

It felt good.

——–

Family, I’m thinking of you.
Friends, thanks for the support, especially Cal and Billy and Ella-on-the-spot.
I’m getting on, and travelling. The last thing I said to my grandfather before leaving new zealand was that I was following in his footsteps. I didn’t say this bit, but I meant not just around the world, but in life. Because, like I said, he did living the way it was meant to be done.

Take care everyone. We are a beautiful place.

morgan

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