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It’s the first Saturday of August. After being held prisoner all night with an overactive mind I’m sitting, surprisingly comfortably, in an empty, early morning, coffee place in an English market town. So guess it’s somewhat like my childhood, except with better coffee. And the money to buy it. And wifi. And the person making the coffee reminds me of Lena Dunham in Girls. And the coffee place has the spacious, relaxed, brick wall feel of a coffee place in an American midwest town. Okay, it’s nothing like my childhood then.

Thank God.

This last year has been frustrating, though not as much as the previous three which felt like going backwards, while the body relentlessly aged. Health, in a wider sense, has had knockbacks, but there’s been more positives than negatives. Some legacy issues have been sorted. Others are in the process of being sorted. Some remain, kicked into the long grass for probably another year.

I’ve written more in the last year than any of the previous ten, but most of it isn’t public. A combination of nerve, legal worries, a lack of editorial skills – I still cannot figure out how to do apostrophe’s – and wondering if there’s any audience for these texts means most of it stays in the digital vault. Yeah, I’ll come back to that.

People I know, or knew, have had children, gotten married, gotten divorced, died. Less family deaths this year, but there’s not many relatives left now. Planes fall from the sky, rockets fall on schools, tanks roll into towns, diseases wipe out communities. The news is a relentless reel of grim; there is no dog on a skateboard any more. Twitter isn’t significantly more positive, but at least there are cats there.

Always cats.

And no matter what you do, or what you don’t do, life perambulates on everywhere else.

I’ve cut back on social media and use it more sparingly and less like a sugar addict in a sweetshop. In both social media and real life most people have been quietly dropped. I’ve escaped the city, my biggest mistake of several big ones these last six years being to not realize, or remember, that I’m happier out of the city than in it. Though that’s tweet-simplistic and there’s a bundle of probably contradictory feelings, on Birmingham and Detroit, to unpack at some point.

I’ve walked a lot of miles and seen a lot of trees. One or two may or may not have been hugged when there’s been no-one around. It’s probably the beard.

But though these are fields and trees, they are slightly familiar fields and trees. The country of my birth, which I don’t love but have learned to tolerate, still holds me while its health service (one of the pluses) fixes me, a frustratingly long car service at the biological garage. Home, in heart and mind, are a long way away and I feel like a semi-detached visitor on this island of sixty million. The contrails in the sky are my route map; the sound of the wood pigeon a daily reminder that I’m still here, and not there.

+ + + + +

The most significant event this last year was a malfunction, several months ago. Though, on reflection the most significant event may have been my inability to properly pack a large glass jar of coffee in my suitcase a few days before. Yadda yadda yadda coffee grinds and broken glass in seemingly everything, including some tech.

Thus my backup drive, instead of purring in its usual digital cat manner, screeched in a high pitched and almost violent fit, then suddenly went silent. The air filled with the chemical smell of some kind of plastic-metal melting or burning. Instinctively I knew this, whatever it was, wasn’t going to be fixed by a software upgrade.

On contemplating the digital death of the apparently sentient drive, I realized what was on my computer was the only versions of many things. And that computer was over half a decade old and would one day unexpectedly keel over, perhaps in sympathy with the now-smoldering drive. I could have run out and bought another backup drive, but that would have continued my usual bad practice of dumping everything on there in a random manner, with the good intention of sorting it all out one day.

A good intention never carried out. And I’ve written several times about this good intention, of sorting out all my old ephemera, and the started and abandoned blogs (several) and social media (many) accounts online, and making it all neat and tidy and online and blah blah blah. But never actually got off my 45 year old English ass and followed through. Always a job for tomorrow. Tomorrow never came.

But now, in the gaps between medical appointments, work tasks, waking up and the first coffee working, it made sense to do the big sorting out and saving and backup. To “nidificate”, as Becky told me; to build a (digital) nest.

The first task, sorting through and backing up everything from the laptop in some kind of ordered fashion, is pretty much done; all 14,319 files. Various “clouds” (look, a cloud is just some remote place you FTP stuff to – no magic) now house my stuff. More clouds house backups of other clouds. I should be able to survive at least one security breach, or cloud owner going under, or laptop eventually joining the old backup drive in digital heaven, without losing my stuff.

The second, much longer, task is underway; moving some of this stuff into one “blog” or place. The name was supplied by Becky and is appropriate, so it’s eventually my home for previous posts – everything except for the long-form decent writing which stays here on Wordshore. And by everything, not just the conventional posts of extremely variable quality, but ephemera such as posts from the quirky BBC Island Blogging thing from the middle of the last decade, most of the posts from this site, some of the descriptors from Flickr pictures, diary entries of varying tones from current times to some years back (effectively a private blog), possibly some other stuff I’m looking at now that may cause the odd ruckus. A smorgasbord of often quantity over quality. And the ride won’t always be fluffy and pleasant; I’ll leave the fakery and the trying on of personal hats to social media.

Why, rather than delete it all and start afresh? An aide memoir. Some context for what I do. An experimental place for writing. Hopefully a reminder of previous mistakes so history doesn’t get repeated (yeah, right). A few records being set straight (“history is written by the one who remembers to backup his shit”). And a memory stamp when digital history, and the history of digital, is being silently removed at an increasing pace. To explain; all six UK academic organizations I worked at or for, doing digital library and informatics stuff, between 1995 and 2004 have closed down in the last five years. Some of these have archived their stuff; some have rammed it into one database; some have chosen to just wipe everyones work from over the years (seriously, CDLR; wtf?). Yes, there’s the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, and it’s great – essential, even – but it takes time to browse around historical timelines. And what happens if the volunteer-funded Wayback Machine itself stops?

So, Nidificate it is for much of my online texty stuff that’s currently scattered online and off. This will take a long time to do, as it’s the work that fits in the gaps between everything else. It’ll certainly take a lot longer than a year, so on the first Saturday of August 2015, I’ll hopefully be typing about what is done and what there is still to do. Maybe.

All who you can’t leave behind

All who you can’t leave behind

It’s early February.

I wake up in a different place, these days. South Birmingham, as opposed to the tiny part of Balsall Heath that became a base for a gradually lengthening period of time, as months collapsed into seasons, gave way to years.

It’s quiet here. My room looks out onto the bowling alley shaped back garden attached to terraced houses such as these. From the wobbly window there are views of many other gardens; trees; no roads; houses of differing interest; sheds; the occasional distant sounds of gleeful rabbit enthusiasts; an upper working class suburbia that the English made, tinker with, and continue to cling to.


This house itself is … unconventional. There are trapdoors, hidden cupboards, windows in peculiar places, and an unusually large bathroom that can only have been designed by a retired, sex-addicted pirate. It’s somewhat different, floating in a bathtub and surrounded by pebbles and candles and dimmed lighting, with eyes wandering across paintings of Naiads in various stages of undress and amorous desire. This is not Birmingham. Not staid suburban stereotypical Birmingham, or minimalist, cheap and functional Ikea-England, but something else. You suspect, or hope, that this bathroom has previously been enjoyed for salacious purposes involving many people at the same time, and if you found out it wasn’t, then you’d be disappointed.

That long and narrow garden invites exploration. It’s not eternally, horseback ridingly long, but just lengthy enough to get a small fragment of a sense of wilderness, albeit only three miles from the centre of England’s second city. Three cats patrol this hidden country; none live in the house. There are trees, a variety of trees, blossom starting to push outwards on one, but maddeningly no fruit trees. I stare with some envy, and more than a little disgust, at the splendid apple tree in the neighbour’s garden, where a full crop of hundreds of apples lies on the ground; unused, uncollected, uncherished, uneaten, rotting, a banquet for crows and squirrels but not for the ignorant people who shout and slam their way in and out of their house. I look back, to here, this place, follow the converging parallel lines to the end fence. A shed, a gate under an arch of ivy, a pathway, seats and benches, stepping places fashioned from tree stumps and placed in a pool of mud, a second garden with a second shed, a secluded area with signs of previous things created, things burnt, memories forged.


And things burnt inside the house. A fireplace that functions; metal, tile, grate, a clear chimney. Joy, and the recall and reminder of years and lives past, of peat fires in a Hebridean cottage for half of one decade, and coal fires in a rural Worcestershire cottage for two. A few memories amongst the many that this place, and the time it occupies, stirs. This fireplace has become my domain (perhaps a good thing, as the kitchen bemuses and baffles me); experimentation with wood and log and smokeless coal (hot, but aesthetically dull) and other inflammable materials. The flames and the colors and the glows and the embers to stare at, in late evenings, and remember some things and forget other things.

There are other aspects of this house and quirks within. The set-up for working is the best I’ve had since Hebridean years; an antique writing desk that perfectly suits the MacBook. There’s a downstairs toilet with a transparent glass door. The built-in bookcase occupies a corridor. Paintings of a paganistic and fantastical nature jostle with candlestick holders. So many different wooden surfaces, furniture, with grain and color and texture to distract and follow, and tactile hardwood floorboards that invite barefoot walking when the fire is lit. A quiet place, illuminated sometimes by just the light and crackle of fire flame and candle flame. And in the daytime, the sunlight. The way it creeps and peeps through the gaps between the wooden slats over my window. The red and the green and the blue beamed through the stained glass windows. The dust and soot and particles caught, embarrassed, when clouds scatter and that sunlight pours through the kitchen windows.


And this house is quiet because of the people within. My housemate, her wont to never stray too far from the jar of tea bags, is one of the loveliest people you could ever meet. She busies with her work while I frown at mine, interrupting myself occasionally to poke at an unburnt log or lump of glowing eco-coal while I listen for the inevitable sound of a kettle. She counters the aesthetic background of Boards of Canada by cheerfully humming Rolling Stones tracks from a different time, in a different room. This works, and this place works.

But in three weeks, I have had a grand total of zero visitors. That suits me fine, having quietly “unfollowed” 72 out of the 81 Birmingham residents I’d ended up connected to on “social media”, ignored all local social events, and stopped answering emails and messages from many of those people. Transition through shades of isolation. Though, having said that, it seems almost comically ridiculous and shallow, when looking into the flames of the fire that has warmed my (and your) species for millennia, to give gravitas to the oft-fleeting nature of “online connections”. Whatever the heck they are.

And while not a complete hermit – I’m back up to following 11 Brummies, albeit four (and soon five) of them related – the slightly-trimmed beard and the long, occasionally ponytailed and greying hair are perhaps appropriate for the demeanor of a person who both wants and needs this silent time to finish considering what else and who else to leave behind; and to sorting out his head, his possessions, his gradually repairing body and the next “stage of life”, whatever the heck that is, as best he can.

It’s early February, 2014. It’s spring time. This, for a short while, is a quiet place and it is my place.


Don’t shush me, I’m tweeting the speaker

Don’t shush me, I’m tweeting the speaker

(The title is a play on librarian cliches and stereotypes, and on the worst book title in the field of games in education)

A better title is Dealing with Bunheads.

Twitter has been around for over six years. Other forms of social media have been around longer. Phones, tablets, laptops, and other devices where you can type while sitting at a presentation, seminar, workshop, conference or other event, have been around for many years, decades. And emails, mailing lists, usenet news groups, and other digital textual forms of presentation have been around for longer than quite a lot of the population, possibly some of the readers of this post.

And yet, at library and librarian conferences, there’s still reports of people in the audience asking, or telling, other people not to tweet. Seriously. I can’t believe I’m typing this in mid-2012.

It seems to happen on a regular basis at UK library events, less so – but not unknown – at US ones. Here’s a tweet from a conference earlier this week:

Tweeting problem

Here’s a comment by Jo the librarian on a post by Phil Bradley, from 2010 about a regional library organisation AGM from earlier that year. The whole comment included to give some context:


At the same event, another tweeter was also intercepted by a dinosaur who had some kind of objection to her ‘blackberry’. Lots of comments on this one. And lo, another post by someone else at the same event.

This hasn’t just happened, in the UK, at CILIP events:


This has also happened in the USA, at the American Library Association annual conference this week past, where it happened to Kate and she posted about it on the ALA Think Tank Facebook group (a recommended thing to join):


Kate adds some info on who and why the tweetophobe said what they did:


There are variations on this type of objection. For example, Sophie writes:


There are far worse things than someone next to me using a smartphone, laptop or other device, at a library conference. These, ALL of which I’ve experienced at library conferences in the UK, include:

  1. The agent orange. Ridiculous amounts of aftershave or perfume, creating a natural ‘killzone’ around the wearer. Perhaps they are on ‘the pull’. Or perhaps they are too lazy to shower, and it’s to mask…
  2. The hobo. Bad body odor. Not the kind you get for running for the train that morning, but from seriously deficient personal habits.
  3. The muncher. Crunching their way through tube after tube of polo mints. Or some other bag or container of rustling sweets, due to an inability to wait until the break for refreshment.
  4. The slurper. People who have a cup or mug of coffee or tea, and loudly slurp. Every. Single. Damned. Mouthful.
  5. The stirrer. Usually the same person as the last one; people who stir their tea or coffee, in a mug, noisily using a metal spoon for several minutes. This is the only time (I think?) I have physically threatened someone with actual violence at a library conference. He left, suddenly, probably as a better option than having the metal spoon surgically removed later in the day. I’m a little unnerved by how close this came to violence, and I retrospectively apologise to everyone who overheard. Even if I was provoked.
  6. The yakker. People who talk through the whole session with the person next to them, on stuff that has nothing to do with the presentation. I mean, why the hell did you bother to turn up?
  7. The sniffer, who sniffs every five seconds, as regular as clockwork. Closely related to the throat-clearer.
  8. The crotch fiddler, as you’re aware of it, and as it is repeated, you’re not sure how innocent it is and whether you should move far away.
  9. The frakker. So called because they are their own personal gas drill well, emitting – sometimes loudly – gaseous material into the near locality. This seems to be prevalent amongst men of a certain age at UK library events. Or maybe I get repeatedly unlucky about who I sit next to.
  10. The tutter. He or she tuts at nearly every comment the speaker makes.

Suggestion to ‘The tutter’. If you want a wider audience, join twitter and tweet about what’s wrong with everything the speaker is saying.

If you can articulate your displeasure.


Okay, I’m turning into Jerry Seinfeld. But, whatever. All of those are far worse than someone silently, without offensive odor, typing away on a device. People don’t publicly object to any of those ten, saying “Sir, you smell worse than the rear end of a dead horse!” or “Madam, if you suck those boiled sweets any louder, windows will shatter and dogs scatter!” Perhaps they should? But some people will complain about tweeting, despite tweeting being a positive and useful thing:

  • More people – many, many more – get to hear what the speaker is on about. That’s not disrespect; that’s amplifying. Tweeters are doing the speaker, and the event organisers, a huge favor.
  • The event itself is promoted more.
  • The speaker is critiqued. This is good. And from the many, many events I’ve followed on twitter, it doesn’t turn into an anti-speaker mob; at worse, there’s snark instead of vitriol. At best, there’s praise.
  • Extra information; links, context, additions, corrections, are added by the event twitterati to the speakers presentation. Good for him or her to review afterwards.
  • People tweeting, like note takers, will retain, remember, more information about the speaker.
  • Tweeting is good. It shows that at least some in the profession are comfortable with information flows through all media. Or, to put it more shortly, that they are information professionals.
  • Actively blocking tweeting is bad; contributing to the death knell of the profession. It’s off-putting to many people to join and gives ammunition to anti-library organisations that librarians are stuck in the past and irrelevant.

The objections to tweeting appear to fall into three categories:

  1. “You may be showing disrespect to the speaker.” I have a tiny bit of sympathy here, as the twitterophobe possibly has good intentions, but is just utterly in a different – previous – world as to how things work at events. Some education is required.
  2. “I don’t like technology, and therefore I’m going to make up ridiculous reasons why you shouldn’t tweet.” No sympathy here, and the twitterophobe shouldn’t be at Information Professional events. Or, arguably, in the profession.
  3. “I hate change. And I hate you, because I’m not young any more, and you are, with your virility and technology. This is my organisation, because I’ve been in it for decades and you haven’t. And there’s nothing you can do about it, because myself and like-minded people run it, and others in the organisation are too frightened to say anything in case we leave and stop paying our fees.” Again, no sympathy. Every elephant his graveyard, every dinosaur his tar pit.

What to do if someone tells to you stop tweeting, or typing, or messaging. There’s a few approaches that don’t involve violence or the threat of same:


Or tell them you aren’t stopping and they are in the wrong. It’s important that you stand your ground as you are not in the wrong. Or, stay sitting on your slightly wobbly conference seat. Inform them that they can move to somewhere where they won’t encounter people tweeting, if it upsets them so much. Perhaps suggest North Korea, if you want to get flippant.

And then ignore them and tweet about them (which is even funnier if they are looking at your screen). Any decent conference or session organiser will pick up on this, and possibly intervene with dealing with the tweetophobe.

Alternately, if it is someone on a power-trip or being passive aggressive, take a picture of them and twitpic it. Let’s see the bunhead.

Concluding how this started; I’m still finding it hard to believe that this goes on in mid-2012. Not in huge amounts. But it does.

An American trip: October and November 2008

An American trip: October and November 2008

During October and November of 2008, I took a month-long trip around the US of A. The main mode of transport was Amtrak train, and the trip tied in neatly with two conferences I was speaking at – one of which was in Chicago on the day Barack Obama was elected (and one heck of an evening that was). I did a lot of writing on that trip, thinking it was just a few people in the Outer Hebrides and a few friends and colleagues who were reading it – and not realising until recently that others were too, for various reasons. I’m relieved now I didn’t delete the words.

Since demolishing my blog and, essentially, restarting all of my online presence as new as I can, the diaries have gotten messed up, but they should be restored here as a set of 32 postings.

Don’t know which post was the “best”, but a few folk have said the Surviving New Orleans posting is their choice because of the tweeted engagement story in it. Mine is the Texas one, where I seem to have just lost inhibitions and fears and just … wrote.

Oct 18th – Los Angeles and Santa Monica

Oct 20th – Pictures, not words

Oct 21st – Sleepless in Monterey

Oct 23rd – Monterey aquarium

Pier from the sidewalk

Oct 25th – First overnight trip on Amtrak

Oct 25th – Breakfast in Seattle

Oct 26th – An afternoon in the mountains

Oct 26th – New York deli breakfast in Seattle

Oct 27th – Montana at dawn

Oct 28th – Whitefish, Montana

Oct 29th – Sign of the times

Samantha at Tucson station

Oct 29th – Election, American style

Oct 30th – Do bears…?

Oct 30th – Is black the new ginger?

Oct 30th – Election day events in Chicago

Nov 1st – Whitefish to Chicago by Amtrak

Nov 1st – GLLS2008 food

Nov 2nd – American time, British time, Obama time

Nov 4th – Chicago on election day


Nov 4th – Outside, it’s America

Nov 5th – “Oh, you look so beautiful, tonight…”

Nov 5th – The morning after

Nov 6th – In America, academics knit

Nov 7th – Goodbye Chicago

Nov 8th – Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee

Nov 8th – Memphis, and the ride to New Orleans

Nov 10th – New Orleans (1)

He won

Nov 10th – New Orleans (2)

Nov 12th – Surviving New Orleans

Nov 13th – Texas: a thousand miles of bugger-all

Nov 13th – The American Dream

Nov 16th – Trip summary

There’s also a set of pictures on Flickr, some of which are embedded in the postings anyway.

Surviving New Orleans

Surviving New Orleans

Rolled in to New Orleans on Saturday afternoon. The Amtrak station is off the centre of a town, and I had to get a taxi to the hotel (which I would come to despise) on the south of the river. The hotel turned out to be a converted motel. Partially converted. My room was on the ground floor, literally next to the street parking lot. No other rooms available (allegedly). Various signs warn guests to use “Every available security device”. Hmmm. It was also a non-smoking room that had been used by smokers and not renovated, and so it stank.

Determined to get my money’s worth, I went to inspect the hotel pool. Noticed “New Orleans Police” tape around part of it. Decide to give it a miss. Inspected laundry room. Washing machines very rusty, so looks like the next laundry will be in California. Or Mexico if plans go awry. Thankfully, the hotel runs a shuttle bus through the Algiers district to the short hop ferry across the Mississippi. The Algiers district has bags of interesting architecture; lo-rise detached houses that are found across Louisiana, but with lots of flourishes and individual touches. That doesn’t detract from the poverty, which is obvious. Though many of the cars seemed of a shiny and expensive nature. My first evening in New Orleans was spent wandering. I’d had a shave (this is rare), put on a clean shirt and shoes. It was good; I wandered through the French Quarter and found my kinda bar. Low-lit, quiet, subtle attentive barman, no-one under age of 25 or so, napkins, well-mixed drinks. The place where you can watch and think and no-one hassles you.

French Quarter

Sated, I returned to the hotel and went online for rather too long. Much to write, think and do. Somewhere around 2am I fell asleep. At 2:19 according to the room clock, am woken by several people hammering on my door. Regretted handing back Grizzly Bear Repellant in Montana. After a few seconds, someone shouts “Wrong room, he on the upper floor.” The hammering stops and I listen to footsteps running away.

Exchanged tweets with several people for a while, carefully double checked the locks on the door, then fell asleep again.

Woke up alive. Bonus!

Sunday morning. After last night’s excitement, I fancy a quiet morning. Actually after the last, intense, week I fancy a quiet year.

The hotel had stopped doing breakfast at a time before that stated, so I got the bus and ferry and wandered into the first nice restaurant I found in the French Quarter. It’s in a scenic spot, opposite a white walled church, trees, and foilage.

And then … this happened.

[Side point: Why me? Why do I keep ending up in these situations?]

I start twittering as it seems best way to try and get an instant record of it (though I didn’t really think about this much). And it’s one hell of a story and on every other sentence I’m saying “What?!” or “Really?”. In the remote chance that Simon Bates reads this – it topped anything on “Our Tune”:

Sunday morning. New Orleans, French Quarter. Sunshine. Quiet. Newspaper. Breakfast tea. Louisiana and the world are most agreeable places.

Observing man proposing to partner across the road from restaurant. He’s picked a heck of a good location.

She accepts; hurrah! He looks combination of relieved, very happy. She’s crying. He’s twirling her around in the middle of the street.

They’re in here. She’s excitedly showing engagement ring to staff and customers. He’s sharing my pot of tea and he needs it.

Waiter is playing tunes on the piano for the couple.

Heck of a story, which he’s okay with me twittering. Got their own place; were literally blown out of N’awlins by Katrina a month later …

… wanted to go back but ended up in long battle with all authorities. Insurance turned out to be worthless. Moved to his parents …

… in North Carolina, as her parents wouldn’t accept him. Struggled to make income and she had whoa! scary medical bills HOW MUCH??? …

They had to split for financial and work reasons. Bad. In civilised world surely couples shouldn’t have to split to find work far apart.

He was going to go abroad; she heard, couldn’t afford plane, even bus ticket from Oregon to North Carolina. Hitchhiked while ill across USA!

Intercepted him. Obviously emotional meeting. Decided missed each other, more important than money. Decided to fight on for moving back.

Bugger, getting tad emotional here myself. Must hold it together for the tweets :-(

They’ve moved back. Literally rebuilding their house, though in different part of New Orleans, brick by brick. Clawing dollar by dollar …

… out of debt. They’ve been supported hugely by some family, work colleagues, neighbours. Lack of support from official sources shocking.

“My great ganddaddy built a house out of the dirt of North Carolina, so I’m building one for us out of the swamp and mud of New Orleans.”

Feeling very humble at this place and moment.

@shifted Thinking administration 2000-now are essentially evil “look after own” bastards. This couple like Dwayne, they just want to get …

… by, have their own home in the city they love, probably raise a few kids, be healthy.

This couple are very much like Dwayne. Have inner determination to make a go, succeed, and they have amazing support network of people.

Heck he says he had the ring but knew the time was right to propose when he saw the result at 10pm last tuesday. Dude, that is awesome.

Okay slow down ma’m I can’t type that fast.

OMG they’ve decided when she’s better and they have their first child he/she would be named “Hope”.

Mentioned was at Grant Park, Chicago last Tuesday. Now recovering from being unexpectedly hugged/crushed by very newly engaged person.

Feeling a bit shaky, physically and inwardly. Ordering more tea.

Advising couple IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS that they HAVE to sort out rights to their story. Deserves to be heard, and could …

… help them out with medical bills, house rebuilding, money to support them and Hope. Making them sit and listen.

Tea is here. All three of us need it. But feeling I should leave love-smitten couple alone to enjoy their first day of engagement together.

Insisting they enjoy their first meal as newly engaged’s together. And need to compose myself a tad.

America, why do you keep doing this to me? Everywhere I go seem to meet interesting, extroadinary, determined and lovely people.

Bit shaky. Tea not providing calm. Need to close laptop, go off grid, walk, think. Thanks Twittersphere for DMs, tweets over last hour.

Paying for couple’s breakfast though they don’t know it yet. Humming “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day.” Out into the Louisiana sunshine.

I felt completely… (don’t ask, as I don’t have the vocabulary for it), while at the same time felt humble about what the couple had gone through and what they were doing.

As I type this a few days later, am still thinking about them, as I will for a long time. And I’m looking forward to the wedding invitation. I wandered through the French Quarter and back towards the Mississippi, discovering lots of interesting little bookshops on the way.

Wished I had more time to spend there. Sat on the river bank; a paddle steamer thingie chundered by; life was good. A family sat down nearby; “Where you from?” I told them. They were from Georgia, and I ended up sharing their picnic meal, while they talked about how the economic collapse was affecting their village. More wandering, through streets lined with balconied buildings, some draped with ferns and foilage. Street musicians were out in force, of a consistently high standard, as pompous reviewers would say. I found several t-shirt shops and the items I was looking for. Then I found the cafe recommended to me by the chef I met on the train out of Memphis, and had the seafood gumbo (a large pot of, well, stuff) and the three-piece fried chicken.

Connie and Gumbo

The clientele was rather diverse. Students, tourists, locals, local performers. Including a quartet of transvestite strippers who I made possibly the mistake of batting back some general smut to. An adolescence spent watching Carry On films (Sid James’s laugh is, for me, the sound that defines Britain) held me in good stead for a while. But they ratcheted it up, and as my meal was over anyway, and they were hitting the cocktails, I left.

I wandered back to the ferry, through the bawdy part of New Orleans. And possibly the smell of a hundred passing cigarettes of dubious origin had an effect as I felt quite relaxed and floaty. People were dancing on balconies. Colours were bright. I wandered, stopping for the occasional drink and tweet (Samantha is so easy to take out, tweet, then put away). Vendors offered various services and facilities that I suspect would not get trading licences in the UK. I refused them all, unlike several groups of male students who I observed being led into various clubs of an adult and intimate nature, I suspect to emerge a little later much lighter of wallet.

I get back to the hotel. Online activities occupy me till the early hours; packing left to next morning. Didn’t really look around the room at all before going to sleep. BAD THING NOT TO DO.  I woke up in the night; something didn’t feel right; fell asleep again.

Monday morning and it was time to check out of Hotel du Crappy. I tottered into the dining room at 8:50 to find all the breakfast had been put away. A member of staff informed me that due to a lack of interest they’d stopped early. Okay, then due to lack of riches they won’t mind if I stop paying that part of the bill. Attempt to shower; two cochroaches in the bathroom. Open shower curtain. Huge cochroach in bath tub that would be a match for Cletus and Bubba back in the Hebrides. Remove cochroach with the aid of an ice bucket. Shower. Notice several bite marks on me. Pull back curtain. Nasty looking spider (black with red markings) falls off it into bath.

Accelerated drying and packing. Open door. Another spider scuttles into room. Really getting fed up at this point. Stamp on it. Stamp out of room. Stomp to reception. The receptionist asks “Did you enjoy your stay with us, sir?” and probably quietly regrets asking, for the next 15 minutes. Taxi to the Amtrak station; plenty of time, as it turned out, and added bonus was that the Post Office was next door. Wondered if any employees would look like Seinfeld from Newman. They don’t. Attempt to figure out priority and express delivery to send things to the east coast of the USA; give up and let the staff do it. Very happy people. Am asked (yet again) what I think of New Orleans. Reply honestly in the positive, but don’t mention the hotel. They seem pleased.

Amtrak station; train time. No country for old men next…