Stupid individualism and the possibility of an alternative
Stupid individualism and the visionOntv templates.
Our templates for video journalism are designed to radically simplify and empower normal people to make coherent video news pieces using the tools they largely already have. They are successful at this if people fallow the template's – it says this at the end of most of them.
The issue that creates failure is a standard one for the possibility of an alternative, I call it this “stupid individualism”.
The disparity of wealth on the surface and poverty of the underlying human condition (some would call this “spirit”) is striking to many thinking and feeling people. Our shared western society is based on a hegemonic false senses of individualism, were the reality is largely faceless conformity thinly covered by lifestyle fashion. This is the bases of consumer capitalism our “wealth” is built on. The world view atomises any possibility of building an alternative and shows up in as a block in most attempts to build one.
Our templates boil down more than 30 years of experience of awarded wining fast turn around video journalism to a A4 cartoon sheet. The instructions are clear and complete, if you fallow these, after a few attempts you will likely have mastered the bases of audio visual story telling and from this point of mastery opens a whole world of creativity and real genuine individualism.
Very few actually get this far and we know this because we have trained thousands of citizen journalist over hundreds of workshops at both undercurrents and visionOntv. Why? I would put fowered my old friend/foe “stupid individualism” as the prime explanation (though would admit the are technical challenges as well).
The impotence of the template is more in what it doesn’t say, the is much more information in the omissions, this is how it fits on a A4 with pictures. It distils what does work and explains this.
People do not fallow the template, often they do not even pick it up and read it, they then go onto do what THEY think is video making, they do all the bits that the template purposely omits and very few of the bits in it, the result is almost always a dis empowering mess. This is the same thing with all groups we work with.
We live in an individualist society, were we are all “empowered individuals”. The problem is evident in that this is our empowerment is an illusion, we are all dis empowered individuals with egos let lose on dispoling mode. We think we are empowered because everything around us that works is on bureaucratic auto pilot, we don’t actually have to create anything original and lack the base skills to so when the rare option comes round. Our templates are such a rear opportunity, if you can take your mind out of dispoleing mode and fallow the instructions – the first step and a rare hopeful sign for us as trainers is a budding CJ actually checking the steps on the paper template as they go though the filming.
This “stupid individualism” is a block on many parts of building an alternative.
In Praise of Idleness …another candle lighted
In Praise of Idleness
…another candle lighted.
Hitchhiking – Culture, philosophy and Life
By Hamish Campbell
Sociology Department Edinburgh University
I would like to thank the people who helped with this project, and the many who could have but found time to do other things, generally dull.
I would like to thank the people who helped with this project.
Lynne Jamison (patience and bravery), Alex Howson (foundation), Thalia and Ian Campbell (spellchecks, support and socialisation), Russell Sharpe (long term project), Sylvie Catteno (frustration and gratification), all the many drivers who picked me up, all the hitchhikers who generously gave of their time, Richard Wheeler (last minute proof reading), Josh Berryman (for ‘being there’), Malac (connoisseur of ‘madams’), Bridget Hasewend (for a spark), Jean Schepes (for being the best quotation), Alison Magnall and Patrick (for putting up with me), Carola (phD blues), Bernd Wechner (for being on the internet) and Cressida Coulson (who is marginally more use than a tree).
The Victorian Author R.L. Stevenson provides an image of the ideal type - the vagabond and inspiration to for this project. In An Apology for Idlers he argues that there are people that are not respecting:
“the dogmatic certainties of the ruling class…”
In my project this is the “youthful” romantically self motivated Hitch-hiker (HH), who rejects the certainties of their parents’ world to embrace the chances and opportunity of the open road.
“and that those who do not enter the handicap race for the sixpenny piece are an insult and a disenchantment for those that do… a fine fellow votes for the sixpence and goes for it… and while such a one is ploughing distressfully up the road it is not hard to understand his resentment when he perceives cool persons in the meadows by the wayside lying with a handkerchief over their ears and a glass at their elbow…”
There is a tension between those who drive and those who stand by the road, for work brings for the majority the opportunity to drive, and those who HH are seen as not working and thus not paying their way.
“It is a sore thing to have laboured along and scaled the arduous hilltops, and when it is all done, find humanity indifferent to your achievement… Hence physicists condemn the unphysical, financiers have only a superficial toleration for those who know little of stocks, literary persons despise the unlettered, and people of all pursuits combine to disparage those that have none”
The beggar standing by the road is an incitement to those paying their way, the HH’s plea is for “universal humanity” and the rejection of “use value”. Mr Worldly Wiseman in his car may say.
“how now young what dost thou here... is this not the hour of the class...”
To which the young perspective traveler replies:
“as a time may soon come for me to go on pilgrimage, I am desirous to note what is commonly done by persons in my case, and where are the ugliest Sloughs and Thickets on the road. As also what manner of staff is of the best service. I lie here by this water to learn by root of heart a lesson which my master teaches me to call Peace or Contentment.”
That is, the traveler strives for other “post-materialistic” values. At this Mr Worldly Wiseman was:
“much commoved by passion and shaking his cane with a very threatful countenance... Learning quotha.... I would have all such rogues scourged by the Hangman. He would go on his way ruffling out his cravat with a crackle of starch, as a turkey when it spreads its feathers.”
The prices of “accepting the six’s pence” to live a life of soft respectable blandness to be fattened for Xmas. Stevenson’s an Apology for Idleness is a plea that:
“idleness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense of identity... the sort of dead eyed hackneyed people are scarcely conscious of living except in the exercise of some conventional occupation... those fellows in the country or aboard ship... they pine for their desk or their study... they have no curiosity...cannot give themselves to random provocation... when they do not need to go to the office ....the whole breathing world is a blank to them… As if a man’s soul is not small enough to begin with, they have dwarfed and narrowed theirs by a life of all work and no play.”
His conclusion is the subheading of the project.
“A happy man or woman is a better thing to find than a five pound note. He or she is a radiating focus of goodwill, their entrance into a room is as though another candle had been lighted.”1.
This Victorian view is of course only one side of the sixpenny piece.
1 p103-8 R.L. Stevernson, An apology for Idlers
What is a Hitchhiker? 4
Research Methods 6
What I have done 7
Initial project outline 8
Project completed 9
Social History: Beggar - Vagabond – Hitchhiker 11
The Vagabond – Liber Vagatorum 12
Sociology, Ideology and Philosophy 18
HH biographies 23
Why do people HH? 26
Where do they come from and were do they go? 27
“The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking” 28
European Countries 32
Data from Edinburgh to Istanbul Fieldtrip 35
Further Work 37
Appendix 1 46
The image of the hitchhiker has attracted negative and positive attention in recent years. Predominantly, the discourses on hitchhiking have drawn on the horror and danger of both giving lifts to and accepting lifts from strangers. There have always been historical upsurges of hitchhiking, when it has been considered fashionable and convenient. In the 1960’s, for example, hitchhiking became a way for young people to express their rejection of an authoritative and alienating society. Few studies have critically analyzed the experience of hitchhiking. Having the personal experience of hitchhiking over 3 decades, I believed that the essence of hitchhiking is a positive, romantic one and decided to examine how this is reflected in the sociological and historical literature. In addition, I undertook a personal hitchhiking journey to research how hitchhikers and drivers understand, think and feel about hitchhiking.
Freedom and creativity are at the base of our idea of the “good life”. The question of how these ideals are to be pursued are a continuous thread running thorough all our academic and social debates. This project is about how small isolated groups through out Western European history have endeavored to live out the possibility of the ideal of individual freedom and creativity. A historical and contemporary examination of the self motivated Hitchhiker and in an historical guise, the vagabond.
From a Western mythical perspective, the first tramp was Cain, the last will be the Wandering Jew. The story of the wandering man (and mostly man it is in our history) stretches back to before the Biblical tales of Christ’s temptations in the desert. I pick up the trail in the 12th century with the founding of the monasteries, the mendicant begging orders and the universities. This history plays a significant role in our romantic idealization and rationalistic rejection of the contemporary Vagabond.
I set out to look at HH in its widest aspects, the pilot study revealed that my research methods, doing HH and living as a HH, would lead to an examination of a subgroup of HH. This was amplified by the European nature of the project, the only real language I had was English, though I can get by in “pidgin” in most of Europe – and good will -the language of emotions and signs, though universal, is not so useful for textual analysis. The middle class and educated of each country is overly represented, though I did talk to all the HH and people I met. This project is thus a representation and amplification of their, and my own, bourgeois worldview - a contemporary look at middle class assumptions.
In literature, as in life the “free individual” is held as an ideal, a romantic rejection of everyday life. In this project, I have attempted to critically examine this idea of a free “creative” individual. One who makes life in their own image – rather than following “doggedly” in the footsteps of the preceding generation.1 Direction from within rather than direction from without, the contemporary vagabond, the HH is in rejecting the dominant paradigm - not paying his/her way and proud of it. Writing in 1974 Mario Rinvolucri in Hitch-hiking illustrates the ill ease this caused, he quotes the road haulage workers’ magazine, Headlight (April 1953):
“I suppose many of these youngsters who scrounge lifts have caught the habit from the Forces who were glad of this form of travel to get home for short spells during the war. There is no excuse for it now. Most of them actually set out with the avowed intention of seeing the country for nothing. They carry a tent, (in the summer) and after their free ride, and quite often free meals at the driver’s expense, camp out for the night, again for nothing. When I was a youngster we had to save our coppers if we wanted a day at the seaside, and when we went we really appreciated it, even though it was just for a day. These present day youngsters seem to want all they can get for nothing, and take it for granted that lorries and private cars are on the road especially for their benefit. If they cannot afford train or bus fares then they should stay at home.”2
This story I tell is about ideology, so on the theoretical side I will be laying to one side the question of truth and will concentrate on what underlies individuals’ and society’s expectations. My fieldwork studies provide some empirical grounding to the historical and theoretical aspect of this work.
Firstly, we need to ask some basic questions, which the simple personal answers will illuminate the assumptions under-lining the project:
What is middle class culture - Bourgeois idealism.
What is an individual - One who is creative, i.e. Different?
What is creativity - The ability to add to human experiences – or happiness – or passion?
Romanticism - The ability and inclination to live a creative life?
Can we have freedom i.e. Individual creativity - This depends on your preferences for idealism or materialism – this is a matter of belief.
This project is less interested in the routine actions of travelers, though the fieldwork did examine this, and more the possibility of stepping outside the ongoing materialistic/patriarchal/consumptive practices and discourse. I look at how “social individuals” create and recreate the HH experience, constructing a collective identity.
Why do non-HH classes tend to desire and hate the HH? To look at this I take two strands, firstly: at the social history of the idea – ideal type – Vagabond; Secondly by looking empirically at who and what the HH is today. I examine: Medieval history; Elizabethan transition and rejection and the modern tension involved in societies’ attitude to vagabonds, wanderers, tramps and HH.
The word Hitchhiking originated in 1920’s America, in Scotland the first recorded use found by Bernd Wechner is in the The Glasgow Herald, Tuesday September 6th 1927 –“Casual Column”:
“AMERICA, which is the melting-pot not only of races but of colloquial English, has produced not a few startling words and phrases. While we admire many examples from this characteristic mint for their picturesque oddity, wit, and general applicability to the purpose, the coinage is obviously only for national circulation and is not likely to pass for currency even in the later editions of Murray’s dictionary. The bootlegger and his predatory enemy the hijacker are instances of the purely indigenous American word. The hobo has been rivaled (so an American correspondent informs us) by the hitchhiker, which is the latest curiosity born out of the linguistic genius of the Yankee. The hobo, long familiar to readers of fiction and social investigators, stole rides from one end of the continent to the other on freight trains. The hitchhiker, with the same passion for free travel, indulges it at the expense of the motorist. There are apparently hitchhikers in the United States, who boast they can travel 500 miles free of charge without walking more than 10. The importuning of the motorist is evidently a highly organised and skilful business. So long as it is possible to travel 25 miles for twopence by tramcar, as in Glasgow, there seems no danger, however, of the movement developing in this part of Scotland.”3
In this project, due to the nature of the research methods, I concentrate on the HH who travel from choice, those who see HH as a romantic pastime, though I do touch on other categories. Within these categories are the idealists or romantics and the “practical” HH - these tend to be split on a class basis – middle class romantics and working class necessity. The more practical minded hold down jobs and “pay their way”.
The field research strongly highlights a division between backpackers and HH. Quite simply the backpacker is paying their way, and proud of it4. They are “consuming” commodified life, their direction comes from a book, they are following the itinerary. In my fieldwork I found a backpacker circular of socialisation, where my study of HH was searching for creativity. Whether there can be a division made between these, I will consider later. The backpackers frequently repeated overheard conversation:
“You have to go to Olympus…so cool, so cool… I have been...It’s not a tourist trap… you know...in another 10 years it’s all roped off… we are in the tail of this country”.
Overheard conversations Oriental Hostel, Istanbul, project diary p79
The conversations are much the same in every backpacker hostel. Their journeys are little open to the vagaries of life, people of the country they travel through. They are the socialised bourgeois youth of the world. In a year or two, jobs, families, and commitments will replace conversations about the “sights”, will become the foundation of a new set of roles, a new way of being. One generation will have turned over to the next the smouldering torch of Western history. By the very nature of the way the HH travels they step outside this circle to see the world with clear eyes. They are thrown amongst the pains and pleasures of the world as it is, not commodified and packaged for easy consumption. The HH may run the risk of suffering from the “food poisoning of life”, but at least what they bite into has flavour.
My memories have been continually plundered using “opportunistic research strategies” and “at hand” knowledge and by reference to unique biographies. My own “Retrospective auto-ethnography” - I started hitchhiking at my mothers knee, she would take me off as a child chaperone to feminist conferences, art exhibitions, counter cultural events in the late 1960’s and 1970’s. After leaving school I used to hitchhike as a student to and from catering college in Mid Wales. Then around England, Europe, Across the Atlantic, the Caribbean, America. Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s I continued this trend, hitchhiking to Moscow, Scandinavia and in North Africa.
My earlier extensive experience of the hitchhiking “life style” across continents, oceans and war zones, positions me not as the unbiased, objective observer in the vein of the positivist tradition in sociology, or the ideal interpretative qualitative researcher. To complete this project I have attempted a more ethnographic piece of “insider research” using my “retrospective auto-ethnography” to help to define and shape the project. I hope the immediacy of interviewing involved could lead to a stronger and more representative view of HH, which a piece of “outside” research could not capture. As C. W. Mills said:
“You must learn to use your life experience in your intellectual work, continually to examine and interpret it. In this sense craftsmanship is the center of yourself and you are personally involved in every intellectual product upon which you work.”5
I claim validity for my findings because of my own experiences and involvement. Though I do recognize the difficulty of this approach, the most obvious being that of the researcher being too close to the subject matter, either to see the sociological significance of that which appears completely normal, or to be able to frame criticisms - the ‘rose tinted spectacles’ problem.
Who am I? British - English, middle class, educated, young(-ish), cotton trousers and shirts, not business, not sporty, not hippie, not trendy, not laddish, male, easy going, aware, “politically correct”, white.
To sum this section up I thought it would be informative to introduce the reader to a HH biography, an interview with my mother about her and my early HH experience and her thoughts on HH now.
Can you give me an example of you and me HH when I was small?
“Scarborough to Aberystwyth to an interview for a place at university. I was 37 Hamish was 8. Left in clear windy sunshine but caught in a snowstorm on the M 62. Luckily we got lift in a cozy sports car with the heater full on. Stopped by the police in Newtown. I was asked many questions which I answered. When finally they asked my age I told them with irritation I was 93 and with Hamish strode off into the distance. The police left us. A certain disrespect for authority is part of HH. I got there in time for supper.”
An another time?
“HH with Angus and Tom to Oxford. They are aged 10 and 12. All three of us the same height and weight with long hair, all wearing jeans and T-shirts, hitching outside the Thames Valley Police headquarters. Lots of police on motor bikes and in cars buzzing around… we were bound to be stopped and questioned. Yes, a police car draws up along side us. Policeman leans out the window.
‘Why are you three girls HH? Isn’t it dangerous?’
Answer – ‘I am their mother.’
Police comment - ‘Isn’t it dangerous for your daughters?’ My answer ‘They are my sons?’ Police car winds up window and drives off.”
“HH coming back to Wales’s open empty roads, through sparsely populated areas. Hours of waiting as it gets dark… A lorry once parked very close to a wall making it impossible for me to open the passenger door and get out. I had to talk my way out of that situation.”
Why did you HH?
“Basic reasons for HH, one money, two fun, fun, three, I could not drive, and four to get to places and events… It was fun, but not now. There is a quantifiable change with violent mentally ill people on the streets. Care in the community is a better life for some but many now who should be receiving care are living in card board boxes or in prison. People have changed, me, me, me. Thatcher fanned the embers of prejudice, selfishness and greed. People were admired for being decent caring, honest and generous now such people are seen as suckers.”
64 year old British woman HH interview p28
I have looked at the available material deposited in two copyright libraries including fiction, poetry, biographies, autobiographies and travel guides in Edinburgh University Library, The National Library of Scotland, and the Bodleian library Oxford. I searched the catalogue by amongst other words and most importantly “hitchhiking”, “tramping”, “vagabond” followed the resulting bibliographical references.
Between 1996 and late 1998 I have undertaken field work journeys in 21 Europe countries, interviewing the majority of drivers, hitchhiker and past HH that I met whilst in the field. Interviews were taped (14 hours) data was entered on a portable computer (120 semi-structured questioners, over 100,000 words of Diary and notes). In the second year of the study I videotaped the driver and HH interviews and the experiences of a HH on the road (23 hours of broadcast quality digital video). In addition to this I ran a pilot study in the UK interviewing over 40 drivers and 5 HH.
During these two years, I used quantitative research methods of driver questionnaires and qualitative in-depth tape-recorded, unstructured, discussions with Hitchhikers. In the second year of research, I found my methods were getting in the way of understanding the “feeling” of HH. The time was frustrating trying to fit the world into poorly understood pre-conceived categories in this I was missing much of the wider picture. This led to the abandonment of my driver questionnaire and the much-reduced use of tape recording – with this, I felt again to be a Hitchhiker. The problem is of course my record keeping – after a hard day on the road – the last thing on my mind was the updating of the diary. This led to less recorded periods of “rediscovering” the Hitchhiking experiences.
In the first year, I undertook what in HH terms would be considered an “epic” journey from Edinburgh to Istanbul. With much time spent in France, Germany and Greece. After this year of study I was feeling disappointed with my ability to communicate my ideas and the ideas and experiences of those I met in a written format. The logical outcome of this was to try and transfer my project from the ill-suited, for a dyslexic, medium of paper to the more malleable audio/visual medium of video. In the second year as well as documenting hitchhiking in England, Scotland and Wales I undertook a second research trip to Russia to translate the earlier data and conclusion into a video documentary. From my “armchair in Edinburgh”. This seemed a feasible idea, which I agreed with my supervisor to hand in as ½ my dissertation.
The research trip and the resulting wealth of material proved much more difficult to “digest” than initially considered. I started the project with a “humanistic” idea about the pursuit of knowledge and the sanctity of creativity. This has been dashed, repeatedly and monotonously by the dulling influence of the very world I set out to critically examine. A great part of this project, most importantly the video documentary is left to “the gnawing of mice”.
1) I set out to discover what truth – if any – lies behind the myths associated with HH, and build a more empirically based idea of who, what, and where HH takes place.
2) Secondly, presuming that my empirical study creates a idea of HH as other than the popular and media myth, I am interested in asking why this myth has intensified, why are we increasingly fearful of “uncontrolled” interaction (c.f. Giddens and Risk) Our “irrational” need to control our surroundings and the resulting loss of trust in our fellow human beings. In a very real sense our closing off of choices – that is freedom.
I was interested in looking at HH from the perspective of coercion in a “pluralistic” society. How does this differ between nations and regions? I start from the view of Europe as one of a single culture, crossing national boundaries.
How do you become a HH?
Are HH part of a community?
Is it a closed loop - a form of behavior that is propagated by contact, a mentor situation?
Do you stop being a HH and do “retired” HH who move into the world of automobile pickup HH?
Are there different types of HH? If there are, must they mix?
Is HH “begging” if so does that explain its moral rejection?
When I set out the popular and media myths were powerful and important, by the time I had finished my two years of fieldwork they had retreated to but pale shadows, and are only represented by a brief section on the dangers of HH.
I have attempted to do is to find the empirical reality of hitchhiking and of those who hitchhike, by fieldwork, by hitchhiking myself and by interviewing hitchhikers. I attempted not to be selective, though the fatigues and vagaries of being “on the road” affected this impartiality (see the fieldwork diary for an understanding of the HH experiences).
The fieldwork, literature and its philosophical underpinnings revealed a romantic ideology that underlies the motivation of the subgroup of both the vagabond and the hitchhiker. Romanticism in this context can be seen as a reaction against the alienation of consumerist conformity of “modern” society. In Max Weber’s words “the iron cage of bureaucracy, disenchantment”.
The interviews reflect a positive view of HH, the interviews are with people who currently pickup HH, missing those who do not give lifts, and those who have never given lifts or who have stopped giving lifts (for whatever reason). Though to counter this “bias” there has been plentiful opportunities for the drivers to harm or abuse the interviewer – which didn’t happen.
The first HH interviews were with a mixture of students and Edinburgh residents found by the “snowball” technique, of acquaintances leading to acquaintances. I followed a similar strategy in Oxford, but mixing in a wider selection of people from the squatting and road-protesting scene. The majority of the interviewing, after this provisional work, was found on the road (many times literally) throughout Europe. I have formally interviewed over 200 drivers and conducted taped interviews with 30 HH past and present, and talked to many more. I have 23 hours of video, covering driver and HH interviews, life on the road. The project is also enlightened by conversations with many different people throughout, from diverse professions, drivers, academics, vagabonds, prostitutes, policemen (these while being arrested by them) and numerous “normal” people.
The HH interviews conducted in-groups were a problem for people expressing personal feelings and events, especially for mixed sex groups. Though on the other hand I found that it was much more practical to arrange group interviews, as people were sometimes not eager or easy to talk to a stranger on a one-to-one basis.
I consider this to be, in the circumstances and within limitations, a reasonably reliable collection of data. It is a look at HH from a certain direction, but that direction is not without foundations as I try to highlight in my later sections. A more “perfect” survey would reveal the problem of the public negative view of HH (which as my data reveals for the HH and drivers I interviewed, seems not to be well founded). The immediacy of interviewing involving “on the job” research I hope has led to not only a positive but also a more representative view of HH.
After field work I have found that I am studying the white middle class male. On my way back to Edinburgh in discussions, the Oxford Union men were shocked and attacking me that I was studying them, not out studying “vagabonds, real vagabonds”, That is I should be out studying real “down and outs.” This cuts at the heart of my project - I was studying them not what they thought I should be studying those below them, those other than them.
In this section I attempt to ground the contemporary HH in a historical setting, outlining how the HH came from a long history of the beggar, tramp and vagabond. This examination helps to highlight on the one hand, the romanticisation of the HH and on the other, its popular rejection. Firstly beggars:
“HH sometimes it is begging, a nice form of begging…you have a space you are going in, a direction.”
Young German female Edinburgh University HH interviews p26
The negative view of HH as beggars is for me a problem of the commodification of humanity, seeing human beings as “use value” rather as an end to themselves. In the contemporary world we have a very negative attitude towards “begging”, and a clear division - begging is differentiated from charity. The Victorian divide between the deserving – “meek” and the undeserving – “free loader” still exists.
Charity in the Bibel was a synonim for love, but in the 19th century - charity and the diserving poor (not neighbourly love, but reward for approved conduct) What the liberal econemist insistes is that charity should nor provide the relife of need, but its selective use to preserve the incentive to wage labor.
This basically religious attitude has been criticized by many social critics. George Orwell writing in the 1930’s argues that beggars are ordinary human beings, not just outcasts, criminals or prostitutes. It is taken for granted that a beggar does not earn their living as a bricklayer or as a literary critic “earns” theirs, but if one looks closely there’s no essential differences between a beggar’s livelihood and that of countless respectable people. Beggars do not work it could be said, but then what is work? A road builder works by swinging a pick, an accountant works by adding up figures. A beggar works by standing out of doors in all kinds of weather, getting varicose veins, chronic bronchitis, etc. It’s a trade like any other; quite useless – but then, much respectable work is quite useless. Moreover, as a social type beggars compare well with many others. They are honest compared with the providers of advertising, high-minded compared with a tabloid newspaper proprietor, amicable compared with a hire-purchase tout – in short a parasite, but a fairly harmless parasite. Orwell concludes that the beggar seldom extracts more than a bare living from the community, and, what should justify him according to our ethical ideas, is that he pays for it over and over in suffering.
Jack London argued in How I became a Socialist (1903), that his tramping experiences revealed how the other half lived, how the “Submerged tenth” were recruited. On the road he saw what society was doing (and had done) to men who had had strength and youthfulness and that these men were now broken humans. These sights scared him, and he vowed never to be trapped by the forces that had ruined so many men and had driven them from their jobs, their homes and on to the road.6
This beggars the question: why are beggars despised?– for they are almost universally despised. Orwell believes it is for the simple reason that they fail to earn a “decent” living. In practice, few care whether work is useful or useless, productive or parasitic; the sole thing demanded is that it shall be profitable. For most, it comes down to “Get money, get it legally, and get a lot of it”. Money has become the grand test of virtue, by this test beggars fail, and that is why they are despised.
This division can be seen at its strongest in the Protestant Work Ethic which advocates sobriety, diligence, thrift, and lack of ostentation; regarding contemplation as mere laziness, and poverty either as punishment for sin or evidence that one did not have God’s grace. The puritanical believed that only the so-called elect could expect salvation. They considered themselves elect but could not be sure unless they were given a “sign.” They believed their way of life was ethically correct and that it led to worldly prosperity. Prosperity was accepted as the sign. Goodness came to be associated with wealth, and poverty with evil; not to succeed in one’s calling seemed to be clear indication that the approval of God was being withheld. The behavior that once was believed to lead to sanctity led to worldly wealth.
The is an idea in our modern world that the survival of the fittest is achieved by sending the weak to the wall, but it is a mistake to suppose that because a man is weak he is necessarily contemptible. Failure is generally held in contempt because it is left to the successful to arrange vocabularies. At this point, I would like to examine the history of the relation of society to the vagabond.
“Doe we not all come into the worlde like beggars, without a rag upon us? Do we not all go out of the worlde like beggars, save an old sheete to cover us?”
The Vagabond – Liber Vagatorum 8
Every age has had its men (usually) of the road. “As long as the earth was thinly populated the vagabond could never become a nuisance; hospitality demanded that the stranger should be fed without question”.9 In primitive and sparsely populated lands, it can be seen as a wholly natural way of living. The golden age of the wanderer, the hiker, was the fourteenth century– of the tramp, the sixteenth. Between 1300 and 1400 the roads were crowded with Chaucerian pilgrims, on their way to shrines, universities or markets. There were roaming peddlers, Reliquaries, pardoners, degenerate friars and vagrant scholars. Before this time, it was still no disgrace for the wayfarer to beg for food. In Europe at certain times wandering has been a result of unemployment and industrial conditions and at others the nature of the people who take to it. The divide is between those who wander for “experiences” and those who are driven by need even “outlawry”.
Until the coming of the Mendicant Orders at the beginning of the thirteenth century, private alms giving and discretely administered charity were not subject to control. With the foundation of the Franciscans in 1209, and the constitution of the Dominicans as a Mendicant Order in 1220 (coinciding with the expansion of the universities) came an influx of wanderers. No less insistent in their demands were the intelligentsia of the time, wandering from country to country, university to university. Little more than 30 years after their founding the Friars were already becoming disreputable, until swept away by the reformation.
In the west the practice of individual charity was considered a religious obligation, the monasteries found themselves at the center of an increasing number of vagabonds, fuelled by alms-giving, crusades, pilgrimages, and the migration from university to university. However much suspected and frowned upon by secular authority, begging was not regulated against, it was considered better to give to those who deceived than not to give at all.
It is recorded that few students were able to return home except during Long Vacation and then only by begging their way there and back.10 University Students begging from house to house to spend a term at Oxford or Cambridge had to have a permit with the signature of the chancellor. The act of Richard II expressly provides that scholars of the universities who go begging shall have letters of testimonial from their chancellors. At this time, the scholars of Oxford and Cambridge swelled the ranks of begging vagrants.
Early English laws against vagrancy and begging give a strong hint to the fears of the law makers, the need to keep people in there place. In the reign of Henry VIII, impotent beggars were licensed, while all others, and wanderers particularly, were to be subject to a variety of punishments. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth vagrants were to be forced to work, wages would be fixed and laborers localized under pain of imprisonment and whipping. This era was verging on hysteria, prefiguring the “moral panics” of the 1960’s.
The 15th century saw Vagabondage firmly established as an integral part of the social structure. In England there were the general arrests of masterless men in 1569. The medieval knight-errant would have been hauled off to gaol as a sturdy rogue by the Elizabethans. Luther’s preface of Liber Vagatorum marks the starting point of the systematic measures directed against vagrancy in Germany. By 1342-3 certain classes of vagabonds at Augsburg were publicly proscribed and forbidden the city, municipal action was taken in Vienna (1443), Cologne (1446), Nuremberg (1478) and in Breslau a little latter (1512).11
In the case of the church, its desire to keep control on the bestowing of bounties lead to a law directed against wandering monks, ordaining that they should receive hospitality only once, the beginning of the legislation which we see in Orwell’s day of driving the vagrant ever on, from one “grime work house” to the next. By 1360 the punishments for fleeing laborers and vagrants was whipping and branding the forehead with a hot iron.12
The brotherhood of beggars in the middle ages was of men who had wedded themselves to poverty, brothers alike of birds and beggars, the Friars of Saint Francis of Assisi. The medieval tramp lived alone in forest and swamp. The Elizabethan tramp sang and made merry in the taverns of Whitefriars and the drains of Moorditch.
Unemployment is “the mother and breeder of Vagabonds”. In the 15th century, the enclosure of arable land for pasture dispossessed thousands who wandered, begged or stole for a living, until desperate need drove them on to the gallows. As the fat of the vagabonds declined, poetry (as it often does) began to ally itself to their cause.
The decay of feudalism, the growth of the bourgeoisie classes, and the reformation together produced an attitude of mind that could no longer tolerate the idle. Individual charity no longer took on to itself the responsibility of giving alms to all who cared to ask. Protestantism was shortly to reaffirm the Pauline dictum “He who will not work, shall not eat”. By Luther’s time Der Betlerorden “the Mendicant Brotherhood” was a name applicable equally to the Mendicant Religious or to the scum of society.
Karl Marx Capital volume 1 - part VIII - The So-called Primitive Accumulation13 saw this history in a different way, as part of the dialectical progress of history. That the proletariats were created by the breaking up of the bands of feudal retainers and by the forcible expropriation of the people from the soil– that this “free” proletariat could not be absorbed by the growing manufacturers as fast as they were thrown upon the world. These men, suddenly dragged from their way of life, could not and did not quickly adapt themselves to the discipline of their new condition. They were turned en masse into beggars, robbers, vagabonds, some from inclination, in most cases from circumstances. At the end of the 15th and during the whole of the 16th century, throughout Western Europe there was a bloody legislation against vagabondage. Marx sees the Vagabonds as the fathers of the present working class, chastised for their enforced transformation into vagabonds and paupers. The Legislation I have outlined treated them as “voluntary” criminals, and assumed that it depended on their own good will to go on working under the old conditions that no longer existed.
Vagabonding came and went with recurring social crises of the bourgeois age, I pick up the story again at the turn of this century. The vagrants - down-and-outs in the USA riding the trains after the American Civil War had by the turn of the century created a “Hobo” culture– living on the outskirts of towns in shantytowns. In the USA, the hobo begets the ride beggar who begets the HH.
The influences of 1920’s spelt a renaissance of young, more educated adventurers. With the burgeoning of HH in America there was a predictable backlash, and several states passed ordinances banning HH.14 During the depression in the 1930’s, the experience of HH was less happily exemplified by crime too and by HH. However, more importantly those who HH during the bad times went on to buy cars and pick people up themselves. After the depression HH recovered somewhat its “carefree” nature, students in California universities set-up HH clubs and held competitions to see who could cross the state or country first (the beginning of the university Rag sponsored HH to Paris which are still so popular in the UK). For a history of HH in the UK from 1914 to the early 1970’s read Mario Rinvolucri’s self published book Hitch-hiking.15
I am partially interested in vagabonding from choice, on one side a rejection of material society - the begging priests, and the other from a curiosity about it - the itinerant scholars. In the 1930’s it was still possible for a young man to go out and discover the world. This was for the privileged, a lost “romantic” time. Patrick Leigh Fermor writing of his wandering in a Time for Gifts tells of his tramping trip from London to Constantinople. Fermor writes of the gift of a book from a vanishing European aristocracy. When in the village of Hohenaschau in the inn:
“it made me seem more exalted than the tramp I actually was when I put my new diary on the table, “what a beautiful book awed voices would say. Horny fingers reverently turned the pages... Latinisnisch? Well well... a spurious aura of scholarship and respectability sprang up”.16
When he reaches Vienna he uses his introductions to re-enter the embrace of the affluent if not the respectable. Dumping his rucksack in the cheapest boarding house he telephones the sister in law of an old friend, and is invited to stay.
“But for the sake of morale, prompted by a sort of vagrants amour propre, I hadn’t wanted to launch myself on them when I was absolutely broke... burdened by a rucksack would have been too broad a hint. Unfounded although they had been, my qualms at the last castle had implanted the uncharacteristic notion in my mind that the appearance on the doorstep of an affable tramp with all his possessions on his back might possibly be considered a nuisance. (I shudder to think of the scourge I must have been). The idea that they are always welcome is a protective illusion of the young. Dangerously untroubled by doubts, I rejoiced in these changes of fortune with the zest of an Arabian beggar clad and feasted by the Caliph or the crapulous tinker who is picked up snoring and spirited to splendor in the first scene of The Taming of the Shrew.”17
Hospitality is an important part of the Vagabonds experiences, Fermor staying in Veaner. The apartment is home to…
“a small half native and half expatriate Bohemian set… “wildish parties, music dancing dressing up... I awoke to the first strokes of noon with an exploding head still decked with a pirate’s eyepatch and a cut out skull and crossbones.”18
From culture to nature, the vagabond experiences life from many different places.
“I felt very drowsy sitting in the sun. My path ran through a hazel wood where young Roe deer bounced nimbly away... Later, I must have been wandering along in a sort of a trance”19
With the beginning of the Second World War, HH soon become semi-respectable again. With petrol rationing and national mobilization HH became a normal form of transport. For many people lift–giving was elevated into a patriotic duty. Mario Rinvolucri quotes an editorial in October 11th 1940 Autocar:
“Motorists - private owners - are not doing all they could do to help. It is a nuisance, this continual answering of appeals for lifts... But this is not the right attitude to adopt... Everything the car owner can do to aid fellow travelers - even if he gets nothing but thanks for it - is a real help to the national effort - every empty seat involves a waste of time, fuel and effort on someone else’s part. Motorists go to it!”20
With the end of the war many young men and women returning from the horror of war used their new found freedom to take to the road in rejection of the stifling values of their time. An interesting book from this period is The Trio’s Trek an account of three, what seems to be very ordinary young women, HH journey from London to Nairobi in the late 1940’s. Traveling through post war Europe their experiences as women HH are very much those of contemporary even down to the fact that it is not until page 64 and their sixth country, that they got a lift with a private car driven by a woman. They had the usual advice about the dangers and impossibilities which most HH seem to receive. In North Africa the colonial French had warned them never to accept lifts with Arabs, in Algeria they decided this was impractical and a lift in the back of a banana lorry with 3 Arab men left their “throats still intact”21. They did have some problems with men, but nothing more than adventurous women have to deal with in any occupation.
In the U.S., a new generation of HH was setting forth under the shadow of the atomic mushroom cloud, Holmes calls them “a beat generation”, searching for meaning apart from “small town America”. Jack Kerouac’s On the Road in 1956 heralded the beatniks and the post-war American re-romanticisation of the road.
In the 1960’s HH became a way of life for many young people. This continued into the 1970’s. With the 1980’s and the new “individualism” – that is conforming to the “Protestant work ethic” - materialist values again came to the fore. The 1980’s represented an interesting time for “vagrants” – liberation mirrored by repression, with the Thatcherite attack on new age travelers. Though people still HH, Rosita Boland writing in the early 90’s in Sea Legs recounts her solo HH trip around Ireland, apart from drunken men in bars and being slightly molested while sitting on the knee of middle aged truck driver, she successfully circumnavigated the coast of Ireland in the dead of winter. The cloak of fear spread by the murder of a German HH in the north did though affect Boland’s outlook and the same story affected me for a moment when I HH through Northern Ireland a few years later.
This history is tinged by nostalgia that describes our grief for a dead past, the way we sentimentalize over fleeting and forgotten things. Our modern idea of the HH has come from a long history both negative and positive. We look back with curious eyes, the villains become the romantics, and the sordid transformed into the picturesque. The HH is a descendent of the vagabond who surrounded by a romantic aura of hardihood, liberty and courage searches for a glimpse of freer more spacious times. We envy – romanticise - the vagabond or beggar because we ourselves are in “chains”, in each age the “conservative” forces have attempted to put such groups back in their place. This is clearly visible in the 1990’s with draconian laws against New Age travelers, harking back to Elizabethan days.
In the next section I go on to look at a sociological view of the 20th century HH, and contrast with this Marx’s idea of Alienation. These both have an assumption of meaning that I examine by looking at Existential philosophy.
The is very little on HH in the sociological literature, thus in this section I look at a wider question, one of motivation, and the sociological questions of what forces in society encourage and discourage the HH. I have an idea of a HH (more pacifically a subgroup) as one who is searching for “meaning” and whether that search is pushing or pulling them. I look at Peter Berger’s work; Marx’s idea of alienation, which to me seams to underline this project and finally question the possibility of self-motivation.
In The Homeless Mind Berger et al, argue that discontents and “counter culture” of his day are engendered by the institutional structures of modernity. These structures are created by what Max Weber calls “rationalization” which is inherent to the modernizing project. It imposes itself on the individual as control, limitation and thus frustration. This results in considerable psychological tension as the individual is forced to manage, in the technological sense, his or her life.
Berger argues that this works on many levels, that modern technological production brings about anonymity in the area of social relations. Thus the individual is not only threatened by the meaningless in the world of work, but also by the loss of meaning in wide sectors of his relation with other people. The very complexity of technological society makes more and more social relations opaque. Other individuals increasingly are experienced as agents of forces and collectivities that they do not understand. The modern individual has too many choices, technological production and bureaucracy takes the social institution beyond the understanding of the individual.
That the individual is “homeless”, this is the crux of the problem with the modernist idea, is modernity liberating? Or is it a social world that we need to be liberated from? This comes down to a value judgement in the case of this project Romanticism, the existential desire to “create” meaning in life or the desire to “conserve” - conformity and safety. Modernity has supremely liberated the individual, but has not provided them with a place to go. It has demolished our rood mud huts, but now we shiver in the unfamiliar urban surroundings that it has built in their place. We have lost our “ancient home” and have not found a new abode. The HH is searcher for an old house to live in or the possibility of finding/creating a new home.
Thus Alienation is the price of individualism, the “anti-modernist” or dare I say the word “post-modernist” movement, of which the romantic HH is a representative, can be seen as a criticism of the allegedly excessive individualism of modern society. “The individual is to be liberated from individualism to the solidarity of either old or new collective structures.”22
Berger argues that the relations of the new world of childhood and youth to the discontents of modernity are important - the creation of childhood, the modernist division between the public and private sphere. The decline in infant mortality has lead to a “gentle revolution”, upper middle class parents are able to invest more emotional care in their children. That these children are used to being treated as uniquely valuable persons, accustomed to having opinions respected by all the significant people around them, unaccustomed to harshness, suffering and unprepared for intense frustration. Berger argues, without value judgement, that the youths of the bourgeois are “soft” and that it is exactly theses individuals who encounter the anonymous, impersonal “abstract” structures - alienation of the modern technological bureaucratic world. Their reaction is predictably one of rejection and rebellion. Free travel - free sex and free thought to entwine the two.
This highlighting the inherent tension that creates the rebellions of each generation, when times get good, the “good” get going. The youth of the affluent are cut off from the normative world of “public” life, they are “cosseted” in the private spheres of family, school and universities for increasingly long periods. To an extent in Berger’s day this was class specific, it was the upper middle classes that were affected the most. For the simple reason that they are the most “bourgeois”. The modern individual is “unfinished” as they enter adult life, they are not only “conversion-prone”, but glory in being so. “Biography is thus apprehended both as a migration through different social worlds and as the successive realization of a number of possible identities”23
The individual experience of himself becomes more real to him than his experiences of the objective social world – make it up as you go along. Thus the individual seeks to find his “ground” in reality, in himself rather than outside himself. To create himself, the reflexive individual as Giddens calls him. The increasing globalization of “consciousness” has positive and negative connotations; it brings a sense of expansiveness and freedom on one hand and on the other, rootlessness and anomie.
For many progressive people socialism was the promise of a new home, to examine this I look at Marx idea of alienation. In many ways you can see that Burger’s ideas were built on top of Marx’s view, what Marx adds to the discussion is a meta-narrative to Berger’s immediate experiences of modern life, it sets it in motion. Marx theory of alienation at its base has an “idea - essences” of man as a free agent, the question, if this is so or not, has troubled Philosophers and social theorists since the beginning of time. To outline Marx’s theory in the context of the idealized HH that is one who searches for non-alienated existences. I have to first look at what Marx means by Alienation.
For Marx the origin of alienation is to be found in our economic system - that it treats us as a means to an end rather than an expression of our selves. Under capitalism we have little opportunity to express our personality in the creation of a product that we need to live. The base of the theory of alienation is that human beings, in comparison to animals, have the capacity to control nature by creative activity. Humans are homo faber; they create and recreate the means of their own existence – thus their very existences. Productive creativity actively holds the keys to human happiness and fulfillment. The condition of true humanity - “species-being” - is therefore the condition that abolishes alienated labor.
Marx argued that industrial capitalism is the worst form of alienated labor, for the workers are tied to the machine in the performance of meaningless tasks, which are part of a larger little understood process. Human creativity, and the product of it our work, is turned into an object to be bought for the cheapest price, the product of labour is owned and sold by the capitalist24 and so the harder the worker works the more they are exploited. The holder of capital claims the rights to control the whole of the labour process, leaving the workers creativity and intellect stifled and controlled by outside forces.
As the members of the working (subdued) class lack the means to produce for them selves they are forced to work for others. Leading in a fully capitalist economy all of the social productions of the necessity of life determined out side of man. The worker sees himself as a prisoner of market forces over which he has no control, at the whim of boom and bust which are inherent to the capitalist system. Work becomes a means to an end, a means of obtaining money to buy the goods and services necessary for their existences. The more the worker produces the more he loses himself. Bourgeois society is the ever-changing expression of this fault, the inherently unstable social antagonism of labour and capital.
The Vagabond has been one who rejected this alienation of self through commodified work whether from hedonism, idealism, or “idleness”25. In all periods the have been some, particularly the pampered youth of Berger’s theory, who strike out to live life another way. The hatred and envy we see in the driver’s eyes is one of in Marx’s term’s it is the bourgeois playing at class warfare. They are not paying their way and proud of it – “soft revolutionaries”.
Marxism is a good theory for HH rejecting any moral underpinnings, for morality is a “socially constructed ideology”, it is a reflection of our alienated selves rather than the rock on which we stand. Marx explicitly and consciously rejects any reliance upon speculative a priorism. Though the HH may agree with Marx - Marx would have rejected the escapism and romanticism of the HH as a facet of bourgeois ideology.
Marx’s notion of freedom is an open one, that is it is not confined to any preconceived idea of what individual emancipation should be, rather that individuals are capable of self creation, they should be able to build there own liberty. Underlying Marx’s theory is the idea that once liberated from the draining constraints of ignorance, poverty and oppression, human agents would be able to lead fulfilling and socially constructive lives, unhindered by base passions and short-sighted objectives that the bourgeois materialist values embodied. The HH is expressing a human need- travel is the new opium - I think Marx would see their actions not going beyond idealism or utopian socialism at the strongest.
For Marx it is not enough to “run away”, the HH is opting out of the necessity of class struggle, thus are representation of little more than bourgeois dilettanteism. Marx recognizes that self-determination is a genuine human need and that social emancipation and individual freedom are interdependent. A Marxist principle of liberty in action would protect the social individual from those who would impose their own notion of freedom on others, and by the same notion it could be invoked to restrain those who might wish to revert to circumstances which inhibit the expression of self-determination. HH would be fine after the revolution26, but the revolution comes first.
I cannot help feeling that Marx himself is falling into the utopian mould, is “human nature - essences” so open to change, can we build a non alienating society? Can we be free and simultaneously secure. To examine this question I look at existential philosophy.
The French philosopher Sartre follows Marx’s theory of alienation- Humanity’s primary distinction is the freedom to choose. That human beings do not have a fixed nature, or essence, as other animals and plants do; each human being makes choices that create his or her own nature. In the formulation of Sartre, existence precedes essence. Choice is therefore central to human existence, and it is inescapable; even the refusal to choose is a choice. Freedom of choice entails commitment and responsibility. Because individuals are free to choose their own path, existentialists have argued, they must accept the risk and responsibility of following their commitment wherever it leads.
Sartre in Being and Nothingness conceived humans as creating their own world by rebelling against authority and by accepting personal responsibility for their actions, unaided by society, traditional morality, or religious faith. For Sartre what distinguishing between human existence and the non-human world is that human existence is characterized by nothingness, that is, by the capacity to negate and rebel. His theory of existential asserted the inescapable responsibility of all individuals for their own decisions and made the recognition of one’s absolute freedom of choice the necessary condition for authentic human existence.
In Either/Or Kierkegaard described two spheres, or stages of existence, that the individual may choose: the aesthetic and the ethical. The aesthetic way of life is a refined hedonism, consisting of a search for pleasure and a cultivation of mood. The aesthetic individual constantly seeks variety and novelty in an effort to stave off boredom but eventually must confront boredom and despair. The ethical way of life involves an intense, passionate commitment to duty, to unconditional social, and for Kierkegaard, religious obligations. To avoid ultimate despair, the individual must make a “leap of faith”, which is inherently paradoxical, mysterious, and full of risk.
The individual is, however, always in danger of being submerged in the world of objects, everyday routine, and the conventional, shallow behavior of the crowd. The feeling of dread (Angst) brings the individual to a confrontation with death and the ultimate meaninglessness of life, only in this confrontation can an authentic sense of being and of freedom be attained.
As the existentialists argue the rejection of the old leaves the new with no foundation, our endeavors are to build “castles in the air”. This lonely individualism, the senseless mobility from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, commodity to commodity, idea to idea, in short a rootless and restless existence, absurd in its busyness, can be seen in a view represented in main stream sociology by Durkheim, in his study of Suicide – the title itself perhaps an unintentional metaphor for the state of Western culture, the loss of community.
Are these philosophical ideas poor sociological models of humanity? Do they look at incomplete humanity, humanity isolated? To be complete, human, we have to participate fully in the life of society and express all our nature. For this to be, some impulses must be checked in the interests of society and others in the interest of individual development. It is in this relatively unimpeded natural growth and self-realization that makes for the good life and harmonious society. Are Durkheim’s norms necessary chains, the most important chain is that human life is worth living, or possibly be made worth living. This judgement underlies all intellectual effort; it is a priori of social theory and its rejection (which is logical) rejects theory interlay.
Research and Survey: An Investigation into Modern Hitch-Hiking Methods and Morals.
HH experiences and biographies form most of the “data” underlining the findings of this survey. At this point I think it will be useful to include a few in-depth HH biographies.
In this edited interview a young American man tells of his introduction to HH, it illustrates the worry facing the perspective “beggar”:
“I first HH when I run out of money and my railpass ran out, it was a new experience… The are no HH in USA it is not even considered. In the US people don’t trust… I sore Ireland and England as happy places the image that people are friendly.
Bus from Heathrow to Oxford then HH to Manchester… Walked out of Oxford and started HH… I felt like a degenerate. I was picked up and saw others HH, I was not an abnormal as I would be in America, I felt human again. My first lift was with an old woman in a station wagon… Then from Manchester to Holyhead and the around Ireland.”
What do you talk about?
“Conversations always started with how long, where from… this type of conversation small talk, family history nothing exciting or rarely stimulating, I fall asleep… I do talk about American politics… Worst Manchester to Holyhead, cranky chain smoker. I went to sleep.”
“South Dublin to the Strand 20mins, old gentleman he spoke very slowly and pensively, told me a great story about Ireland in the 20s about a friend who decided to leave Ireland to join the military and go to India. Worked in India for a while then to S Africa.
Human industry into a symbol of locomotion I do not see hitchhikers as a parasitic force… It is an even exchange… a world of lost time no real disadvantage for the driver, a small amount of risk - greater for the HH, am I going to murder the driver I cannot drive so split with the car. They can screw you over. The person who has the car has the responsibility for driving. I had a scary trip a guy had been driving for twenty-eight hours kept sliding all over the autobahn and falling asleep.
Countries with HH show a higher level of courtesy cultures more attuned to other peoples needs rather than locking themselves away in there own personal car out of fear. I highly recommend it, Potential for greatness.”
20 year old male Australian/American collage dropout in Prague, HH interview p4
A German graduate student tells of her fears, experiences and danger, for young women it is not unusual to start HH with out parental permission or knowledge. It is much more respectable for young men to HH though some did report that they didn’t tell their parents of their HH trips.
First HH experience?
“I was 16 on a bike trip… forgot something… exciting in the middle of the forest a lift in a big van with lots of forest workers. Back in Mercedes he would not stop but drove around the corner where he could stop… no reason to be scared.”
The first long trip?
“a holiday in France two girls we were supposed to take the train but HH from hostel to hostel…”
“Lots of funny experiences 10 years ago in France two guys in dust cart collecting rubbish quite stinky but very nice… milk lorry stopped at each shop great. Had a lift with a biologist in Ireland who drove from beach to beach taking samples and go swimming for a day.”
“Only HH on holiday in Ireland… two girls we stood there for ages in the rain in NW Galway Co. Mayo. 4 blokes stopped we got in… was funny would not let us sit together, then started touching told them to stop we got out… We were quite helpless if they had not stopped… They were English tourists”
Young German Women Edinburgh University HH interview p26
A relatively long account of a young mans HH experiences in Europe, it shows the ups and downs of the HH experiences. The HH as a “parasite” and as a guest.
First time HH?
“I was sick of Paris… a battered briefcase fairly tattered clothes and took a train out of Paris… stood by the highway watching, put my thumb out someone stopped but all going back to Paris. I went further and accepted a lift back to Paris… local accountant picked me up as he thought that my car had broken down, after that I had no fears of HH. I did not speak French.
From Frankfurt to Munich, I can remember every ride… HH is tedious at times. Always picked up in resthofs on German autobahns… Search for car with the number plate from anywhere you want to go, talk to the drivers almost always give you a ride whether they like you or not. I don’t care that I impose on people it becomes a habit… If you are sleeping in barns and only eating bread rolls for a week you become hardened, you don’t care.
Best lift from Salzburg to Berlin, I was picked up by some Prussian businessman… driving an Alfa Romeo, 2 am autobahn screeches to a halt window down… you can see he is completely ripped on Hashish and beer and ecstasy on front seat is a porn magazine and pills… who had at age15 gone to Spain with a pair of shoes and some jeans. He met with the owner of a guest house free accommodation for three months for translation for German tourists, then small hash deals 20yrs later fat short corpulent guy classic class enemy of HH. He works in reconstruction industry buying sixteen Caterpillars, offered bed for the night at hotel he is building we drink, he went to sleep I went to sleep. He went to meeting and gave me 50 marks to buy breakfast I spent the next weeks walking in this incredible lakeside country enough money to live on for several weeks. The bad one I tend to erase from my memory.
Rides from totally unfriendly people in the wrong direction I pretend to agree with them An Austrian gun maker, hand made for hunters, awful about Africans, and I just listened.
Best rides are from people who have HH themselves I stayed with a carpenter in Munich for two weeks to baby-sit his kids I met him going into the city… If you are stuck opportunities for jobs accommodation generate themselves… This woman who offered me the bed her son was 17 studying in Dublin, I had his bedroom full of 17yr olds toys, they did not talk to me too much they simply let me sleep in this bed. The husband was from Germany a Bauhaus designer… he became a spy in East Germany. He told me about New York. They were very lonely I played their son for the day I really needed mothering.
Picked up by a truckload of hippies in Dusseldorf commune in Osnabruck living for a week, friend went mad, forcibly taken by ambulance… later I went to visit him. It becomes a way of every day life.
There is a famous roundabout Hamburg to get to Berlin they will queue a blonde girl arrived and cars stopped for the girl she said it is not my turn, and one of other scruffy HH was away.
My philosophy “movement by jerks” or “Brownian Motion” completely random just get on the autobahn… It is very democratic you have to meet people, I feel part of a diaspora of well-educated bums living off the local population giving more than I get.
I hated Denmark so I want to find the real Scandinavia nice place rich dour safe I was there with no money shoplifting cheese from supermarkets I felt like such a mongrel I really wanted to share their cooperative values, but I had to live, I really craved all that. I could not do that I felt shitty I went back to Australia and lived with my folks for six months just doing the middle class thing. I think it is funny being separated from all the material things when you are travelling you realise what you miss I missed my record collection travelling independently strips you of everything all the self perception you thought you had and leaves you with a dull sense of what you might be.”
A friend was HH in Russia was picked up by some Mafeoseas in a big car. Guys in suits 3 of them I am now going to shut up only knows few words of Russian lets call it a Volga “Volga very good car very good car” looking at him in the mirror no eye contact, very good suits, “I have got it you are Mafia, yes, yes.” They love him from that moment on, all of a sudden he embodies all that is American cool which they always want to be ripping along finally get to the turn off to their village car drives past they flag down a Lada gives the driver some money guy jumps out of the Lada takes the bags come with me drives me all the way to the village, Mafia car follows to the turn off and waves.
Young Australian man in Prague HH interview p5
An older female ex-HH touches on HH with children, which I haven’t had time to go into in depth in the right-up.
“I would choose one of the children as company and as a chaperone and took off to visit art galleries, museums, communes and women and art conferences. The children enjoyed the individual attention, the experience expanded their horizons. They were a good buffer to diffuse conflict and unwanted sexual approaches I gave up HH when I no longer had my children as chaperones.
64 old British women talking about her experiences in the 1970’s HH interview p27
Finally, an ex-HH and driver explains why she does not pickup HH any more.
“I had to go to France to see my great uncle.”
Why did you HH?
“No money went to Egypt.... I would not have done it on my own, with my boyfriend… Students did it the only way of getting around, no money and as quick, I was a pragmatic HH… I had no adventures, easy, a good trip - a empty coach across the Alps… stayed in Youth Hostels in Naples, boat to Athens, boat to Egypt, HH in Germany. HH in the UK often, gave it up when I got a 50cc motorcycle and job.
Have given up picking up HH - On M62 I picked up this guy who stank the children did not like it, things were getting scary, scare stories in the media in the 80s women HH, the vulnerable as a single driver. My children have never HH. I hope that my daughter would not HH on her own.”
53 year old British women HH interview p28
“I first started to hitch in Europe, during the summer of 1991. I was travelling abroad for a year or so, and while visiting an uncle in Austria was convinced by a close friend of his, that hitch-hiking was a necessity. That you haven’t really traveled Europe until you’ve hitched it, that there was an experience behind hitching not at all obvious at a casual glance, an adventure, an uncertainty, a romance. That you meet the wildest people, local people, and the journey becomes the ends not merely the means.”27
HH culture is a community of drivers and HH, a virtuous circle.28 During the fieldwork trip to Istanbul 80% of the drivers who picked me up had HH themselves. This was backed-up by the findings in the UK and second trip to Russia. In the interviews of HH this was also a recurring theme. Those who pickup HH have been or have a close friend or relative who have HH.
Drivers stop for HH because they have largely developed a “humanistic” instinct that is born from HH culture and is maintained by HH culture. HH is thus a manifestation of something greater and bigger – a world more filled with co-operation and utopianism, and the desire to look beyond themselves and experience other expressions of humanity. These values are expressed through practical action.
This romantic view is, of course, mirrored by a more pragmatic and traditional view people pick up HH for practical reasons – someone to talk to, someone to keep them awake, someone to share motorway tolls. The man picks up the young women for the sexual thrill of proximity.
To sum up: People HH from practical reasons; to explore and sense adventure; to meet new people and experience new cultures; to contact humanity directly, to experience fate and virtue - life first hand; to feel the community that has been lost from everyday life.
People generally HH because of lack of access to transport, it is only recently that car ownership has become more universal in Europe as a whole. An Ex-East German tells how it was before Europe became a “car owning democracy”:
“Most young people now have cars, you used to order a car at the age of 18 and wait for ten years. Then it was a Trabant.”
Ex-East German 30 year old male HH interview p2
The are some who could pay for a ticket but from romantic idealism and the desire to “extend – go further” in there journey, choices to HH. This HH from choices is fed by literature and youthful rebellion – for example in the 1950’s Kareouc and the beat poets, 1960’s hippies were sighted as inspiration for HH adventures. The rejection of the “materialist” fetters of there parents expectations, the desire to be, in a world that is, to find the world anew - romanticism.
“I came to Germany - searching for a country which does not exist any more. Germany was interesting - but sterile - a huge industrial machine. Not at all decadent, no smell of Weimar republic at all.”
20 year old male Australian college dropout searching for the romance of “old” Europe. HH interviews p4
”When I was 15 or 16 I started HH to go on holiday, the was a hippie feeling in the GDR. Eight yeas ago, I have been on HH trips to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia… I traveled with very little money, would take small plastic bags of coffee and cigarettes to use as presents or barter... A socialist statement that we are all equal, it was normal to give the driver a small present. Very friendly, but we had to be very careful Romania could be dangerous.”
Ex-East German 30 year old male HH interview p2
Generally need breeds HH, but the is a need for prior contact with HH culture, it can run in the family or a HH can be taken in hand by a “mentor”. Each HH journey starts with a small step, from village, to town, to city, across a border – the world opens to a brave inquisitive vagabond.
Why do people stop? It seams increasingly that rising material wealth and expectations have relegated HH to the sidelines of main stream culture. Getting a car is cited as the most common reason given in the study. Even the poor can have access to a car.
“The best moments of my life I spend HH… I started teaching at a huge 1,000 pupil private school were only 1 student had a car, now I teach at a much smaller and poorer school with only 300 students -20 have cars and 20 have motorbikes. The rise of car culture the decline of HH culture.”
Middle Aged French Art teacher in the Pyrenese driver interview no18
Age it self plays a role - young HH say that HH is a “studenty” thing to do, thus it is a period of transition before work and material comforts. More mature HH cite the physical and emotional hardship of HH, which becomes more difficult to sustain, people grow more attached to “creature comforts”. However, is age a physiological thing or perception of what we should be? That is the expectation of who a HH should be - a student - and the ending of this statues. Asking older drivers who have HH they stress the lack of time, control and physical discomfort of HH for not doing it any more. Experience, violence and disappointment? Fear, real or imaginary, I feel the bad experiences are magnified by age - so age seems to be the key.
Thus HH can be seen as a transitory means of life - transport, and for some a combination of the two. But a transition to what? This question I have examined in the theory section.
Fundamentally, HH takes the traveler to where he or she wants to go, and many times to places were they never though of going. It provides the random element to challenge our preconceived ideas of people, region and culture. So if it is so good, where is the down side? HH report that most of the problems involved in HH can be avoided with a little “nose”, by using they’re ability to size people up, to use “common sense”, as in other interactions in normal life. Are people robbed, raped and murdered? Yes as in any other pursuit: package holidays, drinking in pubs, letting the electrician into read the meter and other common actions. In this section, I first look at the positive which most of my data represents, before touching on the widely held and reported darker side.
In the interviews, “cheapness” was a dominant theme. In Eastern Europe HH because it is basically free was, and still is for many, the only means for young people to see the west after the fall of the iron curtain. With luck and endurance, a traveler can make it across a country for free and a continent for the price of a national rail ticket. The only expenses, if the HH is prepared to rough it, are food and entertainment, and drivers often provide these.
“When I was 16 or 17 - France to Italy, I had no money… better to hitch… not by train, to expensive and do not meet people… not a tourist.”
First HH trip 21-year old French women, Edinburgh university HH interviews p23
Lifts will generally be friendly and pleasant, if the driver did not want the HH company he or she wouldn’t have picked the HH up. Travelling by HH throws together people in an unstructured setting where neither will probably see the other again, which providing a space for a kind of intensity and freedom rare in modern society. As my survey, data shows the majority of people who pick up HH are safe, middle class, educated and liberal. Middle aged (42%); educated (54% graduates), Middle Class (78% skilled, professional and students)
“I am usually so excited so I initiate the conversation I love languages it is an adventure to find a language.”
Middle aged German male Prague -HH interview p23
“People who are doing bad are not doing HH, they are doing other methods”
Male middle aged Greek driver interview 51 fieldwork diary.
HH has a very special rhythm of travel, a normal journey made by car is often constant, to HH the same route you will experience a changing rhythm, from one lift to the next, long periods of waiting, during which the HH is exposed to the landscape and elements. When driving you can stop, but this just does not happen, thus the HH experiences “forced” immersion in both the social and geographic culture.
The HH experiences can be interesting - Lifts given by truck drivers, businessmen, housewives, drug dealers, lawyers, political radicals, conservatives, priests, salesmen and dropouts who are more than happy to tell the traveler all about their own lives and aspirations, which for the driver and HH usually beats listening to muzak.
“I have been to places I would never have gone, the journey not the destination, wonderful people.”
Young American man HH interviews p23
HH can be a very quick means of transport, on the way back from Russia I was HH from Cambridge to Oxford, this is a very difficult route to travel as the is no direct road. I had considered taking the bus but it took 5 hours and cost £7, I was standing on the road the bus drove by, the next truck stopped and I was dropped in Oxford 2 hours before the bus, with memories of the ins and outs of the antiques business – an interesting lift with a buyer driving a truck load of antiques from Eastern Europe. HH to a schedule is less satisfactory.
“HH as a means of transport has many problems, but as a means of travelling it can be excellent”.
Young English man at the Greek border project diary
It can be luxurious, in a chauffeur driven car, or high up above the traffic in an intercontinental truck. The driver often involves the HH in their lifestyle, low or high with food hospitality and entertainment of the driver’ choice. A warning on the excesses of hospitality is the 6-day lift with a Turkish Truck driver in the project diary.
“Within the half hour a brand new black taxi pulls up. An extremely rare sight in the Czechoslovakia of the time and a great surprise to me, not exactly in need of a taxi. It’s a young Slovak driver and I explain to him that I’m hitching to Vienna and in no need of a taxi. No, no, he says to me, I’m off duty and on my way to Vienna myself, hop in. It turns out that he drives to Vienna on a regular basis working illegally as a waiter over there. He earns in one night as a waiter in Vienna what he earns in a whole week driving taxis in Bratislava!”
Bernd Wechner, from internet memoirs chapter 1
For many people HH is a first taste of independence from parental control, it is seen as an adventure - dangerous and exciting. As I have said before, it is a means to be free both from social norms and the cash nexus which binds us to them.
“Bloody hell yes it was good… On the road you feel very much alive as if your actions and thoughts really matter exhilarating you can deal with it you have to be prudent we are very careful, recognize mannerisms… You are out there on your own facing nature it is brilliant all experiences add to it…Gave me idea of how lovely people can be… You do not see people in black and white you tend to use your brain a bit more.”
20 year old English women from Edinburgh university talking about one of her first HH trips with a women friend, HH interviews p25
There is a public and official rejection reflected in many media horror stories. I give selection of recent newspaper reports and a dangers HH moment in former Yugoslavia. HH can be dangers and boring like any walk in life, as on of my respondents says “it has the potential for greatness”. Which lifts it outside of the everyday, and puts the risks into perspective, alongside crossing the road, breathing city center rush hour air, amongst the many “irrationalities” of living in the modern world.
Israel came up a number of times in the discussions and interviews during fieldwork, the was a feeling that historically is was very good country to HH, but now the is a general ill-ease. Yet people still do HH.
“British tourists planning to visit Israel were warned by the Foreign Office last night to be extremely careful and to avoid the occupied areas. The two Britons shot yesterday were hitchhiking from the beach resort of Eilat to a tourist attraction at Mitzpe Ramon, in the Negev Desert. The Foreign Office said that, while both areas were fairly safe, travelers ran unnecessary risks by accepting lifts from strangers.”
The Times Newspaper - 14 August 1997
The case of Fred West was notorious, one of the people talked to during the fieldwork related how he thought West and Rosemary picked him up in the 1970’s.
“A WOMAN subjected to a violent sexual attack by Rosemary and Fred West was later given cups of tea and asked if she would like to resume her job as the family nanny, a court heard yesterday. Ms Owens said she had first met the Wests in October 1972 when she was 17. She had been hitchhiking and they had pulled up in their Ford Popular and had taken her home, offering her a job as nanny to their daughters. She had been pleased to see Mrs West in the car because… it made her feel safer. A few days later the Wests met her parents and repeated their job offer… “Fred said it was better when he took Rosemary with him because having another woman in the car they [the girls] thought it was safe.” She added: “Fred said he preferred young runaways because they had nowhere to go.” Mrs West heard this and later told her that it was the truth, she added.”
The Guardian 11 October 1995
This Australian case affected many Australians attitude to HH, though they still seamed to find HH in Europe to be a “romantic” possibility.
“Serial killer gets life in backpackers case Roger Maynard, Sydney AN AUSTRALIAN roadworker was sentenced to life in prison yesterday after being found guilty of the murders of seven backpackers, including two British women, who were lured to their deaths as they toured the country.”
Sunday Times, 28 July 1996
An account by a HH of a kidnapping in a danger zone.
“Once in Bosnia with 2 friends, one girl friend… Mostar to Sarajevo, get lift with a man to Sutinar, to graveyard to a funeral of three girls had died in a car accident we joined in the procession a police officer claimed to be a police officer wanted to take us in for questioning, drove us off the road… we were making jokes about gangster films were they take you to a back road to shoot you. He drove into an abandoned village into an abandoned building and pulled out a gun when he put his gun on my friend I ran, I ran off the road I stopped and heard of someone pursuing me. It was my girl friend we ran together to a little village and knocked on someone’s door they called the police the man let my friend go. As a HH you are vulnerable you have to trust but then you are open to miracles.”
22 year old American male, HH interview Prague p22
The countries in which I carried out my research were divided between rich western, poor eastern and ex-Soviet European countries and the boundaries between Islam, Christianity, Orthodox and Roman Catholic religion. As a western traveler money is worth so much in the Eastern Block and in the poorer countries that HH to an extent is not worth while if other transport was available. In the West it comes down to the Cash Nexus, if the transport was cheap people use the train or bus if they are available rather than HH. In poorer countries hitchhiking is often the only way of getting to a destination without buying or hiring independent transport. In some areas of some countries even this is not an alternative. In countries were HH is “institutionalized” these divisions are not applicable HH is public transport.
A brief summing up of HH expectations, the interview, literature, biographies and guidebook experiences in each of the countries visited in the fieldwork. The text in bold Italics is the recommendations from The ISIC student Travel Handbook 1997/98. This is provided as a impression rather than a statement of fact, to help the reader get an understand there variables involved in European HH.
UK – is generally considered one of the best countries in Europe to HH.
HH is no longer popular in the UK
France – is by reputation a difficult country, though my experiences was good and the people who I talked to who had actually HH in the country rather than just heard stores, shared this opinion. In my diary the is a feeling of a more tolerant history of revolution and the respectability of challenging authority, drivers and HH expressed Kerouac, Rousseau and Bohemian romanticism.
France is one of the most difficult countries in Europe for HH. Its best to look respectable as possible and a backpack will help.
Germany – is the “meeker” for HH, for many HH there is a view that HH is institutionalised amongst young German students. This I think is an over statement. In the former GDR as with much of Eastern Europe HH was a normal means of travel, car shares were negotiated by the roadside.
HH is not a particularly safe way of getting around.
Czech Republic – a strong history of HH in the communist area throughout the Soviet block. After the wall fell there was a wave of Czech HH into the west. Increasingly now the is a real divide between rich and poor, which leaves those who have access to cars less willing to pickup those who do not.
HH is generally a good option.
Slovak Republic– is similar to the Czech republic, but worse, unspoken but more extreme, increasingly people fear the Mafia. Those who have money are in increasingly sharp contrast to those who do not. Very few international travelers of any sort.
HH is a very popular way of getting around for young people.
Hungary, Romania Bulgaria – I traveled with a Turkish trucker and mixed with the Turkish enclaves the only nationals I meet where prostitutes. There were many native HH but non-of the international crowd.
HH is legal, but definitely not advisable.
HH is a popular way for young people to get around.
HH is not recommended.
Turkey - again I did not HH, but interviewing travelers and an overview of travel guides suggests that for short distance HH is universal but the longer distances are served by comfortable coaches. The are many story’s and biographical accounts of overwhelming Turkish hospitality, it seams it is very rear for a westerner to pay for a lift.
HH is possible but not recommended – you may be asked to pay for up to ½ the bus fare.
Greece – All my driver interviews and conversations with natives stressed the problem of illegal aliens – Iraqis and Kurds in the south, Albanians in the north, Greece is an interesting example of a country were HH is near impossible for fear of the “other”.
HH is not advisable for women travelling alone.
Italy – I do not have much information or data on HH in Italy though the is a repartition for sexism and the danger of macho driving. And on a positive side a very strong tradition of hospitality. (see internet WWW Auto Stop – Room 8250 at www.geocities.com)
HH is an option but it is not common in the south… not advisable for a woman travelling alone.
Switzerland - I have little data, the people seem to be friendly though as a HH you can’t help but feel untidy.
Belgium – has a bad reputation, I cannot see why.
HH is not very popular.
Poland – HH was actively encouraged in the Communist era, until about 10 years ago it was not at all unusual to see old ladies and school girls standing by the road. As with the rest of Eastern Europe with the changing of the political culture things have become more difficult for HH.
“Poland best for HH it was state sponsored, get cards fill in, driver can win a lottery prize.”
25 year old man Prague HH interview p6
HH is a popular way of getting around the country for young people.
Lithuania – I have little data, HH seams to be perfectly possible, the Vilnius Hitch-hiking Club (www-public.osf.It) is one of the most best HH sights on the internet. As a westerner, it would be very unusual to be asked to contribute towards the cost of fuel. Much more likely you the HH would be feed and offered a bed for the night at the families drivers house. (See the fieldwork diary)
HH is common practice between major city’s and holiday destinations but you will be expected to contribute to the fuel costs.
Latvia – similar to the other Baltic states.
Russia – As with any thing with Russia I have herd conflicting stores. My experiences, and I talked to many HH in St Petersburg and at the Rainbow Gathering festival (1998) was one of a renaissance of Russian HH. I interviewed two young women who HH alone thousands of Km one from Siberia and the other from the Caucasus, they had no problems governing such distances. There is a strong tradition of “HH” Electriska local trains – hoboing – amongst the young. If they are caught they can convincingly argue poverty. The guards have a “socialists mentality” they are really sanctioned.
HH is not common and is risky
Estonia – is possible, when I was HH in 1992 I had just sneaked across the border from Russia as I didn’t have a Russian visa, and the Estonian border guards wanted $70, a young police man flagged down a car and arranged a lift to Tallinn the capital.
HH is common practice.
Finland – HH is possible but doesn’t seam common.
HH is generally easy, especially on busy roads.
Sweden – HH can be difficult in Sweden.
HH can be difficult in Sweden
Denmark – seams about the same as in England.
HH is difficult, not really worth the hassle.
During the fieldwork as well as HH numerous times around the UK, I undertook two major fieldwork trips. The first from Edinburgh to Istanbul which most of the illustrating data in this project is from, I include the diary and driver interviews in the Appendix 1. The second is to be turned into a video documentary next year.
A basic statistical break-down of the 74 lifts in 13 countries from Portsmouth to Istanbul and back to London from 4 of July to the 12th September 1997.
A total of 3542 miles as the crow flies, probably over 5,000 miles meandering by thumb. The shortest lift was a few Km on the Turkish Greek border on the back of a tractor trailer, the longest over 700 mile for 6 days in a Turkish truck from Hungary to Istanbul, via Romania and Bulgaria.
Driver and Passengers
A majority (78%) of lifts with men, roughly quarter made up of couples, women and children.
Age of Driver
Middle aged people pickup HH, though this may be a reflection of who the HH is.
Education of Driver
T he majority have university education, though taking the no answers, which reflects in part difficulty of communication, this is probably more even. Still compared with a European average that is an over representation of educated people.
Job of Driver
Skilled Manual or Clerical
A large proportion of “middle class” drivers (78% including students)
Has the Driver HH
The majority have HH in the past – HH pickup HH
This project is very much incomplete, I have only directly drawn from a third of the data I collected; although the project as a whole is informed by all the research. Next year I hope to finish the video documentary, which makes up the data from the Russian trip and have an offer from web publisher, meaning all the material will be available on the web from the summer.
I give here a brief outline of the areas that I would consider in a more expanded and comprehensive study.
The Rich West versus the Poor East.
Look more into the role economics plays in the prevalence of HH.
The rainbow gathering – privileged anti-modernism
I lived at two rainbow gatherings during the field work, hard to tell defiantly but many perhaps as much as ½ of the 1,000’s of people who attend these post-hippie festivals arrived by some for of HH or hoboing. It would be interesting to put more work into how the HH is apparent in the counter cultural atmosphere of the rainbow gathering.
This is an essential area for studying HH – looking at the finished work I am shocked to find that I have not really touched on it.
How do people HH what is the etiquette? The expectations and techniques do differ.
Needs to looked into, I have some data spread over 21 country’s, in Latvia the are 5 words for HH, in Poland people used to undulating there arms, instead of using their thumb. Though this is changing as prostitutes who crowed the roads near borders use this sign to attract their clients.
HH from different nationalities
Europe and the nationalities question - I have only touched on.
The idea of post-modern capitalism and the spread of vagabond culture
How “post-modern” capitalism makes cultural vagabonds of us all. Workers because of short contract culture, become a mobile disposable unit of production in the fluidity of free market economics. People move to find stability, you can see the conquest of the USA as a “nation” of vagabonds searching for a home. “Even if their ancient trade has fallen into disrepute, every nation is a nation of vagabonds grown respectable”. 29
Women and the HH experiences
Because of its ethnographic nature and the limitation on resources available, this project dose not focus on the female perspective. It would be necessary to do further research.
HH from the drivers perspective
Again because space restraints I do not expand on HH from the driver perspective.
This project has concentrated on the “youthful” romantically self-motivated HH, who rejects the certainties of the “normal” world to embrace the chances and opportunity of the open road. It highlights the tension between those who drive and those who stand by the road, viewing the HH - beggar as an incitement to those paying their way.
HH experiences and biographies form most of the “data” underlining the findings of this survey. In second section of the project Research and Survey: An Investigation into Modern Hitch-Hiking Methods and Morals. I have looked at why people HH, there early experiences. The research work clearly shows that people who pickup HH have HH themselves. HH culture is a community of drivers and HH, a virtuous circle, for the HH the road ultimately ends at home.
People have generally HH because of lack of access to transport; it is only recently that car ownership has become more universal in Europe as a whole. Generally need breeds HH, but the is a need for prior contact with HH culture, it can run in the family or a HH can be taken in hand by a "mentor". It seams increasingly that rising material wealth and expectations have relegated HH to the sidelines of main stream culture. “The best moments of my life I spend HH… The rise of car culture the decline of HH culture.”30 Age plays a role - young HH say that HH is a “studenty” thing to, more mature HH cite the physical and emotional hardship of HH, which becomes more difficult to sustain, older drivers who have HH stress the lack of time and control involved.
HH has a very special rhythm of travel, a normal journey made by car is often constant, to HH the same route you will experience a constantly changing rhythm, from one lift to the next, long periods of waiting, during which the HH is exposed to the landscape and elements. Are people robbed, raped and murdered? I give selection of recent newspaper reports and a dangerous. HH can be dangers and boring, like any walk in life, as on of the respondents says, “it has the potential for greatness”.
The HH is ground in a historical setting, a long history of the beggar, tramp and vagabond. This history can be traced back to the 12th century, its roots in mendicant orders, wondering tradesman and intelligentsia tramping from country to country, university to university. A traditional view sees them as parasites on the healthy body of society. Karl Marx sees these vagabonds as the peasants of the old feudal order, ripped from their homes, the fathers of the present working class, chastised for their enforced transformation into vagabonds and paupers. For me a problem of the comodification of humanity, seeing human beings as “use value” rather as an end to themselves Orwell’s in the 1930’s in Down and Out in Paris and London criticize the negative view of beggars, our modern idea of the HH has come from a long history both negative and positive.
In the USA, the hobo begets the ride beggar who begets the HH. In the 1930’s Fermor outlined what a modern HH would consider the ideal of HH Hospitality, from culture to nature, the vagabond experiences life from many different places. The descendent of the vagabond has been surrounded by a romantic aura of hardihood, liberty and courage the searching for a glimpse of freer more spacious times. At the beginning of the Second World War HH becomes more respectable, leading to a huge increase into the 1960’s and 1970’s. Literature and youthful rebellion feed HH from choice in the 1950’s Kareouc and the beat poets in 1960’s hippies were an inspiration.
To attempt to explain this from a sociological perspective I looked at Peter Berger work, he argues that the modern individual has lost the “meaning” in everyday life, that individuals are faced with too many choices. That technological production and bureaucracy takes the social institutions beyond the understanding of the individual. For me the HH is searcher for an old house to live in or the possibility of finding a new home to create for him or herself, the reflexive individuals as Giddens calls them.
Our modern liberal society urges individuals to be true to themselves. However, when social surroundings change so rapidly, how can people determine which identity to be true to? Were to find themselves, a problem that lies at the hart of the identity crises so widespread in society. “Who am I” is a nagging question that many struggle to answer. This is more of a sociological than psychological problem, reflecting the inherent instability of modern mass society. From a radical - Marxist perspective, we see a different picture, not one of too much freedom, as the “idealist” account exemplifies but a lack of distribution of freedom. A few have too much and the many far too little, it is the tension between these, which creates the vacuum of meaning.
I attempted to critically examine this idea of a “free creative” individual. Marx recognizes that self-determination is a genuine human need and that social emancipation and individual freedom are interdependent. Marx theory of alienation at its base has an “idea - essences” of man as a free agent. Marx would have rejected the escapism and romanticism of the HH as a facet of bourgeois ideology. For me Marx is radicalizing the modern liberal ideal of individuality, communism would complete the process of individual emancipation, it is a “natural” continuity of capitalism and liberalism. The ethical claims at the heart of liberalism: the goods of mutual recognition of persons and self-respect, the general human capacity for moral personality and individuality.
However, is it human/humane to be totally free? As man is a social animal perhaps to develop every person’s, potential we need alienating chains. To be human is to cut off some possibilities to pursue others, as the Existentialists argue the only power we have is the power to negate. To choose some thing is to reject every other possibility – in our “embodiment” we cannot do every thing and be everywhere. Thus creativity lies in saying no to all the vast multitude of possibilities to life, and narrowing life to an “Iron Cage” of human meaning – this is culture. Emile Durkheim expressed the widely held fear that without the constraints of an extensive moral discipline, both human nature and society as a whole would slip into anarchy.
Freedom of choice entails commitment and responsibility. To be complete, human, we have to participate fully in the life of society and express all our nature. Are Durkheim’s norms necessary chains, the most important chain is that human life is worth living, or possibly be made worth living. Sociology does not ask the ultimate question what is the meaning of life – which is why there is a section on existential philosophy. Without meaning sociology with the rest of the scientific-progressive project becomes, but a toy, to amuse stunted child/adults. The question when does the theorist live has to be answered. Life and the pursuit of knowledge are not synonyms for the same idea. We have to be able to live to run, and run to live, but this is a view of an animal – to be human is to see this and act. The sociologists are right to say that our actions come from culture, we are “socially constructed”, to be human is to see this and act upon it – this is what the alienated youth of this project are endeavoring to do, in sharp contrast to those who fear and sneer at them from the fools safety of “nothingness” – there cars and careers.
The HH can be seen as taking power in to there own hands taking control of their lives, subverting the constraints of the cash nexus. HH allows, the idealized romantic to step outside of societies constraints and norms, an example being that of an unemployed person, who can except the "reality" of their position that of state benefits or poorly paid insecure work, or create their own "reality" (that of a traveler). HH can “throw” the traveler in to a very “special” space: intimate proximity with people you would not normally mix with. From the Rolls Royce of an aristocrat to the scrap yard truck of a gypsy often within a space of an hour. For the drivers to it is also a “special” space, they can “open up” their personal lives because they no the HH will never have the freedom to tell, it is a space without "responsibility" personal truths can be shared or fantasies lived out. The “relationship” between driver and traveler is one of trust: the traveler is a visitor in someone's space, being entertaining company, if you wish to see it as a transaction, is the payment for the lift. The HH touches on a tradition – meaning - that is much older than the “use value” of today’s judgments. Humanity as a hole, not broken and bent, pacified by the prison of rational, bureaucratic, “safety”.
As man is a social animal perhaps to develop every person’s, potential we need alienating chains. The HH can be seen as subverting the hierarchical nature of these chains, all are equal, each is choosing, the are no "free riders". HH can “throw” the traveler in to a very “special space”: intimate proximity with people you would not normally mix with. To be a successful and safe the HH needs a secure and sensible personality, positive attitude, going with the best of every thing. Our modern liberal society urges individuals to be true to themselves, travel for travel’s sake. The HH lives on this edge.
As I began by quoting Stevenson, I think it appropriate to end with him;
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”31
“Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.” 32
“Extreme busyness, whether at school or college, Kirk or market, is a symptom of deficient vitality… Books are good enough in their own way, but they are a mighty bloodless substitute for life… Give me a young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself!”33
A good conclusion - Hitchhiking is both utilitarian and a dilettante bourgeoisie indulgence, in this project I have researched and outlined a real life utopia (and just touched on its shadow – the distopia which is often more real).
Bertrand Russell, Portraits from Memory, George Allen & Unwin 1958
Brigitte Berger, Readings in Sociology – A Biographical Approach, Basic Books 1974
C.W. Miles, Sociological Imagination, Oxford University Press 1958
Calder Simon, Europe a manual for hitch-hikers, Second edition, Vacation Work 1985
Calder Simon, Europe a manual for hitch-hikers, Vacation Work 1980
Calder Simon, Hitch-hikers’ Manual Britain, Vacation Work 1979
Clements Paul, A Journey round the rim of Ireland: Irish Shores, Greystone Books 1993
D.B Thomas (Tr), The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars, The Penguin Press 1932
David McLellan, Karl Marx – Selected Writings, Oxford University Press 1977
Dimaggio Paul, The Hitchhiker’s Field Manual, Collier Books 1973
Diego Gambetta “can we trust trust?” in Gambetta Trust: Making and Breaking Co-operative Relations.
Electronic, Random House Webster’s College Dictionary, WordPerfect Corporation 1992
Erica Jong, Fear of Flying, Secker & Warburg 1974
Erving Goffman, Behavior in Public Places, The free Press of Glencoe 1963
Frank Gray, The Tramp, J. M. Dent and sons 1931
Friedrich Nietzsche, Zarathustra, A Phoenix Paperback 1996
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Notes from the Underground, Penguin 1972
G.W. Smith (ed), John Stuart Mill’s Social and Political Thought – Critical Assessments, Routledge 1998
George Orwell, The Penguin Complete Longer Non-Fiction of George Orwell: Down and out in Paris and London, Penguin 1983
Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity, Polity 1992
Glen Mullen, Adventures of a scholar tramp, Jonathan Cape Ltd 1925
Godfrey Irwin, American tramp and underworld slang, Eric Partrige Ltd
Harry Kemp, Tramping on life, William Heinemann 1923
Helen Waddell, Songs of the Wandering Scholars, The Folio Society 1982
J.S. Mills On liberty and other essays, Oxford University Press 1991
Jack Kerouac, On The Road, A Deutsch, 1958
Jan Harold Brunvand, The Vanishing Hitchhiker, Picador 1983
Jean Paul Sartre, Being and nothingness - an essay on phenomenological ontology, Methuen 1957
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract and Discourses, Everyman 1973
John Gibbons, Tramping through Ireland, Methuen 1930
John Stuart Mill, Autobiography, Penguin Classics1989
Keesing Roger, Cultural Anthropology: a contemporary perspective 2nd ed, Harcourt Brace College Publishers c1981
Kierkegaard Either/Or, Milford 1944
Lauren Murdoch, CEA, Broad sheet n1 September 1997
Mario Rinvolucri, Hitch-hiking, Mario Rinvolucri (published by the author) 1974
Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer’s Pirate Adventure, Penguin 1996
Mary Higgs, Down and Out – studies in the problem of vagrancy, Student Christian Movement 1924
Mary Jaques-Aldridge, Trio’s Trek – The story of a ten thousand-mile Hitch-hike, W.H.Allen 1955
Merick, The mysteries of the (H) I-(T)ching, Godhaven Ink 1995
Michael Goss, The Evidence for Phantom Hitch-hikers, The Aquarian Press 1984
Microsoft, Encarter, CD-ROM 1994
Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts, Penguin 1977
Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water, Penguin 1986
Paul Smart, Mill and Marx, Manchester University Press 1991
Peter Beale, Lilli and the Hippopotamus, Secker & Warburg: 1958
Peter Berger, Invitation to Sociology, Penguin 1963
Peter Berger, The Homeless Mind, Penguin 1973
R. L. Stine, The Hitchhiker, Point Horror - Scholastic Children’s Books 1993
R.L. Stevenson, An Apology for Idlers, The Redcoat Press 1951
R.L. Stevenson, Essays of Travel, Chatto & Windus 1905
R.L. Stevenson, Memories and Portraits, Richard Drew Publishing 1990
R.L. Stevenson, Travels with a Donkey and Virginibus Puerisque, Ginn and Company 1936
R.L. Stevenson, Virginibus Puerisque and other Papers, G. Kegan Paul & Co 1881
Raymond Williams, Keywords, Flamingo 1983
Richard Thornburgh, Never Look Back – Tramping to Rocamadour, Pharisaios Publications 1995
Richard W. Etulain (ed), Jack London on the road – The Tramp Diary and Other Hobo Writings, Utah State University Press 1979
Roger Hutchinson, High Sixties – The summers of riots & love, Mainstream Publishing 1992
Ronald Fuller, The Beggars’ Brotherhood, George Allen and Unwin 1936
Rosita Boland, Sea Legs Hitch-hiking the cost of Ireland Alone, New Island Books 1992
Sasha Roseneil, Disarming Patriarchy – Feminism and Political Action at Greenham, Open University Press 1995
Schatzman & Strauss, Field Research, Strategies for a Natural Sociology, Prentice-hall 1973
Silver Alan “Trust in social and political Theory” in Gerald D Suttles and Mayer N Zald eds The challenge of social Control
Stuart Hall and Paul du Gay ed, Questions of Cultural Identity, Sage Publications 1996
The ISIC Association, The ISIC student Travel Handbook 1997/98, Kilroy Travels 1997
Thomas Owen, The Owen Thomas Guide to Hitch-hiking, The Author 1995
Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: towards a new modernity, Sage 1992
1 This is problematic because those who reject what has been before are similarly following a “tradition” of radicalism. And as a complete criticism we have lonely individualism, the senseless mobility from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, commodity to commodity, idea to idea, a rootless and restless existence, absurd in its busyness. A view that would become axiomatic to the main stream sociology theorised most fully by Durkheim, in his study of Suicide – the title itself perhaps an unintentional metaphor for the state of Western culture, lose of community.
2 From the internet chapter 11 (http://garlic.aitec.edu.au/~bwechner/Documents/Hitch/Memories/contents.html)
3 Internet –Bernd Wechner. (http://garlic.aitec.edu.au/~bwechner/Documents/Hitch/index.html)
4 Backpackers, or "Euro trash" as an interviewee unkindly labels them in Berlin, make up the vast majority of the young people travelling in Europe.
5 p196 C.W. Mills, The Sociological Imagination
6 p32 Jack London, How I became a Socialist
7 p20 Ronald Fuller, The Beggars’ Brotherhood
8 Liber Vagatorum from Vagans, vagus = a wandering cleric, from a conversation in the Oxford Union
9 p2 D.B Thomas (tr), The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars
10 p182 Frank Gray, The Tramp
11 p10 D.B Thomas (Tr), The Book of Vagabonds and Beggars
12 p180 Frank Gray, The Tramp
14 p10 Dimaggio Paul, The Hitchhiker’s Field Manual
15 there is a copy in the Bodlean, Oxford and on-line on the internet: (http://garlic.aitec.edu.au/~bwechner/Documents/Hitch/Mario/contents.html)
16p114 Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
17p 207 Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
18p 207 Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
19P 262 Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts
20 Mario Rinvolucri, internet chapter 10 (http://garlic.aitec.edu.au/~bwechner/Documents/Hitch/Mario/cover.html)
21 p 68 Mary Jaques-Aldridge, Trio’s Trek – The story of a ten thousand-mile Hitch-hike
22 p175 Berger etal, The homeless Mind
23 p73 Berger etal, The homeless Mind
24 The majority of capital in the modern world is no longer in individual “capitalist” hands, it is “controlled” by pension funds, insurance and joint stock companies, managed by professional bureaucracy who's one motivation is the growth of capital, capital creates capital. Marx argued that alienation would reach its height in capitalistic society were labour is dominated by the requirement of capital. The most important of which is the demand for profit.
25 Which can be seen as a combination of the two.
26 HH was officially encouraged in Poland in the communist era.
27 Bernd Wechner Memories of a Hitch-hiker Chapter 1: The Early Years, from the internet (http://garlic.aitec.edu.au/~bwechner/Documents/Hitch/Memories/contents.html)
28 Virtue - conformity of one's life and conduct to moral and ethical principles; moral excellence; rectitude. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary.
29 p19 p20 Ronald Fuller, The Beggars’ Brotherhood
30 Driver interview 18
31 Travels with a Donkey, Cheylard and Lue
32 Virginbus Puerisque, Crabbed Age and Youth
33 An apology for Idlers
An early copy left project I setup while at undercurrents
Ruff cuts MPG1 Video CD-ROM
The project is complemtery to the VHS news video; it entails putting lots of roughly edited news shorts and good video clips on to a computer playerbal CD-ROM.
The CD’s can be freely copied and given away
The CD’s can be sold by us and the video producers to raise production costs.
They could be used for campaigning fundraising.
This is a radical alt-media project using existing simple, universal and very cheap technology. The common CD ROM, entwined with the international video standard MPG, and the web standard HTML.
Easy to edit
Basic editing is much easier now. Once you have an editing laptop it becomes second nature to do a ruff edit of any story you cover.
Of course making something that people will really watch is a little more time consuming and difficult. This project isn’t aiming to be whatchabel in the traditional way. It’s more for the people who were at the action or as a video resource. Also a means of communicating the fact that things you don’t see on tely are going on. People can get one of the actions they were on and of course will also get video of lots of other actions… It’s a stepping stone for people to create more polished and finished pieces for the undercurrents news video.
It’s a great distribution tool for an indymedia vagabond with a laptop with a CD burner and a DV camera. Get a long contacts list, a round the world ticket, shoot stories as you go and create and sell CD’s to finances the whole shebang, in the process nurturing the alt-media distribution network.
Copy-left and funding
The CD’s would be copyleft, that is, free to reproduce not-for-profit in whatever form. Anyone could create copies and give them away… If they sold them for profit this would break the copyleft agreement, unless they had a fund raising agreement. The outcome of this would be that the CD’s would be free to activists, who would get off the behinds and copy the CD’s (for free) for there friends and campains.
Sell the video CD’s for say:
We would agree to the selling of the CD’s in most circumstances
As a fund raser for a good course or project.
If the individual or organization produced one of the video slots on the CD.
With a funding sharing licenses
The project becomes sustainable to all concerned because the CD’s can be sold by both the producers and contributors with certain limitations.
Free to give away
The CD’s are of course free for anyone to produces and give away.
The producer of each video segment (or for each 5 min) automatically has the right to create and sell £100 ponds worth of CD’s. After this they can sell CD’s on the normal fund sharing bases.
The CD’s can be sold by people who have an agreement with ruff cuts, this will be on a funding sharing bases with 1/3 going to Ruff cuts and 2/3 of the sale prices going to the fundraising organization. This would be around £1.50 for a £5 sale and £3 for a £10 sale.
Notes on funding
The “free” contributor sales are limited to stop abuse of the system, with out some limit an enterprising capitalist, who made one piece, could make seruse money out of other people’s work. Why have money coming into the center? After working all my life in the alternative I am very awear that projects tend to disintegrate if the is not a strong focus to what they are doing. For this project to work well we need a sustainable core to the project, from both an infrastructure point of view and the people working on the project.
Sustainability need to cover the cost of the technology, Laptop, DV deck, Camera, tapes and Blank CD’s. The replacement cost of the laptop or Camera is around £1500… they will brake or get stolen. Thus need a cersurten level of funding not only to subsist but also to cover replacement cost of expensive equipment. For the project to have a strong core it needs to be abeal to provide the people working on it with a resnebal subsistence’s wage, which they would augment threw what ever other projects they were involved in.
Out reach persion
Video activist training
At the core of this project is not only the means of distribution, but a strong commitment to training as a means of creating content to distribute. If the project managed to create excess funding, that is it makes a profit this would be plowed back into firstly video activist training. This would also be a process of re-distributing the core funding to the producers, as the obverse choice to run the video training would be the very dispersed and embed in there communities producers of the ruff cuts video them self. And secondly to fund outreach screenings to the wider community.
Ruff cuts is both a process and a distribution technology that needs to be imbedded in the full breapth of the alt-media and wider globalization moment. Should be a joint project with indymedia? As a means of getting new video stories, fundraising and sharing distribution. But all the problems of working with a disorganization!
The basic Ruff Cuts MPG1 CD-ROM can be complemented by the higher quality MPG2 SVCD standard which allows around 40 minits of “DVD” quality video on a standard CD, this would allow more established video activist groups to distribution of more polished full length documenetrys threw the copy-left network.
The advantages of the Video CD over VHS:
Copying time CD takes around 10 minutes, VHS 1 hour
Similar quality of video
Can fit over 1 hour of video on a CD
Can be instantly edited, rearranged, dubbed or subtitled
Small to carry and cheap to post.
Will play on very widely availably low-speck computers
Will play on any computer platform, Mac, PC, UNIX etc.
Very cheap to mass-produce.
Making them one off with CD-R’s takes about 10 min and costs around 50p with label and cover
Commercially printing them makes them cheap anufe to give away 25p or less.
Sexy – cool image of video CD
Could be distributed threw more traditional outlets? Given away on magazine covers?
Advantages of the project for Undercurrents Archive (optional but worthwhile)
The undercurrents archive is both a wonderful resores for video activist film makers and a place were the ethical mainstream can get access images and voices from “our” point of view. The archive manages to servie and pay one meager wage threw these sales. The ruff cuts encoding of the MPG1 would bring much new footage coming threw the archive, which if the original producer agreed could be placed in the archive. This would be good both from a historical point of view; it would preserve the history of this alternative movement and from a finatial point of view of the producer and the archive if the video was used in more mainstream ethical productions. The CD-ROM would act as a good shop window for the archive – as the MPG1 video is only ¼ of broadcast resolution anyone who seriously wonted to make money from the video would need access to the full resolution original.
The global ruff cuts network
This project at the moment is an English language one, we need to think of other language versions – I prefer languages rather than nations as a means of making divisions, to be discussed during the process of launching the UK (global) model. It is relatively easy to make the Txt on the CD’s multy language, and the with some clever programming subtitles on the video could be made multilingual – that is you could choice the language but this would be a lot of work and commitment which I don’t think is around at the moment.
The advantages of the copyleft system
It means that any productions using part of the MPG1 video from the CD would have to be distributed under the copyleft system, thus could not be charged for. It normalizes the problem/delight of rampant piracy of the video pieces which exists already with out undermining the fundraising potential of the original producer of the video. It always camera people to feel more secure letting there video out into the world, thus allowing more people to see radical images. It is a positive alternative to the problem of hording lots of dusty tapes unviewed on shelves…
It decentralizes the distribution system while allowing some money to come back to the producers. Even if they have to sell the Video CD’s them selves!
Ruff cuts video CD project – provides VHS quality video which can be instantly edited or changed, dropped into people own projects. With web links to organization and more info. Have two CD’s finished.
Video CD’s simple to use and copy VHS quality video, am in the process of encoding the undercurrents tapes 1-10 in this format. Have done undercurrents 10
SVCD’s are 40 min’s of hi-quality “DVD” on a standard CD, a good format for relicesing new documentary’s have Globalization and the media on this format.
A copy left contract (needs to be cutermised)
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Problem on the left “the is no alternative”
In grassroots movements
Social media tarts
Capturing the grassroots and building a career in NGO land for them selves from activists movements/agenda’s. They are fine as far as they go, every campaign needs some, but they tend to be competent anufe to unbalance movements towards the “soft”. For them to be useful the need to be a healthy alt to keep this from happening.
Individualism the issue of churning projects with falling outcomes is all that exists, some projects are a bit more together than most if they networked the could be a real start of a alt-media.
In the mainstream
Good will Liberals
Their support for dangerously naive lost course of the soft centre left makes them unbalancing “friends” with out a healthy alt movements will fall over to the “soft”
The Liberal Democrat Party
Its selling out is now obvious. It played the “bad role” of shifting focus away from a real left when needed. Many good will liberals lapped this up till they got a good sound kicking in the teeth during the “alliance years”
The labour party
Is a real left alternative, but it has hard coded DNA in its libryem rules and regulations to foul this out come. And the left in the party has a core “nasty” left who have a long blood soaked wrecking history. The influx of naive “soft” liberalism will be moulded by the bureaucracy on one hand and dispoled by control freaky on the other, this is not a stable mixture for a good outcome. This could be over come by real soughed community but I cant see one.
The Green Party
Has the same issues internally as the labour party, though the top is more soughted. They have a real loon issue to deal with at the grassroots.
The nationalists of all flavourers
Are looking like the ONLY hope of a differences as they push a open loon issue of a sense of belonging agenst the over-wash of globalisation. Not a good outcome but better than the rightwing war happy, poor kicking loons who are the Torys.
A disaster in and a bigger disaster out…
What would alt/grassroots/21centery left look like?
If anyone is interested I would wright a outline of what a few strands of a real alt/grassroots/left network project would look like :)
Hamish sailing away on a lifeboat, this is not a metaphor
Where are we - an example of what works
An example of what works.
At Balcome the anti-fracking camp last summer we built a “visible affinity group” to do the power and tech for the camp. This was successful in providing working off grid energy for the camp of more than 200 people for 2 months.
However it wasn’t with out problems and did fail to build on this success when the time came to reproduce this open working model at the next camps over the winter.
How we made it work, a time line:
* Clear the space of the dysfunction by imposing open working practice's.
* This opens the space for functional working which has been excluded by the dysfunctional pushy minority.
* Open working practices nurtures talent and energy the space growers and blossoms, good shit happens.
* A tiny minority of seriously dysfunctional individuals will actively try and destroy this flowering, some emotional violence will inshuew in process of excluding them.
* The wider camp will become used to a working tech space and normality will settle back into place, at its best this is rinsed and repeated for each part of the camp.
* People will start to forget the open processes as artificial, constant vigilances is needed here to keep openness relevant and in place.
* As the camp is packed down a open meeting will bring this amnesia to the surface as everyone has an equal voice and the focus (affinity) that created the flowering will be trampled under the widening of the groups members.
In the horizontal alt the are only two successful working practices, most organising happens by “invisible affinity groups” climate camp and RTS are examples of this. Rarely “open affinity groups” are also successful, examples would be early Indymedia and this tech at Blacome.
Were are we
Its important to understand the perspective/world view am coming from to understand what am saying about the state of the alternative. Anarchist/socialist/libertarian/liberal leaning on the start and tapering off the end... am reacting against Hierarchical/conservative/authoritarian. This is a classic enlightenment divide so we should all be well aware of living it – even though few actively think about this lived experience. The views in this series of posts need to be read with this in mind.
The options for an alternative to our current world view/experience/mindset is narrow and limited, largely it is a collection of failed traditions, unexamined and repeated by each amnesiac generation. The normal world, I will call it the “traditional” world for that is what it actually is is so dominant and global that any alternative is but shadows, the “occupy moment” is a obvious example. How did we come to this?
A very broad outline is needed before we go on, the 19th century was Capitalism, the 20th Liberalism, and the 21st century is Anarchy. Each ideology is a short form for the strongest thread running thought the dynamic parts of the global economy/culture. That is 19th was industrial production, then social democracy/welfareism and now digital libertarianism’s of the internet.
In the 1980's Thatcher and Reagan were the avant-gardist of demolishing idealogical alternatives, they were part of a movement that spread all around the world entrenching a right-wing ideology “the is no alternative” and “the end of history” this has been ingested and become part of all our structures/buroceseys/instations and a core part of everyone who grew up over this time and the generation after. This right project pushed the end of the 21st century back into the beginning of the 19th century at the same time that the “digitisation project” was sweeping in the 21st century of Anerkey. We now live in a hybrid time of 19th century ideology, crumbling 20th century social institutions and the future of the economy running on shackey 21st century arackic just in time/horizontal working of the dotcoms.
Thus at the start of the 21st century much is broken and little working today has “value”. Together with the last 2 century’s environmental legacy of climate change puts us as humanity in a shaky position. The ingested legacy of Ragen and Thatcher puts us as individuals in a shaky state to shape a path for humane survival.
A quick side note, this actually is not an environmental issue at all as in the planetary environment will look after it self as it has for millennium, speshers extinction on a large scale is the norm not an exception in planetary terms. The problem we face is a human one, saving the environment is a side issue, in a few thousand years with out us the environment will stabilise and diversify agen to replace the catastrophe that we are building with our destructive muddled thinking. The issue is can we save the things we value, the shifting environment being the thing we build this value wiithin.
Ok am going to leave this here half finished... and carry on in a scatty but overarching repetitive way in further posts :)
To look at what works in the alt and what doen't work - and the are some bit that do work to cheer you up :)
I live in a functioning contemporary P2P media world. For a few weeks I have tried going back to the traditional media. Its an eye opener to (re)realise how narrow and right wing the progressive traditional media is. I live in a world of RSS aggregation for my “newspaper”, podcasts for my “radio” and torrents for my “TV” and “Cinema”. With a unhealthy dose of #failbook for organising the social world.
Its winter time so am spending more time in cafés working and charging laptops, in this space am picking up traditional paper news. On the boat I had some internet downtime so plugged back into radio 4 and every so often look for interesting Tv on iplayer etc. What I find when going to traditional media is a narrowing of my world view, its a dumbed down world on paper/radio and TV. Its actually worst than this as its a strongly propagandist in it choice of voices. I find that the “liberal” traditional media is a slow steady drip feed of poison that dulls the wide possibility’s of social and environmental change that is transparently needed and possible.
I advocate wholesale that people leave this world view for their mental health and the health of the wider human/natural world, the liberal traditional media is making you ill (at ease).
But I hear cries “were is this mythical alternative” and in a limited sense you would be right to ask this. BUT it would be a circular discussion, the alternative has existed for the last 20 years – the issue is chicken and egg you have to use it for it to exist.
Most of the real existing alternative is based on a “stupidly simple” technology created by the practical tech visionary Dave Winer. The format is RSS its the based of my news reading (feedly) and my radio (beyondpod) I have been working (and failing) to make it the bases of my TV and cinema for the last 10 years (visionOntv).
You too can shift to/build your own contemporary per2per media world and reclaim your mental health and power to shape your life and the community/world you live in. The traditional media is a slow steady poison, its well past the time to brake free, its not as hard as you think.
Importing goods from China
Am thinking about seting up an import and installation business for small wind turbines from China to put onto boats and power protest camps. At the moment the majority of small scale power generation is from fossil fuels, this is both unpleasant and needless. Solar power in the summer being very viable, this leaves 3-4 month of the year with limited power - thus diversifying into solar/wind set-ups.
To buy small wind turbines in the UK the expense is to high so am trying importing them directly from China - the minimum order when shipping is taken into account is 3 so have sent over $1K to a pretty random paypal account to buy them.
For some background on how to go about importing http://importcrashcourse.com/pay-importing-china/
To get an idea if a company is relabel its good to do as much searching as possible - from the pretty random paypal gmail account they sent me I found out this information https://whoisology.com/archive_6/chinaalps.com that they actually own 4 company’s and are the registry email of the Domain of the company I am buying the goods from. This is a good start.
Then the is the issue of VAT/duty to be paid http://www.dutycalculator.com/
Update: the goods arrived and seem to be of good quality, the issue of installing a tower is the subject of my next post.
Pink Castle - GM action report
Video traning at anti fracking camps
Training videos so far are about inviting people for tea. This is outreach to "normal" people to get involved in the camps.
What's the NUT strike about?
PR firm Bell Pottinger, clients include the Cuadrilla fracking company and members of the family of Bashar al-Assad
The "Sticky 6" were acquitted of all charges related to them superglueing themselves to the doors of Bell Pottinger, a PR company working for the likes of Cuadrilla, who explore potential fracking sites in the UK, and a host of other unsavoury clients.
6 courageous women were acquitted of aggravated trespass and criminal damage, with "no case to answer". They were arrested during the Reclaim the Power protest in August 2013 against exploratory oil drilling in Balcombe, West Sussex. "Allegedly" they had superglued themselves to the entrance of corporate PR firm Bell Pottinger, whose clients include the Cuadrilla fracking company and members of the family of Bashar al-Assad.
Solar vagabond - Smart Phone
This is a setup which will easily charge and run small electrical devices up to tablets in size. The panel Weighs only 0.8 lbs (0.36 kg) and fold to the size of a book.
List of equipment: http://www.goalzero.com/shop/p/79/Guide-10-Adventure-Kit/1:1/
UPDATE: this kit worked very well, now off to a desert island for a month to test it out with some new battery’s and bigger phone.
UPDATE2: it failed the test see this post for more info
A Year Long Summer
A Year Long Summer
I spent the summer of 1989 travelling in Ireland. I can't now remember why Ireland? The first step was a lift to Barnsley with my parents to help put up the Exhibition 100 Years of Woman's Banners in the City Art Gallery. Then I hitchhiked through the Lake District stopping for the night in Keswick. In the morning on to Stranraer in Scotland which provided the cheapest route to Ireland with the ferry to Laughrne 30 miles north of Belfast.
Arriving in Laughrne late in the day, I hitchhiked along the coastal road which runs within a few feet of the sea all the way to the North cost. Stopping for the night in a small village called Cushendall, where two of the 3 hotels had been blown to bits and the police station looked like an army fortress, bristling with aerials and surrounded with a high anti rocket fence.
The coast is beautiful and unspoilt, as a result of a IRA campaign dating from the 70's to disrupt tourism and the economy, anything built would be blown up. Well this is what the local tourist guide said when he gave me a lift. Is the Armed struggle on opshern for “liveable” areas. Next day I continued on to White Park Bay and the Giants Causeway which was a bit of a disappointment as I suppose all great tourist sites are. But the cliffs of Benban Head and the empty sea coast made it well worth while.
Hitchhiking to Londonderry I was joined by a friendly Irish man with a very thick accent in Coleraine. Together we got a lift with an English journalist who drove round all the trouble spots with the local Irish man giving a commentary on "Bloody Sunday" and when they blew up that statue and how many times the Post Office had been destroyed and rebuilt. We were stopped at a check point on the edge of the Bog Side with two very unfriendly soldiers pointing rifles at me, and more soldiers with a heavy machine gun pointing at the car with their fingers on the trigger.
They searched the boot and questioned us looking at passports then waved us through. Soldiers with guns in the streets, convoys of armoured landrovers patrolling, road blocks with corrugated iron and rusting barbed wire, concrete fortresses and bombed out buildings with republican murals and graffiti covering, razor wire, rubble, concrete and neglect everywhere. This is all in a country town in the middle of no were, with shopping arcades, counsel estates, little grannies towing bags with wheels on and mothers with hordes of kids, the same as any small English town.
Crossed the border past a security bunker and round heavy ballads in to Southern Ireland on foot. Stopping for the night in Muff a small village just over the border, where I was offered a job as a granny minder in the local hostel. She was an interesting woman remembering the furst trans-atlantic plane landing next to her cottage in her youth, but the dementure repertison was to much for me.
Hitchhiked across to Donegal town, my first glimpse of the west cost of Ireland, then right out to the Atlantic, rugged and deserted, staying just out side the small village of Kilcar, visiting the Celtic tombs and monoliths of Glencolumbkill, with views of a quiet bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Welcomed at the small Independent Hostel which also doubled as the village shop, with a cup of tea and cake open friendliness and curiosity by a wonderful old Irish man, the smell of a peat fire and the chatter of a group of Germans.
After an Irish music session at the local pub I wandered down to the beach at mid night, in the pitch black with no moon, lit only by the stars. Ahead of me I saw what appeared to be a sack blowing in the wind, walking closer I could hear heavy breathing, the black sacking grew a white face and froze, silence apart from the gentle breeze I'd stopped dead in surprise, the vague indistinct sack grew in to two large black shapes with white stripes on their faces, they moved a couple of steps towards me complete with very noisy breathing, then turned and ran crossing the road which shook with their weight, crashing in to an overgrown field and disappearing out of ear shot. Quite a surprise to meat two badgers so close on so dark a night.
Arriving at the beach, first glimpse of phosphorescent waves and sparkling blue specks of light after each wave washing up the beach, which I was later to see regularly from the bow and wake of the boat crossing this oshen. I spent some days exploring the deserted landscape, getting lifts with peat cutters on lonely moors, friendly people on the small roads people who would stop to offer you a lift, even when you weren't hitchhiking. When asking for directions from the children playing by a cottage they stop and look at me with such open curiosity, and timid smiles, giving me directions with bright eyes hidden beneath a curly mop of brown hair.
Hitchhiked round to Sligo arriving at mid day with a strange feeling, after the magical tranquillity and emptiness of Donegal, I felt I'd arrived in sin city rather than a small Irish university town.
I take the inland route to Galway with no memories. Stay in Galway for a few days fantastic thunder storm in the bay lashing rain, lightning crashing across the sky, stood at the end of the pear with electricity skittering along power cables above, with total calm in the harbour swans sailing serenely by, cormorants diving for fish boom.. crash... buckets full of water, clouds in black turmoil bowling out to sea, the storm flees, total silens, crystal clear air, fresh clean world.
Met Alic hitchhiking out of Galway, shown around Oranmore Castle, sit and talk about dolphins over a cup of tea, he invites me back later in the summer, I think may be ? From Oranmore to Kinvara on edge of the Burran where I stayed in a deserted hostel. The next day along the coast to the cliffs of Mourghan a blighted tourist spot if the ever was one. Then inland to Ennis and back to the coast to catch the car ferry over the Shannon, stopping in a small village on the other side for the night. Down to Tralee and around the Ring of Kerry a place of high mountains glens and pure white sandy beaches, sparkling translucent blue sea, it seems more like a tropical paradise, than the Western Atlantic, but no time or inclination to stop.
Through Skibbereen to a small village with a harbour, Baltimore right down in the south west, stayed for a few days in a nice well run German hostel by the sea. Swimming in tidal pools, managing to cut my foot open quite badly, with lots of blood but only superficial the water was so cold I didn't notice until my plimsolls started squelching on the way back to the hostel, prompt first aid.
To Cork looking round the university in the evening I met some Americans, who arrived back at the hostel at 2 in the morning with a bottle of mead and same trout they had been given by a friendly fisherman in a pub, shallow fried trout, delicious soda bread and mead at 3 in the morning, with American stock brokers, the next day a lively free rock concert by the river ley.
Hitchhiked to Rosslare via Waterford which is pretty boring. On the ferry to Fishguard arriving back on ???
In Wales, London and Ollerton for a while. Then back to Galway to take up alics offer, by coach from London a special offer via Holyhead and Dublin. I stayed at Oranmore Castle a tall square blocky stone tower over looking Galway bay with two great halls and numerous bed rooms and dark dank corridors deserted apart for the occasional visitor and me for the summer of 89.
Kearn and constant Crab Catching on the old stone peer
Galway races helicopters and champagne
Parties in the graht hall
Art Gallery construcshern of
While there I travelled to conamary, visiting Achill Island wind swept like the Falklands dolphins jumping in the waves close to the beach. At the most westerly car park in Europe I impressed the locals with a church made of sand with adjacent grave yard. From Oranmore I explored the Burran a weird area of grey limestone hills full of rare plants and ancient Celtic and Christian ruins, a gided tower round deep caves, I am not really in to gided towers.
At the end of summer when the weather started to close in dark and damp I took my leave of alike and Leone, packed my bag and skipped of down the road, thumb in the air, getting a lift with a slightly camp gay vicar for the second time, a couple of propositions and intresing discussions later he dropped me off 1/2 way across Ireland in the town of Athlone, on to Dublin where I stayed for a few days, before returning to Wales. Winter in Britain dident appeal So... head for the Mediterranean, Africa or perhaps the west Indies? where ever my wondering takes me.
Europe going south
From London to Paris by train arriving early dumping my bags in the station lockers and wandering round down to the river Seine, the Louvre, Pompadour Centre and white church on the hill. Sleeping on top of a multi storey car park next to Gare du Norde because the friends I'd hoped to stay with house was full of guests, lack of planning has its disadvantages, wandered in past the security cameras as if I owned the place all the way to the top. Then on to the roof of the service building out of sight, wonderful view over the roof tops, the Eifel Tower and the spot lighted white church on the mount. It was very safe too with police patrols every couple of hours driving round the roof, I'd just sit and peer down at them. Very nice the weather was beautiful so I stayed for two days. Then left Paris to hitchhike to Bordeaux where I had hoped to get involved in the grape picking but totally missed it because of the dry summer and early harvest. Hitchhiked on to Biarritz with a New Zealander. Picnic in a pine forest at mid night with a full moon shining threw the canopy above, sticky frout, wine delicious French food, a warm scented night with chirruping cricits and frogs, soft pine needles. The town is a strange mixture of Victorian English and Southern France with sandy beaches washed clean by rolling Atlantic surf, assorted Australians Skipping over the waves on boards, Gazed apon by languid bronzed models, warm sandy nights.
From Biarritz hitched alone, an English lorry to Lisbon, took a day and a half over the endless Spanish plains the only sights shepherds herding their flocks of mangy sheep and the steeples of the next town. Slept in a beautifully warm aromatic haystack on the way.
No luck finding a boat to anywhere in Lisbon stayed around the area for 10 days checking out the docks and tourist sites, polluted and not very friendly. An overnight train to the Algarve with same friends and a very noisy peasant brass band, travelled to the Atlantic side near Cape Vincent it's wild and beautiful, white sand coves, with the scent of wild herbs pervading the scrubby land scape. Eating figs from the trees, swimming in the surf, lying on the beach. I stayed for a week in a smelly Fort standing on a head land with cliffs plunging in to the sea all around. You can sit and watch the lazy fish evade the fishermen casting their nets from their boats hundreds of feet below.
On to Seville in Spain by thumb, bus, train and finally in a battered Israeli VW camper van which broke down on the outskirts so we had to walk in to town through wide boulevards lined with heverly laden orange trees, over a lazy river to the centre. sitting around looking lost trying to find the information centre I struck up a conversation with on old lady how turned out to be from Gwatermarler she and here children found us a hotel near the old Quarter.
The remains of Moorish architecture, cool very civilised. Got involved in making a film in the towns old quarter, a carnival lots of dry ice, masks, prancing and flying capes. Bussed and hitched to Gibraltar, where it rained, overcast, no where to stay, was almost arrested for inhabiting an abandoned military bunker, saved by a car crash half way down the rock that the police van could not pass so they let us go.
After asking around the Meraner for a week I Found the Danish sailing yacht "Nana" a 42' steel ketch sailing to the Canary Islands and then possibly on to the West Indies, left the next day.
Sailing across the Atlantic.
I sailed on a cold blustery, wet day with Ivor the skipper and Dagmar as deck hand, the last sight of Erourop was Cape St Vincent light house where 3 weeks earlier I'd been swimming and sunning my self with German friends in a secluded rocky cove. Skirted along the coast of Morocco cautiously moving out of sight of land to avoid pirates. Then only the blue and some time grey waves of the Atlantic Ocean. Climbed to the top of the mast on a calm day, fell out of bed and cut my head open on a not so calm night arrived nine days later in Las Palmas Grand Canary not quite sure if I liked this sailing lark!
"Sailing on a boat, what a crazy thing to do, on the way to the Caribbean, going very, very slowly, what a crazy thing to do."
"cooking in a galley with a swaying stove, pots and pans everywhere sauces slurping, water boiling, falling back, falling forward, lurching side wards, what a crazy thing to do!"
In Las Palmas marina for two weeks with friends of the skipper from Denmark sleeping in a hammock swinging from the mast. Las Parlmas is not the most inspiring place giant couculoc and oil slicks in the harbour. silly business in ??? A barbiq at the beach with exploding flombay, hiring a car and exploring the hills and mountains. Swimming in the lake up in the mountains Skinny dipping cool water, warm sun, pine trees, rocks and cactuses.
Friends, the hope fulls looking for a bout, the crew of the Emma.
Sailing to ??? on the uthere side of the Ireland.
Humm... I wont put this bit in yet.
Catch up with the boat at Los Cristanus, Tenerife where we stayed waiting for the right weather, were damaged in a storm, crushed agenst the Qey by a big Mahogany Brazilian scuner, shattered the anchor motor, broken ropes, railing gared and scratched paint work. I was up most of the night sea serching the Irlands for Discarded tires to acked as buffers to stop the "Nanna" being bashed agenst the stone Quay, the wave action was making the bout act like an elevator up down 10' the restraining ropes crowning as they took the strain, and exploding with a bang when not. Five other boats were sunk in the 2 weeks we were there running aground, slipping anchors, being smashed to pieces on the rocks.
While working along the cliffs east of Los Cristanus, spotted a boat sail flapping on the rocks, about 3 miles off hurried down to find an English Sailing Yout the "Yarmouth" impaled on a rock shuddering as each wave crashed around it. At the Sean I found the Spanish Red Cross talking to a German they didn't know if any body was on board and didn't seem to care, the German striped of his clothes clambered on to the boat to see if anybody was still there, Luckily not. the Spanish attitude to disasters ?
We broke down when manoeuvring in the harbour mouth, the gear box fell off the engine! hopelessly trying to get the sail up, the wind blowing us rapidly towards the rocky beach and surten disaster as the land olwase wins even agenst a steel bout, luckily for use we were rescued by a friendly Dutch yacht, who threw a line across and towed us back to the safety of the harbour.
Spanish mechanics... Sitting around doing nothing for 2 weeks.
"Silly moods, swinging from the boom, biting Dagmar, swaying to the music. Staring in to the cats eyes, laying like a dandy, hanging by legs from the mast, drinking gin & tonics with out lemon. Climbing a mountain, volcanic plugs, painted rock and soil hills all worked by man. Heavy German serious and fast, boring and annoying, it makes me, sitting on the wind screen of the cockpit a German on each side, peeling nose, bad jeans, gentle breezes and searing sun, what to cook? Germans complaining about Neil's & Ivor? Ill look for something to do but won't find any thing."
"Germans its like being clubbed alternately on each ear, or both together hooo......!"
Climbed to the top of Picaltider 12,000 feet high well OK not quite to the top! I hitchhiked, they hired a car a minor disagreement? I got to the mountain 2 hours before them. It was freezing! so I gave up, thinking they weren't arriving hitchhiked back 1/2 way round the island in the dark. Good lift, the best of the trip...
Cape Verde and beyond
Motored out from Los Criseans at dusk with a leak pie in the oven a sudden decision there wasn't any wind but a weather fax suggested there was wind about 200 miles further down and the storm might close back in on the Canary Island.
Sailed across the Atlantic with dolphins, wales and lots of flying fish. skirted a massive thunder storm, I would do two 4 hour watches each day steering the boat and keeping an eye on the sails.
Surfing down waves at night, the bout would be lifted by the stern by the 30' hiy waves, she would start to pull off course as the wave built up behind, then surf down the other side as the wave past.
Shooting stars every 10 minutes fireballs streaking across the sky, braking up in to bits then fading away. almost every night.
The Trade winds blow stederly by the time we reach Cape Verda.
The sky at night, sun sets, sunrises fleeing clouds
Thunder and lightning, for a day we scurt a massif thunder storm the sky black all along the Port side.
Other sailing boats at night lit. by lights, and lightning lone sailors, obviously asleep continuing there cores.
A Tanker even throw we have right of way, we get out of the way, they have a terrible turning circle and don't stop at all well.
On a becalmed day we swim no land for 1000 miles in all directions and 3 miles deep, Dive of the emergency box over the side, watch out for the sharks.
Every fuw days we are surrounded by Dolphins swarming in waves jumping and swerving around the bow.
Wales spouting and sailing Qwitly by
Flying fish swarms of, crashing in to the sales and deck at night. and skimming the waves for 100's of yards around the ship, glittering rainbow wings in the day.
dagmar and the vimpire bats.
Very Danish, playing guitars in the cockpit to pass the night watches
Getting a good Sun tan
Bathing and showers with a sun wormed bucket of salty water.
Washing up a bowl of salty water, pealing patatos a bucket of salty water, washing clothes in a bucket of salty water, lots of used for salty water.
Sailing which rope to pull?
"The middle of an oshan, smell of the bout, plastic, fabric and wood, overall damp musty sea smell. sun full above, siting on a cushion in only a tattered cotton shirt, hand resting on the wheel, following the cumpass. Gentle swell, russeling of air in the sale, rigging. Me the bout and empty rolling waves, a small browned Beard gliding in amongst them, skirting round a number of times, before continuing its meandering cores to Africa."
25 day calm crossing
Arriving in Barbados on Christmas Eve. The lights of the irland on the herisern at night, in the morning I wake to find cliffs of a dull coloured island off the Starboard bow and a small home built brightly couled fishing bout, appearing and disaping inamuncst the troughs of the waves. We anchor in a bay with meny other youts, then motor in to the port to redigter with customs and imergraion. Every body falling out
The West Indies
Barbados touristy but friendly stayed for Christmas and the New Year. White sand beaches lined with bread fruit and palm trees, blue sky's and crystal clear water chasing little brightly coloured fish around the pear. After leaving the Nana I stayed in a cheap room behind the beach bar in Bridge Town. sharing it with a friend, one of use paid and the other hid under the bed at any knock at the door. Swam in the sea twice a day got very drunk on free rum at a number of parties.
Travelled round the island by bus. sleeping on a deserted beach for one night, in the morning climbing up a 30'high swaying coconut palm for fresh milk, in the process ripping the bottom out of my only spare pair of trousers! Had planned to walk back to Bridgetown but proved to be too far, got same strange looks getting on the bus with a massive hole in the back side of my grubby trousers with no underpants every body was dressed in their Sunday best, bright printed cotton dresses and straw hats. I had to smile, the only white person on the bus, diaproving but not hostile looks.
No luck finding a safe! bout to continue my travels so imposed on a friend I'd made in Las Palmas, Andrew to take me to Granada in a 31' English Boat Called "Emma", he was doing the ARC race to raise money for disabled sailors on tall ships, introduced them to some strange local foods and drinks Incredibly sea sick all the way.
Granada tropical jungle over growing wood and corrugated iron houses, abundant fruits, flowers and exotic birds. Hitchhiked threw the mountains to the lake at the top of the island and over to the other side through villages, banana plantations, nutmeg trees and jungle an interesting and exceedingly beautiful place. Befriended by two young locals while sipping a cold cola on a street corner, sea moss in a pop bottle with cling film over the top, I was a bit concerned about drinking it, but must keep up appearances. Paddled out over a reef but could not get, back stepped on a deadly black sea urchin two spines in foot it was a native not tourist beach which are usually safer.
Found my old sailing yacht "Nana" anchored in the harbour of the capital St George. reunion with Dagmar, Nils was furious, mad, hum.... The Caribbean is beautiful but dull and expensive so I bought a flight ticket to London with a stop over in Miami. Met up with an old friend Russell who I knew from Barbados on the plane who had tried to persuade me to help pick oranges in Florida, so as my foot seamed to be fine, why not.
Miami yuk..... a soul less vacuum on the bus from the airport only blacks and crippled poverty stricken whites. Well what I saw of it. Found another English man Berny in the hostel at Miami Beach, hired a car, drove north to Orlando to pick oranges. Frost had devastated the Florida orange harvest no work this far up. Found another English man Andy that makes 4 of us we decided to head back south where the frost had not been so severe. Hitchhiked back to Avon Park all met up in the library, shared a Motel room for two between the four of us cooking the food in the middle of the floor on a camping stove. Orange picking the next day for a Mexican boss in the grove all day earned $12 - $8 for a bag so total earnings for 10 hours work $4 then they took some off for tax! Russell has an argument with the Mexicans about the tax and work permits so no more work.
Decided to go to the beach to splash out on our earnings and maybe get a rumoured job doing carpentry? hitchhiked to Fort Pearce losing Russell on the way, met up in the library crashed out on the flat roof of an abandoned gas station by the beach great apart from the mosquitoes and possible alligators, we stayed for 3 days.
Stayed for 2 weeks on a ranch in whotchuler with a friendly college students family who we had met hitchhiking, visited Disney World and generally lived an affluent conservative American life then back to Orlando to find a way to California. We almost gave up before hiring a car. Drove to New Orleans in a brand new top of the rang Hire car, with two girls from South Wales, me, Berny and Andy, we were stopped by the police, $164 speeding fine for doing 70 in a 55 mph zone which we didn't pay Zooming out of the state.
In New Orleans I stayed with same friends I'd made who had rented a house in a very dubious black district, sprinted to the super market so as not to get mugged, gun fire on the streets after dark. Every night out till past 4 in the morning listening and dancing to Jazz, gospel and blues, great blues. Just wandering around Bourbon Street in and out of the clubs and bars watching the people. Sugar fights in side work cafes while drinking cocoa at 3 in the morning. Strippers and police muggings. Stayed for about a week seeing the beginning parade of Marde Gras noisy exuberant, climbed up a lamp post for a better view.
Louisiana to Los Gatos Northern California via New Mexico, Texas and Arizona with a young same what stoned Californian driving a big Oldsmobile, sleeping rolled up in a sleeping bag in the desert, 3 days with one stop in a motel on the way. slept on the floor of his fathers house, then moved on to Sandborn Park. Sanborn Park a large log building built around 1920 for a reclusive Congress man, who disappeared in mysterious circumstances surrounded by tranquil groves of tall redwood trees and a large pond full of fish, ducks and geese. It is built a couple of hundred yards from the San Andreas fault, but survived the June earth quake almost intact losing a gazebo and some crockery. stayed 3 weeks on and off.
Tom's visit and Expense account lasted for 2 weeks staying mostly at Sanborn Park with a visit to ???
San Francisco a couple of days every so often staying at the cheapest and most dubious place, The European Guest House and later at a pretty but fickle French friends apartment. Poverty on the streets.
I visited Santa Cruz to see Borland a computer software company to try and persuade them to licence Personal Assistant a product designed and written by my brother Tom, staying in Santa Cruz youth hostel, they liked me so much? me and bernie ended up doing work exchange in the youth hostel for 4 and 1/2 months. Working on the desk 2 nights a week with Berne an interesting time but I became very restless and bored towards the end.
"Its Monday, I am in Santa Cruz laying in bed watching the people go by out of the window, fell asleep, woken by Berny rummaging in the closet. chunk, down stares Sue, Shola & Berne looking at me
"he's awake" Humm..... Sitting in the kitchen gemola & milk, sit silently, crunching serial MTV and letter writing as slow as usual IT'S SPRING!"
Arranged a Drive Away car from San Jhosa to Mount Kisko New York state The first day we drove all night to get to Las Vegas where we cruised up and down the strip until we found a quiet park to sleep in till midday then looking round the casinos where I gambled away all my worldly wealth 3 and 1/2 Dollars! finishing the day by sneaking in to the Holiday Inn swimming pool, then back to the car and on towards the Grand Canyon Drove across the Hoover Dam, on the hill up the uthere side the Kiwi hit a wooden pallet destroying a front head light, shaking every body up. we limped on to a wind swept camp sight. Everyone froze because we didn't have good enough sleeping bags. the next day we drove on to the Rio Grande picnicking with a friendly scorpion near the edge of a mile long drop. That night we camped at the "Navaho" Indian reservation,
Camping at the Indian Reservation Still Green valley in the middle of a rocky scrubby desert.
Denver the crash in the car park.
Indian cave dwellings in Arizona.
Over the rocky mountains zooming across the Mid West.
Small town America!!!!!?
"Siting on top of a rusting aboundund girder bridge, Beavers playing around rocks bellow, in a narrow wooded valley filed with a wide meandering river, overgrown railway line, will not sleep here tonight, mere is worried, I think why. Driving on in to the night, Dead eyed American bar, all dead in all ways, no hope no diser, the American life-dream, share a weak bear, leaving berny in the car hee... not the holiday camp, on in to the darkness, small roueds lit only by ower head lights, finally a camp site under the trees"
Arrive in New York City the next day.
After dropping the drive away car in Mount Cisco about 50 miles north of New York city me and Bernie hitchhiked back with a crazy guy in a giant American sportcar doing 90 mph car chase scenes in a 55 mph freeway, weaving in and out of the traffic and squealing round stop lights finally dropping us off in a slightly shaken state in the Bronx where we promptly jumped on the subway! Stayed in New York for just over a week visiting all the tourist sites Central Park, Manhattan, Empire State building, Staten Ireland ferry, Statue of Liberty, Greenwich village, china town, few dubious areas. Then a plane from JFK where they all most arrested me as a terrorist as I climbed up to the roof for a better view, flight to London 6 hours on BA very boring.
England Whow... the Qwantness, small homely, plane, tiny to say the lest, Civilised owe very civilised but this impression wears of after a week. Hitchhiking to Wales a day and a half missed my arranged lift with my mother from Greenham Common Peace Camp, so had to hitchhike 250 miles at 6 O' clock in the evening, made it to just past Carmathen before having to stop for the night, in a frendly pub. Signed on the Dole 25/5/90 in Aberystwyth, nothing had changed.
To Ireland, Oranmore Castle, to finish where I'd started over a year ago, full circle. I stayed for 3 weeks arriving in time for Bill Kings 80th birthday party. Back to Wales and on to a job in London. The end of the summer.
Hamish Campbell the travels of (incomplete 20/8/90)
Lived in London over the winter not a Good I dear! a number of jobs paid off my over draft. what next? (27/1/91)
Walk to Japan?
Eastern Europe on a Zloty
Krackov to the Balkans
The Global Walk for a Liveable World from California to Hiroshima Japan, the first stage was in 1989 for 6 months from LA to New York. I had known about them from before they started, when I was in Santa Cruz, but I did not know where or when it would happen. So I drove across America instead of walking and flew back across the Atlantic to London. I found out about the second part from my mother, Thalia as it was announced on the bottom of one of her Ribbon leaflets.
In March 1991 I contacted the organisers in America for information and to offer to help organise the English part, they sent back a letter to say I was the only one to organise the English part. Spent 3 weeks telephoning, writing letters, looking for accommodation in London and en route for 60-100 people, then scaled down to 20-30. They telephoned a week before arriving to say there would only be 2 or 3 walkers. On the day 4 people turned up at the Battersea Peace Pagoda to walk, a big disappointment. 2 weeks to Dover then wave good-bye saying I might meet them in Berlin for the Eastern European part of the March. But it is not really my type of thing, Californians and an earnest young German, out to find them selves and do some good in a self indulgent way.
Set off for Berlin in the middle of ???? to join the walk for a while to see how it went. Terrible hitchhiking out of London as usual, the bus and tube to Greenwich, back and forth on the free ferry to try to find a good place to start hitchhiking, my new Panama hat blown off in a gale, chased down the Thames, wondering around on the pebbles to see if it had been washed up. A lift out to the usual terrible place out on the outskirts of town.
The Experimental Fruit, a long way to Dover.
A cheap day return ticket on the midnight ferry to Ostend. Slept on a bench under the stars, bring back memories of the S/Y Nana and the Atlantic. When leaving the boat wandering down a corridor packing my bag, I was offered a lift by a Turkish/Cypriot driver I had bumped in to, map reading through the low lands to Dan Hage, I was driven to a friend of the drivers home, to sit and drink coffee while they talk in Turkish and look at swords!? The drivers friend gives me a lift to a service station 20 miles along the autobahn.
A number of lifts leaves me lost in a village near Arnhem with a slip road off the motorway but none on, a 5 mile walk through small villages and forests to find the slip road back on to the autobahn. My next lift to the outskirts of Hanover I decide to stay as it was getting dark, but while walking up the slip road I got a lift to Berlin. The driver stops at dusk to show me the old east/west border post. 23 hours non stop from Dover to Berlin with only 1 hour sleep on the ferry humm....... it is the best way I later discovered.
Berlin unification or lack of it.
Dropped off 10 miles out side Berlin at the end of the S-bahn on the East side at about midnight, very unhelpful, insolent staff at the train station, unfriendly insecure East Germans, miss one train because nobody would point out which platform to expect the train on, finally arrive in the centre of East Berlin at 2.00 am in the morning, sit in the station, wander threw the deserted streets to the west, waiting for the tourist offices to open at 8.00 am, try to telephone the numbers I had, but incorrect, no answer, the tourist offices opens, address Kaput, one vaguely right wander around to find another office who find the address which I go to, a large communal house out in the rich leafy suburbs, filled with people and protest groups.
The Walk had left the day before and now was at an unknown address in the east, I am invited to stay. Walk to the Polish Embassy to get a visa, expensive 50 DM and 1/2 an hour wait, I wander back through the trees of the wilderness park around the lakes, I sleep all evening and night, and wake late the next day, look round East Berlin and visited a German friend from Ireland.
The Walk to Poland
Meet up with one of the women from the walk and catch the train to the walk. Walk for 2 days to reach ???? In the village interesting characters, we all sit and lie around on the grass in the village centre eating bananas and ice cream, waiting for the bar to open at 3 with an old lady peering though the curtains of the house across the street. I am invited to go fishing by a very friendly drunk man on a bicycle.
We stop to rest for 2 days by a lake just out side the village, camping on a sandy beach with forest behind swimming, lilies, dragon flies and beavers. Not having a tent at that time I found myself a newly built picnic hut with a thatched roof to sleep in, it was about 1/2 a mile round the lake from the beach where the rest were. Late on the last day we are invited to a party across the lake in a canoe, with local East Germans, wives of the local Russian troops and a large group of children recovering from the radioactivity from Chernobyl. Stayed late sitting round a camp fire singing folk songs and old Beatles numbers and drinking too much vodka. On the way back tired and the worse for drink I decided to sleep out on the sand by the water, rather than walk the 1/2 mile through the forest to my little hut. It was a fine night I unrolled my sleeping bag and slept under the banner I had brought to keep the morning dew off.
Later that night I was 1/2 awaken by a snuffling nose and a damp bristle nose nudging my neck, some thing was trying to get in to my sleeping bag, lay there for a while dreaming, then sat up to see this small round shape bound off across the beach in to the dark trees, humm.. still thinking I was dreaming, I went back to sleep only to be reawaken a 1/4 of an hour later by the same sensation, to see a small wild boar scamper across the sand and in to the shadows.
Staying at the really amazingly good Handicapped Peoples Agricultural Collective in Frankfurt Oder.
Walking over the river
Frankfort-Oder I leave the march and walk over the river to Poland, there are no border guards to stamp my passport visa. I change a little money in a small shop, having no idea of the exchange rates then walk out of town. Poland is much poorer than East Germany. Get a lift to a small run down town and find a place to sleep in a dingy youth hostel. The next day I hitchhike a lift with a middle aged man and a young woman for 50Km or so, they were suspicious at first, I point at the map and tried some English, silence, a misunderstood conversation? When getting out of the car they realised I was a foreigner from the England, wide eyed amazed expressions, they had never met anybody from the West before.
In Poland they have a strange hitchhiking technique, you undulate your arm up and down with your hand flat like a snack. Arriving in Wrocklaw, a dreary run down town, full of rickety clanking trams. A long walk out to the youth hostel with 2 young guides the hostel was closed long ago, walk back, to find the hostel which I had walked past 2 hours before. Problems with the accommodation so decide to buy a tent, spend a day looking around but very limited choice and availability in the stores, nothing that meets my requirements for light weight, afford ability and size. I decide to catch the train to Krakow as I am too lazy to walk out of town and it does not cost much. Meet a young student and an old lady, Catholics, when we arrive in Krakow am invited out to dinner but ended up talking and drinking tea with Polish intellectuals at the university.
Krakow has to be one of the prettiest towns in Europe with a well preserved old centre surrounded by a tree filled park made up of the filled in moat and the walls with many gates and roads cut through, the focus of the centre is a large square over looked by the cathedral, in the middle of which is a large stone covered market, and what can only be described as a wizards tower, very medieval very unreal, like the court yard of arches in the palaces it all looks too insubstantial, at any moment it will all fall upon you, leaving rubble and picturesque ruins. I sit and watch the Poles, watching the Hari Krishna's singing and dancing in the main square.
Hitchhike to Auschwitwz and back for the day with a young Jewish American, along the small roads, the first time he had been hitchhiking we met many friendly and generous people, a good antidote to the railway lines leading to the endless wooden huts and extermination chambers. Each building has an exhibition set up by a country affected by the Nazi genocide. The best was the Romanian told in a straight forward meaning full way, the worst the Czech and Hungarians, which at their time may have been fashionable but had dated to total obscurity and meaninglessness.
The next day I catch the bus to the High Tatra mountains, because it is a Sunday and I think the hitchhiking will not be so good, but looking back, it would have made little difference. Driving towards Zakopane we go up and up in to the foot hills with jagged snow covered mountains ahead, I catch a local bus to Kuznice a small village then walk for 2 hours up a mountain with my rucksack, through Alpine meadows and paths twisting amongst the pine trees.
I stay for 2 days in a mountain lodge made of giant boulders in among small fir trees. In the evening I walked to a lake bare foot along a stone path surrounded by 2,000M high snow capped mountains, paddling in the foot numbingly cold water, snow on the shores the sun sets behind a mountain ridge I race up to a higher level, 2 sun sets in one day, walk back in the gathering dusk to make tea and talk to the young people, go to bed ZZZZzzzz...... only to be wake up late at night by crashing noises and every one muttering and peering out of the window at a bear rummaging in the wood pile.
A good 5 hour walk to Czechoslovakia, through forest down ravines, along ridges with views of steep snow covered rocky mountains rising from the distant forested hills.
"Wild pine trees with a carpet of bilberries, amongst rocks padded with soft moss, streams bubbling around smooth creamy boulders, Crystal clear water icy cold and sweet. Open glades with wild grasses, yellow and white small flowers occasional mauve and blue, the buzz of bees and fluttering butterflies, sweat brings a cloud of distant flies, silences with the occasional crash of fleeing deer or rustling lizard."
Problems at the border because of the lack of a stamp in my passport. Give 2 postcards and some money to an old lady to send, as there was no post box in the border crossing.
The Slovak High Tatras.
Hitch-hike around the mountains to Starry Smockavich a lift with a rather obnoxious "entrepreneur" who spoke no English and kept trying to persuade me to pay exorbitant amounts of money to rent a room, some times it is nice not to understand. Rest in a comfortable very cheap tourist motel for 2 days, look around, go on a fairy tale trip through a forest by tram to a very nice modern! ski/mountain resort. The next day I buy a tent for 2,100 Crowns (£50) and leave for the low Tatras to try it out.
The concrete tower block town
Get a lift with a Dutch couple who take me to the ice caves of ???, then on to Dedinky a small village on a reservoir in the low Tatra mountains. A young woman the only English speaker, get to know the locals stay for 4 days lose on a washing line 1/2 my clothes and have my watch stolen after a birthday party,
A thunder storm and late night party lots of bad rum and a flooded tent.
The People from Holland
"stayed up late with the people from Holland, trying not to drink, paranoia surfaces about the Czhec hosts, I try and calm the situation, Amsterdam is not a place of trust"
As I pass a camp fire.
"am offered goulash and lots of alcohol by the Romanian gypsies on the way to the restaurant. They lay around their camp fire, passed out from to much drink the whole time I am there"
A 1/2 hour chair lift ride up in to the hills to stalk deer through the woods with my camera a bit worried about getting hopelessly lost, spend a morning in a grassy flower strewn glade swamped with butterflies they land in droves on my black jacket to lick the salt off as I lie and snooze amongst the tall grass. Drink lots of tea with syrup in the local pub, very good! wonder around the lake. Walk and hitch hike to the Hungarian border, getting a lift for the last 10Km with a group of Neo-nazis who luckily didn't speak English.
Walked across the border to a new country! Hitch hike 1/2 way to Budapest, I don't know by what route because the driver spoke little English and I had no map! arrive in Budapest early the next day.
"They play lots of 50's music in Hungary, its nice to Zoom along in a plastic Trabant, with a Czech sound alike Jerry Lee Lewis belting out of the stereo"
The driver was very proud of his little Trabant with a new 4 stroke V.W. Polo engine instead of the old smelly 2 stroke, we were speeding along at 110 kph, overtaking all and sundry. I was not allowed to wind down the window because they supposedly fall out at over 100 kph, when a large French Citroen with streamlined slick arrogance cruised by and disappeared in to the distance. The once proud driver, is completely dejected, crestfallen, envy. The spark of consumerism. The effortless arrogance of the west.
Budapest a big city, nice enough, see the citadel on the hill wander around the Ludwig Museum. American born again Christians and Mac Donald's perverting the naive youths outside the main railway station. Lose my passport but luckily it is found. Sitting in a small cafe having eaten a strawberry pastry, fresh cherries and a pear all for under £1 in the centre of Budapest.
"The Eastern Europeans still live in a bullet ridden past, the scars every where, from small villages to great cathedrals, explosive projectiles, how many of them claimed their targets, walking in amongst horror, bright sunlight, German accents fat and complacent not seeing."
"Must get a hat or severe sun burn, new pair of trousers and a shirt, shoes too. my sandals just came unglued will fall to pieces soon as will my slip on Chinese slippers."
"No idea of the date, lost my watch, it makes a lot of difference, good or bad? a difference you fit in much better with the landscape, but miss all the buses, but you are a hitchhiker !"
Caught a train out of Budapest to Szolnok, a hot and frustrating hour trying to find the right bus to the outskirts, I end up on the wrong side of town, but good to wander through the market buy a strange pastry and find the bridge. Over the river after cheese, bread and juice. Wandering along a dual carriage way with big Russian helicopters dropping paratroopers in to the dusty sun shine of a nearby field.
"A couple of lifts leaves me a few towns further on stuck in the middle of no where, the sky is darkening for a storm, big rain drops splash infrequently causing instant puddles. No lift, lightning flashes in the distance, thunder booming, still no lift. walk along the road looking for a place to pitch my tent, all agricultural land. The rain gets heavier, clouds blacken, dusk approaching, a whole stream of cars goes by a lorry slams its brakes on, the car behind braking strongly, I run after it as it rolls to a stop, backpack bouncing, point up the road while clambering in, chuck backpack on top of the engine, mutter something in English, slam the door twice to close it."
Time to get out, the lorry driver and me sit in the cab waiting for a lull in the storm.
"put the tent up badly in a hollow just out side the town of Puspokladany, intermittent rain showers thunder and lightning, only juice and some glucose sweets to eat, cannot leave the tent because of the mosquito's, swatted a big one full of blood biting my neck, no idea what time it is, getting late the sky darkens and lightens with the storm clouds, sleep well with the roof of the tent wet, me dry. walk through the rural part of town, a lift with a Romanian to the border."
Romania for 1/2 an hour.
"In the shade of a truck at the border, waiting for a driver to process his papers he has offered me a lift to Northern Romania, near Transylvania to stay with his family in the mountains, lunch at a Romanian cafe consists of salted cheese vegetables pickled in salt, some white bread rolls and frizzy orange juice in a recycled bottle, the food was not good and the juice had a foul sulphurous smell when opened. I am to pretend to be a business man to avoid having to change $100 at the border, but no luck, tried bribery with Marlborough cigarettes and Western beer but they insisted I need a visa costing £25 and the same problems for Bulgaria, so no chance I only have about £50 left, will go through war torn Yugoslavia instead to Greece."
Walking away from the border post I ask a lift from an English trucker, no problem, a lot of info on hitch hiking lorries, bought me lunch at the Windmill Restaurant where all the Russians were selling their new tyres to Turks for hard currency. A couple of lifts gets me to the White House Restaurant where all the British truckers use to hang out, before heading across Yugoslavia. I stand around talking to the truck drivers and their families, but they are all going in the wrong direction, camp the night by the filling station. No problem getting to the border in the morning.
Waiting at the Hungarian Yugoslav border
"Sitting on the customs table getting strange looks from the passers-by, no luck finding a lorry on the Yugoslav side so wander back, am stopped and questioned by the Hungarian border police but they do not speak any English. A Serbian nationalist chirps in giving me a lecture on the up and coming war with the Croats. Then translates my predicament to the young border guard who discusses it with some colleagues then off to see the boss, they say they will find me a ride, those sitting on the table looking like a criminal, wait for 1/2 of an hour then go to the buffet for a beer and chocolate cake, there is nothing else."
No luck finding a lift to Greece, try tomorrow.
"Camping wild again, is lack of fear or lack of imagination bravery? In a low forest with sandy soil, my socks embedded with burrs and slippers dirty and wet, covered in sweat, feet obnoxious. This camping lark really starts to get to you, accepting the dirtiness. Wild deer wander around, distant barking of dogs, big insects crashing in to the tent, chorus of tweets and twerbals, the humming of crickets and insect wings, always the distant rumbling of cars. I think I've found a limit to my bravery, No further than the distant rumble of civilisation, when I am alone"
"Smelly clothes no money no shoes no company all alone in a foreign land backpack too heavy no Discipline or direction"
English trucks and Yugoslavians. Truckers on the continent have a community, which if you are accepted, will be fed, looked after and transported with great friendliness and ease! The next morning an English truck to Nis, avoiding the Croatian war zone.
The English truckers hate the Yugoslavs and take malicious pleasure in throwing all their trash out of the window and driving viciously at any cars that get in their way. I got a lift with 2 English trucks travelling in convoy to Nis.
"I am dropped off in a hotel en route to Greece, pouring down with rain, earlier hail stones the size of pebbles threatened to break the truck windscreen, so we sheltered under a bridge, with most of the traffic on the motorway."
"A function in the main hall, music and dancing in lines around the tables, lots of food and wine, think of borrowing some but it seems uncouth, they have unfriendly smiles, it is pissing it down with rain out side, new trucks arriving, all foreign and going the wrong direction? may be hard to get away from here, should go and dance but no where to put my bags.
An old friendly prostitute offers me a cigarette in the foyer. I offer her a cookie she accepts. We smile at each other occasionally. A group of tourists ask me were I am from, the women speak good English, people are curious and friendly, they all think the prostitute is my girl friend strange looks, may be they will offer me a lift, no they go to Italy for shopping.
Nasty looks from the Maitre De and the waiters as I sit amongst them to watch the TV news. No smiles, it is getting depressing so I wander around, the rain continues, lassitude sets in, yawns and heavy eye lids. The old woman introduces here self as Gorge and smokes many cigarettes, Turkish coach loads of tourists arrive and leave off shopping in Italy, the rain continues but not as strong.
No not English, they just look it, the rain slows but not stopped, big puddles and lakes, me in my slippers wet feet already. She watches the passers-by and tries her English, another coach party? the time? it starts to get dark, but may be it is the heavy clouds. A truck driver rushes past, keys jangling, she comments on the coffee"
You tend to believe what truck drivers say about Yugoslavia after a while. No lift that night. Hitchhiking is no good on the motorway in the morning a lift for 150km to the middle of no where picking up a young Czech on the way, let off on the side of the motorway, wait for 8 hours, put up tent for a siesta, no lift, all full, going not far or too fast. Most Turkish families going home from Germany for the summer. The sun gets lower, the day cools, I decide to give up on the motorway, and try my luck on a road marked on the Czech map, I have lost mine, walk up the slip road down a slope on to rough tarmac. Talk to some locals who gather around, it is difficult to explain you do not know where you are going or care, just that direction..... no I don't want to catch the bus.
Walk through the new dull dusty village spending the last of my Diners on sweets and nuts, out past a rubbish dump, fields full of sunflowers heads bowed awaiting the sun rise, a military air base with old Soviet fighters amongst the trees, a friendly guard but I don't look to close, military paranoia, civil war, stacks of bombs in piles exposed to the elements, bunkers, holes in the rusty barbed wire, past a shepherd with sheep who nods and says hello, no cars stop, walk in to the next village. Turn off towards where I hope the main road is? a bus zooms past, but no money or inclination to catch it, a car stops, young man looking for his girl friend? Lack of communication, no English, we zooms up and down, he stops to talk to people, chase cars, I think he is looking for some one who speaks English, can only find a French speaker, a cafe owner, I am invited to stay!
"Talked about in Slovak, still nobody smiles, am looked apon by a large stuffed bird with a bow tie, I am not sure how generous Yugoslavs are, We shall see, it is an expensive place, money changes hands all the time. Is he worth holding to ransom or? pass the card around, it is hard to know what they are talking about may be the music out side or politics, it is hard to tell."
“I am very tired even after a siesta, must have got up at 5 or 6? who knows since I lost my watch they do talk about me, are they unfriendly or shy defensive."
Fed well on cheese omelette with bread and tomato and onion salad, very good. The bar is decorated with portraits of dead Revolutionary - Nationalist heroes, stuffed birds and fishing nets a boat in the garden, surrounded by weeping willows, the sun sets as I arrive sit and talk to two old ladies, shook hands be friendly, they leave after a while to return their goats to? A long friendly lecture on dead heroes and the history of Macedonia, it is a shame I understand little of it. Stayed the night at the restaurant a friendly good bye in the morning. Southern Yugoslavia is very pretty the train from Skobje to Bitola was like life 100 years or more ago
"through the mountain passes green and lush, water rushing along clefts beside the track, small plots of maize shaded by trees, out in to valleys wide and dry full of swaying crops disappearing in to the haze, dotted with brightly coloured peasants, up on top of the world, mountains rising up on all sides, through tunnels black and worm with the smell of diesel, past outcrops of rock, old derelict buildings and villages from foreign black and white movies."
"through the mountain passes green and lush, water rushing along clefts beside the track, small plots of maize shaded by trees,
out in to valleys wide and dry, swaying crops disappearing in to the haze, dotted with brightly coloured peasants,
up on top of the world, mountains rising on all sides,
through tunnels black and worm with the smell of diesel, past outcrops of rock, old derelict buildings and villages from foreign black and white movies."
Arriving in Bitola by train, a long lost walk to the camp site, past fat drunken hooligans plotting revolution and ethnic cleansing on a street corner, the camp site is all closed up, no office just a bar, I sit and order a beer it is cheaper than water. With a group of Macedonians talking incomprehensibly. Help myself to a bowl of roasted chickpeas? I am invited to sit at the men's table the only woman sits at a distance table and joins in the conversation by shouting across the room. A shave with a cut throat razor and short hair cut in a barbers shop in the back streets of the old town, very picturesque, churches and mosques together in the centre. No buses or trains so walked-hitchhiked 15 miles to the Greek border, curious looks, not many Westerners.
A long bemused walk. A Lift to Floreana where the banks were all shut so no money. All shops close at 3. Then don't open again, caught me out many a time. A long wait 5-6 hours hiding in the shade of various trees, walking out on to the plain from the town, sun burn sets in, finally a lift to the cross roads Thesolec or Corfu. The wise old man who finally gives me a lift suggests I write "English" with a large black pen on to my journal so as not to be mistaken for an Albanian, many Greeks hate-fear their poorer neighbour, hitchhiking improved no end. At the cross roads, Corfu it is.
A lift to Kastora up in to the mountains, car sick with all the hair pin bends and switch backs, fantastic views of the valleys a long way below patchwork of fields and matchbox houses, with small ancient white walled, red roofed villages nestling in the hollows and on top of pinnacles, shepherds with flocks of goats meandering amongst the slopes and blocking the road along with the occasional land slide or boulder. It would have been one of the highlights of the trip if I hadn't felt like puking up all over the car all the way. Arrive in Kastora late, problem finding some where to stay, put the tent next to the lake.
"I am in the mountains by a lake, sitting in a shaded restaurant out of doors with water lapping a few feet away, have ordered a Greek salad, potatoes and a coke. Surrounded by brown mountains speckled with green, cool breeze blowing off the water, sun burnt nose and arms. White clouds in a blue, hazey mountains sky. I think it is very hot out there, shall not venture out to see. What to do, too hot to climb, swim? what about the water snakes, seen 4 all ready swimming or hiding from old ladies with sharp heels, one in among the reeds with a big silver fish wriggling in its mouth. Giant green frogs with orange webbed feet, lizards of all sorts and many beetles, water mosquitoes, dragonflies, fat ants, running ants, giant ants, grubs and millipedes, fish leaping from the lake at the camp site run by a priest and a pair of pea-cocks strutting and preening."
Priest Gabrial, laying the concrete.
Very hostile plant life, could make it only 1/2 way up a hill, met a few tortoises and beetles, a large polecat keeps running past my open tent!
Water mosquitoes drunk on beer trying to fly upside down in the tavern.
Travelling along the Albanian border
A lift on a flat back Citroen van coasting down a twisting mountain road, the old couple in the front pass 2 worm nectarines out of the side window, juice dribbling down my chin, clinging on to the cab, we coast down from the top of a mountain to a dry river valley, with the company of warm sun and cooling breeze. A good lift, left me at a turn off to their village on a very twisty piece of road.
The fast Mercedes driver and the crash.
Stuck in the mountains, wild succulent sweet strawberries, camp at a deserted Monastery, surounding a anchernt bezentine cherch.
To the sea...
A lift with an old German woman to Igomarnesa, we picnic and sleep on the beach.
Corfu not yet I will explore the cost, Austrian Landrover to Parga picking up a group of Albanian hitchhikers on rout.
Swim from the beach, stay in the camp site, very touristy lots of British and German accents. The Olive groves and rocky bay, sea and sun camping by a deserted beach, swimming, a smoky fire at night.
"sitting in a cafe shaded by grape vines, the chirping of birds and crickets, sun strong out side, dry hills, red roofs, a fort crumbling on a hill overlooking the sea, cool with a gentle worm breeze, pools of sun light dappling the rough concrete floor dotted with friendly dry leaves and cigarette ends.
Greeks chatting, they buy me a drink, are eating meat and omelette, drinking Ouzo, white mixed with water. a small bird searches the floor, the gentle aroma of old cigarettes I could sit all day, no problem, should always speak good English, never pigeon, I think it annoys them too many tourists shouting pigeon.
No problems, if there is ask, they say. a quiet cafe over looking dry hills dotted with green scrub, wind rustling the leaves, flies softly crawling over my legs.
Their bill is lowered, money being forced back in to pockets, arguments amongst friends, much laughter, cigarettes, the meal over, they sit back and relax. Greeks eating me sitting with my book and an ice cold drink in the cool shade."
A long walk to Arilas 15-20 Km along a track though olive groves and scrub, up, down, around hills through a long low valley filled with old Oak trees shading the pebbles of a dried up stream. I set off with nothing to eat, as it would be a 6Km diversion to the nearest village, just 1 1/2 litres of water, luckily there was a plentiful supply of wild pears and unripe figs by the track through the olives and scrub.
Paranoia about the flies they all bite!!! well not really it just seems like it some times especially the giant green eyed ones.
Free camping and a good beach bar, long sandy beaches, small rocky coves and cliffs, the rock sharp and volcanic.
Igomarnesa a dump, the ferry to Corfu
Beautiful scenery good beaches, many tourists, mostly English and German
The Building site
The North is definitely prettier
Corfu town very nice too in parts old very narrow streets impossible to get a car down most of them. water melons from the market, swimming off the old fort. sea urchin spines in both feet, find deserted coves.
Back to England in 3 Days
Left Corfu at 8.30 in the morning after two sleepless nights in the ferry terminal, a mix up on my part about sailing dates, no problems with the customs, sitting on the quay with hundreds of inter- railers all colourful back packs shorts, tanned and sleepy youth. the ship was 1/2 an hour late, nearly empty the Arcadia lines, cheap old boats no free Interail passage, met a young English couple hitchhiking to England back from the far East. Little sleep on the 10 hour crossing to Bari, Italy they were washing the decks, sun very bright. shared my water melon and salad with the English, had a long conversation leaning over the rail with simple-nice?-ignorant American.
The ferry arrived late in the day, a very long walk out of Bari, where the Albanians I had seen along the border would be clubbed and tear gassed in to submission by the Italian Politzie. Camping a long way out of town with the English couple from the boat, in a field full of olive and almond trees. Hitchhiking proved to be hopeless early the next morning a fast slip road with no where to stop, we took a slip road each after an hour they waved good bye and wandered off. I sat on the crash barrier. finally a lift with a young Italian woman who spoke no English to the Payarsh. a siesta for an hour under a tree. then another non English speaker to Northern Italy, Reggio just past Bologna the driver dropped me off on a deserted slip road. Half an hour of smiling at the drivers and waving my English-North sign rewarded me with a lift to Milan with a Car phone sales man who spoke very good English and continuously pontificated on the superiority of all things Italian, I just nodded and agreed naturally. Left at a service station on the outskirts, wandered around, ate the last of my food, a tin of very oily Greek baked beans tut...tut.... tasty! While filling my water bottle, was offered a lift by a young German truck driver to the Swiss border OK.... good conversations about taking old cars to Africa to sell, he was on his way back from Espana we arrived at the Swiss border just in time for it to close... I slept on the canvas top of the articulated lorry, very nice too, left at 5.30 in the morning, with an English truck driver we had invited to dinner the night before because he had no money, I agreed to pay for his diesel and auto strada taxes with my remaining cash and VISA card, 20 hours non stop to London with a free ride on the ferry. We arranged to meet his girl friend at Victoria station, with a cheque and many thanks for getting him back.
In London meny young people sleeping rough in the dirt out side the locked up station, rundown squalor, threatening streets. I was suprised to find that the 29 bus did not leave from here any longer, so a long walk to Trafalgar Square via the Houses of Parliament and Whitehall, many tired party goers sitting around on the National Gallery lawn and talking around the bus stop at Trafalgar Square, sit and eat French chocolate with a bemused expression on my face early that morning I was in Italy with no ticket home. Waited for 1/4 of an hour for the bus, the streets still full of revellers around Leicester Square.
I arrived back at 4 in the morning to Toms empty flat.
(The travels of Hamish Campbell 1991)
THE OLD USSR AND BACK VIA
THE NORTH CAPE
I Started out on an average summer day thinking Moscow, Turkey the Baltic states or perhaps Finland and Sweden. As usual getting out of London proved to be the most difficult part of the trip. The tube train to Greenwich then a lift with a man picking up bricks fallen off a lorry to ??? Then with a teacher to a terrible slip road on the outskirts of London.
Dropped of at the outskirts of Canterbury by a young female French teacher, walk to Bernies a friend from my American trip, his Lada out side. Shall I stay or shall I Go? Off to his juggling class in a church hall, tightrope walking, unicycling, balancing and other pursuits, afterwards to the pub by the sea. He drove me to the ferry at Dover, mid night. A £12 day return to Ostend, I fell asleep on one of the plush settees in the bar, when awaken a number of hours later by a cleaner all the other passengers and cars had long gone, no chance of a lift from the ferry traffic. Trying to hitchhike at the port entrance for a while - nothing. Walk a few miles to the out skirts of Ostend, through a park, past an ornate decorated brick water tower to a roundabout on to the autobahn heading east.
Exhausted from lack of sleep, my zombeyfied progress towards the German border is interrupted by a snooze in a sunny field by an Autobahn lay-by. A couple of London double Decker buses promoting East Enders? going to Budapest, they pull up in to the service station I am trying to escape from, the drivers speak no English, and gives no lift. I am left stuck out side Hanover, camp the night in a field, the long grass beside a forest with the Police station 100 yards away.
I arrive in Berlin the middle of the next day, a lift to the centre with some young friendly East Germans to the usual railway station. But no luck getting in touch with a friend who I had made sand castles with on a Irish beach, and 50DM to stay in the cheapest acomadashern, so a train at dusk to the Polish border with 2 friendly Polish girls who I had met on the platform they were going home for the week end after working illegally in Berlin.
The Polish Border
At the border problems with my visa, well lack of it really. I had asked in London at the Polish embassy about the regerlasherns. they head sead that by then I shouldn't need a visa? So I took there word for it! the border guard, asks to see the visa in my passport I tell him I did not need one, he disagreed off the train to a small bare room with a painting on the wall celebrating the soviet army's liberashern of Poland, the two girls and a boyfriend are ordered to come along to act as interpreters, the phones don't work. Back and forth hello... hello... is there anyone there hello.... in Polish of cores.
Finally after numerous abortive phone calls for informashern and asistens, stamps and forms filled in, 49DM for the visa I paid and received a receipt for 50DM as he had no change. The young people take me to stay at a motel $20 This is getting expensive! I spent more in that day than I would later spend in a week in Rusher!
Hitchhiked out of the town Szczecin a number of lifts in private cars and in the back of a truck. Children selling strawberries all along the road. Stubsk the town with the red brick walls, strawberries and pasta with cream and white sugar. The old men frighteningly out of date 'flares and white synthetic shirt but friendly with memories of London.
The Polish fish farm in the forest, I have put up my tent, the house is like Alicks castle. I stay for a few days in the derelict fish farm in a Polish forest, Freddy Mercury constantly on video, with slasher movies in between. Long walks in the Forest a viset to a poluted lake, the trees scored to havist the resin. Emty holes full of rank weeds, the fish long gorn, the streams poluted to sterial claraty.
Arriving in a small town walking through it to find a castle on a mound containing a good agricultural museum and hotel.
The Solidarity monument, whistle playing late at night, the trip to the beach, over a millon Zeloty of amber buying in the old streets. A visit to Aeroflot, the market to buy chocolate for Russia who no's what I will need, the peaoiul I takew to have meny apenuns generally full of despair and poverty, they say I will find nothing to eat, nothing to biy, no transport, no no they say.
The beach on the Baltic sand and sun.
The bridge over the river? Walk across looking for some where to stop, try hitchhiking for 1/2 an hour at a bus stop in a stiff wind. Walking along the shore of the river, passing cows and fishermen on over grown stone piers. Then in land to a village of large prosperous but run down houses the older ones with ornate wooden carved pillars and sagging gables (amazing they would be in a museum in England), a teen age boy and girl ride by on a bike and promptly crash in to the curb stone because they are watching this stranger rather than where they are going. As I sit and eat an unapertising picnic by the road.
I ask a passer-by where I am and which way it is to the main road, but she cannot or would not answer? Out of the village to a newly built motel and on to the main road. to the border through fields, forests and meny lakes. Walking along small roads lined with trees, few car stop well almost non in fact! and I have no inclination to catch the bus. Country side of lakes and forests small villages and farm houses. Arriving in ??? I spend an hour looking for the non existent Youth hostel, and trying to communicate with the people at the bus station. Out of town to a free camping site by a lake.
It looks like it will tacke me up to 4 dayes to get across the border by car or foot?
The camp site on the lake opposite the monastery. canoeing across the lake, the manager ses for $5 he will find me a plane going to Vilnus??? well why not!!
$25 for the flight to Vilnius.
The old biplane comes in to land on the grass runway out side ???? a visit to the bank to pay, waiting in a newly painted hut, a glass of black tea in a silver holder, I spend the time taking to the customs officer and a young mechanic, a top secret Warsaw pact military map an the wall.
Clamber in to the plane 7 hard seats with thin cushions, 2 other passengers a pilot and co-pilot they seem friendly, the plane swerves and shakes as it takes off, we circle the town banking steeply twice, head off towards Lithuania???
Civilisation is soon left behind, plains doted with farm land and forests criss-crossed by dirt tracks, lakes, flat, it has been flat all the way from London and I am to find the same scenery for thousends of KM's until I reach the hills of Northern Finland and the snow dotted mountains and fjords of Norway.
air sickness sets in!!!! peering out the window.
we swing round over the light industrial area, landing with a phuw bumps at Vilnius air port, peeling paint, row open row of biplanes and small Soviet jets, no problem with the customs, they are very disinterested. The business men from the plane give me a few trolley bus tickets and point me in the derecshern of the center of tone, no local money not a clue where to stay, not a word of the language. I head for the highest point I can find a large classical building on top of a hill overlooking the river and city.
I meet a very snotty student Finding a hotel, The young American CIA men in souts and cella phones.
The large concrete hotel off the bus station SQ 550 Roubles a night, the food is not too good I eat ice cream and suspect pizzas. Resptionist and all all all!!!
"The English speaking resepshernist is tiered and getting irritable as the calls do not get threw, on a hard/soft sofa in the dated grimy lounge, the Porter/door man in synthetic ??? and brown, the hotel door is locked he opens it for eny guests. clouds dark and pale pastel blue sky moving behind the courtens, a large fall out shelter in the back garden, she chafes and goes back to sorting paper, it is a dull meaning less pass time. I am becoming dull and meaningless to.... as if I was ever eny thing else, conversaherns over lunch, American and German lovers, will Thaler and Ian be an ancering machine. tomorrow I go to? two words Rega. 3 middle aged Russian women clamp down the stares and chatter to the door man, he locks the door after them. I sit and wait for the phone conecshern, no wissel to keep me company, only the clang of lifts and the toing and frowning of the resepshernist her mouth with a could sore, eyes with dark bags, but an interesting face and smart jacket. she smiles sweetly but infrequently. more people and a pretty gerl in fake leopard skin, with a man with a champagne bottle. How do you deal with vaporous stupid people, you become one I suppose. The clouds darken and thicken with the night. I ask, she phones, I wait. Bruised eyes short heir, scissors sniping, the door man passes, I sit (as ever) and write."
A long time wandering around the town, to find a group of Austrian modern performance artists, body sacking and pretensions, the creator and host talk at each other, both bored and intolerant of what the other try's to say and play, the words are meaningless. on the library steps the TV center still barricaded agenst Soviet tanks, The bridge over the river blocked by concrete blocks from a nearby building site. The remans of a bert out car in the road.
The tour of the tower of the castle on the mound, it is closed but I am offered a tour by the curator, lots of German invasherns over the last 400? years.
The dilapidated old tone, stucco work crumbling and falling in to the streets
later that everning on the tram to the pagan festival of the "Jones's", I met a student studying English and her young sister. We walked across a motor way and in to the forest looking for the party on the out scurts of tone, most modern soviet tones have large areas of forested parks near to them. But it dsent seam to be happening? find a fun feir the younger sister injoues the rides. back threw the forest and in to the center all the trolley buses have stopped for the night. We found a student party. Jumping over and dancing around the bon fire. Fifties music and modern rap. I provide a bottle of champagne.
The bus to Klaipeda the tired dilapidated drink stop enroute, (can people really live like this) flat agriculture and forests for 300 Km to the sea. Then a local bus to Paraga a model soviet holiday village with the old and new buildings built in amongst the natural pine forest that cover this coast. Wooden walk ways through the sand dunes to the beach.
A single Hotel room for 70p a night, long white sandy beaches, a dilapidated wooden pier with hot sun and cold winds in from the Baltic sea. As the sun goes down people promenade in their best clothes. Discos with soldiers, the segregated male and female nudist beaches, old and young, prudish and boastful.
Hitchhiking out of town to the air port, then to another seaside town and on to the border, concrete and guns pointless nationalism bureaucracy for national identities sake. Border crossings are jury-rigged, construction stalled by corruption and bureaucracy. Britain must be a strange sight for foreigners, how do we keep law and order without the ubiguous machine gun.
At the Lithuanian side of the border I wait for the bus as the hitchhiking is geting unreliabley slow and there is little to see between the towns, The young guards get on the bus, look at my passport, but won't stamp it even though I ask them to, all the old women on the bus have old style Soviet passports.
The bus to Liepaja leaves me at the railway station, Shall I stay or shall I go? It dose't look too interesting and I can't find any body to give me change for the lockers. So I go After a long difficult talk to the information person she smiles and by passes the long queue to get me a ticket, and points me in the direction of the train to Riga. Buy some food at the track side bar, but all meat so a couple of bottles of beer, which are foul so I drink 1/2 of one and give the other to a man asking me for I don't know what? He quickly disappears with the bottle, which I had wanted to keep for the deposit! Probably all of 2p but it seemed a lot at the time.
I whent threw a week with £5 in my pocket, it seamed a lot.
The slow slow train to Riga, with hard seats, forsts a few swamps and numerous stops on route 5 hours of ??? the Rusherns love there children to, across the carrege.
Arrive late in the day looking for a hotel near the railway station a worrying time, dusk approaching, taking to drunken security guards the hotels are all full or perhaps I am not offering the right bribes? To find a hotel without tourist information, the luxuries of the West. The sport hotel is a real dump I don't feel like bribing them to find a room. Walking at night for miles through dark threatening empty streets. In the end I find a place to camp on an Island by the TV centre, me and a bottle champagne only. A hungry tipsy time Hamish the wino!
The next day I find the hotel I had looked for the night before, in an apartment block amuncsed meny others on the outskerts of toun. A complete apartment for 650 roubles a day
The museums, art at your finger tips, old masters in your pockets. The exelent old sovet war museam convertide in to a gallery full of crap modearn Art.
The hair cut disguise for the Russian border, various dubious looking creams, the shave and fiery liquid spashed all over, a 200 rouble tip (an old weeks wage) and off on the train to Moscow across the Latvian-Russian border with out a Visa of cores. Train to Moscow 240 roubles (£1.20) for 1,000 KM in a second class sleeper with the atendunt serving hot black tea and a donated boled sweet in stead of suger. There are four classes on Russian sleeper trains, hard, normal, first, and old communist carriage all red silk, fresh flowers, videos and attendants at beck and call, with caviar and champagne.
The English man with the John Le Carre novel in the red velvet secturn. I sit and talk. food and bear arive. We descuse the problems of finding a hotel in Moscow, it seams insermaunterbal, so an offer of the spare room in his appartment.
The New Russia Moscow
Arrived at Rega stashern, the grass growns over the railway lines, it seams more like a bannaner republic than the old capatel of the Soveat Uounon.
To get from the stashern to the apaetment we stand by the road and try to wave down eny passing car, flagged down an Ambulance, the inside only a shell ingrained with dirt the orderly in filthy white coat, I would hate to need one of these. But there is nothing else, give the driver 150 Rubals. We stop off at the private enterprise market which is full of fruit and vegetables the prices are similar to here, which is extrodeneryly hiy for Russians as there couracy is nearly worthless. I am offered roubles at an exedanly good exchange rate by a too smart looking man in a sout is this for real or the police? I don't change eny money. An intoducturn to Moscow.
Mac Donald's, not too long a queue very clean and over staffed, The young Russians love it.
The apartment, for two people for one expat, no hot water as it was off for repers for that mounth, the aprtment blocks tack it in turn. The kichin is infested with cockrochis, as are all the apartments in Moscow. The British embassy to register as a visitor which is across the river from the Kremlin.
Spend a morning wondearing around the Arbat market street, it is full of intolerant single minded people. The Irish supermarket and pub it is strange to go all this way to find normality. Having a look at the computer in the caseno, the taxei at night how to pronouns the addresses.
The next day casinos, Red square and the Russian girls Olger and ??? A vist to the panted chearches in the Kremlin.
The night club Cosmos $15
Out for a Chinese
The train station and 500 rubaly bribe's to get a first class sleeper to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) the trains are very well made from aluminium and wood, moulded and machined they are very clean and punctuale.
I share my cushet with a drunken Professor, who invits me to stay in his house, I decline, I am tyered of hospitalerty.
With no were to stay, wondear around the Posh and not so Posh Hotels round the Railway stashern, back in to the Stashern to the Inturest office, sit and talk, biy them a western bear from the hardcurancey shop, mack some frends!?
The Hermitage gold and malachite threw out. The ferry trip, down the river with my guide. The shopping, for books and trinkets, Cruiser Aurora closed for the afternoon. A posh restaurant for 500 Roubles, in the after noon a vist to the tanks and missiles in the artillery museum.
The head of naval HQ I politely asked if I could have a look around, the guards just as politely declined.
A ticket to Tallinn leaving late at night, the drunken dubious racaterers share my carriage. I go next door to talk to a friendly poleas men how offers the spare bed in his couchet but I decline as these racketeers are quite frendy and I have little to be stolen. 1/2 of the train journey to Tallinn across the old USSR I am woken as the train stops at the Estonian border a soldier looks through my passport "No Estonian Visa" gets me grumbling out of bed, pack my bags off the train and in to the station, the are 4 Canadians sleeping on the benches how have been there for 4 hours already.
$60 for a visa, what!, $60 for a visa, the Canadians ask for a official piece of paper, he shrugs, $60 for a visa, it can't be $60 in Moscow I was told it was only $10 for a visa, $60 for a visa, the train levies, we sit and try to persuade him, with the guards sitting around, we plead poverty, we plead stupidity, threaten to telephone the embassy but there is no telephone, an hour goes by.
I must point out at this point that the averge Russian watchs so much low grade, violent, crap American videos, that you can imagine the only words of English they understand, you can swear at them all you like, they smile at you, it is communication.
Fuck the bastards! I think giving a wink to the Canadians I walk out the door asking the guard which why it is to Russia, he tries to stop me, saying the next train is in 6 hours, I throw my hands in the air and shout "stupid fucking shit heap of a country" and walk past him shouting "I take a bus-taxi, shit heap of a country" the guards hesitate to stop me, around the railway station, the guards are waiting smirking with the taxi drivers, I walk up "Russia? The border?" They shrug and ignore me. I can hardly stop my self grinning.
I swear loudly and ask how far it is to the border I will walk, they point off down The road and mutter something like 6 miles (they don't even know what a mile is!)
I stride off down the road not daring to look back, round the corner past a cinemascope castle by the river which is the border, when out of sight of the guards I take a side road in to the center of the town passing through a park only pausing to kicking up the debris of shredded roubles that I find, in till I spot a sign post for the capital Tallinn and start to hitchhike, it is 5 o'clock in the morning, the 3rd car stops, the man speaks no English and does not seem to be going any where after a seemingly fruitless exchange of words he motions me to get in and drives me out to the outskirts of the town to a Temporary police station!
The atmosphere is not dangerous just non comprehensible, he goes in side and wakes up a police man, who stumbles out dragging on clothes, with his illuminated traffic batten, the young police man motions me to get in to his car, we drive 10 yards to the road and stop and wait slightly worried I try to strike up a conversation, but no English and no Estonian he gets out and flags down a car containing a young Russian couple a brief discussion while I wait in the car, a lift to some where? they don't seem to speak English and don't seem very communicative either.
An hour or two later I am standing bemused in the early morning streets of Tallinn the capital of Estonia, no visa again! on the tram in to the center.
Very good ice cream. Round the old town, buy some old 1900 century bank notes. a vist to the French destroyer tiyed up agenst the quy (curtasy vist). A few days in a rented mosquito infested apartment. To leve the country, I am held up for 1/2 an hour and must pay $10 for the visa.
Then the sovet hydrofoil to Helsinki. We exelerat awy and the land srinks and disapears as if by magic, only to apear 20 minets later in frount, thread aware way threw the Ilands and forts in to the port large cruse bouts agenst the keys a smile and frendy wave to the customs woman and a 5 minet walk in to the center of Helsinki.
The West is bright big and alive after the sober dereliction of the East
The land of the 24 hour sun
The cheap hotel ($10) in the centre and brecfast in the light house young travellers center, wondering around, Sitting eating falafel's with the displaced street artists from the Middle East in the central shopping centre, they invited me back the next day to see their pictures but I left Helsinki because it was so expensive.
The bus to the out side of Helsinki with pot plants in the forest next to the motorway. On the road to Mikkeli slow Hitchhiking, the trains are very expensive. it tacks me a day to get to Sodankyla where I stop to biye a map, a rice cake and to look round the frendly informashern center.
On to Lapland in the Arctic circle, a sighn by the road and a coffye in a small cafe, then on to Ivalo and Lfjord with the Manager of a Jount Venture Mining company travaling to the Kola peninsuler in a large 4 weel drive car. I am tempted to go! but no Visa agen! on to Banak, and in to Norway.
"Weak sun shine, mist over the river, one side Norway the other Finland, boats drawn up on the pebbles, round and smooth like gem stones, soft rain comes and goes, sitting in the cab of a giant American camping van writing a post card. It is 2 in the morning."
A 300km deture to the North Cape (the most Northan car park in Europ). Wind swept the Artic oshern dull and gray I arive at 1/2 past mide night, to see a fue gleams of sun light on the waves. built in to the cliffs is a rstront and night club "The restaurant at the end of the universe" I meet some English men, we sit at the King of Norways tabeal. Champagne at the end of the world a bottle I had been saving from Tallinn, it was getting heavy.
Stowing away an board a bus to the English Liner the Canberra, but it is not at the big port with the ferry back to the main land, instead a small fishing village. I plotted stowing away for the trip back to England with the OAP's telling them all about my travels in Russia, but it was only 3 days to England, and I hadn't seen much of Norway yet.
So over the inland mountains covered by rock and poor soil occasional low scrub and patches of snow in the shadows to Alta. An American style town at the head of a bay. The tourist office, bank and Russians selling tourist knickknacks, AK47's and young old looking prostitutes in the car park.
The placed reindeer with antlers covered in velvet, blood and mosquitoes.
Down the mountainous fjord strewn coast of Norway, to the Lofoton islands. Harstad the posh doctors house, pine and open space.
A long way to hitchhike, the Islands ferries across fjords and open sea, absolutely stunning fairy tale scenery. The long ferry trip to Bodo, hiding from the conductor.
A long way to Trondheim! The scenic route, I try but NO! LIFTS apart from a nice woman who after me tealing her about my adventures and all the problems getting eny vegerteran food in Rusher and how expensive it is in Norway gives me a large pile of waffles in grease proof paper before turning down a track in to the wilderness.
I stand on the bridge watching the whorl pools whirling bellow, and wait for hours in the cold wet weather for a lift. Walk back to the main road, It is lucky it doesn't get dark! It must be 10 o'clock at night. After a nice 10km walk I get a lift with an Iranian refugee in his little car to the main inland road to Bergen. It is midnight, I buy a litre of milk at a petrol stashern.
A long long way to Bergen AHH!!!! distances in Scandinavia are ridiculous!
Walking up through a mountain range in light rain, mile upon miles of twisting roads, fir trees off both sides climbing the sides of the valley and precariously up the ledges of the mountainsides. Water, elemental, primeval power, I stand unbelieving at the maelstrom, the volume, the noise and mist, You can feel it cutting away at the earth, one wrong step on the slippery rocks and I would be consumed with in a second.
Stop for a picnic by the old gerder bridge over the torrential mountain river, sweet brown cheese and fresh white bread sheltering from the soft rain under a stunted tree on a rock out crop sliding in to the torrent. The churning water is almost like an inviting mist, a thundering cloud drifting by.
A lift to Bergan with a Swedish oil worker in his tired old Mercedes. Over the mountains past glaciers, Green-Blue monsters creeping over the land scape like an organic ooze on freeze frame. Up through a long flat plateau the train tracks covered with a wooden tunnel to keep the snow drifts at bay, a ritual snow fight on top of the highest mountin pass in Europe. Vertical switch backs leading in to an impossibly deep green valley with water cascading down beside the road. The ferry in mist and rain across Sogne fjord.
Camping in Bergan in the park by the sea, Norwegian kareoke in a yupy bar in the docks. The next day in a YHA 1/2 way up a mountin behind the tone. eating rasbys, young boy American storys, rain.
The ferry back to Newcastle England Costs £80, My mony and time have run out, my shoues had fallen to bits, it is time to go home.
Hitchhike back to Cambridge.
"Amber shadows glowing in the sun, Boltic pine kernels 20 Million years old, dust filling perfect cavitys in fossilised Resin, Shadows only, time has robed them of eny substance"
"Amber shadows glowing in the sun, Million year old Pine kernels, But only dust filling perfect cavitys, Shadows only, As time has robed them of eny substance"
"A pine kernel 20 million years old, a shadow only as time has robed it of eny substance. Dust filling a perfect cavity in fossilised Amber. A shadow only."
As I write the above the sun streams in through the tower windows, buffeted on and off by a rain storm. I sit watching the sun set and the clouds go by blue and orange.
The Travels of Hamish Campbell (
In wales looking after Ian, a place at Ruskin College Oxford
What next? Africa the unrales or setaldowen.
a littel time in north africa...
"Hitchhiking, travelling with or without a clue, with or with out a direction, with or with out a desire, travelling"
This is a write up of my travels in Europe, America, the Caribbean and the Old Sovet Block Countries. From 1989 to 1992 the years I left Europe in search of the Europeans. I must apologise for the some times bland itinary, most of this is from my Journal.
Hitchhiking with my mother in her student days.
At the age of 22 A trip to pares, unexpectedly having no fear to sleep bellow the tower, and talk to street ernchins.
Inter railing all around Europe, a taste.
Meny hole in the wall trips around the French borders, to Germany.
A charter flight to the Moorish splendours of a Spanish winter.
The big trip to north Africa lost in the freezing mists of Tuscany, the car going the wrong way on the way to Pisa. American bombers, Libyan corpses.
These all lead up to... build up to...
Boat life photos
This happens nearly every day at Balcombe - Snatch Arrest
This happens nearly every day at Balcombe. This film was shot and edited and uploaded in 1 hour at the camp media center all on solar power.
“Just because work is invisible dose not mean that it dose not happen.”
Some thoughts about organising contempery media production.
In current world the spread of cheap and easily available technology opens up the production of knowledge and culture to a much wider group of people than in the 20th century. The issue is no longer the “hard issues” of access and gatekeepers – it is one of the “soft issues” of craft skills and storie telling. Along side this for co-operative production the most important issue is organisational.
“Just because work is invisible dose not mean that it dose not happen.”
Half the people won't tern up or will be useless
Half the equipment wont work or will have pieces missing so dose't not work.
The failer of the 20th century is “hard organising”
The working of the 21st century is “soft organising”
Work out a rota and fill the roles before the event. Put people into fixed times and place, then panic and start from scratch when it all changes on the day and half the people don’t tern up and there equipment fails.
Have fun role-plays and hands on set-ups to learn the skills, put people into broad groups – and only fill the completely central hard roles the co-ordinators. The rest are left open and fluid so that the most competent people can move into the key roles and the less competent can hang onto them or drift away, and best to let them go, its an open process and they have the opportunity to comeback later.
Some ways to think about why this is important
If you have a volunteer structer and few resources hard organizing will likely lead to 100% failer of a good outcome. Soft organising will likely lead to 70% success of good anufe outcome. One will leave everyone bicking and blaming over who’s fault is is for the failer and it will split and demoralise the crew. The other will nurture success and build trust so as to grow the pool of talent so that next time the outcome can grow.
In a contradictory way “soft organising” is the way to grow a “hard organising crew”. The 20th century 'professionalism' is now the clear and imedate danger to the success of the 21st century working. We are in the middle of a transition if people who aspire to work in the 20th century way won't to be useful they have to jump ship - or get a dwindling paid job in the traditional media.
How to stop “hard organising”
This needs some thought – as it is clearly the problem we face in the digital age of voluntary production. See my DRAFT post on de-professionalising the media about why this is core to thinking about this.
Frackoff! at #Balcombe
Trade union - 2001 and undercover police
This is 3-4 video reports in one. I made them for FSTV a US satellite station and show the wide spectrum of demonstrating post Genoa. I think the is still one report missing will post it when I find it.
My thinking then as now is to show the tredtional events, walking from A-B in a radical way, but to concentrate more on the fring more alternative party and protest movement.
Brussels 2001 - December 13th, saw possibly the largest ever demonstration of trade union strength across Europe. Well over 100,000 people marched through the capital of the 'Europe of Profit' under the slogan, "Europe: it's us!"
Filming Genoa 2001 G8 protest
Sandals and a straw hat for a riot, the face covering is for the tear gas and the was lots of it. Memoires, the mic cover was made of a piece of cutup packaging material and the mic was lent to some one latter and there dog eat it. Soon after the police van was set alight (you can see the man with the newspaper moving to light it and through it inside the petrol socked van) we left, about 20 minutes after that, the gunshot that killed is heard.
Turning off the comments?
Hamish explaining the templates (video)
Good sound recording with a mobile phone.
Comparing a mobile interview with an external mic and with mic built into the HTC phone
With mic, and with out mic (camera woman forgot to pug it in first time)
This is in a relatively low noise back ground, in a normal social space...
Using a good mobile phone with an external mic to shoot live video reports
Here are two short video pieces I did at the recent Occupylsx. Feel they work quite well, two crew, one on camera, one on mic and interview, then basic camera moves and VO/interview.
Shot and uploaded in an hour or so, I did a few more interviews but they were problematic for content and camerawork, it was a on the job training with the person I was working with.
The Ratcliffe Swoop prosecutions caused a backlash against activist media that reverberated around the Edinburgh climate camp. We were not present at the Ratcliife Swoop, and played no part in the gathering of video there. When we saw footage posted of identifiable activists doing criminal damage, we were astonished, as throughout the history of video activism this has been an absolute "no no", without the express consent of the activists pictured. We immediately took this material down from visionOntv accounts where it had been posted, and told the Ratclifffe media team why we did so. Regrettably the footage was later re-posted by the producers to accounts outside of our control. Having said that, as of writing, we have been unable to find out any details of the prosecutions and exactly which footage was used.
But as a response I (perhaps naively) thought it might be helpful to try to do consensus/affinity group process with activist film at the Edinburgh climate camp. To kick this off, we showed a sneak preview of END:CIV on the Saturday to a crowd of around 50-70 people which sparked off a good and respectful debate about aesthetic of activist film and the old spiky/fluffy debate about effective action. People came away challenged and thoughtful.
The next day after the action on the RBS HQ we showed the rough edit of it to get feedback and make sure it was OK to put out. It was enthusiastically received but there was also a very forceful verbal attack of “you must do this” “do it now, or you are endangering activists” and a refusal to answer simple questions about “why” in exchanges with one person. Finally, after some bad feeling, I found out that she had seen an “object for causing criminal damage” being held by one person in the film. OK, that is a genuine issue, so I agreed to look at it again. I asked her to show me where it was in the film but instead she rushed off to tell everyone that climatecamptv had refused to remove the “weapon” and that we were putting out films that were endangering activists. This led later to many different groups and individuals coming along to have their say over the next day about how the film should made.
See later where this led.
I had watched the film 3 times during editing for legals, and had shown it to to a number of other trusted people. After we had packed up the screening we looked at the “object” on the video and found it to be a plastic horn not an “object to cause criminal damage” at all. Humm... a storm in a teacup you would think, but read on.
Let's briefly go through it - the film of the action had a few legal issues.
* The pushing on the bridge (possibly assault) leading to the earlier dressing-up sections (unmasked) being possibly incriminating of this possible assault.
* We had no video of the breaking of windows (criminal damage) thus this was less of an issue in the film. Nor did we have film of any identifiable possible perpetrators.
* There was one additional shot which could potentially have been "creatively" used by police to prosecute an activist.
* The bridge-pushing was problematic as all the activists were unmasked, with all the FIT team on the roof and 3-4 corporate media TV/photo actively filming. Many photos/images would be available so on the one hand it was clearly done in the open, and therefore accountable. On the other, if they were charged, our video would likely be used in the prosecution, both for and against the activists. It's an issue we face many times and it unless we know otherwise we have to have to err on the side of caution. Without the opportunity to ask them whether they were accountable thus OK to show it or not, we decided to blur this section – rendering the need to blur the early stuff irrelevant as we now had no incriminating video of this “crowd” action.
The other potentially incriminating shot was removed, at the request of the individual filmed.
After running it past the affinity group made up of CCTV/visionontv crew and some trusted legal support we left it to a volunteer to polish the final edit for showing that evening before putting out to the web. In my experience you can never run a film past an audience too many times before it's finished from both a legal and an aesthetic point of view.
The day of action was very busy, and we were all running around filming. While we were out and about a number of people came in to look at the earlier action video being edited and asked the editor to make changes – he responede to their requests and made a lot of changes to hide and obscure many details throughout the film.
When we saw the film in the evening just before the screening we were shocked. Editing a film by committee is always a disaster and the film was now an incoherent and sinister mess making climatecamp look like a bunch of criminals. We now had a film we couldn't put out. This wasn't our volunteer editor's fault, it was a problem with the process we had begun but were not around to control. To top this, at the end of the day the editor had found the people who were at the front of the bridge-push and they had made it clear that they were unhappy being blurred out as it was the best thing they had done in ages. They were willing to be accountable for their actions, so we didn't need to thus put any obscuring in the finished film.
We now had to re-do the film from an earlier version. It was dark and we were late for the nightly screening, we had one computer to gather all the films up and convert then to the right format and re-edit this film – we decided it wasn't possible to screen the action film and concentrated on showing the other 9 finished but less exciting films we had ready. We started the screening with non-action films to cries of "we want to see the action". So an old version of the action film was rush-encoded and was ready half-way through the screening. Unfortunately this contained the ptoentially incriminating shot we had earlier taken out, and was screened to about 40 climatecampers. NOT good. Another person had a very solid go at us...
What did we learn from this?
Should protesters never trust any video/photo on an action OR should they trust video activists as THEY know what they are doing?
For me, not trusting experienced video activists leads to the very real danger that through bureaucratisation it pushes the working affinity group structure underground and renders it ineffective – the option of bureaucratic/consensus process isn't an option with film which is at its best a skilled creative story-based process.
But now we have to deal with the rumour mill which quickly churned around the "weapon" / plastic horn issue. Rumour has more power than truth when there isn't a functioning media. I heard the misinformation that we had put out footage of window-smashing weapons three times while leaving the camp to get home. And that's why I wrote this post as this rumour could distort the very real pro/anti-media debate in activism which needs to happen in a constructive way.
On the subject of social media and underground/wannabe mainstream film-makers/photographers, there are very real dangers that is the subject of another post.
The way forward - some simple social/technical solutions
* Nurture basic journalism/story telling skills in alt-media to make better outreach media. LINK
* Linking is key, link to alternative resources where ever you can, the easiest way of competing with corporate news sources is by building a web of connecting linked alt-news sources.
* Aggregation is a way to make decentralisation work.
* Have the main way of inputing to any alt-project at a local level then let the content work its way up to the top of subject/geographic aggregation sites. While always keeping the valid link back to the original source. I know its hard but try and avoid building consensus/bureaucratic publish from the top sites/projects where possible.
* QUOTE “content is just something for conversation” This opens the question of where does the interaction around content take place – this is still a unresolved issue and needs more thought and technical work – for now a diversity of strategy is probably the best way forward. While always keeping the valid link back to the original source.
* This is a controversial point - ONLY use the corporate social media solutions for link building and feeding people into contempery media projects – corporate social media solutions should be avoided as much as possible as original sources of distribution. DO use them and abuse them but its a common mistake to build real companies and communities solely within them. Its easy, publish on a alt-newsite site/blog then publish a link on facebook and twitter, you can use tools that do this automatically.
* Be open to using all tools, but try and come down on using free/opensource and open standards were possible. For two reasons
1) there is an opportunity for people to build things with opensource and openstandards using your project that you DIDN'T think of – this is actually where almost all innovation on the web comes from.
2) all corporate tools are bound up with the need to create profit before functionality and user experience so in the end they all have to sell out and focus on profit before users/content, its just a matter of time, the ones that don't follow this line run out of funding and all your work vanishes anyway.
* RSS and Creative Commons are your friends, use them well in every project you create.
That's really it, let's work together to use the “digital hole” undermining corporate media “to replace it with something nicer” its really not that difficult. Let's all Link and Aggregate based on open standards.
Hamish Campbell, (typed while) camping in the forest at the beach in the bay of Biscay.
Activist media and the Value of the URL link
The currency of the web is the link, so by linking to something you are adding to its value.
Regrettably, activists endemically link to corporate media and social networking sites thus adding value and power to these large multinational corporations they are in theory fighting against.
As a recent example (but I could pick almost any), at the CRUDE AWAKENING event on October 16th 2010, video producers put out links to alternative video sites:
And these links were re-posted for a while, but soon most re-postings and linking were direct to youtube rather than to the real producers' websites.
Why is this a problem? Just to repeat, linking is probably the strongest currency on the web, and anti-corporate activists are too often spending it in the mega-stores rather than the much better social/political experiences of their local cornershops. We CAN build a powerful alternative to the mainstream if we spend our linking currency wisely.
LINK to alternative media whenever and wherever you can, with a valid link (includes http:// - www is no good). If you like a film, see if you like the films around it, and LINK to that flow of films, rather than a single video. There's much more value in a flow, for viewers and for producers.
You can also embed alternative media players on your blog or website (for instance http://visionon.tv/embed) and LINK to the urls of those. This is more useful than embedding a single film from youtube.
Valid LINKS and LINKING to flows help to build alternative, non-corporate infrastructure and it's free.
“create the world you won’t to see”
The web as political ideology
- Facebook is capitalism – capturing the commons and shaping it into a delusional tool for private profit.
- Twitter is socialism – making everyone equal but keeping power at the centre and falling for the problem of making some people more equal than others.
- The internet – libertarianism, creating a space for freedom of every action, but built without the tools for the free-market capitalism that often goes with libertarianism.
- The world wide web – anarchism, radically horizontalizing access to knowledge and communication, building a commons for us all.
- Old media – zombies clothed in the rooting flesh of the world of scarcity, gatekeepers holding the world from change by the fear of there stench.
- Dot-com's – parasites that pray on the necessity leavings of the old world, leeches that suck and suck from the vitality of the new.
- Torrents – the greedy happy tool of the hippies, affluence without responsibility.
- Youtube – a prison for our collective visions with no bars on the cell windows.
- Goggle - is Judas – the one who betrayes us all.
- You – what are you in the digital world?
Diaz - up in the water tower
2001 - The G8 Summit in Genoa
I arrived in Genoa a few days before the anti G8 demonstrations were due to start, to help set up the Indymedia centre. We travelled in a tiny camper van with my frend Marion from Munich. The border caused no problem - the border guard asked us why we were going to Italia and we said we were holidaying on the coast, with a knowing look on both sides. Arriving in Genoa the police presence was heavy. The convergence centre was being set up down at the beach. Just a hundred yards away there was a huge police build up at the stadium. After wandering around for a while, we camped the night parked out of sight beside one of the big marquees of the half finished convergence centre. In the morning, meeting up with other groups, we made our way to the GSF and IMC organising building: the Diaz school.
The IMC (independent Media center)
We found a place to stay at the IMC at the head of the stairs, on the roof, which was out of the way, and looked around. The video room was full of techy gear but none of it seemed to be available for public use. The centre was well equipped with computers supplied by the city, all networked together. The techy crew had obviously put a lot of work into the set up. There was Linux on all the computers but with no applications and no system of support to help people make the transition to this “non-standard” operating system – a powerful gesture of what is possible but practically useless. A re-occurring theme in the tec-journo divide.
The video room was a bit of a fiasco - a lot of non-configured private computing kit – most of it password protected, taking up the majority of the space. There were no shared resources and it seemed none of the kit worked in a familiar standard way. An ego wank space with little organised IMC ethos.
Two PCs were “requisitioned” from other rooms and MS Windows was installed (as there was no functioning Linux video editing software). At one of the first meetings money was put aside to upgrade one of these computers to be a DV editing system with a new hardrive and Firewire card. On the other we installed an analogue video cpature card - brought along from CanalB – so we had two shared editing systems. The second of these created the bulk of the video that was uploaded from the IMC centre during the summit – the DV computer broke down on the second day and didn’t work again.
Marion and I headed down to the street to make the first report at the convergence centre. It wasn’t long before we were stopped and detained by a group of undercover policemen while doing a piece to camera outside the main police accommodation stadium - which happened to be right next to the convergence centre. We were held for a few hours while more and more undercover policemen arrived, until there were 10 or 12 police and two cars around us. They asked me for the tape in the camera - I refused - took down all our details and checked our passports – it become a bit nervewracking. I secretly filmed some of the secret policeman. Interestingly we were to see one of them two more times undercover at the counter-summit, and outside the IMC centre before the raid.
Driving round the streets trying to film the red zone barrier going up, we were stopped and detained twice. For an hour the first time and 3-4 hours the second. Arguing with the police and attempting to exercise normal civil rights proved fruitless. This was the first nagging Orwellian feeling that was reinforced over the week of demonstrating. The police were a state in themselves and there was obviously no respect for the role of law in their actions. Fear was starting to stalk the streets, encircling the meeting of the cabal of world power.
THE RAID ON THE IMC
After the shooting of one demonstrator the tension was rising, paranoia about police repression spreading. People began to leave the indymedia center, people began to leave Genoa. There was much discussion of what to do and no firm consensus. Many people made the decision to leave independently until the numbers had halved as the night wore on.
At midnight there were shouts of "the police are coming". I looked out of the window but couldn't see anything. People started to run around, grabbing stuff and barricading doors. I ran to find Marion and told her about the hiding place on the roof I had checked out when we arrived. She grabbed the tapes and equipment and headed off.
Looking out of the side window I could not see any police around the front door so I shouted back to the people blockading the door, trying to calm the situation.
I went up to the roof to film the carabinieri breaking into the building next door - a van smashing through the front gate; police breaking the windows with chairs, smashing down the doors with tables they found in the courtyard. Worried for my safety and the video I was recording, after a few minutes I decided to head back downstairs to see if the police were coming into the IMC as well.
After two flights, turning a corner, I came face to face with a carabinieri policeman dressed in full body armour with his truncheon drawn panting his way up the stairwell. At this I turned and flew up two flights shouting, “they are in the building”; past the barricaded door to the IMC and up to the roof. Dodging the spotlight from the circling helicopter I headed over to the window of the water tower and lowered myself in whispering “Marion it's me”. No answer. Creeping through the darkness with the only light being from the IR beam of my camera, I made my way down through the corridor of water tanks whispering “Marion are you there?” and starting to panic that she was not. A small and frightened voice came back: “turn the light off”. She was hiding in the space behind the last water tank.
We waited. She had brought a bottle of water and supplies. We talked about what we would do if and when the police came. Would they come in and search… would they throw tear gas… would they smash our equipment and break our bones.. these all seemed very real.
The helicopter circled, its spotlight lighting up the window of the water tower. There were noises of movement outside: the police searching the roof. We kept very quiet and still.
We were there for 3-4 hours. There was screaming from the street below and cries of "assassina". We only came out after the helicopter had left.
There were survivors wandering around the roof top, numbed and in shock. I interviewed two English girls who had been in the IMC during the raid, then went downstairs to survey the damage. Doors were smashed open. Computers were dismembered: their hard drives ripped out, monitors smashed. Across the street there was much worse waiting. Blood had covered the floor, congealing into puddles, and sprayed up the walls. Trails led into huddled corners; clothes lay around in disarray, personal belongings were strewn across the floor, speckled here and there by blood stains. Desolate, dazed people were searching through the piles. Reporters stood in small, silent groups. The trail of blood led up the stairs. Bits of skin and clumps of hair stuck to the walls. Following the broken doors and hasty barricades, looking in cupboards and under desks, everywhere someone could have hidden there was blood and broken skin, the bashing of heads against walls, the smearing of blood stained hands. There was a smell in the building. The Carabinieri had left their mark.
What works in Activist video?
Made 2 films with nearly a million views each on youtube, in both cases part of the reason they are "successful" is because people are hating on them.
More than thirty climate activists and local residents took mass direct action to prevent excavation work on Britain's biggest ever open-cast coal mine at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales.
Many people are learning to live sustainably, without money. In this video, they discuss their struggles, how they got to and developed kew bridge eco-village.
A political history of the internet
(This is a DRAFT)
This worth reading to go with this view time and libertarean/liberals view of who created the internet
In the 1970s the military looked at a problem – how to keep communication working in an anarchic environment (a nuclear war). Their solution was to work with this environment not work against it. They built an anarchic network – the internet. This network was small and insignificant compared to the traditional centralised networks that existed and continued to grow. Limited Background
In the late 1980s an individual at the anarchicly-organised CERN borrowed an idea that would make it easer to navigate, HTML, the based of the World Wide Web. Few took any notice. Limited Background
In the 1990s people started to build unexpected things with this open network and open standards and surprisingly these things grew and grew... In the end they pushed all the centralised dominate networks to one side where they shrank until they largely disappeared. Thus the single internet as we know it today was born. It was an unplanned birth coming from the DNA of anarchists thinking.
By 2000 the dotcom boom expanded the internet to every corner of the world. It was driven by a very different world view – much like the world view that had built the very networks that the internet had pushed aside so easily. It was an attempt to enclose the new commons, to partition it into walled gardens with gates and ticket desks. But the network that had been set-up to flourish in anarchy and togather with the overlay of open standards of WWW resisted and in the end simply pushed this dotcom boom into a dotcom bust. Limited Background
The internet expanded again, filling up more areas of our lives, and encroaching on our economic system. The network which was created for anarchy and the open standards that embedded anarchy started to touch everything. Our society is based on ever-expanding markets, and the internet was a HUGE market. Increasingly it was replacing existing markets with piracy, which wasn't a market at all. The internet is a giant copying machine and the copies are practically free. Where markets are based on scarcity, the new digital world, grown from anarchy, was based on abundance. In a world of abundance there is little for the market to buy and sell. Very limited backround and background
Round three of this fight by the old society to grasp control of the new manifested in a much more subtle walling and gatekeeping structure: corporate social networking and the fight against piracy (copying). It was an invisible but relentless push to remove the “disease” of anarchy from the core of the web (and large parts of socierty) and to bring the old order back into control. Today both Twitter (2008) and Facebook (2009) can only survive if they continually grow, and increasingly control the information flows and users access. As they do this the walls and gates that are currently mostly invisible will come more into view. I think the interconnected open web that is the internet would shrug this off as before if this was the only threat it faced. But there’s another side to the attack, the fight against piracy, which is an (largly invisible) fight against the open standards and digital logic of the web. It is leading to new laws that reach into and rend asunder the anarchist internet (the one built to work in the anarchy of nuclear war). It will do this by changing the underlying open standards that the net is built on and by rolling back to the days of the pre-internet, the age of closed intra-nets. Then Gate-keeping will be built into the DNA of this network. And this change will snuff out the anarchy and replace it with bureaucracy. The unintentional (largly unseen) experiment in complete social change will fade and die.
What choice do we have? Now we have many, soon we will have few, and in the end we may have none.
if anyone can help find backup articals to link for this please add them to the comments, thanks.
Ethical aggregation and conversation - OMN
What is ethical aggregation?
Always link back to the original producer hosting site. The exception to this is when the site is a corporate hosting site such as YouTube, then linking to an embed on an OMN site is preferable linking to that site. The content should be consumed where the producer of the content likes it – this should be built into our open CMS's as far as possible.
Reactive permissioning: the producer of content should be empowered (as far as technically possible) to decide how their content is consumed on sites. Eg, via embedding a simple title link, excerpt, or full content. This is by trusted feed not by genearly ristricting the content of the RSS feed.
Our databases should be open to exporting of content by simple RSS aggregation or by a XML export option.
Metadata should be synchronised across the networking to enrich all media content.
- link back to the source
- reactive permissioning
- no reposting
It's OK to add additional hosting options for media files – but the original publishers hosting/views should be respected. In the RSS feed, add content file URLs as fallbacks rather than as default media sources. A good aim is to back up media sources tohttp://archive.org and as a torrent file. If new open hosting options come along then these can added. Then only fall back to the original host if the corporate hosting source errors or is censored (respect for producers hosting desion and for reasons of scaling).
Where is the conversation?
This is an unresolved issue that is looking for a good solution. Some key points:
- Move it off corporate hosting and networking sites as much as you technically can such as FB, twitter and youtube. Use such sites to post links to OMN content and sites.
- Can we move the conversations with the RSS feeds? So that the conversations happen across sites and
appear across sites in activity streams? This is probably technically possible within the RSS02 spec – let's implement it.
Distributed 5 video reports from the Thatcher Demo in Trafalgar Sq
People gather in Trafalgar Sq to celebrate the death of Baroness Thatcher.
We talk to a funeral director touting for business "cheaper to bury her in a northern coal pit".
My videos - a winter project
Idea for a project for next winter.
I have been making activist films for 20 years well over 100 short radical actavist 3-10 minit news reports on many different campaigns.
Tell the stories of video activism by my films – list all films then get key people who were in the campaigns (preferably in the video) to tell there motivation for being on the action/each film. Take all this footage to an abondond village on a Spanish island for 3 months next winter and edit it on solar power.
Its relatively simple and don’t have to work with anyone but me to get it done, which makes it easer (:
The OMN is a very simple thing
Open media networking
The data cauldron with configurer your own ladle tools.
Hubs/nodes - RSS item in and out ver tag for full participating sites
Consumers/producers - native plug-ins and JS embeds for displaying and existing RSS out for source sites.
All data in and all data out – by trust, the users built the connections (which leads to paths to excellence)
Its application/platform agnostic.
The base is the hallmarks of ethical aggregation and opendata and (preferably) using openlicensing.
How I learned to stop panicking and love disorder
At protest camps after a time its inevitable that things fall apart. At St Paul's (Occupy 2011) today we had the health and safety rep shouting and waving petrol cans around while unscrewing the top in the middle of a crush of tents. “We must shut this down now.” He had a point, but this was a person at the end of his tether.
London occupation has reached the stage were those who have taken responsibility are starting to burn out, this happens with all protest camps, the danger is these key people can be the kindling that burns the camp to the ground. How do we put fire brakes into our organiseing structures?
Sometimes we need to open up spaces. By stepping aside, we open the space for someone to come in to fill it. If we believe in self-organisation then this moment of disorder is a healthy part of OUR society.
The Pressblock take Oxford Street #Oct20
The Pressblock take Oxford Street, blocked McDonald's, Starbucks and occupy Trafalgar sq during #Oct20 Radical Journalist's putting there body’s on the line to bring wrong doers to account.
Solar Vagabond - escape the rat race
You can run IT equipment with renewable energy. Would you like to escape the rat race and move your office to the hart of nature, deep in a old growth forest, camping on a beach. Anywhere the is sun you have a power source.
In this video I take you through how to set-up a basic portable solar set-up to power a laptop. The cost is around £300-400 for a DIY build.
Find out more at http://hamishcampbell.com/gadget