The March sun was warming the first Spring evening in London just a few hours ago, but it’s a winter’s tail that tells of Scandinavia now. Thirty centimetres of snow drape the train tracks in the station.
I fumble my way outside, and pull my coat around me. A mile of dark, uncertain streets leads past the midnight girls and drug dealers (who thought this city knew such things?) to my hastily-booked hotel.
No alarm call needed, as morning brings the sounds of a building site next door. The day is lightening outside my window, and pretty soon I’m running beneath a chill grey sky as deserted shopping streets lead me towards the Cathedral.
I take a short diversion to reconnoitre the address for my meeting, and then my mental map of Oslo runs out. Five circular minutes later I’m slithering across white snowy gardens around the Akershus Fortress, and then on to reach the waterfront.
The Oslofjord lies black and still before me, the quaysides completely empty. Five minutes of quiet is the time I need to clear my mind and think.
Lightning strikes — maybe once, maybe twice
And it lights up the night
Fleetwood Mac – May 1982
The lights dim, the cymbals beat, and the guitar begins.
Right from the word go, there’s an energy about this — a foot-stamping, driving rhythm from front left of the stage. It defines Monday Morning, the opening song, and it runs all through the show.
And the truth is that I’ve listened to Fleetwood Mac for two decades and more, but it never struck me until now.
Lindsey Buckingham is a rock star. There’s just no doubt about it.
My kids know Fleetwood Mac mainly from Guitar Hero, which features the iconic solo from Go Your Own Way. And suddenly that seems appropriate, for Guitar Hero is exactly what he is.
I was going to write another article about the oil price today, but I’ll postpone that for now. Sixteen people died in a North Sea helicopter crash on Wednesday.
Their Super Puma helicopter had flown 150 miles from the BP Miller Platform towards Aberdeen, but came down just 13 miles from the coast at Peterhead.
Eight bodies were recovered from the scene. Another eight may never be found.
But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
We’d jump the life to come.
Macbeth, Act 1, Sc. 7.
Why then the world’s mine oyster.
– The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act 2, Sc 2.
The Roman road crossed the river at its widest and shallowest point, and gave this town its name: Strat-ford-upon-Avon.
The Clopton Bridge stands at the same spot today – five hundred years old, and still carrying all the traffic across the river. Beneath the bridge, the Avon flows both chill and slow. I know the feeling.
I run past the boathouse, the Tramway Bridge and the Rowing Club. The Avon is full of rowers out bright and early. A couple of fours, a sculler or two. There are no canal boats today, but the river is navigable all the way from the sea.
The navigation works were authorised by King Charles I in 1635, and by 1641 the river was open to within four miles of Warwick. But by 1874, the upper section had fallen into disuse.
It was the vision of David Hutchings and the Upper Avon Navigation Trust to re-open the river between the Severn and the Birmingham Canal. Stratford New Lock was the last link in that chain, finally completed in 1971.
The lock was built by volunteers from Gloucester Gaol, and Stratford’s Shawshank offered a tough kind of redemption. Continue reading
O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing
Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley — 1819
A new season in a new town. Autumn has come and gone here in Horsham, scattering her falling leaves behind new footsteps across the park.
September laid a blank canvas all around this pretty Sussex town, and running set me free to paint. It’s invigorating, exciting and refreshing to explore anew.
Horsham is over a thousand years old. Standing calm beside the River Arun, amid green fields atop the Wealden Clay, historically this town gave birth to bricks, and beer and Catherine Howard.
Two centuries ago, Percy Bysshe Shelley set forth upon his life from here — a journey cut short before his 30th birthday in a shipwreck off the Italian coast. One of the great lyric poets and an unconventional and uncompromising radical, Shelley was expelled from Oxford for his atheist and anti-monarchist views.
“It’s the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
— Barack Obama, Chicago, 4th November 2008.
It’s just three miles and a lifetime’s journey from the South Side of Chicago to Grant Park, and I can remember every step.
How marvellous it was that the US election race this year should find its long-awaited finish line at the same spot as the Chicago Marathon — one of many high points I’ve shared with this incredible country through a relationship that stretches right across my adult life.
I entered the United States late one August night in 1981. Seventeen hours out of Halifax, Nova Scotia, we drove across a bridge and into Maine. Next morning, six hours and a brief stop in Portland later, I stepped wearily off the bus in downtown Boston — completing my journey from England to New England, where the history of this great nation had started.
That visit took me down the east coast to New York and Washington, in an arc via Pittsburgh to Niagara, and then back into Canada for a return flight home.
My memories of America from that trip? Coin-fed TV sets in lonely Greyhound bus stations. The wind on Cape Cod. Looking across the Charles River on a long walk out to Cambridge.
The view from the Empire State Building. The sound of dusk on Broadway. The New Jersey Turnpike. The Smithsonian. The Capitol.
A quote carved into the Washington pavement —
‘One of these days this will be a very great city, if nothing happens to it’ (Henry Adams).
My love affair with America had begun.
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