Saturday, September 25, 2010

Straight out of Copenhagen

On the bus from Copenhagen, I felt like a bear. It had been a few days since there had been an opportunity to change my clothes, and the day before that, when there had been, I had for some reason failed to avail myself of that opportunity. Three nights supporting one of the heaviest psychedelic bands to come out of Vancouver in recent years had left me with a certain aroma, because as these guys say, if you're not sweating, why are you on stage? I felt bad for my fellow travelers, but I felt good for myself because unlike on the DBahn between Prague and Berlin the previous weekend, at least I had my own seat. One must relish these small mercies.

It isn't as if though I needed any more small mercies - I was spending the spare moments between idly tapping on my laptop and staring out the window at one of the most beautiful cities in Europe to reflect on the fact that if a series of bizarre coincidences hadn't lined up in precisely the right way, I wouldn't even be here. Since here was such a well-set-up place to be, peopled by such friendly aliens, that would have been a real shame. Not being here would also have meant that I wouldn't have got to spend the previous few nights supporting a premium quality band playing heavy rock n roll in the old-fashioned devilhorned sense. Not doing that would mean that I wouldn't have been given the opportunity to spend my time on this side of the world playing violin for a band I have been in awe of since I first heard their record on bFM, nearly three years ago. If I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have had the chance to infiltrate the tweakingest tribe of international misfits and wizards to hit Neukolln in 2010, which might mean that I wouldn't have even been in Berlin in 2010, which would have been a waste.

Clearly it's a good thing that I don't usually take the trouble to record my idle musings as they occur in real time. I wouldn't want the above chain of poorly-reasoned connections to give the impression that I believe in fate or destiny of some kind - far from it in fact. That kind of thinking I will leave to hippies and wasters, who are better at it than me. I do find though that taking the trouble to revel in the chance encounters that make whole chunks of life more interesting is a good way to maintain a positive mental attitude in the face of things like smelling like a laundry hamper on a crowded seven-hour bus ride.

The bus ride was to be my second to last intercity trip in Europe this time around. Since I was travelling back to Berlin to play one last show, though, I still had a sense of anticipation to help me through the less diverting parts. The show was to be a continuation of a recent trend that An Emerald City had been displaying as a band, which was to open for heavy psychedelic bands from overseas whose names start with the word 'Black' and finish with a highly powerful noun like 'Mountain' or 'Angels.' This is a trend that will continue until Sabbath play a show in Berlin and we get to smash the back out of Ozzy's rider. Anticipating this event is a good way to distract yourself during even the crawlingest budget coach experience on the rush-hour clogged Copenhagen freeway.

Driving South is usually a good feeling, particularly at the beginning of a European Autumn when the birds start to head in the same direction. If feeling a kinship for the long-distance migratories is a common experience for musical refugees from the Southside of the world, it may be because both try to understand what it is to feel the pull of two places on far sides of the earth, each with its own set of attractive feeding grounds depending on the position of this planet relative to the Sun. Flocking birds must have to put up with the same sorts of heavy traffic, delayed departures and missed connections that the rest of us are used to, and the limp, feathered carcasses that dot the sides of the highway are a reminder that it's not always an easy trip. The road home is a bittersweet place to end up. And so forth.

It is precisely this kind of thinking that anticipating the next show is designed to avert. Having a show coming up is a useful reminder that the esoteric skills you spend so many secret hours developing in bedrooms and practice spaces have some kind of purpose beyond the satisfaction they bring to you and your musical accomplices. Knowing that tonight, tomorrow, or very soon you will need to stand up and do what you came to do, on a stage and in real life, is a great way to avoid thinking mawkishly about endings and focus instead on the start of whatever's going to happen next. Last night a guy asked if we were waiting for a revolution. I said no man, we're not waiting, we're working every day to bring that shit on. Everyone laughed of course because it was such a stupid thing to say. Regular readers will be aware that to say stupid things is one of the reasons I came to Europe in the first place though, so I still won.

Despite my carping about traffic and the cramped conditions in which I found myself, I actually enjoy travelling by busses and trains. Being somebody else's problem on somebody else's time is liberating, as long as you don't actually want to exercise any real liberty and are happy to go where you're sent. In this respect, one may wish to argue, intercity travel is much like parliamentary democracy. It is usually just as convenient, at least in the developed nations. I will abandon this analogy before it collapses under its own weight and creates a black hole that destroys the internet, but you get the idea: during the long hours between A and B, the mind is at liberty to wander.* Not having to be anywhere because you're already on your way to somewhere else removes all sense of responsibility for the duration of the trip, which means you don't even have to read a book if you don't want to. I like to sit and look at the view with my brain set to scatter, and sometimes even when my legs start to cramp and I can't eat any more salted nuts I don't want the ride to end just yet.

This liberty I guess is how you end up with the above. I wrote everything up to this line on the bus on the way out of Copenhagen, typing until the battery ran out on my laptop. From now on, I'm writing on the ferry and I promise I'll wrap this up before I have to change tenses again.** I realised as the bus pulled out of the station earlier that I was already writing in the past tense, because leaving a town can feel like that. I was thinking, I think, that given that my camera had run out of batteries it would be a good idea to try to remember Copenhagen by writing it down, in the past tense, the way a photo is. Unfortunately I kept on getting distracted by things like geese, which is an occurrence that disrupts my plans surprisingly often. Also distracting were roadkill, car accidents, food, wondering about music, and a lingering anxiety about whether or not I smelt too much like a human to be out in public. Therefore what I seem to have ended up with is a bit of a meander through a selection of those barely tangentially connected fields, which is going to make it difficult for me to find a journal to publish this in. I think the best way for you to read this is to imagine me muttering it to myself slightly too loudly on a bus full of young Scandinavians on their way to Berlin to run the marathon they have there, and sometimes trailing off to stare out the window with my mouth open a bit. You would be sitting two seats away wishing that your State-funded education hadn't included such a firm grounding in English, so it would be easier to tune me out.

When this ferry stops we'll get back on the bus and ride it at autobahn speed until it hits Berlin at around midnight. Then we'll will cast around for an UBahn to ride back to HQ, there to reconvene and anticipate opening for the Black Angels at the Comet club on Monday. As Tim G. says, just trying to make ends meet on a day to day basis.

*As in parliamentary debate, it sometimes comes back with poorly-chosen metaphors.
**Update: sorry.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


I wrote the following on the train yesterday, and things are turning out pretty much how I anticipated. So far, I haven't been robbed, but it's early days. Prague is so pretty that I can only look at it for short periods before my brain starts to hurt and I have to look at my shoes for a while.

Ouch, brain hurts. Shoe time:

Shoes, Prague

Here I am on a train in the Republic of the Czechs, and I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've come here. Ordinarily when I get around the place playing music, I hitch my wagon to one of the bands I play with and trail around without having to think very much. So Bond Street Bridge will support the Broken Heartbreakers or the Reb Fountain band or whatever, and I basically get to sit in the back of the van and crack wise while somebody else makes the decisions. Sometimes I drive; sometimes I even navigate, but very rarely do I sign off on calls like 'where shall we stay?' 'what time do we need to leave town in order to not be soundchecking at the next place while the audience are filing in?' or 'what was the name of the venue again?' Last summer I did a little solo Bond Street Bridge tour round New Zealand, but Ms. Millicent Crow came too on that one. That was great fun, and we even had a car crash in Christchurch, back when that town was still more or less a going concern. When I went to Amsterdam and Belgium recently I travelled alone for a while, but I had bands to meet up with when I got there, and schedules to work around. What I'm getting at is that this trip here, to Prague, is maybe the first time I've actually travelled alone to somewhere to do a solo show all by my very own self.

How I roll

This is probably not a very big deal to many people, but consider this: until quite recently I thought that Prague was in Hungary. Now I think about that, it still seems very plausible, although I can't remember very much at all about Hungary. We just went past a massive gorge sort of thing with mighty castles on either side rearing up out of the bare cliffs, and villages clustered on the banks of the river around churches topped with onion domes. All of my photos will be blurry and full of train window smudges, but all you need to do is imagine any fairytale castle, but about thirty per cent more grim. As it happens, we just passed another one. I suppose this river has been much fought over, but you'll have to be content with my suppositions because this train is about the first place I've been in Europe that doesn't have wi-fi, so I can't confirm my hunches with fifteen seconds of desultory Googling. Update: yep, they've certainly had a bunch of wars in these parts, don't worry about that.

Told you, blurry as all hell. Still, the guy who decided to put a bridge over that massive chasm must have been stoked when it ended up looking as awesome in real life as it did in his head.

One of the things people have been telling me when I tell them I'm going to Prague is that it's a very pretty place. The next thing they tell me is that they or their friend got robbed there. To date, that is the sum total of my knowledge about Prague: Handsome sort of town, you get robbed. I understand also that they have a river, and tomorrow night I will play a show at some bar and no doubt they will give me some delicious food and some money, which I think will be Kroners. Or Dinars. Anyway, it's something hyper-inflated so they don't want it the European Monetary Union. That's fine with me, because it means that I will get to change my money, which I like doing, and I will get a fee that will be expressed in thousands of whatever unit it is that they use here, so i will feel rich very briefly. Regular readers of this blog will realise that I'm getting my familiar 'forgot to google the town I'm playing in next' feeling around now. Actually I'm not even sure whether it's in the same time zone. I mean, I think it is, but I'm not sure, you know?

The other thing that is likely to happen is that I will probably wake up tomorrow without a voice. A week of R&R in the Beartown seems to have left me with a slight cold, which seems to be turning into a slightly more serious cold. Fortunately for me, this is one of the parts of the world where people with well-developed drug habits have access to real drugs. That means there is very little demand for methamphetamine, which is widely regarded as one of the least pleasant drugs in the world, and is really only consumed in places like New Zealand where the tyranny of distance inflates the price of the alternatives. A low demand for methamphetamine means that they're a lot more relaxed about whacking a whole lot of pseudoephedrine into their over-the-counter cold medication around here, because nobody's going to bother blowing up their apartment and frying their sinuses cooking meth from flu meds when they can stroll down to the corner and buy a gram of Colombian cocaine. The upshot of this set of circumstances is that there's a pretty good chance that I can get some cold medication that actually works, and put this thing on hold until after the Black Mountain shows next week.*

Thinking about walking into a pharmacy in Prague and trying to buy cold medication without looking like a P addict has made me realise that I don't even know what language they speak here. The train stations seem to have a lot modifiers over a lot of the letters, so I think we can say that it's very likely that not only will I not know what any of the words mean, I won't even be able to pronounce them in any identifiable fashion. It's not German, which is fine, because I can't speak German. It's not French, which I also can't speak, although slightly less badly than I can't speak German. It's not English, and after that we might as well just go back to the old hand signals and the horrible rictus people use to mean 'I'm trying really hard, but it seems that our communications systems are incompatible. Have you checked your warranty card?' I think this is going to be a good weekend.

This is my first Czech swan. Note the proud and extensive national history.

*Yep, that whole paragraph was an excuse to mention the Black Mountain shows. Also I wanted to see how many people would get lost in my chain of reasoning and think that I was the one with the well-developed cocaine habit, and what they would think about that. For the record: I’m not. I can’t afford a cocaine habit, even in Europe.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out on the weekend

'When the Levee Breaks' is a very long song indeed, so if you start dancing to it at about six a.m. when the dancefloor is beginning to thin out, you'd better be prepared to stick around for the long haul or you're going to make the DJ feel bad. It would be pretty criminal to go and get a drink halfway through a song this powerful, and besides, if you're still dancing at six a.m then it's probably time to give the barman a rest for at least seven minutes and eight seconds, which is how long a song 'When the Levee Breaks' is. In the song ‘North American Scum’ by LCD Soundsystem, there's a good line about parties in Spain where they go all night, and in Berlin where they go another night, alright. A lot of people at the September 11 Emerald City show at Loophole the other night looked like they'd been going since some time in the mid-eighties, when they hopped in a time machine to the 25th century on the Mars Colony to get their wigs, then came straight back to Berlin 2010 to show us how awesome people will look in the future. It was one of those nights.

A little while ago I was staying with a friend on Stafford Street in Dunedin, which is one of the towns in New Zealand that's still standing, and he took me down the road to what he warned me was likely to be the 'quintessential Dunedin experience.' He was right, I think. It was around three a.m. and quite cold and we walked into a basement room where there was a band playing something ear-bleedingly loud in one corner, and another guy playing some repurposed keyboards at industrial volume on the other side of the room. In the middle there were a couple of tweaked-out looking dudes playing with an overhead projector and some shapes, making patterns on the walls, and a bunch of people mooching around with boxes of wine under their arms. The band stopped and the guy playing the keyboards, who has a name but you won't hear it from me, started a fight with them and bit a chunk out of one of their arms. It was a night of surprises for me, but just another Tuesday night in that town.

I'd like to think that the night An Emerald City played at Loophole represented a quintessential Berlin experience in a similar sense, so I’m blogging about it in order that people will know what to expect when they come here and accidentally start playing in the best instrumental psychedelic rock band in Europe. The first inkling that I had that it might be a better-than-average evening happened just as we'd finished setting up and we were waiting for the beautiful people to leave their houses and come out dancing. A couple walked in and I looked up and thought about what a strange and wonderful world it is when Dancing Stevie, last spotted in Auckland city, has an identical twin in Berlin. Of course in actual fact there's only one Stevie, and as far as I know he has no twins, and he is just as capable of hopping on a plane as the rest of us, so really there were no surprises when I realised that he was there in Berlin in his own person. It was a good feeling though to see him rocking out at an Emerald City show in a living room/artspace/bar thing in Neukolln. Perhaps I am starting to get a little homesick here on the far side of the world.

We'd set up in a circle around the outside of the room, amps firing inwards, with Sam and Rob up by the DJ booth, Dan and Jess in one corner, and Reuben and me in another. I was standing on a sort of a bench, so once the people came in and started dancing in the middle, I was the only person in the band who could actually see everyone. It was only my third show with An Emerald City, and Jess's second, so anything could have gone wrong. Sam had just presented me with a pretty special leather jacket with a massive rip under one arm, though, so we knew no fear and I'm not sure about anybody else, but I started to have a lot of fun once the rhythm section kicked in on the first song. At one point I was going to do a stage-dive right into the middle of the room, but you're not supposed to do that when you're playing a 125-year old violin, even if your signal chain includes a Space Echo and a Rat distortion pedal. I definitely did it in my head though, and it was delicious.

We finished the show at about half-past midnight, which tends to be what happens in this town because of the neighbours. The rest of the evening we spent doing my favourite thing to do after a show, which is to dance spastically to tunes my friends play on whatever sweet PA system they have in the venue we've just played in. There's a great bit at about six minutes into 'Levee,' after the second guitar solo, when you think it must be just about to finish, surely, because how can there be enough space in the world for that much pure rock'n'roll? But the band just crashes back into the riff for another go around, and the stitching that holds together the fabric of the universe starts to give way in the face of the dimension-bending power of the Zep. It feels good to know that a three-note guitar riff can sound that amazing, and at that point in the song you start to get the idea that it just might keep on going forever and ever and never stop, but in a fantastically good way. This is the sort of idea that starts to develop in people's heads at around 8 a.m, when they're dancing to 'Jeepster' by T.Rex and the sun is invading the bar through the cracks in the curtains. That's when it's time for the DJ to put on 'the Case for Mars' by Symphony of Science, which is the universal signal for everybody who is still awake to put on their sunglasses and climb onto the roof of the highest building in the neighbourhood.

When they recorded 'When the Levee Breaks,' the drum tech set up the kit at the bottom of a huge stairwell in a castle, with mics on all the landings to capture the thunderous reverb. That's why when Bonham kicks into the riff it sounds like you're sitting inside Helm's Deep sharpening your sword while rocks from Orcish catapults bounce off the walls, shaking the very mountain with their infernal weight. This just goes to show how important it is to find just the right location when you're planning on having a good time. If you have the right guide, and you are game for climbing a spiky sort of fence at considerable altitude in high heels, then the roof of the Neukolln Arcade is such a location. There are few hidden treasures left in this satellite-mapped world of ours (which is a good reason to start sending humans to Mars to set up a colony) but the rooftop garden on top of the Neukolln Arcade is definitely one of them.

I don't know how much time you spend on the tops of buildings, but you may be aware that some of the larger ones have gravel on the roof as a way of managing rain and so forth. Up on the roof of the Neukolln Arcade, though, this gravel has trapped enough dirt and seeds over the years to grow into a mossy garden reminiscent of an alpine meadow ten or so stories above street level. At a few hours past dawn on a Sunday, with churchbells ringing and doves flocking through the canyons below, a dozen well-dressed and fine-looking party people can get a very good idea of how the birds see Berlin. The light is golden and it hits everyone just so, with horizon to horizon a mess of spires, radar domes, and the haze caused by five million souls just trying to make ends meet day to day. If you want to dance to no music at all, that is for sure the place to go.

Meg took this photo of me being awesome. Jump up from your desk and run round the room if you love my leather jacket.

When we climbed down a few hours later, our fingernails were painted with racing stripes and Reuben had lent me the official Bear and Cougar gang cape from Poland. That gave us enough power to confuse the security guard, who hadn't expected so many people to be in his shopping mall when he came to unlock it. He seemed happy enough that we were leaving though, and nobody got bitten by anyone. By then it was getting to be the time of the morning when some people just disappear singly or in pairs and tell you sheepishly the next time you see them that they went to bed, singly or in pairs, so it was a smaller group of us that hopped the U-Bahn to an address somewhere in East Berlin. Naturally we were the people in the railcar talking too loud, but we did perform a public service by increasing the local cape and wig quotient by an order of magnitude. Berlin doesn't really have any squares to freak out, so there were no problems there.

The day continued in and around an apartment which was home to the kind of people who always look amazing, because they are actually amazing in real life and they only look like that to warn people how amazing they are. When I meet them again, I will not recognise them because no doubt they will look amazing still, but in a different way, and my brain will become confused. In most cases that would lead to social awkwardness, but I think these people will just laugh and all will be well. They will recognise me of course because I've looked pretty much the same since 1997, and most people are better at telling other humans apart than I am. They sing in a calypso band and they make their own costumes and they're quite the best-dressed people I've met for a while.

Just in case you're getting the impression that I don't spend my days productively in this town, I can assure you dear readers (mum, dad) that we worked pretty hard on our careers for most of the day. That is to say that we took advantage of the fact that we were hanging out with gifted costume designers and asked them if they had any ideas about what we should wear when we go on tour with Black Mountain next week.* This led to a game of dress-ups that lasted most of the day, and took us on several trips around the neighbourhood to see how walkable-in our costumes turned out to be. So far my favourite is a grey and pink body suit that makes me look a bit like a parrot (in that I appear while wearing it to have the intelligence of a three-year-old child), combined with my purple socks with silver stars, my trusty waistcoat with Broken Heartbreakers campaign medals, a pink wig, and Reuben's Bear and Cougar Gang cape. He probably won't be able to let me wear the cape next week because I'm not actually in the gang, but we'll see how it goes. The consensus was that I looked like what would have happened if Marvel Comics had bought the rights to Charlie and the Chocolate factory in the seventies and developed Willy Wonka as a superhero (with the power of turning everything he touched to delicious candy), and then hired Ralph Steadman as the lead illustrator. It's a look, and you have to have a look in this industry. A day wasted, perhaps, but not a wasted day.

PS There are no photos of this because I don’t want to get involved in expensive litigation with Marvel Comics. They would lose, but it would be a bore.

*I only put in this sentence so I could write about how we're supporting Black Mountain next week, which is probably something I would fly to Europe to do even if I wasn't coming over here anyway to do other awesome stuff like hang out on rooftops painting my nails. I think we probably only asked at the time for the same reason.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

On the run from Johnny Law

'Guys? Is this the autobahn? Are we on the autobahn now?'

'Yeah man, this is the autobahn. We're driving on the autobahn right now.'

'I hadn't realised, I mean... It's a lot bigger than I thought you know? I'd thougt I guess that it was just maybe one road by like Berlin or somewhere.'

'Nah, it's bigger than that, man. A lot bigger. It's more like a state of mind.'

'Yeah, that's it - I hadn't realised that it was a state of mind.'

It's a state of mind, apparently.

This was on the road from Hamburg to Berlin, which is a hell of an address. At the time, the second biggest city in New Zealand had been pretty much obliterated as a consequence of it having been built on a swamp next to a big pile of volcanoes, but we didn't know that yet. We had to get back to the Beartown by noon to return the A-Class Mercedes to the people at the rental place and convince them that we'd driven it around Europe for exactly one calendar month without damaging it, so I was distracted. I was also thinking about a story a guy had told us in Botzingen about a mate of his who'd been booked in Switzerland at 250 ks an hour, and been given a ticket for seven hundred thousand Euros. I was hoping it was a lie.

4493.4 kilometers of mindless drivel.

'Do you think Johnny Law can catch up to us on the autobahn?'

'I doubt it. He's probably a couple of towns back still. Offenbach?'

'Saw him in Hamburg on the Reeperbahn I think. He wasn't ready to take me in though.'

'Bigger fish to fry do you reckon?'

'Could be that.'

'Hope it's that.'

Driving around in a whole lot of countries on very similar-looking roads, we'd sometimes lost track of the local customs around things like speed limits and the conventions to do with who should give way to whom. There was a good chance that there would be a pile of infringement notices in a range of languages waiting for us at the rental place, and I was trying to figure out how much it might cost if it turned out that we'd accidentally driven the wrong way round a roundabout in Paris or collided with a civilian in a country lane south of London.

'You know Offenbach?'

'Yeah I remember Offenbach.'

'Where was it again?'

'Not sure. By a river I think.'

'Was it the Rhine?'

'Nah that was the other place. With the swans and those ducks with the funny noses. Beaks.'

'Don't remember the ducks.'

'I remember the ducks.'

'You like ducks, eh?'

'Yeah, I'm pretty fond of ducks. Wrote a song about them actually. Wanna hear it?'

'Again? Nah I'm OK thanks.'

Ducks with funny noses, Offenbach

The other river. That's France over there. The swans are German swans.

Part of the problem was that we had one of those ipod radio things that the Devil designed as a way of causing road-rage incidents. We kept on trying to play Led Zep tunes to see if the stereo could handle the power of John Bonham, but interference from two hundred identical European radio stations playing that song about how it's a quarter after one, I'm a little drunk and I just wrote a really annoying song would always spoil the listening experience right when Plant really starts to wail. The only other options were my CD, Tim's CDs, and a bunch of World Jazz cuts that Nigel had had thrust upon him at some trade fair. It's important to at least once in your life listen to your own record in an A-class Mercedes at a good rate of knots on the autobahn, but you don't want to do it more than a couple of times in a trip. The world jazz CDs were really only good for beer coasters, and option three was conversation. A month of tour conversation is a special kind of torment and I reproduce excerpts here only as a cautionary example of what might happen if you fail to bring a good range of Led Zeppelin records in a playable format on your next tour.

'How much more gas do you think we'll have to put in this thing?'

'There's a good chance it won't be more than a hundred Euros.'

'No way, it'll be heaps more than that. Closer to two hundred I'd say.'

'Why did you ask then?'

'I was just trying to make conversation, man.'

'I bet Mavis knows' from the nest in the back seat.


'What was that man?'

'I just said I bet Mavis knows. How much the petrol would be.'

'Yeah well maybe she does man, but she's not talking to us anymore since you swore at her in Paris.'

'Look I said already I was sorry about that. I'm not proud of it.'

'Yeah, he did say he was sorry man.'

'Well it's not working, whatever he said. She's still not talking and I'm missing turnoffs now.'

For hours and hours this goes on, and there is nothing in the end to distinguish this sort of conversation from the mindless barking of baboons.

Fortunatlely the autobahn provides plenty of stimulus all by itself. If you're into wind turbines and really big skies, you'll certainly have a good time. If you like trucks, a real treat awaits you, because there are certainly trucks. The autobahn also plays a valuable role in holding together the social fabric, however, in that it is the place where Germans are allowed to vent whatever feelings of frustration and tension might arise in their workaday lives by driving expensive cars very very fast. Much as Londoners are able to work out their stress by poking tourists in the ribs with umbrellas on the tube, many Germans maintain their legendary affability by taking their cars out to the autobahn once in a while and winding them up to respectable fractions of the speed of sound. It is very important not to get in the way when they are doing this, because that spoils it for everyone. The unsuspecting antipodean driver tooling along in the left lane at a speed that would get him ostracised from decent society back home is liable to be surprised by a sudden flashing of headlights and a horn blaring in Teutonic major thirds, demanding that he either accelerate to mach 0.3 or move to the right lane where the trucks and foreigners drive. I read recently that the government here is considering authorising the drivers of German-registered cars to carry high-powered handguns for the purpose of firing warning shots through the rear windscreens of cars travelling at less than 160 kilometers per hour in the fast lane, on the grounds that this would reduce accidents in the long run. It will be interesting to see how it pans out.

This is what I look like when I'm blogging. The deer is called Reichstag, which is probably a lot
funnier if you've been travelling for a while with your brain turned off.