Category: thoughts and musings


People watching is also a great inspiration for writing. In his formative years as a writer, Jack Kerouac would sit in a bar or cafe and at speed write detailed sketches about his surroundings, the fixtures and fittings, the history and imagined backstory of the place in question. Again, The Railway Town offers a low grade version of such iconic ideas. And just like the bubble of my vision of sharing a coffee with Tom Waits busts into a slightly right wing, English cafe, my Kerouacian ideals are replaced by a chain coffee shop on the lower reaches of the main drag.

And whilst there are cooler, independent places more worth of my time and money, Baila in Old Town, Darkroom Espresso and Barristacats in the less salubrious parts of the town’s rough and ready heart, it is to Cafe Nero I am continuously drawn. 

For a start it is named after a mad emperor, one who famously and probably quite apocryphally, played the fiddle whilst The Eternal City burned, but mainly because its large glass frontage means that I have a glorious window on a not so glorious world. The coffee is good, the snack options fair and the staff all seem picked to match a few certain criteria.  They are generally female, attractive, slightly alternative looking and with that glorious, slightly unpinpointable (hey, Cervantes and Shakespeare made up words too) accent of someone who speaks fluent English as a second language, that evocative, mid-European burr. All of which works for me and also makes me miss Berlin.

But outside is where the action is, a bustle of people to-ing and fro-ing for work, lunch-grabbers and shoppers,  mixed in with The Greys, those people who seem to just be hanging around looking for opportunity or relieving boredom through hijinks, hustle and hassle, dressed in the drab sports gear that is their uniform. I’m sure that they too had ambition once but I guess at some point had it surgically removed by an unlicensed doctor operating above a kebab shop in Gorse Hill because they needed the cash for speed.

The pleasant surroundings of this establishment are put into sharp contrast by the fast food joint opposite whose use of primary colours on the facade seem to create an audible noise whilst below a line of mobility scooters are parked up like a scene from The Wild One as their supersized Marlon Brando’s tuck into another full English still unable to make the connection between fried food and weight related issues. “Hey Johnny, what are you rebelling against? “The answer is quite possibly salad.

All fodder for a book I may never write but all thoughts that I feel the need to get out of my head to make room for other, more bill-paying, assignments.

Banksy-Nighthawks-810x399Writing is a very solitary process that’s for sure. And as much as I like being the master of my own work space, that breaks come as and when I chose, that the coffee pot is three feet away from me and I don’t have to deal with any awkward encounters whilst waiting for the toaster to ping, it can start to send you a bit stir crazy. There has been more than one occasion when I am sat at my desk perhaps scribbling another short review of an American alt-country band who may not be quite reinventing the wheel but are reinventing Ryan Adams, and I realise that I feel off-kilter, ebbing and that it probably stems from the fact that I haven’t left the house for three days. Not good. It is at these times when I head into The Railway Town and find a place to be sociable (at a distance), get some air, a change of scenery and watch the world go by for a while.

It is usually an excuse for a fried breakfast and whilst there are some nice places to chose from I usually aim a little down market and head for Pappas. (You will have worked out by now that I’m using the Kerouacian system of changing the names of people and places, local readers will work things out, non-locals won’t care.) In my head, I’m a writer of note slumped over a plate of chilli, getting buzzed on black coffee trading quips and cigarettes* with Tom Waits (hence the title) in a late night Denny’s, in the early 80’s …and for some reason it is all happening in black and white. The reality is very different.

The reality is I’m surrounded by bald men in big shorts and Bench t-shirts having burgers whilst their wives bang on about the shopping, the housework, the holiday, the kids and every niggle in-between. At least two of the tables will be spouting Brexit rhetoric, deriding anyone who looks different from them, despite being in an eatery run by a Turkish family. There’s a table of white street gangsters, their whole speech pattern seeming somewhere between Hounslow and South Central…fa real, blud!…and between it all the botched and the bungled, the lost and disenfranchised all go about their unadventurous existence.

Still, they do a great bacon and eggs and that’s what really matters.

*I’d take up smoking just to compete the picture **

** I’d forgotten just how much fun footnotes are ***

*** I’ll stop now. 

They say “Writers write” a statement to the fact that you can only really consider yourself a writer if you are actually producing work. And write I do, music reviews and promotion, travel articles, local news, even content for games designers is part of my working day. But where as that is how I earn my living there are so many other things going on in my head, mainly inspired by my walks into town to get lunch that I thought, as a form of exorcism, I should use this blog as a receptacle for such wittering. It’s not important, I doubt if anyone really cares to read it but sometimes I just need to empty my brain of the niggles and nags of life so that in its uncluttered state it can world more freely.

Writers write…and so shall I.

railsea-port.jpgWhen I set this site up I found myself positioned at the heart of the local music scene and whilst I had a site that catered to all my non-local music musings over at Dancing About Architecture  I set this place up to specifically talk about the gigs and happening in and around this Railway Town that I call home.

Since then The Ocelot Magazine saw fit to replace my sonic ravings with a cut and paste fashion two-pager that seems to be mainly a place for the author to advertise the free stuff she is given and thus screw more freebies. The Swindon Advertiser decided that my Sounds Around Town live music recommendations could easily be replaced with a cut and paste listing with information garnered from the event pages of the gigs in question and thus self-penned by the artists in question. As we say in freelancing…them’s the breaks.

So with my ebbing away from the music scene and having to find gainful employment elsewhere, this column now feels under used. Add to that I always feel the need to sound off a bit, but wish to avoid the pointless bickering that comes with Bookface and Twatter, the logical conclusion is to make this blog into a combination of the artistic endeavours that still cross my path and the occasional shout into the smokey ether that hangs above Railway Town. And so, that is exactly what is going to happen next. Read, comment, enjoy, ignore….the blog is your oyster.

Extra points if you spot the inspiration behind the image that accompany’s this post.