Adventures in the UK, Punk, 1982

My Featured 45 for today is Crass’s, How Does it Feel. Crass is by no means for everyone, but they sure could get their messages across. They always had great cover art and posters from their singles.

In 1982, I was a punky 17 year old on my first trip to the UK. I was vagabonding for a month on my own. I was desperate to see where all my favorite punk bands had been and what influenced them, even if it was just to stand in the same city, hop record shops, and try to get to a show. I had to experience Carnaby Street, Camden Market, Portobello Road, and of course I had to travel and hit up other towns in the UK. I learned that each city had it’s own music scene after talking to local kids, each with it’s own flavor. I liked Joy Division, so off to Manchester I went. I then had to visit with some pen pals. So after that it was Wales.

I’ll never forget visiting with my pen pal. Ah, that ancient teenage custom of meeting people from around the world, before there was Twitter and Snap Chat. You dug around in the back of music Fanzines from the UK, the ones you might find in the import section at the record shop. You found names of people who liked the same groups you did. Hand wrote a letter, said “Hello, I found your name and you like some of the same bands I do. It’s hard to find this music here, I listen to college radio to get it. I’ll tell you about California Punk and Rockabilly, or Goth.” And so weird transatlantic bonds were formed. I would of course learn that not everyone you wrote to was how they presented themselves. That’s another story for another time.

A Discotheque in York

I was in Wales, that ancient city with Roman bits still strewn about it. My pen friend and I went down to the local all ages discotheque, me in all my crazy bizarre finery from the markets in London. Yeah, half my clothes got lifted at a youth hostel. London lesson. At least they didn’t get all the 45s I had picked up you couldn’t get back home. We sat in the disco, she with her Shandy, me with a Pernod and Ribena. Two lads started trying to get our attention. This was new territory for me. Boys didn’t give me the time of day at school or in California in general. The Gingery thing. So I let my pen friend handle it, they were Welsh and I figured I wouldn’t get it. But one wasn’t speaking Welsh, and he was in a soldier uniform. I picked up the accent finally. A Liverpool man. I had just gone through on the one day trip there. But he was speaking in tongues I didn’t get, very intensely. Finally his mate, probably seeing the utter bewilderment, and reminding his friend there was an American, tell me in my ear, “Don’t mind him so much. He’s just been through the Falklands business. He’s still not with us yet.” It was the short, fierce little war between Argentina and the British.

I had been hearing of the Crisis through my travels. I had heard something before I left home, and wanted to find out more. But this was the days of no Internet, and American filtered news, even more filtered than now. It was Ronnie Reagan and Thatcher. All about control. The conflict took place the April before I arrived, and cemented Thatcher for upcoming elections. The whole conflict was a mystery to me, and many tried to explain it to me, many of them older and very British. But the punk rock contingency was having none of it, and protests of the violence were being sung about in the music that was released that summer and fall.

I tried to be patient and sadly the young soldier with drink got far worse, and my friend and I had to make our escape. After that night, I felt terrible that such a young man had to go through such violence, and live with the people who had died because of the actions on both sides. I was determined to find out more about the punk scene in other cities. I had been told to try Edinburgh, and hunt record shops there. Maybe even get into a club. So next day, after dealing with Welsh friend’s bizarre Mum, I boarded a train for Scotland.


Inside poster art. Crass isn’t for everyone but they got the message across.

The Borders

After surviving the strange heat wave that had hit London a week before, I was warned to prepare for Scottish Summer. On the train I would find out what that was. I was scrabbling about lugging the case, my boots and short skirt, my punky self. Slipping and sliding on the wet floors. Trying to avoid all the leering men I kept encountering. Learning life’s mysteries of older men hunting young 17 year old girls. Definitely not something you tell Ma about when you get back. I  finally found a car with mostly women in it. Everyone was going about the weather. In those days, no WiFi to check the actual weather. But as we got closer to Scotland, you could see the bendy trees and debris flying about. Clouds dark as night. The train got thumped by gale force winds. Finally at the border, there was an announcement. All trains cancelled going in. We had to catch the train going back on the other side. Panic.

My Edinburgh Punk Rock history lesson was thwarted! Yes, it was really 4 years after the scene was really happening, but I still wanted to see the streets and venues these kids went through and fought in. I wanted to get in the record shops!

So after the insanity of trying to cram in on the return train on the other side, with no room for me, I found myself sitting on my case on the platform. A young station master strolls up and I ask when the next train will be. There is no next train, not for a few days maybe. Devastation. The Station Master says, ” I’ll call the Missus.” Apparently everything is solved with calling the Missus in the UK. The man came out and said his wife insisted that I stay with them. I was a bit worried as I didn’t know this person, but he was in uniform and looked very worried about my well being. So I was given my Tae and got on so well with their young child, that I was asked if I had baby sitting experience and sat for them while they went round the pub. The Missus wrote to my Ma to tell her I was alive. Sadly, I had to go back down to London and couldn’t get to Edinburgh after all of the trouble I had been through.

This year, a fabulous adventure of a exhibition featuring Scottish Punk and Post Punk music is going on at the National Museum in Edinburgh, Rip It UP! I cannot travel this year, but if you are, take it all in. Tell us how it is.

Got any great stories from 1976 to 1990 about your travels and experiences in the UK and Ireland music scenes? I would love to hear them. If you know any great Punk and Post Punk bloggers/blogs, give me a line. I would love to feature stories here. Got rare 45 and album poster art to share, send it to me, all credits will be made.

Rip It Up Exhibition at the Scottish National Museum

Terrorism and Travel


On May 22, another act of senseless and cruel terrorism occurred in Manchester, England. The fact that it targeted children and young adults has shocked many in the world, however brought together a beautiful city of caring inhabitants. This is their city, and they will not allow this terrible atrocity to do further injury. The government’s response is to go into the UK Terror Level of the highest “Critical”. Troops are deployed to work with law enforcement.

I remember my first trip to London back in my university days. I arrived a few weeks after a terrorist attack. I was very young and had just come from the bubble of American life where we were mostly untouched by such acts. I read the local papers and went to where it happened and looked around. Londoners were determined to carry on. It was a truly humbling experience to talk with locals.

Many other cities in the UK are on high alert now because they have very public events going on. In Scotland, where I am going, concert venues are stepping up security and soldiers are being deployed to guard nuclear facilities and infrastructure that may be possible targets.

As a traveler the summer, you will be experiencing heightened security on planes due to the new laptop and devices restrictions. There will now be another layer of security in airports due to these recent events of terrorism in several cities around the globe. Prepare yourself for longer times in customs and be patient. Much of what is being done is for your security. Add an hour to your pre-flight time.

Show solidarity when you travel. If you are traveling to any of the cites recently affected by these events, show your support in your tourism by participating in the economy and talking to local people. Listen to what they are saying and experience their cities’ greatness. Let them start the conversation.

For more reading:

Travel in the Age of Terrorism


In light of recent terror attack in London yesterday, I started thinking about the way in which we think about travel to other countries and our safety. My first experience with terror and travel was when I was very young and had my first official tour of the UK. A terrorist attack had happened in Europe while I was there, a few days prior to my hitting London. My mom was in a panic of course. The obligatory phone call happened. The “ Yes, I am okay, talking with people about it, reading papers”. I continued on with my tour, tried to still take in sights and experience things with people. I was of course concerned. What if more happen, what if it happens in the country and city I am in? And of course, the great sadness that innocent people were harmed because of the attack. How could someone do this? Being very young I did spend down time reflecting on the tragedy. But, life must go on, and the people of the city affected by the loss will go on and be strong, to continue life and do what they can to not let it happen again. But does this make you think that travel is not safe?

When traveling, there are a great many things you should be safe about. We are used to fear of mugging, being robbed of your cash. Wear a money belt. Things of that nature. Not to mention you really must be aware to look to the right when in a left-hand drive country. You should know this. But tourists get hit by cars because of it still. These are small safety issues compared to a massive safety issue like a bombing. So how do you cope?

Such is the state of London after the attack on March 22, 2017 at the walls of Parliament and on the Westminster Bridge. Londoners pay tribute but press on with life, you can’t let them win. Be strong and Carry On. A Police Constable was stabbed to death, and a US Citizen was killed. A College worker was killed. Others were injured. So much life lost, but Londoners determined to make life happen.

London Attack: What We Know So Far on BBC

London Attack Guardian UK

If you are touring London right now, you have probably gone to this London Vigil. You should. Don’t sit in the hotel room and live in fear. You came to tour a country and experience it. This is a terrible experience, but go out and live with it’s people. Give group love, it’ the only way that we can conquer the fear of terrorism is to live. Be strong with others.

Should you not go to a country because of terrorism? The US spends huge amounts of time and money on the War on Terrorism, a war that has no end in sight. Are there countries you should avoid? Yes, indeed, there are countries with great conflict going on causing the refugee crisis in Europe. You should always check the papers and decide if a country is safe to travel to. And with terrorism, you don’t know if something will happen. The intelligence community knows probability and possibility, but still are caught unawares. You have to think about if you are going to let a fear keep you from experiencing a place or a people. Are you going to allow yourself to live? Travel if you can, experience the world. I am going to a city that saw great troubles in the past, Belfast. I remember reading about them when I was growing up. But the city has turned itself around. There is still that probability that relations can go sour again, the underlying issues are still there. I am going because I want to see how this city has recovered and grown since the troubling times. Travel is about celebrating people and places, make it a stance for what is right in the world.

Independent Scotland? Visas Part 3


As I am writing this, Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister is pushing forward for a referendum on Scottish independence. There has been much talk of Scotland’s concerns in the UK exit from the EU. Since that time, a second push for separation has been Sturgeon’s thrust.

What does this mean for a traveler? Well, as part of the UK, Scotland doesn’t have an embassy in the US. It relies on the British Embassy for the role of visas and travel control. What will happen if Scotland passes a vote for independence and needs to hurriedly set up embassy and travel visas? That’s what I want to know. Guess where I am landing in July? So it looks like it’s the year of travel nightmare as the tightening of boarders in the US now ricochets around the globe. But wait. Sturgeon is pressing for a possible referendum in 2018, but Article 50 may become a reality in a matter of days. What timelines could change in the next few months. June is already a date for nations this summer to decide visa policy changes.

What is Article 50

Blow by Blow 

Sturgeon’ Speech

What is a Section 30 Order


So, who do you talk to if a nation decides they are becoming separate from the UK after years of being governed by them? Don’t panic. The push is to go to the polls within 2 years. At least that is what Sturgeon is saying now. Changing nations policies takes time. Will a vote happen soon and what would a timeline look like? Keep reading and keep abreast of current affairs.

Scottish Independence Article