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

The Travel Politic

In the Summer of 2016 I was on a more than amazing Scottish roam. The itinerary I had changed and rearranged many times before departing, and changed yet again when I got there, going where the heart pulled me. Never a typical tourist, I may climb castles and ruins enthusiastically,  but I find spending time in public transit and anywhere people gathered and talked to be the best places to be. Hearing spoken Gaelic being freely used was an amazing thing. You didn’t need to understand it to see how people communicated.  It is the perfect backdrop while taking trains through the highlands, listening to happy families speaking their language in pure joy. A language of green mountains and hills you won’t find anywhere else.

After the first foray into the Highlands, I swung back down and ended up in Oban. The sea was calling me. I had been reading headlines in papers at some of the train stations. Big changes were coming for the UK. And big changes in the US. When I feel any serious emotion, I have to touch the river or the sea. I was feeling a bit guilty, a bit escapist. I was ignoring the real world. It was after the Scottish IndyRef vote had not passed, and Theresa May had just taken office. With the way the US Presidential campaigns were going, it seemed inevitable that we were heading for a repeat of the Thatcher and Reagan era.

I was sitting on the rug in a great B&B I got for a steal. Beautiful view of the bay that I had just cruised through to get to the Isle of Mull. I should have been very happy. Suddenly it just hit me. I was at a loss. So, I sat on the floor with my phone. The world was really about to go into the funnel of a maelstrom or so it felt. Into some kind of void. It was like it was the very first time I ventured into the UK as a very young teen. Back then it was Thatcher and protests, the disenfranchised youth without work and no future. This new thing called Brexit, how the UK was trying to pull out of the European Union seemed a really bizarre idea. I wasn’t so sure what I would being going home to in my own country.

I put music on my iPhone, I needed comfort from old favorites. I started with John Lennon’s Imagine, singing along and tears streaming. I fell into George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord and Give Me Love. I had to have that cry out. Went to bed that night, decided not to stay the second day. I needed to get back to a city, to not be an escapist, not be in an idyllic, coastal Scottish town.  Needed that heart beat and throb. Edinburgh was calling to me, something in me said just go. So I arrived a few days early. It was one of the best decisions on that trip. 

Edinburgh has rescued many a soul. After walking the streets and climbing over and around graveyards for hours, I came out and wandered into a sprawling historic area. A protest parade had started. My internal forever university student drive kicked in and I made a beeline to it. Saltires and EU flags were flying, IndyRef badges and banners displayed. People still wanted their independence, but they didn’t want to be ripped from the EU without their say. Scotland Police were escorting and walking alongside. There were all ages present, children in strollers and on small bikes. People walking with dogs, a cat on a leash. Even a parrot. I spent a time trying to figure out the rules of the Scottish protest, can you just jump in, was there an end of the line you funnel in at. Someone said, “Come on”. It was strangely quiet compared to the American protests I had been to. So, I joined for a bit of solidarity. It was one of the highlights of that visit.

Sadly I won’t be traveling this year. I barely scratched the surface in Ireland last summer, much less Scotland. I plan to return in two years to bag my Munro. So many places I have yet to discover. Maybe I will find another parade to join.

Next weekend, June 30th 2018, is an organized protest supporting Families and Children in our refugee crisis with the Mexican border. Will you join us?

Families Together

London Protests

The Science Gallery, Dublin Interview With Niamh O’Doherty


Science and innovation type museums are in many large cities around the globe. Dublin, Ireland has the Science Gallery as a fantastic place for science exploration based in art and expression. There are Science Galleries in many cities, London, Melbourne and Venice. The The Science Gallery is unique in that it has an emphasis on the creative, art exploration for science topics. It’s not just a museum filled with and exhibit on computers for example, it’s exploding the computer into an art form or message. Science is open for debate here. I really love hands on or in your face experiences and I am looking forward to this one. I recently contacted Niamh O’Doherty at the Science Gallery to as a few questions about what they do there.

Hours: Please note that this is a gallery type setup. If they are in between shows, there will be down time for prep. Contact the galleries’ website to see if they have a show running


Dopplel Ganger at Science Gallery


How did your museum get its start, and how have you seen it grow in the last five years?

Back in 2008, a car park in a forgotten corner of Trinity College Dublin was transformed into a living experiment called Science Gallery Dublin. Through a cutting-edge programme that ignites creativity and discovery where science and art collide, Science Gallery Dublin is a nonprofit that encourages young people to learn through their interests. Since its opening, over 2.5 million visitors to the gallery have experienced more than 38 unique exhibitions, ranging from living art experiments to materials science and from the future of the human race to the future of play. Science Gallery Dublin develops an ever-changing programme of exhibitions and events fuelled by the expertise of scientists, researchers, students, artists, designers, inventors, creative thinkers and entrepreneurs. The focus is on providing programmes and experiences that allow visitors to participate and facilitate social connections, always providing an element of surprise.

Has there been anything surprising that happened that you just ran with in an opportunity to create an exhibit?

We’re a living lab, so occasionally experiments do misbehave. Memorably, last year during Field Test, we had to shut down one of the experiments because of a blood-sucking fungus – here’s more info about that on our blog. We also host reactive events and talks based on big topics in the news, from AI to politics.

What is the planning process for creating new exhibits? Do you have any behind the scenes video or articles that future visitors can look at?

We work with a selection of guest curators on each exhibition – they could come from very diverse backgrounds in academics, business and the arts. We also host videos describing the themes of our exhibitions on our YouTube channel here, and you can check out our blog here for some more background on how the exhibitions develop and progress.

It’s the 2017 season coming and what are your plans for exhibits this coming year?

Yes, we’ve got all the details about our 2017 programme online here. We’ve recently closed the open call for our SOUND CHECK summer exhibition, and we’ll be launching the open call for IN CASE OF EMERGENCY… very soon.

Do your exhibitions centre on the local only or do you have art and future or contemporary issues come into play occasionally?

We’re part of the Science Gallery International Network, so we do tour our exhibitions, and our open calls generally attract artists, makers, researchers and scientists from around the world – here’s a few global highlights from last year.


Stony 1.0 

Political Tourism is the New Eco Tourism


When you are traveling to another country, you should always make yourself aware of what is going on before you get there. We all want to have a blissful vacation, and leave politics behind, but some go to actually experience politics and the real experience of being in a local situation. It’s your cuppa. Now is definitely the time.

The world is currently erupting into civil rights marching, and we must celebrate and participate where we can. Currently the “travel ban”, which is heading for part doux, in the US airports for certain countries in flights is causing airport protesting and delays. This backs up planes and flights from originating countries. Keep abreast of the news on the countries you are passing through, have they a relationships with the US at present? But, if you want to say go to Dublin and march in the next protest for women’s rights, check out Twitter and local papers on women’s rights in Dublin. There is nothing wrong with feminism tourism, it’s a great way to really experience how others live and view their world. Just be aware how travel may go, and you may have to land in another area and take other transport to get there, like ferries. The protest map is changing our world.

Women’s Rights Ireland

You should always start reading the local papers of any of the cities you plan to visit. Look for what’s on, and anything like the festival season can bump into your plans. They will affect your travel plans greatly, I know this as the trains got insane last year due to summer festivals and strikes by Scotrail for me. I expect it to be just as crazy this year.

Plan in Advance

Traveling by rail or using ferries this trip, I advise checking the paper for rail news. Before I left last year, I checked Scotrail and found there were planned strikes during my travels. Most of them seemed to  be on bank holiday or something, and sadly all fell on my travel days. Don’t panic, they provide alternative transport like buses. I had a luxury bus tour around Loch Lomond down to Glasgow courtesy of this last year. And that was and interesting adventure, very narrow and crazy roads through Loch Ness and highlands. However, the striking systems in the UK and Ireland follow a solidarity movement in some cases. If one goes out, the rest of transport unions may follow. So keep in mind that your transport may have to change. If you are traveling with a group, you may opt to do a car hire but keep in mind it’s the high season so it is best to do this well in advance.

For example, as I write this and looked at the National Rail site for the UK, I noticed a “Industrial Action” or strike highlighted affecting a particular line. And if you opt to go Virgin Rail, be aware that they use the same tracks and train lines as the national companies, so they will be affected. There is no perfect situation, build in travel time in your itinerary.

Note: High tourist and festival season means crammed trains and buses. Book ahead online and be aware that if you buy a railcard, you may not always be able to reserve online for fixed seats. If you want to see the Munros check a topographical map,  then reserve your seats, near luggage wracks if possible to keep an eye on things. Most of the time people are courteous about luggage, but I do remember when I spent a few minutes rearranging luggage so that myself and everyone behind me could actually use the wracks. Got thanked by a Scotsman for that one.

News of the World

Also, something to keep in mind. If you haven’t read a paper from the UK or Ireland before, I would suggest that you do. Get used to the format a bit. The UK has always had a reputation for in-your-face news coverage. The tattler style magazines and papers are more brutal than in the US. It’s not the US, where we often get very filtered news. The UK can be quite sensationalized. We have crime reports in our papers, but if you see some of the writing and reporting from these countries, take it with a grain of salt. Every city will have it’s dangers, and as a tourist you are a target. But don’t let that deter you. People are just much more open about news and how they live in Europe, that’s what is so great about it. Watch the news if you can, you can get a feel for what is important to the locals and if anything will affect your day. Check the local sports teams playing. In the US we get traffic jams due to games, in Ireland and UK they can get more intense about their sport supporting so game after flow can be treacherous to navigate, so you may wish to reroute before you leave your hotel or restaurant.


Remember, it’s all a journey, that includes the compromises. Don’t be a typical American tourist, don’t have a tantrum. There will be no sympathy. You will  be avoided like plague. Adapt like the Europeans do.

Ireland by rail: luxury trains, historic routes and railway hotels

Glasgow to Mallaig: Great Train Journeys

Travel News

Online Rail Maps

Ireland Rail


National Rail

UK Route Planner

Virgin Rail

Buses Citylink


Community Cafes for Conscious Tourism

coffeeThe  cafe. A place to contemplate politics and community. The birthplace of revolutions. Why not participate in a conscious place of birth for a worth cause?

Social enterprise is very much on the rise the world over. Community, Social Conscious or non-profit cafes have been springing up all over the world in the last 10 years with many missions. Most cafes have a general mission to help with a charity or offer training to those in need for job skills, or any other great social combinations. Whatever the mission, these cafes are not just a soup kitchen affair. Some are trendy and well peopled with celebrities like George Clooney visiting them.

When traveling, consider helping support  the  local community there by eating at a sandwich shop that helps out a charity. True, you are on vacation maybe and want to spoil yourself with great food. Why not accomplish both a good budget food choice and one that helps out? Food can be good for the soul and helping communities the world over is a powerful statement for any traveler. Besides, just think of the conversations you will have. Talk to the staff, ask them what they are about.

So when you are traveling, key in social enterprise cafes and restaurants in searches to find the local ones. Enjoy your meal.

Check out some of the cities below to see how you can help.

London’s Best Community Cafes

Edinburgh’s Community Cafes – Comprehensive map and list of cafes for Scotland’s capitol.

Community Cafes in Glasgow

Inverness Velocity Cafe – I ate here, it was a good bite and hard to get in, very popular

Around the World

Let’s Eat Glasgow – Food Festival with Food Equality in Mind

Belfast Cafes