The long overdue “so how did the new year’s resolutions go?” postmortem post.

What do you mean I haven’t posted a blog post in over a year? Lies. I’ve just blocked you. That’s why you can’t see them. Yes you.

 

Well yes, obviously it didn’t go that well given that my secret extra resolution was to blog a lot more. In my defense though it’s extremely hard to motivate oneself to write after completing a massive soul-destroying project (now available for anyone to read here, should you dare) which crushed both my self-confidence and will to get out of bed in the morning. It’s also doubly difficult to blog when you’re technically homeless and sleeping in your boss’s garden like some sort of medieval serf (cheers though Tom!).

 

Still, let’s go through the list and see how I did shall we?

 

Resolution 0: No flights

Accomplished? Yes, easily. But to be fair, it’s easy to keep this resolution when you have no money for a holiday and work doesn’t require it. I’m going to try to keep up with this one though, I think it’s environmentally prudent.

 

Resolution 1: Sleep outside at least once a month

Accomplished? Hmmm, sort of. I definitely failed on doing this on a once a month basis – defeated in January by cold weather and a lost hammock strap. However, the logs I recently compiled for my Mountain Training logbook led me to work out that I spent 117 nights camping out this year either in a tent or bivy bag. I’d say that accomplished the spirit of the resolution, if not the letter. This year I’ll aim for 12+ nights out again, though I’m not going to hold myself to a strict monthly schedule.

 

Resolution 2: Practice some bushcraft skills

Accomplished? Oh yes, definitely. Spending the summer teaching Bushcraft skills to kids, lighting campfires multiple times a week, regularly field cooking and plenty of knife and shelter work mean that I’ve definitely had a lot of practice. Once again I’m going to try to keep this up this year, albeit at a probably lower intensity.

21640725_1621845724533155_957064847274461438_o

Resolution 3: Experiment a bit with media

Accomplished? Not at all. About the most I managed in 2017 was to finally get an instagram account. Living in the woods really wasn’t conducive to this, and to be perfectly honest I’d pretty much forgotten about this resolution a week after I made it. This year I’ll take another stab at it, potentially trying to get some quality video of a couple of adventures I have planned.

21690588_384968541906345_3260234967732453376_n.jpg

So what about this year then? Here’re the resolutions for 2018 (yes, I know we’re halfway through February already):

Resolution 0: No flights

Resolution 1: Sleep outside at least once a month twelve nights

Resolution 2: Practice more bushcraft skills

Resolution 3: Experiment a bit with media

 

Resolution 4: Complete Lowland Leader Training

This has been a back burner goal of mine for a while now – racking up a few outdoor qualifications. Outdoor ed/guiding is my dream “fallback” career from academia and I want to make positive steps to make this a reality. Plus, it doesn’t hurt when it comes to field teaching. I have a few more quality lowland days to rack up early on in the season, and then I want to at least get my training sorted this summer. In an ideal world I’d also get my assessment done this year – but it might take me slightly longer to complete enough days.

Resolution 5: Blog more!

I really need to get back into the habit of writing again. To this end I want to start using this blog a bit more. Progress updates on the above resolutions and a few random rants I’ve got stored up to begin with. Then we’ll see what else I feel like.

 

I have a few more goals, some work related and some financial – which I don’t really feel like going into here. But that’s where things stand at the start of 2018, hopefully it’s going to be a great year.

Advertisements

12 Nights in a Hammock

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. Most of the time I think they’re just setting yourself up to fail – they’re an all or nothing proposition usually, and they’re often forgotten the moment you have your first stumble. How many resolutions to go to the gym every Saturday survive that first weekend away in late January? How many times does someone declare “no more chocolate” right up until discount mini-eggs appear on the shelves? Not many, I would wager. It’s also very hard to just decide to change based on a whim, rather than by being forced to through circumstance.

This year however, I am going to set a few long-term goals. I’m hoping I’ll have a little more luck than most since they’re things I actually want to do anyway – not chores in service of fitness or self-improvement (though handily they won’t hurt in these areas either).

Resolution 0: No flights

I think I pretty much covered this in a previous post, so I’m putting my money where my mouth is.

Resolution 1: Sleep outside at least once a month

2016-06-27-20-52-23
Underquilts + hammocks = literally the cosiest camping experience possible.

I’ve spent the last year or so putting together and dialling in my hammock camping setup. It’s now at the point where I’m confident about sleeping out in it at any temperature ranging from a few degrees above freezing, through to whatever sweaty limit that I wouldn’t manage to sleep in regardless of whether or not I was in a bed. Despite all of this, I haven’t found loads of opportunities to try it out in earnest. I’ve had a couple of days walking in the Borders over the summer where I slept in the hammock, as well as a night on Islay in December – but I want to make the most of my weekends this year and get a good few nights outside sorted.

dsc_0012
A glorious night was spent in the trees behind this ruined church on Islay in late December. There’s a lot to be said for warm west coast winters, though I could have done without the near gale force gusts.

The way I’m going to do this is with a pretty arbitrary structure: one night out a month. This should be pretty achievable, even in busy months, and it tallies with my plans to get out in my own backyard a bit more. A monthly “microadventure” to push myself into being a bit more active and appreciating my own countryside. Other bonus benefits of this include getting a little bit more confident about stealth camping in some riskier spots (in preparation for some long-term bike related plans). And, because I’m not locked in to too specific a schedule I can skip the windier or colder nights and make it up later in the month.

Resolution 2: Practice some bushcraft skills

As long as I’m camping out once a month, I may as well take the opportunity to practice some bushcraft skills (especially since, for unspecified reasons which may become clear in a future post, I may need them in the near future). At the very least I want to try out a few new camping recipes, practice some more fire starting, and maybe try a little bit of foraging.

Resolution 3: Experiment a bit with media

This is a funny one. Not a lot of people know this, but for a couple of years back in the day I used to record a regular podcast. Don’t look for it, because it’s hopefully nowhere to be found any more. We made it back when I was 17-19 or so, so I imagine that it’s completely unlistenable now. However I’ve never really fallen out of love with the format, I love listening to them, and I hope one day to go back to regularly recording one.

For the moment I’d like to experiment a bit with video. Not really vlogging, because let’s be honest, my life isn’t that interesting, but also not instructional videos, because that market is more than saturated in the hammocking and bushcraft categories. Instead I want to do something in between, some sort of mini podcast-esque adventurey videos. I might not even put them online, but it’ll be fun to practice my presenting skills and video editing. We’ll see where that goes.

Anyway, those are my goals for 2017 (beyond the obvious ones, which mostly revolve around gainful employment). If all goes well I’ll update throughout the year (because I should probably use this blog for something other than angry rants) with photos and trip reports.

Climate, travelling, and the ethics of the round the world plane ticket.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between climate change and travelling. Part of this comes from finally handing in my PhD. I’ve been cooped up behind my desk for a good few months, and it’s been a long time (barring a couple of weekends and field trips) since I’ve really had the opportunity to go anywhere or do much exciting. The last decent trip I did was a pre-conference field trip around parts of Australia, a week long road trip from Sydney to Melbourne two long years ago. Even though it was a work trip (and thus spent almost entirely underground), we had a fantastic time doing some quick exploration of the Blue Mountains and Kosciuszko National Park. Kosciuszko in particular was an absolutely stunning locale, true wilderness in places with stunning vistas and wild horses and kangaroos roaming freely. I would love to go back there (spiders aside) and spend a few days or weeks roaming around.

dsc_0414

That said, another visit to Australia isn’t on the cards for me any time soon. The last visit was only possible thanks to my research grant paying for the flights to the conference (thanks EU!), and a convenient talk prize paying for the field trip (suck it BP!). International flights simply aren’t available on my personal travel budget at the end of a PhD when I’m job hunting. I’m also starting to question the morality of it, to be perfectly honest. The carbon footprint of that journey, according to one calculator online, is apparently the equivalent of 4.96 tonnes of CO2 for the flights alone. Given that the average carbon footprint of a human globally is 4 tonnes/year it seems a somewhat excessive thing to so cavalierly dump that much more CO2 into the atmosphere. I can justify it to myself when I’m doing it for a climate change related conference (barely), but how can I claim to love the natural world and contribute to so much damage to it at the same time? How can I justify doing that damage in the name of exploring it? It seems an act of almost arrogant selfishness to consider making trips like that for my own gratification, knowing that climate change can destroy the very environments I’m travelling to see.

I got into climate change research to make a difference. I did a PhD to try and add to our knowledge of the climate system, and I even think I succeeded in doing my part to add that little tiny sliver of knowledge that the next person can build upon. At, more or less, the end of that journey I’m kind of unsatisfied with it. As much as I enjoyed that trip to Australia, as good as that conference was, did I achieve anything there? Possibly one day the proxy technique I discovered will lead to greater understanding of the climate system. But it won’t stop climate change. It won’t curb CO2 emissions. And it won’t make a difference.

So what can I do that will? I’m currently looking for jobs with a slightly more direct impact, perhaps not as global an impact, but something more measured and immediate. I’m pursuing something in the environmental sector (and hey, if you’re hiring and interested hit me up!), something where I can work on sustainable transport, or energy, or educating the public. But that’s a slightly different conversation for a different time. At the moment I want to talk about travelling, adventuring and the outdoors.

You don’t have to look very far on the Internet, or for that matter in a library, to find a philosopher (wannabe or otherwise) proclaiming loudly about the benefits of travel. They talk about self-betterment, of stress-relief, of broadening one’s horizons, of seeing the wonders of the world, and a whole host of other statements (for a typical essay on the form, try here). These statements aren’t necessarily wrong, or at least I don’t necessarily disagree with them. I think though, that in an age where we’re finally starting to realise the impact those travels have on the world a round the world ticket becomes something much harder to justify. It’s almost a statement, not of a desire to broaden one’s horizons, but of a desire to selfishly exploit them. It’s a display of wealth and privilege not available to most. John and Jane Smith, fresh out of university, flying to Africa on an organised tour to climb Kilimanjaro aren’t raising awareness of anything – and I have my doubts about the journey being all that useful for self-discovery. Meanwhile, they’re wearing another path into the hillside, taking another few flights and driving another few hundred miles in 4x4s.

So maybe, just maybe, it’s time for a new philosophy about travelling. After all, in a globalised and multicultural world we can experience other cultures in our own hometowns. You can watch a Mexican drama, eating Indian food, whilst sitting on Swedish furniture if you so desire. Other cultures are everywhere around us, and it’s a daily wonder. We haven’t yet found a way to bring the Grand Canyon into our own home, but Google are probably working on it.

So here’s a suggestion: let’s spend a bit less time on planning grand gap year adventures around South East Asia, and spend a little bit more time exploring our backyards instead. The carbon footprint of going for a bike ride a few miles up the road and then sleeping in the woods is a lot lower than an international flight. All of those truisms about travelling hardening you up or helping you to learn who you truly are (“The true quarry of any great adventurer. Is the undiscovered territory of their own soul” and all that) are just as true when you travel under your own steam. Maybe we can redefine ecotourism to mean something that is actually ecologically friendly. Is it eco-friendly to dump oxygen bottles at base camp? Is it eco-friendly to tramp large tour groups through sensitive environments? Let’s take fewer trips to raise awareness of problems (whilst contributing to them), and instead promote more low carbon journeys supporting local businesses, exploring local landscapes and keeping the wild actually wild. And hey, maybe while you’re camping in the woods pick up a few empty cans and bottles to dispose of huh?

dsc_0021

 

Disclaimer: It’s winter, I’m poor, and I’ve not been on holiday in a long time. Maybe this is all just sour grapes, and not high-minded environmentalism. Who can tell?

Quick HowTo: Modding an Alpkit Brukit to take any pan.

My current stove is an Alpkit Brukit. It’s a nifty little thing that excels at one purpose: boiling a pan full of water in its integrated pot. For the price, weight and convenience this camp stove excels. However, it is limited to its built in pot, as putting any other pot on the top will cut off the air supply to the burner.

So here’s a picture guide to a little 15 minute, £4 project that will let you use the Brukit with any old camping pan you own.

2016-06-03 15.41.50.jpg

Here’s our raw materials. One £4 tesco barbecue grill thingy. A pre-made grill, with wire that one can safely assume is non-galvanised and can withstand a bit of heat.

2016-06-03 15.44.58.jpg

Step 1: Separate the two halves of the grill. This takes mere moments to unclip two bits of metal with a pair of pliers (the only tool this project needs). The half on the left has been put aside – I plan to use it as a potential campfire grill at some point in the future.

2016-06-03 16.04.52.jpg

Step 2: Clip out a section of grill sufficiently long to match the internal circumference of the alpkit burner. The height can be varied, but aim for about 1.5cm to match the depth of the heat sink on the base of the kit pot – perhaps adding a little more to allow the flame to disperse across the base (you don’t want to burn your meals).

2016-06-03 16.04.56.jpg

Step 3: This isn’t strictly necessary, but I’ve also clipped out a square grill for the top – just to help balance a pot on the top a little better.

2016-06-03 16.05.24.jpg

Step 4: Assembly. Bend the strip of grill into place, and plop down the flat piece on the top. I left a little extra on the grill to to help hold the flat piece in place in case the surface isn’t totally flat.

2016-06-03 16.05.32.jpg

And voila! The finished article. Here shown with a frying pan sitting on the top.

2016-06-03 16.20.48.jpg2016-06-03 16.25.20.jpg

A quick performance test shows the water boiling in this pan approximately as quickly as when done with the built in pan. I imagine there’s slightly more heat loss, but this is Good Enough (TM).2016-06-03 16.26.31.jpg

So there you are. a £4 modification to let the Alpkit Brukit be used with any camping pan (or kettle, or coffee maker, or whatever). It has flaws, I don’t know how long it will last, and it definitely leaves the flame a bit more open to the wind – but not bad for £4 and 15 minutes.

BBC Sport: If I was in charge

When you work in an office environment (like I do) then you end up watching a lot of sport on your second monitor during the summer. This is doubly true during years where the Olympics or World Cup are held in appropriate time zones. My Masters degree coincided with the 2012 Olympics, and frankly I’m as surprised as you are that I have a Masters degree.

These days, though, it’s all about the cycling for me. Which, when it comes to the BBC, means coverage provided by a BBC sports journalist somewhere in an office with a microphone watching the feed from Eurosports (or occasionally ITV) because the BBC can’t afford the broadcast rights for the events. The exact same thing happens with the main events of most sports, with the exceptions of the rare occasions when the BBC decides it’s worth whatever cost for them to show it. That would be the Olympics, and football. Of course these rights are sold through the IOC, FIFA or the like – and therefore are at an astronomical price to the British tax payer. [As an aside, what is it with large sports organisations and corruption? Is it just an inevitable case of power corrupts?].

Not being privy to the internal budgets of the British Broadcasting Corporation I can’t speculate on how much of their budget is spent on these large events – but I guarantee you it’s a small fortune if the premier league is anything to go by. In fact the BBC is rapidly being priced out of large sporting events.

So, what would be different if I was in charge?

Forget the lot of them.

Any conversation about the BBC and its purpose inevitably boils down to this: Lord Reith’s declared purpose of “inform, educate, entertain” and the inevitable debate over what it means to be a public service, and whether that precludes pushing commercial interests. Personally, I have no problem with the BBC making a bit of money by producing commercially viable entertainments and selling them to overseas markets. America gets its Doctor Who and Top Gear, and we get a bigger budget to spend on other things. That’s fine. But when it comes to commercial sport the BBC is never going to manage to compete with a commercial enterprise which can sell adverts during big events. Every additional viewer of a large sporting event means that commercial providers like BT and Sky can bid even more for it – because they’ll make even more money back on ad revenues. The BBC can’t compete with that for the big events, so as far as I’m concerned they shouldn’t even try. The public get to see their large events anyway – because they’re going to watch them on the ad-supported channels anyway – and on the off chance that they don’t have access to those channels the BBC can continue its excellent radio and text coverage online.

Now that I’ve saved the BBC millions on their budget, what shall I spend it on?

Sport!

I have a vision for what BBC sport could be. I can’t claim total credit, because I actually got the idea from the unlikeliest of possible places – the BBC itself. One of the best regular BBC shows is one that you’ve never heard of. It’s beautifully shot, well commentated, focuses on (largely) very British locations and promotes some more obscure events and regions. It’s called The Adventure Show, and the reason you’ve never seen it is that it’s barely promoted and is shown exclusively on BBC Two Scotland at dinner time for 10 nights out of the year. I highly recommend checking out the show yourself, but in a nutshell it consists of a presenter and a camera crew filming episodes around adventure sports. They go to small, interesting UK sporting competitions and film the stories behind them and show some of the highlights. Sometimes they even compete themselves. A good example of this is their Strathpuffer episode where they document a midwinter 24-hour mountain bike race in the north of Scotland (and if you watch very, very carefully you may spot my friend Cat competing in). The show is fantastic, and it doesn’t cost very much because all it requires is a presenter and a camera crew. Half the time the events probably don’t even charge the BBC to film them, because they’re glad of the publicity.

The BBC has national studios spread across the country. They have presenters, they have camera crews and they have the resources to broadcast on both television and online. What’s stopping them from relaunching a new BBC Sport channel showing amateur British sports across the country? And isn’t that what the BBC is for? We can inform and educate the public about sporting events they don’t know about, whilst entertaining them with fun stories and sporting competition. All the while performing a public service by giving exposure to events which might otherwise fly under the radar because there’s not a large enough existing audience for commercial viability. Football doesn’t need any help, but I’m sure British Archery would love to show their larger events to the public. I’m sure the national ice hockey or roller derby leagues would love to have their games on national television. Women’s sporting events can finally be shown in full, I’d like to see a bit more than just the barest highlights of the women’s six nations. There was supposed to be an olympic sporting legacy where people discovered new sports and got out there to try them – maybe a new BBC Sport channel can be the reminder and the gateway which lets them find local, exciting sports which might interest them.

Le Tour de France: If I was in charge

I love watching the Tour de France. For 3 weeks out of the year work in this office grinds to a halt between 2-4pm or so as the cyclists converge around monitors and occasionally coffee room iPads to watch the final 60 odd kms of each stage. We gleefully cheer on breakaways, bemoan our poor choices in our fantasy league (I was last again this year – knew I should’ve backed Froome rather than Quintana and Contador), and wince at mechanicals and punctures. And every year, we have the same conversations about two main topics: doping and touring – and I wonder about how we could make the Tour even more exciting to watch.

Doping

First, the inevitable spectre of doping. Every year at the Tour it raises it’s ugly head. Typically in the lead up we hear from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, the Tony Blair of cycling, chief-scumbag himself as he desperately tries to get the media spotlight on him once again. This is rapidly followed by someone, usually either a past-offender or the latest Astana team member testing positive for something stupid. Then, finally, through the race itself someone inevitably has a good day of cycling and the unfounded speculation begins.

It’s boring. I’m tired of hearing about it. Everyone (including me) assumes that they’re all on drugs, nobody is particularly surprised when anyone is busted. Nobody is surprised when someone is busted AGAIN, after receiving a trivial off-season ban (or, in the rare cases of a ban with teeth, they then start commentating!). Nobody views therapeutic use exemptions with anything other than weary scepticism.

So why don’t we just give up? If it’s really this hard to stop it, if it’s really so hard to prevent these guys from micro-dosing EPO in their hotel rooms, why don’t we just say go for it?

Imagine this: a 3-week anything goes race across France. A peloton travelling uphill at 60kph with track-marked riders snorting cocaine off their handlebars and guzzling blood bags like nosferatu. Pharmaceutically enhanced Übermensch competing against bionically enhanced cycle samurai fresh from the fevered dreams of William Gibson.

Imagine seeing riders exceeding the limits of human abilities on a daily basis. Superhuman feats of speed and endurance shattering records daily. I’d watch it!

Hell, it might even do leaps and bounds for medical science. Then again, there might be some ethical concerns after the first few self induced health crises…

Maybe this idea will need to go back to the drawing board. Let’s try something else.

Touring

At this point, why even call it the Tour de France*? The Tour de France bears about as much resemblance to bicycle touring as an olympic javelin event bears to spear hunting gazelles on the African savannah. So while the EPO-junkies as described above have their “Tour” sprinting up hills and outpacing the team cars (which they’d otherwise linger against, lovingly stroking the outstretched hand of their team manager for just a little too long) we can run a real Tour de France!

Here are my new rules:

  • No team cars
  • No motorhomes
  • No team doctors, chefs, masseuses, mechanics, coaches, etc.
  • No hotels
  • No drugs **
  • Riders must camp and carry everything on their bikes
  • Riders followed only by referee cars and camera crews
  • Stages aren’t rigidly defined – there’s a start and a finish overall, with maybe some checkpoints on the way
  • All supplies and repairs along the way have to be bought from existing businesses or carried from the start
  • We make the riders actually do a real three week bike tour across France

Now this maybe doesn’t sound as exciting as the current form that the tour takes. It will certainly be slower, there’s not going to be lots of attacking up climbs the morning after the whole field has slept on a gravelly French alpine camp site. There might even not be true Pelotons, as teams do their own route finding. But imagine the potential for stories!

Suddenly there’s fresh drama during the stages, fresh tactical decisions to make, and minor events like punctures take on new significance. Legends will be made about bodged self-repairs, camp site shenanigans, risky shortcuts up dirt tracks, tragic losses of maps to adverse weather, and comical misunderstandings by British riders in boulangeries. The age of social media brings immediacy to these stories, we’d get to follow the live outrage as Team Sky buys every energy gel in the Carrefour. Indeed, with live GPS tracking of riders we could see thrilling maps as teams take different routes and commentators discuss the merits of different mountain passes. Even the bikes get more interesting: do you go full carbon, pack light and bivvy uncomfortably? Or do you opt for something more reliable and pack heavier in the hopes that better rest helps you out in the later stages? Domestiques begin to be favoured not just for their riding abilities, but also for their camp cooking skills, sports massage and map reading abilities. Miles from a bike shop there are tense stand-offs as BMC negotiates with Tinkoff-Saxo to swap spokes for inner tubes.

We can even keep some of the modern innovations in the tour, this adds even more tactics to the route finding. Do you go out of the way for those sprint and KOM points? Or do you keep your team together to protect your GC contender? A lot more tactics will start being displayed in the racing.

This would inject fresh drama into a sport which otherwise can often see a peloton riding almost as if the race was neutralised until the last 30km climbs to a mountaintop finish. I’d be glued to the screen for three weeks.

*I’m being facetious and pedantic here, I know perfectly well the history of the Tour – but bear with me.
**Or at least our best efforts. Let’s be honest, nobody believes this’ll be achievable.

A later addendum:

Oh yes, and both of those races should have equivalent women’s races. It’s a travesty the lack of attention women’s cycling gets – it’s just as good. A full women’s Tour de France is long overdue.

Why I Hate Record Store Day

So today is Record Store Day, the day when a whole lot of exclusive limited edition hard to find records are released to the world*. Theoretically this is to promote independent record stores, opening them up to a new audience who might not otherwise wander in, keeping these shops afloat and relevant in this modern age of Amazon and all the rest. I have all sorts of issues with this, but I’ll start instead with an account of my experience of Record Store Day this year.

So I got up, on a Saturday, to leave the house and get a bus to Sunderland at 7:45am. Anyone who knows me will know how out of character this is for me. Leaving aside the insane idea of me getting up before noon on a Saturday, I went to SUNDERLAND. I hate going to Sunderland. The only way people have been able to get me there in the last year or so has been with the promise of a vigorous session of laser tag – but that’s a digression. Anyway, so there I was at 9am queuing outside Hot Rats Record Store with a group of around 30 other customers. We waited, in silence for the most part, for a half hour or so as we were ushered into the store one by one to see if our desired records were there and then leave.

I’ll briefly interrupt to mention what I was actually after at RSD15. I really only wanted two records, although there were a few I would be vaguely interested in if on a flip through they jumped out at me.

The main two though were these:

R-6910985-1429351189-7143.jpeg

A Warpaint/Daughter Split EP where they’d remixed each other’s songs. The Daughter remix of Feeling Alright is really awesome, and Warpaint are pretty much my favourite band these days. I have all of their vinyl releases (bar one which seems to be a US Rough Trade exclusive), and I love sitting back and listening to them. Needless to say this was a must have. However I didn’t have a lot of hope for getting this – as it’s a limited run of only 500.

418456371537

The other was a Courtney Barnett single (inexplicably pressed as a 12”) with a John Cale cover on the B-Side. I’m absolutely infatuated with Courtney Barnett’s music at the moment, having recently picked up her new album. So again, I really wanted this.

Once I was ushered in the door and up to the counter I was asked “What are you after?”. Turns out they had no copies of Courtney Barnett’s single, and their sole copy of the Warpaint/Daughter EP had already been sold (they’d ordered three, but of course they didn’t get that many). Oh well, out the door I went and the next walking wallet was ushered in. There was no incentive to spend any more time than that in the shop to be perfectly honest.

Similar story over at Pop Recs, albeit with even fewer releases and neither of the ones I was after. Awesome. So I said sod it and went home. A wasted trip all around.

None of the stores had anything else on really, and I actually hate digging through endless crates of rubbish – so there was no point in me hanging around. Fortunately, shortly after I got home the postie arrived with an Amazon parcel for me. What could it be? (Find out at the end!)

So here’s my beef. I don’t buy records as collectables†. I don’t buy them as investments or wall art or because they’re rare and that makes me feel special. I buy them because I really enjoy the format as a way to listen. You sit down, you pay attention, you admire the cover art, photo inserts and/or lyrics and you experience the music in a way that just isn’t the same as playing it in the background as you work, walk or exercise. I generally do that too – it’s why I also like having music in a digital format – but I treasure the experience of sitting down and actually listening to an album. I wanted both of those releases because they were music from two artists i love that I wanted to listen to. So I was genuinely pretty gutted that I couldn’t buy them. Music is for listening to, not collecting, and a limited release only deprives fans of the chance to listen to it.

And here’s my other issue. Most record stores? I’m sorry, but they suck.

In this they have a lot of common with games stores. There are two types. Type 1 (and the rarest) is the good kind – an owner who wants people to come in, who makes it a friendly place and goes the extra mile to have the store actually provide a service which can’t be matched by the internet. This is what it takes to keep a store business going – you can’t just have a pile of stuff, the internet will always have more. Type 2 is the store which doesn’t really want customers, it’s a place hostile to non-regulars probably run by someone who opened it to indulge their own hobby (gotta love that wholesale discount). Record store day doesn’t help either of those types of people. The Type 2s are the same as always, and the Type 1s are too stressed out to offer any of the actual benefits of being a Type 1 store. I hear mythical tales of stores with live bands and special events on RSD – I’ve never seen one. I know Pop Recs does that at other times – and good on them, but it doesn’t make Record Store Day any better.

Sometimes business models just die, sometimes the new thing is better. Nobody mourns the loss of the horse and cart industry. If Amazon can rush ship me Courtney Barnett’s Double EP the day after I order it then why would I take a 45 minute bus ride to rummage through some crates on the off chance a shop has it? I don’t feel particularly guilty about the one vinyl which I actually got to play today.

2015-04-18 21.16.38

*Only to certain Record Stores. In extremely limited numbers. Available only to people who can queue outside a store at 9am.

†As of writing there are 4 copies of the Warpaint/Daughter EP on Discogs and 14 on eBay. 9 copies of Kim’s Caravan on Discogs and 19(!!) on ebay. All mint and still in shrinkwrap of course.

Much, much later update:

I managed to find both records online at their normal prices through Rough Trade and RecordStore.co.uk – turns out they had a bunch of surplus which they didn’t send to the stores. Typical.