A series of updates while on the Trans Siberian Express through Russia
My first 24 hour trip (from Moscow to Perm) was shared with this pair of bosses. Albina spoke no English, but we did communicate enough to realise that she is far tougher than I am. She is going all the way to Vietnam. Vladimir on the other hand is the manager of one of the biggest Russian rock bands, Picnik, and we connected by trading the names of 60’s bands that we love – it went on for a good half an hour. He hates flying, so trains between every gig. I was squeezed at the top right, a perfectly placed listening post for Vladimir’s snoring. Taking a combination of “second class” (pictured) and “third class” seats along the way. So far on 3 trains there has been no foreign tourist so far. I seems I am something of a curiosity to the Russians as a solo traveler in winter.
On the train & heading to Siberia. The heating’s broken but the waitress gave me her coat. This perked up the interest of Alex & Vlad who insisted that cognac was added to my coffee. It seems to be helping…
Enjoying a day off & working on several songs written in Russia including this one “Siberian Wolves”. Tomorrow begins the longest train ride, 5 days, 4 nights. Plenty of time to write the lyrics I guess.
Moving on to Habarovsk tomorrow, well, leaving tomorrow but arriving in 5 days time. Novosibirsk I leave with special memories – I always dreamed of Siberia and know this won’t be the last time. Time to rest, the road calls, the rail beckons. Onwards.
TRANS SIBERIAN EXPRESS
There is a sense on the Trans Siberian Express that one is between lives, or at least passing through a worm hole in between time and space. It allows you to stop, but within the context of motion, and in this it offers a unique form of meditation. We carry so much within our chests, and it’s weight is somehow forgotten in the hustle & bustle of our everyday lives. We forget that the greatest kindness we can afford ourselves is to forgive ourselves. That life is not made by design, but is beautifully flawed. Regret is an easy companion, because to make mistakes is in the very fabric of life. But at the last I do believe there is continually the chance to open ourselves anew. Like the motion of the Trans Siberian Express we are not fixed, this moment is not static. Rather it can unfold in many ways, with many possibilities. But first we must confront that weight, and allow it to lighten. Then life will renew, and reinvent as it chooses.
RAIL RAIL RAIL
Occasionally the train stops, every 8 hours or so. At night the stations look like a scene out of the X-Files, only the special character of the mist here lends an ambience which would suggest a bigger budget. The passengers then roam in the glow like shadowy spectres, creeping & crawling like miniatures in an ice lit set. I look up ahead, but of course it’s just tracks. No Russian seems to use the bridges. Sometimes a family will dart across the tracks, and I silently look out for trains for them, futile as a life guard who can’t swim. Anyway, we continue to snake deeper into Asia. Outside is -26 and Europe feels a long way away.
Gig requests seem to be multiplying through the train, in fact it’s getting somewhat unmanageable. So far today the soldiers have booked in a new show (though I am scared of one of the officers who, politely speaking, is not a fan of music). Then there is Sergio and the tequila bandits in second class. They are labourers on the way to lay pipes (yes in Russian winter) and have arms like trees and feet like Switzerlands favourite export. No, not chocolate, the other one. But good lads. Anyway, first things first and we’ve fulfilled the contract with the Russian under 10’s karate team. They showed me some tournament footage and seriously, I think they are tougher than the soldiers, Sergio & the bandits, and the authoritarian female guards combined. Right, I have a show to get to – Sergio!
So the soldiers requested another concert. It seems to be going rather well until the very rotund officer with no top on, black belly hair and blood shot eyes is awoken from his sleep. His anger is only exacerbated by the eagerness of the other captains to defend me. A heated argument ensues. Apparently a compromise is reached where i am ordered to play two final songs “quietly”. Problem is my songs are rock n roll songs. Scary officer becomes mad with rage. Encore looking unlikely so in the tumult I slip out. Problem is in the confusion I leave in the wrong direction. Only way home is through the now 2 carriages full of 100 odd soldiers & aforementioned scary officer. Hmm. Best bet seems to be to wait till the next stop, skip past the the army carriage, grab bags & jump off. Problem is the restaurant car shuts in 10 minutes & next stop is the equivalent of the other side of Europe. Oh God. Seems a reasonable time for a drink , an epitaph, and fuck it, an encore….
Made it to wonderful Khabarovsk after 5 long days on the train!
Meanwhile, in a post-soviet flat on the outskirts of Khabarovsk, Eastern Russia….
Human being attempting analogue geo-locating
On the way to Crossroads for tonight’s show – playing with some brilliant Eastern Russian bands tonight – -UP’РЕЛЬ &
- THE WHALES – let’s go!!!! ⚡
Thank you East Russian Maverick @antonkladnitsky and his squadron of rock n rollers for the hospitality and hangovers in #Khabarovsk ! Incredible to meet so many great people & inspiring musicians here. Each part of Russia reveals something new, but consistent has been the kindness I’ve received – I’m very thankful. Another long train ride tonight after the 2 shows here. Let’s keep on.
Thank you everyone in Khabarovsk!