An account and observations of a bus journey from Dundee to London on the 22nd June 2011 transcribed more or less verbatim from my notebook.
M74 THE SOUTH
I've not done a long bus trip in years. I can't actually remember the last one. Possibly back in 2nd or 3rd year of Secondary School on a torturous journey to The Black Forest.
It's not even midnight yet and we've been travelling for about 3 hours, and we're somewhere/nowhere in deepest Lanark. Already the bodies of my fellow commuters/sentencees are strewn around like the fallout from a sarin gas attack. I tried to do a Sudoku out of Aitken's book of ultra-hard Sudokii and it did succeed in passing a chunk of time and attention but after filling a few rows and boxes I realised, quite dishearteningly that there were two sixes in the bottom row and there was no way I could be bothered trying to unpick and claw it back together. The only real saving grace was the realisation that a row/box in sudoku sums as that recurrent magical number 45.
I'd sat for about 20 minutes with my eyes shut, analysing, deconstructing and rebuilding the physics of the sounds around me in mental modular synthesis; the low pass rumble of the road under our wheels, the amplitude modulated sizzles of white noise as we cut through puddles and the enveloped fades of crossing in and out of the white lines between lanes.
I was getting too focussed, too far inside the sound so decided another distraction was in order. After one of those ridiculous, repeated, extended scrolls to both ends of my almost full 80gb iPod, I finally settled down to Consumed by Plastikman. Hearing it again for the first time in a long time, it felt right for a nightmare nightime commute; restrained, constrained, sparse, pushing relentlessly through the shitty, one day after the Solstice, torrential rain, the hard shoulder markers red shifting out of regular space/time through the rainy windscreen.
Consumed makes me realise that I've been thinking a lot lately about the proper techno album that I keep not making, I've not been making it for years. I think I've not been making it for so long that it almost exists in its entirety already in my head. If I could just commit myself to actually starting it. I'd inadvertantly slipped into a subconscious e-bay trawl earlier in the week on a fugue walk for drum machines which I thankfully managed to snap myself out of that train of thought before anything financially upsetting happened.
I check my phone out of habitual boredom, Gmail, Twitter, Facebook. I notice and enjoy the inconsitencies of phone signal stuck in a constantly moving metal case. The whole thing takes on a slightly Dadaist feel, a new form of non-linear dialogue. Messages from 3 hours ago appear after ones sent minutes prior, answers to questions you haven't asked yet all trickle through, even data is relative it would seem but out here on the road it's the same as everything else, things get to where they are going eventually.
There's something kind of endearing about seeing these strangers all sparked out and asleep on each other. It's like a pride of lions on an Attenburgh natural history documentary and it instills a weird sense of maybe everything being alright for us, the human race, that in times of collective discomfort and trial that we can put aside our differences and co-exist. The two guys across the aisle from me who got on at different stops, are going to different destinations and didn't speak to each other while conscious are now snuggled up like an old married couple. I'm glad it's not me though, I'd be fucking livid if some sweating, snoring stranger was trying to use me as a mattress.
12:20 - Lockerbie/Dumfries
12:24 - Ecclefechan (I used to work front of house at Perth Theatre when I was a kid, every single year at Panto, there would be some sort of joke about the dame having just been on her holiday or some other laboured setup for the punchline "Ecclefechan". This was the first time I'd been in noticeable physical proximity to the place and it still sort of baffles me. I have somewhere in my head that it's funny because it sounds a bit rude, but then maybe it doesn't really, and I'm not sure of the recurrent significance of that joke year in, year out?)
02:20 M6 River Wyre
I have the distinct feeling of a stylus cutting though a dusty record, unstuck in space and time. It's turned into a battle. A durational stand off between Us and The Road. Too achey to sleep, a bit too tired to properly focus on anything, becoming The Undead of the Road. Bleary eyed lorry drivers and other careerist mental petrol heads, riding out under cover of night to do their master's bidding like Dracula's Outriders.
03:15 M6 > J25 Skerlmersdale/Stockport
Somewhere around the ghostlands between 04.00 and 05.00 we hit Birmingham. In my still sleepless state it becomes a fairly wondrous sight. Before you even start to think about the beautiful madness of Gravelly Interchange on the way out, the bus skirts through the city and you can almost feel Ballard's dreams calling you, right there. It has the unique sensation of time travel, as though the future has arrived but intersected with the present on an entirely wrong approach vector and the two realities have become fatally entwined leading to a city comprising of ageing steel and glass and concrete intercut with brand new steel and glass and concrete.
05:30 M1 (M6) - I never really understand the boundaries where one road becomes another, a liminal riddle. I like to picture imaginary lines right on the join or maybe it's more of a gradient between the two, a No Man's Land of asphalt and hardcore?
06:35 (M25) 6 Miles
Fair enough, it's been a long journey and I've not slept so the mind does begin to unravel somewhat but I swear that there's a noticeable psychic pop as we cross over the M25 and I see it spreading out in either direction, technically to infinity, the crossing resembles the stephane, the upturned crescent moon crown as worn by Selene. This giant metaphysical loop taken up so much mental space over the last few years via Drummond and Sinclair and associates that it manifests itself as a very powerful symbolic object. A magical circle and I've crossed over, the destination and duties for which I'm undertaking this journey are looming, switching over to big-city mode, make yourself bigger, more concrete, more defensive, become the City.