DOWN BUT NOT OUT
In 1933 George Orwell released a seminal work called ‘Down & Out in Paris & London.’ This book detailed life for Orwell – a naïve young man on the road doing odd jobs and living in backpacker style residences of the day.
I did not read it until well after writing Nomad. When I did it was astonishing how remarkably similar our lives had been, a good 60 years apart, the odd jobs and living arrangements (and indeed the public lovemaking he encountered) were still very much in evidence and intact.
When I left Wales for London in spring 1999 I was a poet but had never written a travelogue and had no intention of travelling. I was lucky in many ways that the hostelling system was in place to support my ilk, the wayfaring dreamer, where as in Paris it would have been a different story; 7 days max stay is common place there. I am lucky that I’m still here to write this as every twist and turn in the fabric of life offered its choice of dilemma and near ruin.
THE GHOSTS OF MY LIFE
Nowadays Earls Court is a ghost-town of its former hostelling self, although a few of them remain, the Inchmont, Silver Fern, Table Mountain and Ayres Rock have all disappeared – converted into luxury apartments or hotels that none of those resident there in the late 1990’s and early years of the new century could have afforded.
Likewise the travellers bible TNT magazine – that we used to find homes and odd jobs – is also a shadow of its former self. Somehow I made enough money to see Ireland, Italy and other cities in the UK and Europe (for some reason I went to Prague ahead of Berlin, which seems strange now).
‘Nomad’ was originally issued in August 2001. By this time I had returned to my childhood hometown of Wellington, New Zealand but found the reception there little different to the UK. Despite my best efforts at PR, the book sank without trace. I did however design the cover there being that my intended collage of ticket stubs and photos were largely in storage on the other side of the world! Oops.
WISHING I WAS LUCKY
It is now over twenty years since my travels in the original nomad book. I intended it to be the book that finally launched me as a professional writer. Little did I know then that George Orwell aside, a burly yet cuddly bearded American called Bill Bryson had already captured the market and wrote far better English than I ever could without the aid of a significant thesaurus.
Nomad turns 20 this August when hopefully we will be in the height of a summer following an unusual year. It is interesting as it is difficult to look back and revisit an already completed work, albeit one I never felt entirely comfortable with. It worked ok as a personal diary but not as a book by Kelvin Hayes.
In other words I was writing it with an eye on it being successful instead of writing it in my own style (if indeed there is one) and although there are many ways of writing, in Nomad it could have been better, wiser perhaps. This version is peppered with my current thoughts in italics. And yes, pandemic aside, I am still essentially on the road, I guess I’ll always be the eternal nomad…
PLAYLIST AND CREDITS
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With this playlist I wanted not only to follow the book but also give an indication of what was around at the time.
Moving – Supergrass
Better Off Alone – Alice Deejay
Turn Around – Phats and Small
Sweet Like Chocolate – Shanks and Bigfoot
Don’t Be My Enemy – Wang Chung
Sons of Pioneers – Japan
In the Battersea renovation I recall playing…
Love to Be Loved – Peter Gabriel
Darkest Dreaming – David Sylvian
Simple – no-man
Blue – Eiffel 65
Chase the Sun – Planet Funk
Please Forgive Me – David Gray
The Best Inside You – David Baerwald
Dublin – Holyhead ferry:
Hey Little Girl – Icehouse
The Time is Now – Moloko
Sitting Down Here – Lene Marlin
Glorious – Andreas Johnson
I Got You – Split Enz
True – Spandau Ballet
Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
Nuages – King Crimson
Bath part two:
Small – Tim Bowness/Samuel Smiles
Various French songs
Earthbound/Starblind – David Sylvian/Robert Fripp
Venice: As per the Nomad Italia blog.
Wildlife – Penguin Cafe Orchestra
Nocturnal Sightseeing – Steve Jansen/Richard Barbieri
The Night Gives Birth – Steve Jansen/Richard Barbieri
The Only Joy in Town – Joni Mitchell
Sorrento Moon – Tina Arena
Echoes – Pink Floyd
Photo credits: KH