I think it’s because we’re in a city, but it doesn’t feel like a city. Most cities I’ve visited across the globe, are littered with tall buildings. Here, like Stoke-on-Trent, such buildings appear to be a rarity. The vast majority are only a few stories high, with anything above three being the exception to the rule.
It feels more like a town that is swelling with people.
Again, I don’t mean this as a criticism, so much as an observation. Visiting a place that feels like somewhere else, or even a little bit like home, isn’t unheard of. But that we are so far away from Stoke-on-Trent and are yet in a place that feels so similar to it and for such idiosyncatic reasons, most certainly is.
All around me are familiar faces.
We make it to a store and there’s a cat above our heads.
They look fairly displeased, which isn’t a surprise since this is a cat. If it were any other creature, I’d be open to the possibility that my interpretation may not be accurate. But this is a cat. I’m therefore quite confident in assuming that they’re pissed off about something.
Maybe they’ve heard our records?
Alex’s feet are hurting and he needs plasters. This is what happens when ginger people spend too much time in the sun, even if its overcast. They start to die. We find a place that sells plasters.
We then wait while he applies said plasters to the soles of his feet.
It’s nothing that would usually be of remote interest, but I’m struggling to find anything else worth talking about.
There’s an advertisement across the street. It has been modified by some hoodlum (I assume) so that the female model’s eyes are bleeding.
Maybe she saw Alex’s feet, or my face.
Either way, having the time to ponder as such suggests I am blessed with a truly trouble-free life, or am in serious denial about something.
More journies across Tomsk
People want some food and thus, we make a hearty meal our immediate priority.
Walking the streets of Tomsk once more, we get to see a very different side to the city than we were treated to yesterday.
It’s all far more urban and many of the buildings seen are either in some form of dilapidation, or just fairly dirty and old. The comparisons to Stoke-on-Trent continue, in this respect. Again, this isn’t a criticism, it’s just the general aesthetic and mood of the area.
In fairness, that might just be the weather. It’s bloody miserable today whereas yesterday, we were spoilt by a shining sun and rich blue sky from the second we left the flat.
There’s some pigeons fighting too. Or eating. I like to think their relationship is acramonious, if only for the drama. It’s like watching an episode of Hollyoaks except the noises make more sense and there’s some logic behind the creature’s behaviour.
What it means to actually be IN a place
I certainly wouldn’t describe Tomsk as uninviting.
Thinking about it, I wonder if the feel and mood of the city is standing out to me because it’s the first we’ve been to that feels like a real place. That’s no disrespect to the others, it’s just a simple matter of fact that everywhere we’ve played so far has either been very strange (ie: the woods of Moscow) or felt more like we’re on holiday (ie: Red Square, in Moscow).
Sure, we’ve walked around a couple of the places we’ve been to, but at no point have we really spent a full day or more exploring their heart.
I think I mentioned at the start of yesterday’s diary, that days off on tour tend to slow things down and this gives you a different perspective on the place you’re in. Your experience of it is a little less transient. You spend a day or so living and breathing alongside the people, the lifeblood of a city, rather than simply collecting mental snapshots for a photo album of memories.
But I likewise think this is a major difference between travelling and travelling. Plenty of people visit countries that are essentially carbon copies of what they’re used to, but with better weather and room service.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, especially if you have to work hard for money that doesn’t spread awfully far and such experiences bring you enough joy to continue doing so. I certainly don’t begrudge anyone the desire to spend 2 weeks roasting under a hot sun with a pint in one hand and bugger all in the other. I can absolutely guarantee you that it is substantially more relaxing than what we do.
But it doesn’t effect your perspective on the world, people or yourself in the same way. During our time here, we (however breifly) are an intrinsic part of this place’s culture. We are organisms in a living, breathing ecosystem. We’re not just enjoying the carefully curated, neatly presented parts that are designed specifically to appeal to tourists. We’re ever so slightly under the skin.
Maybe I’m blowing things way out of proportion. Maybe a side effect of things really slowing down for the first time in two weeks, is that all that’s happened in that period comes to head at once.
Nevertheless, I think there’s at least a fragment of truth hidden in the shards of unconscious absorption that I’m awkwardly trying to frame into something concise.
Either way, as we stop for food I elect to put my diary on hold. Elana has suggested that we and some of the other members of the group meet this evening at their practice room, to jam some tunes. This sounds pleasant.
For the rest of the day, I’m going to stop thinking. Or at the very least, I’m going to stop writing down my thoughts.
As the day draws to a close, we venture to group’s practice room.
This is where you really get to see just how similar places can be.
Wherever you go, whatever music you play – a practice room is a practice room.
Bits and pieces of instruments in the process of being reconstructed, records scattered about the place, muffled sounds of various musical genres trapped behind padded doors. You could never identify the country you’re in by the state of their practice rooms – they are absolute in their own right.
Once we’re setup, everyone picks an instrument and we just start jamming some noise.
Nothing violent or brutal. I think there’s a fairly eclectic mix of tastes and influences among the musicians in the room, no single one of which in particular, does anyone seem to desire pursuing.
Focussing on one thing has never been my strong point
We’re playing and my mind starts wandering. This is never a good thing, so I get the attention of Russian Linda (who joined us during last night’s building ascent) and signal her to come and play in my stead.
I have no idea if she can play drums. Her body language and facial expressions suggest not.
Rather than halt proceedings for an in promtu lesson in percussion, I maintain a stead 4/4 rythmn with my right hand on the hihat and get her to repeat.
Once she’s comfortable with that, I point toward the kick drum and stamp my foot down on every first beat. It takes her a couple of seconds to properly synchronise her hand and foot, but soon enough there’s a nice, solid pace.
The third limb is always tricky, but I tend to find people struggle when they over think it.
A beaming smile suggests she’s happy. Furthermore, the beat sounds fat!
As the group settles into a steady pace and everyone else begins some light improvisation, I add some rhytmns on the floor tom. We almost sound like a group of people who know how to play their instruments.
Jamming continues for a couple of hours before everyone looks knackered.
Returning to the flat, discussions regarding music, photography, videogames and such like circulate freely.
I have completely lost interest in being conscious and find myself ready to pass out.
It’s been a good day. It’s been two good days. But I am ready to batter some skins again.