In our occasional feature we invite guests to select the six cultural links that might sustain them if, by some mischance, they were forced to spend eternity in a succession of airport departure lounges with only an iPad or similar device for company.
Today’s voyager is Owen Polley, who blogs as Chekov at Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness and writes for a number of newspapers and magazines.
With any combination of snow, ice, malfunctioning baggage carousels and ash clouds liable to call a halt to the modern miracle of air travel, the interminable journey isn‘t such a leap of the imagination. The following would ease my pain, so long as they were accompanied by gallons of strong black coffee.
1. Duke Special. Some soothing music is a must. ’The Duke’ is a furiously inventive performer, who defies categorisation. He ranges from torch lit songs, full of guilt and regret, through stomping music hall Victoriana. The key thing is that with an iPod full of Duke Special, it’s simply not possible to get bored.
This free sampler album, Everyone Wants a Little Something is a good overview of his career so far. It features a typically idiosyncratic cover of Drink to Me Only, performed with frequent collaborator Neil Hannon, from The Divine Comedy. Wanda, Darling of the Jockey Club brings things right up to date with one of the stand out tracks from the Duke’s latest three disk release.
What more could you want for nothing?
2. Cooped up in an airport, what could be more liberating than the wide open spaces of Siberia? Albeit that this virtual journey from Moscow to Vladivostok is viewed through the window of a train, courtesy of Google Maps.
Escape the departure lounge, the bad sandwiches and recycled air for the age-old romance of the Trans-Siberian, boundless steppe, the Ural mountains and the shores of Baikal.
Pulling out of Yaroslavsky Station, it will take a full twenty days before you catch sight of the Pacific Ocean. Time well spent, deciphering Tolstoy or Gogol in Russian.
3. My third choice is either relief or torture. If I weren’t at the bottom of another Costa Coffee, trying to access free broadband, I could be in Belfast’s Linen Hall Library. The institution is a triumph of enlightenment values and a monument to the city‘s late 18th century liberal awakening.
Belfast’s merchant class set it up with the aim of ’enlarging knowledge’ and to this day it remains a quiet refuge in the city centre. The Linen Hall collects every book published in Northern Ireland and its Political Collection is invaluable for researchers and the curious alike.
In the airport I browse the catalogue of the last subscribing library in Ireland, explore its resources and fervently wish that I could pay a visit.
4. I’m a fanatical about football and my particular passion is the Northern Ireland international team. I’ve followed the side to the remotest corners of Europe, often through circuitous routes, spending an unhealthy amount of time in airports.
There is therefore no question that I can bear my endless voyage without access to Our Wee Country, the Northern Ireland fan site. It has been a critical contributor to the Irish Football Association’s Football For All campaign, which successfully promoted an inclusive, family atmosphere on the terraces.
‘OWC’ is also the most vibrant forum for supporters of the team. I could follow Northern Ireland’s topsy-turvy progress in the world rankings, get updated on the burning issues of the day and sound off about Nigel Worthington, the unloved manager who succeeded Lawrie Sanchez.
5. A little light reading.
If a blogger can also be a Luddite, then I answer to that description. I don’t ‘do’ books on the internet. I read blogposts, newspaper articles, at a stretch some longer form journalism. So I’ll not be damaging my eyesight in order to read novels on my laptop.
As an alternative, I considered selecting The Poetry Archive for my six clicks, but it’s been done before. In a doomed quest to be original I’ll pick Daniel Kalder’s website.
The travel writer pioneered the ’anti-tourism’ genre with Lost Cosmonaut, which charted his journey through a series of obscure post-Soviet Russian republics. He followed that up with ’Strange Telescopes’, examining bizarre sub-cultures, religions and sects in Russia.
His journalism is just as consistently edgy and entertaining as the books. As stultifying years went by, I’d hope that it might find its way more swiftly to his website, but there’s plenty to be getting on with for now.
6. I can’t compile my essential links without including at least one blog. Given the trying circumstances, I can think of no blogger with I’d rather while away the hours, than the delightfully eccentric Lord Belmont in Northern Ireland. The self-styled peer charts the minutiae of life in Belfast, slap up lunches, trips to Tesco and motoring between National Trust properties in his two-seater sports’ car.
He also writes wonderfully informative posts about wildlife, the history of landed estates, heraldry and the royal family. A diary of daily pleasures and a portal to the past. The perfect distraction for a dystopian present.