Headlong towards the end of the year

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As we reach the middle of December, the Elsewhere crew is already scattered and soon there will be no-one in town, holding the fort, as we head off on our journeys to family in friends, whether in Germany, Thailand, Ireland, the United Kingdom or Poland. So we thought we'd take this last opportunity to say thanks to the wider Elsewhere community for another great year of exploring place and places, whether in real life, in the pages of the journal, or here on the website. We'll be back in 2018 so make sure you check in with us then.

In the meantime, if you would like to support the journal in any way, the easiest way to do it is to buy a copy. All five editions of the journal are still available via our online shop, where you can buy them individually or in double sets. And if you already have them all (thanks so much!), then it would be great if you could share a word about what we do with any of your family and friends who you think might be interested. This also includes our facebook, twitter and instagram accounts. Word of mouth is how we keep going...

So that's your lot for 2017. Thanks again for all your support... we're off to unfold maps, check our train timetables and clean the old mud from our walking boots. See you on the other side...

Paul & Julia

Printed Matters: Europe by Rail

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Long-time readers of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place will know how much we love rail travel. In the pages of the journal and here on the blog we have never been slow to admit that it is almost certainly our favourite mode of transport,  challenged only by our joy of going for a walk. It is a love that we share with a couple of close friends of the journal, Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries. Nicky was a very early contributor to Elsewhere, with a short essay appearing in the very first edition of the journal, and together with Susanne, is the editor of the wonderful hidden europe magazine.

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Last month, Nicky and Susanne’s latest project hit the shelves: the 15th edition of Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide. As both editors and now publishers of the guidebook, Nicky and Susanne have brought their trademark attention to detail to all aspects of the new publication, and as always it is an absolute pleasure to read. With routes from the Atlantic coast of Portugal in the west to the Carpathian Mountains in the east, there can be few more pleasurable ways to spend a cold and windy winter’s afternoon than to be curled up on the sofa with this book, reading about and imagining the different journeys contained within these pages, growing ever-more inspired for the next journey to elsewhere.

Nicky and Susanne have been kind enough to send us some sample texts from the book, to give you a sense of what you can discover between its elegantly designed covers, and we can highly recommend it either for yourself, to plan a trip, or as a Christmas present for that rail-loving friend or member of your family.

Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide

For the 15th edition of the guide there are a number of new routes. One of which takes us from Zagreb through Serbia and Bulgaria to Thessaloniki in Greece. As befitting a book written, edited and published by strong proponents of Slow Travel, the routes are not ones where anyone is in a rush. Here’s how things get started, around Zagreb station in Croatia:

Take a look around the vicinity of the station before leaving Zagreb. The north is the posh side of the railway tracks. The distinguished Croatian writer Miroslav Krleža wrote a damning essay on social (and spatial) divides in Zagreb in 1937. To the north of the station, he found “hot water, roulette, lifts, on parle français, Europe, good!” Over on the south side of the railway there were “open cesspits, malaria… Balkan, a sorry province.” To Krleža, those quarters of Zagreb beyond the railway were “the back of beyond, Asia.” That from a left-leaning writer who was keen to shock the Zagreb bourgeoisie – all by definition residing north of the railway – out of their complacency.

Nowadays, the cesspits south of the tracks are long gone and the district between the railway and the river, while not pretty, is an edgy part of town where activists protest against real estate speculators. Even Zagreb has its rebel zone. If you incline towards more sedate cityscapes, stick to the north side of the station where the Esplanade Hotel still has uniformed bellboys and the Paviljon restaurant attracts an affluent elite who like elaborate cakes and seem not to have noticed that the Habsburg Empire disappeared a while back. Both the Esplanade and the Paviljon are visible from the front of the station. It’s also impossible to miss the statue of good old King Tomislav and his horse which arrived here in 1947 and commemorates the tenth-century monarch who is credited with having created the first coherent Croatian state. Whatever you make of Tomislav, the statue was a good way of recycling old cannons which were melted down to secure the bronze needed.

As the journey from Croatia to Greece continues, the emphasis, as with all the routes in the book, goes beyond practical information to give the reader a sense of the appeal of the journey. Here are a couple of further snapshots of the route to Thessalonki:

From Slavonia to Srem

The train to Belgrade rolls on across the dark plain to reach Tovarnik, a village which would barely warrant a stop bar for the important fact that it’s the last community in Croatia. Just over the fields lies the border with Serbia. It’s not so many years since minefields in this border region continued to pose a major danger. Today, all is calm and the border formalities, conducted at Tovarnik and at Šid on the Serbian side are invariably civil and often even good-humoured.

Beyond Šid, our train doesn’t rush. This is pleasant, undemanding country: the Sava flatlands drifting away to the southern horizon on the right side of the train, while to the left there are the distant ripples of the forested hills known as Fruška Gora. The first stop is at Sremska Mitrovica, the biggest community in Serbia’s Srem region and a relaxed riverside town which traces its history back to the Roman settlement of Sirmium. The town’s claim to be ‘the glorious mother of cities’ may raise a few eyebrows, but it’s a nice enough spot for a first taste of Serbia.

Towards the Bulgarian border

Leaving the main line at Niš, there is immediately a sense of entering another world. We’ve swapped a double-track electrified railway for a humble single-track rural line where trains are hauled by an ancient blue diesel engine which was once reserved for use on the luxury plavi voz (Blue Train) which ferried Yugoslav leader President Tito around the country. But there is no hint of luxury on the slow train to Dimitrovgrad. The railway follows the Nišava Valley up into increasingly rugged hills, along the way passing through Bela Palanka and Pirot, the latter newly raised to city status and still noted for its fine traditional woven carpets. From Pirot it is just a short hop onto Dimitrovgrad, the last station before the Bulgarian border, and a community where ethnic Bulgarians outnumber Serbs by two to one. The language spoken in this border region is Torlak, a South Slavic transitional dialect which has elements of both Serbian and Bulgarian.

Europe by Rail: The Definitive Guide is published by hidden europe publications. Alongside the guidebook, there is a dedicated website that includes regular updates and news on European rail travel. The book is available on Wordery, Amazon or via a number of different outlets, which are listed on the Europe by Rail website

Am I Alone In Dreaming Of Rubble

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By David Lewis:

I am walking through a blunt triangle of empty terraced streets, dominated by a long low red brick church, closed and boarded up; a hole in the boards allows local children to once again play in the church porch.  It is starting to get dark.

Twenty years ago, in a period of deep, isolated research, I began to have dreams about Liverpool.  I was studying the city’s churches, curious about how they define the city; how their spires contribute to the roofline, how their architecture dominates a street, how the city is changed on the date of their demolition.  I worked alone, spending weeks in the city’s Records Office poring over memoirs and old street plans.   Days were spent immersed in the stark and beautiful photographs of Liverpool in its Victorian prime, and in the dark and destructive 1960s when many of the city’s older churches were demolished.  I took many long journeys to find the sooty, bruised survivors, only to discover that this destruction was ongoing.  In some cases I arrived only days after the final clearance, to a raw slash in the urban landscape, a sense of wounded stone and dust settling.  I began to see all buildings as temporary, as part of a rolling history of the fabric of the city.  Lines began to blur. 

And I started to dream.  Carl Jung famously dreamed of the city; mine were more prosaic. They have always been short and in black and white, and fall into two categories.  In the first, I can see small details of the city - street corners, ruined walls, unnamed streets reduced to fields of rubble.  Some districts appear time and again; Edge Hill, Toxteth, Netherfield Road, places that have been in a radical process of decay and regeneration since the 1960s. I started to record the dreams as accurately as I could, in a staccato, notebook style.  Sometimes they help me remember more detail; in other cases they are all that is left of the dream. 

Unknown derelict dockland streets, ironwork, weeds, tall closed warehouses.  A steep cobbled street called St George’s Place, behind a railway station. Early morning. 

The dreams were fuelled by the photographs, but I came to realise that they were also reviving memories.  The Liverpool of my childhood was a city partly in ruins, and blitz-memories were still strong.  Older people talked of evacuation to north Wales, of nights in air-raid shelters, of bombers over the city.  The destruction continued after the war, when in a spurt of self-loathing the city demolished with a frenzy, and on car journeys to visit relatives in the northern reaches of the city I saw miles of cleared terraced streets.  In those days all gaps in the landscape were known as ‘bommies’, a word which meant bomb sites but also bonfires; urban folk memory overlapped urban function.  I had a recurring dream of a large square black building in the middle of a demolished city, a composite view of the boarded-up churches and barely-open pubs I saw on the disappearing streets of north Liverpool. 

In the other dreams, I see residential areas associated with my grandfather’s family.  Vincent Lewis was born in 1904, and grew up surrounded by family in the working-class streets of Liverpool 8.   As a child I knew many of the streets with family connections, and as an adult it was these places that began to appear in different dreams; sometimes in ruins, sometimes full of people, sometimes just streets of alleyways and tall brick walls. 

Cockburn Street in the early morning.  There are no cars and the street is deserted but I can see down another cleared street to the Mersey below me, gleaming silver.  Tall walls behind me. 

I came to realise that all these dreams, these blurrings of old photograph and old memory, are a creative response to the demolition of my grandfather’s city.  The books I have written on Liverpool are an attempt to understand and articulate the Victorian city that is gradually disappearing.  Yet the pace of urban evolution is so quick that one day all our familiar places will have gone or been radically changed and everyday memories, however commonplace, will have become history.  I still walk the vulnerable city as often as I can, exploring and recording amputated streets, stretches of cobble and redundant warehouses.  Often after these long walks I dream once more of the city in ruins, feeling now that our rubble dreams tell us more than we know.      

David Lewis has written five books of history/landscape/psychogeography about his native Liverpool and Merseyside.  He posts urban/rural images on Instagram - davidlewis4168 and mutters about the world on Twitter - @dlewiswriter

Mount Koya: Beware of Bears

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By Pete Martin:

I stop at Karukayado (the Hall of Karukaya). The Karukaya is a story of a boy called Ishidomaru who came to Koya-san in order to meet his father. The boy met a monk, who was in fact his father, but, as the monk had renounced his past life for priesthood, he told the boy that his father had died and sent him back to his mother at one of the inns at the edge of the mountain. (At this time, women were not allowed to enter Koya-san and so seven temples were built on the periphery for women). Ishidomaru found his mother dead at the inn and so returned to study under the monk, never knowing the monk was his father. The hall is now preserved as a hermitage where father and son practiced asceticism together for over forty years. I walk along the corridor of the hall that houses the shrine and follow the paintings on the wall that depict the story.

In the centre of Koya-san is the Kongobuji and Danjo Garan complex. The Kongobuji is the head temple of Koya-san Shingon Buddhism. The temple comprises two temples that were combined together in 1869. It has a feel of history and tradition in its plain, ancient wooden features. It was in the willow room of the Kongobuji that Toyotomi Hidetsugu, the nephew and retainer of the great Toyotomi Hideyoshi, committed seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) after being accused of plotting a coup.

The complex opens up further with the old, dark wooden Fudodo on the left sitting prettily in front of a lake. This is the oldest existent building in Koya-san built in 1197. Opposite is the magnificent towering red Daito (Great Pagoda). Kobo Daishi planned the Daito as the centre of the monastery. The original construction began in 816 and was completed seventy years later. The forty-nine metre high red pagoda that is here now had to be rebuilt in 1937. Inside there is a golden statue of Buddha Mahavairocana.

This area is spectacular. The ground is covered with snow or, where it has melted, with wet orangey-brown gravel. Beyond the Daito are more sacred buildings, including the Meido (Portrait Hall), where it is said that Kobo Daishi had residence. This building is closed to the public and is only opened once a year, on the anniversary of the day Kobo Daishi began his long (and continuing) meditation. Inside is a portrait of Kobo Daishi painted by his disciple Shinnyo.

At Rengendani, it’s a short walk uphill to my shukubo - a temple that provides lodging. The outside of the shukubo looks like an old, traditional temple, with a rock garden and carp pond. Inside, I change into geta and am shown to my room by a monk in full robes. Inside, it’s completely modern except that there is no heating. Later, I change into my kimono and warm outer coat and I’m collected from my room by the monk for dinner. My private dining room is a small room along a cold, glass panelled corridor. The shoji on one side have simple tree paintings on them. The others are bare. The glass doors are closed and in the middle of the floor are a cushion and two red trays with cold food laid out. Beyond the glass doors, I have a view of the rock garden, now lightly lit in the dark of the evening and sprinkled with what remains of the snow. Another tray is brought in with hot food, sake and tea. I take my time to sample it all. It’s one of the best meals I have ever eaten and in one of the most amazing locations. It takes me nearly an hour to finish everything.

Just before seven o'clock in the morning, I’m lead to the older part of the temple, through the cold corridors, to the shrine room. At the back there are cushioned benches on either side of the central aisle. I sit down. Two small side rooms have hundreds of red lanterns on the ground. In the middle of the room, there’s a model of a golden pavilion in front of the altar. From the ceiling, more lanterns and pendants hang. The only light comes from several rows of lit candles. One monk sits directly in front of the altar and one monk to the side. The one to the side begins a slow chant and soon the monk at the altar begins a louder chant.

Both use various bells, chimes and cymbals to wake the Buddhas. Halfway through the chanting, one of the monks comes to me and asks me to drop three grains of rice into a bowl. The monk then returns and they chant in unison again. Without intending to, I find myself falling into a trance. I’ve been given a sheet of paper with the words to the ‘Heart Sutra for the Perfection of Wisdom’ which is written in Japanese and English. The Japanese is also spelt out phonetically in English. Amazingly, I can pick up the sounds and I’m able to chant quietly along with the two monks as they recite the sutra. Time seems to stand still.

After forty minutes or so, the morning ceremony is finished and I’m taken directly to breakfast. The rock garden looks very different in the early morning daylight. Once breakfast is done, sadly I have to leave the inn. At the stop for the bus back to Koya-san station, there’s a sign on the wall which reads: ‘Beware of Bears! Recently bears were seen at each area in Koya-san and there are so many eyewitness reports. When you go out, don't go out alone.’ I now realise why I have had the wonderful sights of Koya-san to myself.

Pete Martin’s book Revolutions: Wandering and wondering on a sabbatical year is a compelling tale of travel and change and is out now. More information can be found at www.wander2wonder.com.

The Library: Travellers in the Third Reich - The Rise of Fascism through the Eyes of Everyday People, by Julia Boyd

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Read by Marcel Krueger:

I strayed by mistake into a room full of S.S. officers, Gruppen- and Sturmbannführers, black from their lightning-flash-collars to the forest of tall boots underneath the table. The window embrasure was piled high with their skull-and-crossbones caps.
- Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts

In 1934, 18-year old Patrick Leigh Fermor walked on foot from Holland to Constantinople, which also meant that he had to cross Nazi Germany. But of contemporary political events he records little in his classic work of travel writing, 'A Time of Gifts'. Instead, the youngster is most fascinated by the palpable history in the Gothic old towns of Germany, the still-feudal society structures outside of towns, and the odd tipple. Besides a pub chat about Herr Hitler now and then, no one seems to be interested in engaging the youngster in political talk or even convince him to join their side.

Two years later, in April 1936, a group of English students between 12 and 14 years of age along with their teacher hiked up Schauinsland, a mountain in the Black Forest, a challenging hike even when undertaken in favourable conditions. Just short of the summit, the group - inadequately equipped and clothed - was engulfed in a blizzard, and severely lost. Hours later, some of the boys made it to a nearby village, from where a search party set off to rescue the scattered group from storm and darkness. By that time, four of the group of 27 were already frozen to death or had died from exhaustion. This tragic event became locally known as the Engländerunglück, literally ‘The Englishmen’s calamity’.

The Nazi propaganda machine now went into overdrive. The dead were laid out with all possible honours, the surviving members of the group pampered and feted by the local Hitler Youth, and all reports about the rescue effort suddenly credited the Hitler Youth itself with helping in the rescue. In 1938, in memory of this event, local authorities even erected a memorial for the deceased English students, with the inscription “The youth of Adolf Hitler honours the memory of these English sporting comrades with this memorial.”

These two events, the travails of an unperturbed vagabond and the tail of doomed yet innocent youngsters exploited by Nazi propaganda, are perfect examples of how visitors from the anglophone experienced holidays in Germany between 1933 and 1939. Few specifically came to see how the new Nazi state remodelled society, many came for steins full of beer, castles, deep forests and cheap accommodation. In 'Travellers in the Third Reich', Julia Boyd provides an excellent overview of the types of visitors that came to Nazi Germany before war erupted, by weaving many sources and eyewitness accounts together.

Boyd's travelogues do not begin with Hitler's rise to power, but instead record views and statements of tourists and visitors right from the end of World War 1 and the birth complications of the Weimar Republic. From there on it chronologically follows the developments in Germany up until August 1939. The 21 chapters are arrayed both chronologically and topically - there is 'Old Soldiers' about visiting veterans, 'Hitler's Games' about the Olympic Games 1936, and visitors being increasingly confronted with the growing anti-semitism in '"Peace" and Shattered Glass' in the wake of the Munich Agreement and the Kristallnacht 1938.

From an impressive array of sources, Boyd summons professional soldiers, diplomats, school children, Chinese students, pilots, nurses and 'it' girls from London that recorded their personal impression of Germany under Hitler. Among these witnessed we increasingly find resistance fighters (and those to become one), English families faced with Jewish refugees for the first time, and also Nazi sympathizers like Unity Valkyrie Mitford, of whom Boyd writes:

The story of Unity - the fifth of Lord and Lady Redesdale's famous brood of seven - is that of an unhappy, not particularly bright young woman finding glamour and purpose in a cult religion. She might have become prey to any number of eccentric beliefs or deities but unfortunately for her, and those around her, she fell for the Führer.

Whereas often the view towards Nazi Germany pre-1939 is dominated by the events playing out and being recorded in Berlin, Boyd's book is nicely balanced, presenting quotes from all over the German Reich and Austria. Student Joan Wakefield, for example, recorded an encounter from Upper Silesia on the border with Czechoslovakia in 1938:

On the road back to Rauden, they met 'hundreds' of tanks and lorries filled with soldiers. 'All a bit terrifying,' commented Joan. But anxiety melted away as she was absorbed once again into the daily pattern of riding, swimming in cold forest pools, parties, practical jokes and the inevitable tennis.

'Travellers in the Third Reich' is a hefty tome in hardcover, and surely nothing for the beach. But all the different sources and viewpoints are neatly weaved together and I almost devoured the book, eager to learn more about the many protagonists - and if the reader gets lost in all those fellow travelers, there's a handy dramatis personae at the end of the book; which also comes with a fine cover imitating a 1930s tourists add by kid-ethic.com, as well as maps and black-and-white images.  

Two things stand out: the widespread anti-semitism that prevailed also in the anglophone world before the 2nd World War, and how naive many of the visitors are when faced with obvious propaganda or even criminal machinations they witnessed. This is an important and nuanced book, one that shows that not all the people from future Allied countries perceived Nazi Germany as dangerous, and that a feeling of goodwill was quite strong especially in Britain in those years. And it shows that something we, in hindsight, might call dark tourism was not so dark for those undertaking it, as long as the streets were clean and the beer was flowing.  

Paddy Fermor made it to Istanbul, and spent the remainder of the 30s in southern Europe and Greece; only to be called back to England to join the army in 1939. Because of his knowledge of the area he became a Special Operations Executive and parachuted into Crete, where he became one of the few Englishmen aiding the local resistance fighters, famously capturing German general Kreipe in 1944.

The pupils from Strand School never returned to Germany; the father of one of the victims, Jack Eaton, led a futile legal battle against the failings of their guardian teacher, and in the end erected a private memorial to his lost child, one that was not utilised by the Hitler Youth - maybe because the story behind it was too personal, unusable for any propaganda effort.

Nazi Germany affected them all, in one or another. In her afterword, Boyd underlines the fact that the 12 years of Nazi Germany are not only still an endlessly fascinating period of time; but that these days it is imperative to look at the reasons for the rise of the Nazis and what it means for us today, still.

More than eight decades after Hitler became chancellor we are still haunted by the Nazis. It is right that we should be.

About the book:
Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People (2017) by Julia Boyd is published by Elliott & Thompson. Support your local bookshop!

About the reviewer:
Marcel is the books editor of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place and author of Babushka’s Journey: The Dark Road to Stalin’s Wartime Camps. This November, Marcel is launching the books with a series of events in Berlin, Dublin, Belfast, Dundalk and Solingen. You can find details of Marcel’s book tour here.

Letter to a Stranger

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By Shawna Bethell:

The thing I didn’t tell you was that I met your brother on the ferry. He was looking for you. Your father wanted you home. To this moment, I’ve never told anyone that I met either of you. I felt it would be a betrayal of sorts, though I didn’t even know your names. But I knew your stories, two parts of a whole, none of us expecting I would cross both your paths. Yet I did, within a half-dozen hours or so. Harris is a small island, after all.

I was sitting alone on deck watching grey waters when your brother approached and asked to sit. Together we watched sleek arch-backed porpoises rise and fall as they swam alongside the ferry. We watched a low sweep of rock appear in the distance, growing until it became an island large enough for a port, a village and a road up the coast that would cross a narrow isthmus to another stretch of gneiss known as the Isle of Lewis.

Eventually, he started talking. Told me more than he probably should have about your family, but he spoke with earnestness, and I couldn’t help but listen. He had tracked you to that slab of stone sprawling in the distance and hoped you were still there. In time, we disembarked and as I walked away, he asked me to dinner. I declined and wound my way up the hill, unknowingly, to you.

It was later that evening, in a hostel full of travelers, when our paths crossed. I was rummaging in the kitchen when you came in and I asked you where to find a knife for my vegetables. You were a large man, with long blonde hair bound back by a leather cord and gold wire-rimmed glasses that framed blue eyes. From the leather sheath on your hip you pulled that gracefully thin filet blade with a round wooden handle and passed it to me. I still remember how caught I was by its elegance. Casually, you also opened the cupboard and offered spices from your cache saying I’d likely not find anything but salt and pepper in the communal kitchen. Then you quietly paced the cramped space, crowded with washer and dryer and Formica table, while I sliced in silence. When I returned the knife, you left.

That night, as a woman from Skye cranked open the window above our bunk and slept comforted by familiar cold air blowing in from the sea, I was left sleepless by the same damp chill, so I took my laundry back to the warm kitchen, made a cup of tea and sat down with my journal.

I hadn’t realized any one else was around when you walked in from the TV room and spoke. As before, you paced the perimeter of the room past the washer and dryer, along the counter and back before pulling out the chair across from me to sit.

You said you were from Finland and had worked a lucrative desk job as expected by your father until a few months before. Then, with no word to anyone, you left. You landed on the island and hired on at a fish cannery off the rocky shore. You said you liked the physical labor, liked the men you worked with. You said you weren’t planning to stay on the island, but had no plans to go back either. 

We talked a lot about family and expectations. I told you about the Midwestern United States, where people were rooted by generations of family loyalty, a pull so strong that I felt my choices in life were abdicated before I was old enough to know I had choices to make. I loved my family, but when I finally left the Midwest, it was with a sense of escape. I landed in a mountain town in the western U.S. populated with out-of-work miners, scientists, artists and travelers. It was a place where people accepted you as the person you presented yourself to be, and it was where I gained the freedom to be the writer I wanted to become.

In the dark early hours of morning, you put on your jacket and went outside, cigarette in hand, and through the window I watched the orange tip burn as you paced the walk out front. Shortly you returned, explaining you had to catch the ferry for work in only a few hours and needed to get some sleep. I don’t remember that we even shared a ‘good-bye.’ You just walked away through the drafty, concrete-block hallway, and I was left to pull my clothes from the dryer and stuff them into my pack. Then I followed the hallway to my own side of the dorm where I fell easily and unexpectedly to sleep.

By daylight you were gone and I caught a ride north, jotting a quick ‘thank you’ and tucking it into your spice cache before I left. We never did exchange names. It didn’t seem necessary, I guess. But I still think of you, and I wonder if your brother ever found you. I wonder if you ever went home. I did, eventually. For better or for worse. Sometimes, I’m still not certain. But that strange triumvirate of love, loyalty and obligation will call even the most wayward of us back.

Wherever you ended up, I hope you went there by choice and without regret. I hope you found the life you wanted. I wonder, though, if you ever knew, if either of you ever knew, if you ever talked about that woman you both happened upon, who carried two men’s stories back out to sea.

Shawna Bethell lives in the central Midwest of the US. Her work has appeared in the Denver Post, The Mountain Gazette, High Desert Journal, and This Land Magazine among other publications.

Standing on a windy corner of Ku'damm in Autumn

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By Emily Richards:

It is six o'clock in the evening and I am waiting for a bus because I chose to miss the last one. Here at Olivaer Platz in Berlin, as the people run out of their offices to jump on buses, speed across lanes in their shiny black BMWs, or swerve on their bikes through traffic in their anxiety to be home, I am unable to move, mesmerised by this autumn evening.  I have passed through this place, one of the busiest in Berlin, at different times and for different reasons for twenty-five years now. Once it was strange to me. Then, it was home. Now it is strange again.

It is not yet dark but there is a haze upon the air, and some of the street-lamps are already glowing silvery-bright. The autumn light turns from gold to a translucent pallor, tinged with the colours of the red, gold and brown leaves swirling in the wind. The flowers on the corner of the Platz, planted in a gesture of beauty amidst noisy traffic, still grow in green profusion, though a dimness is settling over them as evening falls. They are the first to lose their outlines in the twilight; the first to be overlooked as our faces turn towards clocks, mobile phones, LED displays to see if it's hometime yet, so that the longing which has built in us all day can be released like the tension on a trigger.

But I won't be going home just yet. I'm kept here almost against my will by the fading light, by the faces of Berlin that pass me by one by one and look at me for longer than English faces would, on this evening, two days after the general election. In the election, a radical right-wing party gained over a quarter of the vote in parts of Germany, and thirteen percent overall. I look at each person who walks, ambles or hurries past, and their faces look different to me.

I never noticed how misshapen and worn a human face can look. Sagging skin, stooped shoulders, a grimacing mouth; orange blusher scarring the too-pale face of a middle-aged woman who plunges in uncomfortably high shoes to her next appointment. Her head's skewed around awkwardly to pin her mobile phone to her shoulder as she talks into it, gesturing vaguely, staring at nothing. A tall, elderly woman with thinning brown hair and feet too plump for her old black shoes walks as stiffly as if on stilts, slowly raising each foot high above the pavement before grinding it back down. A younger woman with half-shaved head, dressed entirely in black with wide Cossack-style trousers and Russian boots, walks boldly past, but her clothes are dusty, nearly grey in places. A young man ambles in front of me, dark hair closely gelled to his scalp, eyes glued on the tightly-clad bottom of the young, hard-faced woman ahead of him, whose heavy gait is disconcertingly masculine for someone with such a bleached-blonde ponytail and such conventional make-up. Her double chin sags and the lines around her eyes crease as she swings her head round, shouting into her phone. An old man – but surely he's not much older than I am! – with a loose mouth, a white fringe of hair and a red nose stands for minutes in front of a rubbish bin, staring into it, looking for bottles he can take away and turn into money; then he looks around swiftly, bends to the ground and snatches up a fag-end before swinging away, arms flopping wide and uncontrolled in his badly-fitting beige jacket.

There is a sense of dissolution in the air.

The summer dissolves; the outline of the Ku'damm, of its buildings, buses, lamp-posts and cars, seems to dissolve in the haze of this autumn evening, in the rustle and whisper of the leaves moved by the wind. Before my eyes, the safety I once found here dissolves too. The reassuring, orderly security of these middle-class Germans loses its outline in the dusk, their aspirational Wirtschaftswunderland revealing itself as the illusion I should have known it to be. I did know it, really. But the shared illusion was a comfort, and, as such, transcended its own illusory nature to demonstrate its greater truth: that security, beauty and order all matter, and that those who are denied them or have lost them or mistrust them will turn to more dangerous illusions of their own; for example, that rejecting everything outside your own culture and experience will keep you safe. In this way they remove safety for everyone, not least themselves. For what if one day their fellow voters turn to them and say, "But you had a foreign grandparent did you not? You were once kind to a refugee, we hear." Then you too will be cast out. This is what happens. But by then you'll have done your damage, and it will be too late to be sorry.

Yet nonetheless, on this autumn evening, the wind whispers to me that something is stirring, something is afoot, something is changing. And I prefer this in the end. I prefer it, though I don't know what it is, what it will demand of me, what it will do to me.

And now here is my bus. And like all Berliners I might be foolish enough to miss a bus once, but I won't miss it twice. For who knows when the next one will arrive? Who knows when I'll be home.

You can read more from Emily on her blogs The Castle Captures Me and Boring in Berlin.

Printed Matters: The Line Between Two Towns

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We are really excited about this place-related project from our friend and Elsewhere contributor Laura HarkerThe Line Between Two Towns is a new zine that explored the Esk Valley line between Middlesborough and Whitby in northern England, bringing together writers, poets, artists and photographers who have all been inspired by the different destinations on the line between the two towns. Here is Laura's introduction to the zine, and you can order your copy online here.

The idea behind this zine came from wanting to explore the differences between Whitby and Middlesbrough, and all the unique nuances and cultures that set them apart from one another. Though there are such stark differences between the two towns, there is still one thing that brings them together: the Esk Valley Railway.

It clocks in at only 36 miles long, but the Middlesbrough and Whitby line was once part of a larger network of railways that covered the area until many lines were closed after Dr. Beeching’s cuts. Thankfully, the line remained open due to its popularity. Originally intended to serve the mines and quarries across the region, the Esk Valley line quickly became a hit with Teessiders who realised that it placed the North Yorkshire seaside just over an hour away.

Over the past few decades, the area’s industry has disappeared, Brits have set their sights on sunny European beaches, and the line is now rarely busy except for Bank Holiday weekends. But it continues to be an important lifeline for many in the villages it passes through, connecting them to Middlesbrough and Whitby.

I was born in Middlesbrough but we moved to Glaisdale, just outside Whitby, when I was 11. Carefully picked up from my urban childhood, I was transplanted to the countryside where most other kids were members of the Young Farmers and thought my Boro accent came from Ireland. Even though my childhood so far had been spent less than 30 miles from Whitby, I realised there was a large gulf between these two locations – industrially, culturally and aesthetically.

This isn’t something that bothered me that much until I moved to Berlin and I was constantly asked the same question: Where are you from? When Germans and other non-Brits asked, the answer was easy – I went with North Yorkshire. But when Brits asked, expecting a more specific pinpoint for their mental map, I couldn’t bring myself to give just one answer.

I couldn’t just say Whitby and ignore Middlesbrough or that would be turning my back on my first decade, family ties, and roots as a Teessider. But I couldn’t simply say Middlesbrough, as I’d spent 15 years on the moors by this point. My Boro accent is long gone and my Middlesbrough geography gets hazy whenever I step off Linthorpe Road in the centre of town – I can’t quite stomach saying I’m a true Teessider. And so I thought about writing a personal essay on this identity crisis and the towns that sparked it, using the Esk Valley Railway to bind it all together. When I realised there was just too much for me to say, I decided to make this zine and open it up to submissions to try and create something of a printed tapestry of the area.

The zine includes works from local writers, poets, artists and photographers, all of which have been inspired by stops along the line. Threading together their work along the context of the Esk Valley Line, I wanted the zine to explore the cultural and landscape shifts that can be found taking this particular train journey, from starting in Middlesbrough surrounded by tired factories and ending in Whitby just steps from the beach. And it might actually help me figure out what to say whenever someone asks me where I’m from.

The shingle beach, Crosby

All Images: Chris Hughes

All Images: Chris Hughes

About a month ago we published the essay The War Memorial in the Sea by David Lewis. As always, we love to hear what people think about the work we publish both here on the blog and in the print journal, and we are especially pleased when it inspires as moving a response as this, from a long-time friend of Elsewhere, Chris Hughes:

Following on from David Lewis’s fascinating piece about the architectural rubble spread on the beach north of Crosby promenade after the clearance of bomb damaged houses and major public buildings in Liverpool and Bootle at the end of the Second World War I send you these photographs taken a couple of years ago on the beach just south of the shingle. Like David I have tramped across the shingle to find the remnants of the large buildings of Liverpool destroyed in the bombing and once found wonder in imagining which of the buildings a remnant comes from. Looking at the photographs from the time, and to see the sheer scale of the destruction, it is doubtful that even the most brilliant architectural historian could identify the pieces; it’s enough to find them and marvel that their presence is still here.

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But what of the bricks, thousands, probably millions of bricks, half bricks and the grainy rubble that was once a brick that lie scattered along the beach, some still resembling the cuboid they once were, others pummelled by the tide over and over again to become a rounded pebble? What a range of colour and texture is here considering that all were created from the clay of the local area and the North Wales brick works.

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Following the death of a good friend who was also a lover of stones, shells and drift wood, we were asked to bring a stone to the funeral from our own area and a cairn would be built of these stones as a symbol of our love and friendship. There are no natural pebble beaches on the Sefton coast; it’s all sand, so it was here, to Crosby shingle beach I came to select two very different rounded remnants of bricks to add to the cairn. And very good they looked too, bright red and orange among the predominantly grey and white stones from other parts of the country that were piled up along with them.

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On a very windy day in February 2015 we went to walk among Anthony Gormley’s cast iron men on Crosby beach and I saw the way that the wind had carved out the patterns on the sand, blowing away the smaller grains, leaving the heavier stones and shells each with a tail of sand in the lee of the gale. The larger pieces, almost whole bricks, ended up isolated in little pools of water; a tiny moat around the brick castle. I started to look for the different colours in the bricks, the reds and browns, oranges and yellows, but also the blue and black. Was this a different band of clay? Was it crushed shale or even clinker from the iron furnaces of the day? I’ll probably never know but the colours will always remain in the bricks of the Crosby shingle beach.

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Moor-haunting

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By Elizabeth Wainwright:

I moved back to a place that I know; it tugged me in my sleep, seeped into my blood like wine and desire. Suddenly I am on Dartmoor, feeling myself dissolve into its shifting mist and separate from my body – like long ago when I was someone I am not, and being under the influence, I drifted away from myself when I hadn’t chosen to. But this time I choose to wander away from myself: not sure whether I am an individual or part of the churning mass of life.

I have become fixated by hares, those mythical and elusive creatures. Search them in spring, and if you’re lucky (I haven’t been so far), you’ll witness the ‘mad march hare’ boxing antics; elegant creatures transformed into tall, aggressive dancers; each one Odette and Odile, black and white swan, fighting for courtship rights. This time I hear them snorting nearby, calling the approaching solstice into being like a spell.

I’ve taken shortcuts that were the long way round. I’ve opted for easy routes that were the boggy, marshy, slow routes. I should know better. But Dartmoor is an ancient cauldron of reason and desire; and I am learning that I gain less from a level-headed caution than I do from imagination and intuition (whilst all the while feeling the edge of my compass in my pocket, safe in the knowledge that someone knows where I am). A stones-throw away in Exeter, where I live, I enjoy wandering and observing life in the city – as Virginia Woolf called it, ‘Street Haunting’. On Dartmoor, I do the altogether more consuming, wide-open-space version; I become a moor-haunter, a Gore-Texed Artemis, roaming; sometimes searching, sometimes found.

Joseph Campbell said, “What the myths are for is to bring us into a level of consciousness that is spiritual.” Dartmoor is a place in Devon, but more than that, it is a myth. It strips me of any role, any context, any time, and takes me into the place behind the pause button. It is here I have heard God and myself. Where I’ve reacted to and interacted with nature. It’s here I’ve doubted myself, and then felt the most ecstatic, frenzied, deep but momentary understanding of absolutely everything. And also where I’ve simply watched a sunrise with a quieted mind and mug of tea.

Once, I saw the carcass of a dead moor pony and I stopped to look. It clutched a foal, half-born. Half in the world and half hidden. Dead before it was alive. The foal wouldn’t get to stagger on lanky legs; hunker down in winter snow; doze in a summer haze to the amusement of passing tourists. Dartmoor is barren, heartbreaking. But it is not cruel. It would rise up to meet the death with soft grazed pale grass, and with it, feed worms, ravens, plants. Nothing mourned, but nothing wasted either. Suffering without cruelty. We’re terrified of our own mortality – especially in the age of the self. But perhaps that pony had no sense of itself as a separate being. It was always connected to all the other creatures on the moor.  “The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction”, but these are not horses of instruction – they are wild and free, hardy and intuitive. Theirs is a third way inbetween Blake’s aphorism; inbetween wrath and instruction, desire and reason. I see myself there, feel it on Dartmoor – theirs is the here and now, the mysterious kingdom come, on Earth. Not fierce uncultivated energy, and not mindless robotic being either. Rather, free to roam and to congregate, to sense and respond.  

I flinch when someone asks a question to which I must respond by saying ‘I like walking on the moor’. It feels like Peter’s denial before the rooster crows, claiming I never knew it. I feel Dartmoor glance at me, granite eyebrow raised, hurt. I do like walking on the moor, but that’s the method, not the purpose. For me it is no hobby. It is essential, like touch, and I like to think it is essential for Dartmoor too. Because we need people who are happy to get lost and get found again; to sit on a rock and all-at-once smile and weep at the grandeur and beauty of a sight that contains scale and possibility; colour and tiny miracles; music. Not a ‘nice view’ that we do not really see, but rather a roaring, existence-shaking singularity where all that ever has and ever will exist is here in this one moment, and it’s all the more heightened because for some reason we get to experience it but the dead foal never will. We need to tap into the soul-aligned ecstasy of being out in non-human nature (rather than mind-aligned ‘pleasure’) because when that joy takes root and turns into astonishment, deep connection, essence, and understanding, it becomes so infinite that one person can’t possibly contain it and so all we’re able to do is give it away, maybe to a neighbour or a child, or to the world. We become protective of it; we lovingly work in a garden, or furiously work on the global sustainability agenda (knowing that ‘sustain’ is a pale shadow of what we really feel or want).

But it all starts with a place, a call of the wild, a call of the divine. And for me that place is Dartmoor – its purple heather that fills lines of folk songs; its yellow summer gorse that in winter, yellowless, shelters sheep; its gentle springs that swell into churning white water; its storied tors and ancient bronze-age traces; its space and howling peace; its smells and shape-shifting light and weather and mood.

Dartmoor is a grazed, razed, bleak and beautiful place. No, it’s more than a place – it’s an experience. But it reclaims the idea of ‘experience’ from those companies that two-dimensionally offer ‘great customer experience’ or a ‘really wild experience’. Dartmoor owns the real meaning of the experience – ‘to feel or undergo; observe as a source of knowledge; an event which has affected one’.

Dartmoor affects me; it reveals knowledge and wisdom that – in my broad travels –  has not disclosed itself elsewhere in quite the same way. So I will keep on moor-haunting. And if we meet, and we talk about pastimes – please know that Dartmoor is more to me than that. It is stopped time; truth-telling time; wonder-full, wild, sensual, transformative time. It is never just passed time.

About the author:

Elizabeth Wainwright is The Ecologist’s nature editor, and she co-leads the community development charity Arukah Network. She has lived, worked and travelled around the world but is now back in Devon, UK, where she is from. @LizWainwright www.elizabethjaynewainwright.com

Names of the Wind

 Photo: the Bora in full spate on the slopes of Mount Mosor, near Split, Croatia, by Nick Hunt

 Photo: the Bora in full spate on the slopes of Mount Mosor, near Split, Croatia, by Nick Hunt

We are extremely pleased and proud to welcome Nick Hunt back to the Elsewhere blog. Nick wrote a piece for us about ‘walking into the world’ in Albania a couple of years ago, and he has returned to reflect on the names of the wind… or the names of the specific winds that inspired his journeys across Europe for his new book Where the Wild Winds Are, published this month:

Every traveller knows the thrill of falling in love with a name. Some might be stirred by the name of a city: Odessa, Buenos Aires, Timbuktu. For others it may be a route through a landscape: the Silk Road, the Via Francigena, the Camino de Santiago. For me it was the names of Europe’s great seasonal winds – the Mistral, the Tramontana, the Bora, the Meltemi, the Kosava, the Foehn, the Bise, the Sirocco, the Levanter – which I saw on a map one day, invisible pathways threading across the continent, connecting regions and cultures that seemed quite separate in my mind. They sounded like things from a fairytale, invitations to a quest.

Why are some winds given names, while others remain nameless? What distinguishes one current of air molecules from another? I set out to follow four, which seemed an appropriate number for winds, drawn by the romance of their names but also intrigued by their effects; Europe’s great aeolian forces are said to influence everything from architecture to mythology to psychology. The Helm – Britain’s only named wind – blows down the western slopes of Cross Fell, the highest point of the Pennines, with enough force to destroy stone barns in the nearby Eden Valley. According to local legend the summit was formerly known as Fiends Fell, until the air-dwelling demons – whose howling caused such terror in the parishes below – were exorcised by a wandering holy man. The Helm itself takes its name from a long white cloud called the Helm Bar (a helmet for the mountain’s head) which acts as a harbinger of this freezing north-easterly. I camped for four days and nights up there, scanning the desolate moorland and waiting for the cloud to form; when it did, the demons returned to haunt me with a vengeance.

My second wind was the Bora, which led me down the Adriatic coast from Trieste in north-east Italy through Slovenia and Croatia. Fierce enough to sink ships and hurl fish from the sea, the Bora is also credited with helping defeat the last major pagan army to oppose the Christianisation of Rome – turning the arrows of the troops back towards them in the air – despite the fact that it takes its name from the pagan god Boreas, ancient Greek avatar of the cold north wind. It is celebrated for bringing good health, in stark opposition to the southerly Jugo, which muddies the sky with a yellow haze (taking its name from the Slavic word for ‘south’, this is the local variant of the many-named Sirocco, whose other appellations include the Khamsin, the Ghibli, the Sharav, the Marin, the Leveche and the Xaloc). During my three-week walk I found myself in a tug-of-war between Jugo and Bora, north and south, clear skies and humid haze. At last I met my quarry on a snow-covered mountainside above the Croatian city of Split; appropriately enough for a god, Boreas froze the blood in my veins and knocked me off my feet.

The etymology of the Foehn, which I chased across the Swiss Alps, perhaps also stems from the divine – it may derive from Favonius, the Roman god of the west wind – but locally it has earthier names: Schneefresser, ‘Snow-eater’, Maisvergolder, ‘Corn-goldener’, and Traubenkocher, ‘Grape-cooker’, in tribute to its warming effects. Associated with clear skies, sunshine and the coming of spring, it is also blamed for causing headaches, nosebleeds, insomnia, anxiety, depression and a host of other ailments; antique maps depict the Foehn as a puff-cheeked face blowing out not air, but showers of human skulls. I tracked this ill-omened force for a fortnight from one deep valley to another, acting on meteorological tip-offs and snatches of local lore, until eventually catching it in the heart of Haslital. After experiencing three days of relentless roaring heat – incongrously thundering from snow-capped summits and glaciers – I woke one morning so depressed that I could hardly move. It felt as if everything in my life had gone disastrously wrong, and it took me most of the day to understand the cause and effect. The legends and old wives’ tales were true: I had fallen victim to Föhnkrankheit, the notorious Foehn-sickness. As soon as I escaped that valley, the symptoms disappeared.

My final wind was perhaps the best-known, being something of a household name far beyond its native range: the bitter breath of the Mistral, which blows, according to superstition, for three, five, seven or nine days southwards down the Rhone Valley from Valence to the Gulf of Lion. Its name comes from the Latin magistralis, which means ‘masterly’, and it certainly dominates the land; the farmhouses in its path are built with windowless north-facing walls to protect against its blast, and lines of closely-packed cypress trees are planted as living windbreaks from east to west. Like the Bora and the Foehn, the Mistral makes a clean sweep of the sky and helps create the vibrant light that has attracted generations of painters to the south of France. But there is a price to beauty; this ‘wind of madness’ is notorious for driving people crazy. Vincent Van Gogh, who lived in its path for two years in the town of Arles – during which time he cut off his ear and committed himself to the local asylum – referred to it in his letters as ‘a nagging malice’, ‘pestering’, ‘merciless’ and ‘the devil’, even as the conditions it brought inspired some of his greatest works. I followed its trail for ten days down an ancient pilgrims’ path on the western bank of the Rhone, ending my travels on the Plain of Crau, a little-known and desolate region classified as western Europe’s only steppe. Two thousand years ago the geographer Strabo travelled there, describing ‘an impetuous and terrible wind which displaces rocks, hurls men from their chariots, breaks their limbs and strips them of their clothes and weapons’. Apart from the chariots, nothing much has changed.

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Nick Hunt’s Where the Wild Winds Are (Nicholas Brealey Publishing) was published in September 2017. Nick’s website can be found here.

End of the Line

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By Catherine Marshall:

This is a story of a rather unusual bus journey to the end of the line in Edinburgh, a discovery of an industrial museum witness to centuries of change and my own transition in moving to a new city and country.

I have always been drawn to the theme of transition both in my private life – often moving flats, cities, countries – and in my photography – which often features urban spaces undergoing change. When I first moved to Edinburgh from Germany, I had a reverse culture shock. I had to relearn a British culture that I had left behind fifteen years ago. To be honest I was happy that I had washed up in Edinburgh and not South of the border. It felt closer to Europe, the tenement-style buildings also reminded me of Berlin. As an English person, it was also nice to still feel foreign, to learn Scots phrases, hear poems read in Gaelic and learn about Scottish culture through my sons' school education. 

When it came to taking photographs and negotiating the city I was less comfortable. I almost felt that as an English person I didn't have the authority to go out there and reframe the landscape through my camera. Apart from that, I had no idea of the geography of the city and didn't know where to start. Then I came across came across (g)Host City, a kind of sound-map of Edinburgh to download where you can hear a story or a poem set in a particular location of the city. I decided to take an 'unreliable bus tour' by Japan-dwelling Scot, artist and musician, Momus. It gave me the framework (and courage) to set off to those mysterious sounding destinations on the front of buses I had seen in town: Wallyford, Ocean Terminal, Hyvot's Bank and Bonally. I cannot really describe the surreal, dark and funny tours he gave, as that is something to discover for yourself.

On one journey I wasn't sure if the bus had actually reached the end of the line. It seemed to circle back so I just decided to get off. The audio tour had ended, my google maps app was not working and suddenly I found myself off map. Two bus stops stood baldly on opposite sides of the country road, the only punctuation marks in an otherwise unreadable flat landscape. Should I go left or right or take the bus back? I decided to follow my nose. Walking down a winding B-road I saw another marker in the landscape, an exclamation mark of an industrial chimney stack. I was alone, not having seen another pedestrian since I had left the bus, and was glad to see some sign of civilisation. A pit head winding-gear came into view. As I walked closer I saw a bricked wall with tiles with illustrations of former industries; fishing, pottery, coal, and brickworks. Through serendipity I had found the Prestongrange Industrial Heritage Museum located on the north-east coast of East Lothian. For centuries this area was the centre of intense industrial activity, with a busy harbour, Morrison's Haven. Now you can just see where the harbour used to be, a rectangular outline on the grassy bank, marked with a sign on the ‘bygone years’, the sign itself nearly faded away through the erosion from the sea air. 

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At the museum I found myself donning my headphones again, this time to listen to an audio-tour of the outdoor exhibits narrated by the late artist John Bellany who grew up nearby, conjuring up, not so different from Momus, an alternative world to the one you see with your own eyes. From Bellany’s stories of Prestonpans you visualise a lost industry; the smoke billowing from the Beehive Kilns that once produced bricks for the buildings of the New Town. Or you find yourself at its mid-eighteenth century heyday with ships loaded with salt, oysters, ceramics, sulphuric acid and coal, or bringing silk, furs from Canada, whalebone and French brandy in return. In the nineteenth century, Irish workers, who first arrived in the West of Scotland, are brought with their families and their traditions to the East by new investors, Summerlee. These new owners also improved workers' conditions, installing indoor plumbing to the mining workers’ housing. Electric generators replaced the steam engines in the powerhouse and electric street lighting was brought to the area. Today the powerhouse houses art exhibitions. I was so taken with the museum, and the fact that I was free to wander with my camera making my own discoveries of an overgrown railway bridge and train tracks in the surrounding forest, that when I returned to the visitor centre the assistant said that she had been thinking of sending out a search party. 

As I left Prestonpans, walking west along the coastal path towards Musselburgh, I came across a quite alien landscape. This was not the Edinburgh that I could have imagined existed when I had set out on my 'unreliable bus tour' that morning. I had found, however, something equally strange. A vast cracked grey landscape stretched out before me towards the sea, made infinite by the fog that was closing in. These are called 'lagoons', a salubrious name for a place where Scottish Power deposited waste ash from the now closed Cockenzie power station. 

In these coastal areas, the delicate balance of man and nature is most apparent. The oysters that the Edinburgh population once enjoyed with their French Claret disappeared towards the end of the nineteenth century overfishing, new dredging methods and pollution from sewage and industrial waste. As industry disappears, nature reclaims, and also in this case offered opportunity for recreation. Bellany recounts several generations of Prestonpans children using the disused harbour as their own swimming pool after the 1930s, conveniently heated by the water dispersed from the pit boilers. Now this coastal area is a destination for walkers and bike enthusiasts. There are also plans to create a nature reserve on the site of the lagoons. Although the lagoons in themselves are dead, they have provided a sanctuary for both sea and wading birds and there are three hides for birdwatchers in the area. In the photographs I took that day, I was drawn to the themes of transition and change, nature reclaiming land itself. But I also wondered about the transitions that families had to go through in the passage of time when industries that had sustained them for so long, came to an end.  

About the author:

Catherine Marshall is an artist and writer based in Edinburgh. She studied photography at the London College of Communication and Glasgow School of Art. She has lived in different countries and cities including Berlin, which she made her home for a decade.

www.catherine-marshall.com

To Island Farm

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By Tim Cooke:

On my fourteenth birthday, I was presented with a new bike, complete with front-fork suspension, and the freedom it brought saw a change in my attitude to rules and regulations, borders and boundaries: they became less concrete. As such, the local edgelands, many of which were totally off-limits – both geographically and by parental decree – became my choice stomping grounds. In tow with the more feral and exciting of my friends, I tore through sun-baked industrial estates, ploughed headfirst into monastic woods and derelict graveyards, took up with rogue youths hanging out in car parks beneath brutalist recreation centres and explored the grounds of water treatment plants hidden on the salty flanks of wild coastal scrublands.

One of the first of these potent and dynamic – but often, at a glance, unremarkable – landscapes that demanded our attention was the old POW camp at Island Farm. A close friend of mine, who lived around the corner and introduced me to Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, second-wave punk music and Camel cigarettes, had visited with an older schoolmate and returned with beguiling tales of BMX tracks, booze and beautiful girls. It was a daunting prospect, particularly because this strange zone had attached to it many dark and mysterious mythologies that served to keep us clear – not least those concerning satanic rituals and predatory criminals. I’d lived less than half a mile from the site for fourteen years but had never before set foot on its hallowed ground. It was daunting, yes, but compelling, too.

It was midsummer and the sun was hot and high in the sky when the boys called at my door. We’d crossed the large, somewhat monstrous, graffitied sewage pipe in the field behind my house – over the River Ogmore and into Bluebells Woods – every day for the previous week and we needed somewhere new to explore and claim as our own. I fetched my bike from the padlocked shed in the back garden and we set off in single file. The road emanated that warm stench of scorched tarmac, released by a light morning shower that had failed to clear the thick humidity, and the beech trees sizzled with birdsong; we waved to our smiling neighbours, who had known two of us since birth, as we passed.

We rounded a blind bend at reckless speed, forcing the still air into a gentle flurry, and arrived at a treacherous junction that bled onto the A48, a fairly busy dual carriageway separating the town’s southern-most suburb from its surrounding countryside. This is still the point at which the suburban realm leaks into rural territory. The cars whooshed by one after another – red, yellow, black and blue – and we pedalled across to an inlet from where we could join a narrow track into a profusion of slim tress and overgrown shrubbery. A sign warned that trespassers would be prosecuted; we all turned our heads, hocked back our best phlegm and spat at it with embarrassing vigour.

I recall the journey up until this point with surprising clarity, but the next portion has slipped entirely from my mind, the topography obscured by a dark mist that simply won’t shift. I’ve created the right conditions: I’m sat in front of a window at the top of a hill, looking out onto the Black Mountains, the only noise is that of the tits, chaffinches and siskins pecking at the birdfeeder in the garden. I have a copy of an article I recently wrote, detailing some of the camp’s many fragmented histories via a walk I undertook earlier this year – in search of the one remaining hut that contained the prisoners – but still the memory refuses to take any discernible form. I do, however, remember that incomparable feeling of anticipation, a kind of excitement only teenagers on the cusp of something brand new can feel.

We must have weaved our way around the labyrinthine system of footpaths, tearing clouds of dust from the dry earth with our wheels, perhaps stopping momentarily to fill our mouths with sour blackberries, before emerging onto a wide expanse of grey land with no apparent purpose. When I revisited this spot a few months ago, it gave off an eerie sense of transition, as if something was happening. There were wooden stumps hammered into the soil, with rubber boots placed on top to serve as weird markers of some kind. Drinks cans hung from painted trees. Felled wood peppered the terrain and two sets of tattered blue overalls were cast nonchalantly over a stump, an empty bottle of homemade wine or cider resting in the crook of a nearby branch. It was ugly and beautiful, the same but different.

I imagine as youngsters we would have dragged our bikes in rapid, imperfect circles around this nondescript plot of pallid ground, unaware that we were riding on rubble formed during the destruction of nineteen of the twenty units that once constituted the POW camp; the debris was supposed to extend a runway at Cardiff Airport, but it was scattered instead to level the uneven surface. Grass has since grown over it in wild tufts that suit the landscape like an untamed hairstyle.

This is where it comes back to me: we dismounted under a cover of oak-tree foliage and wheeled our bikes along yet another passage surrounded by tight knots of bracken and bramble. First from below and then suddenly above the chirruping birdsong came the aggressive conversation and trigger-happy laughter of adolescents eager to prove something and impress, some relishing the challenge. We swept clear the final twigs and leaves and arrived at a sort of amphitheatre – a dome cut into the topsoil and layered with improvised obstacles to make a gnarly cycle track. Around its circumference were strewn three or four groups of boys and girls, smoking, drinking and flirting.

The air surrounding this congregation was hot and hormonal and laced with pollen. I scanned the faces for any I knew and spotted that of a lad I’d met in the schoolyard after hours, described to me by a friend as one of the best skaters in town. Today he was on a BMX, throwing himself at the final ramp, which was composed of a dented white washing machine turned on its side and a heavy layer of turf thrown over the top. He skidded to a halt at the foot of the banking we were descending and raised his chin: “Alright, boys?” We nodded in return and the chatter that had suddenly dissipated resumed.

For the next half-hour or so we sat alone about five metres from three girls I recognised from the year above. I knew one of them as mouthy and popular, prone to hurling abuse at unsuspecting victims she passed on the path between lessons, while the other two were, as far as I was concerned, beautiful and unobtainable. It was about this age that something chemical had rendered me incapable of talking to anyone I found attractive. The idea of spending any length of time in the company of good-looking older girls was totally outrageous, but before I knew it we were in a circle, sharing Super King cigarettes and swallowing gulps of cheap cider from a plastic flagon. I hardly said a word, which didn’t matter, because they carried me along with their jokes and small talk; it was bliss.

The rest of that first visit remains mainly as a kind of montage, or mosaic. I recall my longing for the brown-haired girl with faint freckles and braces on her teeth. The disproportionate ache I felt then makes me think now of the artwork produced by the prisoners once held at the camp: images of scantily-clad women – wives and girlfriends left behind, perhaps never to be seen again other than as memory-traces scratched into prefabricated concrete. I recollect, too, tumbling from the top of the repurposed washing machine, the pain that dug into my groin on impact and crawled into my stomach. Then there were the feelings of belonging and community that would stick with me right through my years on the darker edges of town.

Finally, we arrived at the far end of the zone and smoked in the shade of Hut 9, from which seventy prisoners escaped in November 1945 by tunnelling into an adjacent field. All of them were recaptured and later dispersed around the world, but I’ve no doubt their ghosts returned from wherever they perished – this landscape needs them somehow. The structure itself, its weathered brickwork and boarded-up windows, meant little to me then – I would even scrawl my name on the wall, adding inadvertently to the tangible palimpsest this site also requires. It feels now, divorced from any official history, like a monument to a significant moment in my life. Strangely, I can’t recall a single journey back from Island Farm, only getting there, staying awhile and, eventually, moving on.

About the author:

Tim Cooke is a teacher and freelance journalist. He writes about film, literature and place for various publications, including the GuardianLittle White Lies, the Quietus, Ernest Journal, the Nightwatchman and the Hackney Citizen. His creative work has appeared in the Lampeter Review, Drain Magazine, Foxhole Magazine, Stepz, Particulations and Litro Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @cooketim2

Five Questions for... Mitch Karunaratne

Image: Mitch Karunaratne

Image: Mitch Karunaratne

For our series of interviews with contributors and friends of Elsewhere, we caught up with documentary landscape photographer Mitch Karunaratne. Mitch's wonderful photo essay 'The Land of Maybe' from the Faroe Islands appeared in Elsewhere No.05, the most recent edition of the journal and available via our online shop here.

What does home mean to you?

Home grounds me, keeps me energised and focused. It’s my memory box.

Where is your favourite place?

I’ve always been drawn to water. I was born on a small island in the Thames Estuary and the connection to water flows through my soul. Whether it’s the canal running through the Olympic Park or the view of Tilbury Dock from the roof of Thurrock Nature Park – all my favourite places are in liquid form!

What is beyond your front door?

Ted. He’s lived on the street for over 60 years, moved in as a newlywed, raised his family and now looks after the street. Rising at 5am, he delivers the papers, takes in everyone’s parcels and packages, feeds the cats and looks out for us all.

What place would you most like to visit?

At the moment, I’m feeling the drawn of lands close to home. I’d love to look down from the peaks of Snowdon or Ben Nevis – but would definitely struggle going up!

What are you reading right now?

The Moth Snowstorm by Michael McCarthy - This book crept up on me really slowly. McCarthy writes well about the personal and the political - in ways that leave room for the reader to insert themselves. But as it developed I became more and more quietly drawn into understanding that I too, like the author, and I'm sure most human beings, had some very memorable moments orchestrated by nature and wonder, it felt good to give those moments a vocabulary.

Mitch is a founding member of the Map6 Collective, exploring the relationship between people and place.

The War Memorial in the Sea

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By David Lewis:

On a grey summer’s afternoon the Crosby beach is busy with holidaymakers.  The waterfront of Liverpool follows the great curve of the Mersey as it pours into the Irish Sea, but at Crosby the urban sprawl runs out of enthusiasm and is broken with open spaces – playing fields, parks, farms.  At the end of the long promenade there is a Lifeboat station, an ice cream van, a car park.  Here the long beach starts, the hard sands that run along the coast to the Lune river estuary fifty kilometres or so north.  This is a raw coastline.  The Irish Sea is a cold expanse of water, emptier than it once was, although the slow container ships still slip quietly in and out of Liverpool.  There are cruise ships now as well, vast white hotels drawn by the renaissance of the city centre.  Haunted by the cries of gulls, the coastline sprawls beneath vast mutating cloudscapes and feels wary and unpredictable. 

Beyond the Lifeguard station a low flat field of broken stones runs for two hundred, maybe three hundred metres along the shore.  At the beach’s edge the stones are slippery with seaweed; pools form among the stones, limpets colonise the surfaces.  It looks like builders’ rubble and most visitors ignore it in favour of Antony Gormley’s famous Another Place sculptures and the great expanse of hard golden sand.  But there is deep history here, old stories in these stones, there is remembrance, and there is forgetting.

Close up, this is unusual rubble; Victorian bricks dissolved by the salt water into gritty, lumpy, mosaic sand, chunks of sea-glass worn pale-grey and smooth, ancient bleached china electrical fittings. But the clue to this landscape does not lie in the bricks.  There are larger pieces; not uncut stones, not quarry-refuse, not landfill.  They are architecture. 

Some of these pieces are small, a metre long, but others are quite large – the size of a sofa, say, or an upright piano.  Some are hand-carved sandstone, deep flowers fading into sand; others are granite, untouched by seaweeds or limpets, as sharp as the day they left the mason’s yard in the 1870s.  Some have letters carved into them, a teasing suggestion of names and landmarks.  I have often wanted to identify the buildings they came from, through old photographs and architects’ plans.  Would it be possible to separate these small piles of loss back into individual buildings and fit them together like a sea-worn jigsaw puzzle?  Ultimately they could be restored to the street; the cornices and friezes, words and titles once again seventy feet above the pavements.  But what would this achieve?  Standing on the shore, this dream no longer seems possible or even desirable. 

These ruins were taken from the cityscape of Liverpool and especially Bootle, cleared after the terrible blitzkrieg unleashed by the Germans in 1940 and 1941.  Once these fragments were parts of banks, insurance offices and hotels, buildings which added dignity and strength to the streets.  Every stone comes from a bombed building, every brick comes from a bombed house, perhaps from a house where people died.  And so this long field of stones and bricks is a war memorial.  Not a solemn classical monument at the heart of the city, but a war memorial nevertheless.  4000 people died in Liverpool in the Blitz, and Bootle alone lost over 400.  This is an informal war memorial open to the elements, a war memorial washed twice a day by the tides, a war memorial covered in seaweed. There is no forced solemnity, no guards, no flags, no eternal flame.  No Dulce, no Decorum.  Children scramble over these ruins, they hunt for shrimps in the pools among the weedy stones, sit on the warm sand with their backs to giant lumps of the city.  Adults take pieces of brick as souvenirs, perhaps to remember the dead, perhaps remembering the war itself.  Most do not know the history of these fragments, these splinters of city.  It is irrelevant.  Nothing can be done to them without heavy machinery, no amount of souvenir hunters can damage the integrity of these stones and bricks.  Three hundred metres long, but how deep?  Without massive human interference, only time will fade these ruins.

At dusk in the summer the beach is clear.  This is not the Mediterranean; the cool air from the Irish Sea means that on the warmest day the heat does not linger.  The lights come on in Wallasey three kilometres away across the Mersey, and the ruins fade into the dusk again, as they have done every night since the late 1940s.  I do not think that this memorial-landscape should be formalised, protected, solemnised; this should be a quiet place to remember our unknown dead in a very Liverpool way, informal but never unserious, to the lament of waves running across the evening sands and gulls crying in a grey sky. 

David Lewis has written five books of history/landscape/psychogeography about his native Liverpool and Merseyside.  He posts urban/rural images on Instagram - davidlewis4168 and mutters about the world on Twitter - @dlewiswriter

Five Questions for... Alice Maddicott

IMAGE: Alice Maddicott

IMAGE: Alice Maddicott

We return to our semi-regular series of short interviews with contributors to Elsewhere and other friends of the journal. Today we have five questions for Alice Maddicott, whose essay 'Farewell, for you are changing' about Tbilisi in Georgia appeared in Elsewhere No.05. You can find out more about Elsewhere No.05 and order your copy here.

What does home mean to you?

Home for me will always be Somerset, though I think we have many potential homes - cities and countries that just click with us, where such strong memories are formed that they become part of our construction of identity and place in the world. Home is also imagination for me - imaginary versions of real places - strong dreams cities that are recognisable yet so different... Challenging yet comforting.

Where is your favourite place?

I have a couple - one is definitely the depths of the woods on the Wiltshire Somerset border where I live - I can walk for miles without leaving the trees and you never see a soul. There's nowhere like it atmosphere wise... The other is the old side streets of Tbilisi I write about in my piece - the crumbling glazed carved wooden balconies - the whole city feels like family to me.

What is beyond your front door?

A moated castle! Village shop and square, a feral hen... Then forests, then high downs, towns scattered around. But I have always wished it could change like in Mr Benn - through the door to another land. Whimsy perhaps, but I think it's good to hold on to these ways of thinking about place.

What place would you most like to visit?

I've always had a fixation with Mongolia, but have never been. The fjordlands of New Zealand too, really appeal. In general I'm a far South or North person rather than tropical - the wilds of Norway... Lakes of Finland... Kizhi Island... Forests, mountains and water, or cold desert...

What are you reading/listening to/looking at right now?

The poetry of Chika Sagawa - amazing Japanese modernist for the first half of the 20th century. Re reading Ann Bridge too - I love how her novels read like travel writing, based on the places she got to know as a diplomat's wife. Music wise I'm back to my long term love of Dirty Three's "Whatever you love you are" album. I also collect old found photos and recently been getting fascinated by really old portraits of people with their pets - strangely moving...

Visit Alice’s website here

Mono no aware: Two Japanese Gardens

FriesImage.jpg

By Kenny Fries:

We are extremely happy to publish this excerpt from the new book In the Province of Gods by Kenny Fries, which will be launched on the 17th September at the Schwules Museum in Berlin.

To noted translator Sam Hamill, mono no aware is “a resonance found in nature. . . . a natural poignancy in the beauty of temporal things. . . . Aware originally meant simply emotion initiated by the engagement of the senses.”  Ivan Morris, in his study of The Tale of Genji, says aware refers to “the emotional quality inherent in objects, people, nature, and . . . a person’s internal response to emotional aspects of the external world.”  Donald Richie writes, “The awareness is highly self-conscious, and what moves me is, in part, the awareness of being moved, and the mundane quality of the things doing the moving.”

My guidebook’s photo of Kyoto’s famous garden at Ryōan-ji shows some small pebbles in three divided sections.  This confuses me.  Could this be a garden?  It looks more like a close-up of carefully arranged spices in a kitchen cupboard.

Lafcadio Hearn, in “In a Japanese Garden,” writes:  

Now, a Japanese garden is not a flower garden; neither is it made for cultivating plants.  In nine cases out of ten there is nothing in it resembling a flower bed.  Some gardens may contain scarcely a sprig of green; some have nothing green at all, and consist entirely of rocks and pebbles and sand. . . . In order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden it is necessary to understand —or at least to learn to understand—the beauty of stones.  Not of stones quarried by the hand of man, but of stones shaped by nature only.  Until you can feel, and keenly feel, that stones have character, that stones have tones and values, the whole artistic meaning of a Japanese garden cannot be revealed to you.

The rock garden at Ryōan-ji is small, only thirty feet deep and seventy-eight feet wide.  It consists of fifteen rocks, each of different size, color and texture, placed in five groupings, surrounded by a sea of finely raked grayish-white sand.  Viewed from the veranda of the monk’s quarters, the garden is surrounded on its other three sides by a clay wall.  The wall might have once been pale white, but now is light rust and contains chance patterns; over many years the wall has been stained by oil.

From no one point can all fifteen rocks be seen.  No matter where one sits, only fourteen rocks, at most, can be seen at one time.  I notice a group of students counting the rocks.  My eyes move from the students back to the rocks, first alighting on one group, then another, and then I become fixated on the Tàpies-like pattern on the oil-stained wall.

Looking at the garden, what seems like foreground becomes background; background becomes foreground.  The wall is most prominent; then one of the rock groupings, or a single rock; then focus is on the raked sand.  I realize why the guidebook photo is a close-up of a tiny corner edge of the garden:  it is impossible to see all at once; the experience of Ryōan-ji is cumulative.  

How long have I been here sitting here, looking? 

How can something so still—so permanent—be, at the same, just as evanescent? 

Although many have interpreted the meaning of the garden—a representation of islands in an ocean, some famous mountains from ancient Chinese texts, a tiger chasing its cub, a symbol for the Buddhist principle of unknowing—I have not ventured to interpret the garden beyond the experience of my viewing.

I get up and walk around to the other side of the monks’ quarters.  I bend down to get a closer look at the tsukubai, the stone water basin, on which there are four chiseled Japanese characters.  The sign says that reading clockwise, including the hole in the middle of the water-filled basin, the characters mean, “I learn only to be contented.”

*****

The tour of Shugakuin Rikyu, on the other side of Kyoto, is in Japanese.  I am the only gaijin, a foreigner, on the tour, the only person who does not understand nor speak Japanese.

Shugakuin Rikyu covers a large area; there are three levels, each with its own gardenand a distinctly different design.  The two lower gardens are small and enclosed:  ponds, a stream, waterfalls, stones, lanterns designed around spare wood imperial-style villas. 

At the entrance to the upper garden, a path to the right rises through a hedge-covered stone stairway. 

Daijoubu desu ka?  Daijoubu?”—“Are you okay?  Is it okay?”—my fellow tourists keep asking me as we climb the stone path.

 “Daijoubu, daijoubu, I’m okay, I’m okay” I assure them.

With the obstruction of the hedge, there is no view of the garden before ascent.   However, once Rinuntei, the teahouse at the top of the stairs, is reached, the garden below—the clear pond reflecting all the garden’s pines and maple trees, another teahouse, the two bridges leading across islands to the pond’s other shore—can be seen.  All of this is framed by the surrounding mountains, including the sacred Mount Hiei, not belonging to the garden but part of it, from which it is said the garden’s pond, which also reflects the mountains as well as its streams and waterfalls, is fed.            

This is my first experience of shakkei, the principle of “borrowed scenery”:  the surrounding landscape becomes part of the garden.  This does not mean placing the garden so it has beautiful scenery nearby but actually incorporating shapes and textures of the surrounding landscape, and repeating those elements, as part of the garden itself.  It is, Donald Richie writes, as if “the hand of the Japanese reaches out and enhances (appropriates) all that is most distant.  Anything out there can become nature.  The world is one, a seamless whole, for those who can see it.”

At Shugakuin Rikyu, the hedge that at first seemed just a hedge is still a hedge.  But the placement of the hedge, its purpose, unknown at first encounter, is only revealed at the right moment, heightening the experience of revelation.  The view of the entire garden is delayed for maximum impact, delayed until it can be seen as “a seamless whole.”

*****

FriesCover.jpg

About the book and author:

This is an excerpt adapted from In the Province of the Gods, which received the Creative Capital literature grant, and will be published in September by University of Wisconsin Press.  In the Gardens of Japan, a poem sequence, was recently published by Garden Oak Press.  Kenny Fries’s other books include The History of My Shoes and the Evolution of Darwin’s Theory and Body, Remember:  A Memoir.  He is a two-time Fulbright Scholar (Japan and Germany), was a Creative Arts Fellow of the Japan/US Friendship Commission and National Endowment for the Arts, and is a faculty member of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Goddard College. 

Borders and their consequences: Introducing 'the corridor'

Image: Vera Drebusch

Image: Vera Drebusch

The Corridor is a new project from Ireland exploring borders and their consequences. One of the founders of the project is the Elsewhere Books Editor Marcel Krueger, who we asked to introduce the project and the first events and actions that will be taking place in the coming months:

Who needs borders anyway?

For a year now, my wife Anne and I live in Dundalk in Ireland. We moved here for a variety of reasons: to live and work in a smaller town away from the molochs of Berlin and Dublin (where renting out has become impossible anyway), to live by the sea, to be close to my office. We knew that we would be moving next to one of the main Brexit-faultlines, the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The longer we live here, the more we've become fascinated with the history of our new hometown and worried about what the future might hold for the communities north and south of the border. As a writer & journalist and a curator & arts manager coming from a country which was defined by a border for several decades, we now want to explore the area through both our fields of expertise, and have created 'the corridor'.    

'the corridor' is an interdisciplinary and discursive project that which explores borders and their political, social and cultural consequences through a series of public talks, screenings and exhibitions. With artists from all fields, historians, sociologists, contemporary witnesses and other experts we want to discuss the history of the Irish border and the future challenges of the upcoming EU border for this area. Our first event series is a collaboration with the 1. Deutsches Stromorchester (1st German Electrophonic Orchestra), and you can find more details on our website. Coming events will include a fish dinner with fishermen from both sides of the border initiated by German artist Vera Drebusch, and an exchange about walking borders between Elsewhere editor-in-chief Paul Scraton and Irish writers Garett Carr and Evelyn Conlon. 

To paraphrase Jan Morris, if race is a fraud, then nationality is a cruel pretense. There is nothing organic to it. As the tangled history of the corridor between Belfast and Dublin shows, it is disposable. You can find your nationality altered for you, overnight, by statesmen far away. So who needs borders anyway?

Hackney Marshes - Before and After Dawn

A photo essay by Adam Steiner:

All images: Adam Steiner

All images: Adam Steiner

I got up early one morning, about 4.30am, it was summer and went out to try and capture the early dawn light that floods Hackney Marshes. One of the best things about the area is the contrast between urban/suburban and large park spaces; including the Lea valley nature reserve an bird sanctuary, housed in Victorian water filter beds. 

The ground was covered in thick cotton fog that seemed to recede as you stepped into it. The light split through the trees and burning through the fog created a kind of spilt rainbow effect that was constantly changing like a turning kaleidoscope. The rusting, wide shoulders created a kind of bastard symmetry contrasted with the extreme brightness; a kind of grit and glamour effect.

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Looking back across the field to the other side of the marshes, a couple of hours after the original shot, the blue sky had forced through the day, and once again this was intersected by the frames of the goalpost jutting against it; slicing the sky into crooked quadrants. 

A few paces further back from the treeline when the fog had more or less dispersed. 

This photo is not so special, but the full strength of the sun unhindered by the trees created this brilliant flare. Off to the far-right, in the distance, are Stratford and the Olympic Park. The skyline is mostly interrupted by the mass of lazy new developments happening in the area. A series of rabbit hutch apartments and faceless businesses – it’s great if this creates opportunities for people who live in the area, but it feels more like an opportunity to drive them out to a further zone of the city. You can also catch the ghost-legacy of the banal and moon-like atmosphere of the Olympic Park’s mid-masturbatory phallic Orbital spiral sculpture/slide thingy…

More displacement of perspective, a lineage of infinity boxes; one containing the other. I’ve recently been reading a lot of work by the late Mark Fisher (Ghosts of My Life) where talks at length about hauntology: the presence of non-events/thwarted possibilities - I can’t help but think of this idea looking through goalposts without people. 

I was also amazed at the colours here; the marshes a bowl of moody blue gloom and the hulk of the council waste disposal centre a fierce peachy terracotta. 

Again, similar colours but a different story. This salmon pink tower is one of the few high-rise buildings (with amazing uninterrupted views) in the area of Homerton on this side of the park. Rents in the area have steadily risen to become almost double, including in this building. Creating an exodus to nearby Walthamstow and beyond. The main shopping street a few streets beyond this building, Chatsworth Road, formerly known as Murder Mile, rises to a crest in the middle, from which you can peek over and see the jaded shine of the Canary Wharf tower – I always find this a grimly ironic vista for anyone who has grown-up in the area during the bad old days (of serial stabbings and shootings) which shows how close and yet how far wealth and power always seem to arise in London. 

I liked this image for the mad pink of the sky and the goalposts of two pitches backing on to one another in opposition, the match is made small and intimate, but there’s no-one playing.

I thought this was quite a calming perspective, where the goals seem to shrink into one another in infinite regress, like a lens zooming in and out, losing focus over a span of time.

Adam Steiner's articles, poetry and fiction appear in Low Light Magazine, L’Ephemere Review, The Arsonist, Glove zine, Anti-Heroin Chic, The Bohemyth, I Am Not A Silent Poet, Rockland Lit, Proletarian Poetry, The Next Review, Fractured Nuance zine. Adam Produced the Disappear Here project: a series of 27 x poetry films about Coventry ring road. Adam on twitter.

Postcard from... Hyltenäs kulle

Image: Katrin Schönig

Image: Katrin Schönig

By Paul Scraton:

The marketing material promised ‘West Sweden’s most beautiful lookout point’, the Hyltenäs kulle rising above the dense forests and lakes of the Mark municipality, but as we followed the narrow, winding road up the hill the mist was descending and a light rain had begun to fall. At the top, a solitary man stood with an umbrella against the drizzle, looking out into the gloom.

‘I’m supposed to be photographing a wedding up here,’ he said, glumly.

‘When?’ I replied.

‘In about an hour.’

I left him to his thoughts of where he could place the bride without getting too much water on her white dress, and began to explore the summit of the hill. In the early years of the 20th century, the merchant George Seaton built a huge hunting lodge on the hill, which at the time of construction had been cleared of all trees and other plant life in order to maximise the views for Seaton and his guests. Perhaps this was tempting fate. They barely had time to enjoy it – just a handful of hunting seasons – before the lodge was destroyed in a fire. Now all that remains are the stone foundations and the hill, declared a nature reserve in the 1970s, is once more overgrown with a forest of oak, birch, hazel and mountain ash.

But the views that brought George Seaton to the Hyltenäs kulle remain. However dreich the day.

Paul’s essay ‘Bordercrossing’ appears in Elsewhere No.05 – Transition. You can order the latest edition of the journal and all back issues directly with us, via our online shop.