Breath

IMAGE: Louise Kenward

IMAGE: Louise Kenward

By Louise Kenward:

I sick up the last of my breakfast. Spittle drips on my arm and over the side of the boat. Diesel fumes mingle with sea and sweat. Anxiety has purged my stomach and pumps adrenaline in an attempt to stop me. I am compelled.

It is the second time I have reached this point, I cannot stay on the boat again, I cannot return to the shore without seeing for myself what lies beneath the surface.

Watched over by Mount Agung, I tip backwards over board and into the Indian Ocean. Weight and discomfort of my dive kit on land disappears with the horizon.

I suck at air, teeth gripping the mouth piece. It sits awkwardly, jaw aches, I'm holding too tightly. I adjust weight belt, tighten straps loosened by the water. The pressure gauge registers a full tank, clean tasteless air. I have already checked these things twice.

I am last to dip beneath the waves. Air released from buoyancy jacket, I am weighted down with equipment and 6 kilos around my waist. Despite this, I struggle to sink. Instinctively I take a deep breath before putting my head back under water. I bob up to the surface again. Looking down I watch others as they drop through the door to an other world. I continue to pull, to knock, it is jammed. Resistance of water against my body is too great. The blue beneath me tantalises and terrifies.

I'm being pulled down. My right leg is being tugged below me, dragging me under. I realise the need to push at this door, not pull. I let go of the breath I've been holding and slowly, slowly sink.

My first breath beneath the waves. Colour scattered blue, movement of fish, glitter and gold. Constant motion and total stillness. Swollen bubbles escape my mouth joyously as I descend further. Three, four, five metres deep. Submerged in water, a return to the womb, to the source of life, a time before evolution brought legs and lungs. A sanctuary. Yet life is taken as easily as it is given, stolen by cruel and unsentimental seas. A careful balance of body, air, water. It is easy to perish, to dissolve into saline. I try to swallow, for airways to adjust and regulate pressure in air cavities. I shift my jaw, willing ears to pop. Swallowing with the mouth piece is difficult. I bite down hard, swallow, ears release. I drop further.

Ten metres. I realise my buoyancy and its control is the biofeedback of my breath - my body acts as a balloon. I inhale, lungs swell, I rise up. I exhale, lungs deflate, I fall deeper. Having risen and fallen with initial breaths, I am now learning to pace inhalations, exhalations, slow, deep, breath. Steady, calm breath. An exercise in stillness, a meditation. The whole of my body is needed to focus on this one thing. Body connects breath, breath connects body.

Fifteen metres deep and I have never been so aware of my own breath. Never before have I had to attend so carefully or so completely to inhaling and exhaling. Rib cage expanding and contracting. It is more than concentration - to think about what I am doing I may lose control - I am a whole, mind and body acting as one.

Elusive, delicate, fragile breath. Mouth open, organ of life, pulls in air. Lungs, heart, connected, pumping blood, sustaining body. Twenty metres. Slow, full breaths. Senses alert. Mind quiet. Air swells from regulators as I exhale. Steady, measured, breath. All I can hear is the escape of bubbles to the surface and the crunching of parrot fish on coral beneath me.

I sink further. I look more closely, orange and white clown fish dodge the caress of pink tipped anemones. Wide flat laced table corals shelter blue and purple nudibranchs - tiny molluscs the size of a finger nail wearing their lungs on the outside of their highly decorated bodies. Delicate red sea fans sway gently as yellow tipped black and white striped angel fish glide past. There is an abundance of life quite oblivious to my presence. I watch, I drift, all feels at peace, all feels just as it should be.

Slipping through depths the gentle grip the ocean has taken does not let go. I do not ask it to. The further I descend, the tighter grasp the sea takes of me. Temperature drops, light weakens, I surrender to it. All consumed, it holds me. Immersion of body and mind. My pulse gently beats in my ears.

Sense of time is lost. I check the pressure gauge, I am running out of precious air. The spell broken, I have to surface. Again, gradually, slowly, I readjust my body to changing pressure. Rising too quickly is as risky as not rising at all. Emerging upwards warmth returns and sunlight dusts my face.

I return again and again. A calling of the sea sings more loudly than before. A sense of arrival, of coming home when I stand on the shore. A restful calm descends and envelops me, a sense of other, of completeness. Shoulders fall, breath quietens, thoughts calm. I am now embedded in molecules of ocean and they in me.

Louise Kenward is an artist engaging with place and person, past and present. Making journeys, writing, connecting. At times accompanied with 19th Century Victorian traveller, Annie Brassey.

Elsewhere editor Paul Scraton on the Papertrail podcast

By Paul Scraton:

I was extremely pleased to be asked to take part in the Papertrail podcast, a fantastic new audio series that invites writers and other artists to chat for a while about some of their favourite books. Because of my own writing, and the theme of our journal, we decided to select three books that are somehow dealing with the idea of place but which also have a special personal connection for me. If you want to find out what they are about, and why they are important to me, then you'll need to have a listen. Thanks to Alex for inviting me, and I hope if it inspires any of you to read these books I am sure you won't regret it.

Edinburgh and Elsewhere at the Artists' BookMarket

We are extremely pleased to be taking part at the Artists’ BookMarket at the end of this month, a two day celebration of books and artist-led publishing that is hosted by the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. We are being represented on a stall titled ‘Edinburgh and Elsewhere’, and as well as the many different stalls featuring a wide variety of artists and publishers, there are also talks and workshops to take part in.

‘Edinburgh and Elsewhere’ at the Artists’ BookMarket brings photography, illustration and publishing together with a special emphasis on place in all its forms, including the imagination. Edinburgh-based artist Catherine Marshall will be launching her book Fleetway, an imaginative story based on a failed roll of photographic film taken at the Cammo Estate in Edinburgh. Elaine Robson will be showing her artist book inspired by Japanese urban landscape and found text, Under City. As the Scarrow press co-founder, she will also present the contemporary photography 'zine Simulacra.

Husband and husband team O'Brien & Chiu will showcase their illustration and photography projects. 'Drawings in a Time of Dreaming' by Gerald O'Brien, features tiny mixed-up buildings and invented structures, humorously subversive in their resistance to daily life norms and expectations. In 'An Unexpected Return on my Journey to the West', Yi-Chieh Chiu embarks on a personal photographic journey in his partner's home country. He finds an Ireland suffused with colour and abstraction, finds poignancy in the everyday; a way back home even as he is far from his real home in Taiwan.

We are extremely pleased and proud to be in such company, and we think that if you are going to be anywhere close to Edinburgh on the 25th and 26th February you should certainly check it out.

The Artists’ BookMarket at the Fruitmarket Gallery
25-26 February 2017
Sat: 11am – 6pm
Sun: 11am – 5pm
Free Entry
Website

The art of Ellis O'Connor

We are extremely pleased to have the opportunity to feature the artwork of Ellis O'Connor here on the Elsewhere blog. Ellis is a visual artist based in Scotland, and since graduating a couple of years ago from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design she has worked in residency programmes in Iceland and Norway. She recently returned from an expedition with the Arctic Circle Organisation to the High Arctic Archipelago of Svalbard, and in her work you can see how she uses the visual language of drawing and lithographic printmaking to challenge assumptions about the natural environment.

Through her work, Ellis wants to reintepret the grandeur of natural land forms and re-present this visual information laden with power. As an artist, conservationist and keen mountain climber, Ellis aims to address the issues of climate change and wild land in her work, in the hope of inspiring others to take action for the future as well as to highlight the significance of the natural world around us.

If you would like to see more from Ellis, you can check out her website, her blog or visit her instagram feed.

Blossoming Hands

By Patrick Phillips:

That sweet soft scent from an apple tree in bloom is a smell of profound amazement. The garden in which I am stood, is not my own but once a peasant’s. It is not a garden of dreams but a garden from a single dream landscape. The apple tree, placed within this designed and ordered garden, has presented to me that the tree itself is from outside the garden; here is not exactly where it intrinsically belongs. The apple tree and I live in that dream – together. Not a place to escape but a place of real beauty. Hence in any dream, beauty can only be provoked from imagination. How can anyone ignore the beauty of Nature? Yesterday looking through a book of paintings by Van Gogh, I remembered Blossoming Pear Tree. I noticed that from a distance when looking at the painting, it gave the impression of church bells, petals jingling. It could be heard as well as seen. As though the image itself was vibrating before me, alive.

Then walking slowly on the green grass in bare foot, I notice the distance I have yet to travel before I arrive at the tree. I am surrounded by a creative atmosphere that continues to animate around this ethereal apple tree. Scents, colours, sunlight; the whole space creates a sense of harmony.

Stood now in front of the tree, its light has become intensified. I appear to be almost touching light. At every moment I feel as though I am dissolving, quietly forgetting myself and the world I was once in. Tiny flies and birds are flying almost everywhere; everything that moves from what the eye can see is visible. I can smell scents that have no name. Scent truly makes one appreciate the intricate moments that are in place in life for us to enjoy. 

Then pulling my hand from out of my pocket, still enjoying the tickling blades of grass from beneath my feet, I start to reach out my arm to pull a small branch in flower towards me.

Whilst looking… I’m moving my entire body, arm, hand and then gently my fingers, as they begin to open and receive.

The apple flower is now touching my nose; its petals are tickling my nostrils. Then beginning to smell, I close my eye lids gently. In the act of smelling, we instinctively want to experience the isolation between our visual world to that of smell. In the act of closing our eyes, darkness creates a kind of forgetfulness – a moment’s respite from looking. This moment of smelling and not looking created our reciprocal approach between thought and feeling. We lapse into our senses. By isolating our senses in the mind, we begin to live within the sensations of our imagination. For many humans closing their eyes, when in the act of smelling a flower has become a natural act. However, for some it is still an act of Romanticism. Therefore because this is seen as being romantic, it cannot constitute anything about reality; for them it does not exist. Mystery is inexplicable. Once isolated, sensation becomes everything.

Breathing in slowly, through my nostrils and into my lungs, the scent of the flower is now present. I am now not only feeling the sensation of scent but I am experiencing it. The mind instantly tries to process and present to us – what is it I’m smelling? We can never name the smell, only describe it. Immediately at that point in which my eyes are closed, I am travelling… somewhere within, and yet outside myself. Where? I don’t know. As though the flowers stigma has sucked you into an eternal and intimate space, a kind of sanctuary. I wish I could encapsulate this sweet scent, so that every time I slept or awoke I could experience the sensation that life is eternal again and again.

 

Apple tree is related to the rosacea family.

 

When in the act of smelling a flower, this fusion of scent and imagination represents not only the sensation that life is eternal but death.

 

And so it appears,

that to die actually is a pleasant experience.


Words & Illustration by Patrick Phillips

Patrick Phillips is a revolutionary writer, lyricist, humanist and artist based in Edinburgh. He successfully wrote in 2015 the lyrics for the song Man Of The Mountains for a new musical Out Of Place at the York New Musical Festival. His first non-fiction book about a lawyer, who started his own circus more than thirty years ago, will be published in 2018.  @PatrickWriter

A lost world at Crewe Station

IMAGE: Alex Cochrane

IMAGE: Alex Cochrane

By Alex Cochrane:

Late night at Crewe station. I wander empty dark platforms where rain drips down and fog drifts through the lights. A non-stop London-Glasgow train arrows past with unnerving silence and speed. 

It’s Sunday night and there are few travellers about which is surprising given Crewe’s renowned status as a major transport junction. Then again Crewe is also smaller than you would expect. The station will interest the railway history buffs with its many firsts, for example the first station to have its own adjacent railway hotel. The Crewe Arms was built in 1838 and is still in use although tonight its dark, foreboding airs make it look like the setting for a 1930s murder mystery novel. Then there are the glimpses, on the approach to the station, of ancient and decaying railway stock clustered around the Crewe Heritage Centre.  Crewe will interest and frustrate the urban explorers with its large swathes of inaccessible overlapping edgelands, wilderness and railway landscapes. One of the platform stalls serves an excellent hot chocolate often needed to warm up passengers waiting for connections. Even at the best of times, with the sun shining through its new roof, Crewe station is a little charmless. At night it is downright shabby and gloomy. But if you’re there on a Sunday afternoon or evening you can imagine a world now lost that does lend Crewe a hint of nostalgia. 

Ronald Harwood’s celebrated play, The Dresser, explores the relationship between a personal assistant and a brilliant but disintegrating Shakespearian actor as they tour the province theatres of World War Two England. In an emotional outburst Her Ladyship, the wife of the actor, Sir, laments life on the theatrical road, a litany of complaints which includes spending Sunday evening on Crewe Station.

In the age before television, theatrical and musical mass entertainment was provided in the variety theatres up and down the land. Every town had a variety theatre and the migrating performers were its blood. Bookings were weekly and on their Sunday rest the performers would travel to their next venue, often via Crewe. The station became a social as well as a transport hub; where the performers caught up with each other, like the railway lines criss-crossing, before separating and heading off for another town and another week of performance.

Tales of Sunday at Crewe, no doubt exaggerated, have been handed down one side of my family. In those days the goods vans of trains carried all the equipment which would be unloaded onto the platforms along with dancing girls, comedians, singers and circus acts. There was chaos and gossiping on the platform, drinking at the station bar, performers dancing and practicing their acts, performing dogs running amok amongst cases, props and surreal looking costumes.

It always sounds chaotic and lively.  Crewe is quiet and this world is gone now, even its ghosts have disappeared and the variety theatres have closed down or been redeveloped into flats and bingo halls. The train for Glasgow arrives. There’s little nostalgic or elegant about these trains with their stale airs, cramp seats, sticky plastic tables, garish lighting and jarring colours. Not unless you pay for the muted, sleek modernity of first class.

The train slides out of Crewe, gathering pace as it heads north.

Alex Cochrane is based in Glasgow and blogs about exploration, travel, history, historical erotica and other curiosities on his website. You can also follow Alex on Twitter at @alexdcochrane.

Looking For The Southern Cross

IMAGE: Yessica Klein

IMAGE: Yessica Klein

By Yessica Klein:

crickets / across the ocean / loud songs of summer in the tropics / chords of trembling leaves / frogs // sleep with the windows open to the drizzle / warm breeze / moonlight / cicadas // a red double decker / visit Brazil / I’ve betrayed my mother tongue for foreign sounds instead // silence gone / fights / sirens / headlights dancing on my ceiling / adapt to the most unusual situations / look for the Southern Cross / Alpha Crucis / Beta / Gamma / Delta / Epsilon / to Camberwell or Brixton // no / the North Star kingdom / don’t know where that constellation is // lucky enough getting a glimpse of the moon / full in Virgo / purification, astrologers say // saw Venus once / only at sunset or dawn // a glimpse of my skin / ash / craving the sun as the days get darker / 730 days abstinence / beating for sunshine / tropical heart / solar soul // an English word for that restlessness in the stomach / craving for the unknown / emotional anchor up / sail to new shores / don’t predict what’s coming / pack the bags / black hole of the future // the crickets I miss the most / through perfectly still silence / another red double decker / visit Morocco / maps / phone / music / the noise inside my head / Starbucks every other corner / chains make believe the world is tiny / yeah / I’m aware of the distance / miles and kilometres / the physicality of space / learned concept / the furthest place we know is our grandmother’s house / 45min up the mountain on a dirt road / once across the Atlantic / take the train and Paris / Le Starbucks // cultural predators learn others’ ways to lose their own / adapting / freckles after the sunburn in Málaga / knuckles rough after frost bites in Berlin / skills at Maths from calculating currencies / scars / sweet trophies of endurance / visible or not / where is home if we’ve left it already / where to go next if we can always go back // can’t trace those accents home anymore / where are you from / a country defines an identity / thought you were French / a red double decker / visit Brazil / last time I spoke Portuguese I was told I had an English accent / oh dear / my native speech cadence drowns in Earl Grey / time to go / not back but forward // warm breeze tangles my hair / leaves / frogs ribbiting // muscles stretching / too long a hibernation // hope is a feeling not a place / can’t pin it down anywhere // crickets / cicadas / the air vibrates / the sky lights up / Alpha Crucis / Beta / Gamma / Delta // Venus the love planet / full moon in Libra / my star sign // reunion, astrologers say // finally going home

Yessica Klein is a writer and artist currently based in Liverpool (UK). Her first collection of poems is coming out in Brazil in 2017 and her artwork is represented by Carolina Badas Gallery (London). @yessicaklein or www.yessica-klein.com.  

Return to Lakenheath, Suffolk, England

 By Rosamund Mather:

When I was four years old, I moved to a village with a foot in two camps. Tucked into the northwestern corner of the eastern county of Suffolk, Lakenheath straddles two climates; search for it on Google Maps, switch to Satellite Mode and zoom out a little bit. You’ll notice that to the west, it is light green, and the villages are few and far between. This is the Fens, a marshy area spanning four English counties and lying almost three metres below sea level. To the east, there’s a clump of dark green spilling out, denoting an abrupt contrast: the Brecks, the driest part of Britain.

And funnelled right in between these diverging landscapes is a strange organelle. This is RAF Lakenheath, a base that has hosted United States Air Forces since the 1940s. Its presence meant that the new classroom I had stepped into was a microcosm of the US.

Today, I have made a trip to Lakenheath with my mother. We’ve been doing this every couple of years. We say it’s out of curiosity, but we both know it’s more for reassurance. The school looks the same. Some shops are still there, others have been pulled down.

The car grumbles along the track to the Warren’s entrance. Comfortingly, the crunch under the tyres hasn’t changed since those weekends of putting the bikes into the wide boot of the red Volvo.

The Warren is where the Brecks portion begins. It is a mysterious place. There’s a touch of Roswell about it; electricity substations, tall wire fences, juxtaposed with a sandy heath, houses concealed by tall bushes. If you’d asked me to describe the Warren as a child, I would have said it looks just like Mars; perhaps grassier, but very dry, certainly, with patches of sharp fringing the dusty craters. The fields are dotted with Scots pine, which I always thought were the same trees in the African Savanna. When I learnt the word "drought", I associated it with this place. Before any of us were alive, the Brecks were characterised by their seas of sand. What’s left behind is what makes the area so supernatural. It doesn’t look like it belongs in damp England at all. Even when it is grey, it glows.

‘There is a rusty light on the pines tonight;
Sun pouring wine, lord, or marrow.’
'Emily', Joanna Newsom, Ys (2006)

Mum and I traipse over the thin, golden grass shimmering at our ankles, then tear through fluorescent ferns to get to the sandy part of the Warren. A nettle nips my shin. I remember that you’re not supposed to scratch the sting.

I was slighted by the Warren on one of these walks as a child, when my blue Tamagotchi fell out of my rucksack. Swallowed, never to be retrieved. That’s when I realised that the Warren signified something greater than myself. The tall wire fence, cordoning it off from the base, still lends it a spooky undertone.

‘There are nuclear weapons under there,’ Mum mentions as we survey the vast airfield, coated in tarmac and dotted with hangars. Indeed, it chills me that deadly US military operations in Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq have all started life in my childhood hometown.

After school, I’d jump into my American classmates’ SUVs - many of which had a puzzling combination of a left steering wheel and a UK licence plate - and tag along to the base. Admitted on their parents’ IDs, we’d go rollerskating, eat bubblegum ice cream and see movies not yet officially released in the UK.

These friendships were fun, but fleeting; usually they return to the US after a year. First there’d be tears, but finally a stoicism in the way that only children know how. How was their impression of my country shaped, from within the incongruous Lakenheath bubble?

The airbase’s history may be palpable, but there is still something primordial in the air in Lakenheath.

The craters giving the Warren its Martian look were Ice Age periglacial ponds – pingos – linked to sediments of the Bytham River found there. This is thought to have been the main route into Britain by its earliest settlers.

In 1997, the skeletons of the 6th-century Lakenheath Warrior and his horse were excavated, heralding the discovery of some 400 further graves. This archaeological breakthrough put Suffolk on the map again, 58 years after the discovery of a gargantuan ship burial at Sutton Hoo, on my grandparents’ side of the county.

It all refutes the aphoristic belief that villages are stagnant, that the only thing that changes is their residents, who faithfully live out their days until the next generation receives the baton.

The six years of Lakenheath that I can call my own – the window in which I existed and grew, shadowed by centuries and millennia – saw a village with a cosmopolitan edge. That window closed when we moved away. A fortnight later, there was one more, most unforeseeable change.

The past is a foreign country, they say. Lakenheath now straddled not only the Fenland and the Breckland, but pre- and post-9/11.

Not long afterwards, we were travelling via Lakenheath. The entrance to the base was bricked up, lines of cars backed up, fences even barricaded the residential area. It was now a fortress. No visitors. No after-school ice cream. All vehicles subject to inspection.

America no longer existed just at the end of my street. The world had been flung into an inscrutable, grown-up turmoil.

We have seen what we came for today, yet melancholy will follow us home. We indulge in a minute or two of stalling outside our old house. The garden fence has been pulled down, solar panels inserted into the roof. My childhood bedroom window is now frosted, suggesting it has been merged with the bathroom: no cell of me remains in there, not even in the rough white carpet.

Rosamund Mather is a Berlin-based writer, editor and translator. She tweets at @spookytofu and blogs at roseailleurs.net

Postcard from... Papaverhof, The Hague

By Kelly Merks:

I was riding my bicycle when I first saw the Papaverhof. The sense of place I felt is unforgettable: with the simple motion of turning a street corner, my 1930s brownstone neighborhood ceded to a horseshoe-shaped row of low-lying but imposing white concrete blocks. I froze in fascination, and my bike slowed gently to a stop.

“It’s De Stijl! In real life!” my head clamored. My eyes followed the geometric masses of white that tumbled down the street, hemming in short and bold lines of black, blue and yellow. The scene recalled Piet Mondrian’s iconic Tableau and Composition series; the buildings mimicked the paintings’ cubic rhythm and primary colors. This unique housing development, the Papaverhof, was like nothing else I had ever seen, and my modest district of The Hague was not the place I would expect to see something like it... but here it was. 

The discovery was only a personal one, of course, because people have been living in the Papaverhof for almost a century. It’s a housing development that represents a unique moment in Dutch and local history, yet many people in The Hague don’t know about it. 

After the First World War, Dutch cities faced a shortage of adequate housing and building materials. In 1917, before the war ended, a 25-hectare (61.7-acre) plot between The Hague and an adjacent village called Loosduinen was created as a suburban extension and given the name Daal en Berg after the farmland it occupied. This new development was meant to help alleviate the region’s crowded urban living conditions, and is seen today as an early example of Dutch suburban social housing. Later the same year, Daal en Berg became a Coöperatieve Woningbouw Vereeniging Tuinstadwijk — roughly translated, a Cooperative Housing Garden City Association. I found no evidence that this garden city initiative was influenced by Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Movement. Daal en Berg’s reality, in fact, was closer to that of a mini garden suburb. Garden suburbs are built on the outskirts of cities and are typically absent of industry, density, or connectivity: the antithesis of Howard’s garden city dream. 

Daal en Berg’s social housing complex—called the Papaverhof in keeping with the area’s botanical street names, like Rozenstraat, Magnoliastraat, and Irisstraat—went from concept to creation under the direction of architect Jan Wils. In 1919 Wils was favored in a design competition by the cooperative’s commissioner, Hendrik P. Berlage. Berlage is regarded as the patriarch of Dutch modernist architecture. He was especially enamored with Frank Lloyd Wright’s work after a 1911 tour of the American Midwest and east coast, and he became a liaison between Wright and “both the expressionists of the Amsterdam School and the rationalists of the De Stijl movement,” according to the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust. 

Indeed, the Papaverhof is not only one of Wils’ and Berlage’s important works, but bears the fingerprints of other contemporarily and regionally influential artists and architects: Gerrit Rietveld, Vilmos Huszár, Piet Mondrian, and the De Stijl movement founder Theo van Doesburg, who lived at Daal en Berg (on Klimopstraat, across from the Papaverhof) for 20 years. 

The Papaverhof is also an exemplar of a short-lived architectural movement called Nieuwe Bouwen, or “New Building”—an offshoot of Functionalism that centralized economy of scale and relied on modern technology. If De Stijl provided the development’s aesthetic, Nieuwe Bouwen concerned itself with materials and organization. It was a response to the interwar demands of economic and demographic expansion. Nieuwe Bouwen reorganized the home to provide more light, air, and space, focusing on efficiency and modernization instead of ornamentation. “Form follows function” lives on at the Papaverhof.

Despite its architectural and social importance, the Papaverhof’s 128 units were initially slow to sell. People were wary or just turned off by the large open garden in the center. But this problem doesn’t exist anymore; residents tend to stay for decades, and the waiting list to buy is long. The Papaverhof is among the top 100 national rijksmonumenten, or heritage sites, and one of only 11 in The Hague. 

Today the city has subsumed Daal en Berg. The once-suburban satellite is now well within city limits and sits only a short walk from the Laan van Meerdervoort, the longest avenue in the Netherlands at 5.8 km (3.6 miles). To celebrate Daal en Berg’s 100th anniversary in 2017, residents of the Papaverhof have created a virtual tour of a model home, and hope to eventually recreate for virtual tour a home as it was designed by Jan Wils in the early 1920s. 

(Follow this link to take a virtual tour of the Papaverhof)

Kelly is an American enjoying life on the frigid North Sea after a few years in Japan, having swapped great sushi for better beer in the Netherlands. As the daughter of an aerial photographer and a geographer, she grew up in a home of mapping equipment, old globes, and atlases that have informed her search for hidden contexts of the landscapes we travel and live in. You can find her on Twitter at @flaneurie and read more of her work on her blog, Bullet Trains and Bike Lanes

Transition: The Future of Elsewhere

With the publication of Elsewhere No.04 in September 2016 we reached the end of the initial four-issue cycle that we envisaged at the time of our crowdfunding campaign in early 2015. Over those four issues we learned a lot about the process of putting together a journal such as this, the costs and the challenges, and it became clear that for the journal to move forward we need and want to make some changes. We are really excited with our plans for the future of Elsewhere and wanted to share them with you here:

Print Journal

Elsewhere No.05 will be published in June 2017 and from there on we aim to publish at least one print edition a year but without a fixed schedule. We need this flexibility as Elsewhere is a labour of love – none of the editors (Paul, Julia, Tim and Marcel) are paid for their work and so the journal has to fit around the projects that allow us to pay the landlord, the supermarket and tram tickets.

For subscribers this means nothing really changes. If you have issues that you have already paid for, these will be delivered to you on publication of Elsewhere No.05 and, for those it applies to, Elsewhere No.06. We have stopped taking future subscriptions, and will sell the journal individually (or as back-issue sets) from now on.

Elsewhere No.05 – Transition

We have also decided to increase the number of pages in Elsewhere No.05 and, for the first time, have a theme for the issue. Elsewhere is and will remain a journal of place, but within that we thought it meaningful to explore a theme and for the next issue it is TRANSITION. As always, the writing that will appear in Elsewhere No.05 can be travelogue or memoir, history or short fiction, reportage or descriptive essay… or a combination of them all or none.

Submissions

With a theme comes a new submissions process. We will open submissions for Elsewhere No.05 for writing on place and transition from now until March 31st. The only guidelines are that completed pieces should be linked to the general theme of place and the issue theme of transition. With regards to length, most pieces we publish will be between 1000 and 5000 words. We also remain interested in photography, illustration and other visual arts projects related to the theme of place. Please note that, unfortunately, we cannot continue to pay contributors to Elsewhere. We have long had this as our aim, but the project as it is right now cannot sustain it.

If you are interested in writing for the journal, please send your work to paul@elsewhere-journal.com.

Blog

We also are inviting submissions to the blog. For the blog there is no theme other than place, and we will accept blog submissions at any time. Please note that for the blog, we very rarely accept pieces that are over 1000 words and again we are unable to pay contributors. We also encourage submissions of photography, artwork, illustration or film for the blog. Submissions for the blog can be sent to paul@elsewhere-journal.com.

Marketing and PR

We are not massive fans of these words, which might explain why we are – in all honesty – not very good at it. So we are looking for anyone who is interested in joining our unpaid team working on this labour of love to help us spread the word about Elsewhere. We offer free copies of the journal and our eternal gratitude. And a more funky position title, such as Minister for Propaganda or whatever you think fits best.

If you are interested in helping us reach more potential readers of Elsewhere, please let Paul or Julia know.

A Big Thank You to end the blog

If you have read this far you are probably one of our dear readers and followers that have jumped on the Elsewhere train over the past two years and stuck with us. We are really proud of the four issues of Elsewhere that we have published so far, and we wouldn’t have got this far without your support. Independent publishing is tough, and to keep going through Elsewhere No.05 and No.06 and beyond we need your help, whether it is buying the journal, sharing the links to the blog or simply telling your friends about us.

For everything you have done up to now we say a great big thank you, and we hope you enjoy what we have planned for the future.

Paul & Julia

A Christmas Message from Elsewhere

Dear Fellow Travellers,

As Christmas approaches and 2016 draws to a close, we are about to take a little bit of time out from our continuing journeys to Elsewhere and reflect on the year that is about to end. For many people around the world, this has not been a good year, and with sadness and anger we reflect on our capacity as humans to do harm to one another. At the same time, out of so many terrible events always come stories of resistance, defiance and hope, and it is in that spirit that we have to look forward. 

Over the past year, both of us have been thinking a lot about how what we do – in our personal life, our work and with the journal – can make a positive difference, in however small a way, to the challenges we are faced with. Sometimes it feels like art, literature and culture in general are inadequate in their response to great tragedy, but at the same time, these things can all play a vital role in furthering understanding, communication and forging links across borders, boundaries and those other things that divide us.

It is to this end we have been considering the future of Elsewhere as we have reached the end of the initial four-edition cycle that we tentatively mapped out ahead of our crowdfunding campaign almost two years ago. We are about to take a couple of weeks off, and then in January we will be back with an announcement of what we have planned for the journal in 2017, in print and online. It has been a rewarding and challenging couple of years, but we have loved the work and the sense of community that surrounds the project.

There is more to come. Thanks for all your support up to now,

Paul & Julia
Berlin & Hamburg, Christmas 2016

Place on paper: More joy of maps

Bartholomews.jpg

(Image: Bartholomew’s map of Merseyside, 1934)

We are delighted when something we do – whether in the journal or here on the blog – inspires a response. The following piece by Chris Hughes about a lifetime interest in maps and the depiction of place, was sent as a reaction to some of the stories and interviews with cartographers in Elsewhere No.04:

By Chris Hughes:

Want to know where you are? Driving to a place you don’t know? Mist comes down on the mountain?  Check the map. Or the A to Z. Or that sketch on the back of an envelope.

But one way or another you need a map. That map might well be on your phone, tablet, satnav  or a print out from your PC, but it’s still a map. However large, folded maps, books of town maps and even atlases still offer an accurate and detailed picture of a place that you can use for navigation, to learn about a place or simply to enjoy the experience of seeing a large picture of a location, and I have used and enjoyed – and even drawn – many different kinds of maps for many years.

As a boy, I enjoyed visiting my Uncle Norman and looking at his Bartholomew maps, so beautifully coloured with tones of green, brown, blue and shaded to bring out the hills, mountains and valleys. Alfred Wainwright, the great guidebook writer and illustrator, loved his Bartholomew maps even though he based his own maps on the Ordnance Survey. And what about the OS? What a brilliant organisation, that has created the most comprehensive set of maps of the UK at a variety of scales and showing the minutest of details. They are still being constantly updated, these days using aerial photographs of the most incredible resolution to make the latest maps.  Almost every walker that goes into the hills, everyone who has good sense at least, carries a map along with the compass, to ensure correct navigation and safety, even if they possess the latest GPS as insurance against the failures of batteries and satellite connections. 

I went on to study geography and constantly drew small maps in notebooks, especially for the wretched exams, ending up with a degree dissertation containing many detailed maps of a small area of Snowdonia, all painstakingly drawn with my favourite Rotring pens, sitting in our flat in the depths of urban Bootle! The photographs included have faded badly but the maps are still vibrant. 

Later in my working life I had to find my way to schools in unfamiliar towns and cities all over England, well before the satnav era. My collection of A to Zs grew steadily and never failed to help me find my way to the location. 

Map collecting is obviously a big interest for many people and I could easily have joined them at one time; the beautifully illustrated map covers of the 1950s and 1960s are especially valued. I have a small number of cyclists maps which are fascinating in the details included. Sustrans guides to the cycleways of the UK are continuing the history of cycling maps in a modern fashion.

I have just enjoyed a first visit to the United State, driving through six of the great National Parks of California, Utah and Arizona and yes, maps were with us to help us find our way. Sure enough the satnav could not take us to every destination, but with the maps we got there in the end. I could not think about visiting a new place without having a map, still enjoy working out a new path and feel reassured that I have a collection of maps, guidebooks and A to Zs on the shelves to refer to when needed.

You can get your copy of Elsewhere No.04, which has a strong emphasis on maps and cartography, via our online shop.

 

The stories in the ruins: St Peter's, Cardross

Just outside the city of Greifswald, on the German Baltic coast, stand the ruins of the Eldena Abbey. Construction began in the early 13th century and was completed by 1500. In 1535, however, the Abbey was dissolved and over the centuries fell into dereliction. Eldena has been a ruin then for far longer than it was ever operational, and in the early decades of the 19th century, became a key inspiration for the painter Caspar David Friedrich, whose images of the ruin helped cement its place in the German cultural imagination; a place it holds to this day.

What is it about ruins that fascinate us? Undoubtedly there is some aesthetic quality to be found in a crumbling building, something which has inspired many explorers, artists and other wanderers over the years, from Friedrich picking his way through the grounds of Eldena to the 21st century Urbexer, climbing through a broken window to capture high-resolution images of abandoned swimming pools, factories and cinemas.

Ruins also give us a link to the past, helping explain the stories that got us from there to here; the changes in politics, religion, society and culture in general. What led this building to be built? What led this building to be abandoned? What does it mean today? All these questions, that hover above the peeling walls and collapsed roofs of ruins, can help us tell the story of a place.

The ruins of St Peter’s College has stood on a hill above the village of Cardross in Scotland for over thirty years. Built as a seminary, St Peter’s fulfilled its original role for a mere fourteen years, from 1966 to 1979. From the beginning, the design of the building made it difficult and expensive to maintain. It was a striking example of Modernist architecture, one that would be simultaneously lauded as one of Scotland’s finest 20th century buildings and derided as one of its worst, and from the most of its abandonment developed “a mythical, cult-like status among architects, preservationists and artists.”

Today, fifty years after it opened its doors, St Peter’s College is in the process of a renovation that will allow its renewal as a cultural space, to be ready sometime in 2019. To celebrate the anniversary of St Peter’s, and to reflect on its history and its story, the architectural historian Diane M Waters has traced this story of an architectural failure which morphed into a tragic, modernist myth in St Peter’s, Cardross: Birth, Death and Renewal. Within the pages of the book, published by Historic Environment Scotland, is also an image essay by Angus Farquhar which tells the story of Hinterland, an event that was intended to re-introduce St Peter’s as a place of creativity and inspiration.

With plenty of images and illustrations to help tell the story, St Peter’s, Cardross is a fascinating look at the history of a building, and how the dynamics of the world around it have shaped its story, both as a seminary and, later, as a ruin that inspired generations of artists and dreamers. Farquhar writes, close to the end of the book, of the cleanup process at the site:

I was worried whether the site clearance would ‘ruin the ruin’. What if the powerfully desolate character which had attracted so many people to visit and make work there over the last two decades was erased? What if, in becoming safe, it would also become bland? But week by week the original lines of the building were rerevealed, showing the experimental and sculptural qualities of the design to startling effect. As it was cleared of debris a new clarity and lightness pervaded the different spaces.

In Eldena, just outside Greifswald, the University of Greifswald hold concerts, theatre performances among the ruins of the Abbey during the warmer months of the year. As well as inspiring buddy artists and photographers, who wander through the red brick ruins, it has become a place of continuing art and culture; it may have been built as an abbey, but its legacy is centuries of artistic and creative inspiration. St Peter’s, standing above Cardross, is another “beautiful ruin” of a very different time and place, but one which looks as if will become an inspiration for years to come.

SPECIAL CHRISTMAS OFFER: buy St Peter’s, Cardross now for £20 (RRP £30) with free UK P&P using the code STPETERS20. (Offer valid until 20 December 2016). Buy online here.

The Memory Band: A Fair Field

In Elsewhere No.01, published in June 2015, we spoke to the musician Stephen Cracknell  about his work and, in particular, the music he releases as The Memory Band, that “imaginary band, built inside a computer and made flesh by the contributions of numerous musicians.” We asked Stephen to be our first interviewee in the pages of Elsewhere not simply because we love the music of The Memory Band, but also because within all the recordings, there is a strong sense of landscape, history and place to be found, alongside the beguiling mix of digital sounds, acoustic instruments and traditional melodies.

The new album – A Fair Field – just released on Static Caravan Records is no exception:

The Memory Band navigate a dream landscape of fading identity, dredging up forgotten histories from old maps, half-filled diaries, government records and lists left inside magazines detailing obsolete television schedules. The music was fed by stories of magical hares and the recollections of ballad sellers bearing placards at the great fairs of times past, the fields of which now lie buried beneath leisure centres, electricity substations, and retail parks. It traces the connection between the headstone of a man killed in Norfolk by the sails of a windmill, the first observations of solar flares, incendiarism, council estates and an old man’s recollection of ploughing the land by starlight in another time.

One of the great appeals of The Memory Band is shear depth of the influences and mix of ingredients that goes into each song.  Take The Bold Grenadier, which you can listen to via the link below. This is The Memory Band’s version of a traditional tune that was arranged by Richard Rodney Bennett for the 1967 film Far from the Madding Crowd. In the spoken word introduction, we hear the voice of Vashti Vincent, who was recorded in the village of Sixpenny Handley in Dorset, England, in 1954, in which she tells the story of how her father bought a ballad about a 19th century murder at a Sheep Fair:

Stephen has written about that episode, and more on the creation of A Fair Field and the places that inspired it on Caught by the River.  A Fair Field by The Memory Band is available on Static Caravan Records. The interview with Stephen Cracknell appeared in Elsewhere No.01, which you can buy in our online shop here.

 

Caught by the River: An Antidote to Indifference

A personal reflection by Paul Scraton:

I can remember the moment I ‘discovered’ Caught by the River very clearly. I was sitting in a café in Berlin with my friend Paul Sullivan and we were discussing bits and pieces to do with his Slow Travel Berlin project. As we talked, he tapped on the keys of his laptop and said to me, “here, have a look at this. I think you’ll really like it…”

I made a note of this website and that evening spent some time taking a closer look. It can be hard to describe exactly what it is… a collection of writing, films, music and more, that are somehow connected and yet are eclectic enough that each visit to the website brings you into contact with something you may have never discovered otherwise. On the about page of their website they tell their story in more detail, but at its core, Caught by the River was “conceived as an online meeting place for pursuits of a distinctly non-digital variety: walking, fishing, looking, thinking. Birdsong and beer. Adventure and poetry. Life’s small pleasures, in all their many flavours. It was – and still is – about stepping out of daily routines to re-engage with nature. Finding new rhythms. Being.”

Beyond the website, Caught by the River has grown to encompass a print fanzine and books; music releases under their own Rivertones record label; appearances at festivals and events of their own, and all along they have kept their core philosophy intact. I feel extremely proud to have been published on Caught by the River, but more than that I have enjoyed being part of this community of folk who follow and support the website and that have provided me with a key link “back home” from my actual home in Germany.

Along the way I have made friends through Caught by the River, many virtual and some in “real life.” Jeff, Andrew, Robin and Diva have also been a great support for Elsewhere from the very beginning, promoting our crowdfunding campaign, running extracts on the website and competitions through their newsletter. Last week, Caught by the River published their fifteenth edition of their print fanzine An Antidote to Indifference, which – disclaimer alert – features a piece I wrote early this year about the Magnetic North and their album Prospectof Skelmersdale.

As well as some previously published work from the website such as my essay on music and place, An Antidote to Indifference also includes original prose and poetry created especially for the fanzine. Including work from, among many other talented folk, Rob St John, Luke Turner, Melissa Harrison, Martha Sprackland and Keshia Glover, the issue has been lovingly put together by Diva Harris, strikingly designed by Louise Mason and deserves a place on the shelf or rolled up in the rucksack of anyone who, despite everything, sees this “world full of endless discovery, innovation, poetry…”

If ever we needed an antidote to indifference it is now. 

An Antidote to Indifference costs six British pounds and can be ordered directly here.

The Library: Down to the Sea in Ships by Horatio Clare

Read by: Marcel Krueger

I awoke on the ferry from Cherbourg to Rosslare from ferry dreams, getting lost while searching for the ferry port in a small Italian seaside village in my slumber. Outside the cabin window, in the violet early autumn dawn I could see the dark shape of Cornwall; St. Ives, perhaps, or Tintagel, across the calm and dark blue sea. I knew that the old ferry that I was sailing on, built in 1987 in Finland, was crossing one of the more busy shipping lanes in the Irish Sea, but of other ships, or the men manning them, there was nothing to be seen. For miles there was only the calm sea, the dark shape of the land and a few seagulls hanging over the waves.

To make the world of the men and their ships – the countless trade vessels and tankers crisscrossing the world’s oceans under the authority of commerce – visible for us landlubbers is the declared intention of Horatio Clare and his book. Joining two very different container ships on their journeys from Felixstowe to Los Angeles and Antwerp to Montreal, he provides us with both a vivid portrait of modern-day sailors and their ships, and an oral history of merchant sailing and its many disasters. He first boards the Gerd Maersk, a large modern container ship sailing around half of the globe under the command of Danish officers and with a mainly Filipino crew (Filipino merchantmen make up an astonishing 75% of the world’s merchant crews) and uses the many stops and locations on the route not only to paint a picture of the daily routine on merchant ships, but also to view his contemporary surroundings through the eyes of past chroniclers of the sea and to present the history of merchant sailing.

Coleridge makes an appearance, and Hayklut, and of course there is Conrad as well. Clare talks about sea battles in the Mediterranean, about grumpy Chinese pilots and all the contents of the containers, forever unseen to the men shipping them. His second journey on board the Maersk Pembroke is quite a different one, on an old ship that does not stop anywhere between leaving the berth and reaching her destination. As Clare states, 'I wanted storms and I wanted a ship nothing like the great Gerd.' This second part of the book and its somewhat narrower setting is mostly concerned with the weather, and uses Richard Woodman's brilliant book The Real Cruel Sea as groundwork to contemplate the fight of the US and UK merchant navies against both the sea and German submarines between 1939 and 1943.

After the first few pages I became somewhat apprehensive, as here Clare seems to praise the sailors and their employer (and provider of the author’s passage on the ships), the Danish shipping giant Maersk, to the skies.  But reading on, the author does not shy away from addressing all the (for us consumers unseen) issues of modern merchant sailing: the fact that Filipino merchantmen are paid 25% less than their European counterparts purely based on their nationality, and that even today stowaways are still being set adrift, sometimes. He also speaks about the environmental influences of commercial shipping and our influence on the world's oceans, about that the ships only use the crudest of fuels when on the high seas:  

'Seen from the perspective of the deep we are alien, a quasi/Martian species inhabiting a universe of almost entirely different physical and temporal conditions. As the Gerd pounds on far above it is as if she is a spacecraft, one of many in her vastly high orbit. Now and then one gropes down, blindly, with a net. Plunder and pollution are our only contributions to the worlds under the sea.'

But this is not a mere criticism of commerce and the men keeping its containers safe for us. Clare, an acclaimed journalist and writer, manages to weave personal portraits of the ship’s officers and crews, their motivation and dreams, into a wider narrative of men at sea. With its fine observations and evocative prose, Down to the Sea in Ships is one of those rare non-fiction books that the reader can get properly lost in, despite its portrait of the reality of life at sea. In here are pirates, lost fleets on a bitter lake, hundreds of birds hitching rides on ships, and the prohibition of beer on most modern merchant vessels. The Germans have a word for such a book – a Schmöker – a huge tome that is perfect to get lost in on long rainy afternoons in armchairs. Or on ferry voyages across the Irish Sea.

Down to the Sea in Ships is published in hardcover by Chatto & Windus and in paperback by Vintage.

You can read more reviews by Marcel in all four editions of Elsewhere, available via our online shop.

Postcard from... Conakry

By Tim Woods:

Conakry is a city with few options. Surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic, the only direction in which it can expand is inland. New apartment buildings rise rapidly in the hills to the northeast, with poorer dwellings springing up wherever there’s a gap in between. Yet the city’s heart remains in Kaloum, out on the peninsula’s furthest tip and where the main port, markets, office blocks and government ministries are found.

The result? Traffic clogs the three main highways to Kaloum from before sunrise to long after dusk. My taxi to Ratoma – barely a quarter of the way through the city’s total area – takes more than two hours; the driver’s frequent attempts at a short cut being beaten by potholes, floods or others with the same idea. 

“Traffic’s quite a problem in Conakry,” I venture.
 “Problems have solutions,” he smiles. “Here, traffic is just life.”

The Library: Yugoslavia, My Fatherland by Goran Vojnović

Read by: Paul Scraton

In the departure lounge of Ljubljana airport, two hours early for our flight back to Germany, I pulled a book out of my bag and start to read. Two flights and about five hours later I read the final page as the plane made the final approach to Berlin’s Tegel Airport. I had crossed the Alps and the heart of Germany, but really I had been in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as explored through the eyes of a narrator who has discovered, sixteen years after he believed his father was dead, that in fact that this barely remembered man who was an officer in the Yugoslav People’s Army is actually alive and living in hiding, a fugitive of the Hague as a wanted war criminal. Yugoslavia, My Fatherland by Goran Vojnović tells the story of the narrator’s journey to find his father, a journey that causes him to reflect on how the disintegration of his family is tied to the disintegration of the country, and the world, that they used to call home.

I came to this book by coincidence – the man sitting next to me on my flight out to Ljubljana a week earlier was reading (in Slovenian) a book by Goran Vojnović who was then profiled (in English) in a magazine I picked up at the airport, waiting for my bags to appear. I have long been interested in the history of the former Yugoslavia; ever since I was a student in Leeds starting out my degree only two years after the Dayton Peace Accords had brought to an end the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina that had played out on our teatime television screens throughout my teenage years. Reading about Yugoslavia, My Fatherland in the magazine was what led me to a book described by the English publishers as a work that “deals intimately with the tragic fates of the people who managed to avoid the bombs, but were unable to escape the war.”

Goran Vojnović was born in Slovenia in 1980 and is a well-respected director and screenwriter as well as being a bestselling novelist. I would love to speak to him at some point about how much of the background of his protagonist – school experiences in Ljubljana in the 1990s for instance – reflect his own, as the power of this novel is in how Vojnović manages to explore the break-up of Yugoslavia from the multitude of perspectives in the different parts of the former Federal Republic, allowing all voices to have their say without, it seems to me, judgement or bias one way or the other. One of the finest scenes in the book is when his new classmate in Ljubljana, where the teenage narrator has moved with his mother from Pula, Croatia via Belgrade and Novi Sad, explains what is happening in Yugoslavia via the nationalities of the other children in the class.

Throughout the book the narrator remembers the slow collapse of the world of his childhood through remembered scenes in apartments, the tone of the newsreaders on the evening television and the atmosphere in Ljubljana where he lives but never quite feels at home. The other strand of the story is of course the present-day search for his father, and the impact of the knowledge of the crimes he is alleged to have committed in a village in Slavonia. The story is told in a matter-of-fact, sometimes humorous tone, and Vojnović certainly has a flair for set-piece scenes, both in the description and the dialogue, but what is most impressive is how the battle of ideas that reflects battles taking place elsewhere in real life, and the complexity of personal identities both in the time of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and today, are told through the multitude of characters who appear in the book. This is impressive writing, and one of the best tellings of the Yugoslavia story that I have read.

This is a novel about place, about memory, and about how the world of our childhood can be destroyed so that it no longer exists, even if it remains a name on a map. Along the way it deals with a number of signifiers of home and belonging, from the behaviour of guests at a wedding to the differences in language, not only between the Slovene his mother insists on using when they move to Ljubljana and the Serbo-Croatian that has been the family language up to that point, but the differences within the latter, when his Bosnian classmates make fun of the narrator as he speaks the Italian-tinged version of his childhood home on the coast.

Goran Vojnović tells this story in relatively straightforward language, but the more you read the more you realise how complex the novel is as it creates this portrait of a disintegrating country through the personal story of a disintegrating family. It is a reminder of the power of literature, and of fiction, to help us come to the essential truth of history and its impact on people. Much credit must go to the translator Noah Charney and the publishers Istros Books for bringing it to an English-speaking audience as this is an important and powerful book, and one which deserves to be read as widely as possible.

Yugoslavia, My Fatherland by Goran Vojnović, translated by Noah Charney, is available via the publishers, Istros Books.

Postcard from... Koh Kret

By Julia Stone:

As we approach the island by boat, the chimney has the appearance of a ginormous tree, sprouting high above the coconut palms and temple rooftops. Out of the mouth of the chimney a bush of some sort is growing, like a head of curly hair.

Koh Kret became an island in 1722, when a canal was constructed to create a shortcut in the Chaophraya river. To this day there is no bridge connecting the two by two kilometre island from the mainland, and only bicycles and motorbikes travel the path that runs around it. You will find Koh Kret to the north of Bangkok, in the district of Nonthaburi, where I my dad lives. I love coming to Koh Kret for the rural atmosphere and absolute contrast to the bustle and noise of the mainland, just a two Baht ferry ride away, although not on the wekend, when hordes of Bangkokians arrive to eat, buy pottery souvenirs or visit the Mon temples on the island.

Mon immigrants settled Koh Kret after the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767, during the Siamese-Burmese war. Today the majority of Koh Kret's population is still Mon, with their own distinct version of Buddhism and a traditional style of Mon pottery called kwan aman, for which Nonthaburi and especially the island are famous.

The chimney is the remnant of a pottery village, I can see some of the brick kilns still standing below as I approach it via an elevated path between crops growing in water, but it looks like it hasn't been used in quite a while. As a kid, my mom used to take me to the Koh Kret and sometimes one of the potters would let me have a go at forming the clay on the rotating wheel, but now I wonder about this inactivity. As the visitors pick over the choice of pottery souvenirs in the village shops I have to question whether they are even made here any more. 

The Joy of Old Maps

By Paul Scraton:

A love of maps is something that all of us share here at Elsewhere, and I suspect that goes for a good many of our readers as well. On a personal level, there is nothing I like more than sitting down with a collection of maps to plan a route or a journey. If is a place I have never been to before, it is a moment where imagination takes over as I attempt to picture the lie of the land or the streetscape I will soon be passing through. If it is a place I known well, the map will stimulate memories of previous travels and trips, or the everyday journeys from here to there when it was a different place, the place on the map, which I called home.

Something of a traditionalist, I prefer my maps on paper, although Amy Liptrot’s essay in Elsewhere No.02 that featured Google Maps as a stimulus to memory and imagination persuaded me that there can also be much value in exploration via a glowing screen. If it is a map of the here and now, I think it is the possibility that they represent that most appeals: Is that a footpath along that abandoned railway embankment? Is that a river in my neighbourhood, one that had somehow passed me by? What is in that patch of grey space in the edgelands of the city, between the residential districts and first of the farmed fields in the surrounding countryside? Maybe I should go and find out…

There is another subset of maps that have long fascinated me, and they are maps from the past. Whether found in second hand bookshops or reproduced and reprinted, old maps are a great starting point for anyone interested in understanding the history of a place. In Elsewhere No.04 we highlighted two projects that have old maps at their heart: the reproductions of city maps by Pharus here in Germany, and the London Trails walking tours by Ken Titmuss, using old maps as guiding documents. Inspired, we decided to launch the fourth edition of Elsewhere by taking a walk, following a route from Friedrichstraße station in the centre of Berlin to the Vagabund brewery in the old industrial district of Wedding. Using a Pharus map of the city from 1902, we attempted to bridge the gap between the Berlin on paper and what we could see with our own eyes.

The map offered us clues to the history of the city. The location of synagogues on the map suggested where the centre of the Jewish community in the early 20th century Berlin could be found. The market halls and bathhouses, theatres and factories, all diligently marked down, spoke to the everyday reality of life in the rapidly industrialising city in 1902. The destinations indicated for each of the main-line railway stations hinted at very different borders for the Germany of then and the Germany of now. Where the Vagabund brewery now stands, the streets are marked but not yet named, and in between them only an empty space. The map of 1902, with a good number of these planned but unbuilt neighbourhoods circling the city centre, showed us that the expansion of Berlin, laid out by James Hobrecht in 1861, was still very much a work in progress. 

As we walked a steady rain fell and the water on the ground shimmered under the streetlamps and headlights of the cars as darkness swallowed the city. In the half-light of an autumn evening we searched out the links between 1902 and now. The theatre still standing. The railway station. The market hall (now a supermarket). And we spotted what was missing: some of the synagogues, the bathhouses and a department store, huge factory complexes and a circus tent. As we walked we could also trace other moments in Berlin’s history, things that in 1902 were still to come. We walked by open spaces levelled by bombs that fell over 70 years ago. We crossed the path of the Berlin Wall. We finished up on a street that now had a name and was now lined with houses.

Old maps will only ever tell part of a story, but they offer up clues that help lead us to some of the fascinating tales of the city. They help us understand what was here before and provide us with a guiding document to imagine what has been lost. Indeed, all maps are – to some extent – “old”. From the moment they are finished they are immediately out of date. A new building erected here. An old one gone there. Streets re-routed and renamed. But in their inaccuracy, maps whatever their age are invaluable for those of us interested in the story of a place. 

Elsewhere No.04, with our map special featuring essays and interviews can be found on our online shop here. Elsewhere No.02, featuring Amy Liptrot’s essay ‘A (near future) Google Maps tour of the heart’ can be found here. For the historic map tours in London, offered by Ken Titmuss, visit London Trails website. You can search the archive of reprinted maps from Pharus via their online shop here.