Postcard from... Samarkand

IMAGE: Tim Woods

IMAGE: Tim Woods

By Tim Woods

How did I get through 39 years – four of them studying geography – without even hearing of Samarkand? A vital stop on the Silk Road for centuries, and today one of Central Asia’s major tourist attractions, I knew nothing about it until I had to travel there for work and started reading up. How did that happen?

The answer is in its location: I’ve never had much reason to think about the countries of Central Asia. For most of my childhood, they weren’t even countries, just unmentioned parts of the USSR, then briefly the CIS. They were not part of the backpackers’ highway by the time I’d reached that stage of life, their brief heyday as a hippy route into Afghanistan long since over. Too far east to sneak into Eurovision, and too rubbish at football to qualify for the World Cup, they never crossed my frame of reference and I rarely gave a second, even a first, thought to Uzbekistan or its trickily spelt neighbours.

My loss. Samarkand is incredible, an irresistible combination of breath-taking buildings and security so lax that you can walk among these ancient sites that would be cordoned off in most places. I only stayed for one night, but was grateful for a glimpse; one day I’ll hopefully return and give the city the attention it deserves.

April Clouds

170417_Himmel_maerkischesland_lr.jpg

Märkisches Land, 17 April 2017, East

By Rolf Schröter:

The landscape that can be viewed through the window of an intercity train flies by, and things one might wish to focus on vanish too quickly. The only real world thing outside the train that can be grasped, that stays long enough to let musing begin, is the sky. This is especially true in spring, when above the monotonous agricultural deserts of the German plain the clouds and sunlight perform their works of great theatre. I try to focus on small excerpts of that performance, to capture them in a small notebook that I carry in my pocket. It is hasty work, as the clouds and the train move, and by the time I am finished things have progressed so far that I cannot check my sketch with the original any more. It doesn't matter. Instead I note the time, the approximate place, and the direction of travel. I take home with me a report, even if it might be fiction.

Westhavelland, 28 April 2017, West

 

Wolfsburg, 28 April 2017, West

 

Isenbüttel, 17 April 2017, East

 

Uetze, 17 April 2017, East

 

Rolf Schröter is a draughtsman living in Berlin. While doing technical and design drawings for the living, he is spending a lot of free time sketching from observation in his town or on journeys. He publishes this work on his blog skizzenblog.rolfschroeter.com.

Back down Ashley Vale

IMAGE: Matt Gilbert

IMAGE: Matt Gilbert

By Matt Gilbert

Sometimes when I go back it feels like nothing’s changed. The abrupt left turn from Ashley Hill, the sudden switch from concrete underfoot to earth, the choice of downward paths between high hedges.

The place I’m thinking of is Ashley Vale, St Werburghs, in the north east of Bristol. Here, hemmed in by roads and railway tracks, is a V shaped territory within which can be found allotments, woods, scrubland, grassland, a couple of streets, a pub, a city farm, some lock-up garages and a hill – Narroways Hill.

The name Ashley Vale – I later learnt – derives from the Anglo Saxon ‘aesc’ meaning ash tree and ‘leah’ – wood. There was once an estate here called Asselega. Not far away was my infant school, Ashley Down. For now Ash remains the predominant tree on the ground and in the local place names.

Entering from Ashley Hill, there’s an iron gatepost on the right a short way down the lane, which leads towards a track that runs through a small ash wood over and alongside a railway line, before sloping down gently through allotments until reaching Mina Road, where a left turn will take you through a graffiti covered tunnel – a reminder that you’re still in Bristol.

More often, I would go the other way, take the left hand path and drop on foot swiftly down to the floor of this urban valley, past a lone house in the middle, adrift in a sea of allotment gardens. These have always been subject to change, moving through the seasons and an ever-rotating cast of crops; tended and grown and pulled out and dug up.

On one side of the lane the plots rise steeply towards Ashley Down Road: stretching away uphill, a hundred small empires of beanstalks, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, bordered by narrow, leaning sheds and water butts; punctuated with crab apple trees and Hawthorn. The ground patrolled at night by cat and fox, carefully treading around each other.

On the opposite southern side, a smaller number of allotments on flatter ground filled the space between Gaunt lane and the steeply banked woody edge of the railway line.

*

As a teenager and into my early twenties I’d walk this way on route to my favourite pub – The Farm – which sat on the edge of the Ashley Vale allotments, next door to the St Werburgh’s City Farm.

Here we’d sit and chat in what we imagined were converted pig sheds in the garden, or try our hands at bar billiards in a little room at the back. With the 1990s rapidly approaching, this strange relative of billiards seemed something of an anachronism, yet the clanking element of playing against time and a dropping bar, as you tried to avoid sinking wooden mushrooms was deliciously compelling.

The pub’s position, at the bottom of two sloping hills, bordered by green lanes and allotments on two sides, faced only by a row of tightly terraced houses on Hopetoun Road, gave it the feel of a village inn, rather than the city pub it really was. As a result I indulged in private fantasies that The Farm was somewhere in the Shire; its lush surroundings, small green hills, gardens and stands of trees forming a tiny Hobbiton in Bristol.

On the way home from visits here, on still-light summer nights, I’d often stop on Hurlingham Road, on higher ground, a little beyond the bounds of Ashley Vale and look back over the scene. As I took in the view beyond the woods and allotments, my eyes would follow the blur of yellow street lamps as they merged into the whiter light of cars on the M32, and I’d find myself wishing that like them I was heading somewhere else.  

Now, far removed from those teenage years, my relationship with this place has been transformed. I remember once reading in David Lodge’s Small World about an essay, by an academic character, on T S Eliot’s influence on Shakespeare. In the book this is presented as the pretentious waffle of a postmodernist. However, I was struck hard by the notion that later readings and experience can change your perception of a writer, a person or a place.

Certainly in the case of Ashley Vale my view of it has altered over time. For a long while I even had the name wrong and referred to the whole area as the Narroways, when in fact, this is just the hill at one end.

*

When I first encountered the lanes that criss-cross the area, I appreciated the woods and greenery only as a kind of abstract, scenic backdrop for visits to the pub. I certainly had no idea that the place was under any kind of threat.

Firstly in 1997 in the face of efforts to sell off the land around Narroways hill by Railtrack, a mass protest was organized by the Narroways Action Group and the plans were eventually dropped. Then in 2000, thanks largely to the actions of local people, The Narroways was granted Millennium Green Status.

Today there looms a different kind of danger. The ash, like all ash in our diminished country, could be killed off by one or both of the Emerald Ash Borer or Hymenoscyphus fraxineus, the fungus behind ash dieback. This thought presents a nightmare vision of a denuded hollow, its woods stripped away, leaving open ground, ripe for levelling and development.

So now, more than ever, I appreciate the life that can be found within this small area of land. I look at the website of the Narroways Millenium Green trust and delight in reading a rollcall of the plants and creatures that can be found here.

Amongst old fruit trees, grasslands, sycamore and ash can be found waxwings and slow worms, common lizards, Small Copper and Marbled White butterflies and hedgehogs, not to mention robins, blackbirds, blue and great tits.

The names checked and logged in a recent ecological management statement from the Narroways Millenium Green Trust, sounds a little like a floral class-register: Upright Brome, Black Knapweed, Agrimony, Autumn Hawkbit, Lady’s Bedstraw, Field Scabious and Yellow Oat Grass, all present and correct.  

There is something reassuring about learning that these things are here, and while I can’t pretend that I am able to identify them all, knowing the names and knowing they are there makes me care about the place more deeply than before. I definitely take care now to try not to confuse Corky Fruited Water Dropwort for Cow Parsley.

*

Since those early days my sense of the history of the place has grown. Largely through a wonderfully resonant brief history by Harry McPhillimy of the Narroways Millenium Green Trust.

I have learnt the story behind the fantastically named Boiling Wells Lane, an atmospheric pathway entered at one end through a dark railway tunnel. This name comes from a spring that ran here, whose water was gaseous in nature and as it bubbled and frothed on its course gave out the appearance that it was boiling.

Nearby on the other side of the hill lies another path with a tale to tell: Cut Throat Lane. At 18 I knew the name but not the history. The story goes that In 1913, a woman named Ada James was murdered by her fiancé Ted Palmer, who cut her throat during a row; but Ada didn’t simply collapse and die, first she staggered back as far as Mina Road, where in front of witnesses, she managed to write her killer’s name on a piece of paper. Before she died she apparently declared that  ‘My fiancé did it’. Soon, Palmer was arrested and hanged within a couple of months. Poor Ada’s ghost is now said to haunt the scene.

Even the allotments, which always seemed so ephemeral, it seems have deeper roots than I once believed. In the same short history mentioned above, I learned that during the medieval period, strip lynchetts – short individual field terraces – once lined the slopes above Boiling Wells Valley. So those ever-changing small plots of land are also echoes of and heirs to a land use that stretches back for centuries.

I no longer live in Bristol, but often find Ashley Vale and the Narroways still with me. I see hints of it in other places as I’m passing through. On trains in south east London for instance, watching crowded tree and bramble covered banks flicker past, I’m taken back. Amongst these crow haunted verges, amidst rogue forsythia, ivy carpets, old paint pots and littered cartons, there is always a glimpse to be had of this somewhere from my youth. A place I once dreamt of leaving, but now no longer have any desire to escape.

Matt Gilbert grew up in Bristol and now lives in London. He blogs about place, books & other things at richlyevocative.net and tweets @richlyevocative

References:
Narroways Millennium Green Trust
Harry McPhillimy From Norway To Narroways

In the village there is a river

IMAGE: Martin A. Smith

IMAGE: Martin A. Smith

By Martin A. Smith:

In the village there is a river.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that along the edge of the river there is a village.

It is not a big river, or a grand river. It is a small river, alive with trout, which slowly, gently makes its way down from the hills and the mountains, skirts the four ruined castles that give this place its name and passes through to the world beyond.

As it approaches the village it first passes a couple of houses, both with chickens running around the garden, then a ruined factory full of broken windows and rusting machinery. This was a textile producing area and every town or village on a river had a mill. When the industry became too expensive the mills and factories were shut down and left to decay. Now all towns and villages with a river have a ruined factory.

A part of the factory in this village though has been turned into a visitor centre for the castles, another part into a restaurant that has a Michelin star, luxury out of decay.

The river continues past the restaurant, the town hall, the bakery (open every day except Tuesdays) and the post office (open Tuesday afternoons and usually runs out of stamps)

The post office used to be a night club and, rumour has it, a brothel.

The river runs past the car park and away.

It is a large car park for a small village. It is used by the tourists visiting the ruined chateaux on the top of the hill and is the site of the old station.

A village this size wouldn’t normally justify a station, let alone a nightclub, or indeed a brothel. But they were not for the village; they were for the goldmine further up the mountain.

But the mine didn’t last long, the station closed, the nightclub became a post office and the village returned to being a small quiet village with a large car park for the tourists.

Along the river’s edge running adjacent to the car park there are large sloping walls. Flood defences built with granite and concrete and cement. The gentle river seems trapped at this point, encased between the mountain on one side and these defences on the other. They seem incongruous, ugly, unnecessary.

I do not know if they were they built to protect and support the railway line, or built later as part of the car park. But I know that they are unforgiving and I wondered why they were built so.

Then it rained and we watched as the water rise.

And suddenly the walls looked small and insufficient. People ran to remove their cars and protect their homes from the onslaught.

It was only for two or three days but the rain was relentless, obliterating the view across the valley, shrinking the world to a few feet in front of the window.

Swept down from the mountains by the crying winds the rain and the river it fed brought whole trees past our doors, broke the banks upstream and some villages were evacuated.

But the walls were enough. The river was contained and the rain eventually stopped.

The water started to subside and the village could relax, this battle with the elements was over. The locals met and discussed the water, how many leaks their homes had, the after effects of the flooding, all thankful their homes remained intact. Because for a time it was not certain.

In the village there is a river, and there is still a river and there is still a village and the walls that seemed incongruous, ugly, unnecessary kept us safe.

Martin A. Smith is an artist and composer whose work is concerned with the emotional response to the nature of place, memory and environment.

This piece is part of a gently ongoing project to discover the story of a small village in France.

Elsewhere No.05: Some thoughts from the editors

IMAGE: Paul & Julia in discussion, Tim hiding behind the camera

IMAGE: Paul & Julia in discussion, Tim hiding behind the camera

For the first time in the short history of the journal, for Elsewhere No.05 we did the submissions process a little differently. Unlike with the previous four editions of the journal, we had a call for submissions  and a specific window of time in which people had to get us their work. On top of that, Elsewhere No.05 is also the first time we had a theme. So we were certainly interested, as the 31 March deadline approached, as to what writing and visual art on the theme of place and transition we would receive.

This week, after weeks of reading, I sat down with our editor Tim Woods and our creative director Julia Stone, at Elsewhere HQ Berlin-Neukölln to discuss the submissions and, slowly but surely, build a contents list for the fifth edition of the journal. With the number of submissions, we were unable to give personal feedback to every person who sent us their work, but we thought it might be a nice idea to share some general thoughts from our perspective, which might be food-for-thought for anyone submitting to us or another magazine/journal in the future:

Theme

Elsewhere is a “journal of place” and we decided, for issue No.05 to add the theme of “transition” into the mix. Now, within both of these there is an awful lot of room for manoeuvre. We had said from the beginning that genre or style of writing is not a deciding factor. Fiction or non-fiction. Poetry or prose. We will consider writing that could be labelled memoir or travel-writing, psychogeography or local history, reportage or experimental fiction … we really don’t care. What we are interested in is that it is good, and that it somehow conveys some sense of place within the topic of transition. Unfortunately, some submissions either did not relate to the issue theme of transition and/or were not related to the topic of place, and so however well-written they might have been, they were just not right for us.

That said, we did receive an incredible mix of writing and other submissions that DID fit the theme of the issue; from prose essays to poetry; illustration to photography; interview suggestions and book reviews. What was most gratifying was not only the quality of the work shared with us, but the diversity of approaches and styles that made it so much fun to read and also so difficult to come to a final decision. It meant that the decision-making process took a bit longer than we would have hoped, but it was certainly never boring!

Transition

Talking of the theme, and this is not a criticism but more an observation; we were interested in how many of the writers sending us the work interpreted the theme of transition on a very personal level, relating to movement, home and emotion, rather than on a political or societal level. As you will hopefully see when Elsewhere No.05 is published, we have tried to put together a journal that offers a mix of different perspectives on that theme.

Paris and Berlin

Perhaps because of where we are based, we often get a lot of submissions on the topic of Berlin. And for this issue, the German capital was joined by its French counterpart as the most popular place to write about in our submissions pile. But especially when it comes to Berlin and other places we know well and – more crucially – have been written about a lot, we are extremely picky. It is a reminder that writing about places that have been covered a lot, or with which your audience are familiar, it can sometimes be more difficult to make your writing stand out.

Format

At Elsewhere we consider every submission that arrives, however it is formatted and even if it is clear at first glance that someone hasn’t read our submissions guidelines. Sometimes, in very rare cases, we also receive submissions from people who appear to think we are someone else, or haven’t actually looked at what we DO publish. It would not take long on our blog, for example, to know that we are unlikely to publish a listicle piece about 30 Ways To Get Cheap Spring Break Tickets To Europe. It is also better not to send submissions addressed to our friends at The Berlin Quarterly or Gorse.

In general though, what was really nice about this submissions window was how many people did appear to be following what we do, both in print and online, and had sent us pieces that they thought would interest us. In the vast, vast majority of cases this was true, and the reading process was all the more pleasurable for it. We also wanted to use the blog to say thank you to everyone who took the time to send us their work. We really appreciate it. And we can’t wait to share the details of Elsewhere No.05 in the coming weeks.

Paul

The 2017 Berlin Writing Prize

With a theme like “Home is Elsewhere”, it is no wonder that we wanted to get involved in the 2017 Berlin Writing Prize, presented by our good friends The Reader Berlin, The Circus Hotel and SAND Journal. The prize is a month-long writer’s residency in our home city, where “the winning writer will have undisturbed time to observe, explore and write in one of the world’s most inspiring cities.”

The closing date for submissions is 31 July 2017, the competition is open to published and unpublished writers resident anywhere in the world, and the judges include, award-winning author Irenosen Okojie, author and creative director Michael Salu, SAND editor Florian Duijsens, Katrin Schönig from The Circus Hotel and our very own editor in chief Paul Scraton. The competition is for prose writing (fiction and non-fiction) and there is a maximum word length of 3000 words.

For all the various bits and pieces you need to know about submitting your entry to the 2017 Berlin Writing Prize, please head on over to the competition page on The Reader’s website. There you will find the submissions guidelines, details of the prizes and biographies of the judges.

We’re really excited to read what comes in and to celebrate fresh, original writing and emerging writing talent.
 

MAP6 Collective - The Milton Keynes Project

Postcards from Milton Keynes by Richard Chivers

Postcards from Milton Keynes by Richard Chivers

We are really pleased to introduce the latest project from the MAP6 photography collective. MAP6 was established in 2011 and each year creates a body of work around a central theme or geographical location. Working together on the group project, the result is both individually diverse and yet unified by the joint project theme and the shared curiosity within the collective for exploring the complex relationships between people and place.

In 2017, having previously worked on The Moscow Project, The Home Project and The Lithuanian Project, the collective have turned their shared attention to Milton Keynes, to coincide with the city's 50th birthday and in order to capture its geography, people, structure and architecture. Milton Keynes was born out of a visionary plan - a garden city planned around a rigid grid; a low green lush place, planned for the car and with self-contained neighbourhoods at its core.

MK Millenials by Heather Shuker

MK Millenials by Heather Shuker

The Milton Keynes Project aims to ask the essential questions about whether or not Milton Keynes was a success, how Milton Keynes is understood now by those who live there, and whether or not an artificially developed new town can have a genuine culture. Themes within the project and explored through the photographs include portraits of those who live and work in Milton Keynes, the relationship between the car and the landscape, and a celebration of the ambiguous, original and visionary architecture to be found there.

We have very pleased to be able to share some of the images from the project here on the Elsewhere blog, and you can find out more about The Milton Keynes Project and the other work of the MAP6 Collective on their website.

Postcard from... Bingley Five Rise Locks

IMAGE: Paul Scraton

IMAGE: Paul Scraton

By Paul Scraton:

We walked up the Leeds and Liverpool Canal from Bingley town centre, past old factories and the quay where barges would once have been loaded and unloaded. The towpath was busy; Easter weekend and the walkers, runners and cyclists were out in full force. When the canal network was built, its function was transport and the aim was making money. What it is now is a reminder and a resource, a web crisscrossing the country that at once offers us a stroll through some of the country’s most beautiful scenery while charting the rise and fall of industry, and how water was replaced by rail and road.

I grew up a few hundred metres from the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, in West Lancashire on the other side of the great divide from Bingley. The canal was an ever-present in my childhood and teenage years, a place of walks and birthday bike-rides, the place where we snuck our first cans of beer and then – later – our first legal pints in a pub by the locks. There was a mill in our village. Now it has been turned into apartments. Where the bridge crossed the canal on my way to school there has been a new development since I left home, a cobbled courtyard surrounded by cafes and restaurants, galleries and other craft businesses. The 21st century industry on the banks of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.

At Bingley Five Rise Locks we arrived as a barge had just entered the first of the locks. The lock keeper had come down from the office and was making the initial steps of opening and closing the various parts of the five-step system. In less than a hundred metres, the barge would rise nearly twenty – the steepest canal ‘staircase’ in the British canal network and a marvel of engineering. When the Bingley Five Rise locks opened in the 1770s, almost thirty thousand people came to celebrate. It was the 18th century shuttle launch, a technological wonder, and in all those years since there has been no real need to substantially alter the locks system. It just works.

We stayed to watch the barge make its progress, ever upwards, until it had reached the top of the locks. Later, I learned a word that seemed almost too good to be true. A gongoozler is someone who enjoys watching activity on the canals, born out of a derogatory term canal-workers used for those who stood idle while they worked up a sweat. The lock keeper at Bingley Five Rise did not look like he needed any help, so we let him get on with it. On either side of the canal, the gongoozlers stood and watched. We joined the club. 

Poetry: Zenith, by Shirley Jones-Luke

Image: Katrin Schönig

Image: Katrin Schönig

Ancient mariners were guided by a celestial sphere
they revered it like worshipers of a false idol
that's why many ships were swallowed by angry seas
sailors' cries of help silenced by waves of torment
wreckage of their lost lives scavenged by the villagers

A mast holds up the roof of my cottage on a neighboring beach
like a sundial its shadow moves with the passing sun
I use fabric from the sails of old ships to block the rays
splotchy patterns decorate the sundial's form
at night, silhouettes of palm trees are shadow puppets

Morning brings more storm-battered treasures
a ship's wheel entangled in seaweed, a broken
rudder wedged between two alabaster boulders,
a cannon torn in half floats in the water, 
I see the wealth in the sand

Hurricanes are common in the area, when
clouds turn black, destruction is on the horizon,
the villagers hunker down in caves on the
side of the mountain, I pack up my few
possessions - clothing, my journal and a picture of you

There are no ships at sea, the sailors
have learned the ocean's lesson, gulls glide
on electrified air, squawking their disapproval,
I make a note in my journal to collect feathers
once the storm has passed

The sky cracks open, rain comes down
like a butcher's knife, cutting into the island
the gulls are gone, nestled in their own
shelters, the villagers pray, casting wide eyes
at the sky, I think about you

In the morning, the sun brightens the damage
huts have lost their roofs, my cottage was knocked
off its foundation and leans to the side, the gulls
feast on dead crabs washed ashore, the villagers search
for what remains and I search for remnants of you

Shirley Jones-Luke is a poet and a writer.  Ms. Luke lives and works in Boston, Massachusetts. She has an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing.  Shirley was a 2016 Watering Hole Poetry Fellow. Her work has been published by Adelaide, Damfino, Deluge and ENUF.
 

Neon

IMAGE: Jeanette Farrell

IMAGE: Jeanette Farrell

By Jeanette Farrell:

Come spring time everybody migrates towards the park; it’s as if the humble daffodil emits an ultrasonic soundwave and suddenly there we all are, an entire borough marching in unison towards our gated hill all filled with colour and squealing and light. We are boisterously reclaiming our place in a city whose tightly woven streets can deaden the clatter of our chat and so, the park, come Spring-time, this is our release. 

Brockwell Park reveals itself on a slope with its grand house perched on top. Surrounded on all sides by a densely compacted population in one of the biggest metropolises – everybody is there and there isn’t a continent unrepresented in multiplicity. Cities absorb people by portioning us off into offices and houses and pubs and buses and so out there in our urban meadow, that’s where we mingle. There’s the skate park and the lido, quaint markers of the athletic desires we presuppose is our reason for being there; that we’ll run and stretch and swim, dipping in and out of the ever confounding combination of Brixton’s noise. But most of us are content with the prospect of lying down on the grass. 

There is a comforting familiarity to Brockwell Park, an unsophisticated elegance of ritual through which we make it our own year after year once the grey recedes. Here, the idea of public space is at its most civic; we walk around as if it were an extension of our own home, knowing its pockets and its shade. 

While basking in this kind of outdoor domesticity we feel content that everything has its place and pace. The sky will change throughout the day and we will retreat beneath the trees in a pantomime of weather, watching the rain beneath sheltering branches. Nurseries will empty and the park will fill up. School children will linger/rabble-rouse eating chicken and chips, tumbling into each other from gate to gate and watchful locals will sit on drift wood taking it all in. There will be dogs and there will be roller bladers, there will be cans of lager and weed in the air.  And then all of a sudden this spell of the expected is broken with the shrill warble of the neon green parakeet and we look up to stare at this glamorous interloper. 

We’re not really meant to have these beautiful birds around here and yet they thrive, roosting in tall trees and causing ruckus with that noise they make. There are lots of theories to account for their presence; that a couple absconded from Ealing Studios and populated the landscape; that a gang of them escaped from an open container at Heathrow airport; that an aviary collapsed during a storm; that the original pair belonged to David Bowie, or to Jimi Hendrix. They are a mad dash of colour amongst the rich green of this cloistered pocket of south London. They’re not gentle and serene like this dream of spring time and routine, they are flying fluorescent chaos. Apparently there are thousands of them about, an anomaly in an otherwise textbook geography but the first time they’re encountered they’re like a mirage – ‘a parakeet, that couldn’t be!’

Now when they’re spotted, or heard, rather it’s like welcoming an eccentric old friend. Thank goodness for the parakeets, we think.  A gentle nudge to remind us that anything is possible, that this world, regimented and predictable though it is, is unbelievable too. 

Jeanette Farrell is a writer based in London. 

Postcard from... the Rakotzbrücke

IMAGE: Katrin Schönig

IMAGE: Katrin Schönig

By Paul Scraton:

The basalt columns reach out from the sandy soil to create perfect hiding places for the mystical creatures of the forest as they move down to the water’s edge. The stones tumble into the gloomy lake, as if to provide a landing stage for the creatures lurking in the depths. And the bridge curls in an arch from one bank to the other, its reflection in the lake creating a perfect circle. 

This is, surely, the devil’s work.

In this corner of Germany, close to the Polish border, the Rakotzbrücke has also been long known as the ‘Devil’s Bridge’, but in reality the structure, along with the basalt columns and the other rock formations that stand at the water are the work of very human hands. The bridge is at the heart of the Azalea and Rhododendron Park in Kromlau, Gablenz; a landscaped garden created in the 19th century by the local landowner along ‘English’ lines. With the end of the Second World War the park became property of the local community, and since 1948 it has been protected as a nature reserve.

But despite the fact that you know this structure was created by mortal hands, and despite the queue of photographers at the head of the lake, looking for the perfect angle to capture the perfect circle, it still has a strange impact when you approach it through the woods. It could be the stage set for some fantastical film or HBO series. It could be the nocturnal playground for all manner of beings. And it is not hard to imagine it as a playground for those mystical creatures of the forest, even if they themselves have no idea how it got there.
 

Train

IMAGE: Sam Eadington

IMAGE: Sam Eadington

By Sam Eadington:

England is best seen from the train. The rolling landscapes of the patchwork quilt; the sheep, the horses, the cows, the deer; the noble oaks, winding streams, drystone walls and disciplined hedges. They’re all a part of it. There are the sprawling suburbs of bad brick banter, saloon-skinned culs-de-sac snakes of mini-mansions less than a yard apart, but importantly detached. That sense of independence, of possession, it matters, and transcends the shuddering windows to the carpeted isle where it blooms into righteous indignation with every incident of seat reservation noncompliance. It’s from the train you see England’s character exposed, its emotions raw, its real metal. Metal fences, metal wire, metal buildings, metal thieves; responsible for your delays. You are apologised to for the inconvenience this may have caused to your journey. You are apologised to again and again. Sorry, I nearly touched you. Sorry, can I just squeeze past. Sorry, this is my stop. Hopefully not a ‘Parkway’ stop, though. The new boys in town. Or more accurately the new boys out of town, where you’re guaranteed either a massive car park or a power station. Although, on second thoughts, perhaps not so unfitting for the dystopia Turner foresaw; hissing water falls, cooled, onto a concrete floor from a concrete tower, that train doesn’t stop at this station, just forces you behind the yellow line, a contemporary rendition of what was once called sublime. 

You’re back on the train flying through paintings. All those hedges, how blurry; impressionist. Then a tree shoots into focus stretching its arms into the sky still half asleep. Then more hedges, not blurry anymore. Sharp and predatory, judging by the huddle of deflated footballs gathered at their feet. Yet more hedges, but these ones looking fresh after a perpendicular swivel and slide between the stretched out gardens. So many trampolines, but nobody bouncing. There are lovely big windows but all the curtains are closed as if I might see something of you I shouldn’t, then see you again in town and tell you what I saw. There are tiny little windows on brand new houses, half glass, half white plastic frame, not even big enough to poke your head out for a smoke. 

Another station, another WHSmith, another poster about something Jesus said. Must be true, I’ve seen the same thing in Cheltenham, Doncaster, Swindon and Crewe. Corroborated evidence; not worth a thing anymore. The trolley rattles closer with its nervous disposition and although I’m not at all hungry I want to eat. Was this not the point of crisps? A bag of prawn cocktail, I can’t get those abroad. With an hour to go I fill my ears with noise I can choose. Pulp. I turn the volume right up and damage my ears so I don’t have to hear the businessman and his vacuous words. I pity the person on the other end of the line. I close my eyes and let Jarvis take me back in time.

Sam Eadington is a freelance writer, architecture student, and co-founder of design studio Estudio ESSE. Twitter: @SamEArch. Website: estudioesse.com
 

From the hills above Frigiliana, Andalusia

IMAGE: Marcel Krueger

IMAGE: Marcel Krueger

By Marcel Krueger:

I guess it was worth it, schlepping my overweight, 39-year old body up the hill. I had set out early in the morning and walked through the valley of the Higueron river, with the white houses of Frigiliana disappearing to my left and the Chillar ridge rising up to my right. Then I huffed and puffed up the 400-meter hill, and now sit on a stone on top of the ridge, with the brown and green flanks of the Sierra de Enmedio rising into the blue sky, early bees are busy around me in the morning sunshine, and across the Mediterranean I can see Africa through the haze. But as this is the Anthropocene, there is also the surf of the nearby coastal motorway soundtracking it all.

Before I make my way down the hill and to breakfast again, I wonder what a Castilian foot soldier might have thought, when stomping through the same hills hunting for Moriscos, descendants of Muslims under Castilian rule who were in rebellion in the 16th century. Probably the same thing foot soldiers have thought from the Crusades to Auschwitz: 'The man paid me for it, so best get over with it'. 

Elsewhere No.05: Submissions Deadline on Friday

IMAGE: Julia Stone

IMAGE: Julia Stone

For all you writers and visual artists out there, just a quick reminder that our deadline for submissions for Elsewhere No.05 – to be published in June 2017 – is this coming Friday on the 31 March. 

For the first time, along with our general theme of place, we are having a theme for the issue: TRANSITION, and the only guidelines are that completed pieces should be linked to both the idea of transition and place. 

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 remember 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 have something you would like us to consider, please write to Paul at: paul@elsewhere-journal.com

If you are interested in writing for the blog, you can find more information on our general submissions page.

Morning in St. Mary's Churchyard, Whitby

IMAGE: Laura Harker

IMAGE: Laura Harker

By Laura Harker:

8.45am in St. Mary’s churchyard. A jogger runs laps around the graves as I try not to lose Polaroid exposures to the wind. There are probably more bodies under my feet than are awake in the town right now on this cold December morning. A rare tranquil moment for the churchyard which, during the height of summer, is bombarded with crowds of tourists and goths. I forgot Whitby takes its time to wake up in the winter. As I ran from the train station through town and up the 199 steps to the clifftop abbey – trying to beat the sunrise – the only people stirring were a handful of delivery men on Baxtergate, the closest thing to a high street in the town. The few low-season tourists tucked up in their guest house four-posters wouldn’t be out for another couple of hours.

Whitby’s streets are riddled with ghosts, none of whom I wanted to bump into. Exes, former friends and old work colleagues. These old ties require more effort to fall back into the previous nuances each relationship had, and any conversations between us now inhabit a strange space between strained small-talk and stale in-jokes. The longer I’m away from the town, the more these ties fade, and the streets of Whitby are increasingly haunted with passing faces that stimulate only a haze in my memory. I felt more at ease facing the graveyard and its ghosts.

The film I’d used in my polaroid camera was out of date by a couple of years, and so the results were washed out and over-exposed. A grainy abbey silhouette; a white Royal Hotel behind the unmistakable arch of the whalebone arch; blotchy patterns on grey speckled sand. Barely-there images to match my barely-there ties to town. A strong wind whipped up over the lip of the cliff, I flipped up my collar and descended back down into town, head down, quick step, running from the ghosts.

Laura Harker is a freelance writer based in North Yorkshire. She blogs at northquarters.com

Postcard from... Sarajevo

IMAGE: Gavin Greene

IMAGE: Gavin Greene

By Gavin Greene:

The early evening rain spattered onto the marble floors of Sarajevo's Baščaršija, polished smooth over centuries by passing travelers, merchants and tourists. It fell in large spots at first, then smaller, lighter drops. Sitting on a rickety chair under the canopy of a dimly-lit café, I watched as the bustling market hastily retreated undercover to escape the shower. Traders hurried to cover their stalls with tarpaulins while young families dived for the cover of stone doorways.

From the sanctuary of the café, I looked up towards Mount Trebević, a looming shadow over the city, visible beneath the low clouds that had rolled into the valley. The mountain had hosted Sarajevo's 1984 Winter Olympics, and the world watched athletes speed down icy runs and steep snowy slopes. Just years later, skiers and spectators became snipers and mortar posts, raining destruction and tears onto the city below for over a thousand days. Again, the world watched.

Steam twisted from the copper pot of coffee at my side, swirling and hovering before disappearing into the crisp evening air. In the winding alleyways of Sarajevo's markets, the smell of roasting coffee blends with the warm aromas of herbs and spices of hidden backstreet food stalls. The sound of hammering metal and the gentle chatter of locals gives way only to the call to prayer from nearby minarets, and the pealing church bells echo across the city valley. The gentle drumming of the rain on the terracotta rooves of the bazaar built to a crescendo, the streets empty and shimmering with this latest deluge.
 
Sarajevo still bears the scars of the siege, but life has moved on, and there is now hope for this beautiful city. As I watched, three young children dared to dance in the rain, ducking and diving between raindrops. On the same road a few years before, their parents would have done the same, ducking between doorways to dodge the barrage from the hills above the city.

The rain continued steadily, now dripping from the canvas awning of the café into the gutter below, gathering pace and coursing down the narrow street, filling the scars left in the marble from the mountain high above. 

Pouring coffee from the pot into a small ceramic cup, the dark liquid turns to rich foam. They say the key with Bosnian coffee is to take your time. No rushing, no takeaway coffee in a paper cup. Time, patience and careful attention are all that is needed.
 
A break in the clouds let a shaft of sunlight onto the city and the stone buildings glistened in the warm evening light. Children emerged from their hiding places behind market stalls to splash in the fresh puddles, their reflections dancing and rippling in the clear water. Their parents watched on, smiling. The rain has stopped. The sun shines, and once more, Sarajevo is the most beautiful place on earth.

Gavin Greene is a travel writer and photographer based in London. Currently working at one of the world’s largest travel sites, it is Gavin’s aim to visit all of the 47 countries in Europe by his 47th birthday. You can read more of his work on his website The Travelogue.
 

Stoned: Castlerigg, Cumbria

Image: Caroline Millar

Image: Caroline Millar

By Caroline Millar:

Between an ancient, yellowed road atlas, an OS Landranger and a limited phone signal, I crept slowly along peering out for a trustworthy brown sign to tell me I was somewhere legitimate. I needn’t have worried. About twenty cars were parked up near the entrance. So much for Wordsworthian solitude.

Along the verge were signs of semi-permanent habitation. Gazebos strung out from the backs of vans created temporary shelter and marked out territory. Plastic picnic tables, cans of Tyskie lager, dogends and a single shoe told of long nights.

Looking back I don’t know what I expected to feel, but it wasn’t shame.

I almost overlooked the stones at first, my attention drawn instead to the people who’d set up camp inside. Within the stone circle sat another circle of hippies; crusties as we’d once called them, the dogs-on-string and lentil brigade, what my parents would call layabouts. A group of men their hair in dreads sat draped in duvets drinking early morning cider. Women with wilting flowers in their hair spread nutella on toast for unwashed toddlers. In the middle of the stones a white pile of ash from a dead camp-fire, empty packets of instant noodles and a didgeridoo.

I’d last been to Castlerigg about twenty years ago. As a student at Newcastle the Lakes had been an easy bus ride over the Pennines. It felt like I was there every summer, but in truth I think it wasn’t more than twice. In memory, my boyfriend and I turned up at the campsite late in the evening to be met by a red cheeked farmer crunching into an apple the same colour as his cheeks. He devoured our money with the same gusto as his apple and pointed to a wet field. For some reason his face has stuck in my head though it might be mixed up with the farmer from Withnail and I, the one with his foot wrapped in a plastic bag and a randy bull.  But re-watching Withnail was such a constant of my student days that fact and fiction are hard to separate.

That night we’d walked from the campsite across dark hummocky fields to a dream-like wood panelled bar. Like characters in a John Carpenter film we holed up inside, nursing our cheap bitter, dreading the call for last orders that signalled a long night in the cheap barely two person tent. When we walked down to the stone circle later with a take out bottle of wine, it was totally empty. I lay on my back, my bare feet placed on the stones wondering where all the stars had suddenly come from.

It was probably the Romantics who ruined places like Castlerigg by suggesting that by communing with old rocks we could find a way back to our primitive selves. Now we strain towards empathy at every heritage site, as if summoning the spirit of past is the only authentic response.  As I walked round the stone circle this time, I willed myself to feel something. I studied the alignment of the stones with the surrounding mountains trying to see how the entrance lined up with the Skiddaw and Blencathra. I ran my hands over the rough lichen-covered surface and even tried to hug one.

Disappointed, I headed back to the car, stopping on the way out to read the ubiquitous interpretation panels. They pictured illustrations of Bronze Age people looking a lot like the couple from The Joy of Sex. Long hair, beards, flowers in their hair. They were eating, drinking, watching the stars, having sex, playing instruments, sitting round the fire, pondering their future. Just like the hippies now.  It was me that was out of time and place here. What I’d felt in the stone circle was shame. The middle-aged hippies at Castlerigg were the real deal. Whilst I sought a relationship with the stones safe in the knowledge my hire car was parked near by and B&B already booked, they slept next to them, as I once had, before I grew up.

Caroline Millar is project manager for Discovering Britain - a series of interpretive walks run by the Royal Geographical Society. She also writes creative non-fiction and short stories inspired by the Kent Coast where she lives. Check out her blog – lights of sheppey

Caroline’s essay from Faversham Creek appeared in Elsewhere No.03, available from our online shop.

[25] Pockets of [Swansea], [Cardiff] and [London]

[25] Pockets of [Swansea]

[25] Pockets of [Swansea]

We were sent an email recently about a fascinating project called [25] Pockets of [...]. The idea is to create framed object assemblages through gifts, referrals and random encounters within cities. 

Participants give away to the assemblage an object possession and then write on a picture frame, directions for the next location and person, or 'pocket' to be visited in a particular city. The trail of referrals from person to person continues in any particular city until 25 objects from 25 referrals have been collected. The objects are then incorporated into a final collage.

[25] Pockets of [Cardiff]

[25] Pockets of [Cardiff]

Positioning of the assembled objects on the montage correlates to the locations at which these were obtained so that there is a relationship between the object's placements to these locations.
 
Instead of mapping out and arriving at a fixed definition of the identity and substance of a place, it is hoped that [25] Pockets of […] allows viewers to glimpse a city as a dynamic variation of living relations and discover a sense of a place via one of many possible open-ended, overlapping series of interconnections and encounters.

[25] Pockets of [London]

[25] Pockets of [London]

[25] Pockets of [...] is the brainchild of Victor Buehring, who drifts around cities, makes assemblages and enjoys writing. You can see accounts of his wanderings on his Artrospektive website, or take a look at the following video that explains a bit more about the project:

Event: Disappear Here Launch in Coventry, 16 March

We have recently discovered a fascinating project in which a collaboration of 18 artists have produced 27 films about the Coventry ring road as an inner city superstructure that crosses the boundary between Modernist and Brutalist architecture. Sounds interesting? Well, on the 16 March the work of the last few months will be launched at The Box - Fargo in Coventry where there will be a screening as well as a Q & A session with the artists and the organisers of the project.

Here are a few words from Adam Steiner, the Project Lead of Disappear Here:

“It’s been a great experience to work alongside emerging and established artists from Coventry and beyond to reimagine the ringroad through a series of poetry films. Coventry ringroad is one of the city’s most iconic (and notorious) physical landmarks , acting as both city wall, orbital conduit and dividing line. 

I feel the ringroad deserves to be celebrated as well as criticized – it is the duty of artists and citizens to engage with issues of public space, control of architecture and the human experience of our built environment – to shine a light on the fantastic, the boring and the universal in the everyday. Coventry has always been underrated as a place to live, work and create – so I hope the films will encourage people to visit and seek inspiration where they can to read, write and attend more poetry events!”

You can watch the trailer here and all important links are below:

New Music: Nadine Khouri

By Paul Scraton:

One of the joys of being involved with a project such as Elsewhere has been to discover many different artists, writers, musicians and other creative folk who we have connected to through via the journal, our events or our online activities. In the case of Nadine Khouri it was something of a re-connection, as I met Nadine in 2008 in Beirut where she was recording an interview for a radio show. I was staying with the presenter of that show, and after the recording we went for something to eat together.

Nadine was born in Beirut, although was forced to leave at the age of seven during the conflict in Lebanon. She is now based in London, and at some point over the past couple of years since Elsewhere was launched we got back in touch. I was especially excited to hear, and then receive, Nadine’s new album The Salted Air, which was released in January. It has been playing on heavy rotation ever since, a haunting and atmospheric collection of songs that contain a sense of loss, displacement and yearning for someplace or something else that certainly resonated with me as I was thinking about the theme of transition that is at the heart of the upcoming issue of the journal. 

Drowned in Sound describes The Salted Air as “a pocket-sized book of lullabies, and gothic shanties, whose sounds and lyrics evoke a series of wondrous daydreams and sorrowful, mood-filled, late-night tales,” which should be more than enough to get you to go and check the album out. Below are the answers to the Elsewhere five questions, that I fired over to Nadine by email in the last couple of days, and a live performance of 'Broken Star' from the album. For more on Nadine, her music and upcoming live shows, take a look at her website.

Five Questions for... Nadine Khouri

What does home mean to you?

For a person who was displaced from a young age and had to navigate between various cultures, you can end up feeling a bit fragmented, or at least unable to point to a single place.  "Home" is probably more of a state of mind for me, of total presence.  

Where is your favourite place?

Oh, it’s hard to say!  I love my room at my parents' place in Beirut as it’s inspired many a song…  And anywhere on the Mediterranean.

What is beyond your front door?

Some withered trees and a Turkish corner shop.

What place would you most like to visit?

I just got back from playing some dates in Portugal and I’ve always felt I'd like to spend some more time in Lisbon.  Honestly though… the list is long! 

What are you reading right now? 

Carlos Drummond de Andrade 'Multitudinous Heart' (Selected Poems)