Announcing Elsewhere No.05 - Transition

We are extremely pleased and proud to announce the publication of Elsewhere No.05 on the 13 July 2017. With contributions on the theme of place and transition from great writers, poets, photographers, illustrators and other visual artists, we are sure you will enjoy it too.
 
Order your copy of Elsewhere No.05 from our online shop

This is the first issue of Elsewhere where we have a theme beyond that of place, and in our editorial we wrote a little about what the theme of ‘transition’ meant to those writers and visual artists who answered our call for submissions: 

“For some, it was personal: stories of memories, of what changes in us, in growing up and the moments that can shape a life. For others, it was about the transformations brought upon a place: a theme park that became a naval base; a fortified border that becomes a patch of woodland. About how a house, a street or neighbourhood can alter, incrementally, until it is no longer recognisable. About the impacts of war, the decline of industry or the first waves of ‘new money’ washing through dilapidated streets.  

Transition is also about movement, about the nature of travel, and thus of home, belonging and identity. And it became clear that these have always been the themes of Elsewhere, and that the idea of transition has, in part, shaped the journal from the very beginning.” 

As well as publishing the new edition on the 13 July we will also be holding a combined launch event and fundraiser for the Sparrow Home in Thailand, a project which features in this issue. It will be in Berlin and hosted by the Circus Hostel – we will announce more details soon.

In the meantime, every order before publication date is a great boost for us, so head on over to the shop where you will also have the chance to buy No.05 in combination with other issues of the journal, or back issues to complete your collection.

Elsewhere: A Journal of Place online shop
 
It would be a great help to us if you could share the news with anyone who you think might enjoy our journal. Word of mouth is what got us started and what keeps us going.
 
Finally, we would like to use this opportunity to once again thank the wonderful contributors to the journal and we really hope you will be holding their work in your hands soon.

Worlds Apart

IMAGE: Frank Hajek

IMAGE: Frank Hajek

By Jessica Groenendijk:

The otter changes course and heads into a crystalline, shallow tributary. I snatch up my binoculars and see it flush a large catfish, water surging as it chases its prey over a sand bank. The fish escapes and the otter, too, is swallowed by the jungle. How will we identify it now?

“Quick, let’s follow on foot,” I say to Frank. “We might be able to catch up.” 

Frank gestures to our boat driver, Zacarias, to nudge the bow of our fifteen-metre canoe into the mouth of the stream. I grab the day's provisions and tug on a pair of light trainers, token protection against sting rays. Then I swing my legs over the side and lower myself into the current, enjoying the shock of cool water on my skin. Frank follows, the camera and zoom lens slung around his neck. Zacarias reverses the engine; he agrees to moor the boat nearby and wait for us. 

It is mid-morning. The sun is a hot weight on our shoulders and leaches the green from the surrounding vegetation. We are nearing the end of our annual giant otter census in Peru’s Manu National Park. We have already filmed all the resident families, but the nomadic solitaries present a greater challenge. They are elusive, silent, and secretive. We still smart from our failure to film the throat marking – as distinctive in giant otters as our fingerprints are unique to us - of a lone individual sighted yesterday. 

I push my feet through the water, feeling the thin cotton of my trousers swirl against my legs. Pristine, crescent-shaped beaches flank the banks of the meandering stream. Water slips sinuously between rocky shelves and over drifts of sand, nibbling at miniature, sculpted cliffs until they crumble and dissolve. The polished trunk of a majestic ceiba spans the current, its bark long gone, its sun-warmed wood smooth and satisfying to the touch. I revel in the freedom of walking in the stream, after so many hours spent in the dense, claustrophobic forest. 

There is surprisingly little wildlife. No sign of the otter, only small schools of fish flitting from pool to pool. I disturb a sting ray, a tiny spurt of sand staining the water where it had been resting. Lime and lemon butterflies shiver on damp soil where a tapir urinated at dawn. Twice I spot the tracks of capybara. I know it is the wrong time of day for animals to be out and about, yet I am disappointed. 

Sand bunches in my socks, rubbing raw the skin between my toes, and the vicious sting of a horsefly enhances my discomfort. By now, I have given up hope of seeing the solitary otter again. A shady spot on a beach tempts me and I whistle to catch Frank's attention. 

“Let’s stop awhile, have something to eat,” I call to him. The sound of my voice makes me wince. Like shouting in a cathedral or an ancient library, it seems wrong, irreverent. 

Frank flops down next to me. “I feel like Alfred Russell Wallace,” he says, looking at our tracks on the sandy canvas. “Like we’re the only humans ever to have ventured here.” 

I nod, conscious of an all-too-human desire to claim this remote pocket of rainforest as our own, by right of first passage, even if only in spirit.  A kingfisher arrows past, it's challenging chatter ringing in my ears. I push myself off the sand and brush my hands. “Let’s keep going.” 

The channel narrows and trees tower on either side. The beaches all but disappear. We penetrate deeper and deeper, and with every step I feel more alive. My senses hum. 

“Jess.”

Frank’s voice beside me is low and taut. I glance at him and follow his gaze. About one hundred metres upstream, a tree has collapsed from bank to bank, forming a bridge over the water. On it lies a jaguar. 

Frank lifts the camera from his chest. But even with the zoom we are too far away. We walk, our paces measured to avoid splashing, our eyes never leaving the jaguar. Excitement wells in me. Nothing but air separates us from the big cat. Not the metal and glass of a car, nor the wooden hull of a boat. Here we are on an equal footing, as we were meant to be. 

My eyes burn and I blink. In that split second the jaguar is gone. There is no in-between, no slow slinking into the forest. Anywhere else I would have regretted the loss. Here it feels right. 

“Strange,” says Frank. “I didn’t think he’d be so scared of us.” 

The sun is lower in the sky, the foliage now luminous, greens burnished with old-gold. Although it is tempting to explore further, we will find ourselves spending the night unprepared if we do not turn back soon. 

“What do you think, just one more bend?” I ask. Frank agrees without hesitation. 

As we round the meander, a beach, larger and higher than any we have seen so far, slopes gently up into the forest. Our shoes squelch as we step out of the current and walk onto the sand. Hollow, blackened tortoise shells litter the ground. There must be over fifty of them: pathetic, tiny domes, the size of cupped hands, scattered amongst great carapaces. Three stout baskets, woven from a single palm frond, lie abandoned next to the charred skull of a brocket deer and the voice box of a howler monkey. 

Frank and I stare at each other. 

A pair of macaws flies overhead, their agonised cries startling me. We pick our way through the clutter. A dozen makeshift palm frond shelters dot the beach. At either end of every shelter are the ashes of a small fire over which the tortoises were roasted. Alive? I grimace. Between the hearths is space for two or perhaps three people to sleep. 

Frank’s soft “Hey!” interrupts my thoughts. He motions me to the water's edge. At his feet is a set of human footprints, unexpectedly large, even allowing for time’s erosion. 

A cloud blocks the sun. We both know what we have stumbled upon. The hunting camp of a group of so-called ‘uncontacted’ people, known by outsiders as the Mashco-Piro but who call themselves the Nomole, meaning “brothers”. People who, due to past traumatic conflicts with what we call civilisation, choose to live in complete isolation from the rest of us, rejecting all we represent. People who walk naked, hunt with bows and arrows, use stone axes, and eat almost exclusively meat. I recall the jaguar’s fear. 

It seems inconceivable that only a few hours’ walk from here, engine-powered boats pass by daily, laden with tech-savvy tourists. 

Logic tells us the Nomole are unlikely to be nearby – there is no acrid smell of smoke and the footprints are not fresh – but I cannot shake the feeling we are being watched. My skin prickles. We might have walked straight into them. What would have happened then? Would they have shied from us, run into the forest? Or would they have attacked us? Judging from what we’ve heard, an encounter might well have been fatal. 

With this comes the uneasy realisation we are intruders. The stream is not ours. It never was. We are trespassing. 

I take a last look at the silent camp, suspended in a web of gathering shadows.  Frank cannot resist taking some photographs, and even this benign act feels like an invasion.
We retrace our steps, subdued in thought, trying to reconcile what we have seen with our lives outside. We have not witnessed the past, nor the future, but a different present. The otter and jaguar, the Nomole, and ourselves: three separate, parallel worlds briefly intersecting, almost colliding, on the banks of a rainforest stream.

*****
 

Jessica is a Dutch biologist turned conservationist and writer. She fuses her work in conservation and her personal experiences of wildlife and wild places with her passion for words and photography to help connect people with nature. Her writing has been published in BBC Wildlife MagazineEarth Island JournalThe Island Review, and Africa Geographic, as well as in Animal: A Beast of a Literary Magazine and Zoomorphic. Her blog Nature Bytes was Highly Commended in the International Category of the 2015 BBC Wildlife Blogger Awards. She is a member of The Society of Authors and is currently working on a book on giant otters and their conservation. Follow her @WildWordsAuthor on Twitter and Facebook and find her Words from the Wild at www.jessicagroenendijk.com.

Claxton Brick Ponds

By Samuel W. James:
 
The water’s a long way from the road,
through fields and a wood without a path
where dry twigs aim for the eyes.
 
There are ditches filled with brambles
to be leapt over, before the green snakeskin
of the pond appears.
 
In a stream connected with the main body
there is some clear, though still, water
where the white flesh of a great dead pike rots.
                               
No bubbles disturb the weeds of the surface
which seem to be the food of the insects.
On the other side the wood ends
with plastic blue electric fence markers.

 

Samuel W. James is a new writer from Yorkshire. He has been published in the following magazines: Allegro, London Grip, Peeking Cat and Ink, Sweat and Tears.

The Housewife of New Friends Colony

NewFriends.jpg

A story by Rita Malik

Her husband Ravi had eaten a strange leaf in the first strange country he had visited long ago, under the pretense of his business affairs, no doubt. But his gastronomic tendencies were awakened to the new possibilities. Possibilities that did not include in any way shape or form, yellow or red ground spices, mixed all spice, cinnamon, nor betel nut, no hing, no lentils, and no unnecessary red or green chilies. The peptic ulcer his personal physician had for so long profited over, that helped house him in a perfect Mercedes Benz, was no longer going to provide the funds. The salt had lost its savor. He was a connoisseur of all things non-Indian. He could even gallivant and float and beam over the most delectable and bland fish, boiled potatoes, as long as they were associated with a culinary culture and a national pride of some independent nature, such as Irish dishes. Yes, Ravi had developed a taste for Irish food.

Meanwhile, his friend Vijay had hatcheries all over China. Seema had wondered during many pillow talk parlances with Ravi about the state of affairs if one has only to rely on the revenues from various chicken hatcheries to make a living.

“But he’s doing very well,” Ravi had told her. “How else could he live in that beautiful farmhouse and all that acreage in the middle of Delhi?”

“Inheritance,” she’d replied, flipping a magazine page without looking up. “He’s his father’s son.” Vijay’s grandfather had been the Mayor of Delhi once upon a time. The family had depths of connections, especially in political circles. His wife, a pretty woman, who went by the name of Penny, outright non-Indian, even though she was a Kashmiri, had the gift of youthful looks and a fine figure, Seema reflected ruefully.

Seema herself was darker skinned, but by no means of the blackish sort, seen in the people of Dravidian descent. Her family was from U.P. Bihari’s. Wheat skinned. And there was no noble lineage. She had been able to hide this from her friends. In fact she had led them on to believe she was descended from a long line of Rajputs, before the drastic changes took place, industrialization, globalization. She made self-deprecating remarks and joked about the Rajputs along the way, endearing herself with the Dolly’s, the Sweety’s, and the ruffians of Punjab, as she would call them, in her parlances with Ravi after their partying.

Still, Ravi never understood. He did patiently hear her out, as she ranted about the housewives of New Friends and South Extension.

“Shopping and kitty parties and showing off, that’s all that these women find time to do.” Why she had done this, the deliberate misleading as regards her lineage, she did herself not know.

Swimming in the city and country: Turning - by Jessica J. Lee

IMAGE: Katrin Schönig

IMAGE: Katrin Schönig

Read by Paul Scraton:

Early on in the pages of Turning, a swimming memoir about taking a dip in 52 lakes in Berlin and the surrounding Brandenburg countryside, Jessica J. Lee admits to fears and insecurities in the water. This is something I share. I have never been a massive fan of swimming, whether in the sea or the swimming pool, and especially when out of my depth. It has only been in the past couple of years, swimming in some of the very same lakes that Lee visits in this excellent book, that I began to conquer those fears.

It was then that I began to understand what people were talking about when they - like Lee herself - quoted Roger Deakin and his description of the ‘frog’s eye view’. As Lee describes being in the water in Brandenburg, surrounded by the pines and the sky, I can picture it exactly as I have experienced it as well. You do get a different view from the water, a different understanding of place. And that, for me at least, is ultimately the story of this book: as well as personal history sensitively and bravely told, Turning is about a person gaining a feeling for the history and the stories of the places she visits, deepening her knowledge of the geology, ecology, communities and political history of the city she lives in and the surrounding countryside, each time she takes to the water.

As someone who both shares these interests about place in general, and about Berlin and Brandenburg specifically, it is not surprising that I found myself nodding in agreement and recognition as I read. There were other elements of the story that resonated as well: the loneliness of being new in a big city and of building a personal connection to the place by getting to know and to love the landscape, the forests, the suburban S-Bahn lines and the gruff owners of rural snack kiosks.

Lee is an elegant writer; precise in her description, thoughtful in her observation, and most of all interested in the world that surrounds her. This is not always the case when it comes to memoirs, which can sometimes become so tied up in the internal emotions of the writer that there is no space for any exterior, for the world around them, and therefore context to the story they are trying to tell. In Turning, Lee’s personal journey is deeper and richer for the reader because the lakes and their surroundings are characters in the story. As is the weather. As are the seasons. The plan was to explore the 52 lakes over the course of a year, and so Lee was swimming at the height of summer and in the depths of the winter, breaking the ice with a little hammer in order to clear enough room for her to have a swim.

Indeed, one of my favourite lines in the book - one that had me reaching for a pen in order to scribble it down for later - concerned the shifting of the seasons: “It’s all too easy,” Lee writes, “to be sucked under by sadness in the autumn.” I understand that emotion only too well, even if I haven’t (yet) tried a plunge in an autumnal pool to try and alleviate the October blues.

And then, a few pages later, more recognition: “I’ve become divided, stretched across places.” At the very time I was reading this book, I was working on my own project about walking the outskirts of Berlin. One of the motivations for these walks was to try and gain a better understanding of the city I live in a time when my feelings about place, belonging and identity had been thrown into turmoil by referendum results and a series of trips “home” that made me wonder, more than I ever had before, where “home” actually is. I too have felt stretched and divided. The only question, is whether it matters. Each walk, each swim, can help the clarification process.

Walking or swimming. Building our connection and understanding of a place by interacting with the landscape, the history and the people, can be done in different ways. The strength of the book is, I believe, that it not only is a good story very well told, but that it will make readers think about their own places, their own feelings of home and belonging, of their own lakes, forests or city streets, and think a little deeper about them. Jessica J. Lee’s is a trip to the lake well worth taking, inspiring even this reluctant swimmer to reach for his swimming shorts (if not the ice hammer).

Support your local bookshop! Go and get your copy of Turning by Jessica J. Lee there. Meanwhile, here is Jessica's website.

The Library: Signal Failure, by Tom Jeffreys

Review: Christo Hall

For those who haven’t kept abreast with recent British infrastructural projects, HS2 is a £55bn high-speed railway plan first mooted by David Cameron’s government in 2009. It’s an attempt to renew Northern England’s economic potential after years of neglect from Westminster and deindustrialisation that has accentuated a north-south divide in the country. For its advocates, including the previous chancellor, George Osborne, it will “change the economic geography of this country”, for its opponents it’s over budget and comes at a huge cost to the areas affected – the homes that require to be demolished and the environment.

It’s these various divisions that Tom Jeffreys, in his first book, Signal Failure, grapples with via his attempt to walk the length of the HS2 route – a 119-mile trek that takes him out of Central London, through endless suburbs, beautiful and ordinary countryside and into Birmingham. Along the way he wild camps—in some cases to his own better judgement—in a suburban open space, a pub garden and besides a major road; he meets people that will be affected, in some cases displaced, by HS2; and ponders the disconnect between mind and body as he suffers injury and disappointment halting his attempt to undertake the walk in one sitting.

For one thing I have learnt that I am not a nature writer.

It’s nonsense to try to categorise a book to a single genre and it’s especially so for this one as Jeffreys smoothly and deliberately blends elements of nature writing, journalistic reportage and a meta-review of writing about nature and place. Each of these strands raise compelling passages, such as his observations of how an infrastructure project’s simulations and renders fail to depict relationships with real people, conversely his portrayal of a West Midlands dairy farmer’s complex relationship with HS2’s impact on his land, and Jeffreys’ framing of his book in the context of nature writing that has preceded it, making it in part an ode to the likes of Bruce Chatwin, Richard Mabey and Roger Deakin. It’s a signal of how much of an admirer he is of nature writing, and it reveals a kind of imposter syndrome, that Jeffreys feels incapable to write authoritatively about nature – that’s not to say that this is a bad thing, such reverence offers a welcome subjectivity and an absorbing down-to-earth tone.

Why does building for the future so often involve destroying the past?

While born in Buckinghamshire – as it happens near enough on the route of the HS2 – Jeffreys’ fascination for cities is not disguised, neither is his comfort within them. Nature, for many city dwellers, conjures up untamed forces and barbarism yet nevertheless is apotheosised because of its embodiment of a simple, more human life. It’s a view that at times leads Jeffreys to see the city as an encroachment, continually eating away at nature’s resources and beauty, and that impresses a strong tone of regret. Is it a metaphor for something that should have been done about HS2 while there was a greater chance of impacting the plans?

Perhaps the author’s greatest contribution is the perceptive and astute power of his social commentaries throughout the book. There are many striking and quotable phrases that come to mind, such as “you can tell officially approved graffiti because the people are always happy” or his insight to point out that state and council-funded outdoor gyms erected at the time of the 2012 Olympics, encouraging exercise, coincided with McDonalds being the Olympics’ official restaurant. In other passages he asks: “at what point does psychogeography become tourism?” or notes that “what bothers me is the implication that the UK’s only landscapes worth saving are those that fit within the aesthetics of the late Romantics.”

Somebody once wrote that as the mayor he would like to see his local country lanes neat and tidy and easily passable. But as a poet he would prefer them artfully overgrown.

Signal Failure is an enthralling and irresistible read, and difficult to review because along the way Jeffreys produces a better summary and analysis of his own book and its place in the canon of nature writing better than I or any reviewer could. As such this is a thoroughly researched book, substantiated by the tomes that weigh down his backpack throughout his walk. But it’s also a vital reminder that it takes more than demographic analyses and cost-benefit models to understand the value of our environment and our place within it.

What’s a train without its passengers, a town without its residents, or any kind of journey without its traveller? – Warts, imposter syndrome, injuries and all.

Christo Hall has written for The Quietus, Prospect, Review 31, White Noise and others, often about cities and urbanism. He is online editor of the Bartlett School of Architecture’s LOBBY magazine and founding editor of Cureditor, a site that recommends arts and culture articles.

Signal Failure by Tom Jeffreys is published by Influx Press

Should've Gone

Edinburgh to London2 May 2015.jpg

By Sibyl Kalid:

We’re standing at the top of Carlton Hill and there’s a fire burning at the oil rig across the water. It doesn’t look like a fire; it is too whole, like someone has trimmed its edges. It’s almost Christmas. M is leaving tomorrow, and I’m going back to London next week. Neither of us is sure when we’ll be back. The city is indifferent.  It winks obstinately, as it has done for four years, cars beating down tracks through the long stems of buildings, pace unflustered by M’s stifled tears. In the time we’ve been here Scotland hasn’t left the UK, the UK has decided to leave Europe, and the Starman has left the earth. We’ve been living on the endless rumble of national events, registering them with the stable acceptance of a barometer. It’s unnerving to discover that now we’re the thing moving, and it was this tumbling collapsing city that was the constant all along.

Last night I had that strange feeling of sleeping in a different room to the one I’m used to – my flatmate’s, mine having been taken over by its new tenant and her green bed-sheets. Most disorienting were hearing footsteps to the bathroom and not being able to place them. I had the realisation that, through the past year, night-steps have been like little sonic messages, bouncing back from a friend to my half-asleep consciousness, orienting them in an identity and route through the mumble of slipper on carpet. Eternally scornful of those with a domestic inclination, I’ve discovered nesting instincts I never knew I had.

In October we started receiving packages from Specsavers addressed to someone called Hannah Steeds. We knew nothing about Hannah Steeds, other than that she was, presumably, either long or short sighted, and had at some point lived in our flat. The Specsavers boxes piled up next to the front door, as poor Hannah must have found everyday tasks increasingly difficult, and our shared apathy halted us from either contacting our landlord or returning the boxes to sender.

The mystery then spooled when a postcard arrived from someone self-determining as ‘Mumsykins’. We assessed from this moniker, and from the quaint stone-walled house featuring on the front of the postcard, that this wasn’t just a gaffe from a friend who had fallen out of touch. The writer of the card indicated that she was looking forward to seeing Hannah at home, that she had recently visited a small rural town in the West Country that she thought Hannah would have liked. The baffling thing was how a mother cosy enough with her daughter to call herself ‘Mumsykins’ could have not kept abreast of her daughter’s address. Using the digitised Yellow Pages we tracked a Hannah Steeds to a family address in Bristol.  It’s not an uncommon name, but we were worried about Hannah’s eyesight and didn’t have anything else to go on, so we were prepared to take the punt and send Hannah’s accoutrements on to that address.

One day Hannah Steeds herself turned up at our door. I wasn’t in when she arrived, so it was my flatmate who passed over the postcard and contact lenses. He reported her as ’25-30, tall, but quiet and shy with the body language to match. Glasses. No Bristol accent’. And, apparently, absent-minded; she lived at 26/4, the flat below ours. She had just given out the wrong address, both to her mother and to Specsavers.

As with the solution to most mysteries, big and small, I found this disappointing. Hannah’s post wasn’t the imprint of collateral scattered in transition. Simply a casual mistake of the misplaced mind, as it unwittingly misplaces the body. There was no great conspiracy of illness, or amnesia, or filial alienation. My bank statements and reminders to renew my National Galleries of Scotland membership still roll into my flat in Edinburgh. But I don’t get the same wistful satisfaction from these forlorn reminders of my past inhabitancy as I did at the prospect that Hannah Steeds once lived in that flat, and that in the lost universe of some long-delayed postcard, or long-neglected mother, still did.

That endless pouring in of ancillary admin also seems like a taunting wink from whatever household god has observed the wearying tugging up of physical anchorage. The sentimentality of moving is always quashed by the picking up of detritus, as we concern ourselves with box sizes and bubble wrap and the turbulent ownership history of a frying pan. Every time I shift I am bewildered by my astonishing ability to explode myself over all available surfaces. My handwriting scrawled over paper pinned to the wall. My broken dvd player, rejected from my family home. Flour I bought for a cake I didn’t make. The fruit bowl with my name carefully painted on it above a picture of kiwis. Four mugs. Three cacti. A duvet. One pillow with case. A soup bowl. Matching coloured spoon. Shampoo. Half empty gin bottle. My desire to become a monk alternates with an impulse to gather everything up and attach it to me in a memorialising shroud, as I assess the ghostly inventory of the things I did do, and the things I could have but didn’t. That’s always the real sting of leaving anywhere. That gnawing concern that you didn’t live a place well enough. The minute you start walking away time horse-shoes and you remember your initial expectations of a place, before you first arrived. What you thought you’d do there. Who you thought you’d meet. Who you thought you’d be. I also start to mourn every grumble, and remember the sense of guilt I felt when my uncle came up for my graduation and commented on how beautiful the city was, how many levels there were to it, as if there were two cities sloping on top of each other. My vision of the city had plateaued into my daily grudge across the meadows, and now I felt like I needed to touch every corner, to make sure I’d appreciated it properly.

On the way home from Carlton Hill M and I climbed up into the alcoves in the wall that faces a graveyard. We felt like statues, whose only duty was to watch, that if anyone walked by we’d be offered the privilege of being an invisible onlooker, eternal and impassive. But no-one did.

Sibyl Kalid’s website

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'.