Five Questions for... Paul Scraton

(above: the view from Rhoscolyn across Anglesey to the mountains of Snowdonia)

We wanted to use the Elsewhere blog to introduce you to some of the people working on the journal, from the editors and designers to photographers and writers. We start the series with Editor in Chief Paul Scraton...

What does “home” mean to you?

I grew up in the north west of England, in a small town divided by canals and railway tracks, both of which provided us - as we grew older - the chance to understand the place in our own way, whether as a means of hiding from the world around us or to escape to places new (and Southport). My parents no longer live there, and I have not been back in over ten years, although sometimes I pay a flying visit using Google Maps. For over a decade I have lived in Berlin, and it is certainly “home” for now… even if I sometimes feel stuck in that limbo of still not feeling like I belong in Germany, only to return to England where I also feel like an outsider, however much I read the Guardian, listen to the BBC or read books...

Where is your favourite place?

Rhoscolyn, at the bottom of Holy Island, off the west coast of Anglesey, in North Wales. I spent many childhood summers where my Aunty and Uncle built their outdoor centre and campsite. We would meet the same group of kids year in, year out, spending our time exploring the surrounding coastline, playing games on the field, and having fires down on the beach… as well, no doubt, as being bored, moaning about the rain, and wondering - as we got older - how we would get beer when the nearest off licence was about five miles away. The walk around the headland, with views across the island towards the peaks of my Snowdonia remains my favourite in all the world. We try to go back as much as we can, so that my daughter can start to build her own memories of a place that has touched so many.

What would we find outside your front door?

A busy street divided by a central reservation along which one of the few trams that operates in the former West Berlin rumbles. If you look at a tram-only transport map of Berlin it is almost entirely contained within the former East… a legacy of the years of division that continues over twenty-five years since the Wall came down. I have spent a lot of time in recent years exploring the traces of the division of this city, and it is fascinating how it continues to shape Berlin to this day.

What place would you most like to visit?

Alongside Elsewhere I am currently working on a project about the German Baltic coast… there is an island called Hiddensee, where no cars are allowed and which has an almost mythical place in my imagination. On the one hand I really want to finally make it there, taking the ferry from Rügen or Stralsund… but on the other I like the idea of a place that is always there waiting, and can be anything I imagine it to be. I would also love to continue my explorations one day along the Polish Baltic to Kaliningrad… the whole history of that part of the world fascinates me.

What are you reading right now?

Places that interest me often revolve around borders… whether natural, like the coastline or a river or the moment where the mountains rise up from the plains, or political – a line drawn on a map that has some consequence on the ground. I recently started reading Colm Toibin’s Bad Blood, about his walk along the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the aftermath of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. My dad lives in Belfast and I know that things have changed even in the time since Toibin made his walk, which makes it all the more fascinating not only as a record of his experiences, but as a piece of history of a particular time and place.

Paul’s wanderings can be found on his website Under a Grey Sky, and his explorations of the Berlin Wall Trail on Traces of a Border. He is the co-author of a book Mauerweg: Stories from the Berlin Wall Trail and his latest book is The Idea of a River: Walking out of Berlin, published by Readux Books on March 2nd 2015.