The Welcome Chorus at Turner Contemporary, Margate

Image © Yuri Suzuki / Pentagram

Image © Yuri Suzuki / Pentagram

Preview by Sara Bellini:

Yuri Suzuki is a Margate-based sound artist, designer and musician that uses sound to examine the relationship between people and their environment. As part of the festival Margate NOW, he was commissioned by Turner Contemporary, in collaboration with Kent Libraries, to create an interactive installation that will be activated for the duration of the Turner Prize opening on 27 September. 

The Welcome Chorus features twelve horns, representing the twelve districts of Kent and paying homage to the etymology of the county’s name: the Brythonic word ‘kantos’, meaning horn or hook. Twelve libraries all over Kent offered workshops open to everyone that gave the participants the possibility to record lyrics based on the different sides of their Kentish experience, encompassing history to landscape to migration. The recordings were processed by an AI software and will be reproduced by the horns installed at Turner Contemporary. The AI technology will be active throughout the exhibition to record the visitors’ voices, expand its own database and interactively change the installation itself. 

Turner Contemporary is also hosting another exhibition focused on Kent, belonging and identity. Barbara Walker has been artist in residence since April 2019 and from September until the following April she will present her artwork Place, Space and Who, featuring portraits and sound recordings centred on five women from the African Diaspora living in the Margate area. Barbara Walker’s works are the product of her experience growing up in the Black community in Birmingham and try to address the questions of race, gender, class, identity, belonging and (mis)representation.

The Welcome Chorus
28 September 2019 - 12 January 2020
Turner Contemporary, Margate (Google Maps)
Turner Contemporary Website


Snaresbrook Road

pond and bin.jpg

By Dan Carney

Snaresbrook Road is a perfectly straight 800-metre stretch, along which can be found the Waltham Forest/Redbridge border. At its western end, there’s the sleepy, scruffy ambiguity of Walthamstow Forest, alternately bucolic and unsettling, dependent on factors such as season, time of day, and resting heart rate. The affluent suburban village of Wanstead is to the east, tucked up comfortably along the western flank of the London Borough of Redbridge and, according to The Sunday Times in 2018, one of the top ten places to live in the capital. Wanstead is a place not without a recent history of radicalism and subversion – the 1990s saw a series of high-profile protests against the construction of the nearby A12-M11 link road - but at a glance now it’s boutiques, tasteful cafes, and posh second-hand shops, satisfaction and prosperity, tethered and tiled.

This end-to-end contrast, between unpredictability and conformity, also runs side-to-side. There’s regimentation and structure, represented by the public school Forest, Snaresbrook Crown Court (housed in an imposing Elizabethan-style mansion designed by the famous Victorian Gothic revivalist George Gilbert Scott), and the concentric functionality of the adjacent Hermitage housing estate. On the other hand, the numerous woodland paths leading to Hollow Ponds and Leyton Flats, as well as the debris-strewn Eagle Pond - which separates the eastern end of the road from the court building on its oak-lined southern bank - embody nature, improvisation, and secrecy. The area directly behind the pond is Epping Forest’s most active homosexual cruising site, an eastern Hampstead Heath analog, where tissues, used condoms, and other sexual debris can be found strewn in thorny undergrowth. It’s played host to these activities since before World War II, when gay sex was yet to be legalized, and the existence of homosexuality yet to be acknowledged in any widespread form. Now, the forest authorities accept that it is one of the things that happen here, with keepers working alongside LGBTQI organisations in order to promote good littering practice.

Snaresbrook Road thus takes you from the panoptical and the administrative to the concealed and the unrecorded, in the space of a few dozen strides. It’s a syncretic centre line, a starting point for any possible tangent, where high court judges on ornately carved chairs deliver public verdicts a few yards from men, many of whom lead outwardly straight lives (and some of whom may well be high court judges), engaging in furtive, frantic woodland liaisons. Footfall is, however, sparse, and even with the Victorian opulence of the court building, as well as the pond’s considerable size and appeal, Snaresbrook Road’s in-between status ensures it never quite feels like an actual place. Semi-fluorescent joggers, returning dog walkers, and waterfowl enthusiasts eager to inspect the tufted ducks, coots, mute swans, moorhens, and Canada geese that gather at the water, trudge a thoroughfare that seems only to have been implemented as an afterthought. A connective in search of a destination; a lonely, infinite corridor, laid in the absence of any other planning initiatives. 

This air of unreality frequently tempts the mind into a dreamlike lull, where thoughts form unanticipated and unhindered, free to seep idly into whatever nooks and crevices appear. In the imagined worlds into which I have stumbled while walking here, Snaresbrook Road has been both the M1 and the Pacific Coast Highway, while the court building has morphed into the White House or the US Capitol, with Eagle Pond the reflecting pool in front of the Ulysses S. Grant memorial at the base of Capitol Hill. While it is the insubstantiality, the essential blankness, of the road that invites the arbitrary superimposition of fantasy over fact, Washington DC over Wanstead, this fuzzy ambience can quickly harden into something sharper and more hostile. Sometimes, in the half-light of dusk, when grey, smoky clouds hang low and perfectly still in the gloaming, and there is a rare, portentous lull in the traffic hum, the fronts of the flats, houses, and retirement homes opposite the water can appear as facades, fabricated or adapted for the concealment, or ventilation, of something undesirable behind. Two-dimensional, intended to mask, distract, and deceive, recalling the two “houses” comprising 23-24 Leinster Gardens, Bayswater, erected to hide an uncovered section of railway line, or the townhouse-turned-subway vent on Joralemon Street in Brooklyn Heights. The fact that there is nothing behind the buildings here which might need concealing or ventilating does very little to lessen this early evening architectural paranoia. When it hits, one is left disconcerted and uncertain, keen to wander around the backs of the buildings, to seek reassurance amidst the car parks and the gardens. 

The pond, unprotected from the road by railing or wall, stands as testament to our relentless appetite for the seemingly arbitrary division and allocation of land. Its banks are owned by different entities, with the City of London Corporation, Her Majesty’s Court Service, and the London Borough of Redbridge each responsible for a particular section of the surrounding grass or concrete. The water body itself, which seems to have existed in some form since the eighteenth century, was adjudged part of Epping Forest - and thus the responsibility of the Corporation - in 1882. When you stare across the pond surface as you walk, it’s not hard to conjure the sensation of floating serenely across it, like an overfed waterfowl or even a piece of fetch-driven litter. Sometimes, even on a drearily overcast, uninviting afternoon, the urge to take advantage of the lack of pavement barrier, and dive gleefully into the water, can be momentarily overwhelming. Although the pond is covered in considerable islets of green algae, it would likely provide an excellent place to float or wade, separate from everything else but still visible, and easily contactable, from the pavement twenty metres away. It may be that this is the standpoint from which Snaresbrook Road is best experienced; present but not completely involved, removed but vigilant and ready, with a watchful eye on all sides. Even if the buildings don’t quite feel real, the birds seem happy enough. You’d probably get used it as well, given time.

***

Dan Carney is a musician/writer from north-east London. He has released two albums as Astronauts via the Lo Recordings label, and also works as a composer/producer of music for TV and film. His work has been heard on a range of television networks, including BBC, ITV, Channel 4, HBO, Sky, and Discovery. He has also authored a number of academic research papers on subjects such as cognitive processing in genetic syndromes and special skills in autism. His other interests include walking, hanging around in cafes, and spending far too much time thinking about Tottenham Hotspur.

Dan on Twitter

Wells-next-the-Sea, a poem by Ian C Smith

wells by sea photo ian c smith.jpg

I am anxious driving through green England
always moving on, never stopping long.
In Norfolk, an argument east of The Wash
an old man wearing a cloth cap
strokes a horse’s whiskery nose in grey light.

A man, a horse, a cart, a sign.
Yes, she wants to take the ride
but with the reins in her experienced hands.
The old man hears us out, considers us,
before agreeing to a test drive.

He watches.  Scavenging gulls hover.
A merry-go round and round the empty carpark.
I talk her up, a city boy standing close,
clop, clop my praise overflowing.
You’d think she was Clancy’s daughter.

Our high seat might be a magic carpet,
morning air still, few cars, glimpse of sea.
Horse skiving, I ask how she knows the way.
The horse does.  I’m just along for the ride.
Some early shoppers stop, turn to stare.

The old nag’s pace increases.
We must be heading back, she says.
Aren’t you steering?  In control?
Hardly.  Stop waving, you show-off.
She seems happier now, in her element.

The horizon behind, I picture Europe beyond,
my mind fizzing with travel’s romance.
Then the old man, looking lonely, relieved.
He says, I knew you’d be all right,
his words a lighthouse beam of hope.  

***

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Australian Poetry Journal, Critical Survey, Live Encounters, Poetry New Zealand, Southerly, & Two-Thirds North.  His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide).  He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.


At Bradford's Rail and Bus Interchange: What Ship is This?

What Ship is This? – Photo: Robert Butroyd

What Ship is This? – Photo: Robert Butroyd

By Robert Butroyd:

Rav Sanghera wrote a play about it, Gerard Benson wrote two poems about it, and I’m standing with my back to the Victoria Hotel next to Fran, and we’re staring at it. At first glance it appears to be apologising for even being there, tucked away below the road. Apologising for replacing the double arched roof and fluted columns of the demolished Bradford Exchange with a functional angular box. But maybe Bradford Interchange is not the blight on the spirit that it thinks it is. Rav Sanghera thinks it’s a place full of fascinating stories. Someone at ‘Metro’, the ‘combined authority’, or whoever runs it now, thinks it has potential as an art gallery. Gerard Benson certainly thought it a place of poetry. So, we head across the road.

Fran spots the fractured white sails above the entrance. But what sort of ship is this? She compares it to stepping into Sydney Harbour with its famous Opera House, and its roof of white sails. In the canopy, above the queuing taxis pumping the air with diesel fumes and the drone of their throaty engines, I see the sails of an Egyptian felucca floating dreamily down the Nile. Rising above the sails the pyramid of glass resembles the bridge of a cruise ship, where the crew, thinking it a good idea at the time, took a short cut, maybe the Suez Canal, and having badly lost their way intended to moor up for a short while, but rather liked the place and decided to hang around.

Inside, the grumble of diesel is mixed with muffled conversations, instructions, exclamations, and the random bleeps of modern life: Greggs' oven warning the bacon will burn, reversing buses, pinging mobiles. The departure boards, timetables, shops, and commuters rushing for buses, trains and home remind Fran of the Paris Metro. She’s not thinking of the daily commute, but the first steps on a journey to a more romantic place. The interior reminds me of a place designed by airport architects: functional, a people moving machine, not a place to linger. But linger we must, as buses run late, or we run late, or we go to the wrong platform, or we misread the timetable, or granny is on the next bus, having missed the one we came to meet. Maybe that’s why someone thought to hang paintings along the top of the walls on the upper concourse. Something to distract, keep us out of mischief, keep us on our toes, keep us asking questions - not wrong ones like, where’s my bus? But right ones like, why are there these paintings of elephants, seals and clowns? Who painted them? Who put them there, and why haven’t I noticed them before?

Feet Not Made For Dancing – Photo: Robert Butroyd

Feet Not Made For Dancing – Photo: Robert Butroyd

Of course, there are other things we can do while we wait. How about a bit of dancing? Fran thinks it’s an intriguing idea. So did Gerard Benson. It was a moment three little dancing girls probably forgot as soon as their bus arrived, but it was a magical moment captured in his poem, ‘Snapshot: Interchange Bus Station.’ But dance, where? The three girls, up past their bedtime, watched over by their chatting mums, were inspired by what appear to be random patterns made by the red and blue tiles on the floor. The design may once have had an intention though it is hard to see now what that might be. Looking down Fran sees fragments of a star, oblongs, parts of a chessboard and other more peculiar shapes. Dancing to ‘an inner music’, the girls choreographed their moves between the lines, jumping together from one tile to another, flailing their arms. Children, expressing themselves in the moment, before they are told they can’t: can’t dance, can’t paint, can’t sing, can’t act, can’t write, told so often that in the end they can’t, and so, in the end we don’t. A moment of inspiration captured by a poem. Fran wonders ‘who sets down standards to tell us we are not good enough to do these things?’

On our way out we stop at the information point and Phil behind the desk is pleased that we ask about the paintings, telling us they are hung there all year, only taken down at Christmas. We are pleased too, pleased because they are unexpected, almost hidden, and that someone has made the effort, the effort to hang them and take them down, and then re-hang them. There can’t be any money in it for those who run the Interchange, whoever they are, or for the bus companies, or the artists. Until Fran pointed them out I had never even noticed the paintings below the roof, but now I see them, I hope the bean counters in accounts don’t. For now, I’ve found my ship, a ship of camels and clowns, of dancers and elephants, of stargazers, and joyful time wasters. This cruise ship can stay.  

***

This essay was inspired by:
Brief Encounters at Bradford Interchange, a new play by Rav Sanghera, Freedom Studios
‘Community Pride’, ‘Interchange Bus Station at Night’, and ‘Snapshot: Interchange Bus Station’, all by Gerard Benson (2014) The Bradford Poems, smith/doorstop books
Unnamed Artists, Bradford Interchange

Robert Butroyd is the editor of Good Companions around, an online project inspired by J.B. Priestley, who took delight in what we are often told are places of little consequence, but through closer inspection are found to be no such thing.

An Autumn Sunday afternoon walk around Rawhead

Rawhead_Julia.jpg

By Julia Bennett

Driving eastwards past the 150 year old mining engine house chimney - a lieu de mémoire for the dark dirty-secret past of this green and pleasant corner of England. This is the old Salt Road. Salt was carried from the Cheshire 'witches', the towns of Middlewich, Nantwich and Northwich, to the port at Chester, and later Liverpool, to trade with Africa and Asia. Up the steep Coppermine Lane to reach the top of the ridge. Squeezing in amongst a crowd of Sunday cars on the side of the road.

The path heads off. A stony farm road leading first west and then south towards Whitchurch. This is the Sandstone Trail tracing the sandstone ridge along the western side of Cheshire for 55 kilometres.

The potholed track soon dissolves into a footpath. Skirting the edge of the steep wooded hillside:

silver birch leaves burnished gold;

blood red rowan berries;

prickly sweet chestnut tempting hungry squirrels.

Trees frame distant views:

north across the Mersey, the solid square-built sandstone tower of Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral; closer, a cluster of slim flame-topped stacks pinpoint the oil refineries at Ellesmere Port. Closer still the Roman City of Chester hunkers down on the banks of the river Dee all but hidden in the folds of gentle rolling green pasture, that most English of English landscapes extending to the very edges of the country before drowning in the waters of the Dee.

… black rooks somersaulting against the blue-grey sky …

Across the fields to the east, beyond the giant white saucers of Jodrell Bank, the hazy beginnings of the Pennines.

… pinky-brown chaffinches flash white stripes as they flit from bush to bush …

The path narrowly clings to the edge of the soft, red sandstone cliffs. Cliffs formed during the Triassic period 250 million years ago, says the information board, once upon a time, a long, long time ago.

Not so very long ago, in the 1220s, Beeston Castle was built on a rocky outcrop, here in bas relief against the sky, a five kilometre walk north on the trail. Once upon another time it was the site of one of the Iron Age hillforts strung out along the ridge like a ‘join the dots’ guide to life here 3,000 years ago. . . . the trail following in ancient footsteps.

Steps lead down the side of the hill to a wooden platform. This is Dropping-stone well. Local people climbed up here to fetch drinking water as recently as the Second World War. In the not so distant past servants took sand from the caves which pockmark the soft sandstone to use on stable floors and as a scouring aid in the kitchens of the ‘big houses’. This was a busy, productive place, and not only on Sunday afternoons.

Rawhead itself, the trig point and the highest part of the Sandstone Trail stands at 227 metres. Rocks jutting above the trees, there are clear views from here. Over the border into Wales, Wrecsam’s industrial estate stands out against a background of the Clwydian Hills. Shropshire to the south and on a (very) clear day a faint outline of the Wrekin about 30 miles away.

The path turns southwards, continuing to snake along the very edge of the steep cliffs. Careful footsteps are needed to avoid sliding over the edge into the canopy of silver birch and scots pine that cloak the sides of the cliffs. Black holes mark caves in the rock faces.

A turn to the east. Rhododendrons flood a steep valley. A dull green for much of the year, in spring this ‘alien species’ large purple flowers are a prelude to the native purple heathers and plump ripening bilberries yet to come.

A small wood of scots pine, a cluster of farm buildings, the path runs next to a field separated by an electric fence. Noises off:

in the spring a cuckoo;

summer occasionally brings the insistent tapping of woodpeckers;

autumn, the rustling of pheasants in the maize stalks;

crows and farm dogs scrap and shout for attention all year round.

Down towards the kissing gate and the farm track. The Sandstone Trail turns towards the main road and southwards to Bickerton Hill. The sign to the Bickerton Poacher points left. This path follows behind the line of the fields and houses which border the main road. Overhung with stray fruit trees, damsons and crab apples tempt those walking beneath.

Crossing the muddy stream at the lowest point of the path, then uphill again past the memory of the industrial past: the brick chimney above Gallantry Bank.

Buzzards haunt the tall scots pines edging an open field, swooping ghostly shadows a prelude to their loud territorial claims. Shooting parties gather in this space. Gallantry is an elision of ‘gallows tree’. Hiding history in plain sight.

Over the stile and a steep climb up Coppermine Lane brings us back to the present.

Julia Bennett is a sociologist with an interest in place and belonging. She has lived in this part of Cheshire for 16 years.

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

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. 

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
 

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