Tag Archive | maps

Manchester and The Morning After… (Stories From Forgotten Space)

This is a spoken word/video version of notes and mapmaking from earlier in October this year, over the weekend the Tory Conference was held in Manchester

It is part of a series that has thus far have largely centred around times/spaces where gatherings/events have felt like ample territory for my thoughts on the past (my past), present, and longings for a future decisively different from the present.

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/150320900″>Manchester and The Morning After (Stories From Forgotten Space)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user18137640″>john Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Manchester and The Morning after… (Stories From Forgotten Space)

This is the 5th blogpost in part of a series that has thus far have largely centred around times/spaces where gatherings/events have felt like ample territory for my thoughts on the past (my past),  present, and longings for a future decisively different from the present. This post is centred around the demonstrations taking place outside the Tory Party Conference 2015 in Manchester. There is an urgent aim to map out the here and now, as I don’t otherwise seem to be able to sense it –  constantly looking back over ten years to when it felt that memories and experience stuck, rather than blew away with every given day. These half-truths of stories based around cognitive mapping processes are an attempt to counter this sensation.

4 October 2015

P1040335“Michael picks me up early on and we head over to Ossett, a small town sandwiched between Wakefield and Dewsbury; a ligament in the West Yorks conurbation of towns. On the car radio a program speaks of French Electronica, such as the likes of Air – of whom a sample is played. A warm, lush sound. “Why don’t I listen to this more often?” I think to myself, knowing full well I won’t, as something of my reality cancels it out; the warm sunny glow it evokes is squeezed out between the fear and disbelief of these hyper-connected and hyper-competitive times. We pick up Tony and Michael’s partner (both of whom I cannot remember if I’ve met before), and I have a moment of open embarrassment and inner concern over the utter absence of any memory of meeting Michael’s partner at an event almost exactly 2 years ago, as we drop down the hill that brings you to Dewsbury (an attractive town that always surprises you for being so, due its unjustified negative press in the shadow of the Leeds/Harrogate/Ilkley perception of what is good/nice), . I haven’t felt there to be any duration to time or continuity to its passing during the past few years, to the extent that nothing seems to stick anymore – not like it used to. Further more, if this is a common complaint from the elderly who suffer memory loss, could this suggest that something of contemporary life could be bringing about an epidemic of ‘premature’ Alzheimers? – cold stabs of terror that aren’t appropriate to bring into the conversation right now. But any life so uneventful that nothing sticks, and nothing registers until death, isn’t a life worth living, and this is actually one of the reasons contributing to the utmost emphasis I began to place on partaking in political demonstrations in the wake of the May 8 election results. The sun shines on the now-sandblasted yellow sandstone that Dewsbury is built from. It doesn’t look so dissimilar from my home town, Barnsley, which stands alone in Yorks for being a former mining town that looks more like a former mill town.”kkk“As we wait for our delayed connection in Dewsbury station, two Manchester Airport-bound trains race past at a pace that can’t help impress in a way that an ever-quicker broadband connection can never. Trains used by TransPennine Express franchise trains aren’t the world’s fastest, but in relation to the still-slightly-slower pace of Sunday life, they are like horizontal space rockets, that force our primitive responses to watch them off into the distance towards the Pennines. As our train approaches we see the Sardine Can-scenario usually reserved for the weekday peak-time commutes. It’s heaving, and the member of staff on the train’s tannoy apologises for this in a tone that may as well have openly spoke of the inadequacy of privatised rail services for not putting on extra carriages. He could probably judge the spirit on board this train, as the majority of the passengers were clearly on course for the anti-Tory demo over in Manchester, and a general good air quelled any of our felt-grievances about being crammed into the wobbly section between the two carriages. With people from the Newcastle, Middlesborough, Leeds Metro areas all piled upon this train, there’s a feeling that The North can show London that not all big demos have to gravitate to the capital. My lack of window views means I’m missing out on my felt-need to see the Pennines as they rise up to separate Yorkshire from the blueprint for modernity – the sprawl of Manchester. However, I find great encouragement in that a man is walking around handing out free copies of the left-wing paper The Morning Star; such a refreshing gesture in comparison to the UK’s usual commuter misery-staple The Metro, which somehow still manages to present itself as not being a right wing rag.”

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Untitled“As we approach Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), towards the gathering of people, via the carpark next to the Aquatics Centre (a onetime novelty addition to this built-up environment, constructed for the 2002 Commonwealth Games held here), I look up at the surrounding fir trees and into the clear blue sky – it looks computer-generated. I am moving in and out of a melancholia over an unfinished course (at MMU) that is a cipher for an unfulfilled adult life – I lapse into melancholia whenever self doubt and estrangement kicks in when I’m in large social situations.  All the more appropriate that I am telling the other two about always feeling like a spectator of my own life, like I’m always in 3rd person to myself, as we’re discussing a potential lack of political engagement within my age group (late 20’s to late 30’s?) compared to those either side of us. Perhaps what my age group shares is the experience of growing up amidst mass political indifference as the so-called ‘end of history’ 90’s passed into the 00’s via the smoke and mirrors of Blair. An ambivalence to anything happening around us that was only compounded by the illusion-of-democracy-erasing military invasion of Iraq, which sent the “nothing you can do but get pissed [find your own privatised happiness]” mentality into a full-throttle common conclusion. My MTV-ED age group share an inability to act, to risk getting our noses broken in the midst of political fracas – maybe because there was an assumption around that millennial moment that everything had already been said and done, and was on constant replay for us now? Whereas today, the only thing that seems to have meaning is to overthrow this ‘nihilizing’ empire, and those ten years younger than I are politically active not because they haven’t been jet-washed with the isolating media technologies and forms like us (as they’ve had it ten times worse since the birth of Broadband), but because they have been left with no illusions about this political-economy offering them any future worth enduring.”

P1040333llllllll“I move in and out of the crowd, to the toilet and to find [expensive bottled] water, and back onto Oxford Road – the crowd density distorts my perceptions to make me think I am walking far further away. I get Flashbacks to my time here after now standing on this section of road for over two hours, as if the duration of my presence is helping me absorb my old haunts. As I reflect on my inability to act, I realise that doubt is the main obstacle to invention and intervention, and I’m plagued by way too much of it. And all I usually find I can resort to is the sober resistance of a long-time depressive. I think of my life since I came to this place aged 19, and it conjures a soundtrack that is one constant noise….and it makes me nauseous. Leaving that course due to severe weight loss-provoked-anxiety/dysfunction meant I had to go back and face certain demons I’d been literally running, cycling [and swimming – at the Aquatics centre!] away from. This forced out the beginnings of my political awareness and the beginnings of being on the road I am still on. Even if that road now feels blocked.”

“I’m awash with an hard-to-explain fusion of personal and political memories and feelings as The Manic Street Preachers’ If You Tolerate This  plays out to the large crowd packed into the quintessentially narrow streets of this sardine tin-city of mills and terraces. Somebody shared this song on the all-important Facebook newsfeed during the past few days. There is something appropriate about it in 2015, even though it was released 17 years ago(!) this autumn, with a Brit-pop after-the-party musical style, in the year between the ‘things-can-only-get-better’ New Labour victory and the millennial malaise that had Travis/Toploader as its let-down soundtrack.  The Manics’ song almost shouts at us “hey, why the hell didn’t we pay attention to the meaning back in the late 90’s?”. They are playing this song, among others from the stage where speakers are soon to enter articulating opposing ideas to the Tories with the aim of giving this crowd hope. If You Tolerate This, in the face of what we’re fighting against, and what disturbing policies are being suggested at the conference up the road, sends shivers all down my arms and legs -“this is serious, deep stuff”. But shivers are nothing close to what hearing The Smiths’  ‘There is a light that never goes out’ is like, played out onto the streets of this city. This all-so-private song, that yet millions upon millions of us have a special place for in our lives, without shame. It’s like when the radio plays your favorite song, and you know that everyone else is hearing too, and how that makes your hairs stand up on your neck. But I bet nearly half the crowd are thinking and feeling exactly like me right now. Why does such a song seem to unite the longings for emotional companionship with the desire for a socio-political revolution? Yet, it does: emotional loneliness and the miseries of living under a ruthlessly-market driven system that requires our atomisation, are part of the same process. Such a song jerks those tears ever-harder in an age when we are all ‘lost-in-commute’ in cyberspace, trying to find our destination, and sick, ever so sick, of living under this system. There is a Light is like a minute’s silence within a national anthem for a de-territorialitised nation of ‘sensitive type’s’, unable to reify themselves for the market-individualism of these times; a silent moment in which they all silently contemplate how they’ve endured, to which the ‘light that never goes out’ becomes an optimistic beacon for our will to survive. As the crowd begins to move, I suppose the sight of wheelchair-bound protesters, draped in skeletons with placards saying ‘fit-for-work’ is a sobering and chilling reminder of the stakes on survival in these times. “Don’t get ill, whatever you do”. One placard sticks with me more than any other: “ConServitude and Social Darwinism” – but so many reminders, yet no sign yet of a closure on this compassion-less reality”

12112228_10153215165338581_3376164827703981927_n“We watch most of the demonstration pass us, and as we stay stood down by MMU we join it right at the back. After heading under the bridge, where Oxford Road passes under the inner ring road, we pass a large camp supporting the homeless (echoed by the large graffiti lettering saying ‘homes for the homeless’ written onto a derelict building just over the way). On a visual level only, it resembles the scenes of urban inequality when US cinema dares to show us that nation’s rotten insides. And this is frightening; Manchester is no longer the chilled millennial studenty-indie-music city it became sold to us as in the late 90’s; the politics of class war is once again visible on its streets – a stark reminder that we can’t return to that bubble, we have no choice but to fight back.  As we head towards the town hall, we end up clustered among the Black Block – hoods up and mouths covered (“should I be doing that?”). They are frustrated because the crowd has stopped; “what we fucking stopped for?” says one of them with an accent that sounds neither north nor south. Their haste for more direct action against the conference opens up the wounds of my dilemma between who I am, what I think is right, and that inability to act on this makes me uncomfortable about being more cowardly than I wish I was. I begin to lose my temper for reasons I can’t figure out, as my emotional confusion creates my own haste. I leave the crowd and go walking by myself, angry, and mildly paranoid that my abnormal movements will attract attention from the airborne police who may think I’m up to something, rather than just being my aimless self. Constantly feel a need to prove myself, but just walk around chuntering to myself. ”

llll“I eventually return to a level of sociality, retreat from my desire to find a pub, and locate my friends near a pub at Deansgate – where I do have one pint. We head down from here towards Oxford Road, surrounded by an increasingly fragmented group of demonstrators. I assume ‘the demo’ has come to that ‘glass of cold water in the face’ moment of late capitalist ‘realism’ where everyone starts thinking about work tomorrow, and what’s in their fridge for when they get back home (a thought conveniently attended to by the Sainsbury’s store we are now approaching). But as we begin to walk back down Oxford Road this proves to be a massively wrong assumption: whilst stood around the The Thirsty Scholar pub under the railway bridge, the police jump out of a van, approach and arrest a couple of members of an anarchist-leaning group who are having pints outside the pub. Tensions flare up as members/or friends of the young men being taken jump up, brandishing the cards we got handed earlier which state that the police have to state a clear reason for why they are detaining somebody. One of the friends I traveled with tries to intervene to help the young men being incarcerated, only for a police reaction to result in a scuffle that looks like it could get very messed up. And although it doesn’t, the potential sends my cowardly heart right into my mouth, and I’m shaking like always. I watch for what feels like an age with my customary dumb-spectator-glare, only to get more and more annoyed at my inability to act. I end up manically meandering up and down the nearby alleys where the graffiti-mural of ‘dirty old town’ Manchester no longer has that tame-millennia-mush-reflectionist-culture feel to it, and now takes on a look of ‘why we fight back’, which is what could be said of Manchester-2015 in general. As my friends stand on the pavement of Oxford Road absorbing what has just happened, they are in hearing distance of a pub bouncer who is that deeply bored with existence that his initially “everybody hear me(!)” dislike for the protesters is cut short to start talking about the football scores. I’m still shaking, and give in to half a pint within this focal point of trouble, The Thirsty Scholar. I realise I’ve walked into a poetry event, as the woman on stage recites verse on her guilt on walking past an homeless person who is asking for spare change – a guilt I feel I have documented thoroughly during the past few years. The event turns out to be part of this weekend’s nationwide ‘We Shall Overcome’ events.”

uuuu“Our friend James, who met up with us towards the end of our time in Manchester today, takes us home in his car, parked on a side-street halfway down Oxford Road. As we exit via the Gorton area of the city, through the mixture of the very-manchester-like red brick terraces, the nowhere place Tesco extras/ Subway sandwich establishments, and drunks stumbling home from Sunday drinking, that seem to constitute the entirety of East Manchester, it all leaves me under an ominous cloud of confusion as to where we go from this point onwards, in the future, and today – as personally speaking, what do you make of the remaining waking hours after such a bombardment of thought and feeling? How do you deal with it, so as to function the day after? As we link up to the motorway system, The conversation leads back to the actions of the police in the city, and focuses in on mild-terror-provoking potential future predicaments in a more extreme, less tolerant world, where state power goes to extreme lengths to stay control. All the more barren does such talk feel due to traveling amidst the overlooked and sinister-beauty of this landscape made up of motorway bridges as they twist and rise in front of the martian-like Pennine terrain, that feels like an unwelcoming ideal setting for the bleak future projections all-so-poorly hidden behind our conversation of tired banter. I decide I can’t go home just yet, and as we pass over into West Yorkshire I ask to be dropped at Dewsbury station, (I mean, we’re going past it, so I may as well) and as the day’s toll on my energy becomes apparent, I exit at Leeds station, almost crawling up to a large Wetherspoons that is scarcely populated in a city that looks deserted in comparison to the one I have just been in.

5 October 2015

P1040337“Trying to wake up this morning, after yesterday, was incredibly hard. Is it specific to my own make-up that I find ‘attending’ demonstrations to be an emotional rollercoaster to such an extent that I experience what a more far-flung version of myself would attribute to ‘jet-lag?’. But the emotional ‘wave-pool’ hasn’t died down yet, as now I’m up and about I’m borderline manic, which I make visibly evident in my haste of avoiding the subway on the way to Wakefield Kirkgate station, skipping over the dual carriageway, and jumping over the railings. I feel charged, you see, and I don’t want to go back to anxious sleep-walk of ‘everyday’ life, from where it’s ‘nihilizing’ affects beat me into daily-depressive-pleasure-seeking. This is why the sight of a stag-do on platform 1, gearing up for a night out (likely heading to York or Newcastle), already spilling beer everywhere, at 12pm on a dreary Monday, doesn’t initially stand out for being out of context. But then I realise that this isn’t down to that fact that I’m out of sync with any normal sequence of events: it’s because such a sight is utterly normal fullstop. It’s just one of many potential scenes from an already-anticipated slideshow; one of limited imagination and possibilities; a slideshow on endless-repeat. The return of the 80’s; not in class warfare, but in caricature, comic book and video-game fancy-dress-rehashing. A now-seemingly-obligatory ceremony for a Nowhere Time. And it’s literally standing in the way of my need to sustain the idea that there’s something beyond this Flat Earth Digi-box-Dystopia. I’m now on platform two as the train pulls in for Barnsley. I’m restless. I’m sat behind two men of baby boomer age – one with a Lancastrian accent, the other American. I can’t help it, but beneath the perpetual turmoil of my self-esteem, I’m quietly looking at the other passenfers and thinking “do you want social change? Are you sick of all of this too?”

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“As I leave Barnsley train station I notice the headline on the piles of The Metro newspapers, ready to pounce on the easy-target of commuters made porous to such amnesiac-titillations by the drudgery of their 9-5’s. Today’s dish is a slur, focusing on a few minor occurrences to tarnish the entirety of yesterday’s demonstrations. It annoys me so much that I head into the interchange, down to the bus bays, looking for a copy I can take with me for documentation purposes only. I become engulfed by a sinking feeling, which captures me off guard as I battle with faltering energy levels. There is an era-long set-in sense of defeat around here. People may use the word ‘depressed’ to describe a place with a derogatory slant with the aim of shining a preferential light on themselves for not being from there (fuck knows what city of gold they come from...). Being from there, well, the word takes on a very different slant altogether. If the song ‘There Is a Light…’ compounded and united disparate longings I have whilst in Manchester yesterday, then it’s The Smiths’ lyrics “…for there are brighter sides to life and I should know because I’ve seen them, but not very often” that currently gives voice to an otherwise unjustified sense of let down, as I walk past the bus lanes. In the wake of being at/or doing anything that momentarily suspends this so-called ‘everyday’, I always get this sense articulated by these Smiths’ lyrics, as I come back to my extended-sleeping-quarters  (for most my life) of the Barnsley Borough. I have seen slight glimmers of something that could take the place of this ‘everyday’, and I’m in no way referring to town centres such as this one being ‘Shorditched’ into an unending hipster’s paradise cyberparty. I’m talking of something that feels alive, and is beyond the black and whites of ‘fun/boring’ of this current reality.”

 

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The Big Smoke (and mirrors): Stories From Forgotten Space

I have retroactively made this the 3rd blog in a series of map-making’s of meanderings and musings that coincided with decisive events for the wider society. My thoughts on the past (my past),  present, and longings for a future decisively different from the present loosely congregating around these events. With my writings this year, there has been a consistent eagle eye for traces of social change; I am not aligned with any specific party/ideology that opposes the current state of play, yet most certainly not averse to any either, as I’m aware that any jostling for something beyond this sink-hole-for-sanity is essential for my well-being as much as anything else.

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Here is the first post from 9 May: Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Reflections

The second from 22 June: London Walks, and Anti-Austerity Musings

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10 September 2015

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“I’ve been approaching Leeds by train for years now (for the best part of the lost-decade, starting 2008), and it is the wastelands (especially the unappropriatable bits) that are its saving grace. It says something that the boring central zone obliterates. I change trains towards Manchester, sitting backwards as the train leaves Leeds. Dead feelings still cling on, yet I know they’re just symptoms of something much larger than myself – something that throughout these years has only ever really become clear to me when staring out of the window of a moving train or bus. Yet I sense movement; movement out of this ‘stuckness’ that accumulates moments of feeling like being part of the living dead. I’m not sure what is happening, whether the world will spin whilst I stand still, but I’ll make any minor manoeuvre to help loosen from being stuck.”

P1040080“Sitting backwards means that I am facing the sharper, most hasty inclines that form Lancashire’s side of the Pennines that we leave behind as we near Manchester.  I think what captivates me about landscapes, is that any given landscape is forced to become an illustrator for the most heavy of shit on my mind at any given moment. These glacial cuts between Yorkshire and Lancashire make me wonder if the water is starting to trickle under our socio-political ice age. But will the flow be guided, or will it burst out destructively? I need change anyway, coming to another town to drink has been a substandard substitute for a couple of years now, but it is beginning to wear thin.”

P1040084“Exit Piccadilly station platforms, and head up the escalators – not really sure why. There’s a banner for a TGI Friday’s eatery, based on a pastiche of mid 20th century American diners. The banner has those thin metal anti-climbing spikes all over the top of it. I can’t quite figure out why this would be necessary at all. But if I was in doubt, there’s also a CCTV camera keeping it company. It’s a coincidence, but it isn’t ironic: control is at the heart of every aspect of contemporary life, from controlled pastiche experiences of mid-20 the century diners, to maximum transport terminal security. No doubt the menu choice will tell you the calorie intake, so we can control that too. If not, I’m sure it will soon. I have to take a photograph, but I’m wary of the presence of an ‘officer’ nearby – as an artist was arrested last year photo-documenting London’s ‘ring’ of CCTV cameras. I exit the station and cut south avoiding the shopping area of Manchester, taking in the Victorian what-might-have-beens prelimery-skyscrapers, much more impressive than the reality given to us with the likes of the Beetham Tower.”

P1040086P1040087“Because my default memory of 2003/Blair-years Manchester is the one my brain reverts to every time I leave the city, I find all successive skyline additions surprising. Just past Oxford Road station on the way to Deansgate a huge blue-tinted glass phallus, complimenting the nearby Beetham Tower, has emerged from seemingly nowhere, with the name ‘StudentCastle’ hanging vertically down the side of the building. Talking of default positions, it will forever remain absurd to me that such a place could now be for student accommodation. It looks fit only for penthouses, Porsche owners, or for scenes from a Dallas-cum-Dubia-deal-doing-drama; not for those who I still (clearly erroneously) see as based at safe-havens from the dynamics of a system that they would be better momentarily safe-guarded from, in order to at least interpret it, through art, English Lit, Philosophy or whatever…..yeah, I’m definitely out of touch here, I guess.

“As I reach the view of Beetham Tower, further down Deansgate – hanging above what now merely resembles the atypical regeneration background imagery of red-bricked former industrial buildings – I come to the conclusion that Beetham Tower just looks like a virtual impressionist’s wet dream. And it may as well be, judging on how out of reach it feels. And I’m not talking about it’s relative height. The glass, the purported transparency of such structures is exactly what makes them seem so inaccessible. Across the road a block of private apartments has been named after the Hacienda night club. A city of so much promise –  one I still look to (perhaps due to being an unreconstructed northerner) for promise, is now a city of signs that lead nowhere.”

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Friday 11 September: Recovery, walking around my home town, assembled like dream-like collage of memories. … I cannot explain why this seems to be repeatedly occurring.

I miss things dearly. Especially those things that never got a chance….

….that in hindsight never stood a chance

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Saturday 12 September: The Big Smoke (and Mirrors)

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P1040096“Central Wakefield at 5am. The pouring rain doesn’t seem to impound any felt-miseries at such an hour, maybe due to the rarity of being awake at this time it is making me feel like I’m in a different climate/land. It must be said that I’m finding that there’s a way of looking at the world that seems specific to this time between night and day, possibly epitomised by the ghost train crawling through Westgate station back up to Leeds in preparation for today’s carting of people to and from London. It’s as if the empty train visualises a sense that I can see the inner workings of the ‘man machine matrix’ [Will Self] at this nowhere hour; like seeing the working arteries and veins of a living creature. It makes no difference that I know the train has to have staff on board, because their lack of visibility visualises this Metanomic servitude everything and everyone has to a system that tells us we are our own bosses. As our train pulls in, the man stood in front of me on the platform is so prematurely weak and frail  (accident, degeneration recoverer?) that I feel a bubbling haste at the prospect of missing the train altogether, and can sense anger in me towards him, which almost immediately results in self-detesting; parts of myself I wish didn’t exist, but parts that are part-and-parcel of living in this age where an ideology of ‘rule of the jungle’ has engendered a growing fascistic attitude to our most vulnerable. Social change. It’s the necessity of a movement we can all taste in our mouths, to prise us out of such a miserable way to exist. To extinguish unnecessary ‘survivalist’ impulses riving and tearing through our bloodstream.”

“BBC Radio 4. Listening to the Shipping Forecast. Turbulent seas, maritime nation; so easily forgotten on the mainland; resonates so peacefully with the train’s humming electrical noises. Why does it somehow seem to be a component of a lost world (a better one in my opinion)? I’ve heard it said (somewhere) that the Shipping Forecast would be the last lone voice across the land at the dawn of a nuclear wipe-out. But this voice of the long night, for me, seems more a spectral trace of a parallel/or hidden-from-view world; evoking elements of a Britain that never took the tunnel of Thatcherism. I suppose it evokes the longing for the presence of a socialistic paternal force that is there in times of vulnerabilities we nearly all face at some point. These arable lands we are passing through in this point between light and dark resemble more hinterlands between two different types of world. The following news story suggests it is a forgone conclusion that Jeremy Corbyn will win the Labour leadership contest later this morning – maybe we are indeed in an hinterland between two different times?”

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“With it still only being 8am (although 8am equates to 10am in this cinematic equivalent of all you know elsewhere in the UK) I wait sometime in a cafe staring out onto Euston Road. And I always expect to see somebody I know, as a place for me is a place, whether there are 1,000 or 13,000,000 people under its place name umbrella. I see a woman who looks like an older version of somebody my not-much-younger-self would day-dream about spending his days with, all-too-aware that I’ve been dumbly goldfish-like forgetful about how age hits us all, now I’m in a spell of my life where meeting new people gets harder and harder.  Wake up, Boo! (The Boo Radleys) comes on the cafe radio. Couldn’t care less for it back in the summer of 1995, but I miss the vibe of the 90’s more by the year, and such songs evoke a freshness/sunshine that I cannot imagine now (and I’m more than convinced that our ‘always on’ times have hastened this colour-drainage). It’s certainly not just me who feels this way, when even people who can’t remember the decade are more-than-active in rejoicing in the unsheddable traces of it coating of the present. Good times are environing, not personal/private – even if such a time did prove to be all smoke and mirrors. But this era-based optimism cannot return under the current social reality which was still fresh and believable in the 1990’s. Now it’s just a dead idea-ruling. Perhaps a new age is dawning now; it certainly needs to be too, as the decade we’ve just gone through feels so lost, like a world under general anesthetic. ”

P1040113“After leaving the cafe, and with hours to go before a demo I’m supposed to be attending (I have to attend after spending limited funds on always-expensive train tickets), I turn right from ST Pancras into the Camden area. I manage to lose the macho swagger I use as a self-defense mechanism against the Euro-trotter-scape of St Pancras station, focused on the high-end shop Fortnum and Mason’s. The parks of London give the impression of opening up the seemingly endless chances at play in metropolitan life. Despite the ever-present tragedies of morning drinkers, these parks give out a certain romance, of something Unrealised – enhanced by the social housing surrounding them, but totally obliterated by the exercise machines, that have the presence of colonisers in such parks, disallowing anything but the Utopia/Dystopia of ‘mission: Self-Betterment’.”

P1040116“Half 9 and it’s not unbearably busy at the Oxford Circus/Oxford Road junction right now. On rare occasions I do feel so utterly detached from the world/culture I am attached to that I’m like an alien spectator of The Spectacle. If this could last, well then I’d probably be able to spout such “you-don’t-have-to-buy-into-it” cop-out-philosophy to all those ‘negatives”. Speaking of ‘negative types’ how do you tell if there is or isn’t breathing coming from these disheveled shapes coated in old blankets in these closed doorways (the army of homeless, of course)? How do you know if they haven’t died silently on these sleepless streets? The survivalist fever that funnels us into individualist obedience makes certain the we treat such uncertainties as ‘none of my business’. Next to one of the blanket-coated bodies is a virtual-reality advert-board offering the proposition of having your ‘selfie’ taken with hippy/venture capitalist, Richard Branson.”

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“Down near Embankment now. The amount of bodies lying down in doorsteps/parks/under bridges, looks like the results of warfare. Which, of course, it is.”

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“After confusingly walking back and forwards, over the river, I eventually find myself in Waterloo station. In a city of plenty, why does the panicky grip of scarcity take hold? A mentality that physically sticks you to the ground in a seizure of confusion. Reminds me too much of the humiliation of anorexia, so I end up just sitting and eating on a bench in the busiest station in the country. Waterloo leads to all that rests at the other side of uncircumventable gateway of London to where I’m hail from. I imagine what my life might have been if I’d have hailed from the other side of the gateway, in a land that cannot help but seem like a dreamy, green and pleasant mid-century England, due to all the children I’ve overheard talking to parents in the station sounding like they belong in Enid Blyton novels.”

“I get up and walk. Slowly get going again. Crossing back north over the river, a friend texts me saying Corbyn has won the majority to become next leader of Labour party. “You shouldn’t rest your hopes around things” – yes, but I can’t keep down a small smile that emerges on my face.”

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“Always rewind to a default position of surprise when I pass Downing Street, surprised that it’s not really a street at all; more a half-way between Granada Studio’s Coronation Street set and an aggressively guarded compound. Whenever you see a photo/story featuring No 10, it only focus’s on the house, not the street, which is mainly constituted of massive Portland stone ministerial buildings that that sandwich no 10 in.”

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“After over an hour of confused meanderings, useless, utterly negative, exhausted text-book scribings; unsure if this demo is actually occurring (I got the time/place muddled up) I finally encounter it flowing down past Trafalgar Square. I follow it down to Parliament Square, back down past no 10. The larger the crowd, the less alienated I actually feel. I eventually find some people I know. The demo has most certainly been strengthened by Corbyn’s election victory this morning, and that he is attending this demo shortly. When we get to Parliament Square he gets to the stage. You can’t hear a word he is saying, yet the uproar from the crowd gets rid of any uncertainty towards what is happening. “Always be wary of the crowd” – maybe so, but, trust me, as somebody who’s spent a lifetime feeling alienated from groups in the usual course of life, I feel there is much to be gathered from a large group of people sharing a disparate yet unified energy. It suggests, or even ascertains a potential for an alternative to the current state of play that seemed unimaginable in this country a couple of years back. ”

P1040129

“It’s a quest to retain an optimism from which alternatives can be nurtured within. But too tired to deal with the growing atmosphere of lairyness that seems to be taking over the area close to King’s Cross/ST Pancras. Football fans heading home meet half-drunk pleasure-fix-seekers to make for an environment I never expect in London. But London is England; the shit, perpetual con-trick of our corporate culture, and the ensuing frustrations are all out to play here on a Saturday just like any other town or city up and down the country. Large swaves of London are still just the England-kept-provincial under Thatcherite occupation, but on steroids. After leaving an Internet cafe I need somewhere to sit with a pint for some time but can’t find a cash machine. I walk up and down, in what seems like miles judging on how tired I am now. I finally find one, only for it say it will charge me £1.50 for using it. Have to walk all way back again. Pass more homeless that I have to shut my head off to this time, drained of social compassion. A group of men mock a trans-gendered person in that abuse-disguised-as-laddish-banter style we all know well; “it’s water off a duck’s back, no doubt”, yet I doubt that very much – more like collateral damage. 13 million people and still they find time to pick on one of them. Eventually find a cash machine and a pub that is only just off the main road. So it feels so odd that it’s completely absent of the UKWEEKEND aura. Sit outside, nobody hassles me. I write and relax and find a potential in the city, and in the country again, for something different than this lost-decade I share with most. Things might be changing, but this is a long-long game, and I carry on in a punch-drunk manner.”

“On the train back I close my eyes. Intoxicated by the sensory overload of a London, that, these days can often resemble the hallucination of walking inside the World-Wide-Web, and, inevitably, alcohol. I am exhausted. I see pictures of things traveling so fast I can’t make them out – traveling faster than the speed of the train. The drink’s kicking in, and again I’m feeling I need companionship, and not just meaningless, nihilist bullshit; something that at least feels real. Tired of consuming the boring medication to endure the ‘Boring Dystopia’. How do I return to a point where things are fresh and can surprise again?”

P1040095“As I leave Westgate at 11pm, I misjudge my timing crossing the road. Yet I am certain the motorist speeds up. For sometime now I’ve been thinking how private vehicles encourage primal power trips, a driving force in us, unnecessarily so, due to the dog eat dog atmosphere we are forced to inhale. The driver, in a white t-shirt, may as well have been flexing his muscles at my slightly disheveled self as I scurry across the road. There’s so much work to do: the Tories more than anyone are masters at making us hate one another. But I’m so fucking tired of this game.”

Stories From Forgotten Space (new book published)

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I seem to be at a point of bringing quite a few important works to a point of closure. I and have Finally made my blog series,  Stories From Forgotten Space,  into physical book form. Despite a few frustrating errors made by Blurb’s book publishing program, the minor imperfections can’t take away the central position this book takes alongside my video The Mary Celeste Project [The Scene of The Crash] in my more recent body of work: I see the book as a work of art in its own right, and intend to exhibit it in my upcoming 2015 shows.  However, although I can’t get it done cheaply (unless I find a willing publisher soonish) it can be bought from there http://www.blurb.co.uk/b/6306069-stories-from-forgotten-space

Predominately set in the former industrial heartlands of the areas constituting the former West Riding of Yorkshire, it extends into many other areas within the present day landscape of England. It takes a look at this country through the year leading up to the 2015 General Election

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Stories from Forgotten Space (Lost Bus Routes and Pre-election Reflections)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further. It is fact and fiction, clear analysis and emotional garbage, destructive and constructive thinking, but what it is is my truth, recollected through maps made of journeys I make. This section of Stories From Forgotten Space uses lost bus routes and thoughts prior to the UK general election to use spaces to look at what has half-vanished, and what I long for coming into being. Using mapmaking to discuss the fabric of contemporary life may not be ‘everybody’s cup of tea’ (as if that is what everything needs to boil down to?!), but I have always had a love for maps and their potential.

The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here:

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/stories-from-forgotten-space-march/

https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/04/14/stories-from-forgotten-space-marchapril/

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21 April 2015

93“Home town-changing. Didn’t expect it to happen so soon; the demolition of the Metropolitan Buildings in Barnsley. The entire side of the centre that greets those entering by train is bordered up, including the Grogger’s Rest – a pub built into the concrete block facing the interchange, once named The Yorkshireman, and deemed ‘grotty’ for as long as I can remember. I didn’t realise it was being demolished too. The late 60’s/early 70’s-built Metropolitan Buildings have always been scorned by people and sources within the town whose opinions are deemed of worth. But I am still unsure whether I like them or not; whether they were inherently condemned to be a scourge on the urban fabric. In a more optimistic, naive stage of art-making, with graduation just around the corner, I made up a set of what-would-it-be-like-to-live-here-if computer edited photographs, where I coated the pre-existing townscape in images of trees and foliage – making it more Babylon than Barnsley. These simplistic edits of the landscape momentarily convinced me that the pre-existing townscape could improve vastly whilst remaining much as it is, if the little things around it all vastly improved.”

9495“Young man sits in cafe in Barnsley town at 6:30pm, facing the window looking out onto the now depopulated main shopping street. An aspiring young professional, if not a young professional already – you can just tell, sometimes appearances do tell the truth. On his laptop. Not reading, just checking emails. That’s all we do these days – keep on top of things, forever. His phone rings. His conversational tone is clear-cut, man-to-man; that passive/aggressive tone all too familiar in this time of communicative capitalism, where words shared become quasi-transactions. “If he has something to say tell him to come speak to me” (he doesn’t look much over 20). Definitely a work-related call. But everything is business these days, right?”

97 98

“Bump into drinking-companion from a more alive, pre-recession Barnsley night-life. He liked that specific vibe so much, he left a nearby town to move here. He tells me he is now thinking of leaving – nothing here for him anymore. You wouldn’t think that much had changed, but something’s very different from 10 years back. It isn’t a time I wish to relive, yet at least it didn’t quite feel like the permanent contraction of now. We stare all around Peel Square – expecting it to throw up a preferable answer. “Don’t drop litter, John” he suddenly adds as he butts his cigarette out on the bin, adding “I got fined £70 pound last week for dropping a cigarette butt as I was about to enter GT News [newsagent]. She [the enforcement officer] watched and waited until I’d come back out to accost me. I apologised, but she said it was too late and sprung the fine on me”. I’ve already heard these stories from cousins; “they sat in a car out of view, watching a waiting to see if I dropped the cigarette butt, and when I did they came and sprung the fine on me”. Already aware that this is a company, thus a profit-searcher, sub-contracted by the council authorities, I know full-well that the usage of ‘given’s’ such as “litter is bad”, “protecting environment”, “anti-social behaviour” is a icing-paper-thin veil over the profit-making-scheme-partnership between authority and company, which ends up punishing those who are already likely to be suffering most from the council-services-spending-cuts, which no doubt are the motive for these half-baked schemes in the first place.”

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23 April 2015

99

“It still manages to surprise/confuse me when I can arrive, unaided by public transport into one of the designated urban hubs [central Leeds] of the UK with such ease [having cycled here]. I wonder whether it may feel amiss with my preconceived, due to urban centres still remaining as signifiers for all that I feel I want, and need, in life, no matter how much this sense gets displaced like particles scattering once I am in these spaces. This sense of displacement feels especially acute after a long day in London. Deep down I can’t admit that what I am looking for doesn’t exist; at least not in way I keep on imagining it, nor in constraints of our current social reality.”

100“15X15 foot Advertisement board for the upcoming Victoria Gate upmarket shopping complex. An alien imposition. A silent yet strangely noticeable assault on one’s sense of self, that beams down from Nowhere, asking “Are you up to scratch? Are you one of the beautiful people around here, permitted to frequent here once it opens?'”

.
“On the train back to Wakefield, sat behind a middle aged man and woman passing comment on the current horror-show in the Mediterranean (the hundreds who have died trying to migrate from Africa into Europe). The conversational tone is one of mild anger and resent, but, incomprehensibly, it isn’t out of the injustice of these desperate human beings dying horribly, trying to escape desperate conditions; it is mild anger and resent at the idea of these people trying to get into this country, because “the NHS is already at bursting point” [as if migrants were the cause of this]. Who would have thought that such suffering would actually do more to eradicate empathy?”

10124 April 2015

102“Erring (as per usual) trying to get from A to B within the commuter-houses-maze of Woolley Grange. But nobody is even there to see me take this pride-sapping uturn. In fact I’m unsure I’ve ever seen a single person whilst passing through this estate built on a former spoil heap. The odd parked car, but never a resident. It often fools you into imagining that it has never been more than a show/model village. An eerie feeling that would make sense if it was derelict, but it isn’t; it’s a new-build aspirational residential area.”

.
“Whilst waiting in line at a cash machine on the main thoroughfare near the [Huddersfield] station, at tall man (who could be anything from mid 20’s to early 40’s) starts talking loudly in an odd manner to a fed-up-looking off-duty postman, who stands in the queue behind me (very few postmen/women look how we’d imagine them to be when we contemplate how nice a job it would be). The tall man says something a long the lines of “ya go something to say now mate!? Eh? Hey?”. The off-duty postman, more or less bullied into responding, sayings “no mate” in a very submissive downtrodden manner. The man, now with an attitude of having won a conflict, says “good, coz there’ll be trouble next time”. My assumptions are that the postman lost his rag with somebody who made his working environment (the public environment) less pleasurable during the day (I know this from once fearing my job position, after telling a group of taunting teenagers to “piss off” whilst working as a postman 11 years back). But no matter what said in this probable heat of the moment situation, I hate to see signs of the vulnerability of all non-alpha males (such as myself) in a bully-boy culture.”

103

“A middle-aged woman gazes for some time at the homeless man sat in underneath a shop window one of the main shopping streets [Huddersfield], probably due to him not yet having the drained and disheveled look of somebody accustomed to such a life. He’s obviously new to this life, he still has the look of household domestication to him.”

104 105

“A placard encouraging people to vote Tory in the upcoming general election hangs from a lamp post leading to busy boundary-forming roads that circulate Huddersfield centre. It will never cease to strike me as perplexing as to how the Conservative Party could appeal to anybody who dwells in the urban environment, rich or poor, unless they are (a) working in the town and and leaving to the commuterised outskirts on a daily basis, or (b) their conditions of living afford them a comforting cut off from all that is.”

10627 April 2015

107

“The board at the entrance to the Cedar Court complex [next to Junction 39, Wakefield South] promotes it’s ‘conference and function suites, for weddings, meetings, conferences, leisure’ etc, etc – all the preconceived notions of work/leisure under corporate-captivity. It’s a world already made for us; fun, taste, memories, opportunities already laid out. Nothing beyond the prescribed. Small, powerless in the face of big (“this is how it is!”) signs, I silently shout “surely there’s more than this?!”‘

“The roads cutting through the fields between Wakefield, Barnsley and Huddersfield are so saturated with ‘Vote Conservative’ placards for the upcoming election, that (A) I feel ashamed of my lowly posture to be walking amongst them, and (B) undeniably relieved to see that one of them has been pulled up and placed face-down. “Not all cap-doffers ’round here!” Whatever the outcome may be come May 8, the moral humiliation of a Tory victory could prove too much to bear.”

“Travelling through a wooded area that runs through the neither suburban-nor-rural mill-town-cum-commuter-village clusters, Clayton West, Scissett, Denby Dale and Kitchenroyd. As somebody who goes out running a few times a week I have to accept my complicity in this, but me and Dave can’t help but agree, as we observe every jogger, in this post-work period, that they are somewhat the new zombie subject of our times. They have replaced the older passive consumer-mall zombie of a previous stage of capitalism. Financial speed re-channeled as undead-anxiety running through our veins. Driven, yet simultaneously passive. Going through the mechanical motions as if the levers and cogs of the long lost factories merely spilled out onto the streets after their closure.”

108109 1111 May 2015

112“Looking over to the Beeston area [Leeds]. Always trying to find the core of place. But they’re just houses, or spaces in shops or pubs. Just space occupied like anywhere else. Get thinking about Paul Sykes, a Barnsley “self-made” millionaire, who is now apparently lonely and miserable in his North Yorkshire mansion. It’s never at anywhere if you’re empty. Behind me two ‘bright young thing’ males exchange information of their culturally-exciting, upwardly mobile ‘where it’s at’ lives, spent between London and Leeds. Do I feel on the defensive? I course I fucking do. 6.3ft BBC-cum-highended-student accented males, who look right through a 5.7ft, suddenly-indelibly-localized denizen (myself). Judgmental or not, I can’t help thinking ‘cyberpricks’.”

“Everybody just looks so successful-looking in Leeds station right now, as I wait for the connection train at 11:30am. Maybe their faces look different at 5:30pm, and their Lego haircuts wane a bit. But I doubt it. It doesn’t reek of Conservatism, but provokes an helpless feeling within of the Tories not only winning this upcoming election, but also the battle of ideas.”

113 114“False tranquility within the Vale of York. I catch white specs up on the hills to my left: the giant golf-balls, listening devices for the US-military-occupied Menwith Hill surveillance base. Green and pleasant England, a silent, invisible collaborator in global warfare.”

“North Yorkshire. Viking places names. Norman-cum-Tory playground since 1066.”

115 116

“[Leaving on train at Newcastle] Can’t admit I’m very human. I am currently hemorrhaging the year 2005.”

“I feel happy, but it’s wavering (has the repeated sight of Edinburgh Waverley on notice boards put that word into my mouth?). 10 years since I was last in Newcastle. Listening to The The’s emotion-bomb Soul Mining, which first became part of me all those 10 years ago. What I’d give for the rawness, that part of my being that would consequently commit suicide within months of  May 2005. Look into reflection in window of homebound train, with an aging face. Don’t want to die this way. Flashbacks to when this occurred, listening to this album, walking down disused rail-track to the west of Barnsley.”

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1 May 2005

117

“[In Newcastle station] looking for toilets, I notice the words ‘help the homeless’ scrawled in either permanent marker or crayon on the sandstone walls of this station. It’s the mark of a heat of the moment act, potentially desperation borne out of hopelessness. Straight off, it makes me wonder if this city’s homeless problem is even worse than the other UK cities.”

118 (1)

118 (3)“Trying to find a toilet in a city infected by market fundamentalism is like trying to find 3 different varieties of ketchup in a old Soviet Bloc city.”

“Walk into a large city-based shopping centre [Newcastle centre] in search of a toilet that I don’t have to pay to use. The big monument I passed earlier appears again, this time appropriated into a virtual-impression draped on cladding for some upcoming aspirational consumer/leisure complex. Always an incorporation of something deemed of place and character into a non-place development that seeks to attract a generic-yet-culturally-powerful aspirational quasi-intellectual clientele, who, themselves, have no real place or character to them, when I think about it.”

118 (4) 118 (5)“An homeless half sits/half lays in his sleeping bag on steps just metres from the Baltic [Gateshead], a former flour mill now an internationally-recognised art gallery. All art gallery staff, who also look the same no matter where (including myself) walk straight past him. Can I blame them if it’s a daily experience? What can they do? I don’t have anything but 20 pence in loose change on me. Feel embarrassed, but I give him it anyway. In a strong North East accent he musters up cheer to say “Every little helps, bud”. I walk back down the river towards the bridges back over to Newcastle. The landscape either side of these two closely-knitted urban centres dips down in a way that resembles much less urbanised coastal settlements.”

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7 May 2015

Lost bus routes. Crofton

119 (2)

P1030483“The road into Crofton provokes many memories for Michael. A perfectly sized-rape seed-covered hill that became terrain for (old skool)Doctor Who-provoked  nightmare-scenarios; catching a bus all the way to Leeds; a ten pence bus ride to Wakefield centre; memories of growing up here. We pass by a series of ‘Vote Labour’  placards, in contrast to the more countrified nearby village of West Bretton that is drenched in big, no- doubt costly, ‘Vote Conservative’ placards. I am worried that size sometimes makes a difference.”

“1960’s (70’s?) small shopping/flats complex [a similar complex in nearby Outwood], now part-derelict, and facing fenced off wasteland where a pub used to stand. Such complex’s intrigue me, evoking an urbanity of a Lost British City, introduced into these proletarian outcrops sticking out of farmland – known as former mining communities.”

“Cutting through large playing fields around the back of a council estate, a familiar experience to people born into the 2nd half of the 20th century all around the UK. Massive Gardens. One of the gardens is fenceless, merging with the field, something once quite common but now almost unthinkable. The smell of freshly cut grass, young people hanging out on a warmish Spring evening. It brings back memories of another life; a mixture of my own memories and no doubt those of my parents’ generation. This memory of council estates is far from an unpleasant one, and is far from being in line with the contemporary narrative of them. Fond memories, of world that seems to have only half-vanished do much to counter the negative, and (of course) ‘undesirable’ ‘un-aspirational’ press that council estates get. Which makes me realise that this story isn’t time immemorial. We walk towards some newer, yet never-finished, private, aspirational hovels –  no doubt casualties of 2008. They remind Michael that he hasn’t stepped foot down here for gone 30 years.”

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“As I catch my breath walking up an unusually steep suburban street [Wakefield is by and large ‘flatter’ than other West Riding towns], a long-lost vitality seems to be knocking loudly at the inner walls of the half dead person I have become. I know why this is. Yeah, this election doesn’t really offer much; but the unusually-high level of uncertainty regarding the outcome has conjured an emotional fidelity to the chance of a different kind of society, one where I can look to the future again. This feeling of vitality, like a plant that only flowers once a generation, is checking the atmosphere to see if it could become suitable. In this moment I recognise just how closely tied my chances of a better life are linked to the chances of there being a better world. It was certainly not planned, but emotional stakes place on the election result seem to have grown higher over the course of this day.”P1030500Between the villages of Ryhill and Cold Hiendley, on these windy old lanes that link up all these former mining communities. Why, after 20+ years since all the spoil heaps and slurry pits greened over, hiding the near past, do many of us still feel the urge to say “this landscape’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Maybe it constantly feels like it needs to be restated due to the nature of mining communities; they are unique amongst other former working class strongholds, because they are a proletarianised workforce cut off in the middle of fields, whilst the politics and ownership of the ‘green and pleasant’ ocean they are lumbered in hasn’t really changed since feudal times. This became all the more absurd once the pits went, making the mining communities look like somebody had literally taken a knife and sliced a few rows of houses out of the city of Manchester and chucked it into a field. The opposing interests in close proximity around here has become all the more apparent again since the political placards appeared.”

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Lost Bus Routes. Mapplewell, Darton, Kexbrough. 7 May

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“Memories of May 2000, on the day we left school. Walking through this pathway of gnarled Oak trees, towards an old quarry nicknamed ‘the plantings’, which mimics a mountain top’s rocky outcrop vantage point over the surrounding landscape. All of these things, alongside painted graffiti-covering of the rocks, some of which date back at least to the early 1970’s (full name tags, as if fallen from a raggy old school text book, and ‘Bay City Rollers’ testify to this), well, all of these things are that which the social conditioning of high school, which we were all secretly desperate to escape by then, had blinkered-me-through-fear from even contemplating, never mind discussing, on these obligatory school ending piss-ups that took place up here. Caught between schooled uniformity and anxieties that were too much in their infancy to realise their causation, I vividly remember throwing a full crate of Fosters lager, can by can, into the bushes when my friends were not looking, whilst walking down this very path. Today it would have been the opposite. Maybe I knew my psychological limits better back then…”

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“New Road, Staincross. The long-gone 235 and 391 Yorkshire Traction buses taking me back from college in the infant years of a new millennium too young figure what it was yet. Fond memories of getting time on this slightly route homewards to let new music saturate a still-maintained-happy-ending-outlook as I waded through cassettes, zoned out from the social world, in the days before we were all lost to our Ipods. A calm point before the storms. I’m speaking of late 2001 here, and if the world momentarily stopped in the wake of 9/11, so too did my anxieties in a brief moment of art college-enabled reflection.”

I lead us towards Valley Road [Mapplewell] for a very specific reason. My most lasting memory of the 1997 New Labour general election landslide plays itself out on this road. Aged 13, myself and my school friends took advantage of the general election-instigated inset day to go on a bike ride up to nearby Woolley on what I recall as a gloriously sunny Spring day. Having just purchased plentiful icepops from the now ‘all-propertied-up’ corner shop, we laughed at the seeming absurdity of somebody driving around in car shouting ‘vote Labour’ from a megaphone, when the election had been decided last night. Today, in hindsight, it doesn’t seem so absurd, looking back on what can now be seen as ‘the mood of the mid-nineties’, which New Labour rode. Utterly different what was really happening back then, was the feverish spirit; a conviction that these were ‘good times’. After catching the back end of the Britpop virus, I was far too unclued-up and optimistic not to be swept a long. What, with Oasis, The Prodigy, Pulp, and later The Verve, it truly felt like the working class were back in charge, after what seemed like an awful 80’s. How bitterly wrong this sense of things proved to be. The mood on Valley Road is different now. A huge Union Jack moves in the very calm air, in the garden in a housing block of ‘good intentions’, built in the 1930’s to move people from the slums, betrayed by the past few decades. Will there be cause for celebration tomorrow? It’s funny how you never see any joy or celebration when the Tories win power.”

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“In once-called ‘Darton West’ we get out the car and walk up towards the recreation ground, which is across from the 1970’s-built cul-de-sac, the only place I still know as ‘home’. Yet on returning it doesn’t quite feel like home anymore. Yet I do feel quite emotional as we approach the first block of council houses to go up in Kexbrough for the miners in the 1930’s. It’s different now, as when I lived here I left and entered the place with ASAP-speed, with the notion of home then being too caught up with my fears of falling into dangerously depressive states. But now I see it as I remember it before all that shit; as a child. The rows of 30’s/40’s houses, they are still here; they exist. They exist in their own right just as much as any yuppie tower block are doing right now in some place elsewhere.”

“Michael picks up on the clear divide that constitutes the area I grew up in. One road literally slices Kexbrough/Darton into 2 separate places; one of council houses built for workers in the long-gone industries, the other a more aspirational, commuter estate, built up after the opening of the M1 that slices through here. The two sides of the village have never really interacted. Yet there’s a divide even in the commuter-built area; between large detached houses with sandstone fronts (for managers, lawyers, doctors, headteachers?) with the oddly-named Roman Road area, where smaller brick-fronted detached houses cluster slightly more heavily. I can’t explain why it is called Roman Road, but it has changed much since I was young. Like everywhere really. There was a bus that came along here, an hair salon called Caesars, now just another house, and many children playing out on the street. Now there is nothing but passing cars, straggling dog walkers [the only acceptable walker in a car-dominated and paranoid estates], and us, looking weird now the sun is going down.”

P1030522“As we head back north we drive past the large door making factory at the bottom of the hill, where a pit yard once was. Acknowledging it in my vision produces a knot in my stomach, and a poker-faced defiance against a slow sliding down toward even worse work and pay conditions, for those (like myself) caught in the headlights between 40hr-working-week dependency, and a sheer lack of job-hunting guile. “I hear […this factory] treats its staff like utter shit”. Michael responds by talking about stories of fist-fights on the factory floor borne out of misdirected misery and frustration. We don’t even need to confirm to each other our sheer disagreement with working conditions having to be this way.”

Stories From Forgotten Space (March)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further.

The previous section of Stories from Forgotten Space can be found here: https://johnledger.wordpress.com/2015/01/31/stories-from-forgotten-space-january/

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6 March 2015

38“Passing through the Thornes area of Wakefield. Leafy, inner-city suburbia, with sun shining on rooftops. Like many things from a surface level inspection, it should all feel right/OK. But it just doesn’t.”

“Sat in a cafe made almost entirely of windows, in the 4 year old, yet seemingly still brand new, Trinity Walk shopping Complex [Wakefield]. A shopping plaza that after all this time still prompts the gut-reaction-word ‘Americanized’ within a UK citizen. The windows help give perspective, pause for contemplation. Sat here I can see as clear as possible the contradictions of the current state of affairs (and my own immobility within it), yet I am as perplexed as ever as to how this state of affairs could be transcended. Two women from the Baby Boomer generation chatter away on the table behind me. For all us 35 years and younger, largely services workers, locked into communicative capitalism, we are probably the most articulate, linguistically-competent generation ever. Yet we were sold down the line, by the ‘Blairites’ more than anyone else. We now perpetually fight the feeling of being ‘surplus to requirements’.”

“With my guard down more than usual, within a fleeting hope within a sunny midday point, I create a fleeting fondness for the young woman shop attendant giving me assistance with the damaged phone I possess. But how can it be anything more than a fleeting dream? For an emotionally-detached person, who lacks the ability to find ‘tastes’, ‘preferences’ and ‘hobbies’ to fill those in-between points in life, I’m more up against it than ever in a lonelier, more cynical world, where Internet dating takes precedence.”

“A young woman, clearly a victim of Anorexia, is caught in a moment of indecision over what food products to buy in central Wakefield’s 2nd Sainsburys superstore. Personal memory prompts me to envisage the anorexic subject as a perpetual prisoner to these palaces of excess choice. “Trapped between life and death” by paraphrase a Manic Street Preachers song on the same subject.”

3940“The train stops in the hinterland of Holbeck/Wortley whilst waiting for room in Leeds train station. Sun light in the window creates a false wall on the landscape. I think about this thing I just don’t seem to be able to get around: an invisible wall that, in turn, makes all alternatives to the place I’m stuck in invisible. But they must be there; I’ve seen glimmers of them throughout my life.”

“Leaving the Waterstones bookstore, the eyes of Audrey Hepburn gleam back at me from a photograph calendar. ‘The Dead won’t go away’. At the other side of the room, the smiling faces of celebrity chefs rebound back from production-line lifestyle cookery books. To me, this all wishes to end itself now.”

4142

“Staring up the river [Aire] at a now gentrified landscape, yet consisting of appealing redbrick buildings all the same. However, the Bridgewater tower, hangs over the buildings like a giant upturned N64 or Internet hub system. It is a monstrous imposition, mainly because of the Dubai-like world it suggests. Serving as a constant reminder of the criminally-unequal logic of neoliberal capitalism that potentially still lays in store for this country. I run out of words whilst staring at the reflections on the night-time river; trying to look for clues – a way out.”

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7 March 2015

43

“Haigh. On one side of the road there remains a slightly derelict red brick wall, which must have been something to do with the mine that once stood here. On the other side of the road, two bungalows are being built on waste ground. Private property – the only thing that seems to be built these days.”

“The adrenalin from running, mixed with that fact that I’m now within my most consistently melancholic period I can recall, makes everything from here on this vantage point ridge-way over South and West Yorks somewhat tragically symbolic. This sense of loss, of dysfunction feels so environing that it cannot simply be specific to my own subjectivity. And even if it is, my current inability to get out if this predicament, necessitates my need to write about the external as if it is so. There is a great view of the dark grey figure of Emley Moor Mast from here. It specifically seems symbolic of something missing, as if their aura can only be felt in a melancholic sense.”

“On Wilthorpe Road a middle aged man is clearly struggling with the weight of his rucksack. Regardless of his actual circumstances, thoughts on the forced-acceptance of low pay work, and general country-wide hardship abounds. Low pay enslaves us to work, making us more obedient, and leaving the top down conservative attitude towards work ringing in our ears all day.”

“In the sunlight of a midday that promises springtime, the town [Barnsley] suddenly feels rich with promise. Expansive. It is as perplexing as it is dispiriting how this changes into its opposite as the day drags on and the streets are slowly engulfed under a desperate search for some kind of stimulus/titillation before the new day.”

44“As I stare at a poster advertising for male models, for an establishment specialising in styling male facial hair, in a ‘retro/vintage’ fashion. I realise that whatever it is I’m looking for, I won’t find it within this ‘cultural centre’ situated around Division Street. I’m generalising when I begin to wonder of in today’s world there is only space for two subjects: the hipster and the melancholic.”

“Especially in cities like Sheffield, I seem to be in an endless quest for something. But it never materialises. Or it is forever displaced. I walk over the hill, from West Street down to Solly Street.”

“5 years-worth of fading anti-austerity posters cling to boards covering up disused land next to Sheffield bus station.”

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“As the train heads into the tunnel at Chapletown, the text on my laptop screen doubles up, reflected into the dark outside. I am reading George Monbiot’s 2014 article on our Age of Loneliness, which seems to me one of the most relevant pieces of writing around at the moment.”

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12 March 2015

48“From the bus window I can see into a living room in a mid 20th century, endless-suburbia-style, semi-detached house. There is a large abstract painting hung in the space, the kind you’d expect in a ‘homely’ environment that is used to build a future for your family. Expansion rather than contraction.”

“I almost choke on the smell of Ammonia emanating from the floor next to what was once the Royal Hotel [ central Barnsley]. I initially mistake it for the smell of vomit, but nothing so strong and un-shifting could emanate from a single person. I wonder, wildly, whether it is actually an ‘anti-social-behaviour’ deterrent tactic. The town centre has an incredibly high concentration of youths in a perpetually aimless state, which the authorities are always trying to disperse. The ammonia smell is still in my nostrils as I enter into the turquoise-coloured transport interchange; they go awfully together.”

“On the express train to Sheffield. My attempts to hide the drawing I’m working on from the gaze of other passengers fails as a man who I’m sat across from, who looks to be in his 60’s, brings it up in an unending-paragraphs way of speaking, that quickly moves over to his admiration for the “one off” talent of street artist Banksy. My initial thoughts about pretending to exit the train a stop prematurely (at Meadowhall) and then sneaking to the other carriage fills me with guilt, as I’d just be spreading this ruthless (anti)social virus of loneliness, that each generation suffers from, but some just can’t adjust to. If I’d have been reared in a less individualistic atmosphere, I probably now wouldn’t feel physically seized with the urge to try to escape what feels like incarceration (communication). Perhaps it’s also the realisation that in 30 years I could be this man, socially-stranded, and desperate to speak to other human beings in an age that secretly wishes that old faces would just disappear and stopping getting in the way of the ‘bright young things’. In truth he has a decent well-verse life story which isn’t too hard on my work-tired brain.”

49“The woman I notice sat talking as I walk past the window of a bar seems to possess an essence of the city [Sheffield] that now seems forever displaced on the actual streets; something about the way she carries off her leather jacket look, conjures a working class confidence, and an inventive popular culture that followed its lead. The city of The Human League an Pulp that now seems no longer present. At least not in the centre.”

50‘He’s not setting out to hurt people. He’s got a lot of love in him …He actually, I think, wants to do the right thing. So its more a question of, will power and self discipline and circumstances.’ The sample from the track Etched Headplate by Burial (a song that literally haunted my dreaming in 2014) is so timely as it comes on my Ipod, in how it encapsulates my endless-evening struggle with keeping my frustration with these circumstances at bay. I want to do good. I want to be civil. But there’s a destructive element that sets in many a eve.”

53“Semi-Surbuban streets of ex-mining settlements at night – walked them so many times. I feel so faded and old, as if the perfume of youth has finally worn off. Always thought I’d had found my own ground (so to speak) before this inevitable point found me.”

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13 March 2015

5556

“The train stops in the usual hinterland just outside Leeds railways station. The majority of the buildings still derelict, sort of waiting in line for the infrastructural developments (especially the southern entrance into Leeds station); for the channels that allow the flow of ‘sparkling financial dust’ to spread virally, and turn it into the late capitalist blend of unending work-consumption, that greets you just north of the river Aire. As I stare at the dirty old railways bridges I realise we have left behind the first hour of the afternoon. From 2pm onwards the looming anticipation of the evening’s depressive lassitude hangs over ever thought/action. The 1pm hour is usually the one I find easiest out of all 24, upon the pivot of the see-saw that each day is.”

57 58“Walking up a pretty tiring steep incline into Burley Park. The hard faces, heavy brows, weight-on-shoulders-look of the poor, which is so so hard to disguise from a world that offers no leg up to those who cannot hide these scars.”
“Overly familiar style of suburbia, and redbrick terraces further down, that possible only remain used due to our characterless, placeless present holding on to character and place from times that have gone. For all that quintessential Leeds-feel, the row upon row of warren-like terraces are certainly not an environment I feel has many positive impacts on your state of mind. A labyrinth-like nature which I’m probably more sensitive to at present due to being drained-tired and stressed from taking the wrong turn from Headingley train station. I mistook the size of these parts of the city, they go and on – a Victorian metropolis.”

“Drained-tired, I decide to stop walking when seeing a young woman at a bus stop makes me trust in frequent buses back to the centre. As I wait, 2 men who have the appearance of one made hard by life, look drunk, punch-drunk and passively-frustrated as they attempt the road. I mistake one of the mens’ decision to return back to the pavement I’m on as him coming up to confront me due to him seeing me looking at him. Despite this not being the case, this gets me feeling aggressively self-defensive. My accent hardens due to this, making the young woman find me undecipherable when I ask her about the next bus.”

59“Sitting over a coffee now, I can almost feel the violence, fear, schizophrenia of the city drain out of me and fall from my shoulders, helped by the soft white noise of machinery within the otherwise quiet cafe. My discontent has, for all my post-grad years, largely centred on having an un-fading desire to have the social freedoms of the city at my beckoning, and my repeated failure in being unable to cope in such an environment.”

“Find myself in a brief cocoon of comfort within the ‘retromaniac’, pop-cultural bar, Jam in Wakefield. Refuge feels like the right word – against the anxious and desperate landscape that envelopes you outside if you find yourself looking at it for too long. This artifice of yesteryear is comforting. Champagne Supernova is playing on the jukebox; a now-20 year old song by Oasis, who seem more spectrally present in ‘indie bars’ the further we move from 1995. Yet again, it is one of those moments that you can imagine being on repeat forever.”

“Far too drunk, forget all else…”

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15 March 2015

60

“With the Starbucks drive-thru (next to junction 29 of the M1) opening into the evening on a Sunday, it really does stick out within a UK landscape where such a sight should actually be far normal to us than it is. Despite any ethical reservations towards chain cafe drive-thru’s, the sight of it feeds off the conversation I’m having in the car about the immiserating unacknowledged social constraints with, specifically, evening-time UK pleasure-pursuings. In contrast to Europe, where pubs (which always contain the potential for frustration to be acted out) aren’t the only places dominating the town centres in the evening.”

“Something close to a physical confrontation appears to be brewing outside this Premier Inn-incorporated pub/eatery [in Barnsley] on this dry Sunday evening. Due to its location (within a ‘commuterist’ inn) it is both a non-place and of non-place-people – which makes the territorial behaviour that comes with drunken confrontations all the more banal.”

“The feeling of being stuck. That – despite what I know, think, see – I feel embedded in a rut that surely encompasses more than myself (yet is left to be dealt with individually). It envelopes all conversation to the extent that I become fixed on the surrounding environment, which when I think about it makes sense; due to looking for ways out. I am currently staring out the windows of the Glasshouse chain pub/eatery, over the terraces the cluster around the south of Barnsley centre. From here. they look like a tightly-packed labyrinth, forcing your eyes to look for exits. the conversation follows suit, and sometimes the landscape helps me think about, and explain the wider predicament so clearly – but it never alters the [my] general scheme of things.”

61

“Large bungalow off Cockerham Lane [Barnsley] that has that far-off feel, in that it looks like the ever-dwindling American Dream realised. Albeit in the UK.”

6263“From the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of a middle aged man watching TV in the living room of a type of house that was initially deemed unfit to be anything more than emergency housing in the wake of WW11 and the consequential slum clearances. The TV has the sickly-coloured imagery for intro-credits to one of those X-Factor-style programs (The Voice…?). There is something almost porno-like about the colours and graphics of the presentation (one must be influencing the other, but not sure which way around). Regarding the whole picture I saw as I glanced over; the unsatisfactory quality of the dwellings and the unsatisfactory cultural products fuse to leave my feeling slightly disturbed.”

“Nearing central New Lodge/Athersley, just as the ‘peak-90’s’ club track Let Me be Your Fantasy [Baby D] comes onto my Ipod. This merges with the appearance of two lone males walking their dogs in front of me. Both look to be late 30’s-pushing 40’s. Both look disheveled from hardship, making the baseball caps they wear look like class scars rather than fashion items. Their drained look, prompts me to imagine their draining to have occurred somewhat in unison with the age of this club track, and its consequential genuine-feel-good alienness to the genuine-depression of our current period. That in the mid 90’s both these men and this track possessed a vitality that has since been slowly sucked out.”

“Kingsway, Mapplewell – largely a road consisting of post-war sheltered accommodation. I walk past a telephone box that now looks terribly stranded in an age of ubiquitous cell-phone communication. I remember in the mid 1990’s when an elderly man died of an heart attack in this phone box calling 999, due to being taunted by youths. I was half-shocked as a young teenager at the apparent joy in the malevolence shown to vulnerable adults in this particular conglomerate of villages. I have often wondered whether it was borne out of inescapable boredom, perhaps more acutely felt around this area due to nearly every space being swallowed up by property developers.”

64

“The bright light from a bus shelter I have probably frequented more than any other, which is probably personally a symbolic spot for all the failings, hopes. existential boredom and frustrations of my teenage-to-adult existence. Yet, in a couple of weeks I will likely rarely use it ever again.”

Stories From Forgotten Space (January)

Stories From Forgotten Space builds on 2014 Mapmaking with the aim of taking the most prominent features of the project a little further.

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8 January

“Lane Head Road, just past the village of Cawthorne, will, for me, forever-be the gateway to the bleak hilltops above our towns, which possesses a symbolic power over me, which I ceaselessly try to explain. The Smith’s The Queen is Dead album is playing on my IPod, an album I heavily associate with my ‘escapist’ ventures up here in my late teenage years – specifically in the wake of the 9/11 terror spectacle. Music that is old to my ears, now only retains the power it once had over me whilst on these such escapades.”

2“Blue skies all the way up, but the storm clouds I see coming in over from the west make me abandon the fulfilment of the motivation behind these walks; to go as far as I can up onto the hills as possible, in order to bring on the sensation of ‘climbing out of society’ and escaping my life within it. ”

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4“After the postponement of the future the hills allowed for, my head’s now filled with dread about our future. I reach the former railway bridge over the M1 motorway. Years and years of/layer upon layer of graffiti covers the bridge’s interior sides. South Yorkshire’s post-industrial legacy somewhat? Then my eyes stumble upon the nature of the graffiti. The chitter-chatterings of the now displayed in these words press-gangs my mind out the solace of my antisocial ramblings upon the tops and into the schizoid endless chatter of the deteriorating social world. Anti-Muslim sentiment galvanised into racially-motivated painting action by the child-grooming disgraces in nearby Rotherham (revealed last year). For me, the text is inseparable from the likely intensification of racially/ethnically-motivated unrest due to the ongoing terrorist attacks and terrorist pursuits in Paris. The need for the clarity that walking promises to give me, has been hijacked by the horror of the world that shows no sign of letting up. On a more localised note, whilst racism and aggressive tribalist assertions are everywhere, they seem more suffocatingly concentrated in my home area, give me intermittent bouts of severe estrangement/alienation from it.”

5 6“The Samaritans ‘Helpline number’ sign next to the bridge has also been obscured beyond recognition…”

7“Particularly high amount of homelessness around Division Street today, but most striking, and equally disturbing sight, is of a man who comes stumbling past me in shredded clothing, in a manner that doesn’t even look possible without accompanying slices into his flesh. It almost doesn’t look real. I wonder if he has been subjected to an array of threatening gestures from a knife-wielding individual he has been unfortunate enough to stumble into due to his (likely) circumstances. The shredded clothes seem to function as a metaphor for the continual disintegration of the state-support system.”

7a“The train pulls in at Chapletown. A young adult male gets off and meets two females, one of whom manically drags him away from the platform, and to an over-cautious distance from the train. It’s then that I remember how we were massively delayed in catching the last train out of Leeds last night, due to “a fatality on the line” down here at Chapletown. I then notice there is a vigil ongoing, mainly consisting of young people paying tribute to a young male. As soon as it becomes apparent it was a young male who died, it sadly becomes apparent that it was a suicide. I seem to hold it in my head that there has been a spate of suicide incidents around this area of the railway line over the years. Sheffield is apparently one of the ‘happiest cities in the UK’, but with the Chapletown area on the outskirts, I might be wrong, but I get a feeling that deep unhappiness resides here.”
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January 9…

8

8a 9“Sat with Dave in popular cafe in Huddersfield centre, discussing a shared sense of existential deadlock, located amidst the the fog of the global-political-environment-cultural deadlock. Yet, the very sharing of this discussion, amidst midday urban life, whilst young adults (seemingly still possessing vitality) hurry around us, at least makes it all seem bearable, possibly making it even all seem solvable.”

“Mill-town Yorkshire has an ancient feel to it that just doesn’t add up.”

10 11

“The road down from the hilltops gives me a distant longing for something.”

“Rolling news dominates the room facing the train tracks in Huddersfield train station pub. Perpetual foreboding and mute-panic. The news is focussing on the terror attacks on the offices of cartoonist/satirist Charlie Hebdo. The nature of rolling news, it’s enlargement of the symbiotic-extrapolation of both the security-obsessed state and self-destructive terrorism , acts as a potion unleashing panic and abjection in the mind (tightened facial expression/heavy brow – physical reaction). The nature of our conversation becomes uncomfortable. More than my tired psychological defence-mechanisms can withstand right now.”

“On the train to Leeds. Dead-time ‘nowhere to go’, and the hostile demands of the world creeping all over my psychological defence-mechanisms. The hell of it; like a indecisive creature in slow-motion-panic under slowly advancing headlights. Transpennine Express colours; people on mobiles talking about work (a mere shell of success maybe, but right now it’s convincing). Worn out with indecision. Feel my mind slowly beginning to descend – all catching up with me.”

12

“In Leeds. Walked these city streets for years now – still not found anything; empty searches. All the buildings I stare at being converted into flats for people with career salaries. 31 years old tomorrow, and stuck in permanent limbo.”

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January 24…

23“Staring out of window of the Showroom bar, listening to 1995 chart song Charmless Man, by Blur. A song, which on face-value at least has the air of intelligent social commentary. This prompts me to text a friend questioning whether, even back all those 20 years prior the current establishment placing of the band’s members, that Coxon/Albarn, like rich-man-host Alex James, were all predestined conservatives, if not by name, at least by nature.”

“On sloped walkway down to Sheffield train station, a young man is slumped with his head down close to the money-cup he holds out. I think I’m having one of those days where something seems acutely wrong/dystopian in (what appears to be) a general acceptance of the presence of this level of homelessness on our streets. It’s just an incredibly unwarranted aspect of reality that drops from ones mind as soon as they walk away.”

“Young man, with a face quite similar to iconised-as-northerner Peter Kay, sits reading the Metro paper on the train back to Barnsley. Wearing a flatcap, he makes overly cliche facial responses to what he is looking at in the newspaper. I wonder if this stylising of himself on the image of an early 20th century English ‘gent’ is something he has thought about, or whether it is an involuntary slow accumulation of reassuring pastiche-behaviour to make the world seem slightly less insane.”

“Walking past [Barnsley] town centre pubs, at about half ten on a Saturday night, I try to hold a film-star lone-ranger-style posture, but find it hard – exposed as I am, wearing a rucksack and muddy boots in a done-up-only zone. I begin spitting – and I catch myself doing so, realising I do far more than I associate myself with the act. I begin to realise why I do it. I spit often in my home town. I think it may serve as a kind of mobile, circumferential defence of territory; an act of standing one’s ground in a place where one (at least) feels they have to. Of course, there are different ways of doing this within different social environments, but I’ve heard people from other towns say it is a noticeable trait in Barnsley.”

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January 27…

24

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“Despite Seeing the Void where the markets were a few times already, it still catches me by surprise. Since I’ve known the town centre (from very early on in my life) the market has been in that location. Yes, things move on, but there’s such a huge gap/hole here now that it cannot but be glared at by passers-by.”

“End up gazing at the well-thought-out display of chocolate bars and gossip magazines that greets you at counters in the Wilkinson’s Store. I initially contemplate the aged-quality of such a display, still promising the New of sugary stimulation and titillation. It looks so ‘lost world’ somehow. Yet it’s still here. I contemplate whether the reign of physical-item-sugary-consumables would fall if it was without its counterpart of immaterial-sugary-consumables that energise our aspirations to be part of the system…”

P1020959“My ‘Mary Celeste’ building, the structure I saw as symbolic of the ‘stuck record’ period we lapsed into fully after the 2008 financial crash (the building was left in a skeletal form since that point) is finally being completed. Supposedly this would mean that if the ‘going through the motions like ghosts’ was the result of the crash then it is over now. But I don’t think so. Like much of the talk about ‘economic growth’ at the moment; the cladding on this construction merely covers up the lack of any genuine advancement; it’s just a mindless drive with no purpose or justification; the dominant agenda still remains defunct.”

” The 50+ year old Beach Boys track I Get Around comes on the radio in the cafe in the Morrisons next to Barnsley centre. But everywhere is currently the cafe lost in time at the ending of the  TV series Sapphire and Steel.  An entire culture dead, but on endless repeat. Disturbing when you contemplate it.”

“The broken-in-half effect that the low-lying clouds make of the Emley Moor Signal mast prompts Michael to talk of a production he remembered watching in Sheffield, about how civilisation will collapse if we carry on consuming and relying on oil in the way we do. He brings this up because he recalled on how driving home he looked towards Emley Moor, imagining its lights gone out; a cold, grey monolith, surrounded by a dark-aged, barren world below.”

IMG_20150130_0002“Passing trains on railway bridges-cum-flyeovers remind me of a monorail system which, in turn, still seems futuristic; a component of an ideal city”

P1020963“Arrive back at the strangest services-area again; the Costa Coffee Drive-thru, the Travel Lodge (placed in front of the incinerator to the effect that the massive chimney looks to be part of the hotel), the commuter-pub/eatery, fenced-off building rubble, and a bordered up church. In many ways it embodies the uneven geographies/contradictions of a commuter-based Life-style Consumerism that has never really succeeded in glazing the the world over in it’s ‘CGI-style’ landscaping (the dark hills that loom over us in the background seem an ample metaphor for this unevenness). Yet, as people who don’t play one of the many games centred around conjuring the appearance of success/glamour (which in turn props up the entire social system) aren’t even registered and lapse into social blind-spots, the same can be said of the bordered up church, and fenced-off rubble, as the people coming out of Costa are utterly oblivious to them. Dave walks up to the car to meet me and Mike, telling us that the pub/eatery, ‘The Yorkshire Rose’, advertised ‘decadent eating’ – surely an odd thing to promote? We come to an agreement that decadent refers to a luxurious way of living that belongs to another time; an example of this would be the English upper class living in Victorian period luxury well into the 20th century.”

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P1020968 P1020969

“Tipped rubbish next to canal-side takes on an almost animalistic form. The rubbish that looks like the wings of a large bird is quite eerie – looking like a spectral guardian of the waterways”.

“A plaque next to the canal footbridge says ‘Becky, 1988-2010, Captain of the school hockey team and rough sleeper, stayed here 2008-2010’. I find the plaque very agreeable, reminding us that those whom we walk past on street corners, rarely even acknowledging their existence, are humans with stories like the rest of us.”

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“Looking up the old mill building (Brittannia Mills, 1864), we notice that the fire escape steps were a later edition (anyone caught in a fire here prior to their construction would’ve likely been instantly condemned), noticable due to the strange addition of breeze block, to Yorkshire Stone, used to secure the steps to the building. Contemplating whether breeze block has now been used in construction for a century, we contemplate our collective distorted perceptions of history, of what’s new and what’s old. In these ‘stuck-record’ times, concrete and breeze block seems perpetually near-past, whilst the linear teaching of History makes us believe that everything that is similar must’ve happened at the exact same point. As if all slum-clearance happened in one decade. This leads us to talk about the utopianist 1930’s Quarry Hill construction in Leeds. Now demolished, but once a forward-looking project, you tend to think of the 1930’s still in terms of Victorian architecture/ideas.”

As We Walk into Milnsbridge I look at the old old buildings/landscape. Yet with new cars and broadband technologies penetrating it, Something doesn’t feel right. It feels that if one had the ability to bring a 1860’s resident of this area into its present-day reality, that they’d be massively disappointed in a way, asking “what happened to the future?” As much as I don’t wish to see the demolition of anything that certainly still habitable and pleasant, so to speak, when you glare at the present world it does often feel like for many things the future got stuck, whilst other bits of the future carried on. All in all Dystopias never used to look so pedestrian!”

P1020991

IMG_20150130_0004P1020993“Immense destabilisation of here and now (a.k.a normality) brought on by conversation that veers into the near-future of global power-politics, as we pass through a large industrial estate and over inner ring-road arteries. Michael talks of the strangeness of how “it’s all gone quiet” with the West’s stand off with Russia, coupled with the strange recent drop in oil prices; personally, I think of how this issue has “all gone quiet” in my head, unquestionably down to the reality-management affect the omnipresent media outlets have.”

“Horbury has a real ‘lost world’ feel to it. You could say it was ripe for hauntology, having the feel and look of a place (to a passer by) of a place laden with the shells of past happenings.”

“A tranquil point of communicating, each nursing a pint, in the Henry Boons pub in Wakefield, 5PM. I’ve always found there to be something strange about this time of day, roughly articulated by the Beatles lyrics “but oh, that magic feeling [but] nowhere to go”, as this tea-time feeling lapses into the evening’s depressive-pleasure-seeking (as I know it likely will now I’ve had one pint). Yet at this moment, things feel together, connected, our conversation makes sense, and resonates off the walls of this half-empty pub.”

P1020999“Sat in Wharf Chambers, a not-for-profit-cooperative pub. I leaf through an AA Illustrative Guide To Great Britain. Like many things seen on today’s travelling, it looks quite new. Yet the photographs of towns suggest another era, another world. A photograph of nearby Sheffield a now-lost social housing project called ‘Woodside’. It turns out this book was published in 1979, right on the eve of the end of the social democratic project period, just before such estates became continuously less and less desirable.”

What is ‘Ugly’ anyway?

Thoughts on the proposal to remove the ‘ugly’ electricity pylons from the Dunford Bridge landscape

147a

I am disappointed to hear of plans to demolish the giant electricity pylons stretching from just beyond Penistone across the Pennines to Tintwistle. The BBC article states that the “50m (164ft) tall structures are set to disappear… as part of National Grid plans to remove ugly overhead lines” and “could be buried underground as part of a £500m scheme.”

The structures come into their own within an area known as Dunford Bridge, just within the South Yorkshire side of the hills; a post industrial gateway, not so much to the Peak District, but to the industrial/urban centres on either side of the hills; where there was once a freight railway line you now find a bicycle trail.

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Image taken from BBC article

I will put my opinion on this proposal straight out there with saying how I place a high value on the presence of these pylons within this landscape. Additionally, I’d find it easier to accept their fate if there were clearly laid-out practical reasons for the National Grid plans to demolish them; for example, if the placing of the power-lines under the ground was more energy and environmentally efficient. But there’s no indication that this would be the case, and as my friend was saying to me; it will mean digging up so much of that landscape in order to place the power-lines underground. Also, the scheme is being funded by Ofgem, meaning the public (or ‘customer’) will foot the bill, something the BBC article only vaguely touches on. But none of this is getting to reasons I’m about to make as to why I like these structures; however, it at least refutes the anticipated-responses demanding me to see the practicalities behind such a plan.

The article quotes Anne Robinson from Friends of The Peak District, who says “There’s no doubt that customers are willing to pay and have a very small sum added to their electricity bills a year to make sure these landscapes are enhanced.”, and although I find a general consensus on increased electricity bills in our current situation hard to believe anyway, my main response to this is just how does such a plan ‘enhance’ this landscape anyway? And referring to other words used in the BBC article, just what is ‘ugly’ , and what is this ‘character’ of the Peak District?

The Peak District is a landscape totally molded by thousands of years of human activity. Moreover, like much of this national park, the Dunford Bridge to Tintwistle stretch is, at least in terms of what is likely was before human interference, a barren desert-scape, a bleak ominous-looking landscape. In fact desert-scape is too soft a description; it is more Martian-scape – there’s something other-worldly about it. And So be it. As they stand, they are ecologically unsound. But as places of intrigue they have enormous stature, laden with symbolic meaning. They contain a beautiful emptiness; a ‘climb-to-the-moon’ feel due to their roof-top-like place within the hearts of all those settled in the post-industrial cities that nestle in the beginnings of these dark dark hills.

141What are we looking for from this landscape? What is this character, this non-ugliness we wish upon this place? Dunford Bridge itself is a graveyard for industrial transportation between two mass urban areas that still contain more industrial graveyard sites than they’d like to admit. It is now a bleak lost world, hidden within the huge huge hills – and this is what makes it such a fascinating place (it is also the location of the only large-scale project I’d sanction upon these hills: the re-opening of the railway line as a direct connection between southern Yorkshire and Greater Manchester). Is postcard-picturesque all we want in a country so quick to forget any unrevised past? The Dunford Bridge landscape is far more powerful as it stands precisely because of how dark, unsettling, and unworldly it is in comparison with the more pasteurised landscape further down the hills.

I’ve always argued that structures within this ‘beautiful emptiness’ take on a monolithic presence, and would certainly attribute this to the pylons which only really begin to reveal their alien-like nature in such a barren landscape. They can’t be ignored up here, that’s for sure. Yet this is what makes them so appealing, rather than something to be got rid of. They have a presence of prehistoric sleeping giants nestled as they are within these huge barren inclines. And they are so well webbed into the symbolic nature of the hills, as the pylons aren’t just a (East Pennines) practical connection to the lost-world-metropolis of Manchester, they act as symbolic carriers of cultural exchange – as if the chilling and dislodging grooves of The Smiths’ How Soon is Now, and the haunting synths of Joy Division’s Love Will Tear us Apart were being channeled through these make-shift obelisks to Modernism, sending Pulp’s abandoned steel workshop sound-scape backdrop back in return. All Jean Baudrillard says in how the essence of America is to found in its vanishing-point-deserts, can be said of these barren hilltops in relation to the industrial north (all-be-it on a very British toyland scale).

manchester congleton (6)This landscape is the incidental outcome of human activity; and no less so than the wastelands of former warehouses in surrounding urban settlements such as Sheffield – in fact they compliment each greatly. The pylons, I would argue, now play an important part within this incidental human landscape, which shouldn’t be disguised as anything other than. Both ‘beauty’ and ‘ugliness’ are subjective, and the ‘default beauty’ we desire of our misleadingly-termed ‘natural’ habitats is an environmental and cultural dead-end. The promise that the underground power-line plans are aimed at enhancing the Peak District ‘character’, as stated in the article, is seriously misguided as to what this character actually is – in my opinion, of course.

The whole emphasis on ‘ugliness’ and ‘character’ renders the functionality of the pylons an irrelevant issue. Thus leaving us purely with a debate around whether we like them in the landscape or not. Like the now famous cooling towers (formerly) next to Meadowhall, Sheffield, many people protested against their demolition (although this didn’t stop them being demolished), recognising just how powerful a feature they were on that landscape, no less intrinsic than the features we foolishly perceive as eternal/of original essence to a place. I personally think all arguments made against these pylons are oxymoronic, because what they are claimed to be in their essence, is also what Dunford Bridge is in essence. They are all one, in the dark, unsettling beauty that is this area,

 manchester congleton (4)

2014 mapmaking (part 9) – End of Year Haunting

This is the 9th and the final post of 2014 in a series that I still call psychogeographical maps (or cognitive mapping). Quoting certain sections and using a selection of photographs to widen the project, which at its core still has the intention to be a Cognitive Mapping of Now – aiming to be useful for locating the wider socio-political mood, and the psychological impacts of it. This project has been ongoing since 2013 and has largely been an artistic response to Frederic Jameson’s 1990 essay, and call to action, Cognitive Mapping, which is posited as a means of class consciousness in our contemporary social landscape. Arguing that the “mental map of a city [I’d say the wider human-made landscape] can be extrapolated to that of the social and global totality [one that we] we carry around in our heads in various garbled forms”. Also, due to often residing in places deemed culturally ‘insignificant’ I feel that my work is justified by the words of social Geographer Doreen Massey in that  “…spatially, the local place is utterly implicated in the production of the global and the globalisation that we so often find ourselves wanting to confront”. Although some of these maps aren’t made in places I live in, whilst traveling through them I am implicated and involved in that locality and the myriad of circumstances and incidents that constitute it.

The project has also allowed me to bring my love of maps into my art.

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The 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here    The 3rd here      The 4th here      The 5th here    The 6th here   The 7th here    The 8th here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

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16 December 2014

“Always surprises me when I suddenly come across steep inclines in London. Like rivers (excluding the Thames), they are features that just don’t seem ‘natural’ in London as it stands. The place is such a concrete+metallic machine in its own right, that you don’t expect rivers and hills to start forming until you’re beyond the M25.”

“A fashion store on Kingsland Road, that looks [to be] webbed into some local scene. A single trainer shoe is on a plinth in the window. An area that presents itself as ‘against the grain’ [is] evidently as slavishly obedient to the consumerist reality, as anywhere else that is deemed less ‘edgy’.”

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22 December 2014

“An unavoidable sight amidst the emotional chaos of the Xmas/New Year period: people, half drunk, coming very near to fist fighting, in Peel Square [Barnsley]. A young man VS the rest of the group, [he then] drunkenly storms up Peel Street, before leaning, with his head held low, against the window of the Iceland store. Next time I look he’s disappeared again.”

“Lots of teenagers stand amidst the now-empty market stalls, almost in complete darkness (I’m sure the streets lights are being dimmed or being switched off completely) [in Peel Square]. They look like they’re waiting for something to happen. But isn’t this more likely to be [the usual] sign of the state of [existential] boredom?”

18624 December 2014

“Despite it being the most depressing of signs of our (collective) inability to look after the environment (and the moronic nature of the act), there is something visually appealing about about sites of fly-tipping. After all, the entire UK landscape is shape humans have made it into – this just adds another historical layer”.

“Make the mistake of trying to take a shortcut through the woods at the bottom of Litherop Lane, in order to get to path leading to Bretton Park. I realise something isn’t quite right when all the footpaths begin to fold back in on one another, almost like a race track course. A man stands looking at me. I [then] realise that the rumours that this is site where people meet up for outdoor sex are well founded. As I turn and head in the other direction from the man and notice the floor is littered with the left-overs of things used for sexual intercourse, I notice another man. As I find a path heading out of the woods in the right direction, I notice that he has been staring at me for a long period of time. It initially intimidates me, as it does when a stranger is staring at you in a bleak winter woodland, but afterwards I see it in a tragic light. Not that I am one for tradition, but to be stood there in a cold, muddy wood on Christmas eve, desperately waiting for sex, is a sign of the impoverishment of life’s larger wealth. These people are [more than anything] victims, addicts to a nihilist landscape. prisoners to the pleasure-pursuit.”

187 188 189 190 19124 December 2014

“All the talk: that something big/a seismic shift from the current state of affairs is bound to happen soon, takes on an ominous feel within this eerie-looking early evening, which doesn’t settle easy with the [East Leeds] landscape through which we are witnessing it.”

“In the Dark Arches, walking above the river [which is at its] winter torrent levels. something awe-inspiring, specifically due to how if you were to fall in you wouldn’t stand a chance. These rivers are almost the hidden powerhouse, both past and present, of cities. I say ‘hidden’ because the common image of the river in the contemporary city landscape is as an appendage for pleasure for urban professionals – as if the river itself had stopped flowing in the ‘post industrial times’.”

192 194 19527 December 2014

“I flare up inside at gawping [at me] passengers going around junction 38 [of the M1]. I realise that my year has been stained by bubbling anger. A deep frustrations with things that I cannot deny, but worry what will become of it as time moves on. Something must change. And maybe I’m not the only one harbouring this deep frustration with things?”

“A sharp turn in the road at the top of Woolley Edge serves as an analogy for a desperate need to change course in life – after a dead-end-style unenjoyable binge-drinking night in Barnsley, and my 31st on the horizon. But,as with every year, the question still remains “but to where?”.”

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2014 mapmaking (part 7)

This is the 7th post in a series that I still call psychogeographical maps (or cognitive mapping). Quoting certain sections and using a selection of photographs to widen the project, which at its core still has the intention to be a Cognitive Mapping of Now – aiming to be useful for locating the current socio-political mood, and the psychological impacts of it.

The 1st post can be found here.

The 2nd here

The 3rd here

The 4th here

The 5th here

The 6th here

A collection of the 2014 maps can be found here.

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7 Nov 2014

“The Mary Celeste structure [overlooking Barnsley’s inner ring road] is darkened by the downpour. And in turn it seems to be a metaphor for the early dark turn of the conversational subject matter, once I reassert the uneasy truth that this structure has been in this state for over 6 years – yet it is a largely ignored fact. It provokes an intensification in our wrangling conversation over ‘just what the hell is going on?’ “.

” Hemmed in’ plantation woodlands [Flouch roundabout] mark the roadway to the moors. Two bleak landscapes that compliment each other. Both man-made, so to speak., but both important (I believe) to (initially) the Northern Industrial psyche, and (currently) the always-on, hyper-connected psyche. [They act] as a physical reflection of the [empty feeling this speed causes [in us].”

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139 140 1411427 November 2014

“In a charity shop [in Congleton]. The playing of 50-year-old pop songs from the “good times” of popular culture induces in me a nauseating ‘dispiration’ for our ‘stuck record’ present.”

“In the Wetherspoons on West Street [Sheffield]. In the toilets two homeless males clean themselves up and stock up on toilet paper.This is [something I’ve never seen in this city before], highlighting how critical the homeless situation in the city has become.”

143 144 145 14611 November 2014

“[Nottingham city centre]. Walking past recruitment centre. People of all ages sat facing computer screens, and people stood outside [the centre] waiting at the bus stop. I feel for them; what an incredibly rigged game it is when you’re at the bottom [and you’re trying to get a break]. I get the lyrics to [Pulp’s] Common People running through my thoughts: “yeah and the chip stains and grease will come out in the bath”, because there’s no way of disguising your poverty, it really does cling to you. Everyone can see it, no matter how you try to hide it. Look over [the road] at massive concrete hotel. Now highly unfashionable. Built in a different era; with a different social reality.”

“Find myself incredibly hungry, with well over 2 hours until I get the train back. [My mind starts running down old and unhelpful psychological warrens, and when it’s irrational thoughts VS illogical thoughts – one has to win over]. I lie to myself, convincing myself that the meandering that follows is for my ‘projects’. The hidden motive being the ‘eating disordered’ mental[ity] that returns when I’m low, lonely, tired and in an urban centre surrounded by (seemingly) infinitesimal choices. My thoughts pace back and forth between getting ‘food involving a drink’ in a pub, but I relapse [ever-so-slightly] into the late teenage me, who spent hours in supermarkets in a decision-making paralysis, due to all the choices on offer. the anorexic control mechanisms still try to get out of their cage from time to time; [the urge to have it back at the reigns is still very seductive].”

147 148 149 150 15111 November 2014

“Large open-cast mining area; [this area is still] generally industrial-looking. A landscape you could mistakenly think was of the past, coming from Yorkshire. Sometimes feels as if Yorkshire has been made into one tourist attraction, as in covering up the truth (as all tourism does); greened over spoil heaps, and severe poverty hidden by lush ravines in Sheffield. As if Derbyshire’s ‘secondary’ position in contrast to Yorkshire’s (increasingly annoying) self-indentit[ification] has kept it more real.”

152 153 15415512 November 2014

“Unused grassland/wasteland area between railway track and disused viaduct [just outside Leeds Centre]. About 10-15 police officers walk together [through the grass] in a line, looking for evidence. A serious crime has obviously been committed here, in [an] area that will no doubt be swept under the glitter of ‘regeneration’ once the south Entrance to Leeds [railway] station is [completed]. But, as it stands, it looks like a ‘ideal crime scene location’ – as if this wasn’t real at all, but actually film set for the crime drama A Touch of Frost, which was actually filmed in this area.”

“As I head for the exit at Darton station I noticed stickers all around where the train doors are: English Defence League and Britain First stickers vowing to ‘protect us’ from ‘muslim pedophiles’. A sickly and medievalstyle to the stickers, and far right party logos. [It] makes my heart sink: “this can only get worse”, it feels to me. ‘The diseased isle’ to [paraphrase] Carl Neville. I wish I knew a solution; as far as I see much anti-fascist protesting isn’t quelling such views. And it’s so bad around here – alienating me from “my own turf”, so-to-speak. Only yesterday I saw a poster on a road sign near Cawthorne saying “Halal Fox”. Stupid/idiotic coupling of presumed ‘lefty’ things, but also dangerously striking subconscious chords – I’m sure.”

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