I’m really in a work-in-progress point at the moment. I’ve got a bit more time, because I’m doing a part-time Masters, and working less hours. Getting into more debt by taking a loan and returning to further develop my art may seem like a foolish move to some, but with working five days a week (no matter what that work is!!) the sheer lack of time was meaning my ability to think creatively and strengthen my work was being starved. Fair enough some may say: ‘that’s life’. If I was to stay working 5 days a week I would have had to give up making my work, because it had no room to maneuver and expand, and could only contract. But I saw an opening to keep on working on it, and that’s what I’ve done.
The Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade)
<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/239828894″>An Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade)</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user60125733″>John Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
For years I have been reeling from accusations that not only is my work very negative, but I also am negative. I have never accepted this, and from a person who suffers quite a lot of anxiety, I think it’s a given that on first impressions I’m not as warm and accommodating as I’d like to be, even though I nearly always come around, when I have chance to ‘breathe’.
The work (or ‘what I can contribute’) is more difficult. I’ve felt that my work has been trying to help harness a ‘dark optimism’ or a ‘punkdrunk idealism’ for some years now. But maybe it hasn’t been a strong enough element. I have become tired of trying to piece together how fucked up the grand scheme is, if it shows no sign of leading anywhere, especially when the grand scheme, and the awareness of it, isn’t offering yourself out of a future of deteriorating mental health and behavioral patterns.
It may not seem evident within these works in progress straight away, but there is a concerted effort to try to reach out to others in the work. The Eternal Blip (A Mary Celeste Decade) basically tracks the past ten years, since the year when the financial crash happened to now, asking if others feel the same way as I do: that with retrospect it feels like a lost decade (?).
Now, I haven’t been forced to rely on food handouts, had to choose between heating and eating, or found myself on the streets (an awful new normality in the past ten years). But in hindsight I feel like it has stunted me, almost caged me in a previous point of my life. I feel like when I shut my eyes and reopen them, I can’t remember the decade, as it has been sucked from under me.
The parallels between a long depression, and the memory loss it can cause are very closely tied, and I can only hope that it isn’t a lone experience, because I want the other aspects of the work to make sense to people, as they are where the optimism lies.
Within this submerged soundscape there are points of emergence that correlate with times within the past decade when I felt ruptures in default reality fabric occurred. For good or for worse, new horizons felt palpable, as was a sense to act. Ultimately the default reality fabric reasserted itself, and, arguably the depression/memory loss resumed.
From the 2011 English riots to Trump, from Corbyn to Brexit, constructive or destructive, the fact is that these ruptures offer(ed) alterior possibilities from the business-as-usual outcome. I don’t know, I just know how I feel /felt in these moments seemed to contain some kernel of something other, that allowed me to imagine myself in relation to the world in a different manner.
Below is a series of maps that work with the same motives, which are an extension of mapmaking I have been doing for around 5 years now.
Battlegrounds between potency and impotency
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>.</p>
Here is a spoken word version of my May blog, Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles.
An account of myself and Michael Hill, walking around old haunts (Around South/West Yorkshire), conjuring memories, and futures of the past, on the eve of the 2015 UK General Election. Taking routes where long gone bus routes used to take us.<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/144591777″>Lost Bus Routes and Pre-Election Rambles</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user18137640″>john Ledger</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
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
“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.”“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.”
“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.”
“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”
“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. ”
“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.”
“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
“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?”
“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.”
It’s always around these cumulative moments of exhibition staging, seeing my works together, that I realise I’ve been putting exhibitions on/yelling about the same things/physically knackering myself out with similar endeavors for the best part of a decade. Yet it is only in that my large drawings show duration that I am able to observe the time that has passed. I often fear I live in an eternal present, as I can’t often remember the here and now, and constantly look 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. This section deals primarily with the 4 Yorkshire cities/towns I spend most my days in.
24 September 2015
“In the village I was raised in, a distant cousin stands across the road, noticeable by the high-vis jacket he’s wearing. Not sure why he’s stood that side of the road, as by crossing that road you literally leave the mining-settlement-overspill I know as home, to face the farmhouses and barns that predate that former, and in a sense it is a different village entirely. The high-vis vest now alludes to something very different than the sense of pride, or at least place, afforded to the sight of the 20th century miners once present here; for what the high-vis vest signifies is a lack of pride and place – just another number in the global flow of labour, and affords a 25+years local little respect, lacking the worker solidarity of their forefathers, in an aged of ‘LinkedIn’ endless careerist-congratulating, it’s all seen as individual failings/shortcomings – no matter how many of us end up joining the high-vis ranks. I walk past the bookies, which I’ve never stepped foot in, and then the Working Men’s Club, which I haven’t been in since I was 6 or maybe 7, and down the back of the convenience store, crossing the road that literally cuts this settlement into two incompatible pieces; one of council houses for the former miners, and one for the commuters who came once the M1 motorway cuts through here.”
“Sitting backwards for the last leg of this all-too-familiar rail route. I’ve spent what seems like my lifetime, or somebody’s lifetime, looking out of train windows at the same section of the country – a glare never set loose from the feeling, impounded in post-30 life, of being on borrowed time, even if that simply amounts to an awareness of wasting a small wage packet on train tickets. “Don’t Just sit there, do something!” is what the atmosphere on these carriages says to me, as young professionals who seemingly float upon the gaseous quality of this dominant agenda, hijack my window-gazing-solace and force me to listen in to their sharing of next year’s sweetly-poisonous vocation plans. It all sounds so rehearsed, like they’re on a BBC documentary, and I know some of them are imagining shooting themselves in the head whilst they talk, but yet they still carry on making the lie, and make sure the rest of us are beaten down with it. I deal with it by clenching my fists and gnarling my teeth; the only possible response for the unprepared native as he faced the colonisers – and in a way yuppification is colonisation.”
“The night is closing in now as I get on the Supertram. Always like getting an opportunity to travel via Sheffield’s tram system. What is it about it that appeals to me? At a glance, from these sideways seats, it conveys a potential (and the longing that such potential creates) which is what lures me into this city centre, only to be faced with the fall out (and build up) of a neoliberal reality that this city seems to suffer/endure badly more than the other regional cities. Leeds and Manchester seemed to have prospered somewhat in this age, despite vast swathes of their respective populace literally being left in the gutter. But in Sheffield, the homeless issue (for example) stings that little bit harder, because the adaptation to this imposed-agenda here seems so ‘unnatural’, or unnecessarily dominant , like an entire city reacting badly to a medicine it’s been forced to swallow.”
“Langsett View – the tram stop I get off at that refers to the peak district area not far from here. As within Sheffield there is always a possibility of reaching plentiful people or total wilderness at the same time. Perhaps the city is an accidental exemplar for how we should be building our 21st century urban world?”
“Shy and unsure, I find myself slinging my rucksack onto just one shoulder; my default porcupine-posture formed in High School. The steep suburban streets of the uneven sprawl of Sheffield conjure a longing for a good life I think I can recall, but can’t be sure if it’s memories of expectations rather than memories of experience. A distinctly autumn night, perhaps the first of the year. Something that feels like it should be a given right is constantly out of reach. It’s those “avenues all lined with trees” over and over again; those broken promises of, what in hindsight was, a 1990’s cultural counter-revolution against the sci-fi futures of previous decades. I find myself fond of this city, and these leafy, lower middle class suburbs. And I’m unwilling to compromise my meandering to a inadequate substitute – something called ‘life’, but not so.”
“Graveyard train pulls into Wakefield Kirkgate at 12:10am. Frailty borne of fatigue makes a usually familiar UK town seem all-the-more daunting at midnight, amidst the orange lit concrete of its most unfashionable part. Which is why I’m startled, only to become angered, by an over-officious automated voice program, whose distorted car-park warning-info catches me out at the best of times. Disembodied voices with warning-info just impound the sense of distrust in an area you find yourself in. The town is cold, the first cold of autumn. Although nobody is visible, voices that sound best-avoided call out from somewhere. Should I head for one more drink in one of the late-opening bars I would never usually set foot in? Why would I do that to myself? Yet there’s an impulse to do so. As I approach this such area of eternal nights out, Westgate, it takes my fatigue-based inability to show any more compassion to street beggars, to sway me away from it all, as I head up a side street. Just “want to see people and want to see lights” now, no more inconvenient truths tonight. But this female inconvenient truth pursues me a good 50 yards, repeatedly shouting “excuse me” until I can no longer pretend I didn’t hear – she must be that desperate for money. I turn and give her about 25 pence, but I have nothing more, financially or emotionally, to give away tonight.”
25 September 2015
“I cycle past Carlton Community College on my way to Cudworth, one of many that have silently sprung up around the borough in past half decade. The place looks all neat and tidy etc, but I can’t figure out how it’s a merger of two schools, as it doesn’t look big enough. And it’s not a college, it’s a secondary school – as in this country the word college still predominately means 16+ education. I’ve no real idea if it’s a better or worse state of affairs than what went before it, but there’s way too much smoke and mirrors to find such schemes trustworthy. As I turn towards Carlton industrial estate, I remember that the HS2 project is supposed to cut this jumbled up landscape. With Royston’s Monkton coking plant visible in the distance, this area looks like the impression most people who’ve never been to Barnsley seem to have – one which is normally decades out of date. Whist cycling, my young-adult staple A Northern Soul (The Verve) plays out on my IPod. This band more than any other I can think of caught the imagination of many of the semi-professional bands to emerge out of this town during the past 20 years. The Verve were from another mining area, over in Lancashire. I often think of mining villages as not that villages at all, but more like shards of city suburbs cut loose and slung into farmland; because mining communities are of a proletarian not rural mentality. The Juxtaposition between rows of terraces, council estates, working men’s clubs and large rolling corn fields and windy country lanes, brings two things together that would otherwise never meet, and I wonder if this sensibility is what informed The Verve, and is what informs those from similar places as them.”
“Meadowhall train station. Flowers stuck to poles at railway platforms seem all the more common these days. I’ve become somewhat prepared for such occurrences on the many occasions I pass through a station, as it’s always on my mind, somewhere. As things stand, I’ve been fortunate enough not be around when anything like this has happened.”
“Get off the train at Sheffield and cycle up past Park Hill flats, more talked about now they’re largely unoccupied than when they were full of people. I rarely come this way, even though they’ve towered over the uncountable train journeys I’ve made in and out of this city for over 10 years. Yet another captivating view of the city from up here – imagine what it must be like 5 floors up in the flats behind me. Very few cities give you the chances to panoramically reflect on it as Sheffield does. There may be a few residents here, but by and large the flats look completely empty. The Yuppied section still only clings to one end of the block of flats, despite being given well over half a decade to colonise them. Large vinyl lettering shouts “space to let, space to play” at you; a rhetoric that aggressively says “don’t just stand there, become a professional!”. You’d have thought such language would appear crass now.”
27 and 28 September 2015
“the train slows down for some reason as we go past my old college, Honeywell. Now a distant memory, as even its rubbly remains have vanished. It’s one place I certainly placed much value on in this town, with it’s green breathing space from the town centre – an opening that certainly aided my artistic development. Apparently such value was valueless though, as all the courses got rehoused into a new shiny red box in the centre, whilst this area is likely to be given up for housing developments. And further down the same road so it seems that the last true bit of open space for 3 miles has been opened up to be eaten up by property developers. I don’t buy the ‘housing shortage crisis’ argument. What I see is an unending frenzy of quick-fix money-grabbing; creating endless dormitories for nearby cities and enterprise zones; filled with consumption-quelled frustrations, aggravated by an unwilling complicity in the making of endless traffic congestion – an hardback intensification of the last 2 decades, with an extra layer of disbelief we work harder to ignore via ever-more absurd retro-rehashing.”
“One noticeable change nestled in the ‘heart of Barnsley’. where the post-hedonist-cum-dead-end-intoxication-streets fork off from Peel Square is the presence of settled homelessness – whereas there’s always been a small visible collective of ‘down and outs’, I’ve never seen so many people laid out in doorway corners – this time it’s different. What makes it look weirder, is that the town is trying to recreate its market-town past, as the stalls have spilled out onto the pedestrianised areas, from their era long residence in the late 60’/early 70’s brutalist complex, that is being demolished; it seems to be heading in the opposite direction from the worry-some future these homeless have stumbled into; both look like they’ve been cut out of different times and pasted into the same place. I head up to the library, but they’re now rarely havens of “silence, please!”, and are now usually laced with interruptive reminders of the anxieties/hardships that so many of us usually so-silently share. Mobiles blurt out, and the ensuing conversations leave you in no doubt that this is another person in desperate need of employment/a wage whose giving is mob number out to as many agencies as possible. On this occasion the agency is only offering this ‘jobseeker’ temporary employment in a line of work he has no experience in.”
“Sat in cafe in Leeds, two young men with accent-less and upwardly-positive-conversational tones, talk proactively about networking, recruitment, relationships and traveling, without any apparent concern over the blurred lines between work and free time. I can’t help feeling affronted by it: “how can they seemingly flow through this age so freely like bearded cybermen? why don’t they sense this struggle and stuck-ness that engulfs me?” This is why I’m always on the back foot, viewed as a ‘negative person’, and this is why I am currently welding my pens above my sketchbook as if they were self-defence weaponry.”
“On Boar Lane, my ‘go-slow’ calm down attempts are ruined as a car turns towards me in a place which anybody could be excused for thinking was pedestrainised. But these days the Futurist bust of the 360 degree sight of Mussolini isn’t an ideal, but an hard-managed necessity. Now on my toes I overhear men laughing in that way that sounds like they are looking for targets to mock; professional alpha males who make you veer from the pavement as they walk in fours, side by side, unwilling to move; the kind of moneyed scum that a polished turdopolis attracts. Maybe I’ve reacted too harshly, but 24/7 self-defensive emotions tend to be harsh. How I wished Leeds accepted its dirt and conventional ugliness, and how better it’d be for doing so. I head into the station, with a “when you’ve gotta eat, you’ve gotta eat” poster in the window of the Sainsbury’s store commanding me to do just that, a control command that compliments the “safety and security” post-9/11 staple that greets me as I get on board this local stopping train that nobody would even consider bombing anyway.”
29 September 2015
“Arrive at Westgate station. Ticket barriers are open, but sometimes reality conspires to make it look like a snare, and if I tried to avoid paying I’m likely to be caught out. The Virgin train to Scotland pulls up on the other platform, hiding the foggy landscape behind. I’m certain the seating areas are more cramped on these trains – maybe the red paint pulls my attention to it, but they really do look mildly sardine tin-like. A man sits down next to me with the today’s Metro paper. ‘Rivers of Mars’ reads the headlines, and I become uncomfortably preoccupied with the fact that I’d heard about this already today, but already forgotten – “is nothing in the here and now able to stick anymore in this ‘always on’ age?” But perhaps it reflects what a friend said to me in a beer garden in Sheffield earlier this year (yeah, I’m sure it was this year…). She said how new scientific discoveries/breakthroughs just don’t seem able to attain the significance they would have gained in the previous century, and that this is likely down to the near total collapse in our faith in the idea that we are progressing to somewhere/something better, all-the-more impounded by the sickly sound the word ‘growth’ has when spouted from the mouths of our world leaders, etc. Whilst on the train the sun bursts through the fog as we pass through the lower Dearne Valley, and I remind myself about what I kept on reminding myself about earlier: a passage from John Berger’s Art and Revolution, on our ‘meaningless empire’, with his conclusion being that if we decide to live a life which isn’t in someway driven by a desire to see it overthrown, then we’re not living at all, and may as well commit suicide.”
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.
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
10 September 2015
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
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
Saturday 12 September: The Big Smoke (and Mirrors)
“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?”
“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. ”
“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’.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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. ”
“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?”
“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.”
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…
A collection of thoughts whilst moving around the capital on the weekend 250,000 people came out against the government’s further assaults on social welfare and social life. It is related to a large blog project called Stories From Forgotten Space (using landscape as a platform for quasi-fictional storytelling based on genuine experiences, feelings) which I am currently compiling into a book.
Friday 19 June 2015
“Walking towards Shoreditch, nearly an hour into walking in the city. The self-conscious me is always looking for things to porcupine-myself-up with in a place of such beautiful cyber-people. Sometimes it seems like everyone looks like a more toned, more Photoshopped edit of a pop-culture figure from yesteryear. I pass somebody who looks like a ‘better model’ of The La’s’ frontman Lee Mavers; more like Lee Mavers than Lee Mavers.”
“The proximity of the DLR train to the crucible-cluster of deemed-important buildings in Canary Wharf forces their importance on you as you begin to instinctively stare up at them in wonder (only to refrain from doing so to hide from public their impact on you). I look up at 1 Canada Square (HSBC building). I give a powerless, punchdrunk smile as my eyes sink from the fluffy-cloud-skyline to the gentrified docklands below. Sometimes it all makes sense to me, and I then spend my time trying to explain my reasons that respond to this sense, only that it all fucks up when things inevitably conspires to undo that sense-making. And it is at these points that ‘the idiot’ appears.”
“Greenwich Park. Hot weather. Grass going all orangey/brown – like 95/96. Don’t think I’ve sat down on the grass since I was 12 – not properly anyway. Firestarter, The Prodigy [spring 96] is playing in my personal bubble. Feel 12 again. Want to cause shit/havoc (“Bad bad, bad bad behaviour”). All those “old school” shit-causers; they’re all knackered now, evaded swiftly by others in this anxiously aspirational age; ranting at people eating their tourist-orientated food, who no longer need headphones to be zoned-out to such a physical proximity. Head down the congested road on Blackheath; city traffic passing through summer fields. If I crop out Canary Wharf it all takes me back, somewhere. But just now I don’t need to crop it out, with rucksack on shoulder, ideas momentarily electrified, I feel Danny-Champion of Past and Present. But such a surge of self-belief is spurred on by the very thing that crushes it; the ruthlessly ambivalent city. It’ll get me, for sure it will, it always does. It doesn’t let me stand tall for too long. But right now, as I text myself these thoughts, it hasn’t.”
Saturday 20 June 2015
“Walking through the refuge of a wooded-park in the centre of Muswell Hill, after staring down at the horizon-reaching cityscape commenting on how only 100 years back New York was just beginning to take over London as being the biggest city the world had even seen. Still slightly drunk from the night before, and, thus, having a slightly-guilty sensation in an age of “keep young and beautiful; it’s your duty…”. Especially in an area like this where the “everybody’s middle class now” 1990’s rhetoric doesn’t seem to have become like a cruel joke. They run for reproduction, perpetual vitality rather than exhaustion – no sunken faces around here. These woodlands look ancient, even as the noise from the continuous stream of London buses penetrates them. They may just be ancient; this land certainly hasn’t been dug up for coal at any point like most woods have nearer to home. The failure of the 90’s/00’s freshly-veneered/total immersion-capitalism seems to have never happened here. Or so it seems. London-based TV series’s from the politically-passive late 90’s/early 00’s, like Spaced, feel like they could be in their 10th series around here.”
“The demonstration’s on The Strand now. One of those iconic London streets that I have only just located after a few years of frequenting the city more than before. This is a big demo. Surely too big to be bypassed by the media’s gaze…? It’s as big as the March 2011 one, to which it was preemptively compared. But the feeling is noticeably different. My lasting memory of March 2011 was of hearing a succession of bangs, which I initially thought were some sort of explosive, only to realise that a group named the ‘Black Block’ were smashing the windows of big banks and tax-dodging corporations 200 yards ahead of us in the march. Moments after the bangs a masked young woman cut through the march procession, only to have her arm grabbed in anger by a middle-aged woman in a Unison t-shirt, who shouted “cowards! why don’t you show yourself?”. Although I had mixed feelings on what was the correct approach to counter the much rawer anticipation of systemic wounding, in hindsight I realised the angry response from the then-seemingly-more ‘pedestrian’ protest-approach, was due to the possibility that many who said they were in the Black Block were actually Agent Provocateurs, working in order to allow an aggressive police response, and to whip up hostile sentiment towards the wider demonstrations. And it worked. Only five hours later, on the train back to Wakefield/Leeds a thuggish male, part of a group of football fans on their way back home, had his hands around the neck of a blatantly-peaceful protestor, due to an argument between them, largely sparked by the football fans accusing him of complicity in “the smashing up of the windows of Topshop”, which resulted in the police boarding the train at Doncaster. I, for one, was emotionally exhausted as the tinderstick summer of 2011 drew to a close, prepared for a new world where one would be forced to take sides. The tide of society would consequently dampen this energy, and leave many of us feeling like self-aware-zombies in 2013, 2014. But perhaps the clear lack of noticeable ‘trouble’ on this comparable 2015 march isn’t a negative? Maybe something has changed, tactically; a different collective response is afoot, more based on duration?”
“The only negatives we receive are perhaps to be expected, due to being received as the march reaches the tourism/consumerism zenith of the capital. First off, we are subjected to a barrage of slurs from a man-woman-man-woman quartet of weekend ‘leisure-seekers’, with one of the women repeatedly shouting “get a life!” as they cut through the march to the opposite side of the road, with bottles of unopened rose wine in their hands. The fact that they clearly deemed it urgent to utter this to us seemed more telling than any general disagreement with the causes being marched for; beyond the initial feelings of “why didn’t I say something back to them?” was a realisation that the demo clearly caused them great discomfort. I think I can see why: when life is narrowed down to a singular romance focused in on the weekend ‘leisure-pursuit’ and all the promises of happiness, meaning, love it has appropriated, protests begin to be representative of possible huge ruptures to that shop-a-day reality. And I say this as somebody who has had this very anxiety about ruptures to those routines-of-least-pain we pave ourselves in the narrowness of the late capitalist world.
Further on, as we near Downing Street, we sense an hostility from groups of muscular young men in t-shirts. But their gesture (which seems to be one of showing solidarity with the coppers by standing in a line with arms folded in front of buildings in this zenith of nationalist value within the capital) looks almost comical, and the absurdity has not gone unnoticed by everybody I spoke to in the march. Everyone was just thinking ‘what the hell are they doing?”
“My friends head back for their respective coaches back North and rooms in London. I aim for some reflective wandering of the city until my train back later this evening (bad memories of Megabus coach journeys back from my failed attempts to study in London still haunt me). After 30 minutes trying to find somewhere to piss, I end up in Waterloo Station wishing to write expletives on the toilet walls over the lack of public toilets – my biggest pet hate of life in the over-commercialised and privatised UK city. However, due to there being a fault on the pay-in barrier and the migrant-worker toilet attendant politely letting us use them for free, I would’ve have felt bad giving him any extra cleaning up work to do. I head back out into South London, and look for the river. I always feel I need to see the river. The helicopters monitoring the protest are still hovering above. The rain begins to pelt down, but it’s the first time in my life I am carrying a waterproof jacket – a sign of age maybe? If my mood sinks now, and we’ve reached the afternoon it isn’t so alarming, it’s bearable. The Thames splashes against the walls as the rain falls. At least we/I have the river, the murky holder on plenty of secrets, that can’t quite be gentrified – it’s ours whether we are from Bermondsey or Barnsley. I have swallowed the world today; it’s the comforting calm before the potential storm caused by surrender to it all.”
“I have walked full-circle, all way down the South Bank and back toward the Bank of England from where the demo initially gathered. The rain that teemed down as the official demo petered out in Parliament Square has all but gone. Yet, this dampened, largely-depopulated area (it’s normal for it to be eerily quiet on a weekend) gives it an unwanted feeling of the aftermath of a party. After all, one common utterance the stands out about this 2015 demo is to not let it be a mere catharsis amidst the carnage. Fading momentum is a huge concern for all of us as we stare down the barrel of deterioration. However, like my weary, now semi-stumbling self, acquiring a slightly macho-self-defensive gate as I slowly begin to see the tailored shirts, suits and bow ties reemerge, as if they were hiding in burrows whilst the protest was ongoing (“it’s safe to come out and play now!”), there is no resignation, not just yet. I walk just that bit further towards the Barbican.”
“Caledonian Street – the very name alludes to a once-felt physical connection of London to the rest of this Land-mass. Unlike today, where by crossing the M25 you almost feel that you’re in a different reality where everything you’ve come to know from your stunted Yorkshire towns/cities seems to has been given the green light to proliferate, uncontrollably. Which makes it all the more strange when I hear a Barnsley/Wakefield accent (very distinct the closer you get to them, very hard to differentiate the further away you are, geographically) coming from a man on a phone outside a takeaway, across the road. The utter weariness caused by the past 2 days (emotional as much as physical) means I literally stumble into the nearest bar that looks accommodating for a man who currently looks that scruffy that going into a more ‘aspirational’ bar would be to surely give my weary self a hard time. But my stumbling attracts the attention of four men with shaved heads, one of who’s glare is not friendly as I order a drink in a red t-shirt with a sketchbook in my hand. Once I sit down, unable to avoid overhearing snippets of their conversation, it is beyond a doubt that they are part of some far-right, ultra-nationalist organisation. There’s one, big hard-looking Ray-Winston-type-cockney (who evokes an image of more physically violent UK cities, the only aspect I don’t long for in the wake of gentrifying cleansing). Then I realise that two of the blokes are Barnsley lads. Oh yes, it’s beyond a doubt; that’s definitely my mother-tongue the one in the baseball cap uses as he drunkenly slides into chanting a bloody-thirsty appraisal of St George. And on a day like this!? A day when I wanted to feel comradeship with folk from my mother-terrain, and beyond, against capitalist onslaught. But I find myself hiding my face in case it turns out they recognise it from town. As today, there was (by all accounts) a far-right demonstration planned for Barnsley town centre, preceding a town pubs-based music festival, which seems to pull together folks of left/left-of-centre sentiment in the town better than anything else since the mines closed. I wonder whether there was thus a consequential poor turn out for the far-right, and they decided to head down to London instead? Anyway, I drink up fast, as I’m reminded of how the threat of real physical violence can still quite quickly rear its head in pubs, even in an age where we are more likely to yell in solitude into our cell phones. I head back towards Kings Cross station. Bland but less chance of aggro.”
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:
21 April 2015
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
23 April 2015
“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.”
“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?”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“[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.”
1 May 2005
“[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.”
“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.”
“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.”
7 May 2015
Lost bus routes. Crofton
“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.”
“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.”Between 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.”
Lost Bus Routes. Mapplewell, Darton, Kexbrough. 7 May
“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…”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”