'The pedestrian bridge that spanned the motorway' (image by Simon Sellars)
Simon Sellars over at the ever fabulous Ballardian has posted a brilliant piece on Shepperton, the Surrey suburb that has been Ballard's home for the best part of 50 years. In it Sellars takes a walk through the area and, as he puts it, takes 'photographs of the arena that has supplied so much raw material for Ballard’s writing.' And as such, it's a piece that charts the incongruity that sits at the heart of this statement, that comes to terms with the shock of just how ordinary and banal Shepperton is. In truth, and this is the same with any writer's sacred geography, the 'arena' of Shepperton is a mythic one, not only in terms of Ballard's recreation of it and adumbrations within it - evident in Simon's totemic guidebook, The Unlimited Dream Company - but also in the magical creative gap between a personal lifetime's reading and meditation, and the dulled bricks of the real. Sellars is obviously well aware that this incongruity must exist but it's still fascinating to watch him drift through the landscape and remap this mental space as he goes, seeking out the lush meadows around the River Ash, the frozen scream of the M3 and of course the squatting reliquary of memories that is the Shepperton Studios. I wonder if he found the psychic hub of the place not in the studios themselves but in the edgelands around them - in the discarded sets that fan out into the wasteland around the tributaries of the Ash and in the housing estate that butts up against the fencing around the hulking warehouses of the outer lots where the artificial dreams of one world and the collective dreamlife of another bleed together, coalescing into some viscous churning emanation... Bring on part 2.
place, nature, landscape
I’ve been meaning to put together a few thoughts on the deluge of free newspapers that flood a London commute, but K-punk’s musings on the (paper)waste land of London Bridge convinced me that it has already been done in ways that I could never surpass:
“Look around the carriage, snapshot of a MySpaced city: diversity without difference, homogeneity without communality - bodies reduced to claustrophobic zombie meat fighting for space, background hum of mutual hostility simmering, yet everyone is reading the same thing...”
Chernobyl, Pluto's Realm
Photographs of the landscape around Chernobyl.
My favourite are roads that haven't been ridden for years. Sometimes, I leave a log on the road to see if someone else will travel here. When I return in a year or two, seeing my log has not been moved suggests that I still have no followers
Also: two more series' of photographs on the same subject: 1986-2006, and nuclear nightmares by Robert Knoth and Antoinette de Jong
Rook, silhouette (photo from catb)
What with all these nature pieces soon I'll be growing a beard and sleeping in ditches. Hang on...
Living World, Radio 4's 'gentle weekend natural history programme' recently went to the Norfolk coast to witness the raucous spectacle of 80,000 rooks roosting in a ancient woodland. A great little program full of simple joy and knowledge. Thanks to Speechification for pointing it out. And for hosting an Mp3 of the show!
And there is also this from Roger Deakin's posthumously published book, Wildwood, a book about man's relationship with wood, and woods. The chapter on rooks is a fantastic evocation of a night spent camping beneath a rookery in another Norfolk woodland, this time a little further inland. As Deakin sets camp in his bivouac tent at the foot of a huge stand of Ash trees he notices that 'the sky can seem very pale in summer once you've grown accustomed to the darkness. I could make out the silhouettes of trees, but the rooks and their nests melted into the general blackness. In the wood, complete silence but for the occasional minor rustling further off. Starlight filtered down, strained through the black leaves...As I began to drift in and out of sleep, drugged by bluebells, I felt doubly submerged, a long way beneath the surface on the sea floor of the wood. Once I was woken with a jolt by a sudden mad commotion in the rookery caused, I suppose, by a bad bird dream: a pouncing fox in the skull of a rook that sent a wave of alarm through the canopy.'
He wakes at dawn to the glorious cacophony of the rookery
Hours later, while the sun was still in the horizon I drifted back into consciousness to the most raucous of dawn choruses...Settling my head back into the mossy pillow, I exulted in the luxury of waking in a rookery in full cry.
By the time I swam into full consciousness, most of the young rooks were out of their nests, perched among the topmost twigs. They basked in the first rays of sun that turned the green to gold around them, their black feathers gleaming blue, green, purple and bronze, absorbing the warmth. The parent birds soared off in sallies of flight accompanied by crescendos of cawing, returning with breakfast for the fledglings who expressed their satisfaction in half-choked high-pitched mewling. Each time they landed, the rooks fanned their tails in greeting: gesture is an important part of their language. A good deal of the rooks' circling, gliding flight seemed to be nothing other than joyful orisons with no apparent destinations in the fields. In February I had watched them here, flinging themselves into a strong wind and somersaulting wildly upward, then diving straight down again towards the wood like bungee jumpers, checking their swoop just in time with the tilt of a wing to glide far away across the valley towards the church on the far hill...The more they flew, the more noise the rooks made. Whether you can call it melody is the question I lay pondering...I think of their utterings as conversation, or the roughest of folksong. Rooks speak in the strongest of country burrs. They are rasping, leathery, parched, raucous, hoarse, strangled, deep-throated, brawling, plaintive, never reticent, and like all good yokels, incomprehensible...Intruding on the privacy of rooks from a small tent on the wood floor was never meant to be at all scientific, but it was plain to me from where I lay that they had quite a rich language. I sometimes heard a private, muted, muttering note, uttered into the depths of the nest behind net curtains, strictly for the ears of the family. Also pitched in a lowered voice was a kind of squeaking that sounded like contentment. The rooks didn't seem to mind my presence at all. It even occurred to me that having roosted all night under the same ash-leaf roof, I had somehow been accepted into their company by some ancient law of hospitality. Rooks are, after all, the most sociable of birds...