The remaining Christmas leftovers are being turned into soup and the wrapping paper being consigned to the recycling bin. The festive period, (and indeed – the year), reaches its culmination, as I write.
As in recent years, I spent a few days over Christmas itself, at my Mother s home on the outskirts of Lincoln, where I grew up. It s normally been my habit to spend a little time wandering the streets of my old hometown, camera in hand, if only as an aid to digestion, but I didn t really find time to do that this year. Instead, snatching a brief window of respite between the seemingly endless procession of deluges, I made do with a brief turn around, Washingborough, the village my Mum and Stepdad inhabit.
Washingborough is a combination of dormitory and retirement home, and lies in clear view of the city – just a few miles distant, across the River Witham. It s a pleasant enough spot, and I m sure, a perfectly comfortable place to grow old. Sadly though, I can t pretend I find much sensory or intellectual stimulation there. Indeed, spending time in such placid places makes me realise just how reliant my own creative sensibilities have become on the sharp edges, stimulating frictions and perpetual churn of urban life. These days, it feels distinctly odd to walk past walls devoid of graffiti or illuminated signage, or to find myself not negotiating a complex architectural and psychological labyrinth, by whatever means.
Anyway, creative activity shouldn t be about stubbornly revisiting the same old sources with potentially diminishing returns. It s important to work the visual and mental muscles a little harder sometimes, in search of what stimulation may actually be hidden beneath the surface of superficially less interesting environments. As this handful of images prove, there s always something there, even if you have to work harder, or zoom in a little closer, to find it.
As it turned out, what I eventually found was actually more of the same kind of stuff I might easily have found in Leicester, Nottingham or Birmingham, albeit in smaller, more marginal pockets. Perhaps not surprisingly, mostl of these images derive from the site of a disused, partially redeveloped railway house, and adjacent river wharf, at the very edge of the village. It can be no accident that the location that drew my lens is one characterised by marginality, liminality and functional transition. I can t help noting that it also marks a way out of Washingborough, (and potentially back to town), via the alternative route of the waterway, and the cycle path, (now replacing the decommissioned railway line), that runs alongside.
I suppose you could argue this is just another example of my resort to a familiar, (anti-) picturesque aesthetic, and that the truly creative path might have been to find ways of engaging with less customary subject matter, – to interact with the environment on its, rather than my, own terms. But I m just not ready to become a Ruralist, I m afraid. On the day, in a world of mellow stonework, mud and tweety birds 1., the discovery of some fragments of graffiti, evidence of a lost notice, the repeat-patterns of metal grid work, some whited-out windows, and the inevitable hazard stripes, felt like small triumphs.
Actually, I suspect the real resonance may have derived from the juxtaposition of the two sensibilities, or perhaps from the realisation that the ideas of Urban and Rural (more Sub-Rural here, to be honest), are essentially artificial constructs. That is equally represented by the possibly misleading premise on which I began this post. The British may remain resolutely wedded to the idea of the pretty rural village, but in an island so tightly packed, and long since industrialised, (and now, increasingly de-industrialised), this can be seen as artificially fictional a vision as any born from the city. Indeed, the reality of Washingborough is actually one of a situation only just beyond the city boundary, connected by easily accessible roads and high-speed broadband, in which the Lord of the Manor s Hall is now a hotel, and the original core of the village adjoins a much larger, mid-twentieth century housing estate.
The hour I spent taking these shots, (and the subsequent hour spent reflecting on them whilst writing this), remind me that, for all my habitual focus on a contained urban milieu, and the contrasting, persistent British reverie of an imagined Arcadia beyond the city walls, it s at the points where one bleeds into the other that the reality of our contemporary experience often really lies.
Anyway, philosophising aside, the real point of this post is really about the happy acceptance that my own creative process/practice runs as a continuous narrative, even if only in the background or in less promising situations, (or via admittedly, fairly standard motifs). I couldn’t turn it off now, even if I wanted to. That s not such a bad spirit in which to step into another year.
1.: Please don’t think I’m opposed to tweety birds. My own city-centre back yard currently boasts four bird feeders and is regularly visited by mobs of greedy Tits and Finches.
It’s a bit like an ornithological McDonalds, I suspect.
It s official. Superfast broadband is now available in Witham on the Hill. This week Witham on the Hill cabinet 2 went live.
Witham on the Hill should be getting getting Superfast broadband soon Cabinet 1 is stood in position with power, just needs copper and fibre feeding to it. Cabinet 2 still needs standing but this is being chased. Information from www.onlincolnshire.org/news/project-updates/project-update-week-ending-31st-july-20151.
- ^ www.onlincolnshire.org/news/project-updates/project-update-week-ending-31st-july-2015 (www.onlincolnshire.org)