Sunday, 19 February 2012

Darlo to Boro, for Penpals

18th Feb, got a train from Darlo to the Boro.
Here's what the view out of the windows looked like:

Houses & Lives

West Allen

Lots of Red Dogwood and Orange Willow. No signs of spring.

Thornaby. The mighty Tees. Luxury apartments all empty.

Post-economic landscape

Old train stock, rusting.

Modern Architecture

The glitz of Middlesbrough.

Signs of Teesside

Then at Mima I wrote letters as part of a penpals project Peg Powler organised. A great afternoon! Our penpals were in a cafe around the corner and it brought back all kinds of memories about thankyou cards for christmas presents, german penpals through school, and the people who I owe letters to!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Singers are Shamans

(Draft text, to go in the pagan geordie yearbook, out at eastertime)

Apparently Whitney Houston died today. What is it that she offered to the world that made her significant? Not human perfection. Not a nice personality (I have no knowledge or interest in what her personality was like - corrupted by celebrity, I should imagine). And not quite as a producer of 'things of beauty' that we admire: not in my opinion anyway. I think she and every other singer, famous and (more importantly) not-famous, was a shaman: they serve as shamans, are looked to as shamans, have the good qualities of the shaman and are imperfect and unreliable as every shaman is.

When a human sings, it channels something that links us to a different plane. Even a 'cheesy' song strikes some connection with our heart, our innards, and takes our consciousness elsewhere (upwards, it feels to me). It affects our sense of mood, of time, of reality. Normally our active consciousness is busy filtering out these effects so that they are just felt as a dim background thing. But at particularly receptive moments - a first date, a rush of coffee, a distressed and sorry moment - the song is felt in its full power. Everyone experiences this, and I'd be interested in how you articulate it, but for me the language that describes it most accurately is the old buried-away language of magical experience, shamanic distortion, numinous escape from ego etc..

And this is what makes live gigs so powerful, when you are in the mood for paying close attention. It is why I often, despite my embarrassment, describe the experience of an amazing gig by dipping into the language of religious ritual or communion. It's also why I love drinking at gigs, and why I tend to get most affected by songs delivered during my 2nd pint - my optimum point of receptiveness. Drugs and music go together well - although it's a balancing act, as too much alcohol kills my alertness, and other drugs tend to send me off sideways into other experiences (of neurosis, daydreaming, introspection, fidgetiness etc..). Music and crowds also go well together, and effect a significant change upon what is going on in that experience - you may not agree that they are religious gatherings, but you must agree that there's something about communal sharing, of creating a shared moment, that makes the effects more powerful.

It's a very mundane image isn't it? A bloke holding a pint and watching a band he loves. But if you were to watch how his face and his stance change during the concert (maybe speed it up and add some spooky music), then you're watching someone engaged in a pagan magical seance. Change the outfit and it's a Siberian tribesman from the 5th century, with his community, focussing their combined attention and togetherness onto a performer who is not just performing to entertain, but who is acting as a channel for something bigger and weirder and beyond-human, beyond-reason: something that is making their world so much bigger, the mysteries of existence so much deeper, and their experience of life so much grander.

Never mind the details of different planes, the varying cosmologies and 'sciences' that different traditional cultures applied to this experience. Look them up if you like, but I personally find it hard to access the world they describe. I've maybe got some more study to do in that line. If I can find a parallel for the complexity of their descriptions, then it is in the lyrics that singers provide: they help guide our imagination and give meaning to the effect that the melody and tone and development and combination of sounds is doing to us. (Which is why a band like Oasis who uses utterly shit thick lyrics is so shit - they can do the same shamanic job, but they take us to a very thick and disappointing other plane.)

The most important conclusion that my thinking on this has led me to, is in the nature of what a shaman is. He or she is not a priest, who has learnt the doctrine of a church or tradition and then delivers it to us. So they are not teachers, they have no authority, they are not backed up by powers of violence and shaming, of excommunication or all that mumbo jumbo power-play that makes organised religion so evil. And they are also not angels. Their morality is no better. Their intelligence is no sharper. There is nothing that marks them out as better than us and they should NEVER be worshipped (hear that Michael Jackson fans?) Sometimes they are shit: they give shit, underwhelming performances or they get drunk and abusive or they need a good slap to put them back in their place. Traditionally, the shaman was not necessarily a well-liked figure. At times when she or he was not performing for the community, the shaman was often pretty pathetic: the weakest worker, the neediest scrounger, the manipulative git, the deformed or the socially awkward. Neither a warrior nor a chief, and not a monk or a nurse, either. But at important moments, they came into their own. They were needed and they were used and they exulted in that moment and they did their best to rise to the occasion and perform. Like a good band on a good day, who look up from their instruments and grin.

During the ritual, people did not put away their private thoughts, kneel in the mud and worship them. They'd be up to all sorts at the same time: taking intoxicants, flirting, zoning out or working through their own emotions. At every bacchanalian event there'll be some fuckers not paying attention and talking at the bar: it was doubtless the same back in Siberia. So I don't want to exaggerate or simplify what happens at gigs by confusing what the parallel means. But even at an occasion like, in my case, after a friend's wedding last night, when there is someone playing music and singing and there's barely half a room there and most of us are talking over it. Even then, there is something extra added by that live performance, and there is a trickling down of magic going around our brains, that changes how we see the world, adds colour to our drinking and our company, and makes existence glow that little bit more.

So let us raise our glasses to the singers and the people who make music in crowds. Let's abandon the churches and the washed-out brainwash ideologies of religion. And let's recognise that we can have our shamans and we can have our rituals, and when they die we can call them what they were. Gifted people who help channel something that raises the human beast above the groundlevel. Who allow us those experiences that remind us that everything is more than the description of it. That life is alive. That gods surround us, unquantifiable depths penetrate our souls, and we will NEVER truly have a fucking clue what is going on in this universe, but it's alright because we can look around the room and see our fellows with the same look on their face, in the same place, sharing the same spirit. And like the Siberian tribesfolk, we can howl and mosh and dance together in the knowledge that this is what is right, and fitting, and spiritually sincere.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Doodles of Grow Heathrow (post 3 of 3)

If I don't write up and print ideas or experiences within a month, they tend to get left behind undone. Hence why I've made such a meal out of the Anarchist Pilgrimage to Siberia (about which, more soon).

In this case, I've not been able to get near a working scanner (the library's is kaput) and I have two new ideas and announcements queueing up, so this post is to finish my notes from Grow Heathrow.

The zines I posted.
(to the other participants, on a very poor quality photocopier)

My notebook, decorated with found advice from the abandoned garden centre next door.
(from whose pages these images all originate)

The birds I saw while I was there.

Sketches & raindrops.

Self portrait in my 'twat cap', as Viz calls it.
('A flat or country cap when worn by a scrote, pog or ne'er do well.')

The wordwalk pages.
(see previous post)

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Wordwalk around Sipson.

jump the gate
face the road
sound of M4 rushing
& birds, in the trees, singing as I leave them.

police warning : thieves are targeting cradles

crow singing out of tune

hedge to my left pushes me to the road-side of the pavement

cloudy day
sparrow crosses the road
gaining height gaining views
holiday inn, mast, sand heaps
& the picturesque farm
flock of pigeons
2 planes as if stationary

reach the bridge : metal and rubber barrier

monkey graffiti
roar of traffic
yellow - 550 yards
blue - heathrow
green - holiday inn
sunbeams break through
gull pivots & pauses on the wind

black spot of a kestrel hovering
annoying rush-rush-rush of cars
the grey reverse of a motorway sign
distracted - excited by a flock of brown birds
& 4 ducks fly past
'b-dump' of the metal rubber line
faded fence graffiti - brown on brown

off the bridge
power-walker passes me
great tit in the hedge
call + response to one over the road
2 crows in the stubble field
yellow cyclist
vans pass my right shoulder

gusty windy
M4 sound behind me now
the flock I saw is
dancing over my head
back + forth
a delight
racing pigeons behind are a different motion

low fat plane disappears
behind low fat buildings
leylandii hedging
cold wind on my neck
stop give way
private property keep out
london concrete
giant red barn
plane angled up at
a 23 degree trajectory
2 round concrete blocks

stop! I've found my brown flock resting in the thornbushes.
bigger than sparrows?
black + white fleck on the wing.
buff, paler chest, grey head.

lads training
me eating sweets
a big silver birch
cockney laughter around their van
little harlington playing fields
cafe on the green
sun comes out, strong

sant nirankari mandal :
its line of conifers jars
the sound of cars slowing to enter is gentle - a purr.
white arch to nowhere
figures hugging cups of tea
demonstrating a football kick

men arriving to play
cones on the field
double yellow lines
nettles + red berries
leafy green weeds

a songbird properly going for it on a psytrance tip in the field
spinning airport radar behind
remains of a 'no 3rd runway' sign, broken in half on its lamp-post
another, the same

a window on the playing field - men in blue bouncing
line of poplars, sports bags
black-headed gull
straight road
cracked tarmac pavement

planes appear ahead of me
slowly float SW
& over my right shoulder, past the singers
- yes! a skylark !
they slowly rise up + away
the 1st loud take-off reaches my ears.
where a dozen gulls walk
about the pitch, & the
small tractor is carting posts & nets about.

a man walks past blowing his nose & I cross the road to a footpath
public footpath
gate swing
on my left, green smooth pitch
behind me, the rustle of the trees that line the other side the road I've walked.
ahead of me, engine noise, clouds, a gravel path & low hawthorn hedge

to my right, the stubble field of singers, in sun
yellow stalks above green

my brown flock of dancers
pass from pitch to field, singing all the while
short tails
a conversation ahead - man on a bench?
plastic bags & cans in the crop
I kneel to write

the bench person is properly head banging
a sign points left,
where 2 more are walking
field close
boltons lane
she sighs as I walk past
crazy right angle
left, then right
angle right
now following the man, his dog & 2 sons
turning back
she is headbanging again.

a few oaks
planted for the path

smoking kills
dr pepper

skeleton grimace
as the wind is in my face
sound of plastic flapping on a shed
... & a plane take-off ...
black shadow lines
dock skeletons
man with headphones
this footpath has brought so much litter into the field
grooved concrete, left turn
remains of rope swings on the tree
a park, juicy green

a choice at 2 wood benches
big + dry to sit upon
overflowing bins left,
I choose south, an arc.
yellow + blue lichen spots
on the odd pebbled path material

smoking kills
man in turban coughs politely
grey beard + trainers

my camera now works intermittently

I feel exposed - back windows watch the park
stands of small bare trees
M4 now equal volume to airport
except for sudden noisebursts
path is convex (domed)
with a bright green mossy crack along it - I like it!

birds here too, song + sunshine
then a powerburst of liftoff
dip my cap to protect my eyes
turn + see blue rich sky
thru a scrubby thicket with old tendrils

'what the fuck are YOU?'
- 2 squeaking kestrel-shaped birds
flew past right to left,
but with long tails!?
black against the sky

nice bark - pale + furrowed

tufty grass now - not manicured,
with bramble patches
& the path winds right
I'm still looked over by semis.
an info board with old maps
on it is spraypainted over- obscured

manicure again - now a round green with red dogwood bushes oddly set in a stone-circle-like arrangement of good wood benches
& the songbird singing a delight
above the hum of aircraft.

I recall how birds sing louder
if the background noise is high.
peaceful here, but for the engines.
back to graffiti'd creosoted fences
& bright xanthoria on the brickwork

memory card full
warning CCTV in operation
sound of a voice inside a suburban house is strangely intimate
loudest take-off yet
private no parking
I'd hate to live in this close
expensive cars
man sitting with the engine on - a rattly hum
up Boltons lane, a black & white cat moves like a milk-cow
maximum penalty £1000
let by
weird stairs that go up between 2 front doors.
permit holders only
no loading at any time
pigeonshit pile on the smash-doored metal box
variegated ivy dangling
coughing man wearing a lanyard

a smell of gas, unpleasant
harvest morn & golden puffs in the window

I stop to write on walls
man in a grey T shirt on his mobile, smoking
sound of the water under the ductile stanton & staveley
odd roundabout

mondial way
bramble patch on the corner full of litter
that curious grey of municipal poles

doghurst avenue
heathrow point
now open - starbucks
bramble tendril on the path
geography like a complex of forts, now.

axis house, staff carparks
aviation business continuity
zone ends
cars slowly curve around me
red post box curiously out of place - a tradititional model
GR post office
starbucks coffee now open
renaissance hotel

young woman in boots with a plastic bag
I fancy her without even watching her.
warning protected premises
chugga engine noise as trucks & buses wait at the lights
quality airport parking
2 cyclists sail west
look right
[look left]
look right
[look left]
cross with care
wind rockets down bath road
& an incoming plane looks like it will use this as its landing strip
taxi at any time
more cyclists - must be a route.
thick privet hedge trimmed to thigh height
6 flags - Japan, South Korea
but I just still caught the burst of a songbird
gone now, under traffic

except buses
I take the left turn to terminals 1,2,3,4

danger 230 volts
no entry
maximum height 12' 6"
man adjusts his collar
bus advertises a diet
& switchover is coming

I get a bit disorientated by the take-offs
woman talks on her phone in a deep rolling accent
don't take it out on our staff
chewing gum circles on the small flagstones
local only
give way
a gaggle of Indian men wait for their bus.

waiting out of the wind, the stench of gas or sewage
aha! texaco
by the park inn, the giant billboard holder & a pine tree & a round pansied flowerbed create a weird, heavy ambience

formerly the ramada hotel
lots of signs repeat
woodpigeon flaps off
daffodils on their way
rapide 40 slideout
nene road roundabout - 3 times now i've turned round to read it
signs for carparking confuse me
which direction now?
at any time
fences bar off the runways
& pay carparks too
the courtesy shuttle is bright yellow
danger of death


police station looks abandoned
with its mirrored windows
funny blue paint colour
range rover
when lights flash do not enter tunnel

I wonder how much emirates paid to stick their plane sculpture on this roundabout
coaches & a constant stream of black taxis
spinning of the tower
deep hum of pre-take-off
really high lamppost
short stay

use dipped head lights

I'm tense now - paranoia making me imagine police suspecting me - after all I am acting like someone casing out the place
a car beeped and I jumped.

uncanny entrance to the tunnel
weird shaped prong
no pedestrian access
please return to bus stop
& catch bus service for the central terminal area
a relief - I shall skip the viewing platform now.

main tunnel
emergency smoke
control panel
exhaust-blackened concrete
red painted pipes

SOS phone
JCDecaux advert
a bus called Samantha Lyndsey
tunnel road east
I reverse - no pavement
police station concealed access

warning hazchem
unexpected plaque about the triangulation of the British Isles, in grey outside the police station

colourful pansies in rectangular blocks
except business at Police Station
back to Nene Road roundabout
tummy rumbles
walk following my shadow now


& follow the sign for Sipson
I take a photo of the sign

& that smell of gas again
At the corner of the police station,
a plane tree is large with its pompoms & its patchy bark.
I'm feeling really suspect now,
like I'm being watched from the groundlevel windows of the police station.
Like I should get out of here now.
Imagining explaining my sketchpad under examination - cops unable to distinguish
the 3 magpies (pub)
Sipson A408
a flash of light
my dirty fingernails
traffic waiting, poised
a beep
a move-off,
like riders into open prairie
but with diesel engines
particulates and hiss

another siren - a first response landrover.
national express
I'm sick of facing park inn.

2nd red man to wait for.
Even he looks pissed off!
A hat left on a post, I pick it up.
The first response is back - it must have gone the wrong way, heads west

A man sat on a fence - looks suspicious!
young woman in a ridiculously flower-printed car.

welcome to ncp heathrow airport parking
no parking

co-op signs at the garage,
pizza & pasta adverts
tempting familiarity for the motorist
red route clearway end
I'm back on the 222 route.
man holding his hat overtakes me.
red double lines become yellow

litter along the fence & hedge & ivy
just that few metres of distance, & having my back to it, has made me much more relaxed.
My ears now face away, so the noise already feels reduced
& I've been in this shop before - time for a samosa!
street cross
2 crows flying
sovereign food + wines.

the other end of doghurst lane
meerkats used for a car security poster
back on the road I know
curving round

grey car filth margin to the grass edge to the road.
fence treated wth anti climb paint
no wind
a small gathering of st.mark's flies under a leylandii - in January?!

parade of white lamp posts ahead of me.
& a glimpse of that great big barn
dead hanging baskets dangling
from a 'premises covered by cctv'
ugly white hotels's staircase shape
222 overtakes
patchwork of cloud then blue
overall darkening a little
lovely taste of grease & spice in my mouth

a cycle painted on the road in a green frame - but why? what message is it for?
outside lights ready too in the carpark
park inn parking tariff 1hr £2.00
permit holders
aircraft noise comes in stage left
sight of the holiday inn
sipson quarry
private property keep out
bridge over the motorway
cars parked in all available space

& below
I see paramedics, police,
I cross quickly because it's grim
luggage out,
ambulance, stretcher, woman
police discuss

a police dogs van turns in,
& I notice lots of police vehicles are parked here.

the sign for Sipson please drive slow,
& proper village people, carrying bags,
jogging, walking to the bus stop,
peace increases
profusion of orange berries
overhang the wall
garden sheds & loved gardens,
great variety of birds
easy pavement to walk on as I go on.
mon-sat 8am - 6.30pm

plastic water bottle
smart old lady, blinks & looks away from me
bright white bark of a birch
big gust of wind, leaves flutter & rustle

cul de sacs
rusty manhole cover
red dogpoop bin
chitterfield gate
no loading at any time
I turn round at the library only sign (painted white on the floor)
& see a plane taking off above the road
chimes in someone's garden
2 black cabs parked in a drive
chimneys & air vents, campervan & bodged fence fixes

zone ends
I recognise some vehicles as airport-related.
1 weedy lawn.
Some more knackered fences
cherry trees
rust & cracked paint
smell of hot clean hair from someone's bathroom
a baby's cry from another

man + son waiting at next bus stop
- people use the bus a lot here.

slow cyclist passes - he has a B.A.A. luminescent on
222 pulls up alongside me,
man + son get on.
matching joggers

I step aside for a ginger boy on a scooter to pass
a bright painted gate blue + yellow
post office shut red shutters (it's sunday!)

parish noticeboards & a BT call box.
overtaken by couple with a pram & 2 boys.
another pram comes past the other way - wave of smart young mother's perfume.
curious bent alder tree chopped up a bit but still let to live by the pavement - glad twisting.
giant tree rustling above me at junction with hollycroft close - what is it?

It still holds its grey leaves.

Next, a mighty oak has lost its.
These are the best trees of the village.
Its elders.
Now the church,
with the curryhouse + 'hair by jackie'
I take a photo of myself in the round mirror

One of them big calm gaps in traffic as I cross over
man comes out of vineries close &
'good how are you' to the man
across the street as he gets in his car to go.
my suspicion of the sipson christian fellowship
a dropped suitcase tag on the floor
sound of swishing from the turbine
1 week old today!
electricity box danger of death
white cat prowls pathetically by the coop childcare building.
cars are arriving from over the bridge.
the bike workshop sign had fallen over in the wind - I right it.
The car's heading towards the modernity.
I notice 2 girls in the veg patch
& at the gates, I climb + jump back in.