Saturday 25 January 2014

becoming dovecote

'I've spent my whole life walking around these places ... I feel like I'm looking for somebody ...' 
(Nick Papadimitriou, The London Perambulator)

'Breakspear is being broken into separate living spaces, all way beyond my pocket. A riding instructor jiggles her jodhpured buttocks down by the composting shed, but it is the Tudor dovecote that draws me and as I recover from the rigours of my climb out of the valley I feel myself passing into its brick walls and upwards through the timbered cupola to its ornate and timeless clock face. Circling, minute by minute, I am dialled through on-off heat, cold, light, dark, rain and sleet, watching a movement from pantaloons and merkins through to these luxury flats and slug-like cars.

Slip, Motorway, round my ankles if you must; drag me into your petroleum future. You will pass too, ending crotcheted by red leaves of herb Robert, stars of cow thistle. I see your car crashes. I see economies collapse. I sense the unspoken family secrets; I see the white cow-gate lit by sunshine. I am the centre. I am buttressed stone walls. I am oak rafters and the soft flap of doves' wings in cool corners. 

See the de Haviland Mosquito, Hatfield bound. See sweet Brian Connolly sitting and playing guitar in the meadow. He's out of his rocket on mushrooms, his hair as fair as hay. Now his face grows furrowed and worn as he ages into knock-knees and long-johns. Now his corpse is laid out and still I stand. 

See my thrust through time, my doves flown high in circles over tall oaks I knew as saplings. I am the pivot around which it swings, the spigot through which it all flows. I push down to worm-holes and into the moist darkness beneath your bullied present day. Now there are Kindles, now you are wired to Androids. Now there is a white flash and everything is swept away'.

From Nick Papadimitriou's exquisite book Scarp (London: Sceptre, 2012, 48-9), a 'deep topography' mapping-through-walking of the North Middlesex/South Hertfordshire escarpment, 'edgelands' and 'interzones' largely overlooked by the nearby northern suburbs of London. (He conceives of the suburbs themselves as 'the momentary dream of a mushroom god', a place of eerie beauty, sadness and loss - depending on one's temporal perspective, either 'a huge storage vat of regional memory' or 'just a momentary film, a suggestion of a possibility that will be replaced by other possibilities in due course'. Whichever, they offer 'rich pickings for the deep topographer'). 

Brian Connolly, lead singer of the Sweet, who died aged 51, went to school in Harefield close to the Breakspear dovecote.

For Nick Papadimitriou's 'Middlesex County Council' website, see here

For a full-length version of The London Perambulator, John Rogers' fine documentary film about Nick Papadimitriou, see here

'I'd like my work to be found in a skip - in Southgate or somewhere - in 40 years time' (Nick Papadimitriou). All quotes in these end notes are from The London Perambulator