Tuesday, 20 December 2011

a field student of little and great emples

What can account for the lost 't's of the Lee Valley marshlands of old? Might they be found underneath the Walthamstow reservoirs, perfectly preserved in the alluvium?

Laura Wright and Robert Elms talked about some of Walthamstow's linguistic heritage today - 19/12/11. Their discussion is available to listen to again at


starting at about 1hr 37min.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

a field student of Ballardian epiphanies

Field Study's Man in E17 loves a good edge; in fact and fiction he and I virtually live on them. We're particularly fond of fried edge on toast - or toasht to indulge ourselves a little more. 'Edgelands' is a term we are becoming more familiar with having listened to Gareth Rees guided talk about the Hackney Marsh edgelands. We have found out we may be a character in the Marshman's chronicles of this liminal place - as one of the ritual riders making their way to work (or elsewhere) - on the good edge of the marshes. Gareth's talk can be found via 'Gareth Rees Scoop' on the


menu. Look for 'Mapping Your Manor'. Gareth shares his enjoyment of the rise of the Olympic Park at the edge of the marshes. This new city, capital of the Olympic ideal, is enriching Gareth's edge. The development is causing us some concern, the salient points of which we shall drift to rather than getting straight to.

J G Ballard is credited as being one of the seminal authors of the urban edge, and Will Self and John Gray can be found in virtual conversation about J G Ballard at the Watershed. Mr Self and Mr Gray share accounts of some of their Ballardian epiphanies while, we suspect, also subconsciously exchanging mineral water sipping techniques - essential to any sophisticated discussion of edgelands and emptiness.

At this time of the year Field Study's Man in E17's morning ride across the marsh edge sometimes takes in the spectacular sight of the winter sun hanging low on the south eastern horizon as an intense silvery and golden aura veiling the emerging city. Could he and I be on the verge of a Damascene moment; an epiphanic conversion to Pierre de Coubertin's vision? One day I may find my selves in the midst of a landscape as envisioned by Victorian painter of apocalypses, John Martin. Will we be flung into the abyss of Olympic doubters?
Will Self' makes a comment about the future starting to seem dated; 'a recasting of the past through an increasingly atomised landscape'. Will Self also mentions H G Wells in his appreciation of J G Ballard, concerning prescience. Wells called for the establishment of "Departments and Professors of Foresight". According to Wikipedia his call presaged the development of modern academic futures studies by approximately 40 years - study now more commonly coined as 'futurology'. 'Futurology' is a term frequently used by Iain Sinclair in his attempts to debunk the mythology of the modern Olympics. Is there prescience in Ballard's, Kingdom Come, given recent consumer riots and the second coming of the Westfields?

While the government and various other authorities are fretting about the possibility of explosions, calling on a huge military force to safeguard the games but also add to the likelihood of Olympic bankruptcy, what we may also want to fret about, according to Self and Gray's discussion, is community implosion. Would the Olympic site, as a gated world, be an exemplar of such virtuality becoming real again by breakdown?

Field Study's Man in E17 is deeply suspicious of Anish Kapoor's Olympic Tower. To us it is potentially a site of a sinister scientific experiment. During the Olympic Games the air will be so ideologically charged - 'electric', 'buzzing' - that there will be an opportunity to harness those forces and use them to power a Utopia fusion project. Not Utopian but Utopia. In this project all Utopias, past, present and future, will be sucked into the vacuous structure and fused - creating The Final Utopia. Key to the harnessing of the forces of Utopia fusion is the Higgs Boson particle. Why? Because one said so.

In a moment of foresight  (dare we say Ballardian epiphany and cosmic identification with thee Higgs Boson?) we saw an imploded future in which rightful denizens of The Final Utopia are carnivorous Buddleia davidii. The mutation to carnivorousness (carnivory?) is caused by a leak from the tower of the element, 'Implodium', carried to the shrub by butterflies. In a horrific nightmare of John Wyndham-ian (a term which came  out of the Self & Gray discussion)  character we witnessed goring by Buddleia on an Olympic stadium scale - every aspect of it reproduced in ultra high definition and 4D surround sound. The more Ballardian dimension of this epiphany is that no-one is actually gored by Buddleia - it's all a dream or nightmare that you, once you have been exposed to Implodium, cannot stop having. The most tangible emanation of the highly infectious nightmare is extreme mass insomnia and a terrible phobia about closing one's eyes - even for a blink. Reality becomes hazardously soporific for those people contaminated.

In the blink of an artificial eye Field Study's Man in E17 made our way to the Large Haddron Collider to warn the scientists of the consequences of Higgs Boson detection and harnessing. He and I banged and banged at the perimeter - the edge - of the site but our bangs were not big enough (boom! boom!) to be heard. We returned to the Olympic Park and pleaded with a security guard to call the games off - there's still time, it's not too late. They did not listen.
Sometime later, you might picture Field Study's Man in E17, in Charlton Heston-ian guise, floundering on the banks of the globally warmed tidal waters of the Lee - substitute horse for coconut shells and er, well one is not so deranged as to imagine eternity with that Girl Friday. Apes would not be one's nemesis but ferocious Buddleia. So here is that bit of futurology from Charlton Heston.    

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

a field student of prudence and prurience

Dick Turpin featured in the ramblings of Lost and Found in E17 a while ago and has just galloped through the thoughts of Field Study's Man in E17 again. Delusions of criminal grandeur are rare in the mind of this here field reporter and what elicited the highwayman this time is a dilemma concerning the taking, photographically, of other person's property in public spaces. It is not only the taking of photographs but also the reproduction and dissemination of the images which is at issue. There are criminal aspects to this aspect of the law, as well as civil. It may be illegal to photograph strategic locations e.g. military bases. It would be a civil issue in law to photograph another person's property and reproduce and disseminate the images without their consent. Of course, the legal details are not straight forward and I wouldn't pretend to be familiar with them nor competent in their use. 
So photographs I took on Newcomen St (a public highway) of building façades have not been reproduced or published here.

Also, it seems there may be some grey in the area of hyper-linking to other web sites without the consent of their owners, so I have opted for straight forward references which I believe do not require permission.
This can be understood as taking myself too seriously although the reaction to the law and my understanding of it serves as an illustration pertinent in many respects to some of the content or themes of the post.
As a further illustration of the restrictions on reproduction of images, try going to Newcomen St, London via Google Maps - and use the 'street view' facility to view some of the building façades. One of the buildings, featured in this post, has been adjusted so as not to show the faces or identities of the building's ornamental busts.
As Field Study's Man in E17 I drifted on London's streams of tarmac consciousness looking for situations with which to nourish my psyche. Utopia bobbed about tantalizingly in the distance and I wondered if prurience and self interest have any currency there. Alas Utopia submerged into the course of one of the capital's lost rivers and I was left wondering what to do about my self-interest and prurience. Could I discover sites of deeply topographic and mythogeographic delectation; ambrosial delights (if you will) to cleanse my soul and inflame less prurient passions?  How might nectarous situations encountered further afield in London (if the place exists) be compared and contrasted with others closer to home in Walthamstow, E17 (if the place exists)? Where in E17 might I enjoy such spectacles as the façades featured in the absent 'photographs' below?

1. façade of 9, Mollison House, Newcomen St, London - with ornamental busts and flag pole. 

2. doorway to 9, Mollison House.

3. detail of one of the busts. Each bust portrays a different person.

4. detail of another bust and a plaque commemorating John Marshall. 

5. close up view of another bust, also showing staining by grime/air pollution.

Who the stony figures are, when they were created and what they represent are questions which are each likely to have rational answers however this is not necessarily the place to find those answers. They can be characters waiting to be invented by whoever takes the time, space and energy to notice them. Add spuriousness to self interest and prurience. Were they gagging, wheezing and coughing in the grime laden air of the ravine that is Newcomen Street? Is that what made me look up and notice them for the first time after years of opting for this bottleneck into Borough High Street, rather than the others (similarly bottlenecked) to the north and south of the junction? Do 'functional' and 'junction' come close in the working vocabulary of Transport for London, or whoever it is that creates and manages what I think are despicable locations - 'dysjunctions'. Just how horrific and macabre are their fume stained faces leaching, exuding, expiating some foul superunnatural particulate matter? Is this purgatory? As if the air were not smut ridden enough Field Study's Man in E17 started thinking about flag pole jokes. As you can't see by their expressions, the worthy and most philanthropic and charitable figures of yore were not amused by my attempts at light relief. 
Oh no, you don't think I actually stood on the pavement beneath them telling them flag pole jokes out loud do you? That would be mad or a little eccentric to say the least. No no no, I just had to think the jokes through because, you see (or rather you don't), they can read my mind. Yes, amiss it is of me to make light of mental illness if, that is, imagining stone ornaments (distressingly) reading my mind is a symptom of mental illness - a paranoid delusion.

6. detail of doorbell at entrance to Mollison House.

Perhaps I should have rung the bell and asked for help. The building is, or has been, a part of Kings College/Guys Hospital - a department or office of sociology and psychology. Please ask your colleagues to stop reading my mind, I might have pleaded. It is distressingly ironic the area is so congested by motor traffic, and thus the air as polluted, given one of the area's principal residents is a hospital. I have driven a van (for work) a lot in that area although recently I have, thankfully, been able to do most of the work by bicycle and on foot. By those means I can see a lot more.

Too much, may be, for someone prone to prurience, for as I reeled from the psychic trespass I turned my gaze from the north to south and found a fine example of a lion and unicorn coat of arms - the heraldic coat of arms for the United Kingdom. I was impressed by their 'endowment' prominently displayed upon the façade of The Kings Arms public house. I don't know of any other 'lion and unicorn' in which the beasts' retracted phalli are still so prominent; fantastically, comically and luridly even.              

7. the façade of The Kings Arms, with heraldic coat of arms. 

8. Lion and Unicorn coat of arms

9. detail of coat of arms showing the Unicorn's retracted phallus.

What this interest says of the near nobody I am is likely to be of little consequence. Indeed, the subtleties and complexities of that coat of arms are above my head in many ways. 
There are though more notable figures strutting their stuff in the euro-political bestiary over the crisis of confidence in the Eurozone. David Camerom's lion-hearted (depending on your ideological stance) veto of 'the new accord'* has got Alex Salmond's horn in a twist over the lack of a risk assessment for the Scottish economy and those of the other devolved governments or nations. 'Risk assessment' sounds very lame and very easily conjures analogies with 'Europe' as an interfering control** freak. True to Tory bravado on issues of British nationhood, David Mundell, the only Scottish Conservative MP, is reported in the Financial Times*** as commenting on Alex Salmond's need for any fig leaf to ‘save his embarrassment’. Not quite!
David Cameron might regard himself as needing to be less modest especially when accompanied by his yapping pack of protective bulldogs. He seems intent, even hell-bent, on protecting 'the City' which could be regarded as an island state according to its own laws and fiscal customs. Cameron's Utopian Kingdom will not kowtow to the delusions of mainland Europe; 'genuine fiscal stability unions' threaten to smother the golden glow emanating from the rainbows end where is 'the City' and the promise of Mammon.
This cynicism is obvious and clichéd; I don't deny. When I returned home this evening from work in another field of London dreams at large - a day of traipsing up, down and around the swanky affluence of Wimbledon - I planted myself in front of the evening news to watch the spectacle of Conservative MPs congratulating and supporting their leader on his steadfastness. Was it really David Cameron PM who single-handedly vetoed the accord? What seemed perverse to me was their barracking of their Liberal Democrat colleagues, revelling in the trashing of whatever political credibility the 'Lib Dems' had left. The political vaudeville may be very amusing evening viewing however the spittle infused glee in the mockery convinced me this was stupid, irritating, ridiculous and contemptible. There are derisive and vulgar slang words beginning with 'd' or 'p' which less polite people could use to refer to people (mainly men) behaving so crassly. Not me; well not that you could hear or read off the page. I think those characters on, 9 Mollison House might have read my thoughts though. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

Watch out for lions and unicorns in Walthamstow.





** - Jon Swaine, 'Bent banana and curved cucumber rules dropped', The Telegraph, 24/7/08. 


*** - Andrew Bolger, 'Salmond seeks explanation from Cameron', Financial Times, 12/12/11.