Thursday, 31 January 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 is just another hole in the wall

I dragged ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ down Walthamstow High Street. I was very keen to find out what he would make of a curious local cultural trace alerted to me by a photograph in the Walthamstow High Street exhibition at Vestry House Museum. I asked the field student if he had ever looked closely at the walls of our local cinemas, or rather, the walls of buildings that were cinemas, then (most likely) bingo halls, and now buildings that are quite likely to be closed down, boarded up and semi-derelict; such is the contemporary dissolution of high street culture and commerce. Well, have you? What did you notice? What could you have overlooked? Our destination was the Dominion Cinema (1930-1961), Buxton Rd, E17.

The field student told me he got a B+ in ‘George Perec Street Studies’ and qualified this (psycho school) report by adding confidently he is ‘pretty good at noticing things’ and if he has overlooked anything he has done so for the benefit of artists who need people to overlook things as a basis for their artistic practices. He whispered something in my ear about a Susan Hiller however the comment was obliterated by a “pound a bowl” yell entering my thoughts via the other ear.

I grew tired of dragging and carrying the field student. He seemed unusually heavy and so I asked if he would walk with me instead. He agreed and as we walked I noticed his pockets were bulging and tunefully jangling with small change.

“What’s with all the shrapnel, ‘Field Study’s Man’?” I asked with growing concern at his descending trousers.

“I’ve been saving up to buy each tin of tomatoes listed in the Archipelago of Truth’s 2013 tinned tomato price comparison,” he replied, showing no concern about his trousers.

“What! Why?”

“Price is all well and good but I think we will have to undertake an intensive Technomist tinned tomato taste comparison.”

Gross, I thought. The prospect of an exclusive diet of tinned tomatoes filled me with dyspeptic gloom and I warned the field student, “If you buy all those tins of tomatoes I’m going to have a lobotomy, mate!” The field student grumbled, uttering something about health benefits. I tried to make a mental note, to write to Archipelago of Truth, to ask for a Czeck/Polish/Euro beer price comparison, in the hope of inspiring a less salubrious (more nihilistic) fetish in the field student. I struggled to complete the note, so manic was the field student’s Perec inspired documenting of the banalities of the street.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘shrapnel’ is a word used informally to denote small change, while the formal meaning is of small metal fragments thrown out by the explosion of a bomb. ‘Shrapnel’ is derived from the name of British soldier, General Henry Shrapnel, on account of his invention of ‘Shrapnel Shells’. The shattering power of highly explosive ordnance has a grim resonance with the high street, in particular the tragic occasion of a flying bomb that hit the high street (the Hoe St end) in 1944, killing many and destroying a lot of property. There is a detailed map of the extent of the bomb damage (1939-1945) presented in, ‘The War Over Walthamstow’, (Ross Wyld) – the map presents an array of horrific black dots and square framed triangles imposed on a town street plan. I thought about many of the buildings featured in the VHM exhibition that were erased and absent from the area as a consequence of World War II and how some buildings (not in E17) retain the pock marks of WWII shrapnel/blast damage to this day; an example being the exterior wall of Tate Britain along Atterbury Street.

The field student and I discussed pre-1960s anti-war films and which one we would chose as the greatest. I opted for, All Quiet on the Western Front. He disagreed with, Paths of Glory. The corner of Buxton Road and High Street saw us in a sombre mood as we arrived to begin our examination of the cultural trace. Revealed below (photographically) is a spattering of holes carved with coins into the bricks of the cinema wall, mainly alongside Mission Grove, by the long lost queues of Dominion Cinema goers – a phenomenon I have not encountered elsewhere.

The Dominion Cinema (1930-1961), Buxton Rd/Mission Grove E17
26th January 2013

Our mood was temporarily lifted by the oddness of the spectacle. We had indeed overlooked the coin inscribed expression on the many occasions we had passed by along Mission Grove. The field student immersed himself in thoughts about the films that may have drawn round-the-block queues of cinephiles to the Dominion during its years as a cinema, 1930-1961. Which films were so eagerly anticipated, and such a must see, that folk might start queuing long before the opening? In what frames of mind were the film-goers that they would scratch and bore those neat convex holes into the bricks? We wondered; boredom and impatience? Tense excitement? Reveries inspired by the idols of the dream factories – every hole made in homage to the stars? Were some of the holes expressions of suppressed desires, the promise of illicit canoodles in the back rows? Could the holes have been a quirk, a local joke, a meme of minimalist abstract complexity specific to the Dominion goers? Did the Dominion Cinema carve out a cinematic niche for itself in the area as it was then well populated by cinemas? (See Jonathan Brind) Which genres – thrillers, westerns, war, musicals, and romantic comedy... would inspire this behaviour? The shuffling of feet, laughter and chatter, calling out names, coughs amidst plumes of fag smoke, sucking on boiled sweets, a testudo of umbrellas in resilient defence against the elements, the collective chinks of metal against masonry and mortar, the un-belonging of the street eating into the belonging and property of the cinema, a multi facetted ritual constituting some eternal bedrock of ‘being together’**. Just what sort of trade (as in trodden path) in feelings and ideas was made there by the holes? The last film I recall queuing round-the-block for was ‘Batman’ at a cinema in Crewe in 1989. Did we make holes in the wall?

I noticed that ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ had started to map the holes, plotting them precisely on brick like gridded pages in his notebook. He turned to me with a crazed expression on his face and said, “This is a code!” Oh dear, it seemed as if the field student’s imagination had gotten the better of him again and that some sneaky left brain intervention was in order to bring him to his senses. I was interested to know what he would make of the wall but ‘code’ potentially meant a long night of waiting around. I suggested we see if any contemporary coins fitted the holes. “You are such a boring fart!” the field student scowled, and continued to decipher the cosmic inscriptions. I would have to give him a chance to get the code delusion out of his system.

I made a mental retreat to a book, Barry Norman’s, ‘100 Best Films of the Century’ (Orion, 1998), while the field student graphed the cinema wall. I supposed that most of the films watched in the Dominion Cinema were made in Hollywood, along with a lesser proportion made in Pinewood, Elstree and Ealing, and fewer still perhaps from continental studios? Norman’s introduction recounts some of the history of Hollywood film production. Hollywood was ravaged by television in the 1950s and towards the end of the 50s and into the 1960s it shifted its focus to financing European including British film. The influence of television on film in the 1950s also led ‘Hollywood’ to produce hugely expensive Technicolor epics. The films were so expensive and sometimes all most ruinous to the studios that it became cheaper, more viable and profitable to finance/dominate film making and consumption in Britain and elsewhere. The Dominion, closing down in 1961, did not see the full flowering of the ‘fool’s paradise’ of 1960s ‘British’ cinema – a challenging assertion to make as it could have been a period during which more compelling visions of British class identities and stories might have been projected by that cinema. The wall of the Dominion Cinema is an intriguing part of a complex story of transitions in the power of Hollywood as an influence on the collective psyche; a psyche that continues to change as radically or drastically with the influence of the internet on home enetertainment.

Barry Norman makes an interesting comment in terms of ‘Lost and Found in E17’ being a blog about ‘psychogeography’. He writes, ‘Hollywood is not so much a place as a state of mind.’  There is a link to be made here to another blog (The Psychogeographic Review) where I questioned an interpretation of Daniel Defoe’s, Journal of the Plague Year, as ‘plagueography’ rather than ‘psychogeography’. In some respects Barry Norman’s concise statement about Hollywood supports the ‘plagueography’ idea – the plague separating people from the physical environment perhaps akin (though less pathologically) to people being fully immersed or lost in a film. I struggle to get my head around (sic) such a schism or concept. The Dominion Cinema wall is a site that can be interpreted ‘psychogeographically’ rather than it being a ‘psychogeographic’ site. Cinemas, working or not, express a sort of charged relationship and that wall is for me a potent manifestation of a relationship between mind and place but they, as places, can be overlooked as just bricks and mortar. May be it was the bingo goers who made the holes?

Field Study’s Man in E17 yawned loudly at my middle brow ruminations and handed me ‘something much more exciting’, a map of the Dominion’s semi-spheres.

“Where are we going with this?”

“Nowhere off course.”

** - Michel Maffesoli - Walking in the Margins//2002 - from, The Everyday, Documents of Contemporary Art, edited by Stephen Johnstone. (Whitechapel/MIT Press)

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 loses himself in a phantasmagoria of music hall variety

Palace Mews, E17 26th January 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 loses himself in a phantasmagoria of music hall variety

It is just over 110 years since the grand opening of The Palace Theatre on Walthamstow High Street. I forget if, at the time of the opening (Monday 28th December 1903), the high street was still called Marsh Street. I found out about this opening by visiting the free exhibition, 'Walthamstow High Street' at Vestry House Museum. The exhibition, which runs to 24th February, is an enjoyable collection of artefacts, mainly photographs along with old music hall leaflets and posters, oral histories - all well presented and supplemented by informative texts. It was the Palace Theatre posters I enjoyed, including the poster for the grand opening, which featured the announcement:

'expensive engagement of Fred Karno's company of speechless comedians in, Jailbirds - the funniest absurdity ever seen. 30 minutes continual roars of laughter. Scene 1 The Banquet Card Burglary, Scene 2 Corridor of Prison, Scene 3 The Quarry at Portland.

The theatre, up until it's demolition in 1960, has an intriguing 'sub-history' that involves a veiled Italian countess who may have been a Mussolini show girl. I was so engrossed in the exhibition that I assumed the creaking floorboards of the exhibition space signalled the presence of just another ordinary punter come to immerse themselves in the slightly elegiac history of a high street. I felt a little uncomfortable as he or she stood right behind me, breathing heavily over my shoulder and, just as I started to turn to move away, I heard an exclamation, "Mamma Mia!", exclaimed in a terrible Italian accent, and caught a glimpse of 'Field Study's Man in E17' making his way to High Street, Walthamstow to look for traces of the funniest absurdities ever seen. 

Palace Mews E17, 26th January 2013. 

Site of the Palace Theatre?

Field Study's Man in E17 seemed most concerned that the water mains replacement/market displacement work in progress on the high street might have disturbed some of the spirits of Walthamstow's music hall past. In his mind 57 years of variety, courtesy of the Palace Theatre, was about to reemerge - in a huge phantasmagorical spectacle but with no stage. Marie Lloyd, The Dream Nudes, The Mighty Atom, Gertie Gitana, Maria Di Calci, Al Perry, Edward Petrof, the Del Rosa Dancers and Billie Roche were just a small part of the ghostly bill playing on his mind. Would the high street shoppers be so spooked and annoyed by the wonderful bicycling acts of the great Lavender Troupe that they would desert the high street in favour of online and mall shopping? Unlikely.  Would the ghosts of the Palace Theatre gatecrash Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub? Unlikely. I just managed to intervene when someone asked the haunted field student why he was taking photographs of the alley way that is Palace Mews. I pulled him away before he could talk about mass music hall 'hauntings', and pointed to some signs we had only just noticed despite our many trips up and down the high street.

I took him in the direction of the Dominion Cinema to investigate an odd trace of Walthamstow's long lost cinema goers. 


Here are some links to Fred Karno:

Khaotic - The Fred Karno Story - Poverty Corner

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 rambles in the nether regions of Walthamstow

When not wandering around Walthamstow/E17 studying, if not getting completely lost up his nether orifice, 'Field Study's Man in E17' has been known to take an interest in less insular matters and to look to the experiences and accomplishments of others to broaden his Walthamstow view. So in the last 8 (at the time of writing) days I have looked for the field student, with the guarded hope he has resumed such outward looking activities as attending talks and meetings, with particular relevance to Walthamstow.


Before I list the events attended I feel compelled to say this diligent 'activated spectatorship' (to use contemporary art jargon) is not without considerable risk when it comes to 'Field Study's Man in E17'; his propensity for asking damn awful questions when it comes to the Q&A part of an artist talk is remarkable. 'Remarkable'? That conceit is what he tried to convince me of. 'Nobody asked such a bad question as I did', he told me as we left a discussion between Iain Sinclair and Rachel Whiteread, that was a part of the 'Psycho Buildings' exhibition programme at the Hayward Gallery in 2008.


I recorded the discussion (for personal study/use) and when I played the recording back I had to agree with the field student that the question was indeed diabolical. 'Listen to that', he cried with laughter. 'I am easily the worst 'questioneer' in the world. Call me, 'Thee Crap Questioneer'', he bragged. I was mortified to think that 'Field Study's Man in E17' was sabotaging arts events with deliberately bad questions and decided to refrain from further similar participatory actions in the field. That decision was made before the schism that finds 'Lost and Found in E17' and 'Field Study's Man in E17' in search of each other, or at least the former in search of the latter, and not least because the latter can really be an 'arse'.


Before I list the events attended I feel compelled to say something about the question the field student put to Rachel Whiteread way back in 2008. That encounter has weighed heavily on my mind ever since. Unfortunately, 'Field Study's Man in E17' had been reading, 'Playing and Reality' (D. W. Winnicott) and was particularly taken by Chapter 4, 'Creative Activity and the Search for the Self'. DWW asserts,


'(i)f the artist (in whatever medium) is searching for the self, then it can be said in all probability there is some failure for that artist in the field of general creative living. The finished creation never heals the underlying lack of sense of self.'


The field student waited patiently, with mounting trepidation, well into the audience/panel Q&A session before he grasped the microphone and lobbed a very poorly formed question, (based on Winnicott's assertion) at the eminent artist. The question was edged with a sense of assertion, even an accusation that, in his mind, Rachel Whiteread may have demonstrated failure in the field of general creative living. What did he mean? The question was crass and (some might say euphemistically?) ‘excremental’. There was no genuine reason to suppose and/or assert Rachel Whiteread’s creativity in her public art work did not extend into her field of general living and really, if it did or didn’t it was (and is) none of my business. Playing the question back caused me hot flushes of embarrassment. How could you, Field Study’s Man in E17, how could you? I should really rub your nose in it. 

I tried to excuse the crassness of the question by recalling an interview with John Tusa in which Rachel Whiteread spoke of personal/family experiences and how she expressed them through her sculpture – or understood something of the experiences through the sculptures. The division of public and private was blurred though not sufficiently to make that disparaging assertion about a prominent artist’s creative life as a whole.


Rachel Whiteread’s work has often embodied (paradoxically) relationships between private and public, interior and exterior, material and immaterial; those binary divisions assumed in order to make everyday life less perplexing. Asserting that artists are persons who search; what is/was it that RW searched for in the process of solidifying the nether spaces of household furnishings? During the Psycho Building conversation, Field Study’s Man in E17 thought the lost subject of Whiteread’s search was the reverie she experienced as a child while sitting in cupboards/wardrobes and similar poetic spaces. Why would that search be indicative of a failure of general creative living?


What particular relevance could RW have to Walthamstow? Field Study’s Man in E17 has reported on intrepid archaeological adventures partaken beneath his bed and this leads to 2 examples of RW’s work, Untitled (Amber Double Bed) and Untitled (Amber Bed), which see the nether spaces of 2 beds solidified in rubber and high density foam, and the resulting objects slumped against walls just like abandoned mattresses. Of course, Walthamstow is a prime destination for connoisseurs of sublimely dumped mattresses (once very private and intimate places) thanks to the work of the Walthamstow Tourist Board. The field student is fascinated by the map-like stains – topographies of his sublime perhaps? It may be a cheap reference to make to the high art of RW, however the artist has acknowledged the importance of the phenomenon of urban discard and detritus in her work.


Back in January 2013 and it has become a matter of urgency that I try to reconnect with ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ not least as a way of trying to contain his potentially rank interrogations. Yesterday I attempted to look for the field student under my bed and quite alarmingly I found myself repelled and projected away by a rubbery mass. It seems the field student has resorted to artistic means to avoid ‘reconnection’.


So after that circuitous ramble the list of the events attended:


On 15th January I picked up a trail, pointed to by the Archipelago of Truth, that lead to Walthamstow Central Library and there I found Clive Bloom (‘an historian of disturbance’) in the company of some Waltham Forest Young Advisors for a panel talk and audience discussion about the 2011 Riots and related issues. The field student asked CB how strained relations between central government, the media and the police might have affected the policing of the riots. I’m trying to locate the report from the errant field student. On Sunday 20th January he left a message he had buried the report in the middle of Walthamstow Marsh. I believed him and went looking for it!


On 21st January I pursued Field Study’s Man in E17 towards Tottenham Marsh and found myself/the field student at the Ferry Boat Inn, in the company of East London Beekeepers. It was a very convivial and informative evening; an occasion when the field student could ask stupid questions about the limits of his beekeeping knowledge, and be advised most sympathetically and expertly. A discussion about dowsing and ley lines in relation to beekeeping certainly animated the field student’s eyebrows and before I knew it he was off with his rods and quickly found one of the reservoirs. How many times have I told you, Field Study’s Man in E17, you must use waterproof ink for your reports?


On 23rd January I squeezed into the Hornbeam Cafe where close on 40 people had gathered to listen to a couple, Naomi and Pip, give an account of their ‘WWOOF-ing’ journey around the southwest country and Wales last year. Their rural bicycle rides took them to a diversity of organic farms, gardens and communities. At each they were provided with food, shelter and a growing awareness of alternatives to large scale industrial horticulture and agriculture – partly in return for their labour, energy, enthusiasm and experience – all of which are worthy of a field report although Field Study’s Man in E17 may not be the reporter for the job for reasons that may be all too apparent.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Walthamstow Marsh - a field study of an inactive imagination

a map of the nowhereabouts of Field Study's Man in E17
I have lost ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ though this does not mean he (or it) is lost. While I have endured some sleepless nights imagining the field student being swept away by a newly formed brooklet in a dark nook of Walthamstow Forest, it is possible he is well, at large and quite oblivious to the distress he has caused in the mind (mine) he abandoned. I have busied myself this weekend with practical tasks such as helping out at Organiclea’s fruit and veg’ stall at the Hornbeam and, this Sunday morning, I grasped a metaphorical sweet (or dead) nettle and got on with some thinking and planning for this year’s growing season at the allotment. The birds out in the garden pecked at the newly installed feeder filled with nuts and dried grubs while I contemplated the merits of various beetroot cultivars. If there is a causal relationship between thinking about beetroots and birds pecking at feeders then the explanation is likely to be circuitous and demanding of (an) active imagination as advocated by C. Jung:

Perhaps it was the imperative of a Jungian reclamation or retrieval of 'Field Study’s Man in E17', and a field studied rationale for a beetroot-peck link, that caused me to leave the comfort of my centrally heated cloister and make for another ‘Walthamstow’ in the form of a snowy marsh, where to the field student might have wandered in the recent disorientating white out.

ghostly footsteps of Field Study's Man in E17

Could I really hear the steps, from Church Hill, of ‘Field Study’s Man’ getting lost in the slushy expanse of Walthamstow Marsh? I hotfooted down the high street in the direction of the footsteps. It was an action that may have been a tad precipitous for so hot did my booted feet become that, in conjunction with my bulk, I found myself in a perilous predicament upon the ices of the marsh.

A vacant cranium 'ahotfoot' on thin ice

It seemed I was ill booted for a free roaming traipse across the marsh and thus I loitered by a hole that may have been where Field Study’s Man in E17 had disappeared. I associated the hole with an anus and proceeded to lose myself in the intricacies of its form until I found myself walking a less paludal route across the marsh. 

I stood at the edge of the origins of the specious

I encountered a fellow rambler and warned him of the thin ice ahead of him and how, in his boots, I would not go much further. He thanked me for the warning and added, ‘I thought I saw you acting strangely’. I think he might have caught a glimpse of ‘Field Study’s Man in E17.’

Thursday, 17 January 2013

"Is it safe?" - a field student of Freudian interpretations and Richards translations.

In September 2012, during the E17 Art Trail, I part exchanged some climbing french beans for a copy of, The Interpretation of Dreams, Vol.4, by Sigmund Freud. My paperback copy is published by Penguin Books and is the 1991 reprint of the edition published in Pelican Books in 1976. Some of the translation and editorial matter copyright is attributed to Angela Richards. I don't wish to breach copyright so in order to introduce another episode in the rambles of Field Study's Man in E17, with a reference to one of the great psycho-analysts, I shall point you in the direction of page 473 where a connection is made between dreams of wooded hills and genetalia. Perhaps something is lost in my quoteless interpretation. My copy, of The Interpretation of Dreams (4), is an 871 page forest of symbols into which I have made only a few very superficial excursions and quite how such latent meanings are derived is quite a mystery to me. Here then is an account of a dream that began in Walthamstow Forest, for your interpretation.

Thursday 10th January found ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’ walking eastwards along Forest Road up to Waterworks Corner and Walthamstow Forest, to make a twilight trek through the forest to Highams Park Boating Lake, where he would survey a stretch of the River Ching. The rains had abated so how had that affected the Ching?

The forest paths were exceptionally muddy, flowing with covinous depths of squelch, slip and sludge. The paths often disappeared into more expansive and troublingly deeper quagmires. Those ponds of sticky arboreal ooze waited to suck the footwear messily off any foolhardy clod-hoppers who dared to cross directly. The field student deftly bypassed the fermenting brews of sodden mould and mineral, and made remarkable progress to reach Highams Park Boating Lake before dark. What an intrepid adventurer he!

He tried to convince me of his fearlessness in the service of psycho-geographical curiosity. I countered his conceit by reminding him of some flutters and tremors in a moment of the walk when he, ‘Field Study’s Man in E17’, was more goose than man fleshed. We carefully retraced the puddled remains of his steps and located the site of the hair on end, knocking knee moment and peered into the watery shallows of a boot print memory and listened.

Rubber tyres rushed on tarmac and their noises flowed collectively over from the ravine that was the nearby North Circular Road. The din intruded, he recalled, into what would otherwise have been an enchanting and tranquil place. We ‘tutted’ in agreement and, by some strange coincidence, the invasive drone of the A406 stopped immediately. As suddenly, an eerie welter of new, less voluminous noises prowled and crept around the spot into which he was gradually sinking, horrified and (I heard) wishing for the return of the reassuring road noise. A dog barked and the waves of the highway returned to drown the murmurs and sibilance of his mysterious assailants. He did not want to elaborate on the nature of the voices, if that was what they were. He mumbled incoherently and all I could discern were the words, ‘uliginous’ and ‘chthonic’.

I tried to reassure him the forest was a relatively safe place and that he should not let his imagination get the better of him; a remark he scolded me for. I persuaded him to continue walking the memory of the trek and so I followed him as he returned to the boating lake.

He recollected the ethereal pulsing sounds of ghostly swans that traversed the lake trying to launch their selves from the surface of the darkening water into the evening sky. The Ching, we observed by his mind’s eyes, flowed deep though not so deep as to overflow or breach the brutal ‘ditchification’ of the rivers course. The water was a disappointing swill of tea coloured silt made all the more moribund by the fading light.

We completed the recollection of his lakeside circumambulation when we emerged onto the street light splashed darkness of, The Charter Road. Behind us the swans continued traversing the lake, though with an increasing desperation and discord in the rhythm of their wing beats. The field student told me the swans were tethered to the lake by the weight of their reflections in the leaden water. He added urgently, ‘don’t, whatever you do, look back!’ I did not ask why.

We started walking towards Higham’s Park. A man, walking by us in the opposite direction, took us by surprise when he stopped and asked us if it was safe to go into the forest. He pointed to the forest whence we had come. ‘It’s very dark and muddy’, the field student told him while refraining from sharing anything more of the disturbed immersion in the boggy glade. The field student pointed to my mud caked shoes and splattered trousers. ‘That’s ok, I’m a gardener’, the stranger replied, pointing to his immaculately polished black leather shoes that glinted in the douche of street light. The stranger’s trousers were similarly immaculate in their cleanliness and sharpness of their crease. I wondered what sort of gardener he was. He went on to explain he had gotten lost in that part of the forest until, that is, he found himself out of the forest and in the open space of a large park. ‘I don’t remember the name of the park’, he sighed.

Suddenly I realised Field Study’s Man in E17 was lost for he had gone back into the forest and was trying to find his way to the park the stranger spoke of. I stood at the forest edge and heard the perplexed cries of the field student. “What park?” “I can’t find the park!” “There is no damned park!” His cries faded and drifted in the torrent of sound emanating from the North Circular. I had lost him between Epping Forest and Walthamstow Forest.
I turned around and saw the stranger heading off in the direction of the statue of Winston Churchill at Woodford Green. I shivered at the thought of his destination and walked away down Handsworth Avenue into Highams Park. Along the way I looked over towards the dark mass of the forests looming over the suburban streets. I wondered if I would ever retrieve my imagination from Walthamstow Forest.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

a field student of webbing into electronic gizmos

Iain Sinclair commented recently on the value of walking and the experience of psychogeography for him - as a means to 'provoke fictions and stories and build up an anthology of the possible....', a process that counters the inert experiences of e.g. people travelling on the public transport system while 'webbed into their electronic gizmos'. Iain Sinclair was moving, bumping and tramping with John McCarthy between some of the churches of Nicholas Hawksmoor in the East End. Their conversation was featured on BBC R4 Saturday Live on 22nd December and there is a very nearly a whole year left to listen to their excursion should you be interested in the veritable and venerable perambulators' fascinating theories on Hawksmoor and urban energies. Just in case you haven't got time to listen (again) to IS and JM this year, Saturday Live is available as a podcast which means it is possible to download that programme and save it for a rainy day much further into the future. You might upload the podcast to an electronic gizmo and listen while out walking or travelling by whatever means you happen to chose.
Field Study's Man in E17 is my imaginary friend who I go out for walks with however sometimes, well usually, he or it does not have a lot to say, so I confess to occassionally webbing myself into an electronic gizmo and nullifying all the fantastic urban energies Walthamstow has to offer most evenings. I did so this evening. When I got home I lamented on the lost opportunity in not using IS and JM as audio companions for my walk. I thought it would have been a nod to Situationist derivation to keep repeating their conversation for the duration of my/our walk in and of the East End and Walthamstow. Surreality might have been experienced had I cut up their conversation and reassembled it in the manner of a surrealist game or as another nod to William Burroughs - walking around E17 consuming some sort of schizoid naked lunch. Another evening may be.
This evening my psychogeographically detatched walk was temporarily interupted when I 'bumped' into a young Italian woman who, with 2 similarly aged companions, approached me just outside the Nags Head and asked if I knew where there are rooms to rent in Walthamstow. I was quite surprised by her question and we struggled to communicate through the language barrier about how to find somewhere to live. I suggested, estate agents, local newspapers, noticeboards and web sites. One of her companions translated as I apologised for not knowing where there is a room to rent. It seemed like quite an odd yet charmingly naive way of going about looking for somewhere to live - just approaching complete strangers in the darkness of an E17 evening. What would you have said to her? Why not, when in Rome or were we in London? I wished her and her companions good luck and we made our separate ways. A little later I wondered if they were actually Italian psychogeography students on a field trip to intervene in and disrupt the isolation of webbed in electronic gizmoism.
I continued my less than imaginative walk plugged into the corporate entertainment machine and here is the playlist for the duration of this evening's walk.
Come With Us - Brian Eno and David Byrne
Computer Love - Kraftwerk
Cos Specjalnego - Novi Singers
Cosmic Carwash - Blectum from Blechdom
Dance Rehearsal - Moondog
Dawn - The Cinematic Orchestra
Piece for Solo Flute - Dead Can Dance and Tangerine Dream
Desert of Ice - Terry Riley
Dirty Harry - Gorillaz
Dissolved Girl - Massive Attack
Dollars and Cents - Radiohead
A Door Opens and Closes - Soft Machine
Druids Circle - John Surman
Eiweib - Schneider
at the end of which I arrived back at my front door. By the way, a new Sue Ryder charity shop is due to open on the High St on 10th January  

Monday, 7 January 2013

the first field trip to the allotment in 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 found himself transporting a bottle of oxalic acid up to the allotment/apiary today. Oxalic acid is a very corrosive substance depending on the concentration. The bottle of oxalic acid I took was a 6% solution in sugar and distilled water, and it carried a warning sign similar to the one featured above. Why the need for this 'hazchem'? Oxalic acid is a substance used to treat colonies of honey bees for varroa mite infestation. The substance is so noxious in the confines of beehives it damages the mouthparts of the mites clinging to the adult honeybees and with damaged mouthparts the mites cannot feed and therefore die.
There is some debate about how oxalic 'works' and there are some additional and alternative theories about the acid treatment. Oxalic acid is supposed to be administered in December/early January because (in the UK) this is the time of year when the queen bee stops laying eggs due to the cold and lack of forage. With the honeybee colony in a form of hibernation there should be little or no brood in the hive (their nest). Varroa mites prefer to live on bee larvae (brood) protected and incubated within the wax honeycomb. Oxalic acid cannot penetrate the honeycomb however it will damage bee larvae in uncapped honeycomb. Oxalic acid is significantly less harmful to the adult honeybees although some practitioners of certain sorts of apiculture may argue differently.
I had some reservations about administering oxalic acid today. The weather has been so mild recently that it's likely queen bees have not stopped laying and therefore most hives/colonies will not be broodless. Even though the weather may have been mild enough not to discourage laying it is still cool enough (at 10 degrees e.g.) to adversely chill a colony if opening up the brood box and lifting the frames to check for brood. In addition to these concerns about oxalic acid treatment there is also one about nutrition and sustenance. There is little or no forage (nectar and pollen) at this time of year and so honeybees need to conserve honey stores and other nutrients in the combs and in their bodies as much as possible until the spring when plants start flowering and forage (nectar and pollen) becomes available. Winter brood may be counter-productive because it will use more of those stores.
While the weather has been mild and very wet through December into January it is quite possible there will be some very cold weather soon that will be to the detriment of  bee brood especially, let alone the potentially impoverished adult bee population.
The grim prognosis is malnourished diseased honeybee colonies less able to revive themselves in the spring and thus likely die off. I went ahead with the oxalic acid application anyway. I was told emphatically by the supplier that I should apply the acid in the concentration supplied in the bottle yet this evening I have read it is better to apply a 3.2% solution. There's not much I can do about it now if I have over dosed the bees.
A view of the apiary

Dead bees at the entrance of a hive - an occurrence usual at this time of year

Mold growing from/in one of the hive compartments probably due to the damp mild weather

Elsewhere on the allotment the garlic is beginning to grow and there is welcome evidence of worm activity in the raised beds.

and there was a well rotted pile of grass clippings and leaf mold replete with worms to salvage for the purposes of making a rich loam based compost which is very useful for dealing with the heavy clay soil on this site.

Field Study's Man in E17 did not lose himself entirely in the pleasures of the site for preying on his mind were various issues concerning Base Camp Beere closer to home in E17.