Project: Edgelands (Exercise 2.6)

Edgelands

By  Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts.

This exercise asks us to read two chapters from this book. I have also read the introductory chapter.

Albeit that I live in the ‘idyllic’ rural county of Devon now, I can wholly relate to the sentiments of the opening chapter that describes living in an urban sprawl as a child – wondering if the countryside actually existed and how anybody actually gets there. I was born and raised in Slough. I spent a few years living on a country estate (in a gate house) but beyond that the urban jungle of M25, M4, M40, A4, GWR, Heathrow flight path and Greater London Council post war estates was the habitat for my family. There were pockets of countryside but always a reminder pulsed – in the form of distant vehicle rumblings on the outer London arterial routes.

The term ‘edgelands’ encompasses the outer areas where rural and urban begin to bleed into each other. These areas are a feeding ground for psychogeographers to document the mess humans make of the landscape now that capitalism dominates.

Wire:

 As I read Wire, I ponder that the authors are harking back to an era when land was laid to waste and ‘secured’ with 6-foot high chain link fences. Only a few decades later, every square inch is at a premium. The rebirthing of edgelands into housing estates, shopping outlets and industrial units render the edgelands of the 1980’s as a distant memory, where working class kids roamed before the health and safety clampdown. Instead of iPhones and PS3’s, we had abandoned tyres, rubble and burnt out cars to cut our teeth on.

The chapter ‘Wire’ goes on to consider these boundaries at places such as Greenham Common and how the memories of the back end of the last millennium are wrapped up in the chain link fences. There is also an anecdote about the boundaries where grieving was ‘allowed’. Largely confined to graveyards, shrines are now found at the point of the last breath of a loved one. Now these shrines are legislated for.

 Power:

 This chapter looks at how the landscape affects our psychological state. The signification of industrial units looming over us can conjure up depressing metaphors.

A poem entitled ‘A, a, a, Domine Dues’ by David Jones explains his inability to see Gods land in the face of the emerging civilisation and its technology punctuating the landscape. Another extract from Wagner demonstrates observations of Didcot Power Station juxtaposed against the backdrop of a beautiful sky. He makes comparisons of the power station against a cathedral and how it conjures up the story of the crucifixion in his mind.

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