a journey

August 15, 2011

I’ve been thinking about how to describe the inner feelings felt on a simple journey. Of course, things like current mood, stresses and strains of work and maybe life together with the degree of relaxation dependent often on the other travellers – ‘I’m on the train’ – permitting.  It would be easier to make a video since ‘a journey’ is about movement whether physical or cerebral. So, at some stages of this journey I’ve tried to concentrate on the why, what and perhaps the where, of my feelings – within the remit of this blog and looked back at the odd scribble made in the notebook  as an immediate response at the time.

The cavernous Bo -Peep tunnel (first pic) at St Leonards station wants to suck you into its huge organ. Monumental in form and constructed to cope with the geology of the area and the network of underground springs that can destroy any burrowing and engineering. The tunnel is the longest on the Hastings to London line at 1200 m in length and formed an important connection also with the Brighton line and the necessity of conveying journeying holiday makers along the south coast in mid-Victorian times. Bo Peep, by the way, is an area between West St Leonards and Bulverhythe named because of the jostling between smugglers and the excise. A large barracks was set up to house soldiers working on and guarding structural defences against Napoleon. Today, the tunnel still has a presence but why all the signage – is it necessary or just the case of old signs left abandoned when replaced with the new version? This station has rather subtle corporate colours  . . . . they do  reflect a sense of history and are reassuring – they appear to me as though a lot of thought has gone into selection and the result has a feeling of quality which, I assume, is  the same attention to detail that this railway network uses in all areas.  . . . ?

The large substantial buildings around and overlooking the platforms give a sense of decayed reassurance too. The station retains the pretty canopy over platform 1.

Out of the tunnel and whizzing through the landscape of fields, mainly pasture, to the west with a roofscape of clouds that sandwich me into the ground plane . . .

. . and then patches of shaggy space alongside the track where seedling trees have been felled. I like this variation of textured space. The movement is too fast to identify much in detail now – growth is up and a spongey greenness, damp looking in the heavy conditions, is the major visual effect. I know from journeys made on this line in spring and early summer that the spirit lifts seeing carpets and sheets of fresh colour and texture breaking through the herb layer.

As I nearly always sit somewhere in the 2 front carriages, the close up view from the window at Wadhurst station is pretty much focused on the same planted bank – vigorous competition here and, I guess, little if no maintenance but a feeling of good plant natural  companionship that could well be ruined by management. Feeling dizzy now from trying to train the eyes to absorb at high speed  . . .

. . . the table, the notebook and the novel – quite the best novel by the way. Others do crosswords, especially in the morning, type into and watch things and listen to stuff on their notepads. A little boy asking his father?? fairly probing questions and saying at one point that his mother might be lonely at home without them. Would she be OK?

Rather a rush through areas of the city but a lovely lull standing on Piccadilly  talking to someone special before whizzing off to an appointment in Warren Street. That done, I can amble down TCR and CXR and stand and admire the static coloured facades framed by Denmark Street. It’s a congested junction and almost impossible to get a clear view. Of course, the coloured blocks help the eye to identify but the movement below wants to disrupt.

The trees in Phoenix Gardens beckon and the path on the street angles around the compost area – neat rolls of turf await? Turf to compost is laid face down so where are these destined for? The gardens continually change, in my experience, but have always retained a very decent sense of privacy for the visitors. The seating is well positioned and only offers maximum space for 2 so the internal  views often contain a single figure and also often a single head and shoulders as the planting is lush and rangey with plants intent on rising up to the light. Much of the material – hard material – is recycled and interestingly used such as the brick gabions and timber lath planters . . .

. .  domed brick circles for junctions within the simple path network. Colour on facades heightens the odd intrusion but also brings in something jolly.

In St Martin’s Place opposite the entrance to NPG, D + I talked about matters educational but with difficulty as ‘something’s kicking in! ‘ sirens and squealing brakes of police vans drowned out any quiet conversation. Nervousness grew which is a physical electricity. The Edith Cavell statue maintains a sense of calm with the inscription SACRIFICE  facing our direction.

Looking across William 1v Street to The Chandos, the automaton cellarman rhythmically moves up and down while the rotating globe on the Coliseum turns ‘elegantly and consistently’ or so says the web site. The general nervousness has people, me included, scurrying back to the station to catch the next train. We move like a tortoise across Hungerford Bridge past the Eye described on the web site as: ‘Like a skittsh kittem – like a loose firework – like a kid full of sweets’

And between here and London Bridge, compositions of built form snapped through the dirty windows . . .

. . . Southwark Cathedral is the last notable edifice on this route.

The landscape of Kent, above, is more arable overall  than East Sussex (image below).

And finally at Battle station, Grade 2 listed, a sense of ‘hurrah’! Enough sitting and contemplating. The journey up is never as slow as the journey down.

And to finish,  few conceptual diagrams to help me find a resolution – need to do more – and a little of amazing Jo Shapcott.Hope that’s OK with her.

I can shoot down a jet stream
so intense my body rises
a full forty feet and floats
on a bubble stem of grace
for just a few seconds
up there in the urban air    from  Jo Shapcott  Piss Flower

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