Archives for category: Travel

Auto scrapyard 1

Image courtesy and work of IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A short story, written in one sitting this afternoon (and I confess, not yet thoroughly proofed). This post is offered in the spirit of completion energy and is inspired by my current read, Jurgen Wolff’s “Your Creative Writing Masterclass” (Nicholas Brealey, 2012). The poem weaves together last night’s dream, some thoughts spurred by Earth Day and a futuristic location based loosely on a suburb of San Diego, CA.

Gone are the cars

I used to worry that I would be found out. But I have come to this conclusion, since everything is so carefully monitored, either someone is protecting me or the authorities are waiting for the right moment to take me down. I have come with my camera and a commission. I am to photograph the fading world of parked cars. Officially, I use a digital device for my work, but after finding a memory card mysteriously wiped after an assignment, I now carry two cameras. The other is based on pre-screen methods of image-capturing, with negatives and processed photographs. This is deemed intensely wasteful, which is why the practice was outlawed ages ago, but in my experience, these are the only photographs that no-one else can intercept. It is only through my own negligence that my physical negatives might be destroyed.

Tarmac roads are still in use in these outer neighbourhoods. The authorities feel no need to update the paving and roads, especially as these are still the areas in which cars are used for transport. I spot one a manhole cover. This is unusual. Even though they are unwieldy to move and heavy to carry, few remain. At metal recycling plants they fetch a hefty price as black-market items.

Of course, everyone is encouraged to recycle. The fines are hefty for the ‘lazy’ and ‘unconscious’ who neglect to put their trash out in the correct containers, on the designated day. Rules about which items may be mixed, which may be separated, what should be cleaned and what may be thrown in as is, change so often. For those who are able to afford it, specialist services will manage your trash separation. The services range from brand-mark companies, with symbiotic shares in the waste management and recycling sectors, to small-timers, individuals who will come to your house before collection to sort through items. Those who run these services, keep themselves updated about the changes, often by paying for the information from the authorities’ Environmental Support Departments.

“This here is the house of a ‘lazy’. You will see for yourself.” J knocks on the door.
“Coming,” wobbles a voice from within. A chain is removed. The door opens.
“Oh, so good to see you. Come in.”
“This is an old friend of mine. May…?”
“No need to ask. Come in. How lovely, my dear.” Two wrinkled hands clasp at our arms in greeting and drag us out of the sooty air into the dark corridor.
“Mrs B, shall we take your trash out while we’re here?”
“Please.”
“Mrs B has lived here, alone, for six years. Her family lives further North, in the New Town. She regularly forgets to sort her trash. She seldom remembers that items must be separated. When she does manage the sorting, she forgets to put the bins out.”
In the kitchen, we are confronted with piles of tins, empty plastic milk bottles, egg containers and the stench of food waste decomposing in a brown bin. A few fruit flies disappear up my nose. My sinuses inflame at the mould spores. I respond on instinct to these triggers. I pull up my lens.

After helping Mrs B with her trash for this week, J and I continue down the street. “It’s a losing battle. She’ll forget something next week and there will be another fine of 150 in addition to the 2570 already black-marked next to her name. We have been appealing, but the courts are delaying it in the hope that she will pass before the case is heard. The authorities will deduct the owed from her estate.”
“Don’t her children care?”
“They’re well established and it is not worth their while to have their names associated officially with a ‘lazy’. They have tried to send assistance, but Mrs B does not like strangers in her home. When they visit, they do what they can. If they take her into any of their households, Mrs B’s listed misdemeanours will follow. This will compromise the environmental points on their property.”

“And the unconscious? What’s the story there?”
“You’re smart. What do you think?”
“I’m guessing it’s the overworked, the other half. And the child-headed households.”

Two rusting beauties with fresh, pumped up tires are parked along the curbside. I walk around them, snapping close-ups. I stand back to capture the full bodies against the board houses and withered grass verges behind them. A few rats appear from the gutter-grilles, but when I step forward to include them in a shot, they’ve skimmed off. I turn to my host, “I can’t believe it’s been thirty years since I was last here. That exchange year made such an impact one me. I always thought I’d come back, but this place – it has changed. Even in those days, I knew it was desert country, but back then it was green, blue and sunny. Remember how from our campus cafeteria, over the suburban roofs, you could see a thin strip of the Ocean as it met the sky. All around the library were those glades of cooling trees. And remember our newly built residences? I remember the landscaping: neat green shrubs and bird of paradise flowers added for colour.”

“My parents had a spectacular bird of paradise outside the front door. Every year it shot out those spiked orange blooms. Eventually the authorities sent removers from the Water Management Department, claiming that it was a classified ‘indulgent plant’ requiring excessive watering. I now have a feeling it is now the abundant plant that now flourishes outside the Department’s own entrance. But that’s just a suspicion. Hey, look here.”

J points and we left into a street. Ahead of us is a vast, multi-level parking lot. “That should give you lots of photographs.”

I look at the shelves of grey concrete, the abandoned cars silenced while they chalked up monthly payments in storage for their nostalgic owners. These were not the luxury relics of high-end collectors. These were the beloveds that owners had lovingly kept on despite the rising rates and repaired in the most ingenious Heath Robinson ways. These were the defiant beauties that had been coaxed along, even during the decade’s recurring fuel shortages, to rallies at parking areas along the sea promenade, near the mountain park, even along the highway. Those had caused the greatest ruckus, but did not disrupt much traffic. Even in those days, it was only the trucks that really used major roads. For most of us, our circumference of movement was already limited to the daily, public transport commute or flights. Those were the days when driving a car seemed a political act declaring our freedom of movement.

I felt a constriction. Pulled out my pump. “How much time do we have?”
“Just under an hour. The collection bus will be expecting us, so we must still walk back to the collection point. The route that avoids the cameras will take at least thirty minutes.”

Photographing cars is conspiracy enough. Anyone caught out of their allocated carbon-neutral zone faced not only fines, but sentencing. I already had listings in two international locations. I could not afford, either for my professional freedom or for my family’s environmental rating, to be caught out of line in a third.

Where I now live, only luxury cars held in private collections may be seen by the people. They are on display in two national museums, as people once exhibited paintings. A mock-up automobile, powered by renewable energy, drives along a reconstructed road. It costs a lot of money to take this novelty ride. From what I remember, it is a fine replica of a luxury vehicle. It certainly is nothing like the rickety old moto my parents constantly tried to keep going. Traces of those ordinary vehicles have disappeared. First, through government intervention manufacture came to an almost standstill through, although limited edition models were still available for a price. Slowly, they disappeared from popular culture. No mention in songs, no longer screened in programmes, gone from billboards.

It was the disappearance from advertisements that affected me most, for I used to earn my salary photographing vehicles and then constructing scenes of affluent families with their latest upgrade. When those assignments became fewer, I noticed the larger obliteration. My children were nearing adolescence and I recalled how when I was a teenager, a car was your ticket to independence. Once everyone started interacting via screens and blocking out the world with headphones, meeting up was no longer as important. Initially, young people no longer needed a car to meet up somewhere. Then, the cost of obtaining a license and a car was prohibitive. Finally, cars themselves disappeared. I have been told there are mountains of rusting bodies in the rubble regions, those areas that accept waste for compensation. I would like to photograph this, but that would be a very dangerous mission. Cars have entered public consciousness as demonic vessels that brought down the industrial world. Designing carbon-neutral and environmentally conscious democracies has depended on this narrative. We now live lives circumscribed by monitoring cameras, restricted travel, carefully allocated food and entertainment resources.

The air is heavy. I struggle to breath and clutch at the asthma pump in my pocket with more urgency than my camera, and my camera is for me my everything, my life. Overhead, the sky is pale grey. In times past, people may have called this an ‘overcast’ day. This meant that clouds were gathering, possibly for a bout of rain, or perhaps to blown with the rain elsewhere. That was in the time when rain was more frequent and did not burn the skin as much.

“J, do you feel that? J?” It doesn’t make sense that it should be raining inside a covered parking lot. Perhaps it’s slanting in from outside, like in the days when wind used to blow rain in directions.
“Yeah. Just here.”
I carry on snapping, “It’s not going to be great walking back in this rain.”
I’m also worried about my equipment. It’s more difficult to hide and juggle under difficult conditions. I start packing up. “Hey, let’s head out now.”
“Are you sure? How about another ten minutes, at least? Come on. When will you get a chance like this? I mean… It’s not every day that you fall across a parking lot… Not even ten minutes?”
“Nah, I’d rather be on the safe side.”
“Are you sure?”
I’m ready to go. J is stalling. If also soaked to the bone, J will be under as much suspicion. No ordinary spends too much time in rain, as we all know every drop that doesn’t sting is needed for the dams, the water supplies, the plants. I start moving. I have to pass down three storeys back to street level. My pace has a regular tempo. J’s is laid back. Of the two of us I’m the one who usually stops to admire the scenery; J’s definitely the one who’s destination orientated.
“Stop dragging your heels. Come on.”

We arrive at street level. This isn’t my home turf, so I need J to navigate back to the collection point, avoiding those cameras. It’s raining pretty hard now. I hide my hands in my sleeves, but the drops are stinging my face. A car starts up in the parking lot, drives out and stops in front of us. The driver is panting, but offers us a ride. I take a cue from J who acknowledges, “Sure. Thanks.” We get in.

“It’s very generous of you to help out some strangers like this,” I say.
“Oh, we haven’t met,” replies the driver, “but we’re not strangers. And I’d like our photographs.”

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This image, courtesy of HelloSprout, is a handmade card and available for purchase from etsy.com. See http://etsy.me/r1D7Vd

This image, courtesy of HelloSprout, is a handmade card and available for purchase from etsy.com. See http://etsy.me/r1D7Vd

To feel
waves
must crash
if they thirst for the shore;
they must trip stones smooth,
burst jagged hands,
pierce the stretch strain
of speckled beanskins
learning the ground.

The walker must trip.

2003,
after Las Vegas, Death Valley and Flagstaff, USA

“Knowledge” appears in Shining in Brightness (2013), my first book of poetry.

It is one of the self-identified process poems that were included as snapshots of my period of adolescent whimsy. They are the very sort of poems a creative writing seminar tutor or professor would probably rip to shreds and ban one from showing to the world. In defiance, I have posted “Knowledge” for you here. I have also posted it because it came to mind while I was preparing Thursday’s post. This is a fresh poem that mentions a trip of a different sort, but also touches on the themes of time and process.

Please do return and read “Time tripped”, the new poem which is scheduled for Thursday.

T: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books

Books_gift_edited

Christmas is less than a month away. There’s still time to order a book of BeadedQuill’s poetry for someone special. Even non-poetry readers love the short and pithy ‘sushi‘ verses.

There is a choice of three titles:

The most recent publication, In the Ocean: a year of poetry offers a bumper 104 poems. Over 52 weeks the poet produced 2 poems a week. This book is a collation of her creative output. There is a verse for everyone in this volume.

Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys is a compilation on love, life and work for today’s modern men and and boys. Carl C, a modern boy himself, says of the collection, “We Modern Boys can be rather boorish and in such a bothering rush. Emily asks of us: pay attention for a while.”

The third title, Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012 presents twenty poems that chronicle the poet’s formative decade of travel and learning. Verses originated in cities and rural towns from across Brazil, South Africa, England and Poland. The mystical decade resulted in this collection of observational gems.

All three titles are available for preview and purchase at BeadedQuill’s Blurb Bookshop.

Baker Street Waterloo Railway platform March 1906

By Anonymous (The Graphic) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A number of poems have come to me during London commutes. “Every morning because it’s wonderful to watch” originated on the platform at East Finchley station. When I find myself waiting for a train to arrive, I still sometimes think about the poem between the tracks.

Other tube poems include

Trapped items
Tube Sketch
Tunnel Days
On the way to Westminster
The Home Commute
supreme ultimate


I tweet as @BeadedQuill and am on Facebook (BeadedQuill). Please do follow me.
Three books of my poetry are available to view at BeadedQuill’s Blurb Bookstore.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. This image (or other media file) is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years. Contributor: Voyager.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

I have written a number of poems inspired by London commuting, including this surreal scene posted last year.

Here are some others:
On the Way to Westminster (a personal favourite)
Trapped Items
Tunnel Days
Tube Sketch

Another beauty courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

Another beauty courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage image treasury.

Tall ship

Ready your largest sail.
Today promises high winds!

The snow blew in.
The black waves froze darting shoals.
We’ve come to the end of our time.


I’m in the mood for sailing seas. The forthcoming Tall Ships Festival at Greenwich strikes part of me as something interesting.

Today it’s been a drizzly bank holiday Monday. I shall be off in a moment. All else that I’ve done with today was sort my closet, repair some clothes and leave the house to forage at Budgens. I returned a packet of marked down asparagus, half-a-dozen eggs and a bag of apples. I still need soya milk for tomorrow’s bowl of breakfast oats.

I’m in the mood for catching high winds.

Twitter: @BeadedQuill
Facebook: BeadedQuill
Books:
In the Ocean: a year of poetry
Emily’s Poems for Modern Boys
Shining in Brightness: Selected Poems, 1999 – 2012

"Jasminum officinale - Bot. Mag. 31, 1787" by Botanical Magazine - Botanical Magazine 31. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jasminum_officinale_-_Bot._Mag._31,_1787.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Jasminum_officinale_-_Bot._Mag._31,_1787.jpg

“Jasminum officinale in Botanical Magazine, 31, 1787. Licensed for use under public domain via
Wikimedia Commons

A short story from some time ago:

It is a long climb up the stony mountain, through biting mists and pounding midday sun. From the crevices mountain flowers cheer the weary and tumbling water droplets happily refresh those travellers who whisper of their thirst. The higher the climb, the more the climber’s bones and muscles groan and yet everything sings until the oxygen needed for breathing is taken up for singing.

Here stumbles another traveller, lightheaded with a promised view that is always but a few more steps. She stares ahead on the path, turns a bend and there before her looms a vast pair of doors across the path. They are heavy, imposing wooden doors with large hinges. The doors open. Since there is no other way around the path but to climb up the mountain, our traveller takes off her hat, wipes her arm across her face and wanders tentatively inside.

The darkness is cool. The air is freshened by a faint smell of jasmine. A warm light pulses at the end of the walk. A figure sits in the light-

Our traveller approaches.

“Good morning, but may I ask, What are you doing on my path?”
“On your path? Hmmmm,” pontificates the figure. “Am I on your path? Are you on my path? Are we perhaps just meeting?”
“Well,” puffs our traveller, “You look as though you have answers.”
“And why do you say that about me?”
“The doors, the light, the Hmmmm-ing”
“What are your questions for me?”

Our traveller scratches in her bag. She pulls out a dog-eared notebook and a red-and-black striped 2B pencil.
“So you are a list writer?”
“Aha,” she replies absentmindedly as she inscribes.
She finishes one page, then a second. She pauses to think, then scribbles out a third. She tears all three pages from the ring-binding. As she hands over the demands in a flourish and a triumphant “There,” the little tear tassels flutter in the jasmine air.

“Are you in a hurry?” asks the figure.
“Well, I want to see the view.”
“Hmmmmm.”

There is a pause that lengthens into awkward silence. Our traveller shifts her weight from right foot to left, left to right.
“Well, I hope you going to read my list of questions.”
The figure looks at each page very intently, very carefully. He squints, he stares.
“And?” asks our traveller.
He turns the pages upside down, vertical, horizontal. Our traveller begins to tap her impatient foot a little.
“And?”
The figure continues to scrutinize the pages, as if he is trying to see between the fibres.
“And?”

Finally the figure holds out the pages.
“What? You want me to take them back? But those are all my questions. About everything. I thought you had answers.”

Another of those pontification pauses.
The figure replied, “But where is the question for me?”

Our traveller turns over the pages before stuffing them into her bag. She turns to leave and try her luck climbing up the mountain. As she turns, she notices that the figure is no longer in the light but is standing next to her asking –

“What is your name? How are you? How can I help you?”

And the air was still fresh with the faint smell of jasmine and questions.

March 2007

Image courtesy of the Old Design Shop, a vintage design treasury.

I was not a lawn-mower customer. I was trying to book travel. Out of the annoying interaction resulted the poem “I don’t work for you (or Modern Frustrations)“. This poem is one of 104 in my latest book, In the Ocean: a year of poetry.

 

XXXX

Image courtesy of Kelly Curtis Photography. Find more wonderful work from this photographer on instagram, Facebook and her website.

It’s a little uncanny that my current writing and the archive posts are showing parallel topics. Last week the new poem inspired by music echoed the archive poem written during a jazz concert (six years ago!). This week, quite by coincidence, it’s work generated on London’s Underground. From this time last year, the archive yields another tube poem. “On the Way to Westminster” is one of my favourite creations. On exiting at Leicester Square, I often wonder if today will be the day I might meet the killer whale.

 

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Contributor: David Cane.

37 of us shuttled along as we sit or stand
with our regular doors.
They are the ones with which we enter
Thursday morning in Zone 1.
They are the ones where we could
change here for
Victoria Line.
Too late to exit for Morden via Bank.

Your regular doors
can be dangerous.
You could change after Euston.
Make the next start
a stop.

Follow BeadedQuill on Twitter (@BeadedQuill) and Facebook. Preview the poet’s latest book, “In the Ocean“.

The image used is in the public domain because its copyright has expired. This applies to Australia, the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years.