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Week #13/52: Farmer In The City, the impossibility of unknowing and particularly archaic/contemporary recording methods

Scott Walker-Tilt-The Farmer In The City-A Year In The Country-1
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

I have had a particular longstanding fondness for Scott Walker’s Farmer In The City, from his album Tilt.

I’ve never known what it was about. It’s an odd conjunction of lyrics and imagery, a haunting, beautiful song.

Who is this farmer in the city? Why are they there? What is the auction for?

Scott Walker-Tilt-The Farmer In The City-A Year In The Country-2

It was a set of mysteries that I had never quite solved and not even tried to – I enjoyed the not knowing, enjoyed the song as a layered piece of work and story unto itself.

Recently, I went to listen to it in the ether and accidentally discovered what the subject of the song is, which I didn’t really mean to.

Also recently around these parts I was talking about the possible loss of loss via Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life and The Ghost In The MP3 project and considerations of technologies past, present and future.

Scott Walker-Tilt-The Farmer In The City-A Year In The Country-3

This accidental discovering and such considerations seem to have melded with a consideration of the functioning of particularly archaic and contemporary forms of recording – the dear old human brain and consciousness/memory.

I might accidentally forget about the meaning of Farmer In The City but it’s not likely. I can’t consciously unknow or erase it.

Scott Walker-Tilt-The Farmer In The City-A Year In The Country-4


Maybe this particular wandering and considering should be subtitled “We are our own Stone Tapes“.



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Week #12/52: The Ghost In The MP3 and considerations of past/future loss

The Ghost In The MP3-Takahiro Suzuki-Ryan Maguire-Ghosts Of My Life-Mark Fisher-hauntology-A Year In The Country-4
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

In Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life book, which is loosely themed around hauntology and lost futures, he writes about how one of the things we have lost in these days of zeros and ones is the very possibility of loss; that due to modern day techniques of duplication, replication and archiving cultural works such as television broadcasts or albums nolonger disappear once they have been broadcast or are nolonger in print.

An accompanying theme that he considers is the fragility of previous eras physical cultural artifacts – tapes and vinyl quite simply wore out or broke.



The Ghost In The MP3-Takahiro Suzuki-Ryan Maguire-Ghosts Of My Life-Mark Fisher-hauntology-A Year In The Country-jpg
A while ago I came across a fascinating project called The Ghost In The MP3.

In this project music and their accompanying videos are created using only the parts of the songs lost when they are compressed to MP3 / MP4 audio and video files, concentrating on the songs that were used as control files when the technology for MP3s were first created.

The Ghost In The MP3-Takahiro Suzuki-Ryan Maguire-Ghosts Of My Life-Mark Fisher-hauntology-A Year In The Country-2The results are (accidentally) quite beautiful and haunting, in particular the music. They are like perfectly crafted wisps of their former selves, finely tuned (accidental) abstract electronica and within them just occasionally snatches of recognisable parts of the original song will appear.

(Indeed, in a connection back to Ghosts Of My Life wherein such things are talked about, these brief reappearances of “actual” songs could well replicate dance music’s sometimes flitting use of samples and the memories they evoke.)

In a way, although such files are endlessly replicate-able, a form of loss has already happened.

Those recognisable flitters of the original songs tell us that although consciously we may not be able to all that easily tell this is nolonger the “full” song, they nolonger are.

The Ghost In The MP3-Takahiro Suzuki-Ryan Maguire-Ghosts Of My Life-Mark Fisher-hauntology-A Year In The Country-3
I suspect that the way/s things are lost/will be lost in these modern day times is yet to be fully discovered or understood.

Compact discs were once sold as indestructible, a forever archive of music but now it’s known they may well “rot” and indeed even the devices they are played on are quietly becoming rarer…

Visit Ghosts Of My Life around these parts here and elsewhere in the ether here.

Visit The Ghost In The MP3 here, in more academic form here and where I first wandered across such things here.


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Week #11/52: The Modern Poets, otherly pastoralism and brief visits to flickering worlds…

Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The Country-2
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

It’s a curious and intriguing process to wander through the fields of culture and to slowly connect backwards the roots, seedlings and pathways of work that you’re drawn to…

I have had a longstanding appreciation and case of being intrigued by the video work that (I assume) Julian House put together for the Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age album.

In particular #1: Witch Cults.

They leave me with a sense of wonderment, of wanting to know more, of wanting to see more, of wanting to step into the world they create…

…but 98 tickings of the clock + 129 tickings of the clock is their all and in a way that sense of being left wanting to know or experience more is part of what draws me to them…

Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The Country

A while ago I came across / was pointed in the direction of the Penguin Modern Poets series of books and something clicked.

They were like seeing the seedlings, roots and pathways that would become those flickerings and much of Mr House’s work.

A wandering through such things will cause one to discover a curiously stripped back, eerie or eldritch pastoralism and not that many steps to either side of their pathways will lead you to an almost chaotic swirling of some kind of psychedelia.

Which could well be in part a describing of the earlier mentioned flickerings…

Curiously, I recently saw quite a large set and gathering of these particular bindings and encasings sat on the bricks and mortar housed shelves of a local hand-me-down bookstore.

Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The Country-3 Penguin Modern Poets-Julian House-Broadcast and The Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age-A Year In The Country-4-tuFor some reason, when presented with the physical actuality of the books, I didn’t want to possess them or even peruse them all that much.

Maybe it was connected to the appeal of that earlier mentioned sense of being left wanting to know more…

…and also it may have been in part a not wanting to break the interconnected enchantment of them by too close a perusal.


Interlinked pathways #2: You see I See.

Considerations of inceptive considerations around these parts Day #33/365: Broadcast and the Focus Group Investigate Witch Cults of the Radio Age and the recalibrations of past cathode ray stories…

Further intertwined brief worlds that I wish to step into courtesy of Mr House: #5: Day #167/365: Wandering back through the darkening fields and flickerings to imaginary soundtracks…

Stepping towards lysergic fields.


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Week #10/52: X-Ray Audio, make do and mend and further resourcefulness from times and domains gone by…

Stephen Coates-X Ray Audio-Strange Attractor-DJ Food-The Horse Hospital-A Year In The Country-2
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

There has been a curiously first world response to the ease of access, proliferation, dissemination, lowering of cost and general abundance of music present in these parts of the world today (largely due to the pathways, ways and wiles of the zeros and ones ether); to seek out more awkward, fragile, expensive, hard to find, transport etc ways of listening to musical work..

Stephen Coates-X Ray Audio-Strange Attractor-DJ Food-The Horse Hospital-A Year In The Country-3

You may come across the odd more overly esoteric recording technique or transmission such as floppy disks or even wax cylinders but generally this tendency to make things more difficult, to possibly attempt to reintroduce some kind of thrill of the chase to seeking culture has been carried out via modern day shellac (and occasionally it’s  not so brittle flexible friends) and the ferrous reels of compact cassettes.

Which brings me to Stephen Coates of The Real Tuesday Weld’s book X-Ray Audio.

I first consciously became aware of this via Mr DJ Food’s website, where there is a fair amount of writing and considering of such things (and indeed some of the light-catchery of X-Ray Audio shown here originated there).

Stephen Coates-X Ray Audio-Strange Attractor-DJ Food-The Horse Hospital-A Year In The Country

You could start there here or for a more archival view around those parts try here.

Along which lines, I think I shall let Mr DJ Food say what the project is about:

Stephen Coates ‘X-Ray Audio’ book… (is) …about how underground bootleggers from the Soviet Union used to cut forbidden music onto old X-Rays. It’s a fascinating read in a time when we have pretty much any media we desire at our fingertips. It tells of a time where just possessing certain records could get you in serious trouble or even thrown in prison. Having to buy forbidden songs for huge amounts of money that were sometimes not even on the disc or of a fidelity so bad that they were virtually unlistenable.”

The book has been sent forth into the world by Twilight Language encasers and binders Strange Attractor. Visit them in the ether here.

Related more public displays of such things can be found courtesy of the good folk at erstwhile non-populist pop-culture establishment The Horse Hospital. here and here.

Stephen Coates-X Ray Audio-Strange Attractor-DJ Food-The Horse Hospital-A Year In The Country-5

Intertwined pathways: the romance of past technologies around these parts here. Glances at previous interconnected forms of repurposings here.

Contemporary demonstrations of such techniques this side of the (once) ferrous curtain, featuring a certain doyen of dissolution here.


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Week #9/52: Christopher Herwig’s Soviet Bus Stops, echoes of reaching for the cosmos, folkloric breakfast adornment and other artfully pragmatic curio collectings, encasings and bindings…

Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Well, as has been mentioned around these parts before, I have something of a softspot for utilitarian / pragmatic accidental art.

The photographs of Soviet Bus Stops by Christopher Herwig suit the bill particularly well.

Quite frankly I could sit here looking at them and sending images of them into the ether all day.

Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-2

Many of the more architecturally brutalist ones speak to my good self of lost futures, of a time when an empire reached for the stars…

They are quite, quite beautiful and entrancing.

Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-4

The book has been published by Fuel, who seem to also have something of a softspot for such utilitarian / pragmatic accidental art, having published two Home-Made books that gather resourcefully created objects in Russia and Europe (for example, television aerials that utilise cutlery), a now rather hard to find and pricey collection The Music Library with/via Mr Jonny Trunk which features, well music library record artwork, a book concerned with the art, design and packaging of Sainsbury’s Design Studio (including, yes, that Wickerman-esque corn flake packet) and now Mr Herwig’s book on Soviet Bus Stops…

Soviet Bus Stops-Christopher Herwig-Fuel-A Year In The Country-3
An adventure playground via The Brutalist Architectural Planning Department?)

If you should enjoy such things, I would also highly recommend  Jan Kempenaers Spomenik photographic capturings of fading Soviet era memorials.

That particular gathering of bear’s ghosts can be found around these parts here. For further intertwined wanderings around these parts you could start here and work your way backwards / sideways and/or via Further appreciations of accidental art; Poles and Pylons.

Mr Herwig’s Soviet Bust Stops home in the ether can be found here.


PS If you are an appreciator of such things, The Music Library is apparently to re-appear in a revised expanded edition – coming, as they say, soon.


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Week #8/52: The Untold Story Of The British Space Programme and explorations by / courtesy of Misters Jupp, Hollings, Seatman and Mrs Oram…

Spaceship UK-The Untold Story Of The British Space Programme-Jim Jupp-Belbury Poly-Daphne Oram-Ken Hollings-Ghost Box-A Year In The Country-2File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

In a line and wandering that continues from considerations of once streaks in the sky and almost futures, I was recently wandering around the rarities of non-Ghost Box related work by Mr Jim Jupp / Belbury Poly and came across the Spaceship UK: The Untold Story Of The British Space Programme which features both the work of Mr Jupp and electronic music pioneering explorer Mrs Daphne Oram.

This is a beautifully presented artifact and one of the particular notes of fascination for my good self is the accompanying essay by Mr Ken Hollings, wherein many of the above strands and pathways are interlinked – from Mr Nigel Kneale’s Quatermass work to cathodic experiments in sound and the Radiophonic Workshop to modern day explorations under the all-encompassing label of electronica.

A fine gathering and connecting of lines through history…

Spaceship UK-The Untold Story Of The British Space Programme-Jim Jupp-Belbury Poly-Daphne Oram-Ken Hollings-Ghost Box-A Year In The CountryA new type of music has begun to be registered upon magnetic tape: one that cannot be contained in the traditional concert hall but requires instead equally new spaces and new media to be appreciated fully… Electric and acoustic pulses are simultaneously recorded and then played back over themselves; the resultant repetitions mutate and decay, giving the impression of eerie distortions rebounding over a measureless and artificial distance… By the time the alien spacecraft comes to life, it has already become clear that the Martians are our distant ancestors, whose memory has been kept alive through… scattered reports of poltergeists… This painful revelation, however, has come too late for us… The sampler becomes a means of digitally reactivating sounds and voices that have been kept in cultural cold storage for decades: drum-breaks, bass-lines and snatches of melody lifted from old records are cut together with dialogue and sound effects supplied by old sci-fi and horror movies… The future has collapsed in on the present… This universe still has a history that is yet to be written… its origins are only just being unearthed…”

That particular shellac encasing is somewhat rare and not so easy on the pocket today but the essay can be perused in full here.

Keith Seatman-Highdown-Ghost Box-Quatermass-A Year In The Country-2

…and talking of such once-almost-were explorations, I was recently following a zeros and ones transmitted signpost to (Ghost Box visitor) Mr Keith Seatman’s scribings on Highdown Rocket Site, which was a testing ground for the UKs Black Arrow and Black Knight rockets.

As mentioned around these parts previously “...a study of the photographic capturing of the remaining sites and artifacts of such things leads into a wonderland and rabbit warren of lost futures – once shining and starward bound, now often scattered shells and brutalist accidental monuments…”

Mr Seatman’s accompanying High Down light-catchery is a good example of such things – there’s a curious understated stalwart melancholy air to the buildings that still stand and accompanying electronic equipment looks nearer to props belonging to a Quatermass-esque fiction than actual experiments in space travel.

Keith Seatman-Highdown-Ghost Box-Quatermass-A Year In The CountryTwo particular favourites in amongst his Highdown images are the faded textures of the Rocket Testing Site painted sign (again, which to my own personal modern-day eyes and mind seems nearer to a fictional creation than an artifact of actual explorations on this particular isle) and the “Rocket exhibition and refreshment kiosk / Cold War On The Isle Of Light poster” – which causes me to think of a Scarfolk-esque design but without the black humour and just the heebie jeebies side of things remaining.

Visit accompanying scribings by Mr Seatman here, his notes on Highdown histories here, further findings here and take a wander around the daydreams and folly explorations of his ether victrola here.

Considerations of interconnected further findings around these parts here.


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Week #7/52: Eyes Turned Skywards; once streaks in the sky, almost futures and reverberations in the ether

Blue Streak-British Space Progam-British Space Group-Ian Holloway-Quiet World-A Year In The Country-4
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

It’s a curious thing to think of a British Space Program or Agency – it seems so much part of the future’s past, a Biggles like adventure to the stars that never was.

If you look back at the history of British space exploration, even the names of projects and rockets conjure up mid-century visions of daring-do; more Gerry Anderson, a good cup of tea and Arthurian myth than polished NASA plans; Blue Streak, Black Knight, Falstaff, Prospero X-3, Skylark, British Interplanetary Society, Beagle 2…

They tend tend to put me in mind of the fictions of Mr Nigel Kneale’s Mr Bernard Quatermass and his privately funded British Experimental Rocket Group (to a certain degree life seems to imitate art imitates life as one of the oldest advocates of space exploration is the above British Interplanetary Society, which numbered the often speculative science fiction author and conceiver of the geostationery telecommunications satellite Mr Arthur C. Clarke as a member).

Blue Streak-British Space Progam-British Space Group-Ian Holloway-Quiet World-A Year In The Country-2 copy

(As an aside, images of such things now look too impossibly grand, verbose even to have ever been conceived of on this particular isle… nearer to the creations of the aforementioned Mr Anderson and Tracy Island than something I would expect to have ever though of as existing upon these shores; as a further aside a study of the photographic capturing of the remaining sites and artifacts of such things leads into a wonderland and rabbit warren of lost futures – once shining and starward bound, now often scattered shells and brutalist accidental monuments…)

Blue Streak-British Space Progam-British Space Group-Ian Holloway-Quiet World-A Year In The Country-1…I think I started to consider and explore such things again via the work of Mr Ian Holloway and in particular his work under the moniker The British Space Group.

If you should be an appreciator of contemporary Radiophonic-esque, explorative electronica with echoes of many of the above points of reference, from the work of Mr Nigel Kneale onwards and outwards, then a wander around the strange orbits of his work could well prove rewarding.

Mr Holloway has been a somewhat busy chap over the years.

Despite a recent(ish) enforced period of stepping away from such things you could listen to/purchase and peruse a release per week at his ether victrola for the entire of the next spin-around-the-sun and still have change left for the following cycle of such things.

In recent(ish) times his work has turned more towards the sky but previously he has done a fair amount of audiological journeying, foraging, scribing and more through the subcultural undergrowth of the land…

The results of that skywards and otherly pastoral foraging, work and exploring can be found spread through the ether and a few further related signposts follow: A home in the ether I: Quiet World. A home in the ether II: The British Space Group. A flickering victrola. Scribings upon explorative audiological work: Wonderful Wooden Reasons.

Blue Streak-Woomera-British Space Progam-British Space Group-Ian Holloway-Quiet World-A Year In The Country-3

Further interweaved perusals: Cancelled dreams, tales from a vertical empire, scatterings I and II.

Around these parts: a library of loss.


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Week #6/52: Tomorrow’s People, further considerations of the past as a foreign country and hauntology away from its more frequent signifiers and imagery…

Tomorrows People-Jeremy Sandford-Ron Reid-1974-book-British festivals-A Year In The CountryFile Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

(No, not The Tomorrow People but Tomorrow’s People…)

In these days of reasonably ubiquitous dissemination of almost all of culture via the electronic ether, it’s quite rare to come across something that isn’t overtly available via such methods…

Jeremy Sandford and Ron Reid’s 1974 book Tomorrow’s People, a photographic and text case study of late 1960s/early 1970s British outdoor music festivals / free festivals,  is one such rarity.

It’s mentioned across the ether but there is relatively little reproduction of the actual images in the book and those that are don’t always necessarily capture the spirit of the books photographs; that of a joyful, playful, social documentary portrait and snapshot.

I’m not sure where or how I came across Tomorrow’s People, although it wasn’t a surprise when I recently revisited Rob Young’s Electric Eden book that I found it was mentioned in his history, overview and consideration of the utopian intentions, explorations and eventual controlling and enclosure of Britain’s festivals in the Paradise Enclosed chapter of that book.

Now, I’m not all “Ah, it was once all green fields, 50p entrance fees and social freedom” about such things but there is a certain fresh faced, pleasant simplicity, a sense of a yet to be decided future and possibly even naivety to the “scene” and gatherings Tomorrow’s People views, peruses and records; this was a time before such things became mainstream, not-at-all pocket money priced weekend excursions, sponsored by media giants and intoxicants-white-people-like-to-and-are-allowed-to-take corporate organisations.

1973 Windsor Free Festival-Roger Hutchinson-A Year In The Country-1b

…in a general wandering around the ether in search of images from Tomorrow’s People before I gave in and set in motion the process whereby the good envoyers of the postal service would pop the actual binding through my door, I came across this set of photographs of the 1973 Windsor Free Festival (ah, that year once again) by I think Roger Hutchinson, which I find somewhat fantastic and which seemed to burrow into my mind.

Here is Mr Hutchinson on such things:

I met writer Jeremy Sandford and photographer Ron Reid (who together produced ‘Tomorrows Children’) who opened my eyes to the unique social nature of the festival. They both encouraged me to try and document these events as they had a inevitable ephemeral element where most participants did not take photos due to being either out of it or did not want the hassle of having a camera to look after. This was before the days of lightweight video so all there are only a few tatty snapshots and press photos of these festivals that were formative experiences for many like me.

1973 Windsor Free Festival-Roger Hutchinson-A Year In The Country-3bAround these parts I recently undertook a consideration of the past as a foreign country and the above particular set of light catching are thoroughly in such territory; although very much within the realms of living memory I see little in them that I can connect with the modern world, its ways, aesthetics or spirit.

In particular it seems to be the photographs that feature cars, vans and/or the festival goers outside the bounds of or journeying to their temporary edens that I’m drawn to. There is something fundamentally “other” to such automotive devices compared to today, a certain underdesigned-ness compared to their contemporary flash-and-dash progeny.

1973 Windsor Free Festival-Roger Hutchinson-A Year In The Country-2b

And although I am much a user of modern day zeros and ones mechanisms and related lines through and over the land, as just touched upon in relation to automotive devices, there is a sense of something “other” captured in these photographs; it is in the tones, texture and colours but also, although quite possibly but technical chemistry/light errors, there is a sense in their flashes of overexposure of something elsewhere or not quite known being present…

…and in part referring back to Rob Young’s observations regarding a “Paradise Enclosed“, in both these and the photographs in Tomorrow’s People there is a sense of something lost or never quite reached…


A part-definition of hauntological considerations from around these parts:

Music and culture that draws from and examines a sense of loss of some kind of utopian, progressive, modern(ist?) future that was never quite reached…”

A smattering of images from Tomorrow’s People can be found here, latterly up the junction here and further perusings here. Mr Sandford can be found in the ether here and (re-signposting) Mr Hutchinson’s light-catchery here. Further intertwined wanderings: Day #190/365: Electric Eden Ether Reprise (#2): Acts Of Enclosure, the utopian impulse and why folk music and culture?

As a final postscript and aside – is it just me or as I was just reconsidering the cover to Tomorrow’s People it somewhat put me in mind of the expectant raptures and dissipations of a certain huffity-puffity ringstone round…


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Week #5/52: The Right Side Of The Hedge – gardens where (should we?) feel secure and velocipede enhanced long arms…

The Right Side Of The Hedge-Country Life Today-Chris Chapman-Ian Niall-A Year In The Country
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Well, Mister Someone, these people come down here and take us all to be fools. They come down here to forget what they’ve created elsewhere, and do exactly the same. They keep their money and their fancy ways. I believe I’m living on the right side of the hedge, and no-one can tell me different.” (From the book in question.)

In part, considerations of an L. P. Hartley-esque past-as-foreign-country…

There are a fair few “this is what such and such village used to look and live like” photography books out and about in the world. They’re often rather pleasant but can be, well, a little chocolate-box like.

Now, I don’t mind a bit of chocolate-box-ery here and there but too much sweetmeat makes Jack a dulled boy…

Chris Chapman’s The Right Side Of The Hedge, a 1977 photography book that focuses on life and the landscape of the village of Dartmoor isn’t quite one of such chocolate-box-eries.

Well, not quite one of those at all.

It feels like a capturing of a tipping point in time, a view of ways of living at the point when they were fading, changing and becoming no more.

The Right Side Of The Hedge-Country Life Today-Chris Chapman-Ian Niall-A Year In The Country-4

It is nearer to say what has now in part become known as fine-art photography when it interacts with social documentary light-catchery and the book seems to capture some of the grit’n’grime that often seems to be one of the characteristics of the spirit of the 1970s; this is the beauty of the land and rural life put quietly through another filter that makes it seem not quite such a gentle place; slightly raw, with that beauty juxtaposed at times next to an encroaching and imposed industrial marking, activity and scarring.

(As an aside, essentially, what the phrase fine-art photography often seems to signify is work that is not merely straight-forwardly representative/documentary in nature, rather that which reflects a story or set of themes that is told/held by the photographer and/or those in the photographs. Oh that and the possibility of being able to add a few zeros worth of pounds, shillings, pence and possible career prospects to the resulting shutterbugging.)

Although not as overtly gritty, The Right Side Of The Hedge puts me in mind of Chris Killip’s black and white In Flagrante work that recorded a tipping point of a society decimated by the fancy ways and thinkings of those from elsewhere or possibly early work by Paul Graham’s along the line of A1 – The Great North Road and even a touch of further desolations in the likes of Beyond Caring.

Well, maybe that’s stepping a little too much towards the grittier side of things. Maybe the respectful documentarisms of Tony Ray-Jones with a dash of John Bulmer’s in-amongst-the-people Northern-eye and a touch or two of Homer Sykes recording of rituals…

…or textually, Akenfield’s documenting of wandering-off-the-map-and-into history rural ways and lives.

Anyways, as I in part previously mentioned there’s a slightly raw, unaffected, honest edge to the photographs in The Right Side Of The Hedge but what caught my eye in particular were two photographs.

The Right Side Of The Hedge-Country Life Today-Chris Chapman-Ian Niall-A Year In The Country-3

One is of a chap relaxing in his back garden whatever the weather or view – and well, to not beat about the bush that view is the somewhat brutalist architecture of a set of cooling towers at the bottom of his hedgerow.

It just seems terribly British, a reflection and summing up of a certain spirit, of a time that nolonger is but again not in a chocolate-box, imagined-but-never-quite-was, rural-idyll manner.

Paddling pool. Check. Washing line. Check. Green house. Check. Heavy weight gardening equipment. Check. Handkerchief on head. Check. Brutalist industrial architecture. Check.

(As an aside – although not as heebie jeebie inducing, it put me in mind of Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage built on the shingles and reflection of a fundamental-building-block splitting power station.)

And talking of times and ways that nolonger are…

The Right Side Of The Hedge-Country Life Today-Chris Chapman-Ian Niall-A Year In The Country-2

The other photograph that I was particularly drawn to was of the grandly moustached officer of the law stood (proudly?) next to his bicycle on a country road.

This mildly blows my mind. I can’t quite compute a world where this was a normal, day-to-day appearance. It’s something about the moustache, the iconography of the uniform and its silhouette, the terribly-British-ness of such gents on bicycles and a for some reason hauntology inducing road sign.

Perhaps in part it is the accompanying text: “The country policeman who still has a more leisurely life than his city counterpart”; which could well belong to a slightly off-kilter re-imagining of a 1970s Ladybird / I-Spy book and in conjunction with the photograph for me has a rather quietly unsettling effect for a reason that I’m not quite sure of:

“Why does he have a quieter life? What’s actually going on around those parts?”


Visit Mr Chapman in the ether here. As is often the way today, the book itself can be peused and purchased for what I expect is less than the price of the stamps and cardboard it may be sent to you via/in here.

Intertwined pathways around these parts: Day #111/365: Ms Jean Ritchie’s Field Trip-England and recordings from the end of an era…

Quietly intimating hidden reverses: Day #118/365: Virginia Astley’s From Gardens Where We Feel Secure


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Week #4/52: The Following Of Ghosts – File Under Psychogeographic / Hauntological Stocking Fillers

Bollocks To Alton Towers-Uncommonly British Days Out-Robin Halstead-Jason Hazeley-Alex Morris-Joel Morris-A Year In The Country-cover
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

Well, where to start with this… I’m not quite sure as I feel that I could well write about these books for the rest of this particular spin-around-the-sun of A Year In The Country…

On a recent wandering through charity shops (which could be seen as outposts of the last few remaining depositories of books, bindings and other cultural/melodic/flickering tales encasings that can be found in amongst bricks and mortar/population centres) I came across a couple of books that somewhat piqued my interest…

In many ways, because of the way that they are titled (Bollocks To Alton Towers and Far From the Sodding Crowd – Uncommonly British Days Out) they could well be just another in a long line of Christmas market throwaway fodder – bathroom reading maybe…

Despite their jokey titles, facings, marketing and proclaimed intent I have found that there is something more to these  paricular books than is often found in such things.

Bollocks To Alton Towers-Uncommonly British Days Out-Robin Halstead-Jason Hazeley-Alex Morris-Joel Morris-A Year In The Country-3Essentially they are guidebooks/documents of the authors wanderings to often small, individual or family run museums and visitor centres, follies, unofficial non-tours of the locations where our entertainments are recorded, neglected or unloved public art, bygone defence of the realm installations / subterfuges and the like; generally those that are off the beaten track, that seem in part to hark back to a gentler, more communally spirited / (sometimes) progressive time or ethos and the books become a wandering through a semi-lost or overlooked British landscape and its cultural markers.

Published in 2005, in part they made me want to plan a slightly panicked journey around and across the land, hoping that the places and attractions featured were still there to see and enjoy.

In Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life (see Day #163/365) book, which is loosely concerned with things hauntological, the titles of the chapters that directly focus on Ghost Box instigators/travellers The Focus Group, Belbury Poly and The Advisory Circle are Nostalgia For Modernism and The Ache Of Nostalgia.

These books put me in mind of such things.

Back when (Day #162/365) I attempted to (hopefully!) reasonably succinctly list some of the defining characteristics of what has come to be known as hauntological culture.

At that point I wrote “Music and culture that draws from and examines a sense of loss of some kind of utopian, progressive, modern(ist?) future that was never quite reached…

In many ways that seems to be a subtly underlying theme of Uncommonly British Days Out  – they are imbued with a quiet anger at the loss of what in some ways could be seen to be terribly British decency and politeness but could actually be seen to be an ire at the steam rolling, this way or the high way tendencies of the modern (but dominantly not modernistic) world.

Bollocks To Alton Towers-Uncommonly British Days Out-Robin Halstead-Jason Hazeley-Alex Morris-Joel Morris-Apollo Pavillion-A Year In The CountryThere is a sense in the books of a Britain that is haunted, harried, hurried by some kind of potentially overwhelming loss but wherein there are little corners or enclaves of individuality, resistance and eccentricities.

Along which lines, back to Mr Fisher and Day #163/365:

The artists that came to be labelled hauntological were suffused with an overwhelming melancholy… As to the deeper cause of this melancholia, we need look no further than the title of Leyland Kirby’s album: Sadly, The Future Is No longer What It Was. In hauntological music there is an implicit acknowledgement that the hopes created by postwar electronica or by the euphoric dance music of the 1990s have evaporated – not only has the future not arrived, it no longer seems possible. Yet at the same time, the music constitutes a refusal to give up on the desire for the future. This refusal gives the melancholia a political dimension, because it amounts to a failure to accommodate to the closed horizons of capitalist realism…

Haunting… can be construed as a failed mourning. It is about refusing to give up the ghost or… the refusal of the ghost to give up on us. The spectre will not allow us to settle into/for the mediocre satisfactions one can glean in a world governed by capitalist realism…

The kind of melancholia I’m talking about… consists not in giving up on desire but in refusing to yield. It consists… in a refusal to adjust to what current conditions call ‘reality’ – even if the cost of that refusal is that you feel like an outcast in your own time…”

Hmmm. To me that could well describe much of both the spirit of the authors of Uncommonly British Days Out and those people and places they feature in their pages.

Yes, within the books such views are filtered through a more mainstream and humorous lens and language but nothing wrong with a good old larf or two (and I have indeed laughed found myself lauging out loud while reading the of the authors explorations).

You are following the ghost of something interesting, and it left ages ago.” (From the books).

To mention but a few, in amongst the books are an appreciation, ache and sometimes acceptance of the absurdities of the likes of restored once-were-the-future 1960s diesel electric railway routes, the craftmanship/pre-zeros and ones marvels of Keith Hardings World Of Mechanical Music and its (often) metallic melody machines, the focused collectings of The British Lawnmower Museum…

Bollocks To Alton Towers-Uncommonly British Days Out-Robin Halstead-Jason Hazeley-Alex Morris-Joel Morris-Keith Hardings World Of Mechanical Music-A Year In The Country…and along the way they have put me in mind of a number of other interconnected trails and pathways that have been wandered down and through during A Year In The Country’s wanderings…

…the enclosing and charging for the viewing of common land and its wonders when considering a museum that incorporates a petrifying well (see Day #78/365 / tributes to Mr Winstanley and a stepping away/against the closing of horizons or indeed notes on modern day acts of enclosure at Day #190/365 here)…

…or a consideration of the £3 million of our good pounds per annum upkeep of a somewhat gargantuan government hideaway/underground bunker that was only ever placed on higher alert not against overseas foes but during the 1984/1985 Miner’s Strike when civil war was feared (again see Day #78/365 and The English Civl War Part II around these parts)…

…or indeed the Bear’s Ghosts utopian/raising of all creation of brutalist Soviet public art (see Day #229/365) but this time via the modernist, progressive British intentions of post-war new towns art, in particular the poured, neglected, questioned beauty of the Apollo Pavillion.

As an aside and along vaguely mainstream hauntological lines, I recently discovered that some of the authors of Uncommonly British Days Out have also more recently worked on the Ladybirds Books For Grown Ups series.

As a possibly progessively further aside and interconnected trail, British cliff tops shot from the angle as the one above tend to put me in mind of transgressors/wreckers/creators Throbbing Gristle’s opus 20 Jazz Funk Greats (see Day #307/365).

Peruse the UBDO books here and here. The hardbacks seem somewhat more pleasant and in keeping with the actual spirit of the books I find.


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Week #3/52: I Still Dream Of Orgonon; A Book Of Dreams, the rarity of argent chains and moments of discovery…

Peter-Reich-A-Book-Of-Dreams-Picador-1974-Kate-Bush-Cloudbusting-A-Year-In-The-Country-lighterFile Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

If I was to draw a line back from A Year In The Country to early(ish) discoverings of a more experimental form of pastoralism… well, on the way to the likes of Bagpuss/Smallfilms and Camberwick Green I expect I would have to mark a spot on said line and stop for a cup of tea to consider the work and interweavings of Kate Bush.

When I first started to more widely culturally wander out into the world her work was a particular pointer or point of interest…

…and the flickering accompaniment for/melodic telling of Cloudbusting was an early(ish) point when those wanderings began to coincide with a wish to discover and connect the stories that lay behind and between such things.

These were days prior to the ubiquity of ease of access to knowledge, no mater how arcane, of those stories via the ease of flow of zeroes and ones through the ether…

Along which lines I knew a little about Peter Reich’s A Book Of Dreams; mainly just that the song and its flickering accompaniment were inspired by it (and of which they create a particularly cinematic 417 tickings of the clock epic miniature fiction).

In said accompaniment Ms Kate Bush’s character, in a breaking of the fourth wall/metafictional manner pulls A Book Of Dreams from the pocket of her fictional father while they are on a hilltop and about to operate his Victorian speculative fiction-esque cloud producing device…

Peter Reich-A Book Of Dreams-Kate Bush-Cloudbusting video-Donald Sutherland-A Year In The Country

…for many years afterwards this book and its story seemed to have become for myself a semi-investigated, almost mythological thing.

By osmosis rather than consciously looking it up I seemed to come to know that A Book Of Dreams was the biographical story of a childhood spent in the world of an exceedingly non-conventional scientist/psychologist – the cloudbuster/creator in Cloudbusting – but did not really know all that much more.

For a long time the book was particularly rare or at least I thought it was. Again, this was prior to ether related ubiquitous access to both knowledge or related artifiacts.

Published originally in 1973 (that year again), 1974 and a rebinding over the seas in the years after Cloudbusting was sent out into the world, I expect its status as a Kate Bush connected artefact kept its pecuniary value out of my reach even once ether dissemination of such older artifacts arose.

Peter Reich-A Book Of Dreams-Kate Bush-Cloudbusting video-Donald Sutherland-A Year In The Country-2

Recently(ish) it has been sent out into the world anew and in a fresh binding but I seemed to still want what I thought of as the original, the one Ms Kate Bush pulled from her fictional father’s pocket…

That new binding builds upon the layers of the story: of a life lived and then fictionally partially re-imagined via the aforementioned melodic retelling and its flickering accompaniment; the vessel that story was earlier sent forth in reappearing in that retelling; its new encasement post that re-imagining featuring imagery from the flickering accompaniment and a sense of a life travelled further along via a new introduction and perspective on the story; a lionheart-ess ending her series of returns to a stage of the nation with the melodic re-imagining and then finally (for the moment) a further rebinding which also draws from the speculative fiction Victoriana mechanism from the flickering re-imagining and indeed a life travelled further along again via a further introduction to the further introduction of a life travelled (I think at this point I should probably stop for that aforementioned cup of tea for a moment)…

Peter Reich-A Book Of Dreams-Obelisk edition-Kate Bush-Cloudbusting-A Year In The CountryInterestingly and as a further layering, Cloudbusting appeared at some kind of peak of interest and expenditure on flickering accompaniments to/for the encasement and envoying of popular music and also of Wicked Witch Of The West (M.H.T.) monetarism and abandonment of non-materialism…

…but on a re-reading of the Poly-Albion/Gone To Earth section of one of A Year In The Country’s particular touchstones, Rob Young’s Electric Eden, wherein he considers the work of such pop-dreamers as Ms Kate Bush and Misters Sylvian, Hollis and Cope I discovered/rediscovered notes on A Book Of Dreams and came across this gathering of words and possible call to arms:

“…the spell was not entirely broken. In the changed, materialistic Britain of the 1980s, the ideas about myth and magic, memorial landscapes and nostalgia for a lost golden age were banished to internal exile, but scattered links of the silver chain glinted in the output of certain unconventional pop musicians…

Hmmm. Pop guarding some sense of the wald, whether literally or as part of a continuum mindset that could at least consider an equitable distribution of ruby slippers (for walks that may be contemplated down different pathways than those of then popular processions/the allowance of other hopes and dreams)? Tip of the hat to that.

…not so long ago the 1974 homeground binding of this particular story appeared to arrive through my letterbox but curiously after many years of occasionally mentally picking up and considering it as an out of reach/story-laden artifact I don’t seem in any particular rush to read it.

Maybe I don’t wish to break my own history, stories, magic and layering that have taken place over the years in connection with it…

…well, not just yet indeed.

Peruse the most recently sent forth binding and an edited selection of it’s layered introductions here, flickering accompaniments here, secret gardens, stepping under the ivy and related cinematic flickerings around these parts here and here.


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Week #2/52: The Tomorrow People in The Visitor, a Woolworths-esque filter and travels taken…

The Tomorrow People in The Visitor-paperback book-novel-1973-Piccolo TV Times-Roger Price and Julian Gregory-7File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 wanderings

I have a particular fondness for this book – as in the actual artifact and its encasing; it seems to be a pathway to a number of different interrelated reference points, aesthetics and experiences.

The cover image seems to sum up a very particular time in 1970s British life and culture – all flares, parkas and a slightly culturally undernourished feel that seemed so prevalent at a certain time and place.

So, it wasn’t a particularly great surprise to see that it was published in 1973, which seems to be something of a high water mark for such things (as in the around these parts recently mentioned dybukk’s dozen conflagration of such things).

The Tomorrow People in The Visitor-paperback book-novel-1973-Piccolo TV Times-Roger Price and Julian Gregory-6

With the book itself, I seemed to have a fondness for this particular binding as there is a sense of it having travelled or quite possibly journeyed through time, of character in amongst the creases and wear.

Which leads me to this particular set of tales cathode ray incarnations and in particular its accompanying commencement sequence.

This is something that even watching it now seems to be able to give me the absolute heebie jeebies, mixed with a curious elation, possibly at the thought of stepping into the unknown or the not quite understood.

I’m not quite sure why it does that.

The Tomorrow People in The Visitor-paperback book-novel-1973-Piccolo TV Times-Roger Price and Julian Gregory-14

(As an aside, aesthetically, it seems to be a mixture of the commencement sequence to The Owl Service, The Modern Poets book covers from back when, Mr Julian House’s work tumbling backwards and forwards through time and the audiologica of The Radiophonic Workshop – more of which in the moment – but all filtered somehow through an almost Woolworths-esque take on such things.)

Looking back I don’t think I ever saw all that many of these tales back when they were first sent out into the world – I expect that mine was in part a more Auntie/institutional broadcasting orientated household as opposed to its more rambunctious commercial counterparts.

What I can remember of The Tomorrow People tumbling from the cathode ray box in the corner seems to confuse me even now – a set of images, tales and ideas that were possibly beyond my years and understanding, something added to by only seeing occasional snatches of stories.


One of the defining aspects of what has come to be known as hauntological culture could be said to be the discovery, wish for or awareness of otherly/occult (in the sense of hidden) aspects of late 1960s to late 1970s television transmissions, often focussing on what were once tales destined for mass reception by the young of the nation but which have now become something else or at least in part imbued with other meaning…

…or to quote myself:

A tendency to see some kind of unsettledness and hidden layers of meaning in Public Information Films, TV idents and a bit too scary/odd for children though that’s who they were aimed at TV programs from the late 1960s to about 1980 (think The Owl Service, Children Of The Stones, The Changes)…

The Tomorrow People in The Visitor-paperback book-novel-1973-Piccolo TV Times-Roger Price and Julian Gregory-10…the audiological aspect that acompanied the commencement of the tales of these tomorrow’s people, for myself, seems almost more hauntologically mediumistic and radiophonic like than the recordings of The Radiophonic Workshop itself.

Perhaps that is in part because of my own personal sense of the tumble and disjointed-ness of the associated tales, which leads me to a sense of misremembering, an act/aspect which could also be said to be a particular pointer or reference point of what has come to be known as hauntological culture…

…or to return to my earlier scribing and considerations on such matters…

A re-imagining and misremembering of… forms of music and culture that seem familiar, comforting, unsettling and not a little eery, ones which are haunted by spectres of its and our cultural past…

Ah, that may well about sum up my own particular relationship with this particular binding and its accompanying cathode ray commencement sequence.


Intertwined pathways:

Other commencements: Day #183/365: Steam engine time and remnants of transmissions before the flood

Hidden layers: Day #162/365: Hauntology, places where society goes to dream, the deletion of spectres and the making of an ungenre

Mediumistic considerations: Day #343/365: Veils and Mirrors – forebearing, chanellings, rendings, listing of names…

Radiophonic departures: Day #303/365: Towards Tomorrow; a selection of cuttings from The Delian Mode, sonic maps, the corporation’s cubby holes and the life of an audiological explorer…


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Week #1/52: The Duke Of Burgundy and Mesmerisation…

The Duke Of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-1
File Under: Trails And Influences / Year 2 Wanderings

Well, where to start with The Duke Of Burgundy…?

On initial glance and indeed for the first section of the film this could be seen to be something of a salacious piece of work – drawing from the more, ahem, stimulative side of the likes of Jess Franco’s tales which it is said in part to be a homage to…

…but very quickly this particular flickering journey is nolonger about that…

The Duke Of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-2

(As a slight aside, one of the reference points that its regisseur Mr Peter Strickland quotes is the late 1970s-1980s British sitcom Terry and June – and indeed it seems to have much in common with such work; it is often a telling of the sometimes petty, sometimes far from petty, day-to-day annoyances and compromises that are often made in a relationship, albeit within an exotic setting/rituals but ultimately the issues it considers are very similar and in line with Mr Strickland’s comedic protagonist forebears – the frustrations of two people in their pyjamas in bed.)

The Duke Of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-Julian House-Intro-A Year In The Country-4

…this a tale where an almost Famous Five like bucolic existence of bike rides, butterfly nets and picnics amongst the grass lives side-by-side with that just mentioned exoticism and a sometimes stepping into a fluttering, shattering night.

Ultimately its a heartbreaking, moving story with an almost Kafka-esque sense of unending whatever the proclamations of change made by one half of a couple.

That aside, it is a mark of the quality of the work that you are drawn into this almost fairy tale like (a phrase used possibly more in a Czech new wave manner than say its traditional use) world and its interests without questioning the underlying infrastructure and logic – how do these people support themselves economically? Why and how is the primary source of activity and even currency that of butterfly, cricket etc examination and collecting? Where lie-eth the other gender? What age or whence does this place exist?

None of that matters as for around 6000 tickings of the clock this almost goldenly shimmering world becomes all of reality.

Lovely stuff indeed and a fitting start to a second year of wanderings…


The Duke Of Burgundy-Peter Strickland-one sheet poster-A Year In The Country-3As a postscript and to add to the substantiality/unreality of this tale and place – it was only on the second visiting and stepping into that I noticed the mannequins in amongst the audience of the lepidopterology lectures…

As a post-postscript and in continuity with Mr Strickland’s previous tale of a sealed and unending world – The Berberian Sound Studio – the artwork and trailer for this tale were created by Mr Julian House of Ghost Box Records.

These wander from a dreamt but quietly unsettling take on those bucolic bike rides to nearer its “exoticism” by way of The Velvet Underground (the book rather than the band, although that combos tales of well maintained footwear may well connect in various ways at this point)…

…while from over the seas and accompanying this here point in scribing is the rare-in-corporeal-form non-standard size playbill which I’m rather fond of…

…I don’t think this was placed into existence by Mr House and which, possibly in keeping with previous eras selling of “exotic but actually rather arthouse” tales leans more toward that overt “ahem” factor.

Peruse further work and playbills by Mr House around this tale here and view an introductory snippet here.

Step through into other of Mr Stricklands tales around these parts here.