“Because of their titles the two books Bollocks to Alton Towers (2005) and Far from the Sodding Crowd (2007) on initial sighting could well be just another in a long line of Christmas market throwaway fodder. In fact, despite their jokey titles, some of the marketing and the paperback editions’ jokey covers featuring garden gnomes there is something more to these particular books than is often found in such things.
Essentially they are guidebooks for, as their subtitles say “Uncommonly British Days Out”; the books are documents of the authors’ Jason Hazeley, Robin Halstead, Joel Morris and Alex Morris’ wanderings to often small, individual or family-run museums, visitor centres, follies, unofficial non-tours of television series recording locations, neglected or unloved public art, bygone defence of the realm installations and the like…
Generally they focus on attractions and places to visit 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 as they progress the books become an exploration of a semi-lost or overlooked British landscape and its cultural markers.”
“One of the defining characteristics of hauntology is:
“Music and culture that draws from and examines a sense of loss of a post war utopian, progressive, modern(ist?) future that was never quite reached.”
In many ways that seems to be a subtly underlying theme of the Uncommonly British Days Out books; 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.”
“There 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.
At one point the text says “You are following the ghost of something interesting, and it left ages ago.”
“The artists that came to be labelled hauntological were suffused with an overwhelming melancholy… 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.”
His observations could well describe much of both the spirit of these books and the 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 than Mark Fisher’s but there is nothing wrong with a good old laugh or two.”
“At the point of writing the paperback editions of the books are still in print. If you should buy those then at some point a small fraction of the cover cost will hopefully work its way to the author.
However, the hardback editions seem more in keeping with the spirit of the text. Particularly the first book and its depiction of a wood framed Morris Minor car on a white sea edge clifftop, with a classic seaside striped lighthouse just visible in the distance. As with the books in general it seems to conjure a quiet sense of melancholy without being chocolate box-like.”
Online images to accompany Chapter 21 of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book, alongside some text extracts from the chapter:
Details of the A Year In The Country: Wandering Through Spectral Fields book and the collection of its accompanying online images can be found at the Book’s Page, which will be added to throughout the year.