Disappear into the vanishing point

It was a day to venture into the grey, away from the news and away from my sadness and incomprehension at what’s happening in the world. Although I’m outside, alone, I’m also in my head, and also alone there. These landscapes—these thin places—exist perhaps only in my inner life and imaginings. I walk to escape, and I write about the walks to extend the escape into something else, a feeling of comfort reified beyond the mere memory of the escape.

All of these places exist, and none of them.

I am here, at Edinburgh Park, with time to kill, or at least sufficient to render it unconscious for a brief spell.

And so I walked for an hour or so, walking to nowhere, skirting the outskirts. I’d never explored here before; there was no need. This place leads nowhere and comes from nothing. It’s a business park and I have no business with it.

But in fact, as I soon discovered, I’d entered into a landscape of subtle, if awkward, poetry in the company of the poets themselves.


It seems a simple mechanism, although perhaps not everyone is so fortunate: one foot in front of the other foot. No destination, no expectation. Intuition as a guide. I’m more and more thankful for this kind of walking, for the desire and the need to walk, for the places and the spaces, both real and unreal, in which I can walk.

The skies slid a little as I wandered, from a colour the taste of ashes to a fuller, duller slate. Brooding skies. Did they move because I walked? As in many transformative tales, I reached a crossroads, of sorts. I crossed over, looked right, looked left. Only a vivid emptiness toward the tramlines’ vanishing point.

Blocks of buildings, empty offices, a tram with no passengers. It’s a supremely functional landscape, although it’s not functioning today.

But then I’m surprised to find a man-made loch in the middle of this deserted business park, a mirror in and of the silence at large here. More of an ornamental lochan, Loch Ross is quiet, its waters still and dark on this gloomy Saturday. If the Monday to Friday working week is the daytime of this place, perhaps the weekend is its nightscape. This all does feel a little dreamlike, but it’s probably just because I didn’t expect it, didn’t anticipate the strange juxtaposition of what is to come next.

At least there are safety measures in case the silence gets too much.

Please do not feed the waterfowl.

I do not feed the waterfowl.

The waterfowl are, it seems, in hiding.

The poets are not in hiding.

I didn’t feed them either.

Dotted around this lochan are a number of bronze busts of Scottish poets. I first stumble on the herm of W. S. Graham as I move down the path; he looks young, serious and oxidised to a verdant shimmer. Graham is a favourite, and it makes me grin to find him here so unexpectedly. It feels like a good omen. Then I spy the other disembodied heads punctuating this body of water’s whispered imperative: walk, here, Brian, in this most constructed of spaces.

Or maybe, surely, of course we never know
What we have said, what lonely meanings are read
Into the space we make. And yet I say
This silence here for in it I might hear you.

I say this silence or, better, construct this space
So that somehow something may move across
The caught habits of language to you and me.

W. S. Graham, from The Constructed Space

I wander away from the loch and further out into this zone of dream. Here it feels like some kind of a launchpad or threshold. I feel watched and yet completely alone. The subtle gaze of the poets is gone, but something else remains, hanging in the air and undispelled by winds. A sense of incompletion, a never-reaching, older than any of the structures here.

The beech hedges are brittle and a signal that Spring is still some way off. Under that sky it’s hard to believe it will ever arrive.

An underground car park entrance stands out amid so many cuboid structures, dropped like stray bricks on the greenbelt. It feels almost like part of a ship, listing in the concrete swell.

The light does not shift. The skies don’t change from their roiling greys.

Even now, new forms are emerging in this place. Plazas, buildings, sculpture—unfinished, they don’t exist on the map yet, but they are nonetheless rising from the soil and the rubble. Not so much growth as an awkward emanation, the weeds of late capitalism and a “vision” for liminal living. Green space devoured, with these tokens of public art as the reward. The sculpture on the right in the picture above is Dancer after Degas II by William Tucker. Later I realise I’ve missed seeing The Vulcan by Eduardo Paolozzi, and undertake to go back at some point to make his acquaintance.

All the pathways go on towards that vanishing point again. I look back at the poets and their herms around the diminutive Loch Ross: of the twelve women and men represented there, only Edwin Morgan wrote a poem specifically for his sculpture; it seems fitting to end with it:

A human head would never do
under the mists and rains or tugged
by ruthless winds or whipped with leaves
from raving trees. But who is he
in bronze, who is the moveless one?
The poet laughed, it isn’t me.
It’s nearly me, but I am free
to dodge the showers or revel in them,
to walk the alleys under the stars
or waken where the blackbirds are.
Some day my veins will turn to bronze
and I can’t hear, or make, a song.
Then indeed I shall be my head
staring ahead, or so it seems,
but you may find me watching you,
dear traveller, or wheeling round
into your dreams.

Edwin Morgan, A human head…

Tiny Boats

A dead puffin on the path
to the shore, steep.
It’s a dry kind of moment
in this unreal autumn, not knowing
whether to mourn or be curious
about the colours.

The shingle, a shell’s span
of time: the brittle crunch
beneath my feet. One tiny boat,
handmade, handpainted,
LV426
run aground on a driftwood trunk,
another further on,
a steamboat, its painted funnel
an exclamation in black, in red,
faint shout across the sound
to a safer haven.

Edinburgh, October 2020
(Following a walk to the beach at Eagle Rock)

Psammomancy booklet & CD

IMG_2948

Fine sand is poured from a pouch,
trickled onto a tray or table,
fingertips are used to find figures,
tracing, erasing, effacing, shaping . . .

The mysterious art of sand reading explored in text by Mark Valentine and music by Brian Lavelle, with black and white photography by Jo Valentine.

IMG_2953

This collaborative project is published in February 2018 by Seacliff Press, a small press Mark and I have established. There’s a Twitter account here for occasional news items.

Professionally printed 16 page booklet with professionally duplicated CD. Limited to 120 numbered copies, of which 100 only are for sale.


Psammomancy is available from Mark direct: contact markl [dot] valentine [at] btinternet [dot] com, removing spaces and replacing the words in brackets with characters.
(Note, the fifth character is the letter ell not the number one.)

IMG_2944

Language of Objects book & CD

Language of Objects - front coverLanguage of Objects: a new book and CD by Murdo Eason of the Fife Psychogeographical Collective and me, Brian Lavelle.

Language of Objects: a 58 page professionally printed book in full colour inside and out, accompanied by a glass mastered CD with a separate download code. Text and images are by Murdo; sound by me; cover design by Vincent Pacheco. The CD contains a new 28 minute composition—Sullen Charybdis, the Blue of Scarabs—which is my response to the imagery in the book.

Language of Objects: published on 14 September 2017 by Blind Roads Press, our collaborative imprint.

The book/CD is available for £10.99 plus postage and can be ordered here.

 

Technical details
Paperback, 58pp, full colour, 148 x 210mm, perfect bound
300gsm cover, 120gsm interior
Glass mastered CD
Edition of 100 copies
Published 14 September 2017
ISBN 978-1-9997718-0-5