Posts Tagged ‘concrete’

Impossible Architectures

May 14, 2010

I’ve decided that as a vague tribute to the sadly departed JG Ballard (me and Phil will undoubtedly raise a glass to him on Thursday, as is our way), this piece can be read in an order of your choosing. All sections are linked in some way or another. If there is a non-contradictory view point by the end, then kudos for noticing it; I wasn’t aware I had one.

Start

I’ve been surrounded by Brutalist architecture for a long time. I hated it for a long time, but then I think I didn’t really understand the motivation for this. Unrationalised dislike. I later considered the reasoning for my dislike, and realised that I had largely misunderstood the point, and that these buildings, widely pilloried, are some of the most conceptually interesting structures we have built and deserve to stand alongside traditional beauties like faux-Florentine St.Pauls. Every University I have studied at (two to date) was built with a nod to Modernist architecture; at UEA, my halls of residence was a perpetually leaking concrete ziggurat, and here at York the Central Hall is a peculiarly supported inverted octagon in the same style. The majority of buildings today operate on a different level. They are either there out of necessity, and devoid of imagination, or are entirely imagination. The collapse of the idea of a grand narrative in to fractured often baffling spaces has allowed for a conceptual free-for-all at one level, and lazy paint-by-numbers buildings at the other. It wasn’t always like this.

Chris Petit

In Content, recently screened on More4 as part of their True Stories season, Petit takes issue with the nature of out-of-town industrial warehousing. He views it, always from his car window, as ‘the apotheosis of non-place’. Their anonymity renders everything to the imagination, disregarding ideas like architecture in favour of nothing but function, the boxing of society. Now nothing but the forever war of invisible industry. The result – buildings today are impossible to read. Within these gargantuan zeros, business life exists in a state of military alert…under the eye of constant camera surveillance. It trickles out somewhere along the line, in to the wider environment, like oil across a once pristine beach.

He says ‘it all looks so quasi-military, like living inside the cold war again’. The road movie, and it definitely is a road movie, draws interesting pictures of the architecture of failed ideas, or practical solutions giving way to horrific encounters. There is a discussion of Auschwitz New Town, an ‘ideal community’ planned to be built over the concentration camp following German victory. It would have had 12 schools and a Nazi party headquarters constructed on top of the Jewish Cemetery. At around the same time, rubble from the houses of blitzed London was transported to East Anglia where it formed the runways for the bombers that destroyed Dresden.

There is a shot of a high sky filled with blue, and a land of nothing but dust.

Petit suggests that the emotionless constructions of today’s new build housing, out of town retail parks and faceless warehousing leads to a incomprehension of the natural vista as well. People are now unable to understand varied, confusing and massive landscapes in a way that our ancestors did. At least in the past people tried to exist within them or else they feared them, whereas now it is just blank indifference, viewed at distance. ‘It is spectacular’ because I am told that that is what I think it should be. This is not the reaction people should have. How can you live in an environment that seeks to alienate you from it? In nature there is purpose to it, in man made space it is inexplicit intention that we have needlessly fashioned. To make spaces we do not understand how to act within, or misbehave around. To hope history will fix purpose at a later date.

Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer’s exhibition ended at the Baltic on May 16th. I went with Zoe, on a day filled with grey cloud and squally winds along the river. I felt the exhibition worked in that the curation and display of the huge scrawling LED screens filled the two large halls perfectly, simultaneously suggesting great distance (high ceilings, long echo filled chambers, a viewing platform above the main retrospective piece) and also intimacy, in the nature of the message (I know her stuff is designed to be ambivalent in its statement-making). It didn’t seem large enough to be a retrospective, but then much of the work had been distilled in to conglomerated displays. The Baltic itself was terrifying, mainly because I am scared of heights, or rather I am scared on man-made heights…trees, cliffs etc. are no problem. The Baltic’s six floors are reached via speedy glass lifts that, after the terror of the initial ascent, made me take the staircase for the rest of the visit, much to the chagrin of Zoe. The stairs were also heart stopping, set slightly out from the wall meaning that no matter which side you stand, you can see down. The main highlight was the elderly couple that were visiting the Holzer exhibition with their grandson, who was maybe only six/seven (start them early). They stood next to us on the viewing platform reading out the statements as they scrolled past, the kid watching in wide eyed awe as his nan had to stop herself from reading ‘Fuck me and fuck all of you’ out loud.

The Guantanamo hand prints, and blocked out text were perhaps the least effective works on display, too obviously loaded, and the LED tubes symbolising virtual news tickers provided a much more disturbing account of The War on Terror in their emotionless delivery. The gallery itself is a well worked reimagining of the old flour mill/factory, particularly in terms of its positioning alongside the silver insect larvae of The Sage Gateshead and the graceful curve of the Millennium Swing Bridge. It seems to bring an unusual feeling of impotence to riverside area, which I guess is entirely unintentional as a redevelopment, like the smell from a dentists surgery transformed in to tangible public space (this was perhaps because of the unexpected cold May day I was there on). Huge and empty. I found that reassuring for some reason.

Newcastle

This was my third visit to the city, and I enjoyed it very much. I see the city as an architectural art gallery spread across numerous levels as the buildings run down toward the Tyne; a multitude of styles fighting against each other in often uncomfortable arrangements. The classicism of Georgian streets leading in broad arcs to Grey’s Monument punctuated by the horror of Eldon Garden Shopping Centre (Eldon Garden itself is a square of dead brown grass where people gather to smoke and argue). Modernist monoliths, the old theatre, the Pearl Assurance building, a largely disused multi-story car park (and earlier in the day from the top of the Baltic, what I thought was the iconic carbuncle of the Trinity Square car park loomed out from Gateshead…it may have been demolished already…I suppose the chances of two massive modernist car parks in one place are fairly unlikely) sit uneasily on the valleyside. A hodgepodge, which you could be forgiven as seeing as being spilt on the land rather than meticulously planned and constructed. I also like the area to the north-west of the city, called Spital Tongues…but solely for the name. It would be nice to have it written on an envelope.

Norwich

For a year, I lived on Lincoln Street in Norwich, no. 76 I think, part of a fairly standard row of Victorian terraced housing. I’d walk from there to University, on the rare days that I bothered going in. I’m not entirely sure why this was, though Zoe suggests it was because I never really try (definitely some truth in this). I spent much of the year, my third, writing a book that is still called Sunshine and Power Lines. It seemed to be an attempt for me to synthesise some of the confused opinions and ideas I’d fostered since leaving school, and fashion them in to a narrative of sorts. The book follows five nameless characters through preparations for an end of the world type scenario. To avoid the usual clichéd end of the world type event, I made my end of the world an amalgamation of all other end of the world type events; economic meltdown, environmental collapse, meteor strike, no more children being born, all the animals disappearing. The book ends with a protracted chase, through a series of structures and cities made of constantly reconfiguring brickdust and jets of steam. The world is essentially desert, with the old cities rearing up from the earth in new arrangements completely at random. I wrote the book without planning it, and it shows.

On the way to University, I would walk up a long straight road called The Avenues, surrounded by well established trees and council housing that was built at a time when councils still put some thought in to the design and placement of such things. Shortly after the crossroads with the inner ring road, the A140, I’d come to George Borrow Road, which I found a tremendously unsettling place. The juxtaposition between this view of new build housing, unlived in, emotionally vacuous, with the older semi detached housing across The Avenues unnerved me. New buildings are disturbing because they lack anything but the architects dimension, and in the case of much new build housing, it is constructed from default plans of previous developments, flat pack, designed without any real flare or feeling. The need, as set out by successive governments post-Thatcher, was to replace the social housing lost in the buy-your-council-house scheme sanctioned by the aforementioned, which while giving numerous people the opportunity to join the home owners club, left the country with little to help those struggling to find social housing today. They have to be built now, which requires that genuine consideration for the people who live in these theoretically prefabricated homes is done away with in favour of speed. These houses are nothing but vague intentions of living created from what private industry requires to be the bare minimum requirements from those who urgently need social housing. The houses on the side of George Borrow opposite the Avenues would have been like this once, but now they are well lived in, and people have been able to occupy the space in their own way for long enough that the original ideas defined by planners has largely fallen by the side; it is represented in external looks but not in internal feel.

The new build private housing I looked at prior to moving away was equally dire, curiously shapeless due to the uniformity of everything around it; spatial blindness brought on by abundance in the same way that sun reflecting off a mountainside of snow will burn away your vision given a chance. A sterile idea of what community should be, imposed without consideration rather than expressed by the people who live in these buildings. The German narrator in Content, who I believe is reading lines written by Ian Penman, delivers the unsubstantiated fact that suicide rates are higher in New Build housing than older housing.

Exeter

I went to Exeter during a family holiday, possibly the one where Dad spent two days in Torquay hospital with blood poisoning, picked up from an exposed sewage pipe somewhere beneath the red cliffs flanking Teignmouth. Our holidays were always predicated on an idea of cultural exploration of one kind or another; stately homes, gardens, moorland, mines, museums, places of worship. Exeter had just redeveloped its waterfront area on the Ex, or at least it seemed recently done as much of it was uncompleted. There were shops set in to what could have been a railway bridge were empty, there glass fronts reflecting a bright afternoon. People in canoes paddled past a rope ferry. We spent an hour at the cathedral, wandering out of the sun in to cooler chapels vestries, finishing with an ice cream in the park in front. My abiding memory of my time in Exeter though is the monotony of it. I found it a boring place to be. I’d assumed for a long while this was just because I was a child, and children get bored, but after I’d decided not to go to University there on this basis, I reassessed my issues with the place. Largely, I’d found it boring because of the uninspiring centre. The high street of the city, which I automatically considered to be old enough to be considered properly ‘historical’, was the same as any other high street in any other town. Character replaced with function. My concern here is that I seem to bemoan the loss of the former in favour of the latter, or that I appear to favour some faded (and possibly imaginary) idea of what a city is or should be, but this is not the case. Function in buildings should consider the occupants and not simply the intended activity.

(Forever) The Arndale

The Arndale in Luton is a similar case. Function over the needs of the occupants, or rather the needs of occupants are imposed. An architect of any worth understands not only the materials and the construction but the idea of space. Space is defined formally, in the structure, and informally in the way it is used by those who occupy. The old heart of Luton pulled down and replaced by an odd white plastic coated series of irregular shapes, balanced on a dark brown brick wall. It offers nothing but an obvious barrier to the past that it was built over. It is domineering in a way opposite to its intention; it does not invite people inside it, but provides numerous blocks to that, in appearance and layout. The past, the streets that were there before, are in no way idolised here. They were knocked down before I was born, and those I know who remember them considered them to be as dark and dangerous a place as the current building is troubling in its effortlessly extensive boredom. Buildings need to be considerate, widely consulted on, able to match architectural vision with the unforeseen way in which people use the space provided. This can not be planned for perhaps, but the option for allowing a space to develop organically should be factored in to the design process. The same applies to public spaces. The George Square development in Luton is another example. A half arsed attempt at redesigning the amphitheatre as low slung concrete seating and a band stand that need removing within two weeks of construction because homeless drunks used it as a shelter.

Unlike the Trinity Square car park in Gateshead, I very much doubt tourists would gather for guided tours of the condemned building prior to demolition, or that the council would use it as the backdrop for a light show…Trinity’s ultimate fate, as a Tesco development complete with an additional ‘Mall’ and cinema as well as public meeting places (whatever their eventual function will be…perhaps policed in a way to keep people from massing), is a future both centres could share. If I were Owen Luder I’d be pretty pissed off that three of my most iconic creations, the others being the Derwent Tower (also in Gateshead, and reminiscent of the police tower Gaff’s spinner lands on in Blade Runner) and the long-demolished Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, were reduced to memory and replaced with facile attempts at buildings

Peter Doig

Brutalist buildings are forward looking in their now failed utopian living ideal, but also old and crumbling, streaked with brown and green where the rain has seeped in to the supposed impervious ‘raw concrete’. Old and new. In Doig’s ‘Concrete Cabin’, which I saw a few years ago at the Tate exhibition of his work, numerous strands are brought together. The scene is eerily lit, the forest dark and impenetrable but, by the width of the trees, apparently no older than the building they surround. The sun shining on the exposed façade suggesting an enlightening of some kind, perhaps the glimmer of that almost forgotten utopian dream of community living that Jeanneret-Gris never saw realised. The Unité d’Habitation in Briey-en-Forêt that Doig depicts is the idea of man and nature coexisting, perhaps as espoused in Ebenezer Howard’s Garden Cities of Tomorrow, but come about as though channelled through JG Ballard, or Disch’s The Genocides. It has the vibe of Pripyat, the ghost town evacuated after the Chernobyl distaster, now being consumed by vines and saplings. This particular Unité d’Habitation has been abandoned since 1983, the year I was born, and is now kept going by a group of conservationist architects, La Premiere Rue. I can see the York campus going a similar way one day. It is already surrounded by park land, as well as something like 12 species of waterfowl and a shit load of rabbits.

End

Brutalism was too rigid, its ultimate downfall the supposed end of modernity and the postmodern ‘turn’. The ultimate in function, unable to play nice with its surroundings, it stands there demanding subscription to forward thinking; it is hopeful, but not dissimilar to the modern shopping centres peppering the country nowadays in its inability to see the potential of human agency in shaping rigidly structured/intentioned spaces. The exercise track and paddling pool built on the roof of La Maison du Fada are unused today, and the apartments (designed for occupation by all social strata), are largely occupied by the wealthy who want cultural capital by association and occupancy. So what is the difference between these apparent eyesores and the ones I have complained about? I suppose it is intention again, that the buildings are symbolic of an idea of utopian community and cooperation, a then-urgent rethink in the concept of how people living in a post-War society could interact with one another, rather than simply an extension of trading practices or lip service to appease he concerns of town planners and worried citizens who fear the sprawl. However flawed these ideas may be, in their attempt to standardise and their lack of consideration for their surroundings (which are all parallels to the boxes of today), their intentions and now-vanished optimism are a saving grace.

The Birds at Midnight

March 29, 2010

March 21st 2010

Walking home from work at around half past midnight, I take the usual cut through from the University, passing the place where Claudia Lawrence was last seen a year previously. It takes me through the grounds of a hospital along a badly lit path, which at this time of night (and after the Friday that was the final day of term) is populated by no-one. To my left, someone has scrawled a slogan that I have forgotten, though the memory of its being there remains. The path opens out at the hospital entrance, where perhaps 25 geese are picking at the grass. They make almost no sound as I pass. I turn out on to Thief Lane, where the usual stumbling-drunk students are absent, as are the convoy of speeding taxis. I take the pavement alongside St.Lawrence School, and stop just short of the entrance when I hear the tell tale call-reply of two owls in the trees opposite. I stand and listen, the distant rumble of the east road to my back, the hidden grounds of the hospital behind the old wall in front. I don’t see the owls moving through the air, the bedroom lights of the hospital residences means my eyes are unable to adjust to the dark as much as I would have liked. Their calls criss-cross the leafless branches, they fly silently between them. Despite the time of night, as I head onward through Daysfoot, a blackbird is singing in the hedgerow which marks the path.

January 30th 2010

On my way to work, walking the reverse of the route mentioned above. Of the four street lamps that light the path, one is not working. As I approach it, a barn owl flies in front of me, perhaps a metre from my head, crossing from an oak in the field to my right to the wide tall trees at the rear of the hospital. It is the only time I have seen a owl in the wild, despite hearing them almost nightly in my garden. My next door neighbour in Luton used to keep them in a cage in his back garden, and fly them on a tether. I remember waking one night to the sound of scratching on the tiles of the roof above my room; the owl had escaped and was cleaning its claws. The neighbour knocked on the door and asked for help. As I was already awake, and with a box of dead mice that he provided, we (me/Dad/neighbour) managed to coax the owl back down. A few years later the neighbour and his kids moved to Brighton, and were replaced by a new family, the father of which died from a heart attack in his work van whilst driving down the Dunstable Road (I remember asking if he had crashed, and being reassured that he managed to pull over in to a side road). They too moved away, shortly after the funeral. I think I was perhaps fourteen at the time.

Nov 26th 2002

Two days after my birthday, I woke up from some semi-slumber to find the world disguised beneath thick fog. My University halls were a ziggurat, my room a panoramic double at the top with two of the four walls made entirely of windows. Across from me, bleeding out across the dense grey, the muted gleam of the opposite residence. I opened my windows to better see the spectacle, perhaps even to touch it in that way you sometimes imagine you can with a thing that appears so solid and thick. The halls of residence were built on a gentle slope (in fact the whole University was) with the ‘ground floor’ being forty feet higher than the ground and passage between buildings conducted on thin concrete walkways. At the bottom of this slope, perhaps two hundred metres from my room, a man made lake. Fog was apparently a regular occurrence, but I was yet to experience it. Looking out of the open window, it remained sadly intangible, as clouds do. I changed my clothes, grabbed my minidisc recorder and the awful gooseneck microphone I had at the time (not a field recordists best friend) and wandered down the internal staircase five floors to the bottom. Nobody was around and through the half light, cast by the street lamps on the service road, shapes grew, merged, dispersed. I walked out on to the grass in front of Halls, where I could just make out the glow from my own room. Voices ricocheted across the concrete gully between the opposing pyramids. I walked for maybe thirty minutes, still partially asleep, periodically checking the levels on the recorder.

What I wanted was to capture the environment I was walking through, the odd mood I was in, the time of day, the way the fog and the architecture was funnelling sounds in a way that reminded me of Mitchell’s description of the weather bouncing off telephone wires out on the Canadian prairies; ‘the night wind had two voices…one that keened along pulsing wires, [and] one that throated long and deep …the swarming hum…’*. It was a sound so unnatural it troubled me for days afterwards. It was a kind of quiet I found terrifying. I rediscovered the minidisc this week, whilst rearranging some furniture upstairs, and after reacquainting myself with what is now archaic technology (which I still prefer to mp3) I transferred the one 30 minute audio file to my computer. The wave form was a line with sporadic peaks and long unknowable silences that, despite the absence of any real aural markers, still transported me to the place I had recorded it. Whilst listening back to it I thought that to the ears of anyone else it would simply be some vague crackle that begins and ends with uncertain footsteps on a flight of stairs.

February 13th 2010

Again on my way back from work, this time after some brief snowfall which had frozen hard to the ground. I’m still getting used to wearing glasses, and try and stay on my feet in crappy workshoes by spending the entire journey staring at my feet to make sure I don’t slip on the ice. I am, as ever, distracted from this. The walk along the usual cut-through is tricky, as rather than concentrate on the ground, I look through the wire fence to the field where three horses live. I can hear them moving in the dark. At the end of the path, I emerge on to Heslington Road. The beams cast by passing cars and alike throw the light across the ‘anti-glare’ surface of my glasses at unexpected angles. I take the short cut at Daysfoot Court again, where a single bright white bulb in a lamp post illuminates the path. As I pass underneath it, the air becomes full of ice crystals. I am surprised enough by this that I stop still and watch. In every direction I turn, ice crystals spin end over blue tinted end, brought in to being by the combination of this particular lamp light, the glasses and the cold frost-filled air. As I slowly move off, the glittering twirling shards change colour, prism-like, hurtling across the light spectrum before disappearing in to darkness. I make my way home tentatively, briefly looking up at the stars above the church tower. When I get in, I climb the stairs and write down the following on the post-it notes next to the bed: Street lamp, ice crystals in the air. I stick it to my glasses so that I find it when I wake up, though I doubt I am likely to forget the strange experience.

March 18th 2010

My parents had been visiting since Monday. On the Thursday, with rain forecast to push in from west to east, we decide to risk visiting the coast at Flamborough Head (which I mistakenly confused with Spurn Point, a fair way to the south on the Humber). On the approach road, we pass the old lighthouse, the top missing after a violent storm and subsequent fire a long while ago. Its replacement stands a little back from the headland, part of the Trinity Research Station. There’s also a café that is closed and a toilet which has no working sink. The car park is quite busy with minibus and coach groups who take the well trodden paths out along the cliffs. A park bench part way to the headland is covered in flowers and cards. I see an old couple walk over and read some of the messages that have been left behind. Dangerously close (as my Mum mentions and I ignore) to the edge of the cliff, we peer down to the sea. The cliffs have fallen in to the water at various points, and large boulders protrude from the surf. Colonies of gulls and guillemots take to the sea, diving out of sight for fish, and returning. On the whitewashed wall of the research station, a kestrel lands, and sits watching us until we move away. Around the far side of the research station, we see where the falling limestone cliffs have created columns of rock where birds gather. Later in the year, May or June time, puffins nest here in great numbers. There is still one limestone arch remaining, not dissimilar to Durdle Door. The whole area is being pulled apart by salt water, water that near the shoreline is an amazing turquoise blue. As we are about to leave to return to the car, Zoe points out a strange bobbing rock a little way out in the water. There are birds circling about it, those already sitting on the water move away from it or take flight; a seal, its huge black liquid eyes blinking in the grey afternoon. It stays for a moment, looking up at us, and then dips under a wave.

We move up the coast to Bempton. It is a truly extraordinary place. Farmers fields extend away from us to the end of the land, a fence the only indication that the earth falls away to the sea. We walk down a narrow track alongside the field, the wind biting, the clouds massing to our left. I am slightly unsure as to whether or not the trip is going to be worth it; there is no sign of any birds. I am not a bird fan especially, but I feed them and watch them in my garden, and I try to maintain an interest in the natural as much as I can**. As the path comes to an end at the fence, an alcove is cut as a viewing platform, along with three more further along. It is at the point of entering the alcove that the sound hits you: the combined calls of thousands of sea birds perched on the cliffs slightly below the viewing area, wheeling, diving, fighting, fucking, feeding. I have never heard sound like it. The cliffs are 400 feet high, considerably more stable than those at Flamborough, and populated by kittiwakes, guillemots and razor bills. It is one of only two places on the British mainland where you can see nesting gannets. They are bizarre and slightly frightening creatures; their wingspan is huge, their eyes are decorated with a menacing black streak, and they glide effortlessly on the winds buffeting the coast line. It is both natural and unnatural, though the latter is probably the result of having not seen them before. The sea is relatively shallow down below, so they don’t dive in that way so beloved of nature documentaries. Thirty or forty guillemots bob out on the coming waves. I watch them for a while. A volunteer at the reserve arrives with some kind of binoculars that resemble a telescope. He is here to look for puffins (which Zoe is also dying to see). It is too early for nesting, as I mentioned, but they come in at the end of March/start of April, to scope out potential sites. The man points one out to me in surprise, but I am unable to spot it amongst the guillemots and it has flown around the rugged promontory before I am even looking in vaguely the right area. As compensation for missing this, I spot four harbour porpoises heading out to sea.

We move up toward the next alcove, the sound from the birds disappearing as soon as we step back from the edge. To the left (the sea to the right) is the eerie monolith of the decommissioned RAF Bempton. It was a radar triangulation station during WWII. Concrete pillars, arranged in a triangle, stand totem-like in the field. I assume they are part of the original listening equipment; they remind me of a considerably more advanced version of the concrete sound mirrors on the south coast (Dungeness), which fell out of use with the development of radar***. The buildings of the compound are overgrown and broken in to large crumbling pieces, concrete huts with roofs caved in, vacant spaces where doors and windows should be. The wind, another keen one conjured from the sea, creates the illusion of a distant steam train moving through a valley as it passes through the gaping holes in the structures. The landowner allows people to explore the site with prior arrangement and on the proviso that it is entirely at their own risk. From the photos of the inside of the site that I have subsequently discovered, it is something I would really like to do, though it is quite a challenge to reach from York, mainly because of the lack of car. As I walk along the cliff, I think about the building sites I used to visit with Chris when we both moved back to Luton after University. We were partially nocturnal then I suppose, and almost always drunk, clambering through scaffolding, wandering the outlines of rooms and later, when nearing completion, the formal structure of an actual functioning building. All these spaces are out of bounds now they have taken on their intended roles, but we have walked through the transitions, their developmental stages, their constructive adolescence. A jumper, perhaps left behind by a contractor, was thrown (by us [probably me]) into a miscellaneous pipe when we first visited the site. It fell impossibly slowly, the sound of the impact at the bottom twisting up the pipe, a sort of hollow tubular ringing.

At the last viewing point, the cliff is at its highest and I feel briefly uncomfortable at my proximity to the drop. There are thousand of birds here, hanging to the edge of the country, riding the wind out on to the water. Looking down from the viewpoint, I again see a seal, out in the brawling surf. I wonder if it is the same seal from further along the coast. Slightly to its left, a gannet skims the surface of the water for a rising fish, and the seal dives away. The rain has arrived by this point, and up the coast Filey is submerged beneath it. We turn to head back. A shotgun sounds somewhere behind the derelict military base, echoing amongst the empty shells of buildings. In front of me, a startled skylark darts out from the tangle of last years crops and leaf mulch on the field. It flies an erratic path toward me, eventually landing on a fence post nearby, flustered, looking about itself for tell tale signs of danger. I watch it for a moment, this bird joining the growing list of wildlife I have seen for the first time in the wild. After a minute or so it takes off again, in to the sky-wide approaching rain clouds, towards the now silent concrete installation.

* Mitchell, W.O. (1947) Who Has Seen The Wind, Toronto, pg. 191
** York is not as good as Luton in terms of the birds it attracts…where here my garden sees dunnocks and robins, there you get Sparrowhawks and woodpeckers. The Dales fared slightly better though, the still snow capped hilltops featuring grouse and snipe.
*** Yorkshire has its own sound parabolas at Redcar, Kilnsea and Boulby.


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