Categories
Field Trip Psychogeography Symbol Uncategorized

Rosyth Edgelands Dérive

Rosyth Edgelands Derive

We are in dangerous territory, walking westward out of the town of Rosyth, along the A985, one of ‘Britain’s killer roads’.  This arterial incision into the connective tissue of the Rosyth edgelands is to fully engage with the disruptive polarities emanating from two monolithic structures, which have recently appeared on either side of the road. There is a real sense that the landscape, skyscape and mindscape have all been irretrievably altered.  Whether this is benign or malevolent who can say?  It is this that we must investigate  and address head-on with our dérive. Establish relations, resist, remap, and reclaim as necessary.

As we set off, along the ridgeline of the A985, there is an undercurrent of fear that a vortex of radiant, colliding energies may threaten to rip us, stalking walkers, apart or even lure us into the path of oncoming traffic on the killer road. This is a risk that we are prepared for and must take.

The first stretch of road between two roundabouts is almost classic edgeland topography. On the right hand side, the small favela of allotments, with waves of canes, poles, pallet fencing and water butts; shanty sheds and corrugated iron knitted together with plastic pipework. There is a disordered/orderliness about the place; a charivari of utility and resourceful exchange, which resists the carefully manicured garden porn displayed in garden centres and lifestyle magazines.  You can tell that this is land that is worked, loved and loves back.

On the other side of the road, past the football pitch, stands the ‘old Lexmark building’, supposedly  the location of ‘the factory’ in Gregory Burke’s play Gagarin Way. We  have investigated this building before and continue to monitor its energy levels , but no sign of the smoked salmon fishes as yet.

As we traverse over the second roundabout, there are clear intimations that the interzone between the town and edgelands has been breached.  For the car driver, flooring it off the roundabout and opening up to the straight road ahead  it’s as if the gravitational pull of the town loses its grip, supplanted by a carnivalesque impulse to wind down the window and toss the debris of consumer society into the hedgecomb of trees and shrubs edging the road.  Here lies a graveyard of inert excess, an inventory of impulse purchases; eating and drinking on the hoof and a veritable time capsule of the non-biodegradable floatsam of consumer culture.  Like true twitchers, we must record our spoils:

Diet Coke, Fosters, Tennant’s, McCoys, Irn Bru, Sprite, Muller, McDonalds, Pepsi, Corona, Red Rooster, Lucozade, KP, Dr Pepper, Costa, Coke, Yorkie, Milky Bar, Pampers, Cadbury’s Buttons, Starbucks, Walkers, Carling, Graham’s Dairies, Tesco, Diet Pepsi, Asda, Smoking Kills, Ginsters, Pizza Hut, Golden Wonder, Red Bull, Powerade, Wild Bean Cafe, Huggies, Greggs,  Snickers…

Fired up on caffeine,

the sugar rush floods

the synapses,

foot to the floor,

screech, toss

and off.

We are also struck by how thIndustrial Units for Sale or Leasee edgelands are places where things are simply forgotten about. Advertising signs from a more benign economic environment offering ‘Industrial Units for Sale or Lease’ are falling down and are never replaced; road signs tilt at 45 degrees; posters on substations intimate long forgotten concerts and  doors on the mysterious roadside bunkers have all disappeared.

We are now out in the true edgelands, hugging the ribbon of verge by the side of the road as  every vehicle utterly tanks it past us. We are pebbledashed by huge swathes of road spray and the draught, from the huge artic lorries that pass, threatens to pull us foot-powered perambulators into the middle of road.  However, the objects of our effort and attention can now be clearly seen on either side of the road. We can feel their energies drilling into us and can only marvel at the scale of their transforming presence on this stretch of the edgelands.  As long as we can stay vigilant and remain on the ribbon verge, we can resist the siren call urging us into the killer road.

Over to the right, in the middle distance, is a 100 metre column, on top of which sits a rotating turbine with three, colossal, scythe -like blades. This somehow reminds us of the free gifts of plastic spinners that you used to get sellotaped to the front cover of children’s comics like The Beano and The Dandy.  Thus  we have a name for our monster – Spinner – a vital part of the engagement and neutralisation process.   Spinner is of such a scale that it doesn’t look quite real. It’s as if it is projecting some perspective morphing force field which shrinks or obliterates the elements within the landscape which offer any indication of human scale.

Spinner belongs to FMC Technologies, a Houston, Texas headquartered business, which manufactures subsea systems for the oil and gas and renewables industry.  The 1.5MW turbine is projected to supply up to 40% of their energy needs at their Dunfermline facility and was financed by Triodos, the ethical bank.   We stand and watch the strange poetry of the rotating blades dancing with the wind, quite hypnotic and completely silent from our vantage point. There is some some sense of good energy radiating from this structure and there is a fluidity and engagement with the elements.  Spinner could probably only be a product of the edgelands. A place where a turbine of this size can be erected then lost and forgotten, despite it’s landscape transforming qualities.

GoliathIf Spinner has a slightly ethereal, alchemical quality, transforming wind into electricity, over to our left is a structure that looks as if it is marauding up towards the ridge, like a mechanised robotic toy about to attack.  This is the aptly named Goliath crane recently transported from China’s Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co Ltd, where it was manufactured.  Goliath is the largest crane installed in the UK and across its 120m beam is the clearly visible signage:

aircraft carrier alliance

Goliath sits in Rosyth Dockyard which lies over the hill down on the Forth.  In effect, we are only seeing the top of the crane which at 90m high almost rivals Spinner in height.  Goliath is part of the most expensive project in British naval history with two aircraft carriers presently being constructed at £3 billion a pop. We have already been told that once constructed, one will be mothballed immediately and the other will have no planes  to fly from it.  Try explaining this logic to a five year old. The carriers are to be named HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales.  The sheer folly, financial carnage and symbolism of this whole escapade is such that it almost fries our collective brain into meltdown.  However, very soon we are all whistling and singing Elvis Costello’s Shipbuilding – the Robert Wyatt version naturally – so we can hum the piano solo with our kazoos.  This has the desired effect, tames the beast and calm descends. As we walk further along the road, we can gain a better vantage point to look down Rosyth Dockyardover the dockyard and see the true scale of Goliath.  Our fear turns to pity as we realise  that all we are looking at is simply a dumb, beast of burden, a heavy lifter, on which has been foisted the indignity of jingoistic colours, the White Ensign flag and the reek of failed empire. Also lurking down there, somewhere in the bowels are seven decommissioned nuclear submarines, still radioactive and we are reminded of some possibly apocryphal tales of technicians metal-capped boots glowing green in the dark. Isn’t it amazing what can be buried in the edgelands.

Back on the A985 and another juggernaut threatens to drag us into the road as we alight on Windylaw Path which leads down to the villages of Limekilns and Charlestown.  We’ve had enough of the road but happy to have got the measure of Spinner and Goliath. Our dérive receptors are once again activated when we read that Windylaw Path is a coffin road.

Who could resist that and was Limekilns not mentioned in Stevenson’s Kidnapped?

Windylaw, The Coffin Road

As we head up the coffin road, a buzzard soars overhead…


Now playing: Brian Lavelle – Lambent

Categories
Field Trip Happenstance Poetry Psychogeography Sounds of Spaces and Places

Levitate the Crags!

One of the most direct ways to immerse yourself in Fife’s liminal energies is to walk the Coastal Path. Out on the edge at the intersection of land and sea is always a receptive  place to be.  However, for the more expedient traveller, or slacker psychogeographer, the short train journey that hugs the coastline from Inverkeithing to Kirkcaldy can be a sensory delight as the train rattles through the villages of Aberdour, Burntisland and Kinghorn.  Position yourself on the right hand side of the train and open up the synapses to the field of vision that floods the senses.

If I have a taste, it’s for scarcely more than earth and stones.
I eat air, rock, earth, iron.

Arthur Rimbaud [1].

Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags from Fife

Gazing out over the Firth of Forth to Arthur’s Seat and the dolerite and columnar basalt of the Salisbury Crags.  Like some striated, cosmic sombrero, angled and poised ready for take-off over the needle teeth of Edinburgh’s gothic spires. The castle nesting atop its volcanic plug.  In the foreground stands the stillborn Edinburgh Riviera a Ballardian monument to pre-credit crunch architectural and financial hubris.

Deep Time / City Time / Hubris Time

There is a solidity of presence to the Salisbury Crags that radiates over the Forth.  Layered custodian of the longue durée, deep time is encoded in these rocks.  Thoughts turn to James Hutton (1726-1797) amateur geologist whose pioneering discoveries, on these very stones, challenged two prevailing ‘scientific’ shibboleths. Firstly, the  notion of the Genesis creation myth which suggested that the earth was only a few thousand years old and secondly, the Neptunist theory that all rocks had precipitated from a single primordial ocean.

“the mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so far into the abyss of time.” [2]

I like the idea of Hutton’s work being rooted in direct observation of the rock layers that he could walk on, see, pick up, touch and feel. Open to the calling of the rocks and stones:

“The result, therefore, of our present enquiry is, that we find no vestige of a beginning,– no prospect of an end” [3].

The Hutton Section

By observing what is now known as the Hutton Section, Hutton arrived at a theory that the Salisbury Crags ‘sill’ was formed when a much younger layer of fluid, hot magma intruded into older layers of sedimentary rock and solidified.  It is now known that this sill is at least 25 million years younger.  Hutton’s theory of ‘deep time’ was presented in his revolutionary Theory of the Earth, (1785), which proposed that Planet Earth was the literal bedrock of all history, long predating the appearance of the human and would endure long after they had gone. The age of the Earth is now believed to be 4.54 billion years old.

“Those of us who grew up in the sixties, when we put men on the Moon, now have to watch as every Republican candidate for this year’s presidential election denies the science behind climate change and evolution. That is a staggering state of affairs and it is very worrying,”

Professor Naomi Oreskes, University of California, San Diego. [4]


The train rattles along the coast between Aberdour and Burntisland. Over the shimmering Forth:

The space of the Crags

floods the imagination

singing their presence

of encoded deep time

and time yet to come.

a need to start from the ground

on which we stand.

more magma needed

Levitate the Crags!

Caravans at Pettycur Bay

As the train approaches Kinghorn on a bright morning, the sun reflects off the rows of caravans , draped like rows of emerald jewels on the hill above Pettycur Bay. Look seaward and it’s possible to see basking seals sunning themselves on the rocks.

Perhaps today? Tide is out.

When taking this journey, I am always alert to the possibility of a sighting of the fish “which they could find no name for”.

Daniel Defoe’s visit to Fife is recounted in Letter XIII of his A Tour Through the Whole Islands of Great Britain, published in 1724. At Kinghorn he observes how the men ‘carry’d on an odd kind of trade, or sport, of shooting of porpoises of which very great numbers are seen almost constantly in the Firth’. Defoe explains how the porpoises are brought on shore and their fat boiled off for oil, which they also do with other fish such as ‘grampusses, finn fish, and several species of the small whale kind’.  However, in one particular year, ‘there came several such fish on shore which they could find no name for’. Defoe records seeing eight or nine of these fish lying on the shore from ‘Kinghorn to the Easter Weems, some of which were twenty-foot long and upward’. [5]

It is intriguing to reflect that a well established sea trading community would be unable to name this mysterious fish? A surprise manifestation in a world already mapped, named and territorialized. Perhaps only nine of these creatures ever existed? Perhaps these were the last nine?

The train pulls into Kinghorn,

there they lie on the shore:

cut, boiled and rendered for oil.

the last ones.

Fifteen minutes from Kinghorn there are two petrochemical installations run by global energy giant ExxonMobil. Our train journey has meant we have seen neither. Sometimes the advantages of walking are abundantly clear.  On foot the psychogeographic receptors are more finely attuned.

©2011 Gazetteer for Scotland

The Fife Ethylene Plant (“FEP”) at Mossmorran, near Cowdenbeath is one of the largest in Europe with an annual output of 830,000 tonnes. Initially, Brent – the largest oil and gas field in the North Sea UK sector – provided the gas feedstock, but with the decline of Brent production, gas from the Norwegian sector is now also used with 50% of feedstock coming from the Stratfjord and Goja-Vega fields. The natural gas is brought ashore at St Fergus, north of Peterhead and then travels to Mossmoran through a 222km underground pipeline. 12 million tonnes litres of water are pumped every day from Glendevon reservoir to generate steam used in the ethylene cracking process. Four miles away on the Firth of Forth, just west of Aberdour, lies the Braefoot Brae marine terminal where the ethylene is shipped to Antwerp and the rest of Europe.

All of these hidden entrails of energies radiate far and wide.

The Mossmorran flare is a well known local phenomenon, which can light up the sky like a surreal, Lynchian, ignited match diffusing its uncanny hue throughout night and day:

The Mossmoran flare

I live at the top end of Lochgelly and the noise keeps me awake most of the night. It sounds like constant thunder or a plane overhead. The roar is ridiculous and the constant light also disturbs my sleep. Through the day I have to keep all the windows shut to cut down on the noise but even with the windows shut you can still hear the constant roar. The flaring and the noise gives me sore heads and I just feel constantly ill with it. It’s ridiculous that we have to put up with this type of noise pollution. If I made that type of noise or a normal industry made that type of a noise I would soon find myself in trouble with complaints against me. How come they are being allowed to get away with this, year in year out. So much for the quality of life for the residents of central Fife”

Margaret. Lochgelly Resident [6]

“FEP is proud of its environmental record in both waste management and emissions”. [7]

ExxonMobil, 2010


Not really knowing where I’m going with all of this, I take a gander at the news headlines on Sunday morning 19th February 2012. I learn two things:

  • It is reported for the first time today that The ExxonMobil oil company has been fined £2.8 million for failing to report 33,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from the Fife Ethylene Plant at Mossmorran. It is the largest ever fine for an environmental offence in British history.
  • ExxonMobil is an active funder of the Heartland Institute whose mission is to: “discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems”.  Global warming and climate change is a particular bête noir of Heartland and they make vociferous attacks against the environmental movement and scientists who support the evidence based claims for global warming. Their website features a list of ‘experts’ and  like-minded conservative policy think-tanks, many of whom have also received funding from ExxonMobil. [8]

©Iragerich

The burnt out train

lies mute

at Kinghorn station

the birds are silent.

just over there

 on the shore:

cut, boiled and rendered for oil.

Over the Forth

a faint pulse.

the Crags

are speaking.

more magma

needed

Levitate the Crags!

The local is always global

References:

1. Arthur Rimbaud, ‘Festivals of Hunger’, from Last Poems.

2. John Playfair, (1805), “Hutton’s Unconformity” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh V (III).

3. James Hutton, (1785), The Theory of the Earth, p. 304.

4. Professor Naomi Oreskes, quoted in ‘Attacks paid for by big business are driving science into a dark era’ The Observer, Sunday 19th February 2012.

5. Daniel Defoe, (1724),  A Tour Through the Whole Islands of Great Britain, (New Haven, Yale University Press, 1991 edition).

6. http://lochgelly.org.uk/2010/06/flaring-at-mossmorran/

7. Your Guide to the Fife Etylene Plant, (2010), brochure produced by ExxonMobil Ltd.

8. ‘Attacks paid for by big business are driving science into a dark era’ The Observer, Sunday 19th February 2012.

Now Playing: William Basinski – Disintegration Loops.

Categories
Field Trip Happenstance Psychogeography

Happenstance – 1 (19.02.12 CE)

Scribbling away this morning and consulting Daniel Defoe’s A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain.

Walking in the afternoon near the beach at Kinghorn, and thinking about Defoe’s visit which he recounts in Letter XIII.  Thoughts also turn to Alexander Selkirk who, not that far up the coast at Lower Largo, gazes out, projecting his own haunting presence into the psychogeographic mindscape.  If Selkirk was the inspiration for Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, it is the ghost of Robinson who wanders and stalks through many a tract of the psychogeographic imagination. Witness Rimbaud’s supposedly derived verb robinsonner (to travel mentally, or let the mind wander) or the unseen and unheard researcher in Patrick Keiller’s films London and Robinson in Space.

Later on, in the afternoon, cooking the tea.  Stuart Maconie’s Freak Zone on as usual. A haunting over the airwaves:  The Robert Mellin Orchestra playing the soundtrack to The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.  The particular track: (A) Drift.

Now Playing: Erstlaub – I Am the Line Drawn in the Sand Between the Living and the Dead

Categories
Field Trip Psychogeography Symbol

Cup and Ring on The Binn – Burntisland

In a previous post, I wrote of being haunted by the cup and ring symbol.  In this wired, digital world, these cross-cultural, cross-geographic ciphers are all around us. Infiltrating our consciousness and yet remaining elusive and enigmatic.  Tune in and  they will reveal themselves in many unexpected places – from iPods to the X Factor, to packets of washing up powder.

How exciting to discover that some well-preserved marks exist on the north side of The Binn (Hill), the volcanic plug that overlooks Burntisland.  It’s unlikely that you would stumble across them without having been tipped a nod as to where they are – they have protected themselves well for over 4000 years.

Lets just say that when you find them, the setting makes perfect sense.  Vistas out over the Forth, high ground but sheltered.  The heavens and stars open above.  A place to capture energies of earth, wood, wind and sun; a place to  inscribe these enigmas upon stone. Make a mark.  An image of transmission; of energy radiating outwards, of ripples on the surface of consciousness being picked up by the tuned in antenna.  Perhaps our ancient forebears were also receptive to this idea, way before the discovery of radio waves begat such an adaptable and iconic image.

It’s a pleasant walk to the stones. Up through a sheltered path, heady aromas of rain drenched wood bark, soft underfoot.  Off to the left the sound of falling water. At the end of the path a steep scramble and over the stile.  A pause for breath and across the butterfly strewn meadow, until you pick up the path that heads up to the summit of the Binn.  A couple of ducks, glide aimlessly amongst the reeds in the pond on the left. Dragonflies hover like winged shards of stained glass and suddenly they are gone as if dissolved in sunlight. As you commence the climb up the Binn, the rocks are up on the right hand side.  A scramble over some rough ground and fallen trees and once you are in the vicinity, you will feel the pull of the rocks and there they are.

There are two key marks. One is a fully complete cup and ring, perfectly preserved.  Another smaller one has been started but remains unfinished.  I wonder why? It’s a blast to close your eyes and think that around 4,000 years ago someone had taken the time – many many hours – to carve these marks into this rock. This rock here – now! We can still only guess why and perhaps it is better that way. Do we want to know that it may have only been for some dull utilitarian purpose?  No! Here it remains today something quite beautiful and powerful, expressive human poetry. Materially tangible but elusive and meaning slips away, like grains of sand through the fingers, if we try to wring out its mystery in theories and guesswork.

Carrying on up to the summit of the Binn. There is a ‘top of the world’ sensation. Burntisland lies, directly below. Once home to Mary Somerville, pioneering mathematician and astronomer and the  Reverend Thomas Chalmers, radical, social reformer and founder of the Free Church of Scotland. Once described by Patrick Geddes as ‘an anarchist economist beside whom Kropotkin and Reclus are mere amateurs’.

Glinters of sunlight on the Forth to East and West as the wind whips up a frenzy of pebbledash rain. We are forced to take cover in a small natural alcove on the hillside. Sheltering from the elements, thinking of pioneering radicals just as our stone carving  friends would have done 4,000 years ago.

Now playing – Franca Sacchi: En

Categories
Field Trip Psychogeography

Carlingnose Point – NT135 809 O.S. Sheet 65

Part of the Fife Coastal Path between North Queensferry and Inverkeithing. Supposedly named by Norse sailors, given its physical resemblance to an old witch’s nose.

The carlin caught her by the rump, And left poor Maggie scarce a stump.

For a small area, it has clearly always been a site of fortification and strategic importance given its extensive outlook over the Forth. Evidence of anti-aircraft defences still exist and the silent dolorite stacks show the extent of quarrying in the 1800s to help build the bases of the Forth Rail Bridge. The area is now a SSSI designated site and given its relatively small size supports a diverse range of habitat and plant life.

Field Gentian

Bloody Cranesbill

Lesser Meadow-Rue

Dropwort

Bell Heather

Harebell

Burnet Saxifrage

Hairy Rockcress

Fulmar

Grebe

Calcareous Grassland

Warbler

Finch

Hawthorn

Song Thrush

Bullfinch

Tern

Now Playing: Zappa – Make a Jazz Noise Here

Categories
Field Trip Psychogeography Sounds of Spaces and Places

Faust – All Things Must Pass

Delightful and profound cultural ‘happenings’ at the last Le Weekend festival which has taken place at The Tolbooth in Stirling over the past thirteen years. Arguably, the most inventive, adventurous music festival in the UK, it has consistently delivered a stellar mix of old and new sounds, film and ‘happenings’ which cut across and dissolve styles and genres. On the purely musical front, this years line up included highlights such as Ben Frost’s glacial noise minimalism, a new commissioned piece Oceans of Silver and Blood and Marilyn Crispell’s stunning piano improvisations.

One of the most enjoyable events for the collective was an audience with Jean-Herve Peron and Zappi Diemer from the legendary, iconoclastic, Faust. A touch of Fluxus style performance as they riffed on the theme of the festival: All Things Must Pass. Diemer, filmed and projected the room/audience in real-time whilst another screen projected some legendary performances of the band. Peron recited some text whilst performing drip painting and gradually uncovering the layers of wrapping over a lumpen shape to reveal their iconic cement mixer.  It all worked seamlessly, carried by Peron’s infectious enthusiasm and charisma. What was of most interest, however was how the ‘setting’ had made an impression on his text.  He recounted how he had been wandering in the graveyard next to the Church of the Holy Rude, blown away by the spectacular outlook from the ridge under the Castle with its vista onto the landscape of centuries of Scottish history – Stirling Bridge, The Wallace Monument, Highlands to the North, Fife to the East…. All of this had made an impact on Peron and was reflected in this clearly psychogeographically inspired happening.

The other event of the festival that stood out for the collective was a realisation of Alvin Lucier’s I am sitting in a room. Lucier’s electro acoustic music and sound installations have long explored the physical properties of sound itself, the limits of auditory perception and the resonating properties of material objects.  In this piece, which by its very nature is unique in every performance, he examines the specific dimensions, acoustic properties and atmospheres of certain rooms.

The realisation took place in The Cowane Hospital, built next door to the The Church of the Holy Rude between 1637 and 1649. John Cowane aka the poetically named
‘auld staney breeks’ was a very wealthy Stirling merchant and Dean of the Merchant Guild who left funds for this building to be used as an alms house and the maintenance of thirteen elderly Guild members. It was also used for many years as the Guildhall where the Merchants gathered for meetings and dinners. The Guildry fixed the prices of goods, and dominated town council affairs.  Later the building was used as a schoolhouse and a hospital during epidemics. It is once again being used for concerts, meetings and ceilidhs, but the statue of John Cowane above the entrance and the portraits of Guild Deans inside remind us of its multi-layered history.

Auld Staney Breeks

It is said that at midnight on Hogmanay the statue of Cowane will come to life and do a little jig in the forecourt before returning to his post.To return to Lucier’s piece, it works by recording a short speech text which is then played back into the room where it is again re-recorded. The new recording is then once again played back and re-recorded, and this process is repeated over and over.  Since all rooms have a characteristic resonance, the effect is that certain frequencies are gradually emphasised as they resonate in the room. Eventually the words become unintelligible, replaced by the pure resonant harmonies and tones of the room itself.  This process takes around 45 mins in Lucier’s recorded version. I forgot to check how long the Cowane Hospital realisation lasted but it did not seem as long as 45 mins although by its very nature, ‘time’ appears to become suspended as one is drawn in by the minute variations of each repetition. It is a very meditative piece and sitting in the oak panelled room, with the fading light, dribbling through the stained glass windows, all those years of history appeared to be isolated in these ghostly, disembodied harmonies.

Now playing: Faust – The Faust Tapes

Categories
Field Trip Psychogeography

Zaha Hadid and Kirkcaldy

Interesting interview with iconoclast architect Zaha Hadid in The Guardian.

Hadid has recently won the The Stirling Prize for her National Museum of 21st Century Art, in Rome, which appears to resemble some sort of cubist Star Wars, AT-AT Walker.

National Museum of XXI, Rome. Design by Zaha Hadid.

For such a lauded and controversial architect (in Britain !) it is quite surprising to learn that she has only had two designs realised in the UK.  The recently opened Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton and her first built work in the UK: Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre in Kirkcaldy which was opened in 2006.

DSCN0841

DSCN0846

 

Hadid designed this building for no fee and the people of Fife, raised over £500,000 towards the cost of its construction.

Her design at the Victoria Hospital was a result of a brief to: ‘create a relaxed atmosphere where people can access additional support outside of the more clinical hospital environment’.  This challenge is in keeping with the ethos behind all the Maggie’s Centres which were the vision of the late Maggie Keswick-Jencks and her plea to improve care for people with cancer in the UK.  She was a firm believer in the capacity of buildings and space to uplift people, even in the most challenging personal circumstances.

DSCN0852

Her husband Charles Jencks is still actively carrying this vision forward and five centres, have now been constructed across the UK, all designed by world-renowned architects: Frank Gehry in Dundee, Daniel Libeskind in Cambridge, Page and Park Architects in Glasgow and Inverness and Zaha Hadid in Kirkcaldy.

The site of Hadid’s Maggie’s Centre is in a hollow to the south-west of the main entrance of the hospital where it stands on the edge of a fairly steep valley to the South.  The hollow has overgrown foliage and a line of trees provides a natural setting to distance the building from the rest of the original hospital.  As the building is a single-storey construction, it provides a continuation of the border that the trees already provide. One of the overall objectives for the design of the centre was that it should be a transition between the two different types of spaces, the natural landscape and the car park/hospital.  This has arguably been undermined somewhat by the colossal new 525 bed extension which has been built immediately adjacent to the centre and you can almost feel it crowding out and pushing Hadid’s building into the valley.  This is further accentuated by Hadid’s design, with its angular prow and folded in wings, which appears to float over the edge of the steep chasm. Part spaceship, part cubist crow, poised to take flight out over the trees and on to the stars.

A truly liminal space…

DSCN0848

 

Now playing: Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal

Categories
Field Trip Happenstance Psychogeography

The Lundin Links Stones

On the cover of Julian Cope’s album Rite is a picture of three colossal megaliths.  The human form giving some indication of the size and scale of this unusual grouping. Whether a function of crafted intent or the ageing process, the three distinctly shaped stones (especially the foregrounded ‘pin head’ or finger?) conjure up a strong sense of the uncanny when you see them up close.  Imagine my delight when I found out that these beauties, the remains of the largest of all the Scottish four-poster stone circles, are located in Lundin Links. Even more surreal is to find out they are presently located on the second fairway of a ladies golf course. It was a mild, drizzly day as I snaked along the A915, into the East Neuk. It was a bit of an opportunistic visit so hadn’t fully determined  the exact location of the stones. All I knew was that they were located on a golf course in Lundin Links.  Of course I hadn’t realised that there are two golf course in Lundin Links so initially stopped off at The Lundin Golf Club, which has the appearance of catering for the affluent, Edinburgh-on-sea weekenders who tend to congregate around this part of the coast at their weekend cottages. By this time it was a pretty dreich day so not a lot of people were around to ask.  I just set off, going on the basis that the size of these monsters should make them fairly easy to track down.  However, the landscape didn’t feel ‘right’. Largo Law was too far away, and the Lundin Club is right on the coast. Nonetheless I had an enjoyable saunter along the seaward side of the links, back towards Leven, watching the white breakers fizz on the shore.  I soon realised that this was not a landscape where sacred stones would be erected.  It was too windswept, open, and there was no relationship to Largo Law. Back I trudged, gazing up the coast and feeling the wind, spray and drizzle on my face. I had to be guided by the Law – what Julian Cope refers to (rather poetically) as a mother mountain – and set off once again in search of the stones. I soon found some signposts to the Lundin Ladies Golf Club and I could tell that this location was going to yield a more fruitful expedition.  I subsequently found out that Lundin Ladies is the oldest ladies golf club in the world (established in 1890) and is run completely independently by the lady members.  In the unreconstructed chauvinism of the typical male golf club, there was something quite radical and subversive about all this.  It was further confirmed when I asked two ladies who were loading their clubs into the car where I may find the stones and whether I need to seek formal permission to go and have a look.  They couldn’t have been more welcoming, and it was pleasant to observe their local accents and nay a set of pearls in sight.  As indicated, I crunched along the stone path to the starters hut and as soon as you turn the corner, you can see the stones way up the fairway in the distance. Once again, the starter was very welcoming and told me that there was no-one on the course so I could go and have a good look without worrying about any balls passing nearby. This time the land did ‘feel right’. A clear relationship is evident with Largo Law, and the stones nestle in the rolling foothills.  Notwithstanding the sand bunkers, tee boxes, and suburban sprawl on the south side, this still feels like a special place, and the light drizzle, absence of people and eerie quietness added to this.  As I walked up the edge of the fairway, the sheer size of the stones soon becomes apparent. These are towering monsters at thirteen, seventeen and eighteen feet high, with the finger/pinhead stone, twisting and pointing to the heavens, radiating a strange, seductive energy.  There used to be four stones, and apparently the fourth stone lay prostrate until around 1792 before it was no doubt removed for more utilitarian purposes. There is a local story that Michael Scot, the Wizard of Balwearie, summoned the demon familiars, Prig, Prim and Pricker to the sacred hill of Largo Law with a view to dismantling it.  As they began to dig, Scott had a change of plan and their single shovelful was thrown to create the nearby cairn of Norrie’s Law at the wonderfully named farm of Baldastard.  There is also a local story that a rich goldmine exists somewhere underneath Largo Law and that sheep have returned from grazing  on the foothills with golden fleeces. I guess that these stones must be one of the best kept secrets in Fife, (Scotland?) and yet as a site for experiencing the uncanny, difficult to surpass. I can understand that the good ladies of Lundin Links do not want hordes of trampling visitors all over their gold course, so perhaps there is something poetic that they remain available to the seeker and yet are well looked after and protected by the Lundin Ladies, drawing energy from their mother mountain. I wonder if it helps their golf? Thanks to Julian Cope’s magisterial The Modern Antiquarian. Now playing: John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Britannica, V/A.