Tag Archives: Britain

A Garden of Stones

derek-jarman-garden-prospect-cottage-dungeness_original

Prospect Cottage, Derek Jarman’s garden, Dungeness

If you have nothing then start with that. The best outsider artists do just that, working with whatever scrap materials are at hand. There are countless back garden Gaudi’s, pains-takingly raising their own Sagrada Familias; and numerous unsung Andy Goldsworthy’s, attempting their own landscape art (as on the Isles of Scilly, where the stone labyrinths known as ‘Troy Towns’ have spread across the archipelago after the first was apparently fashioned by pebbles by a bored light-house keeper). There is something about beaches that is conducive to art – perhaps not surprising when one considers the numinosity of liminal places. We have been drawn to make art and icons and leave offerings at such thresholds for millennia – as acts of propitiation against forces beyond our control (death, illness, war). Prompted by a diagnosis that he was HIV-positive, visionary film director Derek Jarman (1942-1994) moved to Prospect Cottage, a small shack near the Dungeness Power Station, in the late 80s. There he continued his film-making, celebrating his new location in a feature-length film, The Garden (1990), writing, and art, creating a sculptural garden on the shingle with small circles of flints, painting poetry onto the black timber (John Donne’s ‘The Sun Rising’), and basically transforming a wasteland. Of his beloved garden, Jarman said: ‘Paradise haunts gardens, and some gardens are paradises. Mine is one of them. Others are like bad children, spoilt by their parents, over-watered and covered with noxious chemicals.’[i] In the shadow of a nuclear power station and his own terminal condition, Jarman’s garden was, and still remains, a poignant and brave act of creativity.

[i] http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/derek_jarman_garden_prospect_cottage_dungeness [accessed 15.02.2016]

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Copyright © Kevan Manwaring 2016

This article was commissioned by Doggerland. An alternative version is available in print form in their latest issue, along with other thought-provoking contributions.  Check it out. Available from:  http://www.doggerland.info/doggershop

Keep in touch with Doggerland – an inspiring initiative by & for radical artists and writers.

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North of the Wall: Walking to Maia

Day 4 - Sycamore Gap to Holmhead (14)

Hadrian’s Wall – looking east towards Craig Lough. Copyright Kevan Manwaring 2014

WALKING TO MAIA*

‘…pronouncing in silence this long sentence of stone’ Noel Connor

Walking to stillness,

walking to wind through the dry grass,

walking to the gentle lap of the outward tide.

I’m walking to Maia.

Walking away from the bullshit,

walking away from the banks,

walking away from Westminster,

from the politicans’ self-interested dance.

Walking away from the rolling news bombardment,

vomiting violence 24/7,

making us fear the other,

fear our neighbour,

nurture a culture of fear,

and feed the cycle

that sells the news,

sells the guns, sells the bombs,

sells the panic rooms, the state-of-the-art tombs.

I’m walking to Maia,

walking away from the High Street,

everything-must-go-closing-down-forever-two-for-one-75%-discount-sale.

Walking away from Legoland and Lego people.

Walking away from servile stations,

from motorway gridlock,

from toomanycars,

from the littering doggybagshitters in the parks.

From animal sadism

and people masochism,

from zero hours contracts,

and fat cat bonuses.

I’m walking to Maia.

Walking away from Putin and Netinyahu.

Walking away from Isis militia and Ebola.

Walking away from everyday sexism and FGM.

Walking away from childhood hero child abuse

and internet porn – the virtual voyeurism which is the norm.

Walking away from the NSA, from GCHQ and hacking hacks.

I’m walking to Maia,

I’m walking to Maia.

Along my long straight road

following a wall of will,

to the vanishing point,

where I hope the land runs out

before my legs.

Six days of feet jazz,

of sheep bleat and stile hop.

Six days of tracking white acorns

and map origami on windy crags.

Six days of hostel hopping,

of top bunk grabbing,

of soggy sock drying,

of full English (veggie),

of caloriecarbcramming,

of sugar-jamming.

Six days of waterproof-dancing,

of goretex and sunhats,

of tshirts and wax jacks,

of blister-feet and sweaty backs.

I’m walking to Maia,

alone together,

in conversation, in silence,

in solitude, in company,

in high spirits, in doldrums,

in heel-to-toe iambs,

in hiking trance,

in hyper-awareness,

walking awake-asleep,

walking into your body

and into the land.

I’m walking to Maia.

The end of the Wall - Bowness on Solway. Copyright Kevan Manwaring 2014

The end of the Wall – Bowness on Solway. Copyright Kevan Manwaring 2014

Arriving to estuary emptiness,

the Solway at low-tide,

a dog licking its wounds –

lazy lap on mud-flats,

skirl of a lonely gull,

tang of salt and seaweed.

A terminal shack interpretation,

no victory pint from the closed pub.

The world returns to

tea-room and bus-stop.

Over the water, Scotland awaits.

The wind whispers

it’s the journey.

Walking to Maia.

Mantra of footstep

And breath. Balancing

Inside the Roman

And the Pict.

* Maia is the name of the last Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall, Bowness-on-Solway, West of Carlisle, 84 miles from Wallsend, the start, East of Newcastle.

Riding with Gerry

Gerald Manwaring, aka 'Gerry' (1938-2008)

‘We won’t be here forever…’ This was one of my Dad’s favourite sayings. Although I knew this – and found it a little irritating – it came uncannily true sooner than anyone had expected.

Gerald George Manwaring (known as ‘Gerry’ to his mates) died suddenly in early January 2008, aged 69. The family pulled together through this difficult time – my sister and I supporting Mum. I spoke at the funeral service about his life. We planted a tree for him and scattered his ashes over Delapre Abbey, where he loved to walk the dogs. In the summer we held a celebration of his life on what would have been his 70th birthday. When a small payment finally came through from his pension fund, I decided I wanted to buy something large and solid to remember Dad by, for that is how he came across. I wanted something physical to show he had existed. And so I purchased Triumph Legend motorbike – I’d had my eye on a Triumph for sometime, thinking I might get a Bonneville, but this 2001 model seemed apt, since Dad was something of a legend. Whenever I went for a ride on it, it would be a way of remembering him – in a way, going with him on trips to places I wished we had gone while he was alive. He loved his ‘walkabouts’ as he called them – going on random excursions to, say, Scotland, just to check out a few whiskey distilleries. As a child he had travelled wildly with his father, naval-base hopping around the Southern Hemisphere. If Mum was the ‘fixed point’ of my childhood universe – always at home, her ‘realm’ – Dad was the heavenly body, orbiting – always out and about. Mum symbolised the hearth; Dad, the world. Of exotic heritage, (born in Hong Kong, his mother was from Lima, Peru) he was a worldly bloke – and you could sometimes get him to chat about his travels over a pint or two.

And so, with this in mind, I planned a year-long trip around Britain. The best way we can honour the dead is … to live. When a parent dies, it gives one an intense sense of mortality. There’s almost a sense of duty – to savour each sacred moment. To live life ‘for them’ (…well, almost – ultimately, it’s for oneself) and enjoy the years they should have enjoyed, that were stolen from them. You are their DNA, after all – projected into the future. Living beyond their mortal coil. Thus, we continue, in a way (the only way?). How often does an obituary say: ‘he is survived by his wife and two children’? Saying that, I feel more than the sum of my parents… ‘They come through you but not from you’ (Khalil Gibran, The Prophet). Still, I feel obliged to honour their memory. They did give me life after all. Raised me, as best they can. Set me on my way.

And so I rode the roads of Britain in my father’s memory – exploring how we make and mark the ‘turning of the wheel’: seasonal festivals and customs. My Dad loved Christmas, Pancake Day, his birthday – anything that involved food and drink! I didn’t quite feast my way around Britain (though that would be nice!) but wherever I went I partook of a kind of communion – imbibing the atmosphere, the genius loci, for Dad. I opened my senses and relished it all – experiencing fully this thing called being alive. It made the numerous trips more poignant, to say the least. It was as though my father rode pillion. I wish I could have taken him out for a spin – and, in a way, I was.

Sight-seeing with a ghost.

Yet, it wasn’t as macabre as it sounds. Whenever something went wrong – I got lost, broke down, misplaced something – I could imagine my Dad laughing. He was there, reminding me not to take it all too seriously, to lighten up, to enjoy the ‘craic’, this precious gift called life.

And so I did.

I hope you do as well.

The author hits the road with Gerry

Turning the Wheel: seasonal Britain on two wheels by Kevan Manwaring, is published by O Books, 25th November 2011. ISBN: 978-1-84694-766-7

Available from all good bookstores or order direct from: www.o-books.com

Join me on the Turning the Wheel Tour – for dates, visit: www.kevanmanwaring.co.uk