Archive for April, 2018

16/04/2018

Pinhaw: Center of This World

Pinhaw1

Pinhaw is the center of this world. Around it the hills, the valleys, the clouds and the skylarks wheel. To the North are the Yorkshire Dales, to the West the Irish Sea, South  are the fells of Lancashire, East the moors and towns of West Yorkshire. On one side is the village of Lothersdale, on the other Gargrave (the two villages in which my parents were raised). It is the center of all the Tales I write, whether explicitly or no.

Pinhaw2

Paradoxically, it is a marginal place. It sits on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is at the far end of a ridge of hills which raise near Preston in the west (including Pendle and Wheets). It overlooks both the Aire and the Ribble valleys – the former heading to the North Sea far to the East, the latter empties into the Irish Sea.

Pinhaw3

For all of these reasons, Pinhaw is at the center of things. The curlew know this. They nest in the sedge by the peat pools, and call to the sun as it rises on spring mornings. They know the people who built the stone walls all those years ago. They know them and they know their spirits. They watch them, as they gather to beat the boundaries away from this – the center of their world.

pinhaw5

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16/04/2018

Pinhaw: Center of This World

Pinhaw1

Pinhaw is the center of this world. Around it the hills, the valleys, the clouds and the skylarks wheel. To the North are the Yorkshire Dales, to the West the Irish Sea, South  are the fells of Lancashire, East the moors and towns of West Yorkshire. On one side is the village of Lothersdale, on the other Gargrave (the two villages in which my parents were raised). It is the center of all the Tales I write, whether explicitly or no.

Pinhaw2

Paradoxically, it is a marginal place. It sits on the border of Lancashire and Yorkshire. It is at the far end of a ridge of hills which raise near Preston in the west (including Pendle and Wheets). It overlooks both the Aire and the Ribble valleys – the former heading to the North Sea far to the East, the latter empties into the Irish Sea.

Pinhaw3

For all of these reasons, Pinhaw is at the center of things. The curlew know this. They nest in the sedge by the peat pools, and call to the sun as it rises on spring mornings. They know the people who built the stone walls all those years ago. They know them and they know their spirits. They watch them, as they gather to beat the boundaries away from this – the center of their world.

pinhaw5

10/04/2018

Ghosts of the River Wharfe

The River Wharfe between Appletreewick and the Strid is one of the most beautiful and iconic stretches of water in the British Isles. It features in a number of my tales, especially “Summer Dusk” in Abandon Hope and “Descending, or Falling” in the final pamphlet, The Wedding Invitation.

river wharfe

The river valleys of the Yorkshire Dales function as a kind of destination in these tales. For the central characters in “Summer Dusk” it is a place of final freedom, of oneness with nature. In “Descending, or Falling” it becomes a resting place of a different nature.

A river is rarely seen as an image of destination. It passes through the country, it is a conduit, something to travel. It is the metaphor of a continuing journey or of learning. The unique nature of the Yorkshire Dales makes this conventional reading less persuasive.

wharfe roots

The rivers are at the heart of the Dales. They are crossed, they are a focus, they are at the center of villages, they feed the fields and are fed by the moors. They define the valleys which they follow, but which were not made by them (being glacial). Few people actually travel down them.

Barden, at the center of this stretch of the Wharfe, has as a timeless quality about it. It has castle ruins, an 18th Century bridge, a Late Victorian Gothic aquaduct. On the river mandarin ducks, dipper and kingfishers can be seen. The woods around the river hold roe deer and woodcock. In the skies above red kite, osprey and sparrowhawk wheel. In spring the flowers are incredible. In the autumn, the mists melt the trees and the moors into one.

barden aquaduct

It is not surprising that this idyllic and yet atmospheric river is full of ghosts. They gather, they rise, free and eternally in peace. This is their resting place.

04/04/2018

Loneliness

Loneliness is a companion as tangible as a veil. It shrouds the world of interaction, of closeness and of companionship, leaving nothing but truth for the lonely to face.

On the moors, with the wind blowing in strong from the west, rain showers gusting through you, it is possible to feel vulnerable, isolated with your frailties laid bare. But loneliness… loneliness is something you carry within. The towns and villages, teeming with summer tourists, are as lonely a place as the wildest peak.

Many of the characters in my tales, both living and passed, are lonely. They live their lives alone, and understand that we all die our own death, and face it alone. The circumstances that bring each character to their loneliness may differ, but it is how they face that realization that, to a lesser or greater extent, defines them.

In “Annabel” (the opening story of The Wedding Invitation: Vol. 3 of Ghosts and Other Tales), loneliness is the central theme. For the narrator, the fact that Alice – the main protagonist – lives on her own, without (obvious) friends or family, in a remote cottage is the very definition of loneliness. The narrator sees it as a common problem for many older people in such a rural community, as indeed it is. For Alice, though, loneliness is not defined by isolation. Loneliness for her is being separated from that which she loves. It is the division of the soul.

You are alone, in a forest on the darkest night of the year. All around you are the sounds of creatures in amongst the branches. You cannot see the path in front of you clearly. You slip on the tree roots. You are alone.

You wake, and the sounds you thought were creatures in the night, were the beeping of the life support machines all around you, and the sounds of the nurses and doctors, trying their best for you. They are out there.

You are alone.

(Photographs copyright Gavin Jones)

01/04/2018

Whispers from Outside

Ghosts speak a language that few can grasp. It is the speech of the margins. We hear their whispers at the crossing points. Their words linger: they are our hauntings. They tell us of the places beyond, in words we cannot know. For our wellbeing, it is essential that we learn their words. This is a theme underpinning a number of the stories in Ghosts and Other Tales (for example: “Abandon Hope” in the first pamphlet, “Corpse Road” in the second and “Descending, or Falling” in the third).

Those who act as our guides are drawn to the marginal places. The real, the obvious, the apparent have their stories, but in comparison they are deserts. It is where the slime, the corruption and the first vegetation bloom that the tales have their greatest wellspring. It is at the edges that the ghosts whisper.

As stories depend on moments of change, the margins are – by definition – where changes are most apparent. These moments – fleeting in their actual occurrence – linger. They form themselves into our very fabric, leaving our humanity altered in its wake. We become haunted beings, surrounded by those ghostly voices.

The outsider, the visionary, the artist, all dredge questions into society. Often times, these are deeply disturbing to that which is considered “normal”. The more distorted by regiment that society, the closer the edges and boundaries appear. The outsider does not need to step far beyond to be considered a distant traveler. This is why authoritarian societies of all hues have an unerring tendency to collapse: their ghosts are everywhere amongst them, and grow in potency with each new suppression and retraction. The truth is spoken in the whispers from beyond.

The spirit guides bring with them questions. Their directions are not answers, but hazy paths. They haunt society, stop it from turning to stone. On a personal level, they remind us of our mortality. This is both a hint at what lies beyond, and a call to the moment: to live life as it should be lived. They push the horizons away. They show us the beauty of the sunset, before the oncoming certainty of night. If we do not learn their language, we have only the darkness.

(Photographs copyright Garner and Jones and Gavin Jones)