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CNV00075

I took this using a disposable last summer at a folk festival in Sark, Channel Islands.

From the dirt track past fields of livestock they came in droves, wearing denim shorts and vintage shirts and straw hats. Some wearing less. Sore heads and bloodshot eyes in abundance, they shuffled their feet like condemned around a prison yard, but morale remained high on the approach. Over the hedgerows the white canvas tent tops stood tall. Weakened sunlight forced through cirrus clouds almost cosmic in their distance and it would be warm but for a gentle ocean breeze that brought the scent of brine and the calls of seagulls.

Across the fields the enchanting sounds of revelry and laughter. Jangling stringed instruments came muffled from within tents. Bunting and face painted children. Stalls with decorative shells and sheepswool jumpers and local jams and chutneys. Smoke from the hot plates of food vendors offering fresh fish and lobster, burgers and fries. Scents that stimulated goodwill. Mere distractions. Within a large tent the crowd sought an elongated bar staffed by thin black figures. Still pressed ciders and warm ales fizzed continuous from well worn brass pumps, the source of a benign frenzy whereby punters battled for the attention of the bar staff for a drink. Two or three, to lift spirits. Vitality restored, and stepping away from the bar revealed the view of a hundred heads, nodding in approval of the folk music for which they all were here and which after several days all sounded the same. A merged soundscape of local groups and acts from the mainland and beyond took to the stage with determined enthusiasm. Faces strained but smiling. 

The afternoon sped by, in and out of a tent now rife with the sweet smell of perspiration. The crowd smoking cigarettes and splashing beer from plastic cups onto the once green soil. Rhythmic dancing inconsistent with everything. Applause and whistles. Screams and shouts. Broken vocals fragmented down a microphone. The evening brought a blood red sunset and later a light but continuous rain that drove the saints away.

Joyous confusion when another band took to the stage after the last scheduled performance, but concerns were voiced when these latecomers were themselves usurped at an even later hour by another band looking tired and drunk. Now past midnight and still the crowd swelled, not yet ready to concede the evening over, not while music remained to carry them into the morning hours. The bar staff however were unwilling to carry on their shifts, nor the security staff, and rightly so, for this had not been agreed in their contracts and they were tired. And so from within the crowd bottles of foul smelling spirits began to appear and smokers crept in from the night into the warmth of the crowd with their lit cigarettes like amber warning lights in thick fog. Some climbed over the unattended bar to serve others and themselves. The temptation of dancing on the stage, with another apparition of a band taking over almost seamlessly from the last, proved too much to resist and they joined now, barely visible up on stage in the dim lamplight except when a stray strobe caught the face of a drunken reveller, fevered with eyes closed as if experiencing celestial interference from above. Old men partially concealed by smoke, swaying and leering like wraiths. The muddy path to the portacabin toilets was shameful, with lights, swarmed by insects, illuminating the vague and inebriated forms of the damned.

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016

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An edited version of a submission to the A3 Review last year. Image of kudzu by Katie Ashdown.

The kudzu blanketed the town overnight, covering all that had been.
They ran. Fled from their homes while vines and moss supplanted.
Using the tools of their predecessors doors were entered, walls painted, windows broken.
Within the deep thickets of lush vegetation life began again,
Audacity and elegance in organic symbiosis.

Hatch woven plains rising and falling over the ghostly foundations of man.
Trunks and roots a tangled epiphany of celebrated existence.
Blossom blooms vivid and rich, springs and dances
While fruit and seed drop like stones flung to the bed below
Where it is musty, dark, warm. Verdant in its very nature.

The ancient hum of earthly pastures, older than any known treasures.
More beautiful than anything known or to be known,
And no eyes would return to witness.

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016

josh_marcotte

Josh Marcotte is a photographer from San Jose, California. I was fascinated by some of his recent work dealing with themes of abandonment and urban decay, but Josh has a plethora of other great galleries over on his site, www.lostsanjose.com, which is highly worth a visit.

The squatter woke and lay still on the sofa, his chest rising and falling under a stained sheet. Some noise from outside had interrupted his sleep but as he lay there he heard nothing else to worry him. Still he could not fall back to sleep so he got up and went to the window to look outside.

With caution he pulled the curtain, heavy with damp, back an inch and ever so slightly the room brightened, but it was still dark and it was still gloomy. It was mid-morning. The neighbourhood was in disarray. The world outside was loud and unpredictable. Cars with growling engines queued up outside as people walked past. The window from which he watched the street was almost entirely covered by thick bracken from the front garden that had gone untended for months, and yet he was knelt under the windowsill, peeking out like a hunted animal. No one had seen him enter, and no one would see him leave.

Later he sat in the hallway reading old newspapers and flyers for local eateries and manifestos of the district politicians that had piled up on the mat beneath the letterbox, while happily eating cold beans out of a tin with a fork found in the kitchen. When he was done he entered the adjoining room across from the living room where he had slept. It was stripped bare but from observing scrapes and indentations on the wooden floor he judged it had been a dining room. The front facing window was more exposed in here so he crawled, creeping at a low elevation. Slowly he raised his head and took an alternative view of the street. Now it was quieter. It was after midday but the sun was hidden behind cloud and he reckoned it would rain soon. Cars passed infrequent and at slow speeds. He watched the street and he watched the rusted Chevy Impala in the driveway.

In the driveway the Impala sat. It had seen better days but a stylish ride once, for sure. From the 60s or the 70s at a guess. He wasn’t a car enthusiast by any means – he did not have the practicality to keep a car well maintained. Naturally he’d owned a few vehicles in his time but they were exactly that, a vehicle, to him merely a method of transport, nothing fancy or fast and not something to affect him deeply, as others sometimes form a bond, an inexplicable source of gratification whilst driving, the vehicle a vessel for the spirit. But this Impala, it caught his eye when he passed through the cul-de-sac, not only due to its state of disrepair (and thus stirring the squatter’s interest in the potential availability of the house), but because his older brother had driven an Impala for a few years, and it reminded him of his brother, and of home, and he could almost smell the wax that his brother would apply generously, every weekend, and as it sat there in the sun, the Impala would smell glorious.

The Impala was less than a foot above the driveway, its flat tires long deflated. Tall strands of unkept grass were springing up over the bricks in front of the house but underneath the Impala were weeds, yellowed and browned. The Impala had not moved in a long time. There was some conflict over the nature of abandonment of the property, for beside the Impala was a beautiful hedgerow of blooming flowers. It had more colour than the rest of the street entirely. This had worried him, but he monitored the house, and he was careful, and he reasoned that rainfall had been high and the seeds had been sewn a long time ago.

Sitting on the other side of the window pane the squatter considered the strangeness of the contrast between the blooming plants and the rusting Impala. How strange it is, he thought, how some objects in this world react differently, when left to their own devices. Some things flourish where others will struggle. Some things survive, others wither and die. Some bloom, others rust. He considered the house he was in. Was it blooming, or was it rusting. With the squatter inside it was a home. It was providing him some warmth, some shelter, some protection. Without the squatter what would it be? A shell, cold, dark and empty.

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016

 

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Photography provided by Flickr user ~Craig~. See more of his work here

I am tired. Every morning this week has been early, every night late. Yet here I am again, looking miserably between a pile of sub-standard work and an endless to-do list. The light outside my window begins to fade and I note the time, eight o’clock in the evening. That gives me a fifteen hour window, I think to myself. A portfolio of my work, a collection and evidence of the hard graft of the three months prior, is required to be completed and submitted at eleven hundred hours the following morning.

At first glance you might have observed a young man with calm demeanour, sat at a desk, cradling a cup of coffee. Working with diligence in a measured and methodical manner, the approaching deadline nothing but an unavoidable formality. Sadly this was not the case. I don’t know if that speaks more about your ability to read a situation, or said man’s ability to hide his emotions.. Either way, a facade.

Listen, the night went like this: I stared at the screen of the laptop, repeated the clicking, dragging, typing, printing. Mindless repetition. On occasion looking to my side and crossing a task out with a slash of blue biro, momentarily satisfied, only to add to the list minutes later. I’d swing my wide casement window open, pushing back the net curtains to let the night in. The air woke me, the cigarette brought clarity and focus. Blowing smoke out into the night. The housemates would smell the smoke had they been awake, but they were not awake, and I was, so I smoked, and I worked, and I smoked, and I worked. Music played on shuffle through the tin of laptop speakers and it sounded forgotten, nothing genres thrown together. The soundtrack of stress. And time, time passed inconsistent. Glances at the watch bringing increasingly disturbing updates accompanied by a quickened heartbeat, or palpitations. The laptop became my world, a screen with four corners and within flashed lines and numbers, shades of atmosphere and occupation. Specks of nothing that distorted and manipulated the focus of my gaze. I became blind, finally, and decided a trip to the off-license was needed.

Just a two minute walk down the hill. I was saddened but unsurprised that it was two in the morning. The street was quiet, the neon sign beckoned, reflecting luminous green off wet grass and puddles in the pavement. BR40. Ambiguous shop name. Hasan greets me. The kindness is appreciated. Maybe he sees the anxiety, the stress in me. Or maybe he is always like this? An automaton leering with fixed grin at whoever stumbles off the cold streets this time of night looking for alcohol or tobacco or a microwaveable snack to continue the party or complete the night. Energy drinks and chocolate and a pack of marlboro lights please, Hasan.

I wandered back to my front door, staring up in a trance at the bright and beautiful stars. Peaceful, nearly. Stumbling into my bedroom I cannot see my desk. I cannot see the four walls. As if the freshness of the night was a drug and had tuned my senses onto some other frequency far from here, for instead of my room I saw a shed in the snow, barely visible under the gloom of an industrial wall light, sat adjacent to a larger and more ominous building that hummed in the silence of the forest. All around stalks of grass and other plants reached through the thin white covering and in the surrounding darkness there was something else, and although I could sense it I could not see it, hidden by the inescapable blanket of night.

I flick the ceiling light on, the room returns, as does sight of that desk, that pile of notes and cardboard, that laptop still buzzing furiously, those papers and drawings strewn over the walls and floors and even covering my bed now, confirming that there was still work to do and therefore there would be no sleep.

Later I fell asleep at the desk, sat up, pen in hand. Not for long, but enough to feel guilty for it. Work continues to be churned out but the process is slow and it is painful. Later I showered, I put on fresh clothes. In an attempt to mask my tiredness – but it was there on my face, for all to see. Much later I had more coffee, a slice of toast. What I needed more than anything was sleep, that or assurance, and comfort.

Now – finally – I wonder through the halls of the studio, portfolio in hand. Heavier than you would believe. I wait for my printing to be completed. The anxiety, the panic, the nausea gone. Replaced with a numbness and a heavy sense of dejection. Small talk is difficult, more so than usual. I make the easy decision to leave now. Undeniably lighter I walk out and observe the day in a new light. A bus unloads dozens of students who walk up the university steps to a new day. A new day. The bus roars off and I follow, dizzy in wake of its fumes, sloping back up the hill and longing for my bed. To sleep, to rest, to forget.

© Nicholas J. Parr, 2016