Homeless photos moving north:
Heysham Head to Sandylands
Early sunlight across inconsequential house façades . . . somehow encapsulating the meaning of life – if you are in the right mood. Heysham, 9th Feb 2022
Though many may consider associative thinking a self-indulgence, those with a natural tendency to think and feel in such a way are likely to find ordinary avenues of thought, plodding and dull. Despite that many of the images and sensations offering transient radiance later reveal themselves hollow, without such calm (or febrile) excess, all hope could easily be lost in our increasingly fascist/materialist state (excess materialism being tantamount to fascism), where anyone with sense has no choice but to veer between escape and fierce (or resigned) involvement with the burgeoning quantity[i] of protest groups. The growth of protest is obviously positive, but will it lead to the “serious system change” so devoutly to be wished?[ii]
‘a rural headland with grave holes carved for disarticulated saints perhaps’[iii
Heysham Head, 9th Dec 2020
As well as being gruesomely utilised in Edmund Glasby’s Weird Shadow Over Morecambe [iv] the cut stone graves on Heysham Head[v] also appear on the cover of Black Sabbath’s best of compilation album of 2000[vi] . . . but don’t let the escapism of such cultural artifacts distract from the elemental power of the original stone – both symbolic and material/anti-material – in its dramatic setting.
St. Peter’s churchyard, Heysham Head, May 2018
The same location almost 60 years earlier, for the funeral of Billy Rice (Roger Livesey) in The Entertainer, (1960) filmed in September 1959
Anyone with sense is a forlorn phrase, since even when I’m feeling charitable it’s impossible not to be conscious that the number of people in this world with any abiding sense is very limited. Every morning just a glance at incoming emails emphasises this. This morning a breaking news story about Russian invaders shelling a massive power plant housing six nuclear reactors in Ukraine[vii]. The morning I was writing this, an update on seismic blasting off the Cumbrian coast[viii]. Here the stupidity of one set of supposedly educated scientific minions/morons, is being channelled in an effort to find a solution to the mess created by another set of supposedly educated scientific minions began a couple of generations ago with the opening of Calder Hall[ix] the world’s first “full-scale commercial nuclear power station”. What a first to be proud of!
Glebe Gardens, Heysham 29th June 2022: While resisting another anti-nuclear reference, it is with deep regret that I must report that Capt. James Bigglesworth, DSO., MC., familiarly known as ‘Biggles’, was shot down while flying an investigatory reconnaissance over Heysham’s “nuclear facility”. See my Notes for the hard evidence.[x]
Heysham Old Village, August 2019
Technological addiction, status anxiety, aspiration twisted by a botched educational system poisoned by constant testing and a lackadaisical attitude to gadgets . . . are just a few of the causes and indicators of our vanishing sense. As for politics, there may be a residual loyalty to the ideal of democracy, but little effort to attain any kind of example worthy of respect.
Two very friendly strangers who invited me into their house for a cup of tea, and we never even exchanged names. Heysham Old Village, August 2019
Vintage Bus Day, 22nd May 2022, Heysham Old Village
40 years ago, I wrote:
“Before real democracy can work (not the burnished byword for every compromise and caricature going), stupidity must be confined to minorities, and there is no clear way of doing this, since stupidity freely penetrates all levels of education and material wealth, class “intelligence” and opportunity . . .”[xi]
Since 1982, things have only got worse, and now that the human race has less than a decade to achieve some kind of path toward a wider survival, it’s either too late to be relevant or more relevant than ever.
Above Heysham Sands, 2nd April 2022
What specific relevance does any of this have to Morecambe and Heysham? Lancashire may be the seventh poorest area in Northern Europe[xii] and Morecambe not the worst of it – but is stupidity any more common here than it is in wealthy Windermere[xiii] or luxurious Lytham St Anne’s[xiv]. Systemic poverty may be at its worst in Blackburn with Darwen[xv], but I would be prepared to bet that its inhabitants are probably less selfish than average. If both selfishness and unselfishness could be argued from different viewpoints as being sensible, surely unselfishness is a better kind of sense?
Towards Twemlow Parade, Heysham July 2020
Taken in 1945 from below Strawberry Gardens[xvi] looking out over the bay, this house (Bay Cottages on the 1919 map) was where the kids play park – just visible in the 2020 colour shot, above – is now.
The advantage of the hermit or the other-worldly dweller in rural isolation is that it’s easier to forget just how inadvertently (I’m being charitable again) stupid all too many people are; easier to ignore the self-destructive bent of the human race. Now that we live in a town, we can’t escape the constant examples of stupidity – individual and corporate, alternative and official – which appear every time you glance around. But even in moments of anger or despair, I wouldn’t make the mistake of permanently ascribing this stupidity to any particular place. It is simply endemic.
Towards Heysham old village, August 2019
In Heysham and Morecambe – in my experience – kindness and consideration occur just as often as stupidity, so it’s a shame that such virtues and flaws can so happily co-exist within the same human frames. Yet perhaps what we are suffering from is less curable than stupidity – inadvertent or not? Perhaps we are succumbing to a form of mass insanity?
Tarnbrook, Heysham, half a mile inland, 6th March 2022
Talk of mass insanity (struggling towards a lighter note) was intended at this point to usher in the Morecambe and Heysham seagulls (or “shitehawks” as a local name has them). Instead, I’ll save that focus for part seven, where it will feel more in parallel with the images of slightly inland streets. Streets watched over by the more malevolent Janus face – that grin which disdains the spacious, cheerful façade of the promenade and the clear openness of the sands or sea’s surface.
Seaside Cul-de-sac, Heysham, 9th February 2022
Ever since I encountered the legend Cul-de-sac in small letters on a road sign as a kid, I’ve been an admirer of the phrase, (ignoring its Latin – via French – origin[xvii]). At the time – circa 1971 – I was going out on a limb, following the requirements of a paper-round which extended into a posher part of Aylesbury. By contrast the phrase Dead End can be unnecessarily brutal. Meanwhile, perhaps the standard/classic highway code sign for No Through Road – the T with a red bar forming the horizontal – is a variety of compromise? I’d prefer to view my life as a cul-de-sac or no through road rather than a dead end – though not in the whimper versus bang sense. More in the mysterious sense that there could be an escape route or alleyway that continues – if you are not prisoned in a car. That beyond the gardens behind the houses, there are fields and moors, the sky and the sea . . .
High Tide, Heysham Sands, 22nd March 2022
I’ll resist applying the symbolism of dead ends, whimpers, bangs, or rising tides, to our more general human fate – nearing extinction, climate change and so forth.
Memory might escape, recede,
not care for exactness,
but essence remains certain
and through your eyes I trace the constellations
to watch the tide, flooding the rockpools.[xviii]
Twemlow Parade again, ideal hideout for Buchan’s master spies[xix] 19th February 2022
Retirement – an idea which really appealed to me only when I was a young child on sunny days ruined by school – is obviously friendlier when seen as a cul-de-sac as opposed to a dead end. Back when I was a child, at first, the older people I knew, just seemed further on in a good way, not frail or dependent or ill. Possibly they were wiser or calmer . . . but mostly I envied their time (so I supposed) for hobbies – for modelling or reading or their small gardens of flowers, for their self-containment. Even then I must have been ‘desperate to avoid the pointless, noisy world / Our illusion of stupid facts’[xx]
From Twemlow Parade, 19th February 2022
As possible retirement locations go, Twemlow Parade covers an extreme spectrum: from visionary suburbia to elemental edge depending entirely on the weather. Not that I can see myself retired: I won’t ever have the money or the time for that . . . but even if I had the opportunity, it was never in my nature. Quite a few of my old friends seem to be retired or retiring these days, and I hope they make the most of it. But retirement now isn’t like it was. Is that old sort of retirement in anyone’s nature any longer – I mean the deckchair in the garden, the allotment, and the pipe? We all have this ridiculous aspirational determination or peer pressure to live the dream – and there’s nothing wrong with a non-material version of this inside your head – as I’m always preaching. But the poison towards the ideal of consumption begins young when disadvantaged primary age kids in disadvantaged schools[xxi], can be tutored parrot fashion by cheerleading teachers to recite: “My life! My choice!” when most of them will never have any valid choice, and life is already being sucked from them by deprivation and technology.
Almost Sandylands, Aug 2019
So, what is an acceptable form of living the dream in a world with rapidly diminishing resources, in which before long, few of us will have any pleasant choices? Forget the cobbler’s awls[xxii] (balls) of offsetting destruction by planting trees. Plant the trees by all means, always a good thing, but Carbon Zero is what is needed. We just have to STOP doing certain things. No flights at all for anyone. Severely restricted car use – to put off the day when all our cars, like old phone boxes, will just be decorative greenhouses in the street, or book-swap stations. We need to stop wasting food and seriously reduce our expectation of power for any facile whim. Learn how to use tools as tools and not be used by them. Stop wasting water and so on, ad infinitum (sorry, but we’ll all have to realise it in the end or die[xxiii]). Here, most of the old political parties are not changing fast enough, they are all as materialist as each other. We need austerity – but austerity especially for the rich, not the poor paying for everyone else’s greed. Another thing I wrote 40 years ago to no avail:
“The one line continues: Extreme materialism for a few, or materialism spread more evenly. A more comfortable cell. Econo-politics is just a line, why must everything be seen from that line?”[xxiv]
What we need more than anything else is the life of the mind, a non-consuming appreciation of the world around us, the light, our huge store house of art, literature, music, and film from around the world. Some of the best of this still struggles on, if only as a largely ignored underground stream. By comparison with this past and its present, much contemporary culture is a poverty and a corruption.
Decapitated house, Oxcliffe Road, Heysham, 6th March 2022
Changing tack: several unusual states of mind can be triggered simply by extraordinary light – low-angled or unnaturally strong, colour-tinged or fading to dusk . . . One such state could be described as the floating observer, a state not overly connected to the nuisance of material existence, i.e., a state that forgets having a body. This disregard of physical facts can be a danger when the fascination of certain places takes precedence. It would be easy to be runover or fall off a cliff[xxv].
Heysham Road, 17th May 2022
Another strange presentiment I often get, is that I’ve walked into a novel – either one that exists before or after my visit, or one I may have to write . . . with memory, notes and photos as reference or ignition points. “All I can see is the frame . . . I’m going inside to look at the picture”[xxvi]
Morning arch, Heysham Road, 17th May 2022
Both these states of mind share the tendency to insinuate meaning where there probably is none. Or to look at it more optimistically, from both of them, the sense of a better world can begin to emerge. Hence, for me a few days back (now a few months), the Heysham Road was briefly transmogrified.
Heysham Road, 17th May 2022
Never uninteresting in atmosphere – suggestive at times of unregarded areas of Bournemouth or Plymouth – a sense of the sea is always in the air on the Heysham Road. Even though the sea can only be glimpsed between buildings at two or three points, past The Battery[xxvii] as the road heads south away from Morecambe, its presence persists. From the top deck of a bus, between residential streets climbing the crest of land intervening, the occasional prospects of ocean increase.
Twemlow Parade and the sea from Royds Grove which rises from the Heysham Road, 17th May 2022
Being on the route to the children’s school, (one life, no choice), I must have viewed the road in different weathers a hundred times since we moved last year. Fortunately, since my first visit riding on a vintage double decker bus back in 2018, it has always appealed to me. Something about its atmosphere is notably conducive in a passing-suburbia manner to time-travel . . . It is easy to imagine it in different periods, especially perhaps when it was first built, a Victorian or Edwardian outlier[xxviii]: bigger gaps between houses, fields behind, a quiet dusty track with occasional horse-drawn vehicles . . .
Leafy withdrawal, Heysham Road, 17th May 2022
So it was that on May the 17th, for twenty minutes or so the road was heightened out of time altogether. Pausing on the return from school in bright early light, the rush hour was subsiding and seen optimistically, a better world began to breathe through the everyday fabric. I knew it would be transitory, but I didn’t let that put me off . . . I went into it.
Lobelia Lodge, Heysham Road, 17th May 2022
As the human activity of “getting and spending”[xxix], of life contained by the digital isolation of some or other gadget feigning connection, faded away, the buildings became homes with long reaching lives, projecting a multitude of hopes and aspirations not dependant even on the materialism of social distraction. Rather than a series of random buildings strung together by traffic noise and a vividly irritating sense of the largely purposeless routine of our daily activities, everything was focussed and made sense . . .
Souvenir of France (V.R. 1898) 17th May 2022
The Duke de Richelieu’s modest Heysham hideaway perhaps?
If that blur of dreams, which without confusion or conflict briefly filled the air, is beyond the human condition, at least its recurring essence makes life bearable for me. But the road grew loud again, and it was time to go.
Ruefully, as I travelled away, a line quoted or coined[xxx] by the writers of Fargo[xxxi] “You’ll know the Angels when they come because they’ll have the faces of your children” came to mind, though I seriously doubt such beings (should they exist) would any longer bother to appear for us. Weariness and cynicism, greed or hubris – even if so many of our mistakes are inadvertent, we are probably too far gone.
Tea for Two, Sandylands, Aug 2019
If conflict and longing are clearly the more perennial sources of art, do they also inescapably underlie the basis of material life itself? Love, life, and hope may need their contrasts and therefore the negative cannot be banished, but are all positive ideals, qualities born in the heart which can only live on in the mind?
a universal hope, a dawn which never breaks.
desperate to avoid the pointless, noisy world,
Our illusion of stupid facts[xxxii].
Health & Safety, Aug 2019
As yet another coda to the nuclear mess Heysham and Morecambe are blighted by, see the Heysham Power Stations emergency plan, a pdf[xxxiii]. With a cover not unlike a variant of the notorious Protect & Survive leaflet from the campaign of the same name[xxxiv], this is filled with chilling details. The one below is taken from page 5:
“Stable iodine tablets have been issued to occupiers of all premises within the area surrounding the power stations site.
The tablets act by “topping up” the thyroid gland with stable (nonradioactive) iodine in order to prevent it from accumulating any radioactive iodine that may be released to the environment.
If moving house please leave the stable iodine tablets in place at the property for future householders.
Additional stocks of stable iodine tablets are available to be issued following an emergency.”
I wonder how many householders still have stocks of this “stable (nonradioactive) iodine” – and is it issued to holidaymakers staying at Ocean Edge Caravan Park or other numerous locations within the dangerous radius of Heysham 1 and 2?
The looming mass of Heysham 1, nuclear threat beyond Heysham Head (which conceals Heysham 2) 10th August 2021
Warm sands and a glittering sea are perhaps the perfect camouflage for one of our more unfortunate realities. Realities which – like space exploration – a couple of generations were primed to see by teachers, scientists, television, and the like, as exciting rather than misguided, risky, or exorbitantly wasteful. Even the world of Ladybird[xxxv] (long before its mutation into self-spoof[xxxvi]) followed suit by prematurely featuring Atomic Energy on the last page of its Great Inventions title[xxxvii]. Weren’t they aware of the Windscale fire?[xxxviii] – “the worst nuclear accident in the United Kingdom’s history, and one of the worst in the world, ranked in severity at level 5 out of a possible 7”. A disaster which occurred only three or four years before the book’s publication. Or was this final page of a Ladybird ‘Achievements’ book, a classic case of hope over experience? Throwing caution to the wind for the sake of a dangerous, hubristic fashion . . .
Sandylands, looking across the bay towards the lake district, 6th March 2022
Trying to find an even keel, in Morecambe and Heysham anyone can always turn to embrace the northern prospect across the bay towards the mountains and lakes. And if that only serves as a beginning, there is always the retreat into personal (or fictional) love stories – no matter whether or not they can ever be solved.
Inconsequential coda, 26th August 2019
But is the enigma, the impossibility,
Never to forget this time or moment in space . . .
The wind in the trees, the grass overwhelming
To scorn the divided path.[xxxix]
© Lawrence Freiesleben
Cumbria and Morecambe, May-August 2022 (delayed by the jubilee)
NOTES All notes accessed between April and August 2022
[iii] Ibid., Bombed Out
[iv] See parts 1 & 2 of this digression:
See also: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/g/edmund-glasby/weird-shadow-over-morecambe.htm
See also: morningstaronline.co.uk/article/f/seismic-blasting-irish-sea-nuclear-waste-dump-will-be-devastating-marine-life
[x] Biggles’ Sopwith Camel – crash landed in the Glebe Gardens, Heysham Old Village, 29th June 2022
[xi] From The Bow. In the revised edition, Stride Press, 2000, (ISBN-10: 1900152657) the section comes on page 28 (Chapter 6). In the original version of 1983, though the meaning remains the same, the sentence is slightly longer and occurs on page 22 of Chapter 5.
[xv] One of the most deprived areas of Lancashire: https://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/news/19880251.east-lancs-deprived-areas-cost-living-soars/
In another one of those strange coincidences, I had only registered Darwen a few days before discovering this link. Watching the dubious Norman Wisdom vehicle There Was a Crooked Man, (1960), with my youngest daughters, Darwen was the background location used.
[xviii] From Hound Tor (also known as Subtle Anniversary) of July 2022
[xxiii] Here I wanted to reference the Auden/Orwell argument over Auden’s Spain https://orwellsociety.com/beyond-the-nancy-poet-jibe-orwell-and-auden/
before realising that the line I was thinking of, ‘We must love one another or die’ came from Auden’s September 1st, 1939, and the argument was one Auden had had with himself. See: https://reasonandmeaning.com/2014/05/22/w-h-audens-we-must-love-one-another-or-die/
[xxiv] From The Bow. In the revised edition, Stride Press, 2000, (ISBN-10: 1900152657) the section, unchanged from 1982/3, comes on page 20 (Chapter 3).
[xxv] As perhaps happened to Humphrey Jennings? See: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2000/jan/01/1
[xxviii] Barely even that. A 1919 map shows very little on the Heysham Road. The main development of this section must have been between the 20s and the 50s – merely numbered periods without royal assent.
[xxix] From Wordsworth’s The World Is Too Much With Us: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45564/the-world-is-too-much-with-us
[xxx] The line sounds biblical/mythological, but internet references only cite season 2 of Fargo, episode 10, Palindrome. An unusual entertainment of mayhem and violence, Fargo (the series) is barbed with the odd challenging thought and occasionally deploys quotations in a way which revives their uncanny power – such as Mike Milligan (unforgettably portrayed by Bokeem Woodbine) using Lewis Carroll’s Jaberwocky: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/42916/jabberwocky (Episode 6, season 2)
[xxxii] Ibid., Hound Tor, July 2022
[xxxvi] A self-published spoof by Miriam Elia (2014) preceded the official series, until Penguin Random House’s legal department “snapped into action”. After which they nicked the idea and ran with it . . . https://publishingperspectives.com/2016/01/curious-case-uk-popular-ladybird-book-parody/#
[xxxix] Ibid., Hound Tor, July 2022