fear & loathing by the rochdale canal

She has so many emails from writers, the bookshop owner says, that sometimes it’s hard to get any work done at all! In those few words the Calder Valley clamps down on you as relentlessly as it did on any Victorian loom operator & you’re deformed instantly by some geographic-claustrophobic metaphor for the whole Ted thing, or the whole Sylvia thing, or both–or, just, it would seem, the whole writing course masterclass booklover thing. With a frisson of fear you feel Ted & Sylvia perch on your shoulders, their claws down to the bone, their raucous cries filling shop, town, valley, this whole Darwinian arts initiative zone between the owl-haunted moors. Soon, like everyone else here you’ll get work operating one of the new cultural machines–like say an interesting cafe bar in an old woollen mill, or an old woollen mill converted to sell woodcuts. Terror causes you to grab the first thing you see that you could bear to be seen with–The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler–& pay, & exit the shop. But there’s nothing to fear! the valley will not fold shut on you! Because you can always go into some woods somewhere & run the steep little leafmould tracks between tree roots like black wet plastic cable & gritstone slabs at angles & the sound of your breath like someone shovelling coal in 1952 & everything coming at you in short perspectives bounded by beech & holly slopes. Tannin colours in the stream below.

(But in the end it would be safer to go somewhere else. & when you get home you Google the wood just in case Ted or Sylvia ever wrote anything about it, because it would just be so embarrassing to discover that.)

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11 Comments

Filed under the postmodernised landscape, writing

11 responses to “fear & loathing by the rochdale canal

  1. Lara

    Perfect text for the insomniac. Thank goodness you’re back.

  2. uzwi

    I’m not sure I’m back entirely. My head’s up north & I keep making lists. Always a bad sign.

  3. nicholasroyle

    Next time you’re up north we should try to get together.

  4. nicholasroyle

    Where was the shop?

  5. uzwi

    Hi Nick, yes, we should. I’m hoping to get up to Stanage again soon, not far south from you.
    As for the shop, I’m not saying. Many clues are embedded for the trained investigator; or of course I might have made it all up.

  6. Dave

    Hey, here’s a welcome back present for you:

    Somebody on TV actually defying the cultural machine. Give me chills. But then we’re starved for this sort of thing in Amerika.

    How was the climbing?

  7. uzwi

    That opening statement is hilarious. We’re starved of anything like that over here too.

    Climbing: I had a great time going up the things I used to use as easy ways down–humbling but still fun. I hung out with some other old guys & we said things like, Gritstone, God’s own rock! &: If you can climb this you can climb anything, which is probably not true for us any more…

    It’s all going well, Dave.

  8. Dave

    Glad to hear things are going well. Sounds like you had fun.

    I’m feeling more and more like a real climber. Still lots to learn though. I’m gong out with an old timer to learn how to build anchors properly tomorrow as I’ve had some recent inspiration: Last weekend, I followed a route that lead to the middle of nowhere and ended up having to rap off of a rat’s nest of old webbing slung around a skeazy little pine tree. It made absolutely terrifying noises on the way down. I rapped so fast I thought my hands were gonna blister, thinking to myself ‘the longer I’m on this tree, the greater the probability of death’ the whole way down.

    I love climbing.

  9. uzwi

    Sounds as if you’re getting the full benefit of the activity, Dave.

  10. mckie

    I like Ted. I can’t bear Sylvia. But Eric Ambler, now *there’s* a writer…

  11. uzwi

    I was glad to have grabbed that novel as I ran. Hadn’t read it since the early 70s; so now I’ve read it in a tent by headtorch six feet from a stream, not many can say that. I still like “Crow”, & some of Silvia’s short prose. I’m not terrorised by them so much as their cult; & not so much by the cult as the monetisation of it.