fear & loathing by the rochdale canal

by uzwi

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.)