Saturday, 28 November 2015

So Close, So Far

Three views of the Avon Gorge in Bristol, on a squally November day this last week, more or less from the same place on Clifton Down.

  First looking SSE towards Brunel's Suspension Bridge.  Picking your moment is everything on a day and in a place like this.  The detail of the river and the mudflats vanishes in a dazzle of reflections and lens flare if the sun is visible, but once it's gone behind a dense bank of cloud, everything goes flat.

Turning to the WSW, there is this lovely wooded ridge in Leigh Woods on the opposite side of the Gorge, between the deep scoops of two old quarries, where the strontium-rich mineral celestine was once mined.  One day soon I intend to get over there, but the Gorge is wide and I cannot swim over, and neither have I wings to fly, to paraphrase "Carrickfergus".  It's tantalisingly close, but a car drive and a hike away.

Finally, looking NW, the Portway runs along the river to the busy port of Avonmouth, with its giant cranes.  Those are the mountains and valleys of South Wales looming darkly on the horizon across the Bristol Channel, not so long ago the home of proud coal-mining and steel-making communities, but – since Thatcher's government and the National Union of Mineworkers faced off in the 1980s, and the fateful discovery that there was more money to be made in financial prestidigitation than actually making stuff – now a blighted post-industrial area, struggling to come to terms with the realities of a Britain that has turned its face away from heavy industries and, tragically, those who made their lives working in them.  It could have been very different; again, so close, but so far away.  History, geography, economics and politics...

I tend not to bang on about current events and politics in this blog, as I think my views are fairly obvious, my shouting and banner-waving days are over, and I have little of originality or urgency to declaim from this particular rickety soap-box.  But I think this short recent article in N+1 is worth a read, and a mild antidote to the sentimental, short-term, kitten-based clicktivism encouraged by the social media.

Oh, and a particularly good Wondermark currently.  Anyone who says Americans don't do irony is an idiot.


Zouk Delors said...

Pedants' Corner
Do the valleys really loom, or is it just the mountains?

Interesting piece at the link. It's the first time I've seen the word "Westernism". I suppose Westernists are Westerners who take the Big Book of the West incredibly literally as holy writ and are prepared to kill and maim in pursuit of their interpretation of it? There is a Big Book of the West, isn't there?

Mike C. said...

See, now I thought, if I don't mention the valleys, some *other* pedant will say, "I think you'll find the mining communities are in the *valleys*, not the mountains"... Trying to think of a better verb for "dark shapes in the distance, sort of sticking up, but also sort of sticking down, if you're into negative space"... "Loom" will have to do.

Yes, you must have been away from school the day they handed out the Big Book, I think it was the day after Dardy Williams handed out the little orange book (the rules of Rugby Union).


Kent Wiley said...

Good read, Mike. A necessary slap in the face, much like the Sontag piece that the writer mentions. My favorite quote is still "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel."