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After a long break, I plan to get back to pier-visitation in the summer. The plan is to physically visit the Six Realms described in some Buddhist traditions, mapped on to the realm I live in (England). This involves taking a popular image of the ‘Wheel of Life’ depicting the realms, superimposing it on a map of England centred on the supposed mid-point of the country, then getting to places sited within each realm and recording my impressions. The psychogeographical technique to be used is the ‘Finding’ approach described by Duncan Barford, ‘decide beforehand the outcome of the journey, and then look to experiences during the journey as the provision of that outcome’.
Image: Maren Yumi
The SIx Realms can be thought of as metaphors, psychological or spiritual states, destinations for rebirth. For me they will become tourist destinations.
My initial assumption is that I live in the Human Realm. Siting the others accordingly, by rotating the mandala and drawing lines, I have a set of territories to visit during a week’s leave. As bikers and scooterboys know well, seaside piers make great destination points for journeys and I’ll incorporate as many as I can. These could include
Aberystwyth (Hungry Ghosts)
Any of the south coast ones – Bognor, Brighton, Eastbourne, Herne Bay, Gravesend… (Animals)
East Anglia, eg Great Yarmouth (Titans)
perhaps returning to the Human Realm via Blackpool.
I’m working on an itinerary for week commencing 25th June – if any psychogeographers, chums, or other benign entities would like to meet up along the way let me know.
Based on decades of experience, my favourite type of superhero comic is the team-up, where characters from different strips get together as allies. The more disparate the characters the better, as it creates an intriguing ‘what if?’ effect if the stories combine different timezones, genres, or styles (Batman and Sgt Rock; Spiderman and Werewolf by Night; The Punisher and Archie for instance.)
When I was a kid the announcement of Superman vs Spiderman drove me nearly insane. Not only were the characters published by different companies, they came from different and fully-developed fictional universes, each with their own geography, flow of time, laws of physics, theologies and implicit rules of storytelling. I lay awake wondering how these would be resolved, one time even dreaming that the characters were hurtling towards me down a long science-fiction-style tunnel lined with incomprehensible devices…
The actual story was rather disappointing as it dodged all of the incompatibility issues; the characters simply met up. It was just taken as read that neither they or their vast supporting casts had ever met before; Metropolis and New York both fitted on to America somewhere; the relatively realistic Spiderman was meeting a guy who could pull planets on chains and had a menagerie of super-pets. Despite this disappointment I was still excited by the next big team-up – (“‘Superman vs Muhammad Ali’? How will that work?” etc.) and so on until today (“I wonder who’s in the next part of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?”).
So the possibility of participating in a senses-shattering team-up myself – right here, in the real world – holds considerable allure…
While I have just started a glacial progression around piers real and imagined, younger, fitter men are planning to get round the whole lot in a two-week Odyssey that has been described as ”On the Road” meets “On the Buses”.
Piers are the phallic symbols of our desire to own the motherly sea; our Victorian forefathers covered them with the lace dressings of amusement to prevent the working class getting too excited. Since then they’ve rotted slowly, like Britain’s empire and its self respect.
Those from Birmingham are perfectly placed to write about an ephemeral British seaside because that’s what the seaside is to them: a ghost, a Vaseline-smeared Shangri-La cobbled together from Carry On films, hazy childhood memories and nostalgia for a bygone era.
This looks fantastic. And you can support their heroic efforts in various ways – details on their site.
Presumably the tour will include one of the piers near me – so if at all possible I’ll try and hook up with the Pier Reviewers, colliding worlds in the pier-visiting team-up of the century.
Let’s try that again. Working with my Canon 9000f scanner was driving me wild, as most of the pictures had coloured bands running through them, or random colour-casts. Turns out this was something I was doing wrong, concealing some kind of sensor doodad by laying film over it. (Here is the explanation of the problem.) By cutting the negs up I’m now able to get pictures that resemble more closely what’s actually on the film. There’s an irony to using an analogue camera which produces results that need to be digitised in order for anyone to see them, but there you go, it’s a fallen world. So here’s a do-over of my Southend trip:
Exposure is still a dicey business, as the pictures usually have very light and very dark areas. I expect if I get into Photoshop I could do more with this but hey, as well as my day job and writing up my previous walk I want to get round some piers, so perhaps these crude efforts will have to suffice for now.
You may notice that I am wearing a stupid hat (even in the improved versions of the images):
– to which I would reply ‘Heh, you should hear what my wife says about it.’ But it was fun at the time and if you can’t wear a stupid hat at the seaside, where can you wear one? Promenading in the sun as a different man – one who would wear that hat, and that shirt, proudly showing off my normally besuited, skinny arms (+ tattoo, + scar) – was half the fun.