The Tour de France got me thinking about the idea of professional cyclists trying to get from a to b as quickly as possibly in order to be the fastest cyclist. It’s not really a ‘psychogeographical’ endeavour but there are numerous ways that it could be…both for the cyclists and the spectators…

In line with other psychogeographers in West Yorkshire such as Robert Norbury is the idea of using a bike as mode of ‘drifting’…to do dérives on bikes. We could call that something like cyclegeography, cyclepsychogeography or cyclography. There are numerous dérive methods that could be used such as: cycling only to destinations with the letter ‘d’ in place names ie Digley), using a map of Paris to disorientate oneself around places like Holmfirth or taking a route where you are only allowed to go straight on and/or turn right with no left turns allowed. Such methods would be used to open up the senses to the surrounding landscape and to consider what changes to urban and rural spaces need to be undertaken.

My partner and I walked from our home to Holme Moss to watch the Tour de France today. On the route to get there we walked with many other walkers and cyclists. There were so many people trying to get to the site of the Tour that it felt a bit like some sort of spiritual pilgrimage! That or we were simply following a herd and being spectators to a giant media event. I guess this raises the question of participation and whether one can properly critique the spectacle whilst being part of the spectacle. In my view I don’t think it’s really possible to critique the spectacle by standing outside of it. You have to be in it in order to understand and critique it. Otherwise if you don’t know what it is how would you know how to critique it? During our long walk, we considered themes and questions such as participation, spectacle and competition. In the context of the Tour, competition, being the ‘best’ and winning is clearly bound up with dominant discourses of neoliberalism in terms of success, wealth and personal achievement. These are ideas that will be further explored in future accounts on this blog and elsewhere.

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Tour de France

Posted: July 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

This morning I noticed that there were a lot more cyclists on the road than usual. I wonder whether some of the pro cyclists that are meant to be preparing for the Grand Depart from Leeds have either got lost by accident or maybe they have decided to do a cycle dérive! Seeing as this race begins in England but is called the Tour de France I think it would be an excellent idea to give the racers a map of Paris as a navigational tool to get them from Leeds to Sheffield. Here is my proposed map which should be used for the race.

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A drift around Paddock

Posted: August 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

I recently read Farley and Robert’s Edgelands book which is an excellent account of familiar but forgotten spaces which are neither part of cities or the countryside. The Edgelands are in fact the ‘spaces in between’ places … The writers Farley and Roberts argue that the Edgelands tend to be ‘ignored or misrepresented’ in much of landscape writing (2012: 8). I really like their poetic and artistic response to these Edgeland spaces and it inspired me to go out on a walk around the outskirts of Huddersfield to find such spaces … It was an usually hot summers day and I started walking up the high street of Paddock. You may ask … Why Paddock … Well why not? I hadn’t been there before and so I decided to go for a walk there…to walk out of Paddock to see if I could find any ‘Edgelands’…

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I wasn’t intending on going in any fixed direction (as this was meant to be a disorientating drift after all). I walked up the main road of Paddock and then down and around the top of the mini roundabout for quite a while. There were a lot of pubs that had closed down and were ‘for sale’. I walked around a bit more and then went back down the road near to where I had started the walk.

Then I took a left turn as that seemed to be the easiest way to get off the beaten track. No sooner had I turned off the main road and I came across an abandoned building …

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At this point the road began to descend downhill, away from the main road and towards what looked like an industrial estate, a block of modern looking flats and a shed …

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Then I walked uphill for a few brief minutes … At this point the pavement disappeared and I had to avoid oncoming car traffic! Then I spotted a beautiful old house which appeared to be abandoned …

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I arrived at another main road and found myself in Lockwood. I walked for a few minutes down a road and on my right was a graveyard of refuse …

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By this point on the walk I had been walking around for about an hour and I felt quite thirsty. So I decided to go for a coffee. End of walk.

On that note I’ve decided to do further investigations of ignored and forgotten spaces. Maybe this can be part of a larger project to document buildings and spaces that have been forgotten and abandoned and are simply being left to rot and decay. I would also like to do further projects to document the ever increasing neoliberalisation and consumerisation of the landscape …

A few days ago I decided that I wanted to go on a long country walk from one village to another village. There wasn’t any real particular reason other than to see what it would be like to walk on a route that is largely used by car drivers and a few road cyclists.

So I began my walk from Meltham on a hot summer evening. The path started on the B6107 Slaithwaite Road where fortunately for me there was a pavement! But then after a while the pavement disappeared ….

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… I got the feeling that walkers were not really meant to walk beyond this point or maybe it was because it was assumed that no one would be crazy enough to walk on these sorts of roads in the countryside. My view on that was that I wanted to experience the ambience of the countryside by going on foot.

Walking is a very different experience to driving. When driving in a car from one place to another, one loses that connection with place and doesn’t really feel as much the undulations, contours, smells and sounds of places. Indeed, as Will Self has argued, driving is like seeing the world through a cinema screen, with the front window as being like a cinema screen! If driving is like going to the cinema then I say that the films that I ‘watch’ and ‘experience’ are a mixture of road trip films (where I’m either actually going on a road trip), slow paced dull films (where nothing really happens and the storylines are quite dull) or angry films (where all the characters get really angry with each other – ie. road rage).

I can’t say that I felt very safe but at least the car drivers gave me a wide berth! This part of the walk made me feel quite unnerved as there were a lot of U bends and hills where it was not as easy for me or the cars to see each other. Indeed I would think that car drivers would not expect to come across people walking on this route. And probably the fact that there was no footpath showed that it was not really somewhere for people to walk. Silly me deciding to go on such a walk! But hey, I like walking! It my job to walk (and to write and teach).

So on that note I carried on walking. Once I’d got upto the top of the hill, the whole landscape ‘opened up’ and I could see for miles around me. It really was a pleasure to behold. There was the beautiful and undulating countryside all around me and in the distance I could see Slaithwaite, Marsden and the town of Huddersfield. So I continued onwards and then the road began to descend downwards.

One thing to note about West Yorkshire is that it’s very hilly! You don’t really get that much of a feel of that in a car but try cycling up some of the hills around Meltham and you’ll experience the ‘pain’ … particularly up Wessenden Head Road. I mean even the Grand Depart of the Tour de France takes place around here next year! The scenery is quite frankly breathtaking but the roads are hilly and tough!

Anyhow, many of the car drivers drove pretty fast through the countryside and that really destroyed the sound of the birds singing and gentle wind blowing through the trees and plants all around. The writing on the roads said ‘slow’ in capital letters but none of the car drivers seemed to take any notice of that.

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As I walked on a police car appeared in the distance. I think it slowed down in speed when they saw me. Maybe they thought that it was quite bizarre that I was walking on that route? Anyhow, I carried on walking and took a few photos along the way. Photography is quite important to my walking practice (as I’ll explain in more detail in a future blog entry).

In conclusion it took me an hour and 15 minutes to talk from Meltham to Marsden. That’s a distance of three and a half miles. When I got there I was rather thirsty and went to a cafe for a cup of coffee. Coffee, beer and tea are essential beverages for flaneurs and flâneuses!

So that’s the end of that walk account. See you soon and I hope you enjoyed reading my first blog entry. I’ll be writing all sorts of blog accounts relating to projects about the changing form of urban and rural environments, effects of gentrification and neoliberalism, psychogeography, deep topography and other critical approaches to investigating environments … Bye bye!

Introduction

Posted: July 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is my blog! I will post ideas and projects here in due course!