Monthly Archives: October 2021

Hallowe’en

It was in the evening, just before the sun fell and dusk set in, that i packed my bags and went. A short jaunt to the cemetery, to see some old friends.

I never knew my great-uncle and -aunt, but their name still holds some worth; their middle name and surnames i was bestowed at birth. I searched fruitlessly through the old graves, filled with fallen war-time knaves, but finally, by a bench and basket of waste, i found the couple’s resting place.

I didn’t think it would affect me so much, but just at the sight i felt the touch of a salty trickle running down my cheeks. I knelt and felt i could weep for weeks. As evening turned to dusk and dusk turned to night, i jotted down the words inscribed in white:

We often think of bygone days when we were all together
The family chain is broken now but memories live forever

Rest in peace, Tim and Annie. Happy Hallowe’en.

Letter of recommendation: Censor

A film poster split into two parts by a VHS ripple effect ; the top, a conservatively-dressed woman in 80s style, the bottom, a madwoman holding an axe. The film is called "Censor", starring Niamh Algar.

I recently had some downtime and, since ’tis the season, watched Censor, a small British horror film about a film censor during the “video nasty” panic who investigates a strangely familiar scene.

It’s tense, stylish, and scary — all the more impressive coming from its first-time director, Prano Bailey-Bond — becoming more and more surreal the further it progresses. Give it a watch, why don’t you?

Some nice local businesses at Ponteland market

A table filled with alkin goods and crafts

The family and i went to a local food-and-craft market at Ponteland’s garden centre this morning. I thought i’d send letters of recommendation for some of the stalls.

Urban Bakery, from Gateshead, make the most decadent cinnamon buns i’ve ever had.

The Alnwick Soap Company produce wonderful soaps inspired by the scents of rural Northumberland. I plumped for the ginger-and-grapefruit and cedarwood-and-juniper myself.

Mrs B’s Kitchen, from Durham, sells jams, conserves, chutneys, honey, sauces — all the things you ever need in the top drawer of your fridge. (I got the rhubarb and raspberry.)

Hops and Dots, of Bishop Auckland, make “accessible craft beer” with Braille on the labels.

Wilde Farm, of Ponteland, are ostensibly running the whole thing, and sell… you know, farm things. Carrots, veg, burgers, sausages, turkey — you get the idea. They’re currently taking orders for the winter holidays.

White walls, grey sofas, potted plants

When i was just a bairn, my oma was an avid scrapbooker and collage-maker. Dotted around the walls, alongside the paintings, antique cupboards, and kitschy statues of dogs, were little collaged images of every important moment in her life — and mine.

Just by looking around her house, you could instantly get a sense of who she was, and what she cared about. (Her dogs. She cares a lot about her dogs.) It was disorganised, it was a wee bit cluttered — but it was hers.

Today’s trends are rather different. Some time after the great recession (when it became, understandably, somewhat gauche to display how much Stuff you owned), the style du jour turned to blank, white walls, with spare tables and maybe (if you were lucky) the occasional potted plant. As this bareness took over, i can’t help but feel something was lost.i

The top results for “minimalist living room” on Google Images, for example, tell you almost nothing at all about the person who might be living there:

A selection of spare, white-walled rooms, with the occasional grey sofa and chair strewn in.

Compare with these more cluttered affairs, filled with alkin books, rugs, photos, and the like, and the difference in the amount of personality that shines through is like night and day:

Several clujttered rooms of various colours, books filed high to the ceiling, chairs everywhere, tapestry rugs...

I don’t know. Maybe i’m just grumpy and nostalgic. What do you think?

Walking the Blyth and Tyne, part two: Oh, Delaval is a terrible place

Last time on The Garden: A strip mall turns out to be a place of immense historical curiosity, i am interrupted by a rude troupe of boy racers, and find myself caught up in the lyrics of a pro-union folk song.

Leaving Seghill, going past a house with a conspicuous Northumbrian flag, the landscape once again slips swiftly back into ruralia — a common occurrence on this leg of the journey. No sooner had i left behind the station house than i found myself on a dirt path which i wasn’t quiiiite sure i was meant to be on.

This was the small hamlet of Mare Close, essentially a farmhouse surrounded by a few cottages. I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone living there has been friends since primary school, though i’ll never know for sure. Opposite the cottages, by the next leg of my route, lay a small village church and graveyard which i dared not enter. Onwards.


Seaton Delavalα sits at the heart of the valley. Turning one way, there lies a charming local coöperative store, a genuine lordly manor (owned by the town’s namesake De la Val family, who came over after 1066), the previously-blogged village of Holywell, and, eventually, the seaside settlement of Seaton Sluice.β Unfortunately, we’ll be turning the other way, by where once stood a colliery.

The former site of Delaval’s station can hardly be considered a sight for sore eyes. Cars and lorries pass by, horns blaring, trying to weave their way between those turning into the nearby petrol station.γ The location of the station itself is an uninspiring gravel pit on one site with an overgrown nettle-filled path on the other; next door is a chain pub whose car park will be getting embiggened to accommodate the extra traffic once the railway reopens.

It doesn’t get much better. A few interesting-looking eateries (a grimy-looking café called “Only Fools and Sauces”, a venue by the name of the Secret Gardenδ with a wonderful hand-painted sign) added some initial spice, but soon i was back to the same industrial wasteland: Auto recycling! Furniture wholesalers! Caravan storage! Chemical producers! The works!

…I said something about a colliery, didn’t i?


16 January, 1862. It’s half past ten — or, at least, it might be. You’ve been labouring away in the coal pit since two in the morning, and you’ve not seen the sun since. The shift is almost over, and it’s time to swap over with the next group.

One by one, your comrades file in line to get out. A huddle of people enter the rusting lift. The familiar ketter-ketter-ketter shudders through the cave — but then, for a fraction of a second, all falls silent.

Your heart races. A drop of water falls from the ceiling. Nobody makes a sound.

And then, all of a sudden, it is as though Thor’s hammer has crashed into the ground. The earth around you shakes in terror, lets out what can only be described as an otherworldly scream, as ten tonnes of blood-red steel smash into the floor.


This was the Hartley Pit disaster, and its shockwaves can still be heard across town.

Just across from the telltale jackhammers and yellow tape of a housing estate so new Google Maps hasn’t caught up yetε sits a lovely memorial garden, explaining the story of the tragedy, with a poem to contemplate as you ramble along the path.


In terms of stations, the town has had two — Hartley and Hartley Pit — both right next to each other, and neither seeming to have any chance of reopening.

I was a bit anxious about continuing on, because there were several serious-looking men in hard-hats and high-vis jackets, but they didn’t seem to mind. They really, really should have tried to stop me from going to where i was going next.

Coming up on The Garden: your author tries not to disturb some horses, desperately tries to avoid going to fucking Blyth, and accidentally sneaks in a brief trip to Durham. I promise, it makes sense in context.

Mx van Hoorn’s link roundup, Volume I

I figure over time dates will get ambiguous — it’s time to start numbering these bad boys, from the top. Five for your perusal this time around…

Washington­Wormhole

Look — reader, i understand this about as much as you do. It just popped up in my recommendations one day. I watched the entire series of videos this is apparently a part of, and i still don’t feel like i get it. Something about James Dean and evil national landmarks?

This is one of the better-done things in the recent wave of “analogue horror” that has been circulating the interwebs — short, spooky videos taking inspiration from late-night public television or other media of the past. I just think it’s neat. Anyone else want to go through the WASHINGTONWORMHOLE?

Marijn

2 October 2021

I’ve decided that the only people who are allowed to do the Youtuber voice are the Vlogbrothers. Everyone else has to learn to talk like a normal human being.

Autumn

A small covered shelter in a park surrounded by auburn-leaved trees.
Jesmond Dene in the autumn, courtesy of Newcastle Libraries.

It often feels like, as soon as the calendar ticks over from 22 to 23 September, that autumn, having hidden its face for months upon months, all of a sudden decides to come out all at once. Auburn leaves begin to fall, telling the time until winter like an hourglass; the days get shorter and the nights come earlier, the air gets that particular autumn crispness, and, of course, it begins to rain.i

Not that i’m complaining. Autumn is, in my view, the most wonderful season of the year: yes, summer is nice and warm, and winter is the time for comfort and gezelligheid with family and friends, but autumn is when our festivities are perhaps the closest to how they were millennia ago. Echoes of the last harvest festivals of the year still ring (school assemblies for the young, pumpkin spice for the jaded), and whatever you want to call it — Hallowe’en, All Hallows’ Eve, Samh­ain, Day of the Dead — the atmosphere about that midautumn celebration beats even Christmas for the best time of the year; for a whole month, the western world lets itself get a little morbid for a changeii, and the celebrations have the good sense to get out of the way quietly once November shuffles along.

So. Happy autumn, everyone! Enjoy it while it lasts.