Empty spaces and bad chip shops

Hello void,

Sometime last year I moved to new London digs. This was before the pandemic, of course, before any of us thought that “pandemic” would be something we’d even have to think about in our lifetimes. It was back when the concept of “London digs” seemed perfectly reasonable and obvious.

Back then, I spent a lot of time in London. I needed a pillow to rest my head on at night, and a cupboard to keep some clothes in. I needed digs.

So I moved to new digs and it was an empty house, newly moved-into by me and my host. On that first evening, it had that haunted-house vibe of stacked cardboard boxes and the endless search for essentials: not the kettle, everyone remembers the kettle. But other essentials, like teaspoons and bog roll and extension leads and matches.

That evening, late, not long before bed, I wandered the house and pointed a lens into empty spaces, into boxes of nothing. I tried to figure out how to turn them into something.

There was no food in the house, of course, so I ventured out to see what I could find nearby. I found a chippy, what turned out to be The Worst Chippy In North London. Needless to say, I only discovered this when I was four or five chips in, and by then it was too late. It was made all the more heartbreaking because my previous digs had been two minutes walk from The Best Chippy In North London.

I miss chippys. I miss chips. I miss London, but not as much as I thought I would.

The boxes have been unpacked now, the house is filled with character and human voices. My cupboard remains untouched and unopened, my clothes inside it getting dusty.

I’m not sure about the terrible chippy. I hope it’s still there, for its owner’s and employee’s sake. But if you can possibly help it, don’t buy chips there. Dear me.

A night walk

Working from home sometimes means working all-day-long from home, and then cooking the supper, then doing other chores and finally realising it’s 11pm and you’ve not had any exercise, not even left the house.

That happened one night last week, void, and it bothered me. I went for a walk in the dark.

We live in the sort of town that’s always pretty quiet at night.

Even so, the silence of the streets that night was oppressive and weird. Even after 3 months of lockdown. It just felt wrong.

There should have been people leaving the pubs, queuing at the chip shop, gazing at the moonlight reflecting off the river. But there were none.

Nothing moved or seemed to breathe, except me and my phone. I snapped at shadows.

There’s no-one here. There’s everyone here.

The cash machine was covered in cobwebs, unused for weeks. My fingers brushed a ten pound note in my pocket, unspent since lockdown began.

I strolled home, thinking about change.

Behind Sainsbury's

Hello void,

Behind Sainsbury’s there’s a bike shop, and behind the bike shop there’s a track that heads southwards out of town and into the countryside.

As countryside tracks go, it’s not very inviting. It’s one of those tracks that doesn’t really look like it’s going anywhere.

Which is true, it’s not. It doesn’t.

So its value as a beginning of some romantic, interesting country walk is limited. It’s also quite muddy, even in the warm weather, and overgrown, and just … just not very walker-friendly.

Anyway that’s one of the places I’ve been, void. That’s one of the things that I’ve done.

After-work walks

We’ve been going for walks in the early evening, once we’ve finished work. There’s no time during the day, and the mornings are fall-out-of-bed, fall-under-the-shower, fall-through-the-kitchen, and fall-into-your-inbox. There’s too much first-thing falling to make time for any walks at the start of the day.

So they happen here, at the end of the day, when the light is actually quite nice for photography most of the time, and the streets and fields around where we live are pretty much empty, pretty much of the time.

There’s a route we take that goes up past the hotel, and round the northernmost tip of the town via the farm where the racehorses live. Sometimes we meet the horses for a little chat about horse-related matters. Sometimes the horses have better things to do.

Then it’s back via some more open fields, where you often see more horses and the occasional cows. They’re the same as normal cows, only not always there.

On this particular day the sky is overcast and I wonder if any photos of anything will be any good at all. Everything seems too dull, too desperate. My creative brain too diminished by lockdown.

But say things about creativity and constraint, don’t they? There are actual sayings you can quote. I’d look them up, but then I’m not sure it’s worth it. You know what I mean.

On the way back we go past the shuttered church at the top of the hill, by the roundabout, opposite the pub. You know the one. The church looms like churches do, and in front of its forlorn front door, someone has left a beautiful jug of flowers.

At that moment, in those circumstances, on that walk, on that day, the best kind of black and while photo to take feels like it should be a colour one.

You would have made the same decision, I think. You know what I’m saying, don’t you void? You get my drift.

Hello void #8

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(places are absent in my life; they’re absent for everyone, so I’ve been looking around me at lines and shapes and textures and voids, void, voids like you)

(i’m snacking too much and putting on weight)

(we try to escape by watching tv but every tv show has CROWDS and CAFES and PEOPLE MEETING UP AND TALKING and MOVING AROUND WITHOUT ANY ISSUES and I watch those shows and they’re not, in the end, that much of an escape)

(how’s your friend null getting on? you two are always mentioned together)

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