Saturday, 10 August 2019

Liminal lunchtime

Lunchtime walks had  yet again been on a bit of a hiatus. The overbearing heat of a globally warmed summer and work and non-work based busy-ness being the main barriers to ability and motivation to get out there. The malaise brought on by both factors had impeded any will to write about any of the sporadic walks I had done in this period. Edited highlights will be forthcoming once (if) these prohibitive factors subside sufficiently for any length of time.

Last week I did get out for a 30 minute(ish) drift. After aimlessly heading up Eastfield Road I unconsciously took a right turn into Dickens Road. Past the Salem Chapel, the locus of my first Peterborough post, then onwards into a zone made up of a Rec/School Field on one side and on the  other a strip of green which is apparently  vunerable to fly-tipping, it's trees and bushes obscuring the sight and sound of the Parkway just beyond. The zone is bifurcated by 'The Airfield' cycle path which is part of a network of cycle paths shadowing the various Parkways, weaving under them at various intervals via Clockwork Orange-esque underpasses.

The transition into this zone was marked by a dilapidated house featuring a makeshift sign bearing the legend 'Site Keep Clear'. I wasn't sure which sort of site the sign was supposed to indicate. A building site, where work was ongoing to make the house inhabitable again at some future point. Or just a 'bloody site' as my mum used to say when referring to any sort of shambolic mess beyond immediate hope of being sorted out. That the facade of the house appeared unchanged since my first memory of it over a year ago indicates the latter.

The fly-tipping prone zone is also apparently a location subject to public outbreaks of drinking. A sign warned that I had entered a 'designated public place' which meant risking arrest and a £500 fine on refusal to surrender booze to the law when asked.  There were no imbibers present as I passed. Maybe the sign was effective. Or maybe it was just less hassle to go to one of Peterborough's Wetherspoons, which are in their own way 'designated public spaces' for the disaffected daytime drinker.  I considered whether there was a difference between a 'designated public spaces' and a plain 'public space' other than the threat of being fined a monkey for drinking in one and not the other. I couldn't think of one.

Emerging from a bush behind the sign was an impressive array of deposited rubbish. Too much to be the product of discarded items thrown from car windows on the Parkway.  I don't recall seeing a no fly-tipping sign. Presumably rubbish is considered less of a threat than booze on the scale of public menace in the zone.

I passed the Mellows Road underpass with its impressive graffiti and lure into the opposite liminal fly-tipping zone the other side of the Parkway. I resisted the urge and kept going forward.

Soon after, having followed the curve of the Airfileld Cycleway, the route passing under another underpass. I didn't record the name of this one and the memory of it has since faded. At the 'mouth', three posts which were all appeared to belong to separate eras resembled inadequate static guards. The white painted rectangle on the floor between two of them was ambiguous. The legend 'NCS' stenciled onto the concrete above at first glance seemed official, like a construction company logo. But closer examination indicated it was something to do with football.

Within the underpass, I was engulfed in a profusion of incoherent graffiti tags, slogans and symbols. 'Just say neigh' seemed a particularly odd thing for a tagger to write.  The ambiguous message possibly something to do with a pro-horseriding oppressed minority campaigning for the right to share the cycleway. Or maybe a jibe from a visiting Yorkshireman.

I emerged out the other side near a MacDonalds set on the edge of the Eastfields Induatrial area. I could see a communications mast rising in front of me to the left located somewhere deep in the maze of industrial units and warehouses. The same one I had noticed from my office window numerous times. I had tried to walk to it before and failed to reach its base in the labyrinth of roads.  This time I headed up the main drag (if such a thing exists in an industrial estate). Soon, directly ahead I could see the towers of Peterborough power station. This edifice was another site visible in the distance from my office window. That bit too far to reach in a lunch time. This was the closest I'd got. The road was partially blocked by roadworks, lorries and white vans. A silent checkpoint Charlie. I had the irrational feeling I would be challenged if I carried on, and felt like I didn't have the right paperwork. I had no business here and I probably couldn't speak the lingo. This 'barrier' appeared as if to remind me it was time to go back if I was to get back to work on time.

As I paused before retracing my steps back to the underpass I looked left at the communications tower. There was no obvious way to get nearer from this point either. It remained tantalisingly close but elusive.

Just before leaving the industrial estate, I noticed the roof of the Pizza Hut rising above the petrol station, in the cluster of 'servces' that include the previously mentioned MacDonalds. Catching it out of the corner of my eye I mistook the roof as being thatched. For a brief second it resembled a giant hut-like village hall from an earlier age. Then the brown brick and glass reality of the building coalesced. The cluster of services was typical of those found in this type of liminal environment having marginalised greasy spoons, makeshift cafes and burger vans that once would have prospered in such places.

I had found a grease cafe on Google maps  located somewhere near the communications mast in a similarly obscure location that I doubted would be easy to find. Two pictures that came with the map location and address. One featured a small industrial unit with its shutters down. The second was inside where a man with his back to the camera was in the kitchen, flipping eggs and looking not unlike Phil Mitchel from EastEnders. I also noticed a burger van not far from the main drag. It was good to know old school eateries still survived on the margins of their more corporate and bland nemisi.

On the return journey the lure of Mellows Road underpass this time pulled me in. The profusion of graffiti/street art was of a different league here. No reference to football. Instead a bloodshot eyed weed smoking Homer Simpson and the tag 'Talos' were two things that lingered in my mind upon departure. An image came to mind of the Bronze giant of Greek myth relegated to spend all enternity in a piss-soaked underpass with a dim-witted middle aged cartoon man.

The 'road sign' had been customised to feature yin/yan symbols, which coupled with the word 'mellow' suggested a  mystical element to whatever proceedings had been taking pace here with Talos and Homer Simpson.

Psychogeography, Peterborough, Mellows Road Subway, Underpass, Liminal

I followed the footpath through the greenspace which was parallel to the Airfield Cycleway zone, except this time with the addition of Peterborough indoor bowls club behind a perimeter fence on the left. I emerged on Star Road and shortly afterwards re-encountered another locus of an early Peterborough lunchtime walk. The ex-church building, featuring memorial bricks with carved names of various apparently once important people, again drew me in. I re-read the inscriptions and noticed some i'd not seen (or forgotten) when I was last here. I lingered for a while, pondering  why 'J S Anderson for Deeping St James' or 'Mr T Farrow for Thornley' might be important or whether the places named on the various bricks might have some significant pycho-geographical connection. The last 'brick' I noticed, emerging from behind some ivy, was 'Mr J Alley for New Road'. New Road' being close to my office, I took this as a direction to go back to work. My time was up.