Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Salem Chapel, AD 1978

Having been forced to move offices to Peterborough I am now a commuter. I've become a bit more time poor (and no more money rich). This means less time for longer walks (and blog writing) in the rambling semi-disorganised way I normally like to do things. While I'm skeptical when people (usually senior managers and politicians) tell us how we should positively embrace change and think it's always ever so marvellous, there are strategies that can be employed to cope with the unwelcome and unavoidable sort.  One of mine will be using my truncated lunchtime to go for short walks in random directions to see what there is. This will also be a way of briefly escaping the office where the windows can't be opened for fear that fresh air and 'drafts' will interfere with the 'thermal comfort' system, as well as getting a bit of exercise.

Peterborough is somewhere I've been a few times but I've never had the chance to explore it that much so it's largely an unknown quantity and in that respect an intriguing prospect. It has connections with John Clare, and his walk from an asylum in Epping to Northborough, not far from Peterborough or his birthplace of Helpston. Iain Sinclair's book Edge of The Orison retraces these steps. So does the more recent Andrew Cotting film 'By Ourselves', including a brief scene in Peterborough on a bridge crossing the Ouse. There is the John Clare Theatre in the town centre. Other than that, I haven't come across any other psychogeographical references to the city.

Within the restricted range of a half hour (ish) lunchtime walk maybe I can do my bit to put Peterborough on the psychogeographical map. My intention is to take one photo of something I find. Then write something short about or inspired by it's subject, during the the confines of my commute. Sticking to this rule and having to be somewhat organised about it, will I suppose, mirror the stricter more time bound routine I will have to adopt as a commuter, but at the same time the walks will provide an escape and be an antidote to it.

Day 1, 19 Feb 2018. The Salem Chapel, Dickens Road.

Salem..said to be short for Jerusalem. A name most associated with the puritan City of Salem, Massachusetts and it's witch trials. Although there are countless other Salems in the world (and Salem Chapels). In pop culture , Steven Kings Salem's Lot (1975) and it's TV adaption starring David Soul from Starkey and Hutch (1979). One each side side of the establishment of this chapel. Salem the cat in Sabrina the Teenage Witch several years later. In the city of Salem the witchy element is used as a tourist draw these days. Maybe the same could be said of the original witch trials, at a more local level.

The building is unassuming and unspectacular, like most newer church buildings of an evangelical bent. More like a community centre. Made of brown brick. There was no sign of life and it was fenced off and apparently closed or under renovation. But maybe the Baptists are dormant, prepared for the next outbreak of witchcraft in Peterborough. Or they are waiting and plotting a new age of puritanism, a philosophy where life is more of a chore than a pleasure. I read that the Baptists have origins in the puritan movement. Also in Calvinism..a philosophy promoting hard work as a virtue. Fitting then that as my days had become more rigidly organised and would inevitably become more like hard work that I stumbled across a place with these connotations on my first day.

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