The bowels of the Château d’Arques-la-Bataille

•December 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A dart’s throw inland on Normandy shores lies a tightly locked up 11th century castle, last inhabited by German forces in WWII. The proud, bearded turrets at one point played home to William the Conqueror and Richard the Lionheart, though it’s most recent incumbents were two heavy artillery cannons whose weight cracked and riddled the stonework to its foundations, rendering the structure unsafe by modern standards. A short walk round from the heavily padlocked faux-portcullis gate leads to the rear of the château. Here the structure drunkenly saddles the land like it’s hanging on for dear life, with rooftop ivies attempting to reach the grassy mound below, tightly link hands with the briers and forever sew the remains firmly to their edifice.

Halfway up the foundations lay a small entryway into the foundations of the moat structure, once sealed off by corrugated bars which had been peeled back many a moon ago, and wide enough to slide your body feet-first into God knows what below. Upon hopping in, the air is surprisingly crisp and gently humid, though the light virtually non existent. A few arrow-slits situated in turrets peered out to the world and cast yawning patches of dull light in the distance, revealing rocks long since fallen from the roof of the tunnel in which we now stood. We may have been beaten to the punch, but were certainly in only a handful of people to have trudged these corridors in decades. Rooms peppered the corridors left and right, some leading to further passages stunted with rockfall and debris, some scattered with ancient beer bottles from village revelries past. Only the flash of the camera revealed a route onwards. After a quick inspection of each small room (some of which clearly served as defensive positions, others as cells or storerooms) the tunnel revealed an imposing staircase, headed straight up from the guts of moat and into the main courtyard of the Castle itself. After a good thirty or forty steps in ascendency, the path was abruptly halted with landfill, including medieval timbers from the original structure. The Castle had become a target for the Allies due to it’s heavy German weaponry, and suffered bombing from above…though difficult to say with any certainty, this looked like the result.

From here, the choices were to head back to the original exit chamber, or on hands and stomach through a wide crack into another disembodied tunnel below, half covered with rubble. A dusty squeeze and another gentle drop led to the longest passage of all, heading steeply further down into the belly of the foundations where light from the mobile phone failed to penetrate. More rooms and confusion spilled to the east and west…more beer bottles, getting gradually older in design, epileptically lit by stuttering camera flash…remains of burned firewood. Bats – Big Bats – hung like black fruit from the ceiling (though I didn’t realise this until viewing the photos accidentally taken during the lighting process) and the atmosphere took a turn for the sombre. At this point I was alone, however-many-feet below the Château d’Arques-la-Bataille, and about to run out of camera battery. I did make it to the end of the final chamber, however. This ended in a rather ostentatious brick fireplace, the flue of which opened out into the Castle courtyard…big enough to put a human hand through, and clutch at the thin air of the medieval wonderland in the distance. Like the labyrinth below, the main structure looked more or less untouched and overgrown, spare for a few pieces of scaffolding and workmen’s tools used to prop the house of cards together. The camera flash lasted as long as the long walk back to exit, but the batteries on my handheld recorder were less lucky. So, another time (and maybe with a few instruments)…

•November 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

She bled down from the ceiling in a steady pool, thick black at centre with faded, weeping edges. Each bone ached free from the cornice stone forming a steady cathedral of ribs around her listless frame.

Majolica paperweights became unblinking eyes, fixed firmly in the base of hollow sockets and complimenting her grinning minton teeth. Tarnished brass blind pulls were the rings on her fingers and a chipped decanter lid the jewel in her hair. The head lolled backward and jerked suddenly as a tongue of velvet portiere slithered snakelike up her throat to fill her mouth, whilst a lifetime of french lace and sedate british doilies knitted her skin as one.

As I felt the shifting textile sea beneath my fingertips, I knew she was the perfect room.

Field Recordings 5: All Hallow’s Eve at Winspit Ledges.

•November 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Pyewacket’s Nest

•November 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I hope you witch that ole’ fox asunder, Pyewacket. You’re nest is awash with the remnants of your kin and your skean lies idle at your unblinking side. Up in those beams you muster, with a single kit left in your wing. The one soul you saved with your one mouth to carry. Witch him Pyewacket, Witch Him Good.

Sirens

•October 16, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Field Recordings 4: Sharron and Michael, Wales Spring 2010

•October 8, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Thalassing

•October 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment