Location: Colwick, England
1. By our presence, we haunt.
2. Definition: An old haunt; somewhere we frequented in the past.
3. I decided to visit an old haunt. I realised I needed to visit an old haunt. I did this on 1st April 2019. By train and taxi I arrived at Colwick Hall, an estate once in the hands of the Byron family, with the aim of exploring the grounds. [Margin note. Walk: Old church to new church of St John the Baptist, Colwick, via the grounds of Colwick Hall, Nottingham.]
Is it possible to go back to somewhere known to us in the past? If we accept that it is, if we are indeed able to do this, we have to accept the idea that place can not be separated from time.
Then, it may well follow that without the full three elements: Ourselves, a place and a time (or at least two times, then and now), we can not haunt.
I’m really not claiming these thoughts to be of any great depth, but these distinctions and definitions seem important before I can tell, honestly, of my experience.
4. There were 7 places I needed to visit; places that had remained with me, etched in my memory, places I had haunted and which I intended to haunt again. A low intensity haunting over an extended period, in this case more than 40 years, is as strong as a more intense haunting of a shorter period.
Old Colwick Church
The human body tree
The stagnant lake
The bridge over the stagnant lake
The walled garden
The Nottingham/Colwick border
Mile End Road
5. The idea of an old haunt is still of interest to me. It seems to me to imply that we might have left an imprint on a place we frequented in the past; that we haunt the place in a way usually reserved for the deceased in the form of ghosts.
[Ghosts are only dangerous if we fear them]
6. So when I experienced fear, this was because I anticipated the fear and that I had reason to be afraid. Even memory, alone, can be malevolent.
[Am I haunting, or being haunted? The past, my past, or a past? By the past, by my past, by a specific version of the past?]
7. The village of Colwick is an island. Bounded by railway lines, the river Trent and Colwick Country Park (once the gravel pits), Nottingham Racecourse, and a railway marshalling yard and a motive power depot known as Colwick Loco. Before the roads in the area were rerouted it wasn’t possible to leave Colwick without crossing a bridge.
8. Known for flooding. Alf Simm warned Ruby not to move there. This was the outside perception of Colwick. Expansion wasn’t possible until a large sluice was built to control the flow of the river Trent. This opened as Holme Sluices in 1955, more than ten years before we moved to the area.
9. Not of any particular interest is The Vale Social Club. There was always a bylaw that Colwick could not have a pub, so the Social Club thrived in an alcohol vacuum.
10. One way out of the village is via a railway footbridge. This is built adjacent to the site of the murder at Saville’s Spinney. As a child and as an adolescent, I used to be terrified of this bridge, even in daylight, but I had a friend who lived the other side of the line. Sometimes it was unavoidable to cross after dark, especially in the winter. I remember him, Robert, finding it hilarious that I wouldn’t cross the bridge to visit him after school.
11. The nineteenth century murders at Saville’s Spinney haunt the area to this day. Although the woodland near to the Hall seems distant today, the Spinney was at the time in the grounds of that estate.
Wikipedia on Colwick includes:
“In 1844 there was a gruesome murder at ‘Saville’s Spinney’, then part of Colwick Park and later part of Colwick Woods. William Saville murdered his wife and three children in the woods on Tuesday 21 May. Their bodies were found one day later by John Swinscoe of Carlton who fetched the parish constable to the spot. An open razor was found in the left hand of the dead woman. The crowd for Saville’s execution numbered in the tens of thousands and twelve died in a panic in the moments after Saville was executed.”
12. Not of any particular interest is the marble factory. The marble factory was occult knowledge, by which I mean secret, knowledge. The power of this knowledge was ignited by word of mouth and, as far as I know, remained unwritten. I was introduced to this knowledge at the age of 15.
13. Memories of my first encounters with Nottingham train station. The grand entrance to the station. Now, a concourse with Costa coffee and a lot of open space. Then, full of cars. Taxi rank. Porters with trolleys. Dog barked furiously at the porter’s trolley and the owner explained, “’e dunt like barrers.” The phrase remains with me after almost 50 years.
14. I went to Colwick with the hope of achieving closure. I use ‘closure’ with a level of embarrassment, being now overused without what seems like any necessary clarity. A cliché of popular psychology. It’s hard to keep a straight face. I had resolved not to use the word. Psychobabble, but useful psychobabble, so I will use it anyway.
Still, it’s hard to say it, mean it, and keep a straight face.
Embarrassment because I feel the situation needs more than popular psychology, this is deep and needs to be confronted in the hope of some sort of release.
I ask myself if I would be making the journey at all if I didn’t believe in some idea of resolution, the term that I’m approching with my use of ‘closure’.
I now disavow my previous use of the word ‘closure’ in favour of the word ‘resolution’.
15. I had the first psychotic episodes I can still remember in the woodland behind Colwick Hall and between the hall and the village. Around 45 years ago. To me, psychosis is known as The Other State. When in woodland surroundings like these it is very difficult to determine a sense of reality. It becomes and remains indeterminate, and so it can make anyone, potentially vulnerable to The Other State.There are locations I’ve had in mind for all of these years. I needed to know if they had the same power they had then.
The ruined Old Colwick church and grounds
The grounds of Colwick Hall, and the human body tree in particular
16. There is nothing more terrifying than being alone in the middle of woodland with only the sounds of birds and distant traffic. Well, I need to say, thank fuck for the traffic.
The traffic is never near enough to ensure safety, instill any sense of safety, nor to be of any comfort.
No consolation. No security. No solace.
These things are known by those who discern.
17. If, like me, you’re an explorer of the edgelands of a city, you’re mooching and you keep going, you may find you’ve gone too far. There is too much country. Here and now, in Colwick, on this day, this is too much country for me; too much country to feel safe.
What were gravel pits are now lakes in a country park.
The gravel pits were edgelands, definitively. Full of industrial machinery and powerful conveyor belts.
18. Colwick – industrial estate – sugar beet factory – gravel pits.
Large lorries carrying sugar beet (overflowing, it often scattered along the roads.
Large orange lorries with “Hoveringham” and a mammoth printed on the side carrying, overflowing with, gravel coming from the gravel pits over the bridge over the loop (or Little Trent) turning into Mile End Road. You needed the Tufty Club or David Prowse who would teleport in as the Green Cross Code man. An early crush, there solely to protect me.
The gravel pits were on the edges, adding grit to the village, but it’s now just suburbia, and suburbia is borderline countryside. The industrial estate is now separated from the rest of the village by a major road, the A612.
19. It’s unlikely this will ever be resolved. Was resolution actually my aim? The question is not “what do I want now?” but “what did I want then?”.
I have it. It’s adulthood, a long-passed adolescence, an acceptance of my self, as male and queer.
20. Then, I haunted for the future.
Now, I am still becoming, and I continue to haunt.
Jim Simm 2020
p.s. Look. Accuse me of gratuitous urban wyrding if you like, but these are my lived experiences. My narrative may be unreliable, but I approach it, the unreliability, with great sincerity.
This is a MACROtract, part of MICROcities. Jim Simm is an unreliable narrator.
An area of land.
A publication, a brochure.
© 2020 Jim Simm.
For a hard copy of any SOUNDkiosk Tracts, email Jim Simm: jim DOT soundkiosk AT gmail DOT com