Tag Archives: water

Oslo Streets

Oslo is a lovely city, a wonderful city to wander — we didn’t realise how big it was until we took the ferry out to the Viking ship museum (zomg the viking ship museum, amazing), but it feels human size, liveable. I think partly it is because only a short walk from the center you reach areas where you find things like this:

Oslo

I’ve not been to a city with quite this shape — a yard or second road and houses tucked in behind them. It creates variety, interest, surprise — all the things Cullen and Alexander described as key to an interesting human environment. The above picture isn’t the most picturesque, but the only shot that managed to capture some of the contrasts, and just how cool a space this is.

Then there are the old streets of wooden houses. But I have already sung their praises.

There are balconies that seem well used, cafes spilling out onto sidewalks, coloured lights and tables and chairs inviting you to enjoy any summer evenings you can manage. Lots of street furniture too, in pallet style though I am fairly certain that is not cheap pallet wood upcycled.

It is also almost all mixed use and plenty of small shops, like this fruit and veg vendor protecting his wares by a small sacrifice to the birds. There are parks and green spaces all over.

Oslo

There is a museum dedicated to Labour — we walked up the Akerselva to the old working class neighbourhoods to get there (I confess, they don’t really feel working class any more).

Oslo

Lots of cobbled streets still. I love them, though I love them more since I stopped wearing heels.

The museum itself is small, nice, not quite enough about Labour and a little too even handed in describing the workings of capital, but we’re biased. It was worth a visit, and had we not gone we would have missed these splendid waterfalls in their entirety. They appeared nowhere in my admittedly quick search for weird and wonderful things to see — that turned up the mini bottle museum (closed), but not this beauty?

Oslo -- Akerselva River

This was the centre of Oslo’s industry, the museum had an exhibition on of paintings of the Aker. These waterfalls once powered sawmills, later textile factories. A vision of it as it once was below:

Oslo -- Akerselva River

Heading out towards the Munch Museum we passed what felt more like the current environs of the working class. Nice, I love these balconies, with their built in window boxes.

Oslo

There is street art everywhere, here off of Tøyengata we found a beauty, along with an impressive diversity and some old buildings and cracked walls and lots of tags and stores that sell everything with brand names you don’t recognise that made me feel right at home.

Oslo

Perhaps what I loved best was how massive luxurious modernity was squished into its own small section — though modern building is spread through out the city. This ‘landmark area’ still felt more vibrant and interesting than say Salford Quays (though we didn’t venture in), but they’ve actually done very interesting things with long narrow buildings lines all up in a row. I like them confined this way.

Oslo

With wonderful plazas, a parade for each day we were there, some of the best public art I’ve seen as well as awesome (often anti-fascist) graffiti and stickers, I enjoyed Oslo immensely, despite the rain. Just reminded us of home I suppose.

Oslo

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The Zone, Bristol

The forest invites, sun dappling leaves and winds softly blowing, heat driving you deeper and deeper into shade.

Brislington Brook

The brook gurgles now on your right, it will follow you throughout, or you will follow it, bending back on your tracks, crossing and recrossing it and snaking alongside it through the trees.

Brislington Brook

Then the ruins come, singly, in brick

Brislington Brook

then stone and iron

Brislington Brook

Then enshrined mystery without a visible guardian god.

Brislington Brook

Gaping mouth that cannot speak.

Brislington Brook

Cannot warn of incipient destruction.

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

Hollow but for stone.

Brislington Brook

The same stone shaped into bridge form in the medieval age.

Brislington Brook

The same stone built to mark a holy well, once venerated, cared for by St Anne who welcomed pilgrims and believers. These stones now fill it, there is no room for wishes or prayers now. Something still crowds the gaps and crevices, ignoring the iron bars that attempt to hold the ethereal prisoner.

St Anne's Well

Goats most domestic are followed by Victorian devil-may-care power imposing straight lines and railways and bridges in the air.

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

You stumble across rusting memories of a more modest aspect of some decade of our modern age, flaking paint of white.

Brislington Brook

The woods end, spitting you out into sunlight and fumes and paved roads once again. Unsure of where or when you are.

Until you suddenly remember. Time resumes its flow towards our ending.

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Finding Bristol’s Brislington Brook

We needed an adventure this Sunday, stared at the map trying to find it and we did — in the form of the Brislington Brook, a winding piece of water that starts and ends abruptly and not too far away in a little loop of the Avon.

Brislington Map

Without wellies we couldn’t jump in and follow it — a bit sad perhaps. But we did our best, starting from a small footpath leading off the giant Tesco parking lot that led into an unexpectedly beautiful path and brought us to the water.

Brislington Brook

Looking up towards the far end of the brook that we didn’t quite reach from a little bridge:

Brislington Brook

And looking down towards the long stretch we would seek to follow that very afternoon, and a rare bit of natural bank here:

Brislington Brook

It is beautiful, as is the path leading up to Water Lane, but so soon you hit asphalt and fences. Roads. The brook is channeled beneath them, almost invisible to cars I should imagine:

Brislington Brook

From Water Lane you look down the next stretch…but you cannot follow it:

Brislington Brook

So we walked down Hulse Rd to Kenneth Road, and another little footpath that crosses it there:

Brislington Brook

Looking back where we’d come, the concrete canalisation method is not quite as nice, but it looks as though this is one of the places water might busily be carving away at the bank were it left to its own devices. Instead it goes exactly where we tell it, for now…

Brislington Brook

We turned around, had to leave the brook again and trace it in parallel back down Kenneth Rd to the Bath Rd where it disappears for a short distance under this large-traffic filled way, though we found an old pub if only we’d been crawling:

Brislington Brook

The only wildlife we saw apart from the giant bird soaring in the skies above us:

Brislington Brook

More privatised space. Sadness. I hate these signs. I hate that they have taken the name of badgers in vain. But this tall and very thin engine house with the church up a curving road behind it was amazing:

Brislington Brook

These cottages lovely:

Brislington Brook

Imagine this place in the 1700s, pub and engine house and cottages, church, a little village here now swallowed by the city. And then we find another glimpse of the brook, a sedate trickle now:

Brislington Brook

Another pub, a memory of this part of England as a place of pilgrimage to St Anne’s Well:

Brislington Brook

Perhaps that is partly why it has such a lovely feel here, we reached a series of streets I would be so happy to live in, they are somehow removed from the city and have an openness to them:

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

An alley took us back to the Brislington, beautiful stone walls draped in flowers though the brook looks so much sadder and smaller in its bed of concrete and we couldn’t really hear it — there seems to be little babbling with this configuration:

Brislington Brook

A dead end, but a picturesque one:

Brislington Brook

Back to Jean Rd (my grandmother’s name, I think she would have loved this place too), a look back down the brook here with a house overhanging it, beautiful, though possibly a bit damp.

Brislington Brook

School Rd to Clayfield Road and an estate that we thought brought us to the end, but we found a long remembrance of a public right of way, fenced and a little unfriendly but still taking you back to Brislington Brook:

Brislington Brook

It is beautiful here:

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

the brook flows on, still channeled behind high walls

Brislington Brook

We cast around, thought about heading back, headed uphill a bit but realised it would take us round too long a way. Still, it is beautiful, still doesn’t feel too much like city:

Brislington Brook

Brislington Brook

But in the end we found a way up towards Allison Rd:

Brislington Brook

Reached the park where the Brislington continues its flow more as it once used to:

Nightingale Valley

Though we decided to continue it another day…a good thing, because deciding otherwise we would have missed this guy:

Kong!

There is also a lovely Friends of Brislington Brook project and website, so you can read more here.

[Part 2 of Finding Brislington Brook]

For more on Bristol…

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John Shannon: The Great American Novel I’d Never Heard Of

John Shannon's The Taking of the WatersUntil my friend Michael Harris gave me a copy of this (who has himself written a great American novel, The Chieu Hoi Saloon). Then I realised I had been encouraged to read John Shannon’s Jack Liffey detective novels by Michael and of course Gary Phillips, and I will now, I will. Mike Davis is a character, Ivan Monk pops up in there, they explore L.A. in ways that I love.

But that’s another series…this is a whole different thing. Compare it to Steinbeck or John dos Passos. It reads relatively quick for being so monumental in subject, a history of a century of American struggle over land, work and rights. A history of what was perhaps really at stake in the red-baiting that led to the destruction of so many lives, as well as the tangled relationships between socialism and working people in struggle.

It starts in the Owens Valley and ends there…there could be no better place. I wrote about it in a long ago blog post, it impressed me so profoundly. I was driving up through there with my friends Beverley and Jose, on our way to see Mono Lake. I knew something about the water and how it was stolen by LA (think Chinatown) but nothing prepared me for this landscape.

The Owens Valley

The Owens Valley

I found out that the people who farmed here had organised, had fought back, had dynamited the damn. They filled me respect.

Their saga is the first in John Shannon’s novel, wrapped in a narrative frame of a foreign journalist caught up in the search for redemption and the family histories of a friend of his, a third generation fighter who is no longer quite sure what he is fighting or how. It allows a step back from the intensity of the stories, a perspective Americans rarely get on histories Europeans rarely see. A clever conceit that works well for the most part (my only critique is that occasionally this feels confusing, a little labored, but looking back I’m still not sure what I think about it).

What struck me at first was not wealth at all. To grow up in a Europe of social democracy–whatever one feels about the accommodations the dream has made with privilege–and to arrive here suddenly is to be struck dumb by the experience of an entire subcontinent living, apparently, without a particle of social responsibility: the grandiose and tidy bank only a few meters from a trash-strewn lot inhabited by winos. (11)

The first story is that of Maxi Trumbull, fearless reporter covering Owens Valley and standing with the farmers. Her story is about the land and community, the complicated relationships we have with both. The importance of water to survival. The power of the city to destroy the countryside around it. Also, love. Loneliness. Commitment.

Her son is Slim Trumbull, raised in the valley but moving on to organise plants up in Detroit. His story is that of labour, fighting union machine along with the bosses, fighting across boundaries of race and loving across the boundaries of class — though he is less capable of such things than his mother. It is also the story of the gradual disillusion with communism. Something I see so strongly here in the UK, but confess to knowing no one in the US who had been through this:

…all Europeans defined themselves by when they left groups. After Hungary. After the failure of reform. After Euro-Communism. After Paris ’68. After Prague. After Poland. (270)

I discovered that there was a colour for model trains known as Tucson red. This makes me smile.

Her grandson is Clay Trumbell, and he drags the narrator back to where it all started — Owens Valley.  Fighting gangsters making porn, investigating the death of a woman and the threats against her daughter. The curious silence of everyone still left. This is more noir, and a curious contrast to the first two but one I like I think. What are we fighting these days? There are no grand narratives any more in the US, no driving ideology. Perhaps he could have chosen Monsanto, Nestle, gentrification and mass displacement…is it only time that makes these struggles feel so different to me?

The mob leaves people just as dead.

A fine book, one you should find and read.

[Shannon, John. (1994) The Taking of the Waters. Culver City, CA: John Brown Books.]

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Seven Falls

Seven Falls, oasis in the desert.

IMG_0088You can see a person in the picture for scale if you look hard enough. There were a lot of people on the trail sadly, probably walking off immense dinners like us.

We escaped to Sabino Canyon all the time when I was little, a long drive and then a short enough walk you could (well, my mum and dad could) carry an ice chest, we’d bring food to barbecue and swim in the stream. We knew all the deepest holes, the best places to slide down rocks. I don’t think we made it up Bear Canyon until I was older, high school maybe. Plenty of hiking to do around our own house, though no waterfalls.

Still, it’s one of those places I have layers of memories for. Some aren’t even mine, like my brother’s friend getting airlifted out after casually reaching for a football they’d been throwing around in one of the pools and getting caught in the undertow and sucked over one of the falls.

My own fiercest memory is of hiking it after getting bitten on the thigh by something I never saw (never be lazy and leave your jeans on the floor, never, I know this). I hiked up here about three days after, when my leg was aching and the bruised area around the bite still expanding. With my flesh turning black and liquifying, it was definitely a spider. Not as bad as many I’ve seen, so I was lucky.  Still, I have memories of that ache, remembered a stretch or two where I had been sure I wouldn’t make it. I made it. I was a lot prouder and stupider in those days.

My favourite memory is walking along the banks beneath the mesquites, the air full of the smell of sage, my mum and dad hand in hand somewhere behind me.

IMG_0107

This last trip was just beautiful, though so cold — snow on the Rincons, and ice on the puddles. The water was higher than I ever remember it, and I forgot just how many times the trail crosses it (seven), balanced precariously on stones. There was a bit of jumping. I loved it, loved seeing the desert so lush and knowing the wildflowers will be probably be absolutely gorgeous this spring, though I won’t be there to see them.

My partner had a hard time calling this desert.

There was a sliver of silver moon above us the whole afternoon, and my camera mostly loved the contrasts between light and shadow. But for the falls themselves it made the pictures less than what I was hoping for…
IMG_0055 IMG_0057 IMG_0060 IMG_0062 IMG_0069 IMG_0071 IMG_0075 IMG_0087
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