We invited three independent publishers and distributors, working across the UK, to participate in the Daily Winds project, and share a selection of books which respond to ideas surrounding the rural. Black Lodge Press (Yorkshire) Public House (Birmingham) and Makina Books (London) offer personal insight into each of their three chosen book titles. Find out more below.
BLACK LODGE PRESS
A Year in the Allotment, by Cj Raey, published by Black Lodge Press (2020)
I got my allotment 3 years ago and it’s my favourite place in the world. This zine takes a straight-forward look at what I grow on my allotment throughout the seasons, but also explores ideas of allotments as autonomous spaces; not subject to capitalism and consumerism, little patches of land where you can do what you want (more or less!) whilst also being part of a small community of fellow cabbage-growers.
A Garden by the Sea by Cj Raey, printed by Footprint Workers Cooperative, published by Black Lodge Press (2019)
At the end of 1986 Derek Jarman was diagnosed as HIV+. Soon after he left London and moved to an old fishermans cottage at Dungeness – the end of England – on the Kent coast. It was an inhospitable place of wind and sea salt, sat next to a nuclear power station, but within it he created the most beautiful garden and wrote a diary about it. This zine is a collection of illustrations inspired by that diary, but also inspired by Derek himself and the art he created throughout his life. It takes courage to create art whilst facing death, but he was a brave person and an extremely brave artist.
Cruising, by Cj Raey, published by Black Lodge Press
I remember when I was 7 or 8 my Mam pointed out a public toilet in my hometown and told me not to go in there. My Mam and everyone else in town knew it was a cruising spot. Cruising spots are everywhere – back in the day you had to be in the know, or go find one, or try your luck in a toilet or layby – now you just go on Squirt or Grindr. They still exist though, and act as these strange, twilight territories in which ‘stuff’ can happen if you know the right way to look at someone or send a signal. This zine is a series of illustrations of cruising spots within 20 miles of my current home of York.
Dartmoor 365 by John Hayward, Curlew Publications (2020)
John Hayward, walked, drew and wrote this wonderful book between 1989 to 1990. The approach was methodical and caringly executed; Hayward divided a map of Dartmoor National Park up into 365 individual square miles and identified a point of interest on every single one. Readers are invited to follow and colour each of ‘the 365 squares’ they visit in the book. Sites include; fords, bridges, hills, tors, crosses, architecture and the locations of many folkloric legends.
I grew up on the edge of Dartmoor and it can be a lonely and wild place. One of the things I love most about this book is picturing Hayward in solitude, on his many ‘wanderings’ through the vast expanse of ‘the moor’ determined to forge his own path and bring back something new. I see his modest ink sketches (some made in fog, rain and snow) as a form of collecting a new heritage.
In recent months, when longing for ruralism I’ve turned to this book at times of worry and have sought comfort in the unfamiliar and familiar place names; Deadman’s Bottom, Ephraim’s Pinch, Hangman’s Pit and Bloody Pool to name a few. Text by Robin Christian, Makina Books.
Swims by Elizabeth-Jane Burnett, Penned in the Margins (2017)
‘Swimming is continuous. Only the rivers are intermittent.’
The journey of this singular, evocative poem takes many forms–including an interspersed sequence of three poems, Aegina, The Voiceand Wallflowersabout the poet’s father who taught her to swim. Swimsbegins and ends in Devon, taking us through Britain’s waterways, from urban pond to open sea; The Teign, The Barle, The Ouse, Grasmere, Hampstead Heath, King’s Cross Pond, Llyn Gwynant, Lyn Idwal, The English Channel, Porthmeor and The Dart. Burnett conceived each swim as an environmental action, testing the ways in which individuals might affect environmental change. Swimsis a vital work contributing to a new ‘moment’ in ‘nature writing’–one that questions nature’s effect on bodies, including the human spirit and memory by asking what water gives to us and what it takes away. Text by Robin Christian, Makina Books.
Night Blooms by Angus Carlyle, Makina Books (2020)
‘Feet beating the ground, the ground sounding its surface in return’
Angus Carlyle’s Night Bloomscollects nocturnal explorations of an area of woodland close to his home on the South Coast of England. Poetic prose and photographic experiments document Carlyle’s chosen medium of running, an everyday act he has repeated across specific trails in solitude for years. In Night Blooms, public space becomes unrecognised – trespassed underfoot and collected. We encounter the smells, noises, the presence of inhabitants; bats, a nightjar, laughter, concrete. A head torch provides a prism of vignetted light and acts as a portable studio, like a lantern to the understory of a secret yet shared space. Everyday objects take on a new status – shrine-like, sinister, glowing. The exhale of breath, bad weather, a deflated bouncy castle are seemingly snatched at pace from the air. If there is a constant character here, it is the blooms which remain more familiar, unwieldily and delicate. Night Bloomstakes us up high – as territory, trails and terrain overlap and collide, re-assembled glimpses offer study caught in motion. Text by Robin Christian, Makina Books.
PUBLIC HOUSE BIRMINGHAM
The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd
I first read this after moving from Aberdeen, where the author, Nan Shepherd lived, to Glasgow. Though for me, as someone growing up in the Highlands, Aberdeen was still a big city, there was something different about moving to tha big toon and the ways in which it was moreurban,less rural, lessclose to the sea. The air in Glasgow was different to the sea salty air of hame, and fa Aberdeen’s. The mountains also felt further away, or at least the Cairngorms did.
The Cairngorms are uniquely snowy, diverse in biota, high and vast. They are not dramatic peaks but instead are a sprawling plateau upon and within which another world lives. Nan evokes the beauty and the remoteness of this place through a number of chapters, and in reading it I always feel the affinity that so often circulates between queer men and women they will never meet but imagine the intimate lives of, and imagine parallels of feeling and resistance.
When I feel far fa hame, I make cullen skink and descend into this book. As women tak their time on the mountainsides, so too do I, makin a queer connection ta this in my reading mind.
Box Hill, Adam Mars-Jones
There’s something difficult in communicating why this book came to mind in recommending these titles. For one thing, the gentle rolling hills of the Surrey Downs are wildly different in their rural character to the Scottish Highlands I grew up in. But there is something about the perversity and kinkiness that hides in plain sight in Middle England in this novel that has taken me.
There used to be an old public-use toilet in my hometown, by the harbour, not far from the main road. I’d heard at school people had gone in there for sex. I never knew if it was true but I remember pissing in there once and hoping something might happen. That something strange leads to even stranger and a twisted kind of romance that feels uncomfortable is maybe exactly why I’m writing about it here. The relationship that buds throughout this novel I don’t wish for myself, nor those around me, but it is one that I found myself enjoying spending time with, even in it’s wrongness.
Hidden Nature: A voyage of Discovery, Alys Fowler
It might seem odd to suggest a book set in Birmingham for this reading list but whilst Birmingham might evoke images of concrete, cars, factories and foundries the legacy of its industrial past has birthed an urban wilderness of its own. The canals that were once used to transport goods from ‘the workshop of the world’ are now a hidden network of waterways where wildflowers have taken over, wild garlic and sloe berries thrive at the banks and herons wait patiently to catch their tea. This is a romanticised view of the canals (there’s still plenty of shopping trollies and sofas drowning along the way) but I really love how this book focuses on the small details and finding beauty in unexpected places. It feels especially pertinent right now, with the current Covid-19 restrictions in Birmingham, to be able to find adventure on your doorstep.
I’ve always loved my dad’s (self-titled) Mystery Toursof the canals which often involve childhood stories of catching fish or tales of the tinkers from school setting fire to stolen cars. Alys’ journey of finding hidden nature along the waterways and her coinciding emotional journey of coming out as a gay woman is yet another story to fill my head on long lockdown walks.