gaping ghyll


This is an image my friend took. It is of my daughter ascending from Gaping Ghyll. Although it could be his daughter( there is a similar one of her on Facebook ). And she could be descending.

Someone thought it looked like an IU scan. It does feel something internal , as did the experience of being in the cavern. It is after all a cavity.. The potholers explain you can fit York Minster in there, but you’d have to chop it up first – which seems to me to defeat the point, unless it is about the need to digest things properly.

Normally the gullet is filled by a burn – England’s largest waterfall says the superlative blurb.( Or largest plughole if you are of a hubris-pricking nature..)

Twice a year the cavers divert the burn ,which fissures it’s way osmotically down to the floor by other pores. They then run what is basically a caving festival halfway up Ingleborough, lowering a queue of  nervous people into the gap.

It is an Experience. The descent in to the void. The first  Victorian explorer, dangling by rope and candle got so far, found a ledge,  and  then returned,  allegedly declaring it bottomless. I imagine he intended to say that at that point the drop felt like it could be endless.

Securely strapped into a bosun’s chair that is still how I felt – there being no visual stimuli at this point but only viscera, sound and feel – these sensations all being of great , possibly infinite space. It was hard – despite being passenger 128 of the day- to believe in my security , and in truth I didn’t want to.. I guess that is what sublimity feels like..


Shortly after I dropped through a column of spray which I felt to be coiling around the chair, and at times flowing upwards past me. As the water droplets concentrated the minute amounts of light I felt shrunk to a pinhead in space. A mote – a word which needs more use (outside Scrabble).

Watching the return ascent felt redemptive . The small figures moving away from us in straight lines into the great distance, amidst everything else curling , fading and falling.. well there are some sleeping metaphors here, but lets let them lie, and say, more profanely,  it reminded me of getting my endoscopy.  However,  Id recommend Gaping Ghyll above that – you don’t need to have acid reflux  to go and it raises money for potholers.

.Craven Pothole Club


The Faces



There were times when drinking brought elation, but others, like tonight, when it brought only a weariness that felt universal. It was too hard to walk home, the streets and pavements all sloped steeply upwards, the street lights dimmed, and the hoardings were all touting TORPOR.

In this mood I sat down on a bench and was shortly joined by an elderly wino.. The accepted behaviour in these situations was to move off smartly discouraging the anticipated hard luck story and importuning request.. I hadn’t the energy and it seemed neither had he to close on his mark.

Instead he lingered, hesitant in his pitch, coughed, fidgeted, and then slumped back . We shared a mutual silence. We watched the branches wobble uncertainly in the breeze as an occasional footfall passed. Time passed  too.

At some point I heard him say,

Son , the only thing that’s changed around here are the faces..

The silence resumed. We made no eye contact, but continued to stare out from our bench, at the silhouettes of the bleary figures, and finally I could see it was true. They had changed – been repaired, restored or recycled.. With concentration you could see the scars, the tucks and joins.

We sat there for aeons, and watched new versions of the same intrigues. Our vista grew and shrank and grew again, took in the growth of cities, ruinous sieges, pageants, romances, memorials, commitments, riots, pantomimes and pogroms , which we knew would cycle endlessly, like the growth and decay of the foliage which overhung our seat. There was still no need to say anything, yet I felt a certain duty to reflect on what I d seen , to pass the time of day with another witness –

‘Son, the only thing that’s changed around here are the faces.’ I said..


An Encounter with The Dog Gromit at the Pleasure Beach

Opting for an ambience pass on the family visit to Blackpool Pleasure Beach leaves me as bag holder , wandering star , and observer of sugar rush adrenalin pleasures. I perch below the Revolution – no longer the spectre which stalks Europe, now a rollercoaster that turns you upside down twice and then deposits you rapidly back where you came from .. Hmm.,


I gravitate ineluctably towards the high water mark on the Pleasure Beach , the Thrill -o -Matic,  overhung by a giant statue of the Dog Gromit,  a sober templehead amongst the writhing limbs and gaudy colours. His arm raises and lowers a giant spanner in metronomic measure. I sit cross -legged and meditate on the image.. Can that symbol really be a coincidence or a set of metaphors waiting to be cracked by an off duty Marxist dialectician?


My mind plays tunes on me . The Dignity of Labour and The Circus of Death by the Human League and we seem to have tripped off into an alternate reality  – which is a good place to go on your holidays..

The incidental statuary around the rides at the Pleasure beach seem to speak extravagantly to the carnivalesque overturning of the everyday ,


and it appears that Gromit , that knowing hound, ur- Anubis, wafting his spanner like a Pharaonic flail , is pointing out  both the power of labour and the transientness of power. A quick spanner in the works and the whole thing grinds to a halt . (We are also reminded by him and his hapless inventor sidekick that none of us actually know how to fix anything any more)

Somewhat shaken by these conclusions I go to watch the Water Show -the only place in the Beach with a vague natural aura (although of course forced through a series of programmed jets). Behind it,  leering at me,  is Trauma Towers – a post modern ghost train largely dissed by the adolescent populace, and  left to frighten the kiddies and over-sensitive psychogeographers.. –  the wrecked flotsam of  alienation from a wholly mechanised world.


The irony of the name is multiple – surely it cannot have passed the attention of the developers that the rushes they are generating are those we have left behind in warzone, disaster exposure and disease, now craved by the young and agile,  whose lives are now too predictable and whose bodies too comfortable and well–fed. I wonder if deep in the Trauma Towers we might find a sound portrait containing the screams and terrors that have gone missing along the way. But I am too chicken to find out.