drainspotting - altered CD
"To All Clock Watchers,
The White Rabbit was always in a hurry and running because he was "late for a very important date." But he kept going down holes, and getting sidetracked.
Sometimes our clocks imprison us, and give us the impression that what we are doing is very important." -Mervyn Brady
My manhole has the white rabbit standing in the foreground. The clock in the picture is broken, it has no hands for my clock has no time on it. I am the white rabbit who complains "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date, no time to stop and ...... I'm late, I'm late, I'm late". But instead of exiting my manhole I am forever falling down my own rabbit hole.
There are just not enough hours in my day. I try to combine a full time job, which regularly takes me away from home, together with running our home. I enjoy reading and singing as well as my artwork, all of which I try to fit into an average week. As part of my job I am learning another foreign language. I should do some sort of physical exercise but how can I fit all this in? My artwork, when I sit down to it is not created in an instant. Perfectionist that I am, I'm always searching for the right image, the right placement, etc. I get frustrated when I can't create although inspiration doesn't always come easily either. I find it difficult to think "outside the box" and just let myself go. I cannot release myself from my own constraints.
I have never been down in the sewers although guided tours are possible in my hometown, where there is an extensive underground passage system. I have, however, been potholing - once - and imagine that there must be a similar sense of claustrophobia and damp! The cave that I went into, aged 17, had a river running through it. Entry was through a sort of manhole cover - designed to protect the entrance - and from then on we were in the stream. We were soaked immediately but it was with a sense of exhilaration that we completed the trip. This was the only time I have ever really followed in my father's footsteps for he was a keen pot-holer when he was a student and was responsible for the discovery of a passage that was to be called notoriously "the ooze" because it was so narrow to get through.
Sometimes that's what my life feels like - squeezing past obstacles into chambers of wonders and then into narrow passages again - the dark and light moments of our lives, where the caves are lit by exciting, happy or important events. Funny that - I'd never thought of life as being the journey through a cave but now I can see the analogy.
It wasn't so much the length of time that it had been raining but the quantity of rain that had fallen that day. Water poured down the hillsides as the, usually invisible, springs gushed forth. Rivers literally ran in the streets and we were driving along in water that must have been 6 inches deep. As we entered the old part of town brown water flowed downhill through the streets and the locals endeavoured to skip from stone to stone in an effort to keep dry. Brown flood water gradually stained the blue of the sea and furniture floated in in the water that had flooded the seashore cafés. Appalled and fascinated, I got out of the car to watch. It was obvious that even the storm drains couldn't cope. I left the car and, armed with a brolly, walked down the hill towards the sea. With my umbrella held tightly to my body I kept my eyes on my feet.
I turned the corner near the bakery and came across a manhole cover that was ajar. I'd always been fascinated by the subterranean and bent down to take a closer look. There was a loud caw and the raven, which I'd noticed earlier, pecking at the crumbs which had been scattered in front of the bakery, landed at my feet. I looked questioningly at it and it was obvious that it was suggesting we go below together. I heaved the manhole cover to one side and slowly climbed down the ladder with the raven hitching a lift on my shoulder. The ladder rail was cold and slippery to my touch. I must have gone down a dozen steps and landed in a flat area. I stood at the bottom waiting for my eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. Green ferns had given way to fleshy liverworts where only the dimmest of light filtered through. I could hear water dripping somewhere and long whitish tubes hung from the ceiling - much too young to be stalactites but they had a life of their own (we used to have them in our coal cellar at home - they were called straws). The tunnel appeared to stretch away in the distance on either side of me.
The stonework under my feet was damp and slippery and there was nothing I could hold on to so I had to tread carefully in order not to fall. An additional drain had been hollowed out in the floor so that a walk way ran along the side of it. Occasionally I could a plopping sound as if some animal, maybe a water rat, had dived in. The walkway sloped downwards.
Well, here I was with the raven and the only thing to do was go forwards into the unknown. The water continued to drip, sometimes on to my head and startling me. The raven huddled closer to my head as if seeking protection there or maybe it was just so that it could "talk" to me better by nudging its head against my ear. In the distance I thought I could hear the sea. "Logical" I thought to myself since this was a storm drain it must come out somewhere near the sea.
I continued, hoping to see light in the distance but soon the tunnel forked. "Which way do you think we ought to go now?" I asked aloud, not expecting an answer. The raven flew down to the ground and hopped off down the right hand fork. So I followed. I don't know what, if anything, I was expecting to find but the tunnel turned a corner and all of a sudden I/we were in a brick-lined chamber and someone had been there before us; someone who had decided that the bricks would make a perfect canvas for a picture. It was a huge seascape that covered the walls and ceiling, filled with monsters, huge fish, mermaids and sea birds diving into a foaming sea. What's more the picture seemed to move. I stood entranced at the beauty of the picture and thought what a shame it was that no-one would see it.
I could now hear the sound of waves and could see a circle of light. I hurried towards it and came out on to a small ledge. That's when I began to wonder if I was really imagining things for the scene in front of me resembled that which I had just seen back inside the tunnel and then I realised what it was. It was a natural camera obscura and, by a curious trick of the light and the height of the tide, the scene outside was reflected onto the walls and ceiling. Someone had created their own version of a camera obscura where they could watch the changing patterns of light and dark, rough and calm seas without having to go anywhere near the water at all. Except for one thing. Where did all those mythical birds and monsters and mermaids come from .......