Here we go again. The alarm goes off at 0541 hrs, and by 0550 hrs, I’ve commuted to my desk, mug of Earl Grey in hand. It’s Friday morning.
I wiggle my mouse and wake up Mac—type R********7. Slide over to a blank desktop to remove distractions from emails and drawings. Open Cryptpad > File. > New > Rich Text > TFTW 000: Template.
I sit for a bit, sip on my tea and browse a list of ‘Future Titles’ I wrote months ago. I focus on a short paragraph I must have written a while back and thought it interesting enough to keep:
It’s led me to think about cities and trains. My Nan used to live near the main line out of Kings Cross. I’d lie in bed looking at the air brick, hugging a hot water bottle with a cold nose, watching my warm breath visible in the cold air. I remember hearing the InterCity slide by. At a distance, it was rhythmic. Not harsh. It reminds me that I’m not alone. That there are other people in the world going about their business.
A note follows this – Non-places Marc Augé – which I then Google (it saved getting up to find the actual copy) and read the first chapter. It’s one of many books I found in the 1990s at the Triangle Bookshop in Bedford Square. It was a wonderful depository of curious books run by two guys who knew their stock but have long since retired. A bookshop is still there. I’ve made a note to visit when I’m next in town.
I should give some examples of non-places. Typically, an airport, a motorway and its service stations, a shopping centre or a hotel. However, any of these could be a place if you were to work there. Augé defines the opposite of a non-place as an ‘anthropological place, ‘ a space where we have an identity and meet others we connect with on some level.
I can’t remember writing either of these notes, but the echoey anonymity of a non-place has always appealed to me. Lying listening to the InterCity in a place that felt like home transported me to the dream of a non-place. Somewhere of anonymity, where I could hide away and be someplace else. I realise writing this that the appeal of non-places to me is an introvert’s place of avoidance. A place to go either physically or in a dream state where I don’t need to answer questions, upset people, or deal with the needs and demands of others. This has meant not frequenting the same shops, moving around so no one gets too close, and trying to turn places into perpetual non-places. But most recently, having moved back to Southsea, I’ve been seeking places where I am known and enjoyed bumping into people.
Over the pandemic, I moved back to Dorset to live in the same village and area as my family—the antithesis of a non-place I made connections that I would have previously shied away from. So I’m now back in a bigger village, and in light of recent experience and a reduction in avoidance, I’m making the most of it. Amongst other things, I’ve been to see Lucy for a bottle of wine, buy a T-shirt from Gary at Bored, and get a coffee from Martin at Southsea Local. Bumped into Florentina and a favourite Italian waiter at karaoke. Went for a run with Rhondda and designed an optimal shower room with Nigel over an impromptu coffee.
Which reminds me. My roof leaked a couple of weeks ago. My son, Raph, woke me at 3.30 am ‘Dad, I’m wet.’ His newly decorated room had water streaming down the walls, luckily right over his bed, so it alerted us. After much mopping with towels, arranging buckets, and helplessly looking at this mini Niagara Falls until the sun came up, Nigel and I entered the building next door to climb out of the window onto my roof and clear the blocked drain.
We had to access the roof through someone’s little studio flat. ‘Knock, knock’ as Nigel bangs the door to Room 9. No answer, but we could hear a continuous rattling. ‘I’m going in.’ After a fumble through the keys to the numerous rooms, he opens the door. Pops his head through. ‘Hello, is anyone there?’ An immediate and desperate response, ‘I’m locked in the toilet.’ We enter the room and go to work. I jump out the window in my wellies to clear the blockage.
Meanwhile, Nigel is on his knees, trying to turn the lock with the back of a key to let his poor tenant out of the bathroom. Following a few minutes of messing around, the delighted and grateful man appears, much like when Basil lets Manuel out of the burning kitchen. Over a cuppa, we wonder how long he would’ve remained in there without the leak. But more curiously, why did he lock his single-person anthropological bathroom door? The force of habit, having spent too long in non-place bathrooms?
This week’s web links include Non-places by Marc Augé, a bit of Fawlty Towers, a delicious Vegan Thai Green Curry and some small bedroom ideas.
Feel free to let me know if you have any comments or suggestions. You will always find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best
This Week’s Links:
A PDF of Non-places, introduction to an anthropology of supermodernity.
Manuel escapes the burning kitchen at Fawlty Towers (1 min 36 secs)
Very easy and very tasty Vegan Thai Green Curry. Nice website. Go to the bottom of the recipe, click print and tell it how much you are cooking for, and it adjusts all the measurements to suit.
I’m currently working on my tiny bedroom design, so this article was interesting.
A nice goodbye article by Sophie Dahl.
Branching out from lipstick, five beauty trends for 2024.
A recent sailing trip has inspired Raph and me to go on more adventures at sea next year.
Bored of Southsea – the best anthropological skate and T-shirt shop around.
A metaphorical bathroom door is open following chakra revelations.
Main image credit: Southsea Local, Marmion Road