Ghosting. Day 2: County Cavan

Today was a long day. We were in the car a lot. These notes are less developed, just written up a bit so I remember what I was trying to say.

--

-The pervasive smell of fertilizer, manure. Possibly chicken blood. Someone once told me that the fertilizer smell we think of as shit is often chicken blood, and now I think that every time I smell that shitty, fertilizer smell.

-Ireland is very “European” in the sun – glinting off the speed limit signs in kilometres per hour, driving through small towns and villages.

-Slightly different formalised road etiquette of thin left hand lanes that allow trucks etc., to move out of the way to allow you to pass.

-We go to a pub in Cavan to get coffee. Everywhere is a pub. A dark pub, with lights and music and rugby on the TVs, selling home made cakes and pie and scones and bad coffee. I get ice cream with my coffee. I feel like Agent Cooper in Twin Peaks.

-The female toilet sign in the pub has 3D metal boobs.

-Pubs are strange things in the day, all that behaviour, alluded to in the d├ęcor, doesn't make sense in the day.

-Barmaid talks about the weather, about the Americans who were 'giving out' about the Irish weather two weeks ago, saying they had hail 'and all sorts.'

-There aren't any underlying processes, there are just things. Some things we can't directly perceive, but that doesn't make them more real than the things we can.

-Abstractions are useful and inevitable, but by there very nature they are misunderstandings, or mistranslations from specific objects and relations between objects.

-Tescos Ireland, sells hardware. Same logo.

-Causality might be just a certain kind of closeness in space-time, and the reverse (a la Garcia), our experience of space-time might just be a certain strength in causality.

-In Cavan's main square. A “Celtic” sculpture, covered with a corrugated plastic structure. A man sits beneath the sculpture and takes a long drink from a bottle in a brown paper bag while 'Here come the Hotstepper' by Ini Kamoze plays from a passing car.

-Irish road signs have different “characters” to UK ones. The kids in the CHILDREN CROSSING sign are different. Spindlier, but wider, more drawn out. The girl in the sign looks like she's being dragged.

-We begin to stop at unfinished housing estates along the road.

-The construction site delineated with a well built fence, but the promotional flags near the show homes are in tatters. They bang on the poles.

-A sign for a garden centre on the road: “WE GOT SO EXCITED, WE WET OUR PLANTS”

-Lisgrey Gardens, Bailieborough. Maybe 40% occupied houses. All others finished but unoccupied. Undecorated, unfurnished.

-A house bought after the first failure. Carpet samples in the front room, an old desk, a chair. Bottles of water, a second try. Someone trying to make good after the developers failed to finish the job. Negative equity, unsustainable mortgage payments, requisition, moving out.

-Hundreds of leaflets for “Terry Connelly Blinds”, piled up inside the front doors, stuffed in the letter boxes. Poor old Tony, all these curtainless windows, all this money on advertising., and still nobody wants the blinds.

-Sounds: ducks, many varied birds (textures of bird sound, some clear and distinct, others low level and constant), passing cars, occasional high pitched beep – metallic, or squeaky in timbre, a peaceful hum, a higher pitched whine, distant lawnmower maybe. A wavering sound.

-Smashed glass on driveway but no smashed window.

-Up close, the wood of the doors has lost its stain.

-The doorbell works (I try it).

-Long dried, thorny vines, grown from the unmown lawn across the driveway.

-The roads are finished. Everything tarmacked.

-Huge amount of smashed glass in front of a window. Window replaced, but smashed safety glass not cleaned up. Through the window I can see: Magnolia walls, planks of wood, a concrete floor, two dried out tubs of paint: one white, one a mushroomy tan colour. Green, sticky foam tabs are on the new window (from padding, or transport – keep the panes away from each other).

-We go into a back garden and two kids, maybe 12 or 13 are there. Boy and a girl. Girl says “we're cousins we just come here to talk”. I laugh, ask them how long it's been like this. He tells me five years. He has a smile on his face. She says “we're cousins” again. The boy has Lucozade.

-The smell of rotting grass.

-There is a heavy duty tripod, the type I associate with surveyors (thick legged, large screw attachment), and its fixed into the ground on a verge opposite some of the occupied houses. Held down in the ground with concrete.

-There are bits of rock. Just, around. It is hard to convey how strange this is. There aren't often, in the places we live, lots of bits of rock, just around.

-The unoccupied houses nearer the occupied houses have had their lawns mown more recently, or at all, maybe.

-From the verge I can see down into the construction site where Phase Two of the estate would have been. A man is walking his dog. He approached me, says hello, “lovely day”.

-Emma says 'This one is freaking me out', 'it's creepy. Or maybe just sad.'

-We walk down to Phase Two.

-There is an open drain, no manhole cover. Concrete arranged in different geometries down the pipe.

-Long, yellow, plastic pipe runs along a rocky bank.

-Huge open concrete pipes, from planned water mains or sewers, roughly covered with concrete blocks and unused kerb stones.

-At the edge of Phase two the gravel gives way to grass which gives way to quarry rocks which lead down to marshland. The whole development is on marsh land. These places reveal themselves.

-Blue rope dangling from lamp post.

-Emma points at wind farms in distance, 'Where there's windfarms, there's ghost estates'.

--

-As we drive into a town for lunch, I have the feeling of catching the place unaware. Wrong time of year, weather too good, no one prepared for tourists (for that is what we are, really).

-Emma says, over lunch, 'Huge unemployment. Especially these small towns. Not as bad as Spain, but, huge.'

-Emma says, 'Zone land'.

-Are we looking for something that is more real than something else? Is there a hierarchy? Occupied>Unoccupied>Unfinished>Dangerously Unfinished>Zoned Land. Which way would the hierarchy run for the developers? For us?

-We are looking for in-between objects. The half-present.

-We're operating within the developer's framework of success and failure.

-How else could we operate?
1. Finding a new form of the pastoral
2. Positing a speculative reality in which these unoccupied houses are given away and the history sees the bubble as a socialist experiment to destroy the private housing market.
(Those houses in the Midlands, or Plymouth, or Gateshead, that were sold for a pound on the condition that you live in them for at least a year.)

--

-A small development. One street. A cul-de-sac. On one side, six houses all occupied (four terraced and two semis). On the other, seven terraces (a four and a three), unfinished, fenced off.

-The pavement doesn't exist on the unfinished side.

-Behind a wall at the end of the cul-de-sac, there is a breezeblock barn, or the remains of a barn. Corrugated steel bangs against an iron frame. That banging makes up the majority of the ambient sound.

-The plants that grow through the rocks and gravel on the construction site. The grass on the hillocks of moved earth. There is something dumb and lush in its growth. It mocks even as it doesn't. It communicates this mockery by growing and not mocking. It is a more succinct critique of human behaviour than we could ever write.

--

-In the car again. It gives out a number of levels of ambient noise: Wheels, open windows, engine and the fans which sound like whistling wind.

-Sign on the road “Blue Jean County Queen”.

-Multiple signs on the road about litter, slightly different from town to town.

--

-Small development with fenced off foundations of houses that have not been built. The government has to deal with the dangers of the unfinished sites. It seems like they have spent a lot of money on fencing and removing signs. The visible presence has been tempered. The half built houses have been caged off, like dangerous animals. The residents are safe, but are they uneasy? Do they watch the objects in the night, peek out of the windows and shiver at the site of the hulking failures across the road?

--

-We're behind a tractor. I look at the attachements on the back of the tractor. They are symmetrically places, one hanging from each side. They have a wheel in their centre, and then a circular top with pins hanging from what look like springs. I have no idea what they might do.

-The faked American accent of a local radio advert voice.

-The idea of the sublime. Horror, power, awe.

-Sign on the Road “Caution Church Ahead”.

-Every Rose Has its Thorn by Poison is on the radio. I know the song from Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, the inferior but much more watched (by me, from the ages of 11 - 13) sequel to Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. In the film, Bill and Ted in order to get into heaven, are asked what they have learnt on earth, and Bill recites the lyrics to Every Rose Has its Thorn which is funny because it's a song with terrible lyrics but St. Peter is really impressed and they get into heaven. But I only found out that it was a song when I was much older. The joke's causality is reversed. I laugh at the song because of the film, not the other way round.

-What about the picturesque? The pastoral and the picturesque.

Images