In late 2013 I returned to the suburbs after around five years of enjoying city centre life in Birmingham, which will be documented in ‘The Wind’.
The Wind, a work of non-fiction, with elements of psychogeography, satire and magic realism, ends with me overdosing on pathetic fallacy as I came to terms with the changing city, and also, with the departure from the way of life I was accustomed to, with the city centre on my doorstep.
On returning to suburbia, I took a stroll around the streets shaped my youth, enjoying the fact that I had more to discover in these avenues and alleyways. I was listening to the second half of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
Walking down one road, full of terraces and semi-detacheds, the thought became more apparent that behind every different door, lay people with their own different and unique ways of living. What I saw from the outside gave an intriguing glimpse into countless different lives. I couldn’t go into the houses, but with my imagination, I could imagine what lay within.
Curtains and doors are suitable entry points for the imagination. Open curtains are a boon. CDs, television sets, carpets, paintings. Pot plants, toys, wallpaper. Furniture. Why are these choices made? What does this say about the inhabitants, their character make-up, their reasons for existing?
Next to that, another door. Green paint on wood. Oval opaque window. Net curtains. Clean and exact, prim. Another door. Blue. It’s window-frames peeling away. Net curtains frayed and nicotine-stained. Dark rooms. Dereliction. Another door. Bourgeois and inviting. Family. Another door. Bohemian and comfortable. Childless couple.The trees. The pylons. The ghosts. The birds.
Doors and windows painted in so many different colours. So many different choices. My mind spun. I slipped into a trance. I stopped and breathed in the cold November air. Unsteady. All the houses and all their contents, all their possibilities and pasts pulsated their stories and histories into my mind at a fantastic rate.
Streets and roads. Gardens blooming with flowers and trees, or paving slabs and overspill. Lamp-posts, grocers and cornershops. Turning into high streets and pubs, places of worship, fast food outlets and other bric-a-brac. The music drove on through its crushing crescendo. Travel further and I’d go through more houses, flying, flying.
This to me, was suburban psychedelia. A phrase I’d been kicking around for a while. My own childish imagination forming its own worlds from being driven and pushed around these streets. New worlds. Listening to The Beatles in the car. The world turning from black and white into colour. The brain forming and digesting new rules and ways of learning.
The appreciation of Tubular Bells was helped by the accompanying BBC4 documentary of Mike Oldfield’s career. A clip of Vivian Stanshall from the ‘One Mans Week’ documentary made in 1975 thrilled and unnerved me, and really began to give the project legs. He’s seen in his ostensibly familiar semi-detached house, wandering around his back rooms piled high with art and artifacts, feeding worms that are living in his downstairs toilet sink. You know – this still goes on in certain terraced houses. What are the secrets? What goes on?
For a long while I have been writing about life and death, and the possibilities of the afterlife and re-incarnation. All this particularly inspired whilst wandering through suburbia and childhood haunts. As with ‘The Wind’, the writing will have roots in psychogeography, satire and magic realism. New writing will appear in the blog, and old writing will appear in the archive.
With ‘Suburban Psychedelia’, I will also write about the music, the films and the books, and other forms of mass and underground culture that has inspired this project over the years. Of course, the inspiration is not yet complete, and I am open to suggestions and recommendations!
I would like the project to grow into something bigger, perhaps with stories, novellas, collaborations, possibly even gigs. Who knows? Have fun!