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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, July 27, 2009
    Corridor8: entering the M62 intratext
     


    Reading the very large (and very interesting) first edition of Corridor8 I notice that I have entered Iain Sinclair’s ‘intratext’: the canon of circular references in his works. In the second of two articles in which Sinclair describes his 2008 journeys along the M62 (East-West by car interrogating Will Alsop's SuperCity, the return journey with wife Anna trying out his free bus pass), I get a mention for my two-month hike back home following the motorway's acoustic footprint.

    In a linked work (Listening for the Corncrake - a Manchester walk prompted by the launch of Corridor8), Sinclair complains that 'It is an inflexible conceit that there is only one city in my life. A city, mythologized to the point of dissolution, that stretches eastward from Charing Cross Road to the Lea Valley - while absorbing, when the wind is in the right quarter, downriver reaches of the Thames, Isle of Dogs to Southend. A zone labelled for easy access: London.'

    Good to see Sinclair venture north to debunk Alsop's naive suggestion that in the M62 SuperCity fans of Leeds seeing their team drop out of the FA Cup would then naturally offer their support to neighbouring Man United or City ("about as natural, I thought, as incest. And much less popular') and to offer treatments such as this on a notorious piece of Pennine upland:
    We pulled off-highway at Saddleworth Moor, to take in, from this rugged tump, the hazy spread of Manchester. Once again dark history oppressed us. You are never free of that back story, the abused and buried children. The ones who have never been recovered. And the malignant excursionists with their leaking newspaper faces: bottles of cheap wine, tartan rug and spade. The satanic version of Coronation Street.

    Step outside your car and everything changes. Wind bites. A road sign for Saddleworth has the Oldham part of it peeled like a second-degree burn, a failed graft. Limestone giving way to Millstone Grit. A rough track leading to the Pennine Way. A microclimate of low cloud, clammy air you hesitate to breathe. Rubbish pits and tyre dumps in which unwanted things cook and seethe. Mesh fence protecting pylons barnacled with humming disks, eavesdropping equipment. Cars that stop here are suspect, furtive; out of place until the rubber rots from the wheels and they sink into the peat.

    Coming the other way, east, as part of his television essay, Will Alsop pulled in for a comfort break. "What Saddleworth Moor needs," he said. "is more access roads and a fancy service station." He climbs out of his high chariot, yawns, stretches. "Let's make a beautiful rural service area at this point. With fantastic food and unbelievable shops." A 24-hour destination magnet appealing to the nightbirds of the SuperCity. Who would be? Entertainers, reps. Haunted solitaries. The feral underclass populating crime encyclopedias. Gloved wheelmen in white company vans cruising a connected network of red light districts.
    As you see, Sinclair has quite a different take than Alsop on the possibilities of an M62 SuperCity. Both are fantasies. Sinclair's is far more more rooted in real peat, though. In the (bodies buried in) concrete beneath the road.

    Thanks Liam (comments, July 21) for the knowledge on Sinclair's Manchester ventures.
    Iain Sinclair Audio Tours of Manchester: mp3 files from Urbis website