March 5, 2015
I went back to Checkendon on a grey, drizzly day. Not what I’d hoped given how long I’d been meaning to find time to return. It’s not that far from where I live, but it’s just far enough to be a little too far to drop in just to trek across a field to see if a sculpture is still there.
Last year ended badly. Work had been going downhill at an increasing velocity and was starting to veer out of control. A combination of unfortunate circumstances and direct unpleasantness left me rinsed out and with self-worth in negative figures. January looked bleak, January always looks bleak, I needed to do something positive before complete disintegration.
One of my more insidious mental wrongs is the feeling that I need to be given permission to enjoy myself. I’ll think of something nice to do and rather than do it I put it off until work is good and bills are paid and the garden is tidy and the car is serviced and a thousand other things which have no connection or bearing on the situation. I want a grown up to tell me I’m allowed to go out and play, but I’m the grown up now and I don’t feel qualified. As an antidote to the horrors I planned to make a list of the local, and less local places I’d been wanting to take an hour or so out to go and photograph, book half a day off every couple of weeks to go and spend some time alone with a camera.
I didn’t quite have the mental momentum to actually book any time off, but as a middle ground whenever I travel to a meeting, I check my list and see if any of the locations are in the region. As it happened a few days later I had a meeting in Reading, which isn’t actually that close to Checkendon but it was in roughly the right direction so I took the opportunity to drive out there afterwards. I had no luck, driving around lost for a while I gave up and went home. Fortunately, my previous set of photos had been Geotagged so I dug one out and programmed the details into the sat-nav for the next opportunity.
The next opportunity came a couple of weeks later when visiting a friend in Oxfordshire, Checkendon was just a short detour from my route home, I set out from Wallingford in bright sunshine, which quickly gave way to clouds, then rain, then hail. I considered quitting and going home, but I give in too easily so I persevered. As I turned onto the B-Road into Checkendon I immediately recognised the high verge on the right and spotted the sculpture staring sadly across the field to my left. Being constantly afraid of being told off for parking where I shouldn’t I drove about half a mile down the road to find somewhere safe to leave the car.
The land the sculpture sits on is, I believe, private land. It’s clearly used quite heavily by the local youth for somewhere to loiter as there’s beer cans and litter scattered all around the base of the sculpture and piled up in front of the barn which seems to be deflating in slow motion, most of the roof now sitting on the ground. My anxieties vacillated between being told to “get off my land” and being mugged by drunk teenagers. My intention had been to take my time and try and get some really good shots but constant drizzle and restlessness sent me away sooner than I would have liked. Still getting to grips with the 7D, out of practice and with an unforgiving sky most of the shots are flat and lifeless, but a few of the close-ups give a good feeling for the stark solitude of it all. I will return.
I trekked back to the car feeling more positive, spotting some of the first snowdrops of winter making a cautious foray through the tangled hedges of Checkendon.
Snowdrops and solitude.
The sculpture in question is The Nuba Survival, which has thrown me slightly as I always believed it was called the Nuba Embrace. It was created by the English sculptor John Buckley. It’s in a field in Checkendon beside a collapsing barn. It’s emotive and thoughtful aided greatly by it’s odd location.
If you know of any other artworks in unexpected locations (preferable in the South East, UK) please let me know and I’ll try and visit them.
I am Bob. This is my blog. It is an outlet and a substitute for real life. It contains my art, photography, illustration and thoughts on mental health (I deal with anxiety on a pretty much constant basis).
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