This gave me an opportunity to drag myself out of the woods and think about the built environment. The first part of the exercise is to take a new look at familiar surroundings and the second is to write a short review of a ‘road movie’ of my choice focusing on how the road features in the film’s narrative.
Part One: My Road
My walking route took me firstly from the nearby copse to walk into the village centre and on another day to walk from the recreation ground/memorial fields to the main road which I then crossed into the village centre.
On the first occasion I was aware how I was paying closer attention to the road and its buildings. There was yet another sign indicating pending roadworks. I don’t think there has ever been a clear road around Ottershaw since we moved there. I was surprised as well when we moved here to find some light industry such as building supplies and haulage firms and I mused as I walked now whether they would disappear in the light of the push to build new houses to meet government quotas. The small nursery and pre-school caught my eye. This is in an old school house which I think was a school in earlier days and I hoped that this bit of history wouldn’t disappear into new housing.
Around the corner and there was a building that’s been on my mind for a long time. It used to be a County Council residential home for the elderly then, under new structuring, it became ‘an elderly resource centre’ before coming up for sale. It looks as if I’s closed but I can’t be sure as cars are parked there. So far as I’m concerned it’s an example of changes in social care and the removal of local care for elderly people. I mean, what better place could there be than to be somewhere near to family and in the centre of the community. I’m guessing it’s likely to be turned into an expensive nursing home where only the rich can go. I hope I’m wrong I really do. Walking on I noticed another house for sale sign and wondered how much they were asking.
On the second occasion I thought the memorial plaque at the first entrance to the memorial fields was worthy of attention. Apparently there used to be another memorial at the crossroads further along but it was moved when the roundabout was built. The roundabout was built in the 1940s (more of that later) to control the amount of traffic caused by the fact that the main road (A320) was the major road leading from Woking down towards the hospital and Chertsey. The road is even busier now we have the M25 nearby, plus the prospect of new and large housing developments. This likely to cause much greater congestion and the planners’ solution is to re-build the roundabout eight times larger and re-site it a little further down the road, removing our local car park used by shoppers who live too far away to walk and also users of the Village Hall (Brook Hall). I’ve written about this before so won’t repeat further. The village also has a Social Club (founded in 1883 ) and, very near the roundabout, a Carter & Miller Steak House – fairly new and replacing a Harvesters which itself replaced an old pub “The Otter” which I remember from the late 1970s
There are also other older buildings that still stand and are used for other purposes. The old dairy is now an estate agents and the blacksmith’s foundry now hosts a family-owned used car sales business.
Below are further contact sheets identifying my areas of interest/current concerns.
Of those I think that a wider audience might be interested in new/continuing use for old buildings or how villages are affected by the growth in urban sprawl.
Part Two: Road Movie
I’ve expanded on the objectives here as there are three movies that interested me for different reasons.
A while ago I came across an old film b y British Pathe The Battle For Beauty (1940-1949) – whilst looking for old photographs of Ottershaw on the internet. A real find because it was about residents’ feelings when the current Ottershaw roundabout was being built. This is a great resource if I ever get to do a series on the proposed new roundabout. Only time will tell!
London Road (2015)
This is a verbatim-theatre film musical adaptation and book of a play that was a success at the National Theatre. Verbatim theatre is one where the text is generated from interviews with ‘real-life’ people and the book and lyrics of London Road are based on Alecky Blythe’s extensive recorded interviews with the real residents of London Road, Ipswich and the composer Adam Cork’s score is a response to the melodic and rhythmic speech patterns captured on those recordings. The film stars Tom Hardy. Olivia Colman, Anita Dobson and the entire original cast of the National Theatre Production. It traces the impact on the community around London Road, Ipswich of a series of murders committed by Steve Wright (the occupant of No. 79) and the frenzied media interest that followed. I haven’t seen the play or film and, to be honest, when watching the various videos I found on You Tube, I felt rather put-off by the sing-song effect of the score. Maybe it’s something you have to listen to for a while to get used to and appreciate.
What interested me was the text generated from interviews with ‘real life’ people which of course, lends itself well to either video or a photo-book with captions. Also, this is a story about a road, the people who lived there and had to cope with a traumatic event, and how they healed and came together again through a gardening project.
This is a two hour ‘road’ film with only one person, Locke (Tom Hardy again) seen on camera. Locke is a happily married man with two sons, except that he had a one-night stand with Bethan, a work colleague, seven months ago and she became pregnant. Bethan has gone into premature labour and is in a London hospital and desperate for him to be there at the birth as she has no family to support her. Locke has never forgiven his own father for abandoning him as a child and is determined not to make the same mistake himself even though he has no ongoing relationship with or any particular feelings for Bethan.
All this happens the night before he has to supervise a large concrete pour in Birmingham – the largest non-nuclear facility pour in European history. Despite this and the fact that his family are eagerly waiting for him to go home and watch an important football match, Locke decides he must go to the hospital.
This complex plot is revealed through the thirty-six phone calls that Locke has with family, work colleagues, his deceased father, Bethan and hospital personnel during the course of his two hour-drive to London. All the action takes place in his car, driving in the dark, with lights of oncoming cars flashing in his face, and also on the tears in his eyes as time goes on, with the lights of roads and cities outside creating double exposures which mirror the competing demands on him. Locke remains outwardly calm throughout whilst chaos surrounds him – fielding frantic calls from his assistant who he coaches through preparing for the pour; pleading phone calls from Bethan; his sons regaling him with progress in the football match, and his wife, Katrina, collapsing on the news of this impending birth and telling him not to bother coming home.
The film ends as Locke drives through the hospital grounds shortly after receiving a phone call from Bethan sharing the sounds of the baby, having had a successful caesarean birth.
I was surprised how this film held my attention throughout. It’s all quite nail-biting. Will his wife let him home, “I want to know that I will still be driving back when the sun comes up” to which his wife’s response is that she’s tired of his focus on the job, plus “You leave concrete wherever you go” which seems to have deep undercurrents given his stoic demeanour as he voices “I’m trying to fix it”. Will the concrete get poured; will Locke get to the hospital without crashing; will be baby be born okay? All this achieved, I think, by the steadiness and strength of Hardy’s voice and presence, plus the chaos signified by the flashing lights and looming vehicles.
Of course, something along those themes could be devised through video work but can it be done through photography? There would need to be a fixed camera looking inside/outside. I know iPhones have been used, also cameras like the Go-Pro. Presentation maybe through a slideshow/video with soundtrack, captions at the side. Something to think about.