Hidden in a small private woodland, off a public footpath, several miles from any town, overlooking an artificial lake, itself a product of the Derbyshire Dales industrial past, stands a lone wooden shack, barely large enough for four people to stand in. The shack is a bird hide, from which twitchers can monitor the avian comings and goings on the lake. Set into a narrow wooden shelf, beneath the hide’s long, thin windows, is a compass showing the cardinal points. Contained within the hide are two A4 notebooks, in which a log has been kept, a diligent record of the species and numbers of birds frequenting the lake, dating back to 2004. Human beings are natural archivers, recorders, creators and organisers of data, from which, I assume, we must gain a Darwinian advantage over our competitors. The variety of means through which this inclination manifests, as a collector (as well as creator) of narratives, endlessly fascinates me. Also contained within the hide and the notebooks is evidence of behaviour for which the hide was not designed. Sketches and scribblings amongst the sober recordings suggest it is not only bird-watchers who visit the hide. A doodle of a duck smoking a joint hints at other, more illicit, uses.
Last weekend I attended a private book sale at the house of a friend’s friend. The house owner’s husband had died a few months ago leaving a library of over 10,000 books and the house owner was in the process of organising the house’s contents in order that she could move forward with her own life, and eventually sell the house. The book sale was a part of this process. The man who had accumulated this library, a retired journalist, had spent the last two decades of his life researching a book, which will now never be written. Many of the books in the sale contained strips of paper with handwritten notes relating to elements of his epic work in progress, giving tantalising hints as to the subject of his unwritten magnum opus. Found Narrative No.7 is one of these books. The notes suggest that the author was looking into that blurred area where science and faith meet, often uncomfortably. The many other books in his library strengthen this suggestion, covering, as they do, subjects such as: physics; cosmology; philosophy; linguistics; astronomy; astrology; ufo’s; mythology; spiritualism; magic; the Western Esoteric tradition; angels; comparative religion; alternative history; and more. When I asked my friend, who has been close to the family for many years, what the curator of the library’s book was to be about, she replied, after a considered pause: “Everything!”
Hidden away in the fire place of Dove Cottage, a community venue owned by the church next door, in Debenham, Suffolk, Found Narrative No. 6 is a set of index card drawers containing the hand written record of every birth, … Continue reading
Initially this appears to be just an address book, but on careful reading we discover that almost everyone listed in it lives in the same town, in fact on the same road. Some of the listings have been crossed out and we find dates of death next to these names, along with the name of their doctor, next of kin, and sometimes the date, time and place of their funeral and the vicar who presided. All of the deaths occurred over a two or three year period in the late 1960’s.
The Log Book from Askern Colliery is a record of the night shift at a coal mine, documenting the number of men in and out, times, and work done, up to it’s last night before closure. It mostly takes the form of lists and numbers in differing handwriting, formal and functional, a working document, but as the final shift approaches a little more individuality and humanity creeps in, opinion and emotion is ever-so-slightly expressed, the functionality slipping as the job comes to an end.