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Modern Wreckage

November 6, 2009

Prehistorians, you can keep your barrows and your passage tombs and your earthworks that look cool from above but which are excruciatingly (and foot-soakingly) boring to walk through, measure (why to the nearest centimetre? why am I measuring the grass? are you insane? am I stupid, or do I just not get this?), analyse, or otherwise endure in any format, especially when we have to hear it in real time, and can’t just skim over the introduction, pilfer your bibliography and glance at your conclusion. The only time I wish for a time machine is when I wish for one to take me back to a time before there were prehistorians. You could build an entire university out of unread journal articles on barrows. Indeed, one of the reasons it takes so long for an academic publication to go from draft to print is because the peer reviewers have fallen into a boredom-induced coma. Now that I’ve alienated all of my prehistorian friends, let’s move on. Love the sinner, hate the sin, as the evangelicals would say.





This is certainly not how I felt in the late 1990s, 1997 in fact, when I distinctly remember standing in front of my department head’s office swearing up and down that any archaeological deposits created during a period when humans recorded time, or were even fully evolved, was of no interest to me. Meh. Boring. People. Meh. Hominids, yay. Then it was Roman stuff, and once you’ve dug through a site so find-rich that there’s more broken pottery, tesserae, bits of metal than there is soil, you’re kinda hooked. I like stuff. I’m a modern, capitalism-bred stuff-whore. Then I conceded to early medieval because I was moving to Ireland, and there was at least some architecture. And then it turned out that most of the early medieval stuff was actually later medieval, which ended up being fine, too. And then it was the Renaissance, which a lot of people argued didn’t exist in Ireland. And then, skipping over the 18th century which has always somehow bored me, the Industrial Revolution has become pretty much the terminus ante quem for my interest in the past. Sorry mad, illuminating monks, but the Book of Kells is just a remix album, a donk on the gospels. Yawn. But would you look at that picture of a rotting ship’s steel hull – oh, madam! I may need a moment. Phwoar. I would rather stalk cargo ships than study ancient trade patterns.

I make exceptions, and a timber-framed erection will still get me all hot and bothered, but my interest in the past evolved until it ended up in the present. There’s a lot more to it than just aesthetics, but at some point, I lost faith in our ability to understand or create useful narratives of the past when we do such a shitty job of doing them in the present. Rather than construct flimsy tableaus of the past, I just became more interested in creating narratives that pointed, if not toward the future, then at least toward the contemporary world. I once scoffed at people digging up 19th-century famine settlements. Now I prefer the topsoil to the stuff underneath it.

Arg, this was meant to be a post with mostly links to other stuff. So here are the links. No one should have let me have a stinking blog.

First, apologies for the Daily Fail link, but it doesn’t appear in many news sources this morning, Magic Mountain, a late 1980s bunker that can withstand a direct nuclear blast, has been given protected status. The UK is far more progressive than Ireland when it comes to protecting the contemporary past, and while true, some of this is down to the relevance of war history to the still-living survivors. It’s also a lot more complicated than that, but you want ruin pornography and so do I, so there’s no need to justify.

Magic Mountain

Insert Blonde Redhead Lyric here

My friend Mary-Liz and fellow contemporary past-o-phile gave me this link, to the Maunsell Sea Forts in the Thames Estuary, built in the early 1940s for anti-aircraft purposes, and reused in the 1960s and 70s for pirate radio.

Maunsell Forts

On one fort, some ambitious broadcast privateers even painted their schedule, in case of dial-surfing passers-by.


WLTM Someone who was on this pirate radio station, please

And you should check out this other site, which has great pics, even if the text is in tragically comic sans font.

Another link for the day is this Abandoned Places post , most of which has been published online elsewhere, or at least, in every post ever on abandoned places, and there is really no need for me to repeat it. Or repost its pics. Just a good place to start if you feel like doing some googling for more. If you only google one, let it be San Zhi in Taiwan. If you haven’t heard of it before, it will dement your mind in the best way, but you can also say goodbye to the rest of your day. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Ugh. This is why I hardly ever update. I intend to just post a link and then, well, this. This is why the character limits on twitter and facebook are good for me.

Edit: You can also see more info on the Red Sand preservation efforts here: You get to see inside them!

This is why the person, who will remain nameless but works for an official body, who snapped at me fairly aggressively for daring to suggest that the cooling towers at Poolbeg are, in fact, part of our heritage and should be protected, if only because people feel an affection for them – this is why s/he can shove it. And why I would like to do an oral history project on them.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 6, 2009 1:32 pm

    Have you read ? It has a lot of links to architecture and giant creations from Soviet times.

    • Jane permalink*
      November 6, 2009 4:54 pm

      Oh, cool. Thanks!

      I’ve been linked to stuff on that site a few times, yeah, but I’ve always been wary of getting too lost in it. I’d be stuck wandering the internet FOREVERRRRR.

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