Hear Us O Lord From Heaven Thy Dwelling Place

Trip 2 (April 2022)

We are more relaxed this time, knowing a little more what the trip may be like. We are five from the first trip (Alan Dunn, Helen Tookey, Bryan Biggs and the two Art Doctors) and five new collaborators (Chris Watson, Olga Munroe, Sarah Hymas and Johny and James from BAD PUNK/Band of Holy Joy). The new Steampacket terminal at Liverpool still isn't finished so once again we depart from a less-than-sulubrious but somehow fitting departure building. The crossing on Saturday 2 April is sublime, blue skies and smooth seas. Sarah develops her Book of the Sea during the crossing (great stories about a family that keeps a reef tank at home and noticed that certain spices impacted upon it, and the phrase sarcastic fringehead is mentioned). In the Lounge, The Art Doctors engage other passengers in word collaging using Lowry texts and one table turns out to include Paul Merton and his Improv Chums.

Armed with paperwork that is never asked for, we exit in Douglas and wander the promenade via the Bee Gees statue (later adorned with cones a la GOMA in Glasgow) to check in. We split into smaller clusters, to investigate Douglas and to meet Clara Isaac, founder of the incredible kerbside recycling venture recyclecollect. As we chat, in the background someone empties a glass bin and we think of Lowry's problem, of the sounds of all his empty bottles being binned as he sits in his shack thinking about the encroaching SHELL neon sign of industry that he reads only as HELL. We end the Saturday in the raucous Old Market Inn, thinking more about TT races, having conversations with those from whom you collect recycling and Lowry's demons.

On Sunday Chris records some extraordinary limpet and shrimp sounds, Johny and James compose Lowry soundtracks for BAD PUNK on the ukelele; we chat about Lowry, search for the lifeboat founder and we meet Dr Richard Selman at the Manx Museum after watching a short video on the history of the Island. Richard is Head of Ecosystem Policy in the Environment Directorate of the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and shares with us the huge strides they are taking on the island in relation to their UNESCO Biosphere status and their stance on the TT Race - a few years ago they introduce the electronic-bike only TT Zero but the cars can't finish one lap and are silent! Do the Manx people cup their hands to mouths to imitate motorbike sounds?

We stroll around the Museum, images of James Brown (the Liverpool-born reformer and founder of Isle of Man Times) and artists Kevin Atherton and Michael Sandle (his brother Doug taught at Leeds when I started). We take in the last few hours, wondering about a kind of lack of smells on the Island, a silence and stillness, a closed record shop (Covid) and, on the Ferry, a lack of wifi or 4G causing Google maps to remind us where on the planet we really are.

We return to listen back, to start editing audio, towards new sounds to make us think new ways about this stuff, of the words and phrases

    nurdles     nurdles     nurdles sarcastic fringeheads  sarcastic fringeheads  

    nurdles     nurdles     nurdles the council has a rubbish group

                        Malcolm Lowry's empties, crashing, recycled? whose line is it anyway?

                                                 Malcolm L (LAND) S (SEA) Lowry, and we know NOTHING about what all those 'things' are out in the seas ... boats, drills, rigs?

sarcastic fringeheads

Alan Dunn (11 April 2022)

Intermezzo - When Sarah asks me for a word for the sea, I say itself. The sea looks so simple, so simply itself. Undifferentiated. A solid horizon, a solid block of dark blue, only the surface just slightly ruffled, small shifting triangles of blue-black-green. From out here on the ship I can’t see anything of its large-scale movements, its tides and pulls and currents and drifts. I can’t see anything below its surface. I imagine it to be nothing but itself. But Sarah’s sea-chart shows something completely different. A map of a busy, complicated place, marked all over with lines and circles and numbers and symbols. Wrecks, wells, masts, oil fields, gas fields. The land by contrast is blank, unimportant. The chart is a wholly different way of seeing what’s there. Douglas Oil Field, Hamilton North Gas Field. Areas of sea-bed defined, named, harnessed to production, the fuels we need to keep everything running. And everywhere too, here in Liverpool Bay, the abbreviation Wk or Wks – wrecks of ships scattering the sea-bed. So many wrecks. The sea as graveyard.

I’m thinking (though I’m not entirely sure why) of Lowry’s image of the floating canoe, sunk just below the surface of the inlet in British Columbia: One day when we were out rowing we came across a sunken canoe, a derelict, floating just beneath the surface in deep water so clear we made out its name: Intermezzo. A boat just floating inside clear water, neither on the surface nor on the sea-floor, neither wrecked nor usable. Somewhere, something, in between. A hanging boat, suspended in water, suspended in time. Intermezzo – a pause, a space, a holding zone. Is it perhaps an image of our own lives, just a fleeting space between forever and forever? Or, on another scale, an image of humankind itself, our whole brief stay on this planet?


The next morning is fresh and clear, the sun rising over the sea, striking gold from the wet flat roof of the Marks and Spencer’s car park outside my hotel window. On the Loch Promenade, the BeeGees have acquired traffic-cone hats overnight, and look like three slim-hipped witches striding in from the sea to play a trick on some unsuspecting Manx Macbeth. The tide is far out, the Tower of Refuge now standing on its own island.

Down on the beach, I find smooth white quartz pebbles, rounded by the wave-action, wet and shining, reminding me of the tinned potatoes we sometimes ate ‘as a treat’ on holiday, and which were so unlike ordinary potatoes that I imagined them to be an entirely separate kind of foodstuff, a thing all their own. I find several of the little nitrous oxide canisters that you also see everywhere in Liverpool, but these, washed by the sea, gleam like precious silver among the wet pebbles, like tiny bottles for precious messages.

And I find a blue glass marble, sea-weathered, opaque, its surface pocked and pitted all over by its time in the water. When I hold it up against the still-low sun, the light shines through it, and it looks as though I’m holding between my fingers a tiny glowing blue planet.

Helen Tookey (5 April 2022)

Below is link to Bryan's drawings from Trip 2 (takes you to PDF, 22mb)