Lyric of the Day: Northern Industrial Town by Billy Bragg


It’s just a northern industrial town
The front doors of the houses open into the street
There’s no room for front gardens, just a two-up, two-down
In a northern industrial town

And you can see the green hills ‘cross the rooftops
And a fresher wind blows past the end of our block
In the evenings the mist comes rolling on down
Into a northern industrial town

And there’s only two teams in this town
And you must follow one or the other
Let us win, let them lose, not the other way round
In a northern industrial town

And the street lights look pretty and bright
From the tops of the hills that rise dark in the night
If it weren’t for the rain you might never come down
To your northern industrial town

And on payday they tear the place down
With a pint in your hand and a bash ’em out band
Sure they’d dance to the rhythm of the rain falling down
In a northern industrial town

And there’s plenty of artists around
Painters steal cars, poets nick guitars
‘Cos we’re out of the black and we’re into the red
So give us this day our daily bread
In a northern industrial town

But it’s not Leeds or Manchester
Liverpool, Sheffield, nor Glasgow
It’s not Newcastle-on-Tyne. It’s Belfast
It’s just a northern industrial town

Merry Christmas, war is over
In a northern industrial town

Words & Music : Billy Bragg


Privett Tunnel

Train tunnel, raves and BMX in the middle of nowhere…

Today I walked in the area north west of Privett in Hampshire, following some of the old railway line. I started at the Angel, a restaurant and hotel, originally built for rail users:

The Angel, Privett

Not sure why there was a station a mile from the nearest village. Rumour has it that the owners of Basing Park next door insisted on it. There’s a fancy station building opposite the hotel, which is now a house:

Privett Station-2 Privett Station-3 Privett Station

The line led under the A32 here and you can climb down a steep cutting and see through to the old station. The area is used for fly tipping, next to the railway cottages:

Railway Cottages, Privett

Having followed the disused railway north to Woodside Farm, where some work was being done on the site of an old rail bridge, I headed east then south, circling Basing Park. Just past the house and Broom farm, on Hempland lane, is the north end of the tunnel:

Privett Tunnel North

The tunnel is sealed apart from a gap at the top to provide for a bat sanctuary.

After just 50 years of use the Meon Valley Railway Line was closed in 1955. Sometime in the last twenty years, the deep cutting to the north has been filled in:


Back in 2008 I found the south entrance to the tunnel:


Apparently it’s owned by a local builder. When I visited five years ago, the door had been left unlocked, so I ventured inside, calling out first to see if anyone was in there, my voice echoing far within. No reply.

It looked like the entrance area was part of the late 80s rave scene:


Further in, past some building supplies and a skate ramp, there was… nothing. I made my way deeper. I had no torch and checked the way was clear using my camera flash. After a while though, I started to be concerned that someone might come to lock the door and so didn’t go any further. I read that in the middle is total darkness due to the S shape of the tunnel.


I also read that one man died building it, and another dug himself out after a partial collapse while digging the 1000+ yards.

Back home, during internet searches, a Nike video kept popping up in the results. I ignored it thinking Google was just emphasising the word ‘tunnel’. But no, a year after I was there, Nike 6.0 sponsored the building of cutting edge BMX ramps in the tunnel and held the Tunnel Jam competition. The best BMX riders in the world, in a tunnel in the Hampshire countryside! Here’s some photos by Nuno Oliveira:

Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett Tunnel Jam Nile 6.0 Privett

Apparently it’s still all in there, usable only by those who know who holds the keys…

Meditation Journal 28 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 28

This takes such care, delicacy, to trace the movement of the self, or of neuroticism, as it flits from subject to subject, looking for security. Care to see it as it is, not to steer it but follow it, hold it, in a loving, curious way. I call it an ‘it’ but it’s not clear it’s an thing or an entity, and if we’re not careful we get into thinking that ‘I’ am different from ‘it’. Somehow in the care and attention the two are not two, but a clearer watching of the quality of desperation, the craving, the demanding, the seeking. At moments an unwinding of this two, leaving thoughtless non-moments of joy, bliss, stillness, unity.

Meditation Journal 26 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 26

Oh the freedom! Nothing to do! Just rest and watch. And even the watching isn’t something to do. It can be, of course; it depends how you are watching, the quality of it. This might be the meaning of letting go. Not of something else – how can you do that? – it tends to equal some sort of suppression – but letting go of any ‘doing’ in the watching. Then there’s a different kind of action, direct, now, no delay, no ‘I will do’ but seeing and action together in the now, in the simplicity of sitting there. In this quiet observation, the body and mind express, have freedom to unfold and tell their story. In safety and under a listening ear. ‘Under a watchful eye’ sounds a little rude, like the eye has an attitude. No, ‘a listening ear’ is better. Poor shoulders! Taking the brunt of it, this life. Doing the best they can, storing up fears and tensions. What else could they do? And now I’m introducing the possibility of them not having to do that. Is this what karma is? The previous incomplete or ‘wrong’ actions are stored up in the organism, and they have an effect in unease and tightness, to say the least. We can’t get away with anything; there’s no cheating or escaping. Any action has a consequence, and it’s all stored up, remembered somewhere within, in the brain or body, or energetically if you prefer, and there it is, karma, waiting for you. There’s no avoiding it for ever, nor for a day really. And in the simplicity of sitting still, there is a possibility of learning not to add to it, and in the not-knowing attitude of listening to sensation, there’s a different kind of action, one that doesn’t add but allows change. A change in action, a change in mind and body right there.

Meditation Journal 24 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 24

Where are you going? Why are you pushing in that direction? What if you don’t push or do? What is the quality of doing, and of direction? What is effort and where does it come from? Is it necessary here? How subtle does doing get? What is letting go? What is letting it go on? What ceases as the new begins? Can I allow the organism free reign while in the safety of a seated position? What is pain? What prolongs it? What is pain to me? What am I doing about it? What am I up to? 

Hampshire Architecture – New Alresford: East Street

New Alresford is about 7 miles east of Winchester. The ‘New’ distinguishes it from Old Alresford village a mile to the north. The old part of New Alresford centres around East St, West St and Broad St, a T-shape. Pretty much the entirety of this area is listed. Many of the houses in East St feature old shop windows, now bay-windowed living rooms. At least two are former pubs – the Peaceful Home and the Sun Inn. This collection also includes the old mill, then warehouse, now offices, next to the (steam train) station, the church, and just beyond East St the unusual Hurdle House (literally to store sheep hurdles for the fair, now converted) and Langtons, a grand house behind high walls where East St meets Sun Lane. The majority of these buildings are 18th Century.

Here’s a panorama shot of the south side of the street, showing the many colours, followed by all the listed buildings of this area.

East St Alresford

Meditation Journal 22 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 22

So angry and irritable as I sat down after a morning walk. Long term frustration, not really to do with any one thing, but very ready to fight or at least bicker. Sat down, felt it, listened to it. Upset digestion, perhaps the cause? Often the belly would draw right back toward the spine, squeezing the insides. A deep feeling of exhaustion close by, occasionally washing over my whole being and it felt like I could sleep for years. Many years of not enough of the right kind of rest and relaxation. Shoulders scrunched up toward the ears, head bowed as the neck and shoulders tensed as tight as they could, then waves of release, breath returning to normal after quite a pant. Somewhere in all of the physicality and exhaustion, the irritation lessened, the wanting to fight a thing of the past, for now at least.

Meditation Journal 21 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 21

am 1hr

Noticing the internal struggles, the sides against sides, it’s easy to think of multiple voices, each having an entity behind it, but it doesn’t seem to be that way. As we have a head and a body, a being, to put to voices externally, it’s probably the case that we think there is a ‘person’ behind internal voices. One of these we think of as ‘me’. It’s not clear though that there is any entity or entities at all. Currently it seems more like a series of reactions of thought and feeling, all taking place within this particular body and brain. To say ‘it’s mine’ or ‘me’ is a bit of a leap, a very very common leap.

Sat with the body quiet after an early morning walk. Nearby to the thoughts and wonderings was an area of intense tiredness, frustration, a bundle of pissedoffness. Thought stemming from and skirting this area, seemingly at any cost. ‘Over here,’ thought calls, skipping along, nervously or confidently. But there’s no avoiding the area for too long, and it begins to open up and the body starts responding. A new one today: the throat. Lower jaw open wide and a stretch through the jowls and into the front neck, while mentally this darker area becomes all there is. There’s not much to say about it now, no words there yet, but a scrunched face, intense forehead centre and multiple colours, with a sense that there is nowhere other to be.

Meditation Journal 20 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 20

am 1hr

All about the right hand, arm, wrist. Not so much shaking this time but minute by agonising minute, tight in a fist. Images of schoolboy fights but mainly white light as my face scrunched, a kaleidoscope of limited palate: whites, yellows, greys, shiny grey stars. In the hand such inground pain, right in by the bones, even white fire in there. I no longer know what’s in the hand and what’s in the mind. Deep tension. Held. Is it the hand holding or the mind? Both. A mutual pact that is now being renegotiated by this neutral observing newcomer. Of course the pain isn’t from fights but from the use of the dominant hand on mouse, trackpad and keyboard over the years. Before that, wrapped around a pen or pencil or joystick or controller. And now, only now, it has a chance to change. And I’m letting it as best I can. Same for all so-called gross sensations. Not so many thoughts at three-something, deep in the night at my girl’s house.

Meditation Journal 19 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 19

am 1hr

The sense of returning to myself continues. In touch with parts of my body it feels like I left behind years and years ago. At the beginning today there was nothing going on, just sitting at 7 o’clock in the morning, breathing, feeling. So I began the practice of moving from part to part. And yet I didn’t want to: part of me felt that would be almost neglect to do that so, to leave an element behind in the mind that asked for attention, more of a younger aspect of myself.  So this feeling of connecting, of integrating for me is the most valuable aspect of meditation. Later, when the time was right, I began the practice of moving through the body and the usual suspects were apparent: right arm, foot arches, shoulders, neck – all had the tension areas which when met with attention faded away. The warm light of awareness. At one point I was curled into a little ball, at another point shaking as fast as I can shake, but without ‘doing’ any shaking. Changes, changes. By the end my right arm was entirely stiff like I could never move it again.

I’m really into this now and I’m no longer scared of it so I’ll endeavour to make time twice a day.

pm 50 mins.

The ‘no longer scared’ comes and goes, of course. The fear of stopping still is stronger in the evening when in full daytime buzz mode and just wanting to kick back for the evening. But there’s this crazy notion not to do that but to sit in silence instead. So, to make the sitting still into the kicking back that I desire. Why can’t it be restful? If I keep it up, maybe the aches and pains cease or settle and it can be the most kicking back of kicking backness. This evening: pains in the back of the right leg, nervy. Intensity in the centre of the forehead, still there. Other pains coming and going, appearing, disappearing. Amazing really how they do that. Mind spending some time thinking about some things I hadn’t thought of. How about that! Making some plans, having some ideas. I can’t fight thoughts. Why would I? Yet there’s an ‘ouch’ as I come back out of thought. So I make the ‘ouch’ what I come back to, the attack on myself itself the object, the sensation. So there’s aches and pains mentally too, all to be explored, gently, gently.

Meditation Journal 18 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation 18 March

am 1hr

Awake at three-something, back to the cushion that’s been waiting for me while I squirm and shirk, and yet somehow I always want to return. It’s the realest thing I know. Not the cushion, the practice. Take away the drama and keep it simple. An inner smile as I sat down, and soon a sense of returning home. Layers I have added over the years, various attempts at an attitude, a self in the world, fading away or seen as superfluous. Almost immediately the right arm, doing some kind of Rod Hull & Emu thing again. Later the neck. Later the head, shaking side to side. That’s always the wildest, not in terms of movement, although it is strong, but it’s like there’s nothing left inside the head but the left right movement of it. Deep tension in right shoulder and neck, and then mostly the lips and mouth. Major pouts seemingly undoing years of reacting to this world. A sense that I don’t need to operate like I thought I had to: some kind of artificial coolness, some kind of fitting in. There’s a simpler way, a truer self – dare I put it that way. Glad to be back at it, this non-at-it-ing. There’s nothing else for it. Left to own devices the habit and the norms sweep me on along. Lay an anchor into the cushion and let it all sweep by a while. 

pm 1hr

Back to the old moving attention through the body from the head, part by part, all the way down to the toes and back again. For an hour. I was reluctant to begin, preferring just to carry on with my routines, which basically means on a free evening: browsing watching listening reading. So I did some exercises for the fitness class that I’m attending and then I was more connected and with my intuition, so I decided, before I could find any more excuses, to just sit down. Why is sitting down the hardest thing? Just sitting still. It’s clear why I’m running, why we are running. Running from ourselves is the cliche, but I’d say we are running from our bodies. There’s so much in the body, so much to avoid, so much awkwardness, so much stored, so much, well, sensation. And this practice is great for learning to observe and not respond. Of course there are responses. I can’t help that. But just to remain equal, to be aware of them all, the many many different sensations, from the most delightful tingles and energy movement through to intense pain in the face around the mouth, in the cheeks, and in the arches of the feet. It amazes me how one minute the shoulders can be the stiffest, most aching they have ever felt, and then, some intensity later, the most relaxed and free. This is real work and I’m not giving up on it.

Hampshire Architecture – Petersfield: Away from the Town Centre

Petersfield is a market town 18 miles north of Portsmouth and about 20 miles east of Winchester. Today I explored the outlying areas of the town, away from the centre. There are villas, old farmhouses, cottages and a mill, dotted between the C20 housing and along lanes headed to the countryside. Also the Roman Catholic church and the octagonal chapels at the cemetery. The pictures below are all of Grade II Listed buildings.

Meditation Journal 4 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 4

Each pass down the body is different. Feeling each part anew. Each part expressing something. Sensation. And to be in touch with the entire body in this way feels fo very genuine, like everything else I get up to during a day is fritting about, insubstantial. This sitting is substantial. Continually surprised at the depth of the aches and tensions. By being in touch with all of it, there is no longer anything to be afraid of. I thought I was afraid of the things half touched upon. Then there is fear of half of something, I didn’t know what, and imagination as to what it is takes over. It is simpler than that: what is happening now. No imagination. No reaction needed. No resistance required.

Meditation Journal Sunday 4 March 2013

Vipassana Meditation March 3

Strong sensation of fear. Feeling it in the chest but it’s very slippery. Which suggests to me that I am tying to do something about it. After some now obvious cat and mouse, I resume the head to foot practice of feeling sensation in each part of the body. A knot deep in the right shoulder. This time the sensation is way less slippery and my gentle attention is able to penetrate. The sensation gradually builds to a climax until I just can’t take it anymore, an overwhelming fire until it fades rapidly away. Perhaps even a little disappointing when it’s over as I’m back to the everyday. In the direct connection it feels I am really living, that this is life itself. The norm seems to be a game of avoidance and attempted action to do something about the state of affairs. In such close observation, there is nothing to do about anything. Pain in the right calf, which eventually leaves me sobbing. I suspect the reason we are so frenetic is avoidance of sensation. If I stop, I need to start again soon, else I’ll start to feel, heaven forbid.