Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Urbex: Not for Kirstie Allsopp

Urbex.  'Urban Exploration'.  What is it and why do people do it?  This blog post will examine these questions in depth and attempt to answer them by utilising applied psychology and references to ham sandwiches.

Roadrunner has been fascinated with urbex since she saw a TV show about haunted theatres.  After having her interest piqued, she toddled off into Internet Land and started trawling for information.  Soon, she found herself pawing through a website full of reports on abandoned and derelict buildings.  She sat transfixed; engrossed in the decay and sadness that oozed from each forgotten hospital, factory, house and asylum.  She was hooked.  Hours passed and she drank another coffee as dawn crept over the valley.  Then she fell asleep on the keyboard and woke up a few hours later with QWERTYUIOP embossed on her forehead.  (Well, perhaps not all of the letters.  Her forehead isn't quite that big...but you get the idea.)

It was the challenge (no coracles involved) that first attracted her.  The thought of having to run away from guard dogs, scale fences, vault over razor wire...her heart quickened at the thrilling notion.  So she started hunting for her first urbex target.  Soon, she would join a close-knit circle of global urbexers; an unusual breed of photographers who relish spending their spare time stomping over asbestos, ducking CCTV cameras and trying to avoid falling through rotten floorboards while they take moody, grainy photographs to document the last days of desolate buildings all over the world.

Fast-forward several years and she'd been given her urbex name of 'Roadrunner'.  Through some miracle of modern technology (a complex blend of Radio Wales, coffee, Twitter and Louise Elliott), she met Coyote.  To date, they've travelled through 236 towns and villages in Wales with Monty...and Coyote has displayed quite a finely-honed urbex radar.  While Roadrunner is busy frowning at her Pentax LCD screen, Coyote's nose twitches at the slightest whiff of crumbling bricks and powdered mortar.

In fact, on their recent trip to Conwy, Coyote's radar beeped so loudly that he threw Monty into a ferocious turn and slammed the anchors on with such force that Roadrunner's ham sandwich (a gluey, thoroughly vile lump of cack that would've been better suited to making wallpaper paste) flew off the back seat and skittered under the passenger seat.  If he keeps doing things like that, he'll end up with a festering picnic under there.  Peppered steak slices, fries, half-eaten cheeseburgers...hmm.  He'll be getting some bin bags and an ACME car air-freshener for his birthday this year.

Up a gnarly, narrow road they found a cluster of buildings.  A storage shed, what looked like an old garage and the higgledy-piggledy house at the top of this post.  Who knows what stories the house could tell?  And that's what it's all about.

The old gardener wheels his barrow down the path; pitchfork and shovel clattering over the bumps.  In the cold morning light, he slowly bends over to inspect the rose bushes.  Plumes of laboured, misty breath mingling with the frosty air, he begins to deadhead the weathered twigs as a robin hops around his worn leather boots looking for disturbed insects...

If you see two people - one standing calmly in a flat cap and the other swearing loudly at her Pentax - poking around a ruin near you; please don't call the police.  They're not criminals...they're just curious.
And a bit bonkers.

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