You may have heard the term ‘psycho-geography’ or you may not: it doesn’t matter. Psycho-geography is the connection of landscape to psychology; the link between your surroundings and your interior world. Psycho-geography is a key feature of many crime novels – where would Rebus be without Edinburgh, its pubs and greasy spoons, its dank council estates overshadowed by Arthur’s seat? – and it is specifically mentioned in ‘Day of the Dead’:(https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2018/08/02/what-comes-after-sunday/) where the hidden rivers of London are a clue to the actions of a serial killer. And now I’ve been and got me some psycho-geography too.
I didn’t mean to, at least not consciously (can you mean something unconsciously?) – as I said a couple of days ago, I set out without any plan at all. But now that I’ve walked thirty or more miles of river (or canal) it occurs to me that there are very clear parallels between this walk and my life. Walking the canals has been an existence alongside but entirely different from my everyday life. Even when you can see the road, the towpath is a world away from the traffic. It is a hidden life, a watery life; a life where you meet ferrywomen in tied cottages, chat to boating folk and ask them to fill your water bottle. It’s a life of fishermen as still as herons; a life of getting lost, having tea in pubs, finding places to pee and being very glad to see Bertie.
In addition to all this, the river is a perfect metaphor for art. Art has its own hidden course which it strives to follow rather than being swept along by the mainstream. Stephen Fry once said that in every artist the desire to be seen contends with the desire to hide: I would add that the desire to follow your own voice contends with the desire to be recognised. So in terms of psycho-geography instead of struggling to be recognised by the mainstream (the road), I’ve been following my own course (the river.) It’s like song-lines, in a way:
Does that count as cultural appropriation?