This isn’t England. It’s a sub-Saharan dream. A cult film with characters drifting through a cinematic landscape of emptiness, rust, clutter and sea kale. Where the sea retreats and the vast shingle beaches drift and shift so much they keep needing to build new lighthouses.Read more: This isn’t England
This is England. Weather-browned police stand and chat, reminding you this is the frontline of the refugee crisis. It’s hot but the sea looks calm for the refugees to chance their luck with flimsy boats and the busy shipping lanes of the Channel. When the they land here, doubt will deflate joy and confusion will lance relief. Where are they? This isn’t England. Where are the gardens of Kent? That green and pleasant land?
They will be assured that this really is England. This is Dungeness. Its name traces back to obscure old English meanings of marshes. The headland at Denge. Marsh of the pasture district. Marsh with manured land.
This is England. Where else would a one-third full size steam train run by volunteers chug by, smoke and coal cinders billowing over the back-gardens of bungalows baking in the summer heat and union jacks bleached and tattered by the sea winds. Suburbia by the sea.
The nuclear power station gently hums and roars, its structure of blocks offset by the elegant curves of the lighthouses. A mutant energy fuelling subversion. Its waste hot waters generating rich mini-ecosystems of fish and attracting wheeling sea birds.
This is an England where architects can sink strange visions into the pebbles, like the Rubber House – a tactile, dense black. Where mystic artists can build sculptures of plastic waste and gardens of pebbles, driftwood and scrap metal around the dried carcasses of boats. Where the fishermen turn old railway carriages into cottages. Where the houses of advant qarde film directors are suspended in time to become pilgrimages of heritage.
The heat is unusually strong. Boats shimmer in the Channel. Maybe Dungeness is the future, an expanding landscape powered by climate change, slowly devouring another England not far from here. Lush green Kent gardens, lonely salt marshes, cider orchards, medieval towns and haunted inns.
The noticeboards have unusual concerns. How many places have to demand permits for filming, photography shoots or student projects? The public safety one about the nuclear power station is hilarious in its English passive aggression. First, it sullenly admits it is required to have emergency arrangements in place. As if being forced to do this is so extra, so unreasonable. So here you are: in case of a nuclear emergency, you will be advised accordingly. How? There is no answer because that is the answer. With a hint of revenge, it then totally contradicts itself by saying in case of emergency, to leave the area immediately, listen to local radio and if concerned seek medical help. What local radio? How do you find it? Do what you can with that when the nuclear power station vaporises or irradiates you.
Wander through this other-worldly landscape of sea, pebble and rusting bits of winching gear. Where strange creatures and exotic flora have nature lovers leaping for joy and scrabbling for field books.
This isn’t England. And yet it is.