SOFT RIOT

NEW TRAINS TO OLD WALLS

18 October 2011

10.15am from Cannon Street / elevated rails over heaving city / blue station signs flying by as translucent blurs / weary, sagging urban passengers ogling over touchscreen devices / sickly chimneys and towers hardening with disuse under wispy blue skies / names of locations in the urban carpet become less familar: Plumstead? Belvedere? Slade Green? / Never heard of ’em, until now / residential awkwardly socializing with the architecture of industry / Enter the woods past Dartford / Large motorway bridge hissing like a serpent over the Thames / Fast rail links like fingers over the eroded chalk and sandstone hills / Some-or-other for Bluewater / The ominous name of Gravesend / Train flying over the flats of farmland and alien insect electric towers / Going through a long tunnel and then another / Pop out on the other side to Strood and the River Medway / Castle looms in the distance like a one thousand year old gateway

White paint flaking like old skin at railway station / Inpatient queue at automated ticket-robot machine with a husk of a violently assaulted mountain bike in the background / Station parking lot tucked away like an inconvenient embarassment from the High Street / Tudor buildings crowd facing the cobblestone path of the High Street / mingling with a string of building from the mid-period of a millenium / dazed Sunday shoppers and strollers slowly emerging from guilty pleasure lie-ins / Two men like bald bulldogs already kicking on the Carling around noon / Buildings no longer used for original purpose / Thai restaurant in a tudor frame building / Pizza Express in old building adjacent the town hall / Quaint shop of model dog figurines dressed like British stereotypes / A football player, a cop, a banker

Ploughman’s lunch at quiet riverside pub / Hike up hill to foreboding castle / Cold shadow eminates on pastel-coloured picnickers below / Rugged stone likely built from psychotic, miserable Norman hands / Many centuries ago when a good loaf of bread was likely considered some sort of luxury item / Entry fee through plexiglass and metal addition awkwardly perched on rugged stone wall / Small lobby full of light-headed gifts in heavy-hearted walls / Pencil-sharpening miniature knight / Rochester Castle logo erasure with the colours of gay pride / Castle branded cream fudge / Dress up children like soldiers of old

All of the floors inside, rotted, decomposed, gone / Many skeletal doorframes leading to rooms that no longer exist except to a cavernous interior like the empty ribcage of some giant medieval Transformer robot / Follow the winding railed walkways to steep unforgiving spiral stairs / Threading through the carcass / Whimsical illustrations on placards providing minimal information on functions / Scale model of castle in glass box in former abbey / Likely built by the local model railroading society of old men drinking room temperature pints on a Sunday to get away from “the ol’ ball and chain” / International tourists trying to calm the voices of over-excited voices of their children reverberating in the interior of the building / Retreat to the repeating ceiling arches in the empty crypt below /

Throwing entertaining poses in the refracting light flares firing up castle windows from outside / Pigeons making love and nests in the complicated architecture / Going up and up through the galleries and meandering walkways / Up and up to the roof / All encompassing views from a position of temporary authority from the top-most roof garrison / To think they used to shoot arrows and drop boiling hot pitch on the other team below, let alone try and batter these things down with wood / And then back down to the bottom

Bored and naïve boys laughing, throwing their skateboards a their two female companions – also laughing / The bizarre courtship rituals of youth / Cross the street from the intensity of one building the to the serenity of another / Tall pillars and stained glass in the cathedral / Dissonance and thickening of sound from the rehearsing choir / Alien and intimidating tones from the pipe organ looming overhead like a Giger-esque machine in the upper cavities / Jeans and trainers flashing beneath traditional church robes / Gawking continental tourists fumbling with modern cameras / Bulky devices threading headphones into ears providing a catalog of languages spouting information about history / Wandering into placid gardens / Former monastery / Friendly wooden benches in alcoves / Faint drones of industrialization in the distance

Awkward and creepy museum in former guildhall / Dust-caked mannequins in glass displays re-enacting destitution on prison ships / Rooms decorated like sets of a community theatre / Ridiculous audio narrative in comedic voices worthy of a lost episode of Black Adder / Truncheons and bone carved miniature jewelry boxes

Walk east out of the quaint environment of the High Street / Derelict industry saddled next to the overground railroad / Bored youths patrolling the streets back and forth with no motives or intentions / Proprietors wringing hands in empty Asian restaurants / Signage from the 70s and 80s untouched by the carcinogenic hands of gentrification / Reach the high street of neighbouring town / Chatham / Dead and empty / Zit-encrusted lads in shell suits spewing out oral rivers of slang clutching on cans of Tennants / Bored youths laughing on patches of grass underneath shopping centre ornamentation / Buy novelty beverages and crisps from surprisingly varied Polish grocery store

Wander past modern bus terminal comprised of shapeless and modern architecture made of cheap metals / Din of monotonous hip-hop and instruments tuning up for band rehearsals from the youth centre along the river / Occasional heads aflame with bright coloured hairstyles to indicate conventions of youth rebellion / Cans of Fosters crushed and discarded in riverside park in acts of mental retardation / Watch the dormant wheels of manufacture by the cannons at the waterpark /Sips of strawberry cider from former Western Soviet states / Now countries / Sun burns darker as it starts to squat on the horizon

Embark on the return walk to the start / Past flyovers / Past young men in gray suits and generous amounts of encrusted hair gel going to no destination / Past quaint old row houses and one of the many homes of Dickens / Past the pensive man on the bench on the hilltop staring intensely at the rubbery “U” bend of the Medway / Past the quirky messes through windows left by art students at the university over the weekend / Past the circus / Past the pub with the square dancing lesson

High Street again / Drink at the pub / Thai in the old coach house / Through the mysterious dark to the unwanted train station / Sneezing fits on the platform / Teenage couple embrassing and awkwardly kissing in the shadows / Orange LEDs displaying times back to the metropolis / Step through the doors into brutal fluorescent lights to head to the origin point