I’ve become fascinated with a particular kind of place. The kind of place no-one goes. It’s not far from town and it’s close enough to major roads to hear the distant rush of traffic…but it might as well be on the moon.
You probably know a place like this, if, like me, you live in quite a densely populated part of the world. An ex-industrial hinterland, a long dis-used quarry, a cluster of abandoned buildings. Maybe you went there once and, even though nothing in particular happened, you came away thinking, I’m never going back there.
I’ve become fascinated with the idea of places that are remote despite being in busy, well-populated areas, and are in fact all the more isolated for that.
Let me give you an example. When I’m not a writer, I’m a conservationist. I was asked to survey an area that had been impacted upon by the building of a high speed railway line. My job was to look at how the habitats the railway had cut through might be replaced – straightforward enough. But I was more struck by the way the new line had also cut through several country lanes, which were not important enough to make a bridge or underpass economically viable. All these winding little roads had become dead ends. No-one used them anymore. So the abiding impression I took away from that place was of a whole area that, because of the new railway, had thousands of people passing through it on a daily basis, yet had been rendered isolated by its very presence.
I’ve become fascinated by the idea that anything could be happening in these abandoned corners, and no-one would know. What a beautiful twist in the story of our civilisation, that the worst things, the most terrifying things might be found not in a remote castle or a lonely wilderness, but it that forgotten place, not so far from town, that you promised yourself you would never go back to.