Reading Room: The beginning: 1st and 2nd Visits


I’ve decided to write up my work from the last ‘term’ all at once and in retrospect.

Partly this is a pragmatic decision.

I have been very busy, particularly lately with other family things and didn’t have the time to write and do at the same time.

Also, I wanted to reflect from a distance and use Memory, which is part of my investigation, as a process to act on what I have been doing.

Of course this means that some of the possibly important things will be forgotten.

But also I will think of others, as they arrive during the writing of this.

So it will be a reflective diary, but from a distance.

I have been reflecting constantly whist doing. As most of us do…before sleep, whilst waking in the night, in the shower, waiting at a bus stop, on a train… all those things. They are the reflections I cannot write down. They become part of my process but are undocumented.

As part of a wider investigation and as part of my original Research Proposal then, these are important thoughts… but not made visible, and as conscious thought are not remembered.

They have made me act the way I have though, and so are part of the work.

I may already have written something about this first visit in post but have not checked and if I have, will comp[are the two afterwards.

I know I have somethings written in my ‘notebook’- black, hard backed, old style journal…private by the natural of its being closed and in my house, my bag, or my studio.. unless I open it or leave it accessible.

These are photos from my phone which I remember was very full of ‘stuff’ and so refused to take more.

Here is the church, Co-op, school, old chapel, domes of Croughton barely visible in the distance and a pariah map.

None of the Reading Room.

Ran out of memory, I think.

1st Visit: 3rd March 2015

Anyway,  On the 3rd of March soon after the Low Res and my tutorial with Dave Charlesworth, I visited Croughton village in Northants.

I was aware, from seeing signs in the village Aynho next door and information on-line, that this village had poor Broadband.

I was also aware from years ago and my affiliation to CND, and local knowledge, that RAF Croughton nearby, had communications links second to none.

There were rumours on-line that this base was involved with communications involved in the American Drones strikes in Africa and Pakistan…

Also rumours of some involvement with the hacking of Angela Merkel’s phone.

To me, it was also a village near to one where I worked on farmland, nearly 30 years ago. Listening to the skylarks and F1-11’s from nearby Upper Hayford in the 1980’s.

Places such as Juniper Hill, Hethe and Cottisford are nearby. Featuring in ‘Lark Rise to Candelford’ they are still relatively isolated rural communities but now commuting rather than food producing, villages.

Rainsborough Camp, an ancient hill-fort, lies to the West on the other side and is the site of walks marking my time in Oxfordshire, though this area  sits on a boundary and is just into Northamptonshire.

This visit  was ten  a movement into something new and a re-visiting of the past.

I was looking at the village and thinking about it’s location in rural countryside and its position next to the communications base.

I parked outside the village school, walked up towards a filed gate and then returned, walking along a public footpath as a detour, until I reached a field edge.

It was to some extent a derive, but not quite a random exploration, definitely a psychogeographic movement. Rather like looking for website, I had a sort of goal, but did not know what it would be.

I walked down the roasd to the Co-op.

I think I’d already driven up to the roundabout to Brackley, and past the airbase but I’m not sure. Maybe this came later, that day or another, or maybe I did this on another day, before my stop and exploration.

I visited the church and saw the sign for egg sales.

Whilst I wa sheer I had a conversation with a woman with her dog.

I seem to remember asking her about The Reading Room so maybe I’d already seen it on a drive through and went there on this visit to take a look from the outside.

I made my way back to The Blackbird Inn and further on to the edge of the village on the West, and the allotments. I remember that the sun was very bright and very low.

It made it difficult for me to see where I was going on the narrow path, and I nearly walked into a wall that was facing me.

I remember the sound of the crows too.

Long, low cawing calls and the chill in the air.

There are sound files on Sound cloud here and here of the walks.

I remember looking at the Reading Room from the outside. I

think I wrote down the details of the Letting Agent but maybe I already knew that from on-line research?

I know I had dreams about using it as a studio space.

I’ve just checked and the details were sent to me on the 5th, so after this visit.

See here Reading Rooms High Street Croughton

The person who sent me the details was Wendy Thorne.

Was that Colin Thorne’s sister?

Haven’t seen him for years. I think he lives near Borough Market.

I remember him riding his bike into a road sign on the steep descent of Sunrising Hill one cold and icy Sunday morning, years ago…….

P.S. I’ve actually checked back on some dates of emails and I visited during the last few days of the Low Res at Camberwell.

This means that I must have discussed the idea with Jonathan K immediately it came to mind after the last day ( for me) discussion on Digital Residents and Visitors…

Had I thought about it before then? Or did the idea occur to me during this talk about communication and web use…

I’m not sure. Things moved together. I remember thinking a lot about Neuromancer at this time.

Of course I saw the GIGACLEAR sign which let me know the Broadband there was slow….whilst driving to Deddington to teach the children, whose father it transpires, works at RAF Croughton.

They are American, from Virginia.

They are really lovely. I have grown very fond of them.They are moving to Alice Springs. I will miss them. They have a strong Catholic faith and their mother is Mexican.They recently sang in ‘Dido and Anaeus’ at a local church.

I cried as I always do at ‘Dido’s lament’.

This time it felt even more meaningful.

2nd Visit: 11th March 2015

By this time I had contacted the agents, Whites, and realised that I couldn’t afford to rent the space as a studio.

But I decided to go and look at The Reading Room anyway.

I booked an appointment with Jane, the caretaker and person who is in charge of the bookings and went to look around.

Above are some of the images I took on my phone.

I still didn’t want to take good quality images, but to use my phone for, quickly composed, communicable images rather than photos to ‘archive’.

The ones on the slideshow are the inside of The Reading Room and some of its features, some outside , the pub next door, the delivery man and Jane.

Whilst were there we tried to get into the pub but the publican was out so the delivery driver dealt with Jane who also cleans there.

I think we went in or maybe that was then next visit.Jane has a key but I think a regular let us in….

Also Jane took me to visit Jean, who lives in a cottage along the road and has written a history of the Reading Room. She also has a house full of memorabilia and has acted as a photographer from the village.

She has lived there many years but was not born in the village.

We had a cup of tea and a chat and I recorded our conversations  here, here,here, and here.

All invaluable research about the Reading Room, what it was used for, how it came to be built and it’s place in the life of the village community as well as very personal reminiscences from Jean.

I’d never met her or Jane before but I was taken into her home.

I remember, too Jane telling me how she came to be in Croughton with her partner.

They met on a Facebook rpg called ‘Farmland’, got chatting, met, moved in together to Croughton as it was half way between both families and affordable.

She told me how they both like Geocache and a little about the rules and about how special she feels The Reading Room is, her attachment to historical events and other sentiments.

She was very keen  to help me with any research for the Reading Room.

Very helpful indeed.


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