Thursday, 9 February 2017



In the event, i hit a wall. A ten metre fucking thick wall of brick and earth. Then I walked beneath the arch instead of through the wall, which was a more sensible option. Then I hit another wall (pictured). This time there was no massive arch, but an entry fee and tickets and electric vehicles and i wasn't in the mood for any of that.

It was a cool, overcast, February day in Hue, city of walls, and I was at the citadel, the citadel not even noted in Full Metal Jacket, where the rebel army had holed themselves up for several weeks until they were ultimately bombarded out of hiding by American air power. There's not a lot of that in the local histories, nor about the initial atrocities they insurrectionists committed, nor the vicious reprisals they and their sympathisers likewise endured. Instead, the story is focused on Vietnam's Imperial past, the colonial protectorate of the Nguyen Dynasty, the anachronistic monarchy and life at court. I was not in the mood for all of that.

What I was in the mood for, I knew not. Somehow the disparate threads at which I'd been tugging had remained just that- disparate. For once, sticking a map on top of another one didn't really achieve anything other than make a nice picture.  It wasn't even my picture- it was Struan Brown's. The ingredients were there but it wasn't working: the military origins of psychogeography and cartography, the horrors of war aped, in children's play and cinema, but I felt disinclined to pull the pieces together, and I was not quite sure why.

I made a circuit of the inner wall, which amounted to a stroll of just under 2.5 km. This is not long for a walk, but it is long for a wall. As I patrolled the perimeter I tried to put my self in the shoes of one who would have made such a journey before: a guard, most likely, or maybe a penitent. Perhaps a bored concubine looking to sneak back in after attempting to escape palace life, but later having a change of heart. The shoes of the soldier felt small on me, not because soldiers have small feet, but because I'd pretended to wear them as a young boy, under similar circumstances, circumambulating Hadleigh Castle. That magnificent wreck is slowly crumbling into the Estuary after more than seven centuries. Hue's citadel has been around for a much shorter period of time, but it's historical significance is arguably greater.

In Roy Bayfield's book Desire Paths, the author describes: 

"..the finding approach described by Duncan Barford in his blog post  'Inside the Entrances to Hell': "

Perhaps this is what I should have done, instead I wandered around, eyes flitting at materials, looking for something that would make everything fall into place. I didn't find that. Instead I found this:

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