Saturday, April 25, 2009

Remembering JG Ballard - Lunghua Airfield

As someone who hates gyms in all their incarnations and all forms of organised “games” I do still accept that I need some exercise. Walking, or occasionally a swim, suffices. Walking is also educational and instructive unlike time spent in a gym as well as having the added bonuses of seeing things (other than CCTV9 or CNN, neither of which interest me in the slightest) and of being able to wear normal clothes rather than the ridiculous outfits I see people “heading for the gym” wearing. Therefore an interest in psychogeography, I think, is the answer.

For those not au fait with psychogeography it’s basically a strategy for exploring cities in such a way that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape. Perhaps Will Self is the most famous practitioner of the discipline at the moment – walking to Heathrow while of course the novelist Ian Sinclair experienced the outer rim of London anew by walking the M25. I’ve decided to coin the term psychohistoricalgeography and so my Saturday…

This weekend I was struck with the idea of two things – the need for fresh air and wanting to commemorate the sad passing of JG Ballard in some way. Actually I live just round the corner from Ballard’s old family home on Shanghai’s former Amherst Avenue and do occasionally eat in the restaurant that now inhabits the former Ballard residence – not much good but a nice house. Architecture trumps cuisine anyday, and anyway James Fallows’ on his excellent blog has already posted photos of the interior and exterior of the former residence.

So here was my solution – Ballard, as everyone knows from Empire of the Sun, was interned in the Lunghua (Loonghwa) Civilian Assembly Centre on the outskirts of Shanghai and which abutted the Lunghua Airfield and was close to the Lunghua Pagoda – all are shown in the film and described in the book. He was interned in 1943 with his parents and younger sister, spending over two years, the remainder of World War Two, in the camp. His family lived in a small area in G block, a two-story residence for 40 families. He attended school in the camp, the teachers being inmates from a number of professions. I’m not sure if JG himself had to walk to the Camp but many internees did – I did the walk on a breezy, sunny Saturday morning without a suitcase containing my most precious belongings and without any Japanese guards shouting at me to hurry up. I’m also a reasonably fit 42. Many of the internees were much older, unwell and had to make the walk in either far colder or far hotter weather depending on when they were interned.

So I walked from Ballard’s childhood home on Amherst Avenue to Lunghua Airfield, or what’s left of it. This is not an overly long walk – tales about 90 minutes at most out from the former Western Roads Settlement (where Ballard’s family house was and not the French Concession as so often written) along the old Siccawei Road (now Huashan Road) through Siccawei itself (now the Xujiahui shopping district) out past the sports stadium, past the Lunghua Revolutionary Martyrs memorial and to the Lunghua Pagoda (which is these days adjacent to a Tesco supermarket for those that like to make points about that sort of contrast). Continue slightly further along and you’ll reach the rather grand edifice of the old modernist-style air terminal, with its sweeping observation deck and control tower still reasonably intact. Inside are a reasonable Shanghainese restaurant where I lunched and a KTV joint.

In the film, if I remember correctly, you see the Japanese planes fly over the terminal building with the Pagoda (which is obviously still a major tourist attraction) in the background sans Tesco. There is still some original tiling left in the building and it does rather have the aura of old time air travel. The area is a striking image in the book and also in the film – and if you get into the right psychohistoricalgeographist mindset still quite atmospheric.

Here’s remembering the great JG once again


Isabella said...

If you don't go after what you want, you'll never have it. If you don't ask, the answer is always no. If you don't step forward, you're always in the same place.


Tera Items
cheapest wow gold
Tera Gold

Cheap Tera Gold
Runescape Gold
lotro gold

WOW Gold said...

Once in his apartment, Ricky makes surprise visit to his mother's neurological clarifies that broke the woman's words, so it's really intended to transform the interior. Ben regrets his / her father wants to call Amy and also explains the mother of the woman with the Adriatic Sea, Adriatic Sea, which shows a part of the college, where at the end to keep his / her children.
WOW Gold
RS Gold
Tera Gold
Cheap RS Gold
Tera Online Gold
Buy Tera Gold
Eden Gold
Tera Gold Cheap
Buy Runescape Gold

Cheap RS Gold said...

Genuinely amazed! Things are extremely, clear, wide open is a information of the difficulty. Its content has the information.

FZF said...

This can be a great inspiring article. We are basically satisfied with your good work. You'd put really very useful information. RS Gold Cheap RS Gold

Anonymous said...

It was produced in the United States for a guide to China's industries and economic development. cambridge satchel|cambridge satchels|cambridge satchel bag|cambridge leather satchel|seo|cambridge satchel company bag|satchel cambridge|cambridge satchel|cambridge satchels|cambridge satchel bag|cambridge leather satchel|women ugg boots sale

cambridge satchels said...

cambridge satchel are very fashion, now they have become a popular fashion trend. You will like cambridge backpack very much. ugg boot cambridge satchel company satchel cambridge leather bag cambridge satchels cambridge satchel bag ugg boot cambridge satchel company satchel cambridge leather bag cambridge satchels cambridge satchel bag

Anonymous said...

There is even now some real tiling still left within RS Goldthe constructing also it does very contain the aura of previous time air blood circulation travel. The area is often a striking graphic within the make a reservation for as well as within the movie – and within the special event you receive Buy WOW Goldto the right psychohistoricalgeographist mindset even now very atmospheric.