Grave Goods – Hookland.
Welcome to Grave Goods, a series of interviews in which the interviewee selects five items they’d like to accompany them to the afterlife.
This inaugural interview is, uniquely I think, with a fictional county. Hookland, the invention (or possibly discovery) of author David Southwell, is absent from conventional maps, though has an entire volume of the Phoenix Guide to Strange England devoted to it’s geography and inhabitants, both living, and, well, those which exist in a less mundane form.
If you’ve not yet experienced Hookland, the best place to start is though the Hookland Guide Twitter Account.
Tools of the Trade – a tool/implement without which you’d be lost, whether it’s a pen, trowel, notepad, bottle-opener or scanning electron microscope.
‘There is a school of thought that we build our heavens and hells. Given that I have spent the last few years building the world of Hookland in terrible, ridiculous levels of detail inside my mind, I should not be surprised if in my afterlife, I was forced to wander it constantly seeking redemption. Therefore, the one tool I need most, even more than the writer’s constant kit of pen and notebook is the Hookland map. The first bit of the county that I manifested from the continual electrical storm inside my head would be essential. While I know the all of the territory down not only the name of each pub and cafe, but what is on each menu and the price of it in 1979, my sense of direction can be somewhat lacking. Give me a chart to consult in the afterlife and that will compensate for the wonkiness of my own internal compass. Just as even the first, painfully basic map of Hookland let me know exactly where every story lived, even a tatty, fold-scarred paper projection would be helpful in not getting lost between Hook and Coreham, not straying too far towards Barrowcross when trying to get to Penstow.’
Food for the Journey – a favourite portable snack, or a portion of something from your funeral feast.
‘Food is always telling of the land and the culture inhabiting it. While there is the old Hookland funeral custom of baking black biscuits, stamped with either hourglass and skull, as invitation to a funeral, I’d much rather take to the grave with other traditional county fare. Hookland is a hog and apple county, so I favour rolled-up plate pudding (a batter pudding somewhat similar to a good Yorkshire) filled with scrap (a fried mix of pork, fat and barley flavoured with sage, thyme, pepper and wild garlic) and my flask filled with apple brandy – 12-year-old mind, anything below that is as rough as muddy dog’s backside. While I am aware and partial to the temptation of a curry from fine Ashcourt establishments such as the Rumah Makang, I believe in travelling with something you can easily break bits off to feed to omen birds or any friendly dog, shuck or sprite.’
Memento Vivere – a memento of a companion/event to bring you cheer (can be an image).
‘In many ways, my most constant companion in Hookland has been C.L. Nolan. He so often acts as my spirit guide to the place that I have at time wondered whether my soul is not possessed by an Edwardian folklorist and author of strange stories. Therefore I will be buried with the only decent photograph I have of him. Not only will looking at him provide cheer, I suspect it will have an additional use as a form of informal passport in many inns, rookeries and secret societies. I will wave his likeness with abandon in the afterlife, make claim to be on good terms with him and have hope that this will get me out of many otherwise perilous situations. I also receive additional benefit as the pot of hazelnuts you provide will remind me of my much beloved semi-tame squirrel companion Bobby La-La – who I hope to catch up with in the afterlife and continue our hazelnut-based transactional friendship.’
Ex Libris – the book or text you are least likely to tire of reading.
‘Show me an author who doesn’t want to be access to an astral afterlife library and I shall show you a pale impostor to the claim of the title. Writers crave words, crave dancing with them on the page, whether it is own being scratched out or the betters ones of writers who have come before us. Reducing it down to one book already tells me that every form of your afterlife is at best purgatory, if not outright hell for us authors. As much as the yearly re-readings of specific works Aickman, Carter, Sinclair et al are testament to their durability, if my afterlife is to be Hookland-based, I should probably take the book that has provided the single biggest influence on it – the 1970 Shell Guide To England. During forced itinerancy in my childhood, it gave me some small sense of comfort, some small sense of control to be able to consult it in libraries. It offered some sense of where I was going and what stories a place might have that I would enjoy encountering. As the last four decades haven not diminished it as my benchmark for how a guidebook can be a portal into the wonder of places you have never been, I reckon it has earned its place in the Hookland afterlife raindrop camouflage backpack.’
Lucky Deposition – a bonus selection chosen by the guest – can include transport.
‘While it would be nice to envisage an afterlife where I can tramp the county with my crippled body restored to a level of full vigour, I doubt I’d get to be so blessed. Therefore I need transport. My preferred mode would be a Hookland heavy horse to pull a caravan, but this raises moral qualms. To ensure it is with me in my corner of the Empire of Death, it probably needs to be buried with me. I cannot tolerate such sacrificial cruelty for my comfort, therefore, I suppose I am reduced to the Hookland coracle. Yes it is lightweight and a classic use of willow and bullock hide, but it is much less of an apple-snuffling companion. Every time I take to it to explore the Tarrant or Bel rivers, I will feel more than a little short-changed by eternity.’
A Message from Beyond the Grave – an entirely discretionary option – leave a note for a future generation to find.
‘Anyone in the 21st century should probably only dare leave a message apologising for the global fuckery of the period. Hookland has always been an exercise in ephemera and shadow memory, because of this I am confident to say, given enough time, everything you create, everything you value, becomes ephemera. Even those whose lives become short-term mythic – Akhenaten, Alexander, Ada Lovelace – are still ultimately reduced to trinkets to be sold or dug up. Nuance and complexity are always eroded. Time will make aliens of us all in the future. No grand legacy of intent can be guaranteed, not for one individual nor a whole culture.
‘I realise all of this and live my life ignoring these facts. I try to give new eyes on old beauty. In small ways, try to preserve the wonders of the enfolding environment, the human joyous stories that flutter across it. I believe that the only message capable of surviving the translation of time is this: I hope delight in the most temporary instant – brook sparkle – is constant across centuries, for in that moment of enchantment, you will always find part of me in your own joy.’