A coin tree is one that has had coins hammered into it. It usually happens with fallen trees, and while the tradition can be documented back to Victorian times, it seems to have taken off in the 21st century. Dr Houlbrook ascribes this to change in forestry practises since 2000, when fallen trees were moved off paths but otherwise left to rot in place.
The first coin tree I encountered was one in Malham, while walking the Pennine Way:
I also encountered something similar in Kathamandu, where a large block of wood has had nails hammered into it. This is said to ward off toothache, and the site is detailed in Atlas Obscura. It was interesting to hear that the earliest British coin trees were also used as a means of dealing with toothache.
Dr Houlbrook’s research has explored various forms of what she describes as “unofficial embellishments to landscapes”, particularly where this has become problematic, or is likely to. The earliest example she discussed with relation to coin trees was a site on Isle Maree, which began as a rag tree, before people took to nailing the rags to the trunk, before directly hammering in coins.
I attended the session with Will, one of the CERN pilgrims, so we were obviously considering coin trees in relation to money burning. At one point, the use of coins in wishing fountains and coin trees was described as ‘sacrifice’. There was also a mention of how coin trees produce sacred zones in secular areas – “turning a space into a place”. This can be seen in how queues develop at coin trees, with people taking their turn and approaching the act with a certain severance. We also learned about coin-folding to cure disease, which sounds like an interesting approach to currency destruction.
One of the most interesting aspects of traditions like coin trees is how people explain it. Dr Houlbrook interviewed a number of people who had placed coins in trees and many could not clearly explain what the tradition was and why they had done it – participation went before explanation. Dr Houbrook went on to talk about how she had begun considering folklore as improvised in response to children’s questions rather than the model of it being taught by the old to the young. It’s fascinating to see the growth in coin trees, and how the retrospective explanations of these things generate references to traditions that do not truly exist.
Earlier this year, Dr Houlbrook released a book ‘Ritual Litter’ Redressed which I’ve ordered from Amazon to learn more about this subject.
In just a couple of day’s time, I’m moving to Hebden Bridge! This has been in the works since mid-March, and the purchase has been a long and difficult process. But it all worked out in the end. There’s a huge amount to do, both before and after the move, but I am very excited.
Throughout much of July, it looked like the house purchase would not go through, so I tried to keep busy. I caught up with my old friend Liz in Leeds; Jen and Dave from Liverpool Arts Lab came by to pick up the Bodge back issues (it was a little emotional to say farewell to them). I also had visits from Naomi and Kate Shields. I went out with my niece to celebrate Mum’s birthday (everyone else had the rona), and got to see the pigs. A trip to sign paperwork also meant dropping by the Mindera offices in Leicester. I even tried to distract myself from house woes by attending a vogue class – ouch! My poor toes! Everyone was very friendly, but it felt weird to be the only man in the class, particularly when I had 20 years on everyone else.
I went to visit Muffy in Blackpool, and we watched Thor: Love and Thunder. In theory, Muffy lives a short hop down the train line, but returning from Blackpool on the Sunday took over 10 hours. It really does feel like this country is falling apart. Among my misadventures were a ride with a racist taxi driver. In my haste to exit his cab, I left my Kindle behind. Further problems in July came from an incompetent hosting company causing DNS issues and knocking out my email out for a few days.
I’ve not been doing much walking recently, and a planned hike along the Pennine Way was cancelled due to the mid-July heatwave. My step total for the month was 352,571, with an average of 11,373 steps, and the highest total being 27,341 on the day I was trapped in Blackpool. I also missed my daily target for the first day since probably 2019 – only by 32 steps, but that gives you an idea how stressful everything has been. I’m not sure if it’s been better eating habits, stress or the heat, but I lost 4.9 pounds over the month with very little effort. I’ve not been drinking since May and feel much better for that, although I am having a daily coffee again which I need to stop. I’m also benefitting from Sooxanne’s recommendation of Floradix, which seems to be reducing my tiredness.
I wrote one new story this month (The Appalling Fate of Henry Fluffstock) and sent 4 out. My stats for 2022 so far are 29 submitted, 5 accepted, 12 rejected. Two of July’s acceptances were for long horror stories, which is great. I also launched a new South Downs Way zine and didn’t really tell anyone – although I did get a very positive review from ZeenScene. I also read at the Todmorden open mic, which was great fun.
My reading in July has not really flowed, and I’ve found it hard to concentrate, despite reading some excellent books. One of the best things I’ve read in some time is Oliver Burkeman’s 4,000 Weeks. This turns the usual productivity advice on its head by starting with the fact that there will never be enough time, and we will never feel on top of our workloads. “Productivity is a trap. Becoming more efficient just makes you more rushed, and trying to clear the decks simply makes them fill up again faster”. Burkeman uses this as a basis for liberation. Highly recommended, and something that deserves its own blog post at some point.
Zakiya Dalila Harris’s The Other Black Girl was an excellent novel about racism, which sometimes felt like eavesdropping. Danny Goldberg’s Serving the Servant was a biography of Cobain by his manager, and an interesting angle on a singer who claimed to shun success. Bodies by Ian Winwood was a good book on mental health and addiction in the music industry, which I read following an brilliant excerpt in the Quietus. The awful journey from Blackpool was eased somewhat by standing in a crowded train next to someone reading Tabitha Lasley’s Sea State and getting to talk about what an excellent book that is.
Thor: Love and Thunder was everything a Marvel movie ought to be (including being a little disposable). I also watched Jennifer’s Body and Netflix Internet-horror Cam.We’re All Going to the World’s Fair was an interesting and moody film about the Internet and isolation. Everything Everywhere All at Once was as crazy and creative as people had promised. Sadly, I only got to watch the first half, as my friend wasn’t into it, but it’s definitely a film that demands to be rented again.
The TV highlight for July was Atlanta season 3, which was both flawed and one of the most interesting shows I’ve seen in years. Westworld continues its recovery – while not reaching the first season’s standard, the show is a massive improvement on seasons 2 and 3. One of my favourite things about ‘prestige TV’ is the discussion around it, and The Prestige TV Podcast has been excellent on Westworld and very, very good on Atlanta. I didn’t end up continuing with The Lazarus Project – there was just too much going on for me to follow much TV.
Stray on the PS4 is a short video game where you play a cat. The puzzles were perfectly pitched, with just a little struggle needed, and being a cat was fun. I also started replaying The Last of Us Part 2 on a permadeath mode.
When driving I listen to one of the two CDs in my car (Philip Glass’s Metamorphosis or Lana Del Rey’s Blue Banisters), or Radio 4. Travelling back from my Mum’s birthday, I listened to a radio 4 documentary Children’s Homes: Profits Before Care? The report was shocking, laying out how much the country pays for private children’s homes, how profitable they are for international players such as the Abu Dhabi Sovereign Wealth Fund, and how much worse the outcomes are for children in such homes. It was a shocking explication of how poorly we are being served by privatisation. The show is still available to listen to online.
British politics has continued to be a car-crash, with the Johnson government collapsing quickly – surprisingly due to someone else’s sex scandal. I was appalled that his ministers quit due to him being unsuitable for office and then left him in place. The Conservative leadership election is being played out against a background of a record-breaking heatwave and increasing energy prices. Both of these are terrifying, in the long-term and short-term respectively. For the energy cap, the government is faced with a choice between supporting energy company profits or people being able to heat their homes. It looks like we are choosing the profits, which makes plain the implications of years of privatisation. I don’t see this ending well.
In a milestone of aging, during July I was asked by a teenager whether I “knew what hip-hop was”.