Noise. Brain noise. Internet noise. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Daily Mail online (judge me), bloody noise. Online media overkill makes one feel very, very old, very miserable, and very tired. Anyone who has their own brand will know the internet has thrown up some great marketing potential, but also a great deal of headaches. It all has to be covered, we have to drench ourselves in it, get involved. And, as consumers, it means we are bombarded. All the blinking time. To turn off is to wonder if we are missing out. To stop looking is to sign out of the digital conversation. Even if you were just sitting in the corner observing the chit-chat, noone wants to be left in the cold.
However, this is exactly what we need. We need to be very, very cold. We need to tune out and cleanse the soul. A week’s break in Boxhill, Dorking, this summer, was the exact tonic for over exposure to other people’s crap opinions. No phone coverage, so no iphone, facebook or Twitter. No internet at all. No TV! Some cornball Woody Guthrie CDs and wandering around in only a pair of oversized cotton knickers. Heavenly.
I met an old bird on the bus. Lovely, chatty, skinny thing. Fantastic story about how her mother was a woman in love, knocked up and un-married in the 1920s, whose own father protected her from the scorn of society, and allowed her to bring up her baby, away from the mental home, or such. As she chatted, I checked out her outfit. You wouldn’t have seen it online. Pale pink silk blouse, with high-waisted thin check wool pants. She had two fat necklaces on, an unusual gold chain and pearl combo, with a massive medallion, plus some gold bracelets and a navy box handbag. She had a fantastic style, true ‘granny-chic’ in situ, put it on a Chelsea dolly and shoot by a brick wall and you’ve got a Tatler profile spread or similar…
After the bus, a wander down to the National Trust get up, on the top of Boxhill and it’s jam-making. sweet England, celebrated in all manner of ITV sagas, half good-looking dads mingle with freshly retired older people with yappy dogs. Kids run around and squeal. Down the road, there’s a new gastro-pub: three chips in an enamel mug for a fiver, which you can enjoy, sitting next to a table of eight local drunks, their pink, veiny faces snarling and laughing, copious fag breaks, arguments by the toilets and amazing swearing. Locals that the new Farrow and Ball paint cannot gloss over.
Next to the pub is a mobile home park. Lawns are immaculate. The curtains are bright white net and there are even mini white picket fences. Inside, you can see tons of pictures on the walls, maybe a ceramic dog, some eighties mute-coloured ‘foliage’ upholstery, Add some teenagers and tits and it’s a Vice fashion spread begging, screaming ‘shoot me’ I’m so ironic cool….
On the road, there are massive amounts of city-boy cyclists, all in the gear, hyped up by drunken Olympic bets, doing cycles to tweet to Jennifer about. Some are amazingly young and gorgeous, blonde and rich. Some are chubby, boasting a strained fitness, whilst one bollock hangs over the edge of the seat looking dangerously swollen. They fly past scenes that are waiting to be Instagrammed, breathtaking views, and scruffy families sharing a Wotsit picnic on a much needed day out.
This dopey Dorking break is a welcome relief from the noise of the rest of the media world. When you’re paid to create, you need to go it alone. Block out everyone else’s stuff. Yeah we all need to know what’s going on, we need to see trends, follow them, have a clue but the real innovators get out there and see for themselves a world that’s offering up a whole wealth of inspiration. They travel; they people-watch; they get outside alot and have real time experiences. Listen to me! I’m feeling creatively refreshed and I only ventured as far as Surrey.
So, case you’re wondering, my take on this break would be a celebration of the ice-creams and sunshine, sticky England, real England. The one we urban, snobby fuckers only witness when we’re visiting our parents, or go to weddings. Well, it’s worth seeing, and it’s worth taking your eyes off the i-thing to witness. Trouble is, the overwhelming desire to document, to add this to the noise out there.
I want to do it. I need to do it. Look what I can notice. I want to snap away, I kinda want a blog called ‘My England’, or #theenglandiseethroughmyowneyeballs, and it will be hundreds of pictures, maybe I will garner a huge following, enough to get me noticed by the Guardian Weekend Magazine. It will be real, gritty, comical and sad. Basically, I want everyone to look at what I find amusing; look at what I admire; look at what I can see. I want to plug my brain into the macBook Pro and be really cool and influential. It’s a Martin Parr world and it’s wonderful.
So my digital cut-off week away was very, very good; wholesome, like taking your subconscious out, giving it a wash and sticking it back in again, and even though the jabbing finger on my right hand is itching and losing muscle tone, I didn’t go online to ‘share’, I just soaked up all the weirdness and drank tea. For the next week, it’s all Shoreditch and neon trainers and back to media exhaustion and lots and lots of noise – but such is media life, and it will never be the same again, God bless it.
This article first appeared in Station Magazine in 2012