I knew a guy once, who used to take photos of abandoned houses in the Shropshire area. His name was... uh... Sylvester. Yes, that will do. Sylvester Pookyprootches!
Sylvester had a hard time. There was an incident involving an alsatian, a time machine, skydiving and some chicken wire. I didn't ask for the gory details but Sylvester now only has half a knee. And that half a knee is kept in his belly button. He says if he takes it out, the world will end. He happens to have photographic evidence that
Luckily, Sylvester had a time machine, unended the world and learned his lesson never to pull out half a knee through his belly button ever again. And he's lent me the photos he took of the post-apocalypse to run an article here on Shrewsbury From Where You Are Not. I told Sylvester "Dude, these are great, and they totally prove that the world did indeed end! Your photography skills are amazing, far greater than mine and also far better than the skills of any other people I know who I could concievably pay to take pictures for me. Mind if I use them for an article?"
Sylvester said yes. Here's Sweyney Cliff House!
Hmm... how morbid. But I doubt that could hold anyone.
Sylvester wants to make it clear that he does NOT force entry when he explores these places. Nor does he vandalize, steal, or disclose locations or means of access to other people.
Trespass without forced entry is a civil offence, not a criminal one, which isn't worth acting on unless one causes damage, steals, has ill intent, etc. Sylvester simply photographs and leave everything as I find it. Sylvester and I do not commit or condone any acts of breaking and entering, and we do not condone what he does either as it's very dangerous and he's a danger to himself and a terrible role model. But lets be honest, in the post-apocalypse, who was there to stop him? He also wants to make it clear that nobody other than me has permission to use these pictures.
Now I was initially skeptical. When I googled Sweyney Cliff House I found out that it was in fact abandoned for around six months before a suspicious fire broke out amidst reports of naughty squatters in 2011. Thankfully allegedly nobody was hurt, but putting that fire out took a lot of effort.
Sylvester informs me that the media lied to cover up the fact that the world ended and then unended thanks to time travel. I raised an eyebrow and sipped my wine (we were having this conversation at a pub). I said: "Do you mean to tell me that the media occasionally twists facts to suit their own agenda? Sylvester, that's preposterous!"
And Sylvester said "Ah, but I have nice photos. And as long as you write about my undoing the end of the world via time travel, and show my nice photos as proof, people will believe it."
I looked at the photos. It sure does look like the world ended...
Over here we have a garage with a little room above it. The room surprised Sylvester as it contained a fireplace, meaning that the room above the garage was for more than just storage. It also had some scribblings, some last words from the pre-apocalypse civilisation.
As you can see, when the world ended, weather patterns got apocalyptic and flooding ensued.
Sylvester has no idea why there is what looks like a nappy underwater.
From this little room, one can see the main house.
But what actually was the little room above the garage?
Looking at the history, I found out that this place was originally called The Rock. It was built in 1805 on the site of a pottery and watermill, and had eight acres of land. Sylvester did wonder if maybe the space above the garage was part of a servants quarters of a groundskeeper. That does make sense. It's also possible that it was one of many other outbuildings that were taken down. I pointed out to Sylvester- he did not notice this- that while the garage building had a fireplace, it did not have a chimney so it had indeed been modified over the years, much like Lauras Tower back in Shrewsbury. Sylvester informed me that Laura's Tower didn't exist in the post-apocalypse timeline, at which I unleashed an Episode III Darth Vader style "NO!!!!!!" I love Laura's Tower, and went through all the stages of grief, including denial. I said to Sylvester "Prove it." He responded- "Well I haven't got any photos of it, so it can't have been present at all, Duh!"
Oh that logic.
Back to Sweyney Cliff House...
Sylvester later revealed to me that he had been inside the house itself. Inside a fire damaged house??? Sylvester must be insane! I don't condone this. Remember, fire damaged houses are probably the most dangerous things anyone can explore.
But damn, this is one gorgeous building. Back in its glory days it must have been epic.
As you can see, the post-acpocalypse lavatorys are still in better shape than some of the toilets in pre-apocalypse pubs.
There was a room on the ground floor with a collapsed ceiling and numerous signs of fire damage, including a melted plastic alarm on the wall. I wondered if this was the room in which the arson attack had been carried out, but Sylvester gently reminded me that I was thinking down some pretty silly tangents. The world had ended, that was all. Nevertheless in spite of the damage, it still showed signs of earlier refinery.
There was something that resembled a ruined balcony overlooking the river severn. It probably would have had a lovely view, before the apocalypse turned the river a strange brown colour.
There was a vast room, which resembled Moreton Corbet Castle near Shawbury, but Sylvester assures me this isn't that place. This room was vast because it had several floors missing entirely, to the point that Sylvester had a nice view of the cellar. Sylvester had seen the cellar steps and didn't really fancy his chances of getting down there, what with only having half a knee. Nevertheless, graffiti was down there so he reasoned it must be possible.
At least thats what he told me.
There are still logs in the fireplace.
Down in the cellar is a water pump. But how to get to the cellar? I suggested that Sylvester just enlist the help of my arch nemesis, Gravity. He admitted, he hadn't thought of that.
There were some more ground floor photos, including a rather spacious kitchen.
I was instantly jealous of Sylvester! I've been exploring for a long time and I've never found a Ouija board! Not even one drawn on some torn up cardboard! Sylvester says that amongst survivors of the apolcalypse, contacting the dead is a common sport.
Sylvester was brave enough to try the stairs to the upper floors. Well done, Sylvester.
It seems that of the original eight bedrooms, only three were accessible. The ones that Sylvester showed me were very telling, one having a football ceiling light.
A solitary marble on the bedroom floor.
In the blue room, a ceiling light was dangling with a chunk of ceiling. The room was covered in pictures of Pixar Cars.
There was also a study...
A nice view from the balcony.
Sylvester also photographed the stairs to the cellar, from the cellar, having already travelled down them somehow. He definitely doesn't condone this!
Interestingly Sylvester tells me that there were more stairs in the wall, pointing at these stairs from a ninety degree angle, but didn't touch anything because there were walls in the way. Was this more evidence that the buildings layout had been modified over the years? He failed to photograph this oddity though so he might be talking hogwash.
And yet the cellar, so he tells me, was vast and cavernous, and oddly maze-like.
This would make an excellent wine cellar. It actually led to a small little room with fancy wall tiles, and flooring, and a solitary workstation.
The cellar also had a number of toys and smaller rooms as well as a ruined stair railing from the ground floor stairs.
And a cat flap!
There seems to be a boiler room leading to another cavern that had a blocked up trap door back to the ground floor.
But eventually, it seems, Sylvester found the large room with the open ceiling that he'd seen from the ground floor. Among the ruins were coal shutes and water pumps.
The final cellar room had the remnants of reflective walls, and actually came out on a lower tiered garden, due to the sloped terrain. There, Sylvester saw some gym equipment and concluded that this cellar room was a subterranean gym.
And then, Sylvester showed me his final photo, that of a secret passageway that allegedly led from the cellars garden off the premises through the buildings foundations. He told me that he had initially been a bit miffed that there had been a secret alternate means of cellar entry, and he didn't have to risk his life on those stairs. But how was he to know? This passage emerged considerable distance away from the house itself.
And that's Sweyney Cliff House.
Sylvester had shown me all his photos. I looked up and said "I can probably run an article with these."
"Make sure you get the story right," said Sylvester.
I sighed and said, "You mean the story that you caused the world to end by removing a chunk of knee from your belly button, and then used time travel to undo it?"
"Yes, that's exactly what happened," Sylvester insisted with a remarkably straight face.
"Are you sure you're not just taking some photos and fashioning a story around them to suit the one you want to tell?" I asked skeptically.
"Well who cares if I am. Doesn't that happen in the world all the time?" he responded.
"Yes," I said. "And 90% of the people know that. But I'm just a blogger, with a few thousand readers, some of which I've met and befriended. I pride myself on my relationship between my readers and myself, and I don't want to jeopardise that by showing a complete lack of respect for their intelligence."
Sylvester looked at me long and hard, very analytically.
"So what you're saying," he said, "Is that you're offended by having your intelligence insulted by the media. But Why? You said yourself, 90% of the people know the truth, so surely we're in an age where the world is laughing at the media for thinking that it's insulting the intelligence of the masses."
I didn't answer. I knew where he was going. I messed up. But what's really changed? I'm still here, the blogs still here. I have made loads of new friends. For what seems feels like an eternity now I've been recognised on the street and greeted by readers. I've been offered fantastic new opportunities in photography in completely different topics. Because you know what? My world is bigger than this blog, and the topics this blog covers. I'm not saying it's going to stop any time soon, but who knows what my life will be like five years from now? That's the wonderful thing about life. It's chaotic. I love the thrill of not knowing what's going to happen. While so many people are said to be change resistant, I welcome the changes because I want to see what happens next. I'm an adventurer, not just of derelict and forgotten places, but of existence. Life truly baffles and intrigues me because it didn't have to happen. As Dr Manhattan says in Watchmen, "Mars gets along perfectly without so much as a micro organism."
If you really think about it the universe, without life, would really just be a bunch of waves and vibrations pinging off each other. But somehow life has come along and managed to evolve sensory organs that can take these waves and vibrations and construct an entire world from them. Not only that but humans have the ability to create more, from scratch. We've created amazing cities, and a thousand forms of art. And ultimately the one thing that keeps repeating in my head is "This didn't have to happen. The universe would have just kept on going without us in it." And that's why in spite of everything said or done, I can't help but enjoy life. It's a goddamn miracle but so commonplace we take it for granted, but it's still a miracle. I don't even care why we're here or how we came to be here. The point is we are here. And I say it all the time, the world is my playground.
It will always be my playground, even when everything gets a bit crazy.
I asked Sylvester what he planned on doing next.
"Well," he said, "I want to see about creating a temporal paradox."
He reached into his pocket, pulled out a condom and said "I'm going to go back in time to the night of my conception and give this to my dad."
And then he vanished in a puff of logic.
In the meantime, while I'm still on a higher-than-average hit count, I'd like to take the opportunity to promote other creative people. Check out my friend Joeys website. He's a film producer. And also please check out one of my favourite vloggers, Krystal Bella Shaw. She vlogs about dyspraxia a lot, which is very personal to me since I have it and the world still doesn't really understand it. And of course, follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
Thanks for reading. Stay awesome!