Monday, March 29, 2010

In Godshill Country

I came across these pictures recently and thought I'd post them up. They're from Godshill Model Village, on the very strange Isle of Wight (which you can read more about here). I tend to prefer my miniature landscapes a bit less cute generally - check out Madurodam in Holland with its miniature miles of reclaimed polder land and container ports, or this beauty - but there's something about the overabundant landscaping at Godshill that is mildly surreal at least.

There is something inherently inherently peculiar about a model village on the Isle of Wight, mainly because the island itself is a sort of miniature version of the UK. The relationship between the two is curiously inverted in the phrase "You can put the whole of England on the Isle of Wight", which forms the starting point for Julian Barnes' slightly leaden satire on theme parks, fakes and copies England, England. In the book a miniaturised theme park version of England is constructed on the Isle of Wight and gradually starts to replace the real thing.

It's the odd, left-over bits I always enjoy the most though. The back of a pub, or a deserted station car park. It's nice that someone went to the effort of making them and getting the particular quality of forlornness, or the colour of the drainpipes, just right.

There comes a moment in every model village where the carefully contrived scaled down world is fatally unbalanced by the intrusion of a real object. Normally this is a human sized foot, or a hungry blackbird, but there are subtler signs such as super sized raindrops or some peculiarly large and unconvincing rocks.

Some suitably heroic engineering spans across the rockery and takes the railway over the algae filled lagoon. No sign of a 1:25 scale model of Richie Edwards' car nearby though...

The verisimilitude of this section of the village suffers from the size of the concrete aggregate in the road. The wind farm also sounds an oddly contemporary note in a village otherwise dedicated to representing an agreeable 1950's utopia of butcher's delivery vans and plentiful cake.

Finally, what all miniature villages need, a miniature airport. Question is, where do they fly to?


Nemesis said...

You might be interested in other model villages then:

Will said...

More an airfield than an airport I think.

I have a powerful childhood memory of being taken to Bekonscot. Some time before the visit, I had asked my father what a "junction" was. The word fascinated and baffled me. His explanation somehow lacked imaginiative force and the word remained opaque to me, to our mutual frustration.

As we walked around Bekonscot, he suddenly and excitedly grabbed my arm and directed me to paret of the model railway where two lines converged.

"There!" he said. "That's a junction."

Now, when I think about the word junction, I still get a pin-sharp mental image of that scene: not just the model railway, but also the asphalt path, the dubious "rock"-face of the railway cutting, the picket fence dividing the two worlds.

I'm pretty sure it was Bekonscot, anyway. Bekonscot also has a Will Self connection, via the short story "Scale" and some of his psychogeography.

Murphy said...

Somewhere near Oxford there is a hyper-picturesque little village, in which there is a model village depicting the village in which it sits. In this little model village is a model of the model village, and on this model model village is a tinier model of itself, reduced to about 1 cm in size. It's a brilliantly twee mise en abyme.

Markasaurus said...

I can't believe we went to the Isle of Wight in the winter, when this lovely attraction is closed. What a travesty to have missed it, and to have also missed the permanently shuttered Waxworks- which we only missed by a month. Thanks for the excellent photos, even if it's a bit like rubbing salt in an open wound (perhaps that is being too dramatic).

Nemesis said...

This thread might be of interst also (and you are all signed up members of the SAVE Dreamland campaign... aren't you? :-) )

Charles Holland said...

Thanks for links Nem, verily an excellent list.

Will, yes I know that one. He moves to Bekonscott to avoid paying Council Tax I think...

Murphy, I think I know that one. I always like an infinite reflection: it's very Pink Floyd! There's also Corfe Castle in Dorset which has a model version of the castle directly in front of the real one at such a scale that they appear the same size. Clever.

Mark, I don't think that's being over dramatic at all. It IS an utterly amazing place and I think you should go back immediately!

Nemesis said...

...and lo, we seem to have made Things latest list!

Re the Isle of Wight, I've only been once and I'd love now to return. The chain ferry and Osborne House both made a great impression, and I recall a very good pub in Cowes...

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Hollie said...

Incredible photos of a breath-taking place! You have inspired some serious wanderlust in me!

Goldman Renders - Brian said...

Very nice photos Charles. They make you want to be there!