Apropos Nothing

Apropos Nothing

Thick carpet of English Ivy (Hedera helix).

Blue car. Thorncliffe Building Supplies lorry.

Grey, grey, blue, black, blue/grey, grey, blue, white, white, white, blue.

Asda delivery van (green).

Call of a wood pigeon.

Tree trunks bound by dead vines.

Van towing mini digger.

Black van, yellow van.

Pave the Way (truck).

Cyclist with green high-visibility vest.

Woman in car smoking a cigarette.

Man in grey t-shirt driving black van.

Flatbed tow truck carrying two cars.

Dog barking.

Coo of the wood pigeon.

Helicopter somewhere above the trees.

Grey, yellow, blue, red, blue/grey, white, red, white, blue, blue, red, black/grey.

Black SUV towing a wire cage trailer.

X4 bus (double-decker, blue).

Minster Insulation and Dry Lining.  

Shred-It (van)

Two flies playing tag.

Red warning sign at entrance to slip road: ‘speed limit being enforced’.

Cyclist (pink t-shirt and white baseball cap).

Light and shadow on the trees.

Female cyclist going up slip road (bright white top).

6-door black limousine  moving slowly around the roundabout.

X4 bus (single-decker), hiss of air-brakes.

Evergreen Drycleaners (green sign on white).


Nothing happens.

A coach on the westbound carriageway (red curtains in windows, empty).


I am trying to climb inside the time of this place.


I am here.

A police car with siren sounding, heading west.

I am still here.





June 2023

This poem consists of selected and slightly edited field notes from research conducted for a paper to be published in a special edition of the journal Social and Cultural Geography on 'Encountering Nothing(ness)'. The title and abstract of the paper (in press, 2024) is below.


Minding the emptiness of nothing: methodological nothingness and the spatial anthropology of futility


Les Roberts, University of Liverpool


As an exercise in autoethnographic fieldwork, resolving to sit in meditation practice (zazen) in the middle of a road traffic island, flanked by the concrete expanse of an expressway flyover, one’s presence partly concealed by vegetation, does seem, on the face of it, a rather pointless endeavour. And insofar as it does lack an obvious rationale, its ‘purpose’ becomes that of an exercise in futility predicated on the phenomenology of both emptiness and nothingness. Emptiness here is invoked with reference to the Mahayana Buddhist concept of sunyata, which prompts awareness of, and philosophical reflection on, the constitutive entanglements of form and emptiness. Nothingness, for its part, is oriented towards observation of what Georges Perec describes as the ‘infraordinary’, a process of seeing and writing ‘flatly’ that is ‘barely indicative of a method’. Taking this method-that-is-not-a-method as its performative starting point, this paper sets out some tentative thoughts towards a spatial anthropology of futility that is centred around a ‘futile’ fieldwork experiment in methodological nothingness. In keeping with the subject matter under discussion, the paper is written ‘on the go’ in the sense of starting from nothing and foregoing a purposeful direction of travel other than that which is tactically premised on the methodological elicitation of something from nothing.