I follow The Secret Life of Smithdown Road on Facebook, as they occasionally post interesting images and thoughts on the neighbourhood I live in. They just posted this image of one of the old rowing boats from Sefton Park’s boating lake which is held in the Museum of Liverpool down on the banks of the Mersey. Apparently, John and Marjorie, a young couple in the 1940s, fell in love whilst boating around the lake in the 1940s. Whilst I generally want to avoid anything to do with the general awfulness of Valentine’s Day tomorrow (which this post is obviously intending to link to), I was drawn to the image.
It seems to me that objects like this, and the things that happen on them, constitute the very nature of what I as a ‘human’ geographer am interested in. I spend a bit too much of my time thinking about how lives are disrupted, controlled, ordered and broken into pieces by political activity, which frankly can get a bit depressing after a while. Yet, this story of two people floating about on Sefton Park boating lake in the 1940s brought to mind a quote from Deleuze which Ben Anderson and Paul Harrison use in the Introduction to their book on Non-Representational Theory. The quote’s from his chapter Immanence: A life, and runs:
“A life is everywhere, in all the moments that a given living subject goes through and that are measured by given lived objects: an immanent life carrying with it the events of singularities that are merely actualised in subjects and objects” (Deleuze 2001, 29).
The peculiar assemblage of two people, a boat and a boating lake (together with some medical textbooks!) forms the frame in which two bodies, or more correctly lives are affected forever. Falling in love, creating a new affective bond between two people that permanently alters their lives, seems to me to be what Deleuze is getting at here. But those lives are not limited to the human bodies which they are associated with. I don’t know John or Marjorie, and I doubt I ever will. However, the boat through its presentation in that photograph and its own ‘new’ life in a museum has become imbued with John and Marjorie – to me, that intense moment in the lives of John and Marjorie is ‘actualised’ through my connection to a picture of an old rowing boat (which is probably not even the boat that they were on!). I can then relate to this through my own lived experiences of Sefton Park boating lake (which mainly involve running around it and feeling incredibly unfit rather than floating around on it and falling in love!) It’s this immanence, and the way in which bodies (both human and non-human) come together, are affected, and affect others which (I think) is important.
I could go on, but think I’ll finish there – I started off writing this post thinking that it was just a nice story about Liverpool, and have still managed to cram a bit of theory in there, which I suppose is one of the perils of an academic existence. However, next time I go to the Museum, I may check out the boat which (possibly!) John and Marjorie floated about on whilst they fell in love in the 1940s…