When I started this article, I asked my friend if he had any thoughts. Looking away momentarily to ponder, smiling, he eventually asked, “Do you know anything about ley lines?”
I did not have a clue about ley lines.
Ley lines, so say the internet and an ‘interesting’ book called Anti-Gravity & The World Grid, are hypothetical alignments of places of human significance—ancient, religious and spiritual, I suppose ‘cool’ places could be included as well. Ley lines lead to the planetary grid, into which the Earth’s energies and ancient sites are intelligently positioned, such as the Pyramids and Angkor Wat: basically, there is a reason why places are where they are placed. These geographical riches lie at the end of ley lines, whose energies draw in people and wisdom.
Similarly, so it is that many of us are swept into the Peterborough Vortex, helpless and hapless to the wonderfully strange powers of this strangely wonderful place.
Many of us know we have been affected by it, some are in denial and others are yet to realise they are just being pulled through.
The Vortex will take hold of you wherever you are. When you are sleeping; when you are awake. In the dark; in the light. When you are standing at the bar of the Only, dazed by the alcoholic possibility; and, alas, more often when you are not.
Joel Davenport first told me about the idea of the—sorry, the actual—Peterborough Vortex, although I had overheard people talking about it. On my first last night, he told me I’d be back again, sucked back in—I’d be another added to the list and there’s nothing I could do about it.
Lo and behold, he was right.
I first arrived in Peterborough from the UK as an exchange student in September 2015.
Quickly, other exchange students and I had found our regular haunts. With two particular friends, we’d study at the Only during the day and wander down to Riley’s at night. When existential angst kicked in, we’d empty our bank accounts and refurbish our souls with what became known as our “sad men at the bar” nights at the Only. On the first of these we made our first non-Trent-Peterborough friend, Ryan Perks.
The basic idea of the Vortex, if you are unfamiliar with it (heaven forfend), is that folks grow up in Peterborough and at some point leave to experience more of the world. Either they move out of town or travel, but they always end up coming back to this beat-down town, which—and Lord knows I love this place—is more Rustanbul than Istanbul.
The Vortex takes hold of us ‘guest residents’ in Peterborough, as well. We struggle to really leave, scarcely remembering our first, virgin steps in what is now our second home. One friend said that he would leave last year and is currently insisting the next year or so will be his last; I think really he’s got at least two more Peterborough years left in him.
Peterborough, however much we want to be here, is not a cosmopolitan colossus like Istanbul, London, or Paris. Opportunities are not overflowing and it hasn’t produced age-defining thinkers. Peterborough is hardly brimming with wealth either, with unemployment figures pretty damn high.
So how exactly has the Vortex managed to claim so many of us?
As Gabe Pollock neatly put it, it is almost as if folks stay in Peterborough against their better instincts.
I could stay at home in a relatively prosperous English city, or head north to feast on London’s anxiety-laden basket of goodies. Instead, come August, I will head across the Atlantic. If it wasn’t for the Vortex pulling me towards its black hole, I would swim that big old pond.
The thing is, the Vortex doesn’t just lay claim to everybody. Its powers don’t extend to those who don’t want to be here. As Joel said, we don’t talk about those people, nor do we talk about the fact we don’t talk about those people.
It probably seems ruddy obvious that the Vortex only takes those who want to be in Peterborough, but it is important to consider. Laura Thomson reckons that when you’ve been away and experienced big cities, you realise that Peterborough has exactly all that you need. There is precisely enough here to be happy, so you are happy about coming back.
You don’t resent the Vortex for pulling you back and you aren’t stuck in Peterborough—once you feel the vortex, you just let it take you.
What we forget is that the Vortex lets us leave at some point as well, to shake any small-town feel we have or just to see more of the world.
I think this is why Peterborough seems to have a disproportionately large population of mature, interesting, and amiable people. Peterborough is a centre of enlightened being where similar places are just places: this is because of the Vortex and why we return to The City With Enough.
Anti-Gravity & The World Grid author David Childress concedes in the introduction that some might see the theories he has brought together as “crackpot.” If it were not for Peterborough and the Vortex, I imagine I would be dismissing ideas about the “planetary grid” as a ranting-at-the-moon, drinking-ice-tea-through-your-ears kind of bonkers theory.
As it is, it is nice to think that there could be more to the Vortex than happy coincidence, that, instead, the constant cycle and recycle of ‘texers is our modest Babylon’s modest magnificence.
Maybe it does all come down to ley lines.
Photo by B Mroz.