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About mrdystopia

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    Oblivion State Member
  1. Sorry mate - will do from now on.
  2. The pair of ex-Gurkha security guards rounded the corner of the building and spotted our party within milliseconds. "Intruders! Code Red, boss! CODE RED!" The voice shouting into the walkie-talkie had an amusing mixture of professional urgency and childish excitement. We had entered the vast fenced grounds of the abandoned military hospital with the utmost stealth, hugging tree-lines and sending scouts ahead to check for patrols. That was hours ago though and we had explored every nook and cranny of the large main hospital block. Now we had grown cocky and strolled around the grounds showing little concern for the possibility of being caught. And caught we were. Sure, we could have ran and given the guards a little exercise but, honestly, the route in was a bit of a pain in the arse and we were perfectly happy to be walked to the front gates and let out. So, we wandered the site looking for access to some of the smaller buildings, knowing there were guards wandering around and seeing how long we could get away with it before inevitably being seen. When we were eventually seen, the hapless guards seemed to think themselves inside some Andy McNabb novel. You could almost see in their eyes the replaying of Die Hard movies and hours playing Splinter Cell. As we carefully and politely explained we were simply amateur photographers who like old buildings, they looked visibly disappointed. We were not the expertly-captured explosive-planting terrorist cell that they had clearly pictured us as when they saw a group wearing black, carrying rucksacks and strange equipment (or cameras and tripods, once they got a closer look). But, maybe the 'photographer' story was a clever rouse on our part? "We'll need to see some IDs. I'll also need to see the contents of your bags. Do you have any weapons or sharp objects?" "Sorry mate, haven’t got any ID on me.", I replied. I sometimes wonder what sort of terrorist or hard-core criminal would wander around with a valid ID. Surely that sort of stuff would be covered in Al-Qaida 101, no? Anyway, as we reached the front gates, a big white van sped towards us and screeched to an abrupt halt. It had dogs in the back and a large burly gentleman in the driver’s seat. He seemed to be running the show and is presumably the recipient of the slightly overenthusiastic "CODE RED!" radioed in earlier. He got out of the vehicle and adopted his most intimidating face and pose as he prepared to deal with this supposed high-level threat. He looked us over, assessing what immediate action was required to contain and deal with the threat. He looked around and past us searching for something to warrant the guard’s excitement. He looked us over again and looked back at the guards, his expression dropping with the disapproval of a man who does not appreciate having his time wasted. "You have to be f**king kidding me!" We were questioned with a few trivialities and explained that we were just some friends who like to take pictures of old buildings and what a lovely old hospital it is and we really are terribly sorry if we caused any problems. The 'dumb tourist' - works a treat when dealing with security. Give them just enough apology and subservience without giving away anything you don't need to. "Yeah, just got in about twenty minutes ago. No, of course we have not been inside the buildings - they look a bit dangerous." "We got under the front gates, using that big gap at the bottom." another member of our party offered as he scanned the area around us. After agreeing to demonstrate how we would have got in (God knows why that was necessary but it was quite amusing) we saw the head guard stare intensely at one of the two who caught us. The under-gate entry point was a little bit of creative story-telling since we clearly didn't want to give the real hard-won entry route away - That would just spoil it for others who came after. But, it turns out that the "RED ALERT!" guard was also the one who would have been stationed at the guard hut...right at the gate when we were supposed to be making our way in. We had accidentally created a version of the truth whereby we (all 6 of us) go right past the single point that hapless guard was supposed to be watching. I expect he got a bit of a wrist slap after all of that but I only have so much sympathy after all of his dickish bag-search nonsense. By this point the guard told his boss they were going to take our names and perform bag searches in an apparent attempt to regain some credibility - he just ignored him, opening the gates for us to leave. So, yeah, old derelict army hospital, nice rooms, lots of history etc. etc. The getting caught was by far the most entertaining part of the visit so that’s what I wanted to write about this time, for the rest see the photos! Thanks MrD
  3. Of the whole European road-trip, there was one site in particular I was ridiculously excited to see. In terms of exploring a building that you would not normally get to see, it does not get much better than a full-blown prison. The irony of spending weeks researching and planning how we were to get into the place was also beautifully ironic. Right up until the night before, we were weighing up the viability of driving to France and using up a valuable (in urban exploring terms) early morning for this place. Our local contacts gave conflicting reports regarding the current state of play here and, while we were immensely grateful to have such information, we saw it as a gamble. Would we get inside? Would we get there and find it sealed? Would we bump into unfriendly locals? Sometimes, when the prize is grand enough, it's worth taking the gamble. And, so, we got up early in the morning after not nearly enough sleep and set off towards France. As we did an initial drive past the grounds surrounding the prison we saw our biggest potential problem - a camp (or should I say, shanty town) of literally hundreds of caravans, tents and tarpaulins. Right at the front gates of the prison - a giant mass of travellers. When I say that they posed a potential problem, rest assured this is not some hasty generalisation. Far from it. As I say, we had been doing quite a bit of research about this place and there were numerous accounts explorers being confronted by those from the camp who were liberating the valuable material throughout the prison. On top of all this, there were also reports that the prison was frequented by the local police for live firearms training! If nothing else, this was to be a little more exciting than your average Sunday morning. We parked up and met up with a couple of explorers who had travelled down from Holland to spend the day exploring with us. In such a niche pastime it's always nice to meet like-minded folk to share stories and tips. It's also very nice indeed when they bring a massive delicious apricot pie to share amongst the group. I fully support this becoming a regular form of exchange when meeting up! Anyhow, we all exchanged greetings and introductions and set off into the unknown. As it happened, our worst fears were thankfully unfounded. Making our way inside, we soon found ourselves in the grand dechagonal central hall. Looking up, the ceiling was surprisingly grand for such a utilitarian building. Squint and you could almost have been in a cathedral - albeit a high-security cathedral with one of the country's most dangerous congregations. Leaving the central hall, I ventured out into one of the large wings of cells. Despite the decay and the graffiti there was no mistaking what this place was for. Few buildings are as instantly recognisable. The rows of closely spaced, heavy metal doors with the tiny viewing windows. The railings and, looking down past them, the netting stretching across the central gap - to catch any thrown projectiles, I would assume. There really was no mistaking where we were and what this building was only a few short years ago. Little clues as to the lives of those incarcerated here were dotted about the place. Walls were decorated with magazine cut-outs of fast cars and bikini-clad women. It only takes small details such as this to pull you straight into the world of the cell's final occupant. As I examined the pictures and stared out the small window at the bleak view outside, I was met with a strange kind of empathy for the unknown occupant. It was futile, I know, but I wanted to know more. What was his name? His crime? Did his family visit him often? How did he feel to be waking up inside this room day after day? I would never have my answers but just immersing myself in his cell brought these questions into sharp focus. As I explored further into the prison, I found myself moving away from the rest of the group exploring on my own along corridors which had the sunlight boarded out. I made my way carefully through pitch black jungles of uprooted cables and collapsed ceiling supports. Once I found the sanctuary of sunlight I gathered myself and gauged where about I was. I looked around and peered out the window. Oh crap! I had been happily ambling along towards the very front of the prison. Meaning I now found myself, alone and out of earshot, right next to Traveller City and with a load of valuable equipment. This was not at all part of the plan. I don't usually worry too much about the ever-present possibility of running into unfriendly scrap thieves in a derelict building - but then, I would not normally be alone, and would not normally have the language barrier to contend with...and there would not normally be 500 of them parked next door! I froze and trained my ears on any noises I could make out. Was anyone else inside the building at this end? Is that the noise of footsteps or chains banging in the wind? What was that loud popping sound? Wait, there it was again! Is that...it's bloody gunfire! Jesus! What have I gotten myself into? Adrenaline levels at 11, I quickly made my way through the front section of the prison. It seemed to be made up of a mixture of kitchens, administration, medical rooms and shower blocks. I tried to get a few interesting photos but have to admit I was more than a little distracted by the gunfire and threat of angry scrap thieves around every corner. My fight or flight response was pushing increasingly towards the flight end of the spectrum...and it was awesome. I have said it before but it bares repeating - this is the sole reason I don't get too excited by computer games any more. They just seem a bit pointless when you can actually do this stuff for real. Bollocks to paint-ball and the like too - if you want to feel a genuine rush of exhilaration, as far as I am concerned, you need genuine danger. Not a sanitised, watered down version mass-produced for the XBox or organised for corporate team-building events. I find too much of today's society is risk-assessed and we have gotten to the point where there is an unwritten contract within society whereby we expect danger should simply not exists - anywhere. I disagree with that at a very fundamental level. Genuine danger is useful, it's character building, it's exciting, it trains you to think hard about problems since there is no safety net. Anyhow, checking the time I realised I should be getting back to meet the others. I made my way back retracing my steps back to the front door, back along the dark treacherous corridor and back to the atrium. Or at least, that was the idea. However, once I got back to the barred gates to the atrium I found they were locked. I could have sworn I came through this gate to get in. Maybe it was via one of these side rooms! Yeah that was it....or not - none seemed to lead anywhere. As I searched for the way back I began to get increasingly concerned. I had no intention whatsoever of becoming locked inside a disused prison. I put down my things, turned the torch back on and tried to take stock. I was relieved to see there was a single bar missing near the base of the gate. It certainly was not how I had gotten into the corridor and it would be a squeeze but it would do. So, I forced my podgey torso through the gap and dragged my camera and bag after me. I found the others who were setting up for the obligatory group shots. We took a few final shots around what appeared to be the high-security isolation wing as we reluctantly drifted towards the exit. It was very difficult to drag ourselves away as there was clearly so much more we simply had not had the time to see but, the schedule had already been agreed and there was plenty more to see and it was already the afternoon so we bid the place 'au revoir'. Thanks MrD
  4. Think so, no floor tiles in the middle any more - all just stacked in neat piles at the side. Was pretty much the same when I visited in the spring though - not a great deal has changed.
  5. There are not many old abandoned buildings as grand or as breathtaking as this. Those following my blog will remember this place from my first Belgium road-trip earlier in the year. Having been invited along with another bunch of friends last month I was more than happy with the prospect of giving CDC another look. Last time we were pushed for time by pesky little details like workmen expected inside the building at a certain time and catching a train back to the UK. As a result, once it became light enough to photograph, it was a rather quick explore around the building with entire floors and sections missed entirely. This time we had several hours put aside to explore the halls and corridors of this beautifully constructed civic building sitting deserted in the centre of a busy Belgian city. There are hundreds of intricately sculpted stone pillars, each of which has a unique pattern detailed around its circumference. Light pours in through the glass roof. Looks nice ...but a bit of a bugger to photograph! I tried my best to make good use of my time in this amazing venue. It is said to have been recently bought by a hotel chain which will convert the building - while, hopefully, preserving as much of the original detail as possible. Last time I took many wide shots of the main hall at the expense of some of the smaller details. This time I resisted that urge knowing I already had plenty in the bank so allowed myself to seek out different angles and perspectives. The preservation of detail in the building is amazing. In the UK, a place left abandoned like this would be full of graffiti and half-burned out within a month. This is why we travel across Europe for urbex! Stunning! All in all I was really pleased to get to see this place again and, once again, practically needed dragging out of the place as I was reminded that we had two other sites on the list to explore. Thanks MrD
  6. It's been ages since I posted on here as I have been kept really busy with work, family life, my own blog and, now, studying towards a BA in photography part-time. I thought I better change this and what better way to start than showing some of the highlights from the Silly O' Clock Crew franco-belgian urbex tour last month! Joining me for the 4 days of exploring were The Baron of Scotland, Project Mayhem and Lowri Jen Bate. 1000 miles were covered, 6 countries were spanned (technically, if we're including Wales and Scotland) and we met some awesome european explorers along the way. Drinks were drank ...especially on the 14-hour ferry crossing! And, all in all, a very sucessfull few days were had seeing some of the best of European derpage. So, without further ado and in no particular order, I present The Franco-Belgian 2013 Silly O'Clock Crew European Tour Highlights... 1) Tapioca Farm 2) Horror Labs 3) Prison H15 4) Inside Prison H15 5) Villa Hector 6) La Bobbins Clothing Factory 7) CDC 8) CDC (again - it's rather nice so deserves two!) 9) Chateau Gramophone 10) Schola CLXXV Thanks and I hope you enjoyed the pics - I hope to put reports up for each when I get the time. Until then... MrD
  7. Brilliant photos man. Need to stop putting this place off. I WILL get around to it soon!
  8. Great set of shots and great narrative also. Had a great time mate.
  9. Damn, it's so much better inside than I thought it would be after all this time. I gotto get back asap mate! Lets get something sorted
  10. Nice work. Like the shots of the outer buildings - you don't see them too often MrD
  11. Unsealed bags of clinical hospital waste...in a bloody shipyard!
  12. Had my eye on this myself for a while. Thanks for the report - looks brill.