A Small Town Green returns to Second Life

Small Town Green, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Shawn Shakespeare pointed out to me that, after a extended absence from Second Life, Small Town Green is once again open for visitors to appreciate.  This being the case I recently jumped over to take a look.

The work of Mido Littlepaws, Small Town Green (or Small Town, if you prefer) is a place which has featured in these pages a number of times in the pas. My very first visit being almost a decade ago (!) in the summer of 2013 – although I didn’t actually write about it until winter of that year. Further visits followed through until 2016, when the Mido halted her builds for a while, although Small Town Green re-appeared in 2019, which marked the last time I wrote about it.

Small Town Green, March 2023

To be honest, I have no idea if Mido has has iterations of Small Town Green between then and now, but I’m happy that I’ve been able to rediscover it thanks to the nudge from Shawn; Mido has a way of building highly attractive region settings which are fun to explore, with this one taking the form of two islands, hugged in the arms of surroundings hills.

The largest of these two islands has the landing point located on it, sitting on a curled tongue of land holding within it a small, round bay open to the outer waters on one side, where a wrought iron and wood bridge arches over a narrow neck of water. This curling spit of land touched the ruler-like wall of a raised tramway, itself separating the land from a pair of wooden piers, one of which offers the opportunity to take a kayak out onto the water – possibly the easiest way to reach the second (and smaller) island.

Small Town Green, March 2023

I admit that I initially took the smaller island to be a private home whilst initially exploring, and so didn’t pay it too much attention. However, it appears to be open to the public if you do opt to paddle over to it, and despite what looks like a little bit of unfinished landscaping, it presents a charming bath house reached along a lantern lit path overseen by a bamboo copse and bamboo fencing.

Back on the main island, a path follows the curve of the landing point’s tongue of land, offering two directions of exploration. The first runs west and then north, passing through a little field of brightly coloured flowers and past a ruined house with little places to sit and relax, and thence over the little bridge mentioned above. Eastwards, the path also swings to the north after a short walk, passing between tramway and an expanse of nanohana to offer a choice of two further routes.

Small Town Green, March 2023

The first is a grassy trail running between trees and sheltered by their boughs, and the second a waterfront boardwalk arcing around the bay’s inner shore and under the outstretched arms of sakura trees which have sprinkled their blossoms on the waters. Both of these routes recombine at a set of steps leading up to the arched gateway of a little town sitting on the north side of the island, the path linking with the one from the little bridge in the process, the two thus forming a looped a walk around the little inlet.

The little town carries with it a very western sensibility, comprising two cobbled streets that cross one another and are marked at their extremes by arched gateways under which the cobbles pass and end. Two pubs vie for attention at point the two roads cross one another to form an erstwhile town square, the signs of the hostelries staring at one another from opposite diagonals, possibly seeing who will blink first. They share the streets with a mix of business places, some backed by what might be townhouses. 

Small Town Green, March 2023
The majority of the builds here are, admittedly, shells, with the exception of two places of refreshment. The first is Murphy’s Old Ale House as it looks across the square at its rival. It boasts a cosy interior, complete with a little furnished apartment over it, reached by a separate doorway. Just down the street and alongside the steps connecting town to aforementioned looping paths, sits the Café Expresso 

Throughout all of this, there are numerous places where visitors can sit and pass the time during a visit, and it would be remiss of me not to suggest viewing the setting under its intended EEP settings (World → Environment → make sure Use Shared Environment is checked). It really gives this iteration of Small Town an extra sense of depth and romance.

Small Town Green, March 2023

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Saturated in Second Life

Saturated, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Lex Machine (Archetype11 Nova) is back with another visually stunning region / installation which – as with all his designs – is sure to both engage and challenge the eye and mind. Occupying a Full private region utilising the Land Capacity bonus, this is again a build that offers visitors much food for thought: a journey through modern life and the potential for questions who – and where – we are.

Entitled Saturated, the installation involves a flat landscape which – in keeping with the region’s name – is saturated to the point of waterlogging as it sits just above the waters of the surrounding sea. From it springs, apparently at random, figures, statues, objects both familiar and strange, mixed with a scattering of vegetation.

Saturated, March 2023

Mermaids mix with radio / telecommunication towers mix with figures apparently in suspension and towers of static-filled video screens, whilst laptops and old computers lie discarded in powdery piles and figures stand with cameras and screens or radios in place of heads, the body of an automatic handgun points skywards, and more. It all seems so chaotic, so unconnected, so jumbled and surreal; what could be the connections between these disparate elements? Perhaps the easiest way is peek at the region’s About Land description.

Rain, it can bring life. But when the ground has had it’s fill, first comes damage, next destruction. Death is last. Are we saturated?
Are we better off with these constant inputs or was less more? When was the last time we savoured anything?

– Saturated’s About Land description

With these words, we gain a framework of context, one fleshed out by the landscape before us: a statement on life and our ever-increasing reliance on -addiction to – technology (perhaps most aptly defined by the figure “snorting” Facebook and the litter of computers and laptops and cell phones strewn over mounds of a white substance like some form of new cocaine), and the fears (re: the Terminator-style figures leaping out of screens of data) and polarisations it brings to our daily lives.

Saturated, March 2023

The polarisations might be best indicated by the family gathered to the north-east, where mother, father, and child all have heads replaced by screens symbolising the manner in which technology has reduced daily living and personal time to the need for everything in our lives to become a matter of public record with meaning only given through its presence on social media. At the same time, this demand to be publicly accessible contrasts with the ability of technology in enabling us to hide behind masks of anonymity, as represented by the figures wearing / carrying masks, or with Russian doll-like heads. Meanwhile, to the south-east, the figure stabbed with syringes suggests the divide generated by the easy passage technology gives to the passage of misinformation into our lives, warping our common sense against the realities of science and medicine.

Elsewhere the symbolism might be clearer such as the large eyes watching over everything like Big Brother – although whether we see this as the state or in the form of corporate goggling-up of our data (or both) is a matter of personal choice. But really, there is such a richness of metaphor to be found within Saturated, that trying to write about it is no easy matter. From the apple and serpent (our end of innocence? the beginning our our fall simply born by our coming into existence?) through the presence of mermaids and flying fish (the explorations of the unknown? the free flight of the imagination we once had?) to the reimagining of the March of Progress, there is so much to say that is difficult to translate into the written word.

Saturated, March 2023

Simply put, Saturated is – as with all of Lex’s builds – something not to read about, bot to experience for yourself – and I encourage you do do so.

With thanks to Moon Cloud.

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Borkum’s easy beauty in Second life

Borkum, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Yoyo Collas is back with a new Homestead region design for people to enjoy. Called Borkum, this is an easy place to visit and well suited for helping those of us in the northern hemisphere get ready for the coming of spring and summer and the inevitable thoughts of getting away from it all.

Borkum is a photogenic Island . A great place with many hideaways…time for feelings…dancing…time for two…lonely beaches all by yourself listening to music or enjoying the awesome people and views.

– Borkum About Land description

Borkum, March 2023

This is an easy-on-the-eye place to visit – as is the case with all Yoyo’s designs – offering an entirely natural setting in the form of a sunny island, largely given over to a sandy beach and grassy spine rising from south-west to cliff-edged north-east. The landing point sits to the east side of the island’s hilly back, the beach sweeping around it from east through south to west, the grassland rising gently up towards a little gathering of buildings towards the northern end of the island, the grass hiding a spread of lavender and yellow flowers which are the focus of the local sheep.

The buildings on the island suggest that this might have once been a place for processing fish prior to moving them on the mainland for sale. On the west side, sitting at the southern end of the cliffs, is a former industrial building, now converted into a comfortable apartment-style house, its cosy interior mixing with its slightly run-down exterior offering an attractive personification of shabby-chic, whilst facing a small shed or out-house across the lavender and yellow flowers.

Borkum, March 2023

This outhouse also appears to have undergone a transformation from what might have once been a storehouse to an artist’s retreat, a deck extending from its east side to overlook and overhang the run of the beach as it reaches the start of the cliffs. Further evidence that this might have been a working location sits below the warehouse-converted-to-a-home, where a small wharf has a trawler tied-up alongside.

Beyond the house, the grassland levels into a table of land pointing the way towards the candle-like white lighthouse with its bright red top. The land here forms something of a meadow where horses – a common and welcome element in Yoyo’s designs – are grazing peacefully, a fence along one side of the hilltop preventing them from going down into the shallow valley and upsetting the sheep (or vice-versa!).

Borkum, March 2023

Scattered across the island are many places where people can escape and relax – in the house, along the beach, out in the shallows just beyond the sand, among the horses as they graze or at the foot of the cliffs and so on. There’s also a kiteboarding rezzer located on one side of the islands beaches, but I confess that when I tried, the boards I rezzed refused to respond to my keyboard inputs; you might have better luck on your visit. Further around the shore from the rezzer is a little boat where those who wish can also try a little bit of fishing.

Peaceful and finished with an easy soundscape and with a local EEP which gives it the feel of a tranquil watercolour painting, Borkum is a delightful visit.

Borkum, March 2023

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  • Borkum (Golden Place, rated Moderate)

A Forgotten Hope in Second Life

Forgotten Hope, March 2023 – click any image for full size

I received an invitation from Clifton Howlett to attend the opening of his latest Homestead region build, and while I was unable to make the event on Saturday, March 18th, I did manage to hop over a couple of times over the weekend and take a look around. Working with Coralile Resident, Clifton is a region designer who puts together imaginative settings which offer places in which to retreat, relax, explore and have fun, each one a little different to the last.

With Forgotten Hope, Clifton and Coralile have come up with a most unusual setting. Hidden from much of the light of day yet still rich with natural growth, it takes a new turn in presenting both a place of mystery for those who like to create stories about the location they visit in-world, and a place where personal time and a little fun can be has for those just seeking to unwind.

A veil of darkness cloaks its mysterious depths, enticing explorers and spelunkers from far and wide to uncover the dark secrets it harbours. Amidst abandoned huts and a submerged ‘plane [you can] embark on an adventure like no other and immerse yourself in the eerie atmosphere of this enchanting location.

– From the Forgotten Hope description and opening invitation card

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

A journey through this underground location – quite where it might be is up to you to decide, but for reasons I’ll come to, I thought of it as perhaps a little twist on the Lost style of mystery – commences within a fairly nondescript cavern. Here, smoke from a slightly out-of-control wood fire pit is slowly – and doubtless suffocatingly – filling the space, encouraging people to seek escape through the arch of a tunnel to one side of the dome-like cavern.

Lit by a smaller fire held in check by a rock of stones, the tunnel floor is wreathed in creeping mist as it descends down roughly hewn steps and doglegs its way into a second chamber. This appears to have been long-used; chests of hand written scrolls sit against the round walls, together with barrels of who-knows what – dried food? water? both? – and stacks of candles and other signs of human occupancy. It is a place suggestive of age and darkness – if anything is to be gleaned from the scrolls at least.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

An arch leads to a further small cavern where more oddments can be found – including, somewhat incongruously, an upright piano complete with stool and sheet music which all look in remarkably good condition. Both form a strange combination – the chests of scrolls contrasting with the piano and the heap of mouldering mattresses; however, the mystery of these caves is liable to fade into the background after passing through the wood door tucked to one side of this little dome of rock.

Beyond the door is a split in the rock, a narrow defile, a cave taller and somewhat brighter in natural light than those on the other side of the door, perhaps suggesting that daylight is not that far away – a feeling added to by the presence of vines on the walls. Someone has gone to great lengths to lay a path of carefully cut and placed logs to ease passage over the floor of this defile, complete with a hand-made ladder to help people over a rocky lip to reach the cave mouth beyond. This sits high up on a cliff face, the ground and surface of a body of water fed by water plummeting from further around the high cliffs and visible above the tops of trees. However, its is not open land, but rather a vast and high cavern.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

Mist rises from the waters below the cave mouth to fold itself around the trees, and thin strands of cloud float around the cavern’s high roof, the sunlight which dapples the water falling through a jagged hole in the cavern’s dome, the stray clouds around the hole acting as a prism to break the light into finger-like beams of illumination pointing down into this netherworld of a place. In doing so they fall upon the element which gives this place a Lost-like feel: a partial carcass of an airliner broken and semi-submerged in the water and, perhaps the cause of the rend in the cavern’s roof.

Here is where more mystery grows: was it the people who survived the ‘plane crash who built the path lading back to the entry caverns – and the platforms with their ladders providing the way up to (or down from!) the high cave? Or were they merely the latest inhabitants of this strange world? The evidence of long-term habitation is intriguing: at “ground” level, there is a ramshackle cabin built into the remnants of a once massive tree; there are remnants of cut-stone walls suggesting ancient buildings; board walks and decks pass out over the shallow waters to connect with the the rest of this huge cavern space. Trees grow throughout, whilst a range of wildlife sitting beneath their boughs and amidst the wild grass.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

If the cabin and other structures located here were built before the nose of the airliner arrived – then who built them? Who was responsible from shipping the large boiler system sitting within the corrugated sides of a ramshackle shed in the second large cavern? Is this a retreat from the world, or a place where people can end up apparently stranded by misfortune – or some form of strange experiment in the human condition? Maybe the weird hooded figure lurking within the setting has some of the answers; or perhaps you don’t find them important.

If you don’t, there’s more than enough to keep you occupied here – the large deck sitting over the water of the first of the big caverns is home to DJ events and dancing, whilst scattered throughout the caverns (and up in their rocky walls) are places to sit and cuddle or read a book, with sofa and wine available by the bottle whilst the local wolves, snakes and alligator are content to let people freely come and go without being in anyway bothersome.

Forgotten Hope, March 2023

A strange but engaging world, Forgotten Hope makes for an engaging visit and serves as a spark for the willing imagination.

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An oriental Dragonfly in Second Life

Dragonfly, March 2023 – click any image for full size

Dragonfly is a Full private region designed by the Mad Ninjaz, offering a fascinating setting built along vertical lines and which – on first arrival – can appear deceptive to the eye.

The landing point sits within what at first appears to be a rocky landscape, close to a Japanese style of house built over an artificial pool of water. It looks for all the world like an ordinary setting – until one starts to look around, and the floating islands with water falling free to reach nearby pools come into view. A further indication of the strangeness to the land comes in the form of the large hole in the ground behind the landing point (be careful if stepping back too far on landing!) which reveals another world; one which I’ll come to.

Dragonfly, March 2023

A Torii gate marks the entrance to the house, and more march away to the east, following the water flowing away from the pool over which the house has been built. Crossing a small bridge over the water, the gates turn south, marking the way where large basalt blocks sit as oversized stepping stones across mist-covered waters to large to stone steps curving up a hill.

The hill top is marked by more basalt rock forms and patterns of pools fed by waterfalls dropping from more floating islands. Torii gates continue to mark a path over around and between all of these to lead visitors to  where a path winds its way up a naked table of rock to where more pools of water – these made by humans – can be found, forming hot baths for relaxing, with little hideaways sitting with them.

Dragonfly, March 2023

Down below, sheltered under the table of rock supporting the gardens is a waterlogged town, a place of many focal points. How you get down is something I’ll leave to your to discover – although jumping down through the hole in the land is perhaps the quickest!

Here, along flooded streets can be found a curious mix of shops, event spaces, industrial units, giant pipes, elevated tramways, all mixed together in a strange mix that is both vibrant and filled with neon, but also edged with a sense of dystopia and the alien in the form of the basalt/crystal rock formations.

Dragonfly, March 2023

The tram keeps itself busy trundling back and forth along the short length of elevated track, stairs from the shallow waters leading up to two little platforms where people can board it for the short ride if they wish. A further Torii gate sits close to one of the tram stations, marking the maw of what might be a cave, neon-lit steps rising into the darkness. Step through them into the cave’s mouth and visitors arrive in a huge cavern and a strange mix of shopping mall and suggestions of clubs and hidden spots.

There is more to be found at or near water level awaiting cameras and explorers, perhaps the more obvious of which is the glowing tree of a large pagoda again lit and limned in neon. Called the Jewel Box, it is a strange mix of old, modern and futuristic, water again forming a central feature – together with a Chinese dragon. Stairs climb between the various floors, allowing the building to be thoroughly explored.

Dragonfly, March 2023

A second pagoda sits across the region from the Jewel Box, but while it is watched over by a guardian of its own – one perhaps a little more frightening in visage than the dragon at the Jewel Box, it is a shell without interior, offered as a potential focal point for photographs.  Some of the other buildings rising from the water are also shells in form, but equally, other have interiors, some of which are again diverse in form – such as a winter garden sitting between apartments. As such, time should be taken with wanderings and looking.

Very much a place of two halves, Dragonfly is richly diverse and wee-presented with a lot of small details waiting to be found. The local sounds can be a little intrusive in places, but overall a very different style of place to explore in Second Life.

Dragonfly, March 2023

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A trip to Plumpton on Sea, Second Life

Plumpton on Sea, March 2023 – click any image for full size

I’m going to start this piece with a reference that is only going to resonate with people from the UK of a certain age group, for which I apologise to everyone else. However, whenever I hear the name “Plumpton” a little voice from my childhood years starts up in the back of my head, “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb,” followed by mental images of a stop-motion fire engine and its crew trundling along little streets – and it’s a reaction I had when visiting Plumpton on Sea.

The most obvious explanation is the alterative nature of Plumpton and Trumpton, a children’s TV series made in the 1960s and repeated right through the 1970s and into the 1980s as a staple of BBC children’s television. However, it’s also likely to be because of the legend (urban or otherwise) that the actual Plumpton – a village in East Sussex, England was the inspiration name for Trumpton and that both nearby Plumpton Green and Chailey being the inspirational names for Trumpton’s sister shows, Camberwick Green and Chigley.

Plumpton on Sea, March 2023

Within the physical world, and regardless of any connections with television shows of my childhood, the real Plumpton, East Sussex is perhaps best known for its horse racing course, and (again for me personally) for being close to a number of Bronze Age sites which have been the targets of visits for me when visiting friends based down on the south coast.

And it is as a coastal location – something not shared by the original – which forms the focus for Plumpton on Sea in Second Life, thus helping to establish it as a place of the imagination, rather than necessarily rooted in the physical. That said, as a place created by Dave Piss (Cherish Demonge), who hails from the UK, there may be a little physical world resonance in the choice of names for this setting – I’ll leave you to cogitate on that.

Plumpton on Sea, March 2023

Dave was one of the people responsible for Puddlechurch, a Second Life location I wrote about back in March 2019, and so the fact that Plumpton on Sea is his build was a reason for the region catching my attention. Caught in a summer shower – or “liquid sunshine” as my father used to call it – this is a setting primarily built with photography in mind, the region offering multiple backdrops suitable for creating small scenes. The core of the build is a little town square, rich in detail – if a little run-down, and at first glance seemingly without an exit – although looks can be deceiving.

The landing point sits on one side of the square, the rain falling gently from clouds which touch the rooftop. A short walk away is a small bus stop, one wall of which is festooned with posters, all of them celebrating (if I might use that term) some of England’s most popular seaside locations – and for those familiar with them, the tag-lines are bound to raise a smile (although I was surprised with the inclusion of Leeds…).

Plumpton on Sea, March 2023

Built around an overgrown garden, the square sits caught in a summer rain, some of its townhouses undergoing renovations – possibly conversion into individual apartments, and the cobble road itself is also under repair. Hidden among the buildings are a couple of ways out of the square – one for vehicles in the form of a false tunnel, the other a very real underpass passing below and behind one side of the square to reach a corner beach sitting below high cliffs.

Within the square many of the buildings are façades or shells, but some do have modest interiors which offer additional opportunities for photography, one of which is a small arcade of games, whilst a sense of life is provided by the construction / repairs going on and the presence of some NPCs (which, again for those familiar with the shows, perhaps have a slight Trumptonshire ring to them 🙂 ).

The little corner café offers perhaps the most obvious place for avatar photography, with the beach offering additional opportunities; however, the square and beach both having a run-down charm which is attractive in its own right. Those who might want something more interactive can additionally find a trio of table-top games set out on the beach.

Plumpton on Sea, March 2023

Completed by a matching sound scape, Plumpton on Sea can be a little hard on the viewer if you have all the bells and whistles enabled, so do use good judgement when visiting and tweak your viewer settings accordingly if you encounter issues with running shadows, etc.

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