Art – new, old and older still

Monday 28 January 2013 – London

Today was really the first day in ages when I had absolutely nothing planned at all. The forecast was average at best and I really didn’t fancy getting soaked. However I was itching to do something so I made a quick plan with the help of Google maps, packed my camera, got dressed and walked out the door.

My first stop was to hunt down this piece of street art from Space Invader and I was surprised it was still there as it has been here a couple of years apparently. This is on a wall just off Holborn in the central city and there is almost no art or graffiti in the middle of downtown, so a rarity. Apparently there used to be a Banksy around here as well, but that is long gone.

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I walked down Drury Lane (muttering Monty Python sketches as I went) down to The Strand. There is an incredible amount of churches in London city.

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I was visiting Sommerset House and the Courtauld Gallery inside. In a stroke of good luck the gallery is free on Mondays. To balance my good fortune there was an exhibition by Cartier-Bresson that finished yesterday and I had no idea it was on ! I have yet to find a really good single spot to find good exhibitions in London and only stumbled upon the Courtauld by accident.

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The Courtauld is an amazing gallery, quite small but it has an incredible collection of art works, including a really good collection of early 20th century pieces from the likes of Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Seurat etc. Basically the period I like the best, they had some lovely Seurats.

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They also had a good collection of very old religious work and I really liked the altar pieces, especially this one from 1345.

The gallery is great and I highly recommend it to anyone who has not been, unlike the bigger galleries it was also quite empty!

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To counter-balance the work of some of the old masters I crossed the Thames and looked around for some work from more modern, and less appreciated artists! It was cold and starting rain as I crossed Waterloo Bridge and it was looking like my plan would be thwarted before I was halfway.

Like the centre of London the South Bank has few designated areas for graffiti, and someone had obviously broken a rule here as this has mostly been scrubbed off the wall.

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Though these were obviously in the right place.

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I walked past the South Bank skate park and took a couple of pictures, the skaters were a bit off-putting, a bit of macho posturing so I didn’t go far into their lair and take pictures, though what was there was mainly graffiti which is not so much my style. I had lunch after and waited until the rain stopped.

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I love the South Bank in the rain – very few tourists. On a sunny day this area is heaving.

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My last planned visit was the Graffiti Tunnel near Waterloo station, I walked through and took a few pictures, but again, mainly graffiti and not what I call art. At the far end there was a group of the Met’s finest standing around talking to someone so I decided to not take pictures there just in case, you never know what the police think when it comes to cameras!

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I then passed the interestingly shaped Plaza Hotel.

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Before crossing Westminster Bridge

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Past the Houses of Parliament and back to Tottenham Court Rd tube station for the journey home. It was a good few hours out, if a touch damp on occasion.

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My camera had a few hissy fits today, and had to be shutdown a couple of times. Fingers crossed it is not the start of a complete failure – though I guess I could upgrade then 🙂

Trail running, Yay :)

Sunday 27 January 2013 – North Downs

I have not done a heck of a lot in the past week; had a few coffees and the occasional wine with friends, went on a couple of walks around town, applied for a job or two and took virtually no photos. Nothing I wanted to blog about anyway.

I did take some photos of some street art and have really started to be intrigued by the work of Sheffield artist Phlegm, his work is amazing and always fresh.

This one is part of a larger piece that I could not photograph as there was a van in front of it. In Shephered Bush.

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And one off old Old St in the city.

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I was expecting to be moving out of Kensington this week as my friends arrived home from Sri Lanka late evening on Thursday. However they are going to hang out in London Bridge for a few days so as of writing this post I am still here in Kensington and am unsure of when I will actually move, not that I am in any sort of rush.

I am also no closer to finding a job so decision time on what is next is looming closer and closer. The amount of cash I allocated to this job hunting period is dwindling now so I either throw more money at it or I head home and hope I can find something there more easily. Decisions, decisions – but not quite yet anyway.

Just before Christmas I joined a London running club as they did the occasional social trail run. I started off with the club with good intentions and ran with them a couple of times a week but in the past two weeks I have gotten very slack and not been out at all. It has had nothing to do with the snow on the ground either! Just laziness and a lack of motivation.

Today was the first social trail outing and we were off to run a very small section of the North Downs from Guildford – forty minutes away by train.

It had rained for most of the night, at times quite heavily and there was a strong cold wind blowing as I walked up to catch the tube to the meeting place at Waterloo Station, so I was not expecting how the day turned out and was wrapped accordingly. There was a pretty good turn out; with nineteen of us running. I was a wee bit nervous as I arrived, wondering if there was going to be a group of elite ultra-runners and me. As it turned out some of the others were also thinking the same thing and in the end there was a good mix of experienced and novice trail runners that boarded the 9:30 to Guildford. The clouds all cleared as we rode the train and we arrived in Guildford with blue skies overhead, perfect conditions for running. Cool and clear – with mud on the ground!

We ran (some walked the first hill !) from the station and there was only a kilometre or so of road before we hit the start of the downs.

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The first section was along the side of the some rolling farm land, there was a bit of water on the ground from all the rain with a nice bit of mud on the track – I have missed running in the mud 🙂

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We ran up St Martha’s Hill to the church at the top with its great views out over the downs. The tracks are quite well sign posted but I would not run here without a map, the downs are huge…

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I also took the obligatory selfie on the cellphone, I meant to take some photos of the trees behind me as well, but forgot – too carried away with getting my own mug on the camera. The day was really bright so most of the photos were quite overexposed, the poor old Galaxy couldn’t cope with it all.

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We ran back down the hill to the river and split into two groups, one doing a seven mile loop and the other doing ten. I decided to do the longer as I was feeling good and the pace wasn’t killing me, plus I wanted to maximise my time on the trail : ) We took off up another hill which was quite slippery in patches and I was so glad for the trail shoes, remarkably I did not slip over once on the trails, though a few people did. I actually really enjoyed this climb, it wasn’t long or technical, a nice gradient till the end when it got too steep, but nice and muddy and greasy, plus I did it at my own pace rather than someone else’s.

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From the top of the hill it was pretty much road all the way to town and The White House pub for a pint, I am sure they loved us dirty runners.

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It was a good day, I met some really good people and some very serious ultra distance runners, they weren’t serious, but their running was ! I cannot wait for the next one.

A walk in the park. In monochrome

Monday 21 January 2013 – Kensington, London.

After a fairly busy past week I had fully intended to spend today doing not much at all. I am well into a Rebus novel on my e-reader and have one chapter left in the real book that I bought myself for Christmas. It just seemed like a good day to do nothing more than read and listen to music. However, the weather forecast for the week has taken a turn for the worst – or better, depending on your point of view of course, and the snow that was due tomorrow is no longer arriving – at all. Bugger !

Today was obviously going to be the day I went to Kensington Gardens to see the snow in more park like surroundings. I was hoping to be there as it was falling so I could capture some images of fresh snow. unsullied by humans and their pets, but as that was not to be I wanted to at experience as much of a white world in London as I could.

Even with a planned activity for the day I still managed to laze in bed for a while before dragging myself out into what was actually quite a nice day. Sadly for the snow it was relatively warm and once I had reached the park gloves and woolly hat were no longer necessary. I walked around for a couple of hours, taken pictures here and there, but mainly just enjoying the relative lack of people in such beautiful surroundings.

As the scenes were quite monochrome, I have just nudged them all a bit further in that direction.

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On the way home from the park I stopped by what seems to be my new favourite organic cafe for a coffee and a wee slice of chocolate chip flapjack. Heavenly.

A street art walk in the snow.

Sunday 20 January 2013 – Shoreditch and Islington, London

I was awake far too early yet again and yet again I whipped the blinds open to see a completely unchanged garden of green plants and grey concrete 😦

However, just like Friday at around 8:30 the snow started to slowly drift down from the clouds and by the time I had myself organised to meet a friend up at Shoreditch and was out the door there was an inch of snow on the front step; and I was going to be the first one through it.  It looked like it was going to be a good day !

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I caught the train up to Liverpool St again and with new yet still vague knowledge of the area headed off towards my first stop, which was going to be Columbia Rd flower market. However I had not gone too far up the road before I started to find street art to photograph, there is just so much here and I just cannot help but stop and look at it.

I think this piece from Broken Fingaz crew is quite new as I was only reading about it earlier in the week. I was surprised to find it as the location was not divulged, I just walked up the alley after seeing the “Kilroy” at the entrance and there it was!

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I spent the next thirty minutes or so wandering the area near the Village Underground, the venue where I saw Mono play a few weeks back. There is a lot of art here and I have added it and the rest into a slide show at the end of this post. The words have been there for a while but the Phlegm piece is quite new, and of course I love the “tube” carriages on the roof.


I then headed up to Columbia Rd and was surprised to find the flower market was on considering the snow was falling lightly but steadily. The snow would continue like that for the rest of the day, surprisingly it was not that cold, as I had dressed reasonably well for it though and staying dry was the key.


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The streets were fairly deserted which is kinda weird for London, one of my NZ friends commented in an email that London looks so much better with a layer of snow, I think she is absolutely correct.

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I walked back to Shoreditch and stopped in a pub for a coffee and a heart starting brandy as I waited to meet my friend and then we were back out into the falling snow with umbrellas up to walk the streets and enjoy the relative peace that snow fall brings.

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We decided to walk a section of Regents Canal that I have not done before and walk up to Islington. The canal was just beautiful under the snow, and once the odd car was out of sight, some of the canal looked like it was back in Victorian times.

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It was a great walk, capped off with a delicious and warming leek and parsnip soup and a  decent glass of red before heading off home.

It was very nice out walking in the snow !

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Snow !

Friday and Saturday, 18 and 19 January 2013 – London

During the week the weather forecast had been building towards a snowy end and I must admit that I was getting a wee bit excited as the doom mongers forecast cold white chaos for Britain’s transport systems. There was a report in the Metro, a free morning daily paper that the coldest winter for one hundred years was coming – and soon. If you have ever lived in England during an autumn or a winter, you will know what snow means to the trains ! And Friday was to be the day it started.

As usual I slept poorly and was awake very early; I eagerly opened the blinds with the expectation of seeing a blanket of white outside, but no, all I saw was the same old concrete and green – so back to bed, roll over and attempt more sleep. When I next looked outside there was a small smattering of white on the leaves of the bushes and top of the wall and I started to get a wee bit more excited. Over the next couple of hours the depth of the white started to grow and more and more was falling from the sky. What started as a sleety mix of snow and rain eventually turned into just snow and I knew it was finally going to happen. I smiled 🙂

I had arranged to meet a friend in Pinner, North West London. Pinner is towards the edge of the city, has some nice old buildings and there are some green fields up there as well, so we were going to go walk for a bit and I would get to see some different parts of the greater London area. We had factored in that it might snow a bit but had not really expected as much as there was. There was a pretty good covering even at Shepherds Bush station.

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By the time I got Pinner the sky was dark and the snow was falling quite heavily.

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We decided to sit it out for a while; I was dressed for the cold, but not really for the wet that comes with the snow melting on jeans and jacket. After a few hours over coffee and wine or two – and a fall of three or four inches, the snow finally abated enough to go for a walk around a few blocks before the dark set in and it was time to head home again. While the trains were still running !!

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I lost a glove, I think it was on the tube. This is the second glove in seven days, not an auspicious start to winter. Not the brightest end to what was a very nice day.

It was a similar start to Saturday, though this time the snow failed to come at all. I will admit this was as forecasted (roll on Sunday though !). I could not be fagged getting out of bed for a run, ( in a running rut this week, I hope it ends soon !) so lazed for a while and read in bed.

I finally made it outside in the early afternoon. I wandered around to Holland Park which is closer to my house than the other big parks, though strangely I have not been there before.

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This was obviously a serious mistake, it is a beautiful park, especially under a moth-eaten and holey snow blanket. It seems to be more of a peoples park than the royal parks, it had a play ground and a sports field as well as walks, trees and of course the traditional large house. The park was being well used by families sledding on the gentle slopes and lobbing snow balls at each other. It was nice, and I think nice is the right word.

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As I was leaving the park I found a meman, the first meman I have seen in many many years.

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A very long time ago I watched the Raymond Brigg’s “The Snowman” on video with the daughter of a friend or family member. I cannot remember who, though I vaguely recall it may have been the daughter of my cousin Pamela and I think it was 1985; it is only a vague recollection. What I do remember is how much the young child loved the movie and it was the called “the meman”. Ever since that day I have thought of snowmen as memen. Weird how some things remain in the head.

After the park I grudgingly made my way to the mall and bought another pair of gloves, pair number four. These are so much better than the last ones though, lovely soft leather – thank God the sales were still on. Hopefully this is a sign and I won’t lose one of them!

It appears I have a white balance issue between the two days of photos !

The view from the hill.

Thursday 17 January 2013, Primrose Hill

I am loving this winter weather ! These cold yet dry days are perfect for roaming London, especially as there seems to be fewer people about. I had heard that Primrose Hill had good views over London and I am pretty sure I have never been there before so today seemed like the perfect day for another walk.

I caught the tube to Marble Arch and then walked up Baker St as I wanted to at least pass the Sherlock Holmes Museum. I did think about visiting but a large group of (I am assuming) Chinese had just gone in and I knew it would quite crowded in the small space. I may go back as I have long been fascinated by the famous detective.

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It is a short hop from the museum to Regents Park and I am not sure if I have actually been there either, I would like to think I have visited in the past, but have no recollection at all. The park had very few visitors which was perfect and I was really surprised at how frozen the lake was. I was not tempted to walk on it myself of course, but the gulls were definitely walking on water.

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I then skirted the rest of the park and followed Regents Canal around to the bottom of Primrose Hill, the canal is tidier here than in Hackney and while there is a small amount of graf on some of the walls there is no street art to look at. Different suburbs with different priorities !

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I wandered up Primrose hill for the famous view, and was not overly impressed really, it is more of a lump than a hill, even by Auckland standards – and Auckland’s hills are often mocked by those from other New Zealand cities for being merely large humps. It was nice up there and is probably beautiful (and crowded) on a really clear day.

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The short and steeper section near the top seemed to be very popular with runners doing circuits, I watched them for a while, running ever slower laps up and down the triangular path. I really surprised myself by not being jealous. Normally when I see people run I immediately want to join them and capture that rush of endorphins I get when a hard run has been completed. For some reason I am just not into a running groove at the moment, even a week ago I was running happily – yet this week I have zero motivation. It is not a situation I am happy about either, but that is not making me want to run!

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Picking up the canal again I followed it down into Camden Town.

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I went for a brief back street walk looking for street art, and surprised myself by finding almost none, perhaps I should have done some research first, though I did like this old car.

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Not finding much else to see or somewhere that had the food I wanted to eat, nor the indoor space I wanted to eat it in, I went home again.

Happy to have seen more of this lovely city !

Battersea Power Station.

Tuesday 15 January 2013 – Battersea

It was a cold and reasonably clear day with no rain or snow forecasted so I took the opportunity to do a long walk down to see Battersea Power Station – the iconic London building made even more famous by Pink Floyd when it was placed on the cover of their album Animals back in 1977. It was on my London to-do list and I am trying to make the most of the clear days while I can.

I walked down through Knightsbridge and visited the Royal Geographical Society exhibition room as they had a wonderful series of photos by Basil Pao who has travelled with Micheal Palin on his journeys since 1988. I am very jealous of the opportunities he had to experience some amazing things.

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I walked down through the back streets and passed the beautiful old apartments in Chelsea.

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Down to the Chelsea Embankment on the Thames which overlooks the long defunct Battersea Power Station.

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There are a lot of trees along the embankment so it was impossible to get the exact shot I wanted.

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I crossed over Chelsea bridge to the south side of the Thames, for another angle.

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Sadly the area surrounding the station is being turned into apartments so I could not wander along the Thames Path in front of the power station and had to walk around via the road. The power station itself is also being renovated with the intention of starting it up again, though not as a coal burning site. The entire site is walled off and I only managed to get one photo through a small hole in a gate were a padlocked chain passed through. A real shame !

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The whole section of the Thames south bank from Chelsea to Vauxhall bridge is one massive construction site with apartment blocks being built on both sides of the road.

I caught the train from Vauxhall back to Shepherds Bush after what was close to a three hour walk. At Shepherds Bush I stopped for lunch at Gourmet Burger Kitchen, I did not realise until later in the day that A) it was a chain and B) it was owned by a New Zealander. Though it should have been obvious as I had a Kiwi Burger – it had beetroot and egg, YUM ! there was also a lovely wall size photo of Karekare Beach on Auckland’s west coast, one of my favourite places in the whole world. I got a wee bit home sick !!

The following day a helicopter crashed into a crane on the top of a tower block and crashed into the street where I had been walking. It was the first helicopter crash to ever happen in the city and unfortunately the pilot and a passerby were killed. It was the morning rush hour and could have been a lot worse.

Sleet is not snow, just wet and cold.

Monday 14 January 2013 – Bethnall Green and Shoreditch.

[edit] hmmm, I have just reviewed the entry after posting and it seems I screwed up the image sizing, not going to go back and redo it sorry ![/edit]

The weather forecast for the past couple of days has brought a promise of plummeting temperatures and snow on the ground in London. Sadly, all that has happened so far has been the plummet in temperature. A week or so ago we were averaging ten or so degrees during the day and now we are down to one to two. Wisely I had been making the most of the new year sales and had bought a few winter items, else I would be trapped indoors, and with the cold forecasted to last for a month – it would have been a real drag.

I decided to head back east and walk more of Regents Canal, take some photos of the canal boats and try to find some of the street art I did not photograph due to low light when I was last there. I tubed it to Bethnall Green station and found the canal easily enough.

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Naturally soon after arrived it started to gently snow, not enough to create any sort of base, but just enough to make me cold and wet – I was not prepared for it and only had a woollen jacket on. I did not linger on the tow path in the end.

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I really like the “reflecting” sign on the building, very clever !

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This nearly deserted Samuel House apartment block has images of its residents on boarded up windows. It is an interesting story, and well worth a visit if you are walking Regents Canal.

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As the light snow started to change into a more steady stream of sleety rain I turned onto Kingsland Rd and headed back down towards Shoreditch and Liverpool St station, quite by chance I found Rivington St which had the two Banksy pieces I saw the other night. They are both in the garden of Cargo Bar and are covered up with screens. Sadly there was still reflection from the bar lights but here they are anyway.

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This was a great and very detailed piece.

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And this Banksy “copy” that I photographed nine days ago, next to its original, has gone already !

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The shifting face of street art!

I stopped for a coffee and a bit of shelter before wandering a little further up Rivington St to see this cool shop front by Cranio.

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And I really like this face by an artist I do not yet know….

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As I was getting damper from the drizzling sleet I started to get a bit cool so headed back to the warmth of the flat – and another couple of episodes of Game of Thrones, my new favourite TV series – into season two, awesome.

It was good to get out, even if the sleet was wet and cold.

Six months in Europe, March 2013 – anyone interested ?

The hunt for a contract job here in London is not going as well as I anticipated, not at all well in fact. I have applied for numerous roles and with one exception have not heard anything from the recruitment agencies. The one exception did put me forward for a role that I quite liked the sound of; but I was not successful unfortunately.  There has not been one job advertised in the last week that suits my skills and experience – which is pretty bad, and the economic news is getting drearier by the day.

I am going to stick to the plan I decided on when I arrived in England in early December. If I have not found a job by the time I move out of the flat in Kensington on Jan 24 then I will start actioning plan B.  What is plan B ? you may ask.

Well, I have no plan B. I do have a bunch of ideas and thoughts though, which is a start. I bought myself an A4 notepad at the weekend so I could scribble all sorts of things down. From the absurd to the realistic; what I like, what I don’t like, what I want to do, what I don’t want to do, where I want to live and where I don’t. If it is my head I want to try and remember to write it down. Once I move to London Bridge I will spend some time making sense of it all and will come up with a plan.

One option I am considering is saying to hell with my savings, spend the money and do Europe instead of getting a job – and then settling down after – probably 🙂

As I said in a post a while back, I do not want to do Europe on my own. If this interests you  or you know of anyone who might be keen here is my current thinking;

  • I will buy a vehicle and want someone to share the driving and road costs.
  • I aim to free camp and use campsites as much as possible, occasionally staying in guest houses. I will sleep in a tent or the vehicle if free camping.
  • This will be a budgetish trip.
  • I want to do the more out of the way places first, for instance; if we run out of time then I would rather skip Rome than Tallinn.
  • I like history, architecture and big landscapes over beaches and bars – though I do like those as well 🙂
  • I aim to do as much as possible over six to seven months, at this stage I have no time restriction.
  • Destinations and time frames would be mutually agreed, this won’t just be my trip.
  • I am thinking of starting in March/April as I want to go to New Zealand for a visit first.

I am not going to invest a huge amount of time in planning this unless it becomes a reality, so please do not ask for detail as I do not have any. If you are interested I want your input into the plan. Well sort of plan – maybe all we need is a start date, I am not huge on plans !

I want someone for the whole thing, so you will need time and lots of money, Europe is not cheap !

If you or someone you know is interested in doing this, then please email or FaceBook message me rather than leave a comment. If you do not have my details then please leave a comment with your contact details and I will contact you without publishing the comment.

As I said at the start, this is an option I am considering, it is not a definite. There is a way to go before making it happen and heck, you never know I may land the perfect contract in the next couple of weeks !

Please wait here until you are useful. Thank you.

Saturday 05 January 2013 – Hackney, Shoreditch, Spitalfields, Brick Lane – London

London’s run of not too awful weather continued for a few more days so Saturday afternoon I met a friend up in Hackney to go hunt for some of the great street art that has been made in the area.

My friend knows the area quite well so it was more like a guided walk for me and it was a lot of fun – though I will never find some of the places we visited again, I should have paid more attention 🙂

We started in Hackney Central and walked down through London Fields to Broadway Market. The market is open on a Saturday and mainly sells food and drink, I had a nice risotto for lunch followed by a really nice proper Vietnamese coffee – complete with condensed milk, yum. The market and surrounding area is hipster central. Loads of skinny jeans, short beards and checked shirts, single speed bikes all over the place. Book shops and second hand shops lined the street around the market. I loved it here, in fact I was pretty much in love with all the places we passed, I could easily live here!

Now I have described it as hipster central, my photos show other wise, always happens.

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There was a Stik next to the Vietnamese coffee stall.

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The next stop was Regents Canal, there is a lot art and plain old graf along the tow path, it was a nice walk down to Victoria Park, the area has a kind of post-commercial bleakness to it, maybe bleakness is a bit strong, but it is a bit run down in parts, just my sort of thing. There were an awful lot of house barges as well, which will be a whole photo essay by itself one day.

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I really like these small pieces by Bortusk Leer, there are loads of them all around here. IMG 6301

There was also an old Eric Monopoly as well.

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After stopping for more coffee at another very hipster cafe we strolled down and around Bethnal Green, Spitalfields, Brick Lane and Shoreditch – I will confess to having no idea where one bit started and another stopped as I was too busy chatting and looking around at the sights – and spotting things to photograph.

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I had one of lifes weird little experiences as we walked. A couple of years ago Sam, a friend of my daughter from Bristol came and stayed at my place in NZ while he was on his travels. He has been living in London for a while now and we have talked about catching up one day. I ran into him on the street. Very nice to see him and totally weird !!

There is some really good street art here, the area around Brick Lane is especially vibrant, I liked that some of the new boutiques have not cleaned up their walls.

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Unfortunately we ran out of daylight so I didn’t get to photograph a ton of good stuff, but it does mean I get to go back sooner rather than later. It was a good afternoon !

After a quite delicious Vietnamese meal we went to look at a couple of Banksy’s and saw a guy painting on a wall outside a shop. We stopped to watch and say hello and it was Paul Don Smith, I said I had seen some of his work in Portobello Rd and we chatted for a while. He had recently been doing graffiti on a movie set for a coming Brad Pitt zombie movie – World War Z and was doing a small stencil for it. It was interesting to watch him at work.

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I will be back for sure. A few of my favourite pieces.

This is my favourite ! Jana and JS

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Ben Eine – according to a graffiti tour guide we overheard as he was leading a tour in Brick Lane he is the only British artist to ever have work hung in the White House…

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Jimmy C, there was one amazing Jimmy C that was too dark to photograph – I just need to be able to find it again. His pictures are very detailed.

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More street art.  [edit] Hmmm, seems WordPress has changed and I cannot do a slide show any more. I don’t like the “gallery” mode, oh well. m[end edit]