A brief update !

Monday 30 June 2014 – London.

The last few weeks have seen a few changes for me, though much remains the same, so I it is time to put together a brief update post.

This time next week I will be winging my way to New Zealand for a two week family and friend catch-up. I will only be visiting Auckland, arriving on Wednesday 9th and leaving late the following week to go and see my oldest son, Dom, who has just moved back to Queensland in Australia.

The main thing that hasn’t changed is that I am out of work, I have been looking fairly solidly for an IT management job since El and I got back from New Zealand in February. I have been close on a number of occasions, have had a few interviews, but have yet to actually land a job. I have been thinking about looking for any old job to tide me over, so I will see what happens when I am back at the end of July, though I suspect I will be reinvigorated after a break from the job hunt. Having said that I do have an interview lined up for the end of the month, so all is not lost, and I remain positive. My travelling is being held against me to a degree – though I did expect that when I left my job all that time ago, so no real complaints (OK, to be honest, it really pissed me off !). It has been a frustrating process though – and one worthy of a blog post, but not until I am well into a job and do not need the recruiting industry.

Partly as a way to save money for both of us, partly as a test to see how it works but mainly because it seems like a good idea I am going to leave my flat in London Bridge and move in to El’s place. I spend over half the week there anyway so it just makes sense. I have been slowly moving my stuff in over the past couple of weeks and will complete the job before we go away this weekend for a trip with her sons. It is a big move that we are both looking forward too. The plan at this stage is for me to find my own place once I land a job – a place for us to both escape too when we need a break.

Big thanks to Kevin for letting me stay for so long, I have loved living in London Bridge and I will miss the flat and its stunning view !

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The really big change that has happened in my world is that I have just become a grand dad, my youngest son Aiden is now the father of a beautiful baby boy – currently known as baby as a name is yet to be decided.

I had been very undecided on whether to take a trip back to New Zealand when the baby was born, but as soon as he arrived my mind was made up – he is very cute. With no employer to haggle leave days with I decided to go between weekends away with El, booked my tickets and am off next week.

I had a look at taking a side trip somewhere on the way or the way back, but flights and costs did not make any sense so, while I would love to have had a wee adventure while I am away, I will save it for another time. EL and I are going to Copenhagen a few days after I get back, so I have nothing to complain about and lots to look forward to !

E17 Art trail

The annual E17 art trail has been going since 2005 and has been growing each year with this the tenth anniversary being the biggest yet. This year it ran over three weeks from the beginning of June with over one hundred and sixty locations showing art, holding performances or learning experiences. All by local artists, fabulous !

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For those who do not know what E17 is, it is the postcode for an area in north east London, around the suburb of Walthamstow, where I mostly live – and one the many good reasons to live in the area!

I was not able to, nor to be fair, interested in going to every event that was included in the program, but El and I did manage to squeeze a fair few of them in and I took a few photos as we went. June was a bit of a mad busy month for some reason – SUMMER I guess, so here is a quick summary of the things I liked best.

There was a huge range of exhibits from the large mural by Stu Lee on the side of a house down by Blackhorse Rd tube station – which was my favourite single piece from the trail, I guess with my love of street art, there are few surprises there.


To the small knitted figures from the Howard Rd garden.

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Unsurprisingly my focus was primarily on looking for photographic based exhibitions and the two I enjoyed the most had photography as the key visual element, though the stories behind the photos were the more important aspect. I didn’t get photos from the first.

The Ex-Warner Project is a photographic and oral history project recording the stories and histories of the people who live in the old Warner houses near Lloyd Park. The Warner houses were built at the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century as social housing, they are quite distinctive small terraced houses, which are now mainly privately owned. I really enjoyed listening to the stories and looking at the images. An interesting project.

The second project I liked was on display at a newly opened coffee shop Bygga Bo, which just happens to be at the end of El’s road and serves great coffee and really nice cinnamon buns… This project had stories and photos of people who are of mixed-race, sharing their experiences of growing up. Again it was really interesting to read about people’s experiences in this, very multi-cultural piece, of London.

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In the grave yard of St Marys Parish Church was a cool little exhibition from Whitefields school of small sculptures made from found items, I really liked it.

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There was also an exhibition inside the church. I am going to visit the church properly soon as it has an interesting history!

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There was a load of stuff happening in Walthamstow Village including Breaking Bard, a collection of sayings from Bill Shakespeare posted in the windows of houses in a few of the streets. It was quite amusing.

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And in the streets of the newly named “Poets Corner” – so named as the surrounding streets are named after poets, were a collection of verse.

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What I liked about these, and the whole art trail in general was that it gave all residents an opportunity to participate and share in the event.


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There was some interesting work in the Winns Gallery from Waltham Forest College, including this interesting sculpture from student – Simona Pesce.

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Even the underground station was in on the project with a couple of walls holding some quite interesting prints.


There are a few small galleries in Walthamstow and we visited a few of them, including the Pictorem Gallery way up by the Bakers Arms, which had a show by a range of artists. El even bought a small piece!


I am not sure if this was part of the trail or not, but it was on the way , and it looks like it has been left for a reason – maybe it is art ?


Separate, but sort of part of the art trail, is a new project called the free library project that now includes Walthamstow. There are a number of small library boxes around where people can exchange, take or leave books. A very cool idea – one that should be taken up everywhere ! This box has been painted by street artist Hannah Adamsezek – who I last found here, a slightly different environment !

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I missed a whole load of things out due time and missed a bunch of photo ops as I didn’t always have a camera.

It was a truly awesome event, and I am looking forward to 2015 – I may even join in as well !!

Hadleigh Castle

Monday 02 June 2014 – Hadleigh Castle, Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.

Way back at the beginning of April I took a walk along the Thames Estuary from Leigh-on-Sea to Southend, and just before we entered Leigh-on-Sea on the train I noticed a small ruined castle on a hill and decided that I should make a visit there soon. Once home I discovered the castle was Hadleigh Castle and when a quite day and a dry spell arrived at the same time I took a trip out there.

Hadleigh Castle is on a small farm gifted to English Heritage by the Salvation Army in 1948 and is in turn surrounded by the Hadleigh Country Park, which is owned by the Essex Council and was the venue for the mountain bike event at the 2012 London Olympics.

The building of the castle started sometime in the early 13th century when the land was gifted to Hubert de Burgh by King John I for favours rendered. A few years later the de Burgh family fell out of favour with King Henry III and they were stripped of the castle and land and it became a royal palace for a while before falling into disrepair in the middle of the century.

There was a revival of its fortunes under Edward II and III in the 14th century but after that there was little interest in the castle by the royal family and it was finally sold to Lord Richard Rich in 1551 and it was dismantled so the stone could be sold.

The castle is built on a low clay hill over marshes and farmland over-looking on the banks of the Thames Estuary and has been subject to much subsidence over the years. I saw a piece of the castle lying in a ditch as I was walking across from the coastal path.

After a few nice days, with me getting all excited that summer was on the way and I could get out and about again, we then settled into almost two weeks of off and on rainy weather. When the forecast suggested a few hours of sun and high cloud before a late afternoon of rain I thought sod it, grabbed a ticket and jumped on a train from Fenchurch St to Benfleet. I decided to walk from Benfleet up to Hadleigh Castle and on to Leigh-on-Sea where I would have a coffee before heading back to London. In theory I would miss the rain.

The train journey took about forty minutes and then it was another ten minutes of “thinking I know where I am going” walking until I reached the gate of Hadleigh Country Park.

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The path took me along the bank between the estuary and the flat lands of the park,

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And away in the distance the gentle hill of the Olympic mountain bike course, which I think is open for the public to ride. As a side note I have now bought another bike, a year after my last one was stolen, it is a mountain bike and once I get my fitness up I will see if I can ride here, once I have a couple of test rides under my belt. I am soooooooooooooooooooo not ready to do any decent bike rides right now.

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I crossed the railway lines that I would travel on later in the day when I return to London on the train.

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A glimpse of the only remaining tower of the castle in the distance.

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The path up to castle from this side is surprisingly steep!

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There is not a huge amount left of the castle, some of the outer wall is passed through on approach.

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I was surprised with the number of visitors there, at least a dozen other people were visiting or relaxing in the grounds – I fully expected to be the only person there. The view to the south and over the Thames is quite impressive – as were the clouds moving in from the west…

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The remains of the kitchen.

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The last remains of one of the towers built under Edward III.

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This tower, also from Edward III is the most preserved piece of the castle.

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With the rain pending, I took a last look around and then started down the much gentler path towards Leigh-on-Sea, turning back for a couple of last shots.

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I was walking fairly fast down the path back towards town, and once there decided to flag the extra walk from the station to the cafe area about a kilometre away. I jumped on the next train and headed home.

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It was a good few hours out, I explored another old castle and got to see a bit more of the area close to London – an area that most Londoners will never see themselves!

Of course it never did rain at all 🙂

Gods Own Junkyard

Saturday 31 May 2014 – God’s Own Junkyard – Walthamstow.

God’s own junkyard has been a feature of Walthamstow for many, years and amongst other things is a place to store the neon signs collected by its owner. Last year the site it was on was sold so the ever pervasive building of flats could spread there. At the time it seemed to be the end of God’s own Junkyard and there was a bit of a local hue and cry about it – it even made the national papers, so maybe it was bigger than local. Luckily a new place was found and God’s Own Junkyard can now be found inside at the small industrial estate on Shernhall St, and still in Walthamstow.

Chris Bracey who owns it has been in the neon-sign business for many many years, originally working with his father who also made neon signs. The “Junkyard” is a massive collection of signs made by and collected by Chris, his work has been seen in loads of major motion pictures and videos. It is also frequently used as a location for photos shoots and videos. Some of the work is for sale, though I suspect a lot of them are just too good to let go.

It is great place to visit, for a look around – and from this weekend (hopefully) there will be a cafe opening for coffee and food. I really enjoy visiting there. The photos will give you some idea of what the place looks like.

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There is a small garden out the back, where coffee can be drunk and food eaten. It is almost as quirky as the inside and I really liked the subliminal message here…

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 One of the other great things about an afternoon visit to God’s own junkyard – is the factory over the way – a new East London brewery – The Wild Card Brewery. It was too early in the day to be open when I was there, but I have been for a visit and a taste before and the beer is brilliant.

For a good afternoon out, check out Shernhall St Industrial estate….

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