“No Hope. Turn Back.” A street art walk in Shoreditch.

Saturday 24 January 2015 – Shoreditch.

It was a glorious winter day with clear skies and a reasonable temperature,  out of the wind it was quite nice, but there was a real bite of wind chill, especially in the shade. It was not a day worth wasting and with El meeting a friend for lunch I took the opportunity to re-visit some old haunts and go look at some street art. I have not been to Shoreditch since early November and I was intrigued to see if much had been going on since, I was fairly disappointed last time I was out. I had been reading stories of walls being knocked down and buildings closed and it was time to go and see it myself, plus it was a good excuse to do a walk through of Rough Trade and see if there was any essential vinyl to purchase. There is always essential vinyl to purchase as it happens, and today was no different!

My first stop was Rockwell House, I have been to a few parties and live painting events on the roof of Rockwell House over the past couple of years and it the studio home of Jim Vision and End of the Line – whose work I really enjoyed. Rockwell House has now been closed and will soon be demolished to clear space for a series of new offices being built across this end of the east end – the part where it brushes up against the city. We obviously need more space for bankers, lawyers, consultants and all those other vital cogs to the UK economy, no room for creatives in this modern world…

The cowboy painting by American artist El Mac has graced the side of Rockwell House since 2011 and is one of my favourite works of art in the area, it will be a shame to see it go – though I guess the transitional nature of street art is one of its greatest facets. The 13 Coins piece is quite new.

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On the far side of the building there were quite a few painted walls, though unfortunately there was almost also a corresponding amount of cars to cover up the art. There were a couple of pieces exposed, one by Antony Lister – who I last saw hanging in a gallery with price tags way out of my league.

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I believe this is by Jim Vision – I haven’t seen too many faces by him, really good too.

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My next stop was the Leonard St Carpark, hoardings have been up here for a while so I knew there was some demolition planned, but it is a shame to see things disappearing. Nice hoarding by Boxhead though.

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Round the corner from the carpark is Blackall St, which was a narrow one lane road that was covered in stickers, paste ups, graff and other painting. It has always been a favourite place to visit, but I was totally shocked to find that one side of the street was completely gone!

There are hoardings around the site, which have all been painted, but it is not the same… I guess we are lucky that the hoardings are painted as so many in this area are not.

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A little bit of Blackall St style.

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As I walked back towards Leonard St I caught a flash of a colour out of the corner of my eye so wandered off towards Scrutton st where I found this lovely new bird from Bailon.

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And this possibly older shutter from Bailon, Dr Zadok and Sokar.

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I wanted to see the Amara piece on the back of the Villlage Underground so headed back the way I came and found this quite cool piece by Jimmy C.

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I was then shocked again to find the carpark at the back of the VU being dug up as well,, not that pedestrians were ever allowed in there to take photos, carpark security wouldn’t allow it. I sort of understood the situation , lots of cars and allowing people to wander around obviously comes with some security risks, but there were some good walls behind the security and I never got to see them properly. Still won’t I guess.

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The Amara piece was pretty cool.

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Back over on the Brick Lane side I came across this from Jim Vision, I think given to what has been happening to the inner East End lately, ‘no hope’ is an apt message.

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The small car park off of Brick Lane is a regular spot for artists and viewers, though I have never seen this sign before – not that I come to the area much on a Saturday, I hope it doesn’t mean that this spot will be black listed as well.

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The street art tour has become big business and I saw at least four large groups in the Brick Lane area in the short time I was there, these two large groups in Hanbury St effectively stopping anyone from seeing or photographing any of the street art. Luckily there was not a lot of change since the last time I was there.

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Though I kinda licked this, but have no idea who it is by.

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There was not a lot else to see so I popped into Rough Trade for a coffee and a record purchase or two, Hookworms – The Hum and Disappears – Era. On my way up towards Broadway Market where I had decided to go for lunch I found this fun piece from Graffiti Life, and that was the last new bit of art I saw all day.

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Seeing so much change to the Shoreditch area was really disturbing, so much of the city is disappearing to allow new offices and apartments for wealthy investors to buy and not live. Soho is now under threat and the old ‘Tin Pan Alley’ – Denmark St has been given notice for demolition. Tomorrow El and I are going to Camden and there is a whole load more heartache there as well. All the good bits of London will be gone, probably before me.

A new year shakedown Epping Forest mountain bike ride.

Sunday 04 January 2015 – Epping Forest.

First ride and first post of the new year, I am hoping to be able to keep up with both.

My Christmas and New Year were both enjoyable, El and I stayed around home for the most part, though we both worked a couple of days between Christmas and New Year. It was a welcome break from work, it did get a bit stressful towards the end and after so long off work, four months seemed a long time between holidays. I cannot say I am looking forward to going back tomorrow, but at least I am relaxed again – reasonably so anyway.

I missed my family over Christmas, in the end I did not even get too see them on Skype which was a real shame, and apparently they had a good time without me! I did enjoy my time with El and her boys though, lots of food, some wine and not too bad TV made for a good couple of days and it was lovely being able to share it with them again.

I have made a couple of small life decisions in the past couple of weeks, firstly I am growing facial hair again, I won’t go full hipster beard, just a small winter warmer and an opportunity to not have to shave for a few weeks, my most hated chore. Secondly and more radically I have deleted my FaceBook account. I have been there, almost since the beginning, but have finally gotten sick of it and the fact that it intrudes so much into my life, mostly because I let it I will say. Anyway I will see how it goes with a FaceBook free life. It can only be better.

It was a pretty lazy holiday period, though we did walk, I have not run since before Christmas and have not been on the bike since late November when I did my first bike event in years. An event I was really poorly prepared for and subsequently did not enjoy as much as I should have. Not that that kept me off the bike though – laziness and an ever extending stomach kept me off the bike.

Last week, local mountain bike enthusiast, Tony from Walthamstow Cycles, sent an email round about a group ride in Epping Forest this Sunday and it was the impetus I needed to get off my sorry ass, get the cold gear out, lube the chain, pump up the tyres and get ready to go out for a ride – even if it was supposed to be in a -1 freezing fog.

Fortunately, on the day it was comparatively nice; with grey skies, a light mist and a positively warm zero degrees when I left home to meet the crew at 8:30. There was supposed to be eight riders heading out today and surprisingly everyone was there and even more surprisingly everyone was there on time, in fact we actually left the meeting point early. This is not something I am used to at all. I like this group already!

We rode off from Beacontree Ave into Walthamstow Forest, a small section of forest that links up, via a few more small sections into the broader Epping Forest. You know it is cold when the frost covered grass is crunching under your wheels and the puddles in the mud are iced over. Luckily once we got under the trees the layers of mud were not so iced over, just slushy and boggy and clingy. Did I say luckily ?

I had tossed a camera in my bag on the off chance I would get a chance to get some photos off a foggy and damp Epping Forest, but as expected the opportunities were few and far between, this was a bike ride, not a photographic mission!

We rode through to Epping Forest by a long and winding route, trying to avoid the worst of the mud and wet areas from a very full River Ching. There was some quite tasty single track sessions that I am unlikely to ever find again. Once in Epping Forest itself, it was ‘good’ to ride up Pole Hill and away from the wet land. It is the highest point in the forest, though at a massive 91 metres it is hardly going to be much use for hill training. But we did take a break at the top and I got to take a couple of pictures. Sadly there was no view….

IMG_1103IMG_1101The best bit about riding up a hill is getting to ride back down again, I rode this trail on my first ride in the forest but was never able to find it again, it was a lot more fun when there was some grip, but even slippy and slidey it was still a load of fun and one of my favourite trails of the day – not that there was a bad trail ridden….

IMG_1102We had another break for some running repairs as we headed across the middle of the lower half of the forest, and I again took the opportunity to take some photos. The forecast had said that there would be an increase in fog over the morning and they were not wrong for a change.

IMG_1106Our next stop was Strawberry Ponds, a lovely area of the forest that I would like to visit again and take some photos at. A location I have now lined up for a session if it snows, though finding it would be a challenge. It is a beautiful spot and the middle of the pond was very much covered in ice.

IMG_1109IMG_1110After almost three hours of riding we took a much earned rest at the tea shed at High Beach, coffee and the famous bread pudding was very well received. The riding had been quite hard, we were hardly setting a rocket pace, but the mud was constant and we were either sliding around, splashing through puddles or grinding through thick sucking mud – the worst kind. I was not feeling too bad, mid-pack in fitness so able to keep up easily enough and with steady riding I had not gotten too hot or too cold – with the exception of my toes which were freezing. New socks are on the shopping lost.

IMG_1111We took a few short cuts on the way back towards home, scooting quickly down some of the more established paths. Losing half the group as we went. It was a bit of a slog back across the flat areas with a some real bog grinds and a crossing of the River Ching (in reality a small stream) when we came across an impassably flooded section of track.

Tony offered us the use of his pressure washer to rinse the bikes down, along with a quick chain lube before I rode home after almost 28 kms of mostly single track riding. My new bike – a Genesis Latitude, was perfect for this riding, the bigger wheels were great in the mud and the bike is so well balanced, I am really glad I bought it.

IMG_1113It was a great morning out, a hell of a lot of fun with a good group of riders. I earned the sausage, eggs, chips and beans I had at the local cafe for lunch ! Thanks Walthamstow Cycles !!