RIP The Kings Arms Tavern, may you rest loudly.

Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland. 2007-2009

The Kings Arms Tavern has been a key venue in the Auckland music scene since 1995. It opened soon after the equally (in)famous Gluepot closed to bands. Sadly the Kings Arms, the KA, closes its doors for the last time at the end of February 2018. Even sadder for me, I am not going to be there to farewell it, or attend any of the excellent farewell gigs

Auckland city has a long and terrible history in closing down music venues since I started going to shows in the late 70s. The Station Hotel, Rhumba Bar, Reverb Room, Windsor Castle, XS Cafe to name a few, all gone. Many to noise control, some to the violence that plagued the punk and alternative scene and some; like the KA to full fill the constant need for homes.  I have been to see many great bands at the KA  and many of the other now defunct venues.

After I bought my first DSLR in 2007 I was lucky to spend 2008 and 2009 shooting bands for a website. There was no such thing as a photo pit at the KA, but I love being in the crowd. I did wish they had better lighting though!

Here are some of my favourite images from some of those shows; in chronological order.

My favourite Auckland band for a while, amazing live and a brilliant first LP. Mint Chicks, Mar 2007.

The late great Jason Molina and the Magnolia Electric Company, August 2007.

I think this is my most used band photos. Shocking Pinks, support for The Clean. Jan 2008.

New Zealand and Flying Nun records finest. The Clean, Jan 2008.

Canadian’s Broken Social Scene, Feb 2008.

Still regularly played in my house, and performers at one of the KA farewell shows. Fabulous post-rockers, Jakob, Mar 2008.

Another brilliant post-rock band and great guys too, from Hamilton, Sora Shima. August 2008.

I arrived late and the crowd for Aussie metal-core band Parkway Drive was nuts. No way to get to the front, October 2008.

Ruby Suns, December 2008.

Cobra Kahn, supporting Florida punkers, The Bronx. December 2008.

Probably the most fun live band I have seen, loved seeing these guys! The DHDFDs, Jan 2009.

Equally brilliant, and with two amazing blazingly fast pop-punk LPs, the tragically late Jay Reatard toured with his band in Jan 2009.

Supported by the equally brilliant Los Angeleans No Age.

Californian duo, the Dodos toured in Jan 2009. Summer was always a great time for touring bands, and with the NZ dollar being so bad 10 years ago, visiting Auckland was quite popular for smaller bands from the US.

Ahead of the curve for wild loud rock and roll duos, the Hasselhof Experiment deafened in Feb 2009.

Out of retirement for a series of shows the wonderful Head Like a Hole, played a show in March 2009. Older and ‘wiser’ they remained fully clothed, unlike some crazy performances from the nineties.

Half of completely bonkers, cover band Masters of Metal are good friends of friends of mine. They played once or twice a year, performing two hour shows of classic metal covers. Talented musicianship and great stage presence made their shows hugely popular. Zak, March 2009.

Sleazeball punks The Dwarves visited our shores from Chicago in October 2009, including Nick Olivieri the bass player from the mighty Kyuss.

The Kings Arms was sold to developers who are bulldozing the building to build more flats. Fuck You!

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 1 – January

Sunday 28 January 2018 – Epping Forest.

After six months in this job I have now settled into a routine that works well. In the main I do not work outside of work hours (he says sitting down to work on a Sunday morning!) and while I still have moments of being a total stress-monkey, I am much better at being able to relax into a weekend. I have allowed myself the time and head space to make benefit of the non-working hours.

I have been pondering some photographic/creative project for a while, a project that forces me off the couch and back outside.  Before we went to St Ives I came up with the plan to complete a 12 month photography project to capture the changing seasons in Epping Forest. The aim is to create one great image each month and combine them into a calendar at year end. Hopefully there will be more than one per month, but there is no point in putting pressure on myself before I even start!

I had planned on spending some of the time in St Ives researching the forest and its history and devising a plan for this project. I want to explore a lot more of the forest, get images from a range of locations and find one unusual spot to focus on. Returning to it each month to witness it change. It requires a bit of research, and I was looking forward to that; and where it led me. I tend to wander off down various rabbit holes when I am on the internet, especially when I am researching places and photography. This is something I really enjoy, but it does add to my already expert levels of procrastination. Sickness ended that plan, spending most of my St Ives downtime curled up in bed gazing vacantly at the wall.

We arrived back in Walthamstow from our holiday on Friday evening, and I was feeling a little perkier.. If I was going to achieve this new photo project then I had to be out today, it is already the last weekend of the month. The sky was a flay grey which was good in some ways, photography would be easier than if the sky was very bright, it was not too cold and not too windy either; though there was enough of a breeze to make close-up shots impossible.

My first stop was the top of Pole Hill. It is not much of a hill, only 92 metres above sea level; but it does have a great view to London city in the distance. Pole Hill also sits on the Greenwich Meridian. An obelisk was built in 1824 marking the exact spot. Sort of. In 1850 they discovered it was 19 ft out of line , so a second and smaller pillar was built. This fact always makes me smile!

Pole Hill’s second claim to fame is that T.E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia, owned some land and had a hut on the hill; now long gone.

I have ridden up this hill on numerous occasions and most of those times I have ridden off down this track that clearly says ‘Cycling’. There is a forest trail that runs close to the edge of the golf course, it is mostly ‘downhill’ and usually a lot of fun. There is a reasonable sized section of forest that I have yet to explore, so downhill I went.

I was surprised at the amount of space there is between the trees, I normally ride through here quite quickly and spend little time in observing my surroundings. Winter has stripped the leaves from most of the trees, adding to the space and light, even allowing for that I found it quite odd. I wonder if the area has been cleared in the recent past. If the ever present, invading holly was removed there would be huge gaps. I hate the holly, but it does provide a solid contrasting backdrop to winter leaves.

There was not a lot that captured my eye in this section, until I came across this manky old football.

As the forest was so open I headed off for a general wander into the trees, skipping the main path, not that I saw another person in this section at all. I did find this small collection of feathers, there was no blood or physical remains to go with them. I initially thought a fox or a feral cat must have grabbed a pigeon or a gull but am now thinking perhaps this was human work…

Crossing Bury Rd I entered the main southern block of Epping Forest, with a plan to do a loop and head back towards the station. As usual I got little lost so that didn’t happen. I did find this small patch of wispy trees with a tiny new silver birch growing in the middle. I do love a silver birch! I spent quite a bit of time here, taking photos from different angles. There was an unusual moss growth on the bottom of some of the wispy trunks that I have not noticed before. I think I have found my 12 month spot.

This was my favourite image from the day. I like the very muted, flat colours, with that thin shaft of white silver birch in the middle.

Four days in St Ives.

Sunday 21 – Friday 26 January 2018 – St Ives, Cornwall.

El and I had been looking forward to this trip away for a few weeks. While we had a few day trips and weekends away we really only had one week away from the city in the whole of 2017. I was especially desperate for a break from work and the bustle of the city.

We are still looking for that perfect place to buy a house, and St Ives in Cornwall has always been top, or near top, of that list. Its downside is it is so far away from our friends and day to day lives, so this week away was another test of that distance, as well as how we feel about the place during a cold wet January.

What the weather ended up doing did not really matter as it turned out. I was sick for pretty much the whole week and spent more time lying down staring at the wall than I did doing much else. It was lucky that El had quite a lot of work to do, so at least she wasn’t left to enjoy the highlights of St Ives on her own. I did feel for her though, as it was not the week away we planned for our fifth anniversary!

I had plans to take a lot of photos, make this a bit of a photo holiday, I packed my big and small cameras and the tripod. A lot of dead weight in the end, and I think I ended up taking more photos out of the train as we went down than I did while we were there.

The first to capture my attention was small flurry of snow that fell as we pulled into Didcot Parkway station. Snow had been forecast and I was really hoping we would see some in Cornwall, but alas; this was as close as we got.


The civil engineering genius Isambard Kingdom Brunel designed the amazing rail line along the south Devon coast, including this section in Dawlish,


and the wonderful Royal Albert rail bridge crossing the River Tamar at Saltash. The coastal route is quite lovely, and would have been an amazing engineering feat when it was built in the 1850s.


The journey through Devon and Cornwall is lovely, we were not blessed with great weather, but the low cloud added to the mystery of the place. There were numerous occasions when I wanted to stop the train, get out and take some photos. One of the benefits, and curses, of being a passenger rather than the driver. I did take some photos at some of the smaller stations on the way!

After almost 6 hours we arrived in St Erth, where we left the Penzance train to catch the small, single carriage train the short distance to St Ives.



A third of that journey is along the stunning Cornish coast, with gorgeous views up St Ives Bay towards Godvrey Head. The view was rather obscured by the very grubby windows!


Finally we made it, 6 ½ hours from London, and I seemed to be getting more and more unwell by the hour.


Luckily the holiday let we had booked was pretty much over the road from the station, so even though it was drizzling with rain and quite cold, at least it was only a short walk to the warm and dry. The view out of the front window was pretty good though, I am sure it is fantastic when you can see the other side of the bay. Though, I think is is actually my favourite photo from the five days away.


After a brief rest we headed out in to the late afternoon drizzle for a walk down the hill into the centre of town. We were quite keen to see what was open on wet and cold Sunday. Surprisingly quite a lot. Not that this photo shows it!



It was cold and wet so we retired to a nearby bar, that had the football on the telly, El’s team were playing, so it was a good excuse to have a pint. Though we did not stay for food, finding a local Italian for pizza instead.

I woke up Monday morning feeling pretty terrible, apart from an urgent work phone call that led me outside to get decent reception I spent most of the day in bed. El and I did venture out for a walk in the afternoon. We stopped for a coffee at a cafe over looking Porthmeor Beach. The first of three great flat whites I had in St Ives; in three cafes. Good coffee is always a bonus for me! There were even a few guys surfing, though I was not feeling up to heading down to the beach to take some photos.


Tuesday I ‘woke’ after a bad sleep feeling even worse than Monday. Apart from no work call, it was almost a repeat of Monday. Instead of going to the same cafe we visited Tate St Ives. It was the only Tate we had not previously visited, it was closed for renovations last time we came to St Ives. I must admit I was not really feeling it, there was some interesting pieces, and I really liked the local focus as well, the Ben Nicholson and Alfred Wallis works were very pleasing. The Barbara Hepworth museum was closed for renovations now, though there were a couple of pieces here at the Tate.


Wednesday had me feeling a little sprightlier than previous days, though when we did get out for a walk, stopping at the chemist for more drugs and tissues was high on the list. We started our walk down on Porthminster Beach, below our holiday rental. I really like this beach!



I particularly like the cafe, and we have a reservation for dinner tomorrow night, our fifth anniversary, we are very much looking forward to that.



We walked along the St Ives waterfront, and out on to the sea wall. Though the town’s main income is from tourism, there is still a small active fishing fleet based out of the bay behind the sea wall.






We stopped in a different cafe again and had a really nice hot chocolate. We were given a glass of hot milk and a small wooden spoon with a lump of chocolate in the end, which we melted into the glass of milk. I have never seen that method of making a hot chocolate drink before. I liked it very much! We went to another pub for dinner tonight, my football team, Arsenal, were on the telly, losing as usual. We met a couple of guys down from Manchester for work who we chatted to for a while – and then the power went out in the block.  We hung around for a few minutes and then gave up and went home.

The worst of the cold was over by Thursday, though I was still not anywhere close to being fully well. I still could not be bothered getting the big camera out when we out for an afternoon walk. It was a pretty clear day, definitely the best of the week, though the wind was howling in exposed places and it was quite cold. El wanted to go back to the Tate and I wanted to walk up to St Nicholas Church, and walk around its headland, so we split up for a while and went our separate ways. I had a nice walk, though set a new record for myself by standing in dog pooh twice, one for each shoe. Joys 🙂

The wind over the past few days had created a reasonable swell, and there were a few decent waves lashing the rocks on the headland.




The walk up to the church was a bit of a struggle, my head was feeling so much better today, but my chest was still constricted and I was quite out of breath when I got up there. Sitting in the sun was not much of an option as the wind was very cold, and I was not that well prepared. I rested in the shade of both the sun and the wind until my breathing was normal, and then, cold and with a damp bum, headed back to town.



El and I met for lunch in quite a new cafe. it had a great menu, great coffee, and they were playing some quite dark music; I have never heard Placebo in a cafe before. I loved it. Not sure if the rest of the punters did. After lunch we walked back to our holiday home and crashed for a few hours before going back out for a fabulous meal at the Porthminster Cafe.



As it was time to go home I was feeling much better on Friday morning, I reckon that by work on Monday I will 100% again. Typical. The sunrise was small but stunning on Friday, and I was glad I was actually able to get and out to take a couple of photos from the other side of the road.




And that was it, back to St Erth on that lovely little train, followed by five or so hours back to London on a not so lovely little train.


I do love St Ives, it was such a shame, especially for El, that I was sick for most of it. I am very glad I was well enough for us to go out for our anniversary dinner, in one of favourite restaurants overlooking one of my favourite UK beaches.

Even though it has brilliant coffee, some cool galleries, decent cafes and bars, and was not a deserted winter wasteland, in the end we decided it is not the place for us. It really is just too far away.