The bachs of Rangitoto Island.

Monday 23 April 2018. Rangitoto Island, Auckland, New Zealand.

Bach: – Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the Baroque period Is a small, often very modest holiday home or beach house in New Zealand and is pronounced ‘batch’.

The first bach was built on Rangitoto Island, a 25 minute boat ride from Auckland in the Hauraki Gulf,  in 1918. Over the next two decades around 140 were ‘illegally’ built, though in 1937 all building on the island was banned. In the 70s and 80s as the island became a reserve the majority were pulled down, however, a moratorium on the demolition was put in place in 1990, and those that remained are now part of the historic record of the island. The bachs can no longer be sold to new buyers, or have any major work done to them. Many of the remaining bachs have been modified and updated, though retain their original character.

The bach is such a unique New Zealand artefact, the traditional cheaply built, small, and humble version is slowly disappearing as only the wealthy can afford a holiday home. Small and humble does not really feature in the plans of the very wealthy so it is lovely to see these buildings preserved. No building or design standards, built from whatever was available, painted in what was cheap at the time, but much loved and much used. Generation after generation.

I paid a visit to Rangitoto today, I will write more about the trip in an upcoming post. Here are some images of these lovely old holiday homes as a taster of my walk. 

I love the socks on the line!


Some were quite well hidden.

There are some quite good boat sheds.

Each bach that had been removed had a sign where it sat describing it,

some had signs in windows proudly showing its history,

and, finally, some had ‘facilities’ not quite up to modern, western, standards!

Walking and chatting. The River Lea with M.

Saturday 14 April 2018. River Lea, Walthamstow.

I think it is reasonably safe to say that I can be a little obsessive. I am no single issue fanatic, often obsessing over multiple things at the same time; work, photography, books, writing, fitness (lack thereof). Flipping and flopping my focus, thus ensuring I never achieve anything at all. This strategy has served me reliably, if not well, for most of my life. I never suffer humiliation and public failure, and dreams are never shattered because I never quite finish things. There is always something shinier and newer that catches my attention, and the last thing languishes unfinished, often at a tricky or awkward stage in its gestation.

Recently this obsession has been reading books set in and around where I currently live. I don’t mean to be unfair to Walthamstow, but on the surface it is not the most exciting part of London. It does have the longest street market in Europe, but to be honest, the market is not something I particularly value. What Walthamstow does have is some authors who make the place sound interesting. I have mentioned Will Ashon’s book about Epping Forest in the past and I have recently enjoyed reading ‘Marshlands’ by Gareth E. Rees, stories set in and around the River Lea and the ‘marshes’ that edge it. I have Esther Kinsky’s ‘River’ to read next, more tales of the Lea and the folk that live nearby.

I am off to New Zealand and Australia for two weeks from next weekend. A quick trip to see my family, and to make sure the grand kids don’t completely forget who I am. My daughter, nannying for a family in Stroud, wanted to come and visit before I left. She chose the best weather weekend of the year to come down. Today was glorious; warm sun and no wind. A perfect day to stroll the Lea down as far as the shopping centre in Stratford to buy some gifts to take back to New Zealand.

We took the long way, walking up Forest Rd, through Ferry Lane to Walthamstow Wetlands. I wanted to stop for coffee and then walk M. through the Wetlands to Coppermill Lane. However the Coppermill Lane exit was closed, so we carried on along Ferry Lane to the Lea, which was not a bad second choice. It was not too busy at that time of the morning, a lot of runners out; maybe a last minute stretch out before the London Marathon, but few cyclists. It was nice to just stroll and chat; without having to duck out of the way all the time. Spring has finally started to deliver some natural colour to the city, it is proving to be popular.

There is a lot to see, though for some reason I did not take any pictures of the river or the many river boats that are moored here. I guess I wasn’t really thinking photos and blogs when we walked and talked, as we have not seen each other in a while.

The filter beds feature in the ‘Marshlands’ book, I have been planning on visiting here again after a wander through a couple of years ago. Bright sunshine did not set the right mood, or light for the photographs I had in mind, though no mist has descended on this part of London for ages, not once all winter. Unusual.

The Middlesex Filter Beds were built in the 1850s in response to new thinking about cholera, after an epidemic in London in 1849 took 14,000 lives. Physician John Snow correctly deducing that cholera was spread via contaminated drinking water, not the thick dirty air of London. The filter beds were built where the River Lea met the Hackney Cut canal and filtered the cleaner water of Essex through sand and gravel and pumped it into reservoirs and on to the homes of NE London. The filter beds expanded massively over the years until the Coppermill Waterworks, nearer the reservoirs, was opened in 1969. The area has been left to be re-wilded and is now a nature reserve. It is very green.

I have been here twice before, and been virtually alone both times, seeing only a ‘romancing’ couple under the trees on the bank of the Lea last time I passed by. Today it was really busy, families with kids, bikes and strollers. We are re-wilding our landscape for the benefit of the urban and urbane, the least wild of us.

Back out on the Lea-side path the traffic got heavier as we made our way towards Hackney, M. wanted to walk barefoot so we detoured off the broken chipped path on to a mud track in the grass, feet having softened from a few months in Europe. It was nicer in the trees and off the path. The A12 road bridges have long been a shelter for river barges and boats under repair, sheltering from the rain and the worst of the wind. There has always been graffiti and odd artworks on the concrete shoulder and bridge abutments. This morning there were three guys working spray cans on the wall and a stone-carver at work, I have never seen the actual artists before. There was also a group of climbers, practising roping up the short, thick round pillars supporting the hellishly loud road above.

We stopped for lunch and coffee at one of the new cafes on the Stratford side of the river, they were all really busy, but we found spot in the sun to chill and wait, people watching the new East Londoners who mean that places that serve vegan food and nice coffee exist.

We had left home with the intent of walking to the mall in Stratford, which was only a few minutes from where we sat sharing nachos in the sun. It was early afternoon and though I really needed to get gifts to take with me it was just too nice to even think about walking into a busy and noisy mall. We chose to turn round and start walking home.

On the way we had passed a stand of young silver birch, back from the river, and behind a fence. I have seen these trees before and always wanted to find out how to get amongst them. Though had never seen away through the fence when coming from the direction of home, walking the other way an entry point was obvious. The silver birches were a bit disappointing, though this path covered by arched trees revealed itself to us, a haven from the now very busy tow path.

We followed this new path and the mud tracks as far towards home as we could, finally stopping for a cold pint before jumping on a bus at Lea Bridge Rd.

El was at the football on Saturday night so M. and I went to Brick Lane for a dosa.

I had a great day, I really like spending time with my daughter, we are different enough to disagree on many things, but share enough passions and ideas that the differences of opinion (and age) do not get in the way of long, rambling and enjoyable chats.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 3-March

March 2018.

I am so glad I managed to get out earlier in the month to take some photos as that was it for forest trips this month. I have to thank the snowy weather that got me there. I am making this once a month photo-blogging project of the ever changing Epping Forest far harder than it should be.

Here are a small number of favourite photos of the winter wonderland that was a snow covered forest, not in any particular order. As always they have all been posted previously.

I am trying to be more experimental in photography again so here is March’s Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) image, or impressionist photography as we used to call it.

The Little Muddy

Sunday 01 April 2018 – Wivenhoe, Essex.

The Big Muddy is a river in the United States that feeds the mighty Mississippi, which also takes on the name as its nickname. Muddy it may be, but the River Colne in Essex is definitely not big, it is one of the shorter rivers in the UK and is very tidal, at low tide it is very unimpressive. Though calling it The Little Muddy would be slightly hurtful.

There are some affordable houses in Wivenhoe, which is perched on the north bank of the Colne, and just over an hour from home by car. it is also about an hour from London on a direct train which adds to its attraction.

It is not spectacular, though we were not expecting it to be. It was surprisingly quiet, with very few people walking or driving the narrow streets, and quite pleasant. The first person we saw as we walked up from the car to the cafe said “Good morning” to us. Now that never happens in London.

It is not spectacularly old, though there are some lovely older houses mixed in with some tastefully architectured newer builds. Wivenhoe has a long history as a port town serving inland Essex as well as fishing and boat building. There is still a small fleet based here and a couple of boat yards. There are a few pubs, though mostly deserted late on a Sunday morning, but we did visit a very nice cafe where I was served an excellent flat white before we went for a walk.

The church of St Mary’s is the oldest building in town, dating back to the late 13th century.

Though I was in good spirits and the town is quite pretty, even under a heavy grey sky, I seemed to have only taken photos that show the town as being rather ramshackle and rundown, which is very much not the case. It is a pretty place, with a nice  vibe, an artistic community and a tiny range of independent shops; there are two book shops. Wow!

We had a very nice lunch in a Syrian vegan cafe and then went for another walk. After all the rain lately it was quite muddy, though there is nothing wrong with that at all. It was a short loop out of the town and along a flood bank between the river and a wetland, overlooking the town of Rowhedge on the far side of the river. In summer months there is a small ferry between the towns.

After the walk it was time to head back to London, avoiding the worst of the Easter Sunday returning traffic, and get home in time to watch some football on the telly.

In two weeks today, I will be back in New Zealand for a short family visit. I am hoping the long hot summer will have stretched into the early autumn!

3 nights, 3 gigs.

Friday 23 March 2018 – London.

Walking out of the Tufnell Park Dome into the cool and drizzly north London night, both ears ringing, I had a big smile on my face after two loud gigs in two nights. Guitar Wolf last night and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing tonight.  A very much needed blow out after a really busy  and stressful work week. Six performance reviews completed, meetings galore and an inundation of last minute requests had me thinking that three nights out in a row would just be too much to take and I would not last the distance.

We are very fortunate here in Walthamstow to have the e17 Rock and Roll Book Club. Run by Mark, he organises authors to come along and talk about themselves and their books. Most often these authors write about music or are musicians themselves. A couple of weeks ago we had Brett Anderson, the singer from Suede. Tonight (Wednesday) we have Hooky at Mirth, Marvel and Maud. Peter Hook, bass player from Joy Division and New Order. Joy Division being one of my most loved groups of all time, arriving in my life at the same time as the break up with my first girlfriend. Staying with me through both good and bad times ever since. 

Hooky was hugely entertaining. I don’t think he directly answered any of the questions posed, not trying to avoid, just he had way better anecdotes that wandered off in many different directions. Very funny, and very engaging. He also played a couple of quick tunes as part of the show, the longest of the many e17 RnR Book Club events we have been too.

Mirth, Marvel and Maud is a large bar in the foyer/reception area of a reclaimed cinema about a five minute walk from home and a fairly recent addition to a rapidly gentrifying Walthamstow. The Maud theatre, where the Hooky talk was, stands about 120 people maybe and was the venue for Thursday nights much different and much louder affair. A gig by Japanese punk and rollers, Guitar Wolf. This was the first gig I have attended in the venue.

We missed the first band, arriving in time for the second, Los Pepes. Slightly clichéd Ramones style punk rock with a bit of lead guitar thrown in for good measure. I really liked them. I was really impressed with the sound quality and having a gently sloping floor meant those of us at the back had some sort of view. Why are there so many tall people at gigs? I took to the front  for a couple of songs to take a couple of photos. If I had been younger and the circumstances different I would have been tempted to jump up and down a bit.  A shame no one did as the band deserved some sort of reaction.

Sadly the same quality of sound was not there for the headliners. Guitar Wolf have been around for decades, they have been to NZ a few times, though I have never seen them.

They were unlistenably loud; and I love loud, even more I love a wall of noise, but this was just a sludgy overdriven mess and I could hear nothing but a roaring noise. I was really disappointed as they were a bit of fun.

I stayed up the front for a couple of photos and then moved to the back for a bit with El and some friends. Frustrated, and deaf, we left soon after. The light was pretty terrible for photography as well.

Friday I was in Tufnell Park with Steve and Arthur to see The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (TMTWNBBFN). Steve has seen them a few times, but this was my first experience of a live steam punk band. I was also new to the Dome,which is a great venue and I will go and see a band there again, great bar and selling my favourite beer was a definite bonus.

There were three support acts, the first two were neither here nor there, but I really enjoyed ‘I Destroy’ who were by miles the best of them.

TMTWNBBFN were mostly brilliant, a couple of dud tracks in the middle, but they were a lot of fun, playing a variety of different styles, but not veering too far from a punky/metal sound. Lyrics are where they truly excel, songs about Victoriana, Marie Curie, Jack the Ripper; and the set finale is the classic rock and roll tale of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Everyone’s favourite civil engineer.  Brilliant!

Three nights out in a row, haven’t done that for a very long time; and I didn’t even have a big lie in the next Saturday! I have tickets to five more gigs, I have never been this well organised in the past. Really looking forward to them all, next up is Graeme Jefferies in Auckland in four weeks.

Rock on 🙂