The Clash, London Calling @ The Museum of London

19 January 2020 – London.

Opening with a twice repeated ratatat burst of snare drum, followed by quick fire down and up strum of overdriven distorted six string and bass guitars, mimicking the sound of that famous weapon; Tommy Gun burst into the ear drums of the 17 year old me. The music, the words, the voice; this was everything that had been missing in music. Working class, political punk rock snarl at its finest.

My memory is poor, but I do remember this song being played two weeks in a row on the Barry Jenkin’s hosted Radio with Pictures TV show in New Zealand. I am pretty sure no other song was treated with such reverence. It is a good song, my favourite song by The Clash; and they wrote a lot of very good songs.

Tommy Gun was the the first track on ‘Give ‘em enough rope’, The Clash’s second LP. It was released in 1978 and was the first LP I bought with my own money, I am guessing I bought it very early in 1979. I am imagining that I had the first album on a cassette, taped off a friends older brother’s record. I didn’t buy that first LP until much later. Cassettes worked just as well for my teenage years (and teenage ears); plus I could play cassettes on my walkman or the small single speaker boombox I had in the early 80s. Music portability was as important then as it is now.

The third album, London Calling, was released in 1979 and the song and video for the title track were on fairly high rotate, at least on the TV and radio channels aimed at me and my tastes. I loved the song, though recently went off it due to over playing. I bought the album at the time, but was pretty disappointed with it not being as ‘punk’ as I wanted, I never really got over that. Eventually going off The Clash.

All my records were stolen in a burglary in 1981, and I didn’t replace London Calling, though I did buy the first two LPs again, then sold them with most of my collection in 1985 when I moved to England for the first time. Replacing them yet again between then and now, and now I can only find ‘Give ‘em enough rope’, and the single.

The Museum of London is holding a small, free exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of London Calling. Black Market Clash was another small exhibition in Soho of The Clash memorabilia that El and I visited back in 2013. It had a slightly different focus to this one so it was good to see some different things. The famous bass from the London Calling album cover was at both. As it should be, the finest album cover of all time. Apparently Pennie Smith, the photographer who took this photo in New York did not want them to use it for the cover as it is too out of focus! It is one of the best rock photos ever; capturing the energy, the anger, the frustration of that show.

Every few months our Walthamstow social group do some sort of day time social activity, usually involving an exhibition, a walk and some food and/or drink. Today eleven of us caught the train to Liverpool St and walked to the museum via the Barbican. I love the Barbican, though haven’t been there for a good explore for quite a quite a while. I will have to go back again.

The exhibition was good; busy, with a lot of middle aged men and women walking down memory lane. As I mentioned above it was not big, there were three guitars, some photos, clothing, a couple of screens, some smaller memorabilia, notebooks and lyric sheets.

Even though it is a long way from my favourite The Clash LP I very much enjoyed the exhibits, and it was great checking them out with a group of friends who all had similar, youthful tastes in music.

The exhibition displayed a very good map of Clash London, places they hung out, rehearsed, gigged and recorded. I discovered that the London Calling rehearsal studio from 1978 was in a building I walk past every day I go to work. The now ‘London Dioceses House’ (rather ironic) at 36 Caulston St in Pimlico. 

After a coffee and a long chat we left the museum of London with half of us going to a food hall off Brick Lane for lunch. I haven’t been to Brick Lane for ages, I could not believe how many people were there. It was a really nice day so I guess it was a good day to be out. And it is tourist central these days.

We walked back to Liverpool St via a passage in the back of one of the office blocks that runs alongside the station. Another place to come back to with the camera…


Christmas in St Leonards

20 December 2019 – St Leonards.

In a departure from the norm El and I decided to have Christmas Day at the flat, on our own. We both had the week off work and wanted to get away for some, if not all of that time. We gave plenty of notice to El’s sons and they arranged to have Christmas Day with their partners family, so we had ‘family’ Christmas the Saturday before and on Sunday morning I packed the car and drove down to the flat. El followed me down on the train later that day. She is a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur, and wasn’t going to miss a home game. I got the flat in order, while she had fun at the football.

This was going to be a week of doing not a lot; reading books, watching TV, cooking, eating too much and drinking almost too much, all balanced with the occasional walk. I drove down as we had a car load of stuff;  Christmas presents for each other (we broke all the buying each other presents rules),  a load of records to listen to and a lot of food and drink to be consumed over the week. I wanted to do as little supermarket shopping while we there as possible.

The first thing we did on Monday morning was walk over to Hastings. I wanted to get the supermarket shopping done as early as possible, while the head was in the right space for hitting a supermarket on the busiest day of the year. It was busy, very busy, but we survived and it was not as awful as it could have been. The good thing was all the food shopping for the week was done.

I took photos on the way.

Christmas day was a stunner, from memory the best weather I have seen on a Christmas day since I have been in London. An almost cloudless sky and very little wind, it was too good to be sat inside all day.

After breakfast we went for a walk along the sea front, along with pretty much everyone else who was in St Leonards and Hastings. The rest of the day was spent either preparing or eating food. I have never prepared Christmas lunch before, though very much enjoyed it. It was the most complex meal I have made with a vegetable wellington, and two different types of vegetable; followed by a form of Eton Mess. The Wellington was great, though I was a little disappointed that the brussell sprout dish ended up being a bit cold by the time I had finished serving. I like working in my small kitchen. Lots of TV, wine and brandy followed. It was a good day.

I was really surprised to see surfers on out on our Boxing Day walk. There are always paddle boarders out, but I am pretty sure this is the first time I have seen surfers. It is probably the first time I have seen a decent even, though small, break. We ate a lot again…

The following day we walked the opposite way, towards Bexhill, but only going as far as Bulverhythe beach before turning back. I took the Polaroid along. I am enjoying playing with this camera, I am never quite sure what is going to come out, which makes it quite interesting. Not sure why I started writing names on the Polaroids, I won’t be doing it again.

As we were walking on the beach I was telling El about hagstones and the hagstone curse.  A hagstone is a stone with a natural hole in it, they are of course, fairly uncommon. Aleister Crowley, the (in)famous occultist who died in Hastings in 1947 once cursed the town saying, and I massively paraphrase, ‘No-one can fully leave Hastings unless they have found a hagstone on the beach, and if they do leave they will end up coming back’. I guess I will be able to leave Hastings, as unbelievably, minutes after talking about this I found one.

I am starting to collect photographs of the ever changing beach and the way the sea changes the pebbles. I really like how the beach is slowly burying the beach furniture. The irony of the sign is beyond humorous.

Having driven down from London for a change it was good to have the use of the car to drive over to Pevensey Bay for a walk, and a visit to the castle; which was closed. I will have to go back one day when it is open, and will then write a bit about it then. Working on the assumption that I will keep maintaining this blog. The castle was pretty cool, mostly Norman in origin; it was built soon after William invaded England in 1066.

I liked the church as well.

There were a few cracking sunsets during the week and I am glad I took the big camera with the big lens, as well as the small camera and the Polaroid. So many cameras!

It was a really good week, and it was a real shame to go back to London to go back to work after the week was over.

It was good to have Christmas at the flat!

Walking home.

14 December 2019 – Epping Forest.

Standing in the kitchen at the flat in St Leonards, I am cooking my new favourite quick comfort food; chorizo and white bean stew, looking at the photos I took almost a month ago in the forest and wondering how and where to start writing. Wondering if I should start writing at all. The photos were not inspired and I am not feeling them or any of the words needed to describe the walk. Perhaps it was too long ago and the joy felt while walking has left me. Perhaps it is dry January. Perhaps I am just bored with it all; the photography, writing and blogging.

I have been trying to find some photographic direction, trying a few different things and been found wanting each time. Maybe I should take a break from photography and writing for a while; maybe I will finish these last few posts and call it quits. The blog lasted longer than I expected and I am not exactly using it for anything more than recording my activities, which have long shifted from the original purpose of the blog; travel. It is not like many would miss me. Enough whining.

Let’s get this done, and see what tomorrow brings.

Soon after my list visit to the forest in November, when El and I walked and took loads of photos of the range of weird and wonderful mushrooms, I bought a second hand Canon 5d Mk2 body to replace the Mk1 I broke in May. I had yet to use the camera for anything more than a couple of test shots so today was its first outing. The main reason for going out was to walk, not take photos, so I didn’t take a tripod. This decision  was partly responsible for the dissatisfaction with the photographic output.

I caught the train to Chingford, and walked home, mostly via a variety of forest paths. It was a glorious day for walking; bright sun, not too cold and not too hot, but a bit of a breeze. Not a good day for photos in a forest. I had a few photographic ideas I wanted to play with, but the conditions and location were not really right for them, possibly contributing to the malaise I feel right now.

I started off on Chingford Plain, walking up to the lodge where I stopped for coffee and cake; carb loading before the walk home.

Warren Pond has some lovely old trees, cleared of undergrowth and saplings, it is a nice open area to start a walk, though the light was incredibly harsh. Too harsh even for some high-key photography which I was hoping to experiment with again, not having played with the technique for quite some time. The trees make up for anything lacking in my ability to take photos of them.

There was smatterings of colour other than green in the trees on the way down to Whitehall Plain. There has been a lot of rain lately and the ground was wet, muddy and occasionally slippery underfoot. I am glad I wore my old trail running shoes with good grip.

Crossing over Whitehall Rd I picked up the River Ching. When I walked through here in summer it was so dry it was non-existent in parts, bone dry. I have never seen it this high in the six or so years I have been walking or riding this strip of forest. Admittedly this has not been a lot lately.

There was even a tiny waterfall and I could hear the water moving, that is unusual!

This section of the walk home passes by the edge of Woodford Golf Club, normally I steer clear and stay under the trees along the side of the river, but today there was no-one on the course. I walked up one of the fairways and took my favourite photo from the walk.

Crossing over Chingford Lane, I entered the section of forest that contains Highams Park Lake. Most of the walk from Chingford is under tree cover, until I get to Forest Rd, which unsurprisingly is not in the forest, it is lined on both sides by houses. The council, or Epping Forest, have put up a load of signs, presumably to make walking to and in the forest less challenging. Not that it is challenging at all; if you don’t mind getting a little misplaced on occasion.

One of my favourite trees is in the part of the forest and today I was fortunate to find a squirrel in it, though the squirrel did not pose for long.

I was really surprised at how few people were out walking round the lake, normally this place is quite busy, maybe everyone is out Christmas shopping? I was not complaining as I walk for the solitude, and the forest is one of very few places I am not playing music through headphones. The lake was looking good under this, almost, clear blue sky.

Crossing over Charter Rd, and then Oak Hill I enter Walthamstow Forest and the last section under the trees before the last mile of road walking home. I like this section of woodland, but have yet to fully explore it. It is not big, but it is on the way to somewhere else, so I only ever pass through. I promised that when it next snows I will come here with the camera and take some photos, before going up to the main forest.

The path crossing over the A406, the dreaded North Circular, though it was flowing nicely today.

Just over the bridge is a narrow strip of trees separating the houses on Beacontree Ave from the motorway, and that is where the tree covered, reasonably quiet and sheltered from the wind walk finishes. The rest is just a downhill schlep along Forest Rd to home. Passing the lovely Peoples Republic of Waltham Forest town hall building.