The bluebells of Chalet Wood

Sunday 23 April 2023 – Chalet Wood, Wanstead Park, London.
I finished my job on Friday and much as the last couple of weeks have been pretty chilled I’m kinda glad to be moving on as I’d definitely lost interest in the work and had been struggling with motivation for most of the last twelve months. It’s fair to say that I’ve been struggling with motivation in the rest of my life as well, so it wasn’t surprising it impacted my work experience. I have a week off before starting a new role at the place I was at prior to the one I just left. I remain a civil servant, part of the shiftless workerati establishment blob; or something like that.

I’m looking forward to both the week off and starting the new job. I’m hoping this change of employer and work, along with an improvement in the weather and that it’s lighter for longer each day, will encourage a few changes in other areas; like not sitting on my butt in front of the telly scanning social media every 15 minutes night after night. I also plan to re-arrange my workspace in the spare room to refresh the routine and have a load of other tasks planned as well. It won’t be a complete rest.

We had planned on going to Chalet Wood in Wanstead Park to see this season’s bluebells last weekend, but we completely forgot about it, and I only remembered again yesterday. This will be the final weekend they will be out in full bloom. I’m glad I remembered as they were magnificent. I love that this glorious wood is a 30 minute walk from home, roughly the same amount of time it takes to get into the centre of London on the tube.

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We were up pretty early by our standards and were at Chalet Wood soon after 8:30. I was surprised to find only five other people as I expected it to be quite busy. The London Marathon is on today as well as an Extinction Rebellion protest in Westminster, the forecast of rain perhaps kept some punters away as well. I was certainly busier when we left and went for coffee in the small lakeside café. The coffee was terrible by the way.

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This is the fourth year we’ve managed to catch the bluebells and I swear they get better each time; the display seems to be expanding its reach across this section of wood and there are larger numbers in the fields. Bluebells only really grow in quantity in ancient woodlands and there are few of those left in the UK. We’re lucky in that Wanstead Park was once owned by royalty and was preserved for the hunting of deer and other edible wildlife so it was still a woodland when it came into the ownership of the City of London in 1880 when the owner went bankrupt. We walked the weird past the Temple construction that is one of the last remnants of the once grand set of buildings on the grounds.

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I took a few photos, but they really don’t do the place the justice it deserves. You just have to go and experience it yourself, it is a beautiful sight. You need to visit mid-late April, preferably with flatish light, and it’s best to go early in the morning when you can take a seat on a log and enjoy the solitude; get in before the groups of families and loads of other people arrive to disturb the peace.

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MeetUp Barbican photo walk

Saturday 11 March 2023 – Barbican, London.

We’ve been back from the sabbatical in New Zealand for just over a year, and the year seems to have completely disappeared. I haven’t shared a lot of news over that time, in some ways it felt like not much happened that was worth reporting; however, when I put everything down on ‘paper’ it was a very busy time indeed. In no particular order we’ve;

· Both had at least one (thankfully) mildish dose of Covid.
· Eleanor sold her house of 26 years in Walthamstow and bought another one in Leytonstone.
· We’re in the middle of having the kitchen replaced and have been microwaving and air-frying dinner in the sitting room and washing dishes in the bathroom for the last three weeks.
· There has been a lot of work being done on the building my flat is in and as director of the residents association it was a very busy, and stressful time.
· I’m trying to rent my flat so I can save some money when my mortgage goes up in June.
· I’ve got a new job that I start in May.
· Eleanor’s one year contract has been made a permanent position.
· I turned 60, (sad-face).
· We’ve taken two short and enjoyable breaks in Europe.

We want to do more of the European thing; and if I can rent the flat and save some money then European holidays will be definitely be on the plan over summer.

In the meantime, other than being busy with house related things and going to concerts I’ve been trying to beat my lethargy and get out and do more photography. I’m also keen to meet some new people and expand my friendship group a bit beyond the group we mainly hang out with now.

With those things in mind I signed up for a MeetUp Photography walk in the Barbican, which I think is one of the best places for brutalist architectural photography in London. I was hoping to be shown some new spots to take photos and had my fingers crossed I would meet some other photographers interested in walking round taking photos of buildings and things while not talking about camera kit as we go. I’m not that sort of photographer; I like the exploring and act of taking photos rather than all the technology that goes with it.

The Barbican Estate was constructed between 1965 and 1976 and comprises of some 2,000 flats and houses across three towers and some low level blocks. There is also the Barbican Centre mixed usage venue which has a fabulous mid-century interior. I’m planning on going back just to take some photos of the interior, a lot earlier in the day.

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The whole thing is comprised of lovely concrete and to my constant surprise is mostly open to the public and the security guards don’t stop people taking photos. I hope this never changes.

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It was an enjoyable three hour session, there were about a dozen of us photographers led by Alex from the London Centre for Photography who shared a few ideas and things to look out for to make the most of the environment we were in. We had 20 minute sessions across a number of zones in the Barbican precinct and I was shown couple of places I hadn’t been to before. Objective one met. I can’t believe I missed this place before.

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While objective two was to meet more photographers I pretty much spent the three hours shooting on my own, which is I must confess, absolutely my preference. I chatted to people when we all got together between assignments and I did share Instagram names with a couple of people, one who I got on well with and had similar photographic inspirations to me. The rest of the group were really nice, but I didn’t specifically click with anyone. I will do one of these again though as it was fun and interesting and most of the things I wanted from the day.

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After the session ended I went off with a couple of photographers to a nearby parking area to take these two images. we were so lucky this taxi was there and the driver was more than happy to move and stop under the light well. This is my favourite from the day.

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I was really pleased with my photography though, liking most of the images I took. I am a fairly selective photographer and tend to shoot like I was still using film and rarely taking more than one photo of any given subject. I have been very happy with the standard of photo I’ve been taking lately and I take that as a good thing.

Here are the rest of the images I took. I’ve converted most to black and white as that format perfectly suits 60s and 70s architecture. 

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Oneida and Teeth of the Sea @ Studio 9294

Sunday 12 March 2023 – London.

This will be the fourth gig I’ve been to in under month, incredible, and I missed two others that I planned to attend as well. I haven’t done this for a very long time and I’m enjoying it to. Hopefully this will continue as the year goes on.

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I’ve been a fan of Teeth of the Sea for a few years, though had yet to see them live. The headline act, Oneida, I’d not heard of until recently; they’re an American band that have been around for over 20 years but didn’t popped into my radar until the 2022 LP ‘Success’, which is frankly fucking brilliant. With its mix of sing-a-long pop rock and psychedelic rock its one of my favourite LPs from 2022. They’re doing a short tour of the UK for the first time in years, and while Sunday isn’t my favourite day to go and see a couple of bands I decided this time it was worth it.

They were playing at Studio 9294 in Hackney Wick, which according to G*#gle Maps was under 25 minutes from home, if I timed the trains exactly right; which amazingly and completely by accident I did. We saw Hey Colossus at 9294 last year so I was prepared for a poorly lit venue, and I wasn’t let down either, it remains poorly lit.

Teeth of the Sea opened with a booming electronic track with bass straight out of the heaviest techno, the audience, especially those like me at the front, could feel more than hear the bass and drums. It seemed massively loud but with no ringing ears the following morning, thankfully I remembered ear plugs, it obviously wasn’t as loud as some shows I’ve been to recently. I recognised most of the tracks they played, but annoying can’t put names to songs.

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They are a drumless instrumental trio with a trumpet player, albeit the trumpet is played through a myriad of effects. It was the trumpet that first attracted me to the band as it’s not an instrument that features highly in electronic psychedelica, in my experience anyway, but I really like they way they make it sound. I’m looking forward to the new album.

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It was tough going getting decent photos, the light was terrible and I was stuck tight up against the stage by an enthusiastic crowd. I think the show was sold out, it was busy anyway.

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Oneida are a five piece with two keyboard players, one also who occasionally plays bass, and they fully occupied the small stage. I thought they were great, a bit more engaging with the banter than Teeth of the Sea who didn’t say anything at all. I started off in front of the guitar players before moving to the opposite side of the stage later in the set. I would loved to have been in front of the drummer though, he was incredible. There were moments during their set when clean white light was on the stage and I managed to grab a couple of photos that didn’t need to be converted to black and white; if only Teeth of the Sea had the same!

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They played quite a few songs off Success, including the 15 minute Paralyzed which was a set highlight.

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I was too close to the stage to get a decent photo of the other guitarist, so here is a guitar.

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For a Sunday night it was a great gig, well attended by a supportive audience. I had a good time; and I grabbed a gig poster too.