Docklands

Sunday 24 July 2022 – London.

Empty boulevards, blown desert dry by a Saharan-like wind, sand dusted cars and relentless heat from a clear blue sky. A young woman walking in the opposite direction scurries past on the far side of the weed-edged footpath. She’s wearing a mask and black sun glasses under her hijab and though I can’t see her eyes I can tell she looked at me like I was mad. “Mad dogs and Englishmen”, as the old saying goes. I suspect few people walk these streets at any time, let alone on a windy day under a strong mid-day sun. This is not really a walking place at the best of times.

I pass through a wind-tunnel created by poorly thought through blocks of flats, my hat is blown off twice in a hundred yards. Emerging onto one of the older streets, I catch, then pass a young couple taking photos of each other on a shared mobile phone; they laugh. I guess they are visitors too, the area seems devoid of residents. I see windows wide open, washing drying on balconies and bikes changed to fences, so there must be people here, somewhere. It feels lifeless, soulless and other words ending in ‘ess, it’s not the place for me.

Surprisingly I’m in Docklands, east London, not the back streets of Dubai, or some other desert state where the non-billionaire classes are moved out to the fringes. I’m walking from Canning Town Station to Trinity Buoy Wharf and man has it changed since I was last here.

There was an article in the Guardian by Ollie Wainwright (my new favourite feature writer) a few weeks ago exposing a (so far) failed Chinese funded office development in Docklands and it sounded just like the sort of thing I should see it for myself. This is a bit of London I have visited on occasion, but never properly explored, and the article was a good prompt to get out for a photo walk. Sadly I need these reminders to get out and do things I enjoy.

I’m going to say I was a bit shocked, maybe even a little upset by what I discovered while I was out as it’s all a bit of an urban planning disaster. I guess the area was never going to be beautiful, not without major surgery; carved up by the River Lea, empty docks, crossed with A roads and with City Airport in the middle of it. This was designed to be a commercial and industrial zone, which it was until time ran out for the docks that supported London for decades. Now it is a bit of a wasteland, and with an urgent, if not desperate need for more housing then logic says build houses; which is what is happening, just not very well.

This was highlighted as I crossed the pedestrian bridge from Canning Town tube station on to the small isthmus formed by a tight loop in the River Lea/Bow Creek just before it flows into the Thames. I walked straight into a new housing estate that seems to be called City Island (City Isthmus doesn’t have the same ring to it). In some ways it is an island I guess, river on three of the four sides and a flyover crossing the fourth which makes it feel disconnected from the its neighbours.

It wasn’t an unpleasant looking area, The National Ballet is homed here and the apartments are not unattractive; but it was so empty of life and the buildings had created an artificial canyon which the wind howled through, I had to put my hat in my bag as there was no point in attempting to wear it on my head.

Once through the estate and under the Lea Crossing Flyover there were some familiar old Docklands buildings, though I’m not sure how long they will last as more flats are, or were being built.

I walked around Trinity Buoy Wharf, it was good knowing that this tiny bit of land was largely untouched, and the café is still open. There was a large group of artists sketching and drawing in notebooks, this place still attracts the art community at least. I wonder what they think of the changes?

To get to the rest of Docklands I had to leave this small area and use the Lea Crossing bridge, it was pretty unpleasant. It feels like these new micro-communities are being dropped into little bits of old London, then deliberately kept disconnected from neighbouring communities by the major roads that proliferate away form the centre. These roads are unpleasant to walk alongside and in some cases difficult to cross. You almost have to have a car to get any enjoyment from living in some of the places, and that joy is to be found in getting out. Though to be fair the Docklands Light Rail (DLR) system runs through here and it is a great piece of public transport investment.

I walked past the Excel Centre, I should have stopped for coffee and some lunch, but thought I would find something further along my walk. Though there was nothing on in the conference centre the place was fairly busy, the buzziest place I passed as I walked.

I crossed the Royal Victoria Dock using the quite fabulous footbridge (I regret not taking a photo), though the steps didn’t do my knee any favours. I took some photos from the top, the view is pretty immense from up here.

I’ve always wanted to visit the Millennium Mills building, but was never able to get tickets to the rare tours to the site, sadly those days are past and this huge, ugly/beautiful building will be converted into expensive flats to go along side all the other flats that no-one who lives now here can actually afford. I sense another residential desert coming. The building is magnificent, especially now as it slowly decays.

My next stop was Thames Barrier Park, for it’s view of the barrier built to save parts of London when the floods come. Like Millennium Mills I’ve long wanted to come here, but haven’t managed to in the past. Getting there was the tricky part, there was another road to cross and a long line of barrier fencing preventing crossing.

I made it over eventually, passing under the DLR and yet another place I should have stopped for coffee at but didn’t. I never did get that coffee.

Thames Barrier Park is really nice, a lovely green and shaded oasis in the sea of apartments, it was quiet and cooler than the heat attracting/reflecting streets. There were quite a few people here enjoying the peace, you can see that the council look after the park well. Other than Trinity Buoy wharf it was the only place I visited today that seemed to be loved by the community that lived nearby.

After almost ten years of construction the Thames Barrier was completed in 1982, it’s a retractable barrier designed to close, blocking the river to protect the centre of London from flooding due to tidal surges on the river. I am assuming the water that doesn’t go up river is then forced into the streets of working class outer London, but at least the banks in the city centre will be safe. It’s a remarkable piece of engineering and looks amazing. I will try and come back one day when it is closed as I’ve no idea what it would look like then.

Athena by Nasser Azam is on a roundabout at the entrance to City Airport, at 12 metres it is the tallest bronze sculpture in the UK, I’m ambivalent about it, but it is huge!

After saying farewell to Athena I approached Connaught Bridge and was horrified to see there was no footpath on the side of the road. I quickly discovered, to my relief, that I could walk underneath, but this was not immediately obvious as a newly visiting pedestrian, for a brief moment I saw myself backtracking all the way back to the Excel centre to get to the other side of the dock.

Given my antipathy to cars and roads I actually quite like being underneath these vast concrete constructions. There is something simple and practical and almost beautiful in the design and build of a flyover; clean lines, gentle curves and huge amounts of pale and austere concrete. From beneath they are cathedral-like, some have tables and chairs, almost like an altar, created by the homeless, street drinkers, graffiti artists and other street dwellers who congregate in these drone filled shelters.

Arriving in Royal Albert Dock I was surprised at how big it was, the runway of City Airport runs down one side with a long concreted promenade down the other. Like Royal Victoria Dock, there are small scale leisure activities on or in the water at one end. I’m not convinced that an airport runway provides the cleanest air for boating activities, but a least there are some activities for the young from the surrounding suburbs.

This area, between the railway and the dock was I guess an empty, fenced off wasteland for a number of years. Under Boris Johnson’s mayoralty there was a drive to open up a new commercial zone in Docklands and there was some logic to this, the airport is here, the huge Excel Convention centre next door, there are hotels and bars and restaurants nearby. The supporting infrastructure was largely in place and business would generate loads of new jobs, though possibly not for those pesky working class folk who lived in the 50s and 60s housing estates that surround the area and whose work ended when the docks were closed.

Sensing opportunity Newham Council joined the bandwagon and they now part occupy the first building I come to in this new utopian, ‘third business centre’ of London. It’s pretty bleak, what grass has been left in the sea of concrete is a sun scorched yellow brown, weeds grow through the pavers and for some reason this section of walkway is taped off. There is no-one around so I cross the tape and walk along the side of the building, looking in the windows as I go, some of the offices look occupied, most appear to be fitted out with workstations that no human has yet worked at.

Finally I arrive at Advanced Business Parks’ (ABP) failed venture to build something of lasting value, and the reason I left home this morning with my camera in my bag. Touted in 2013 as a new start for this bit of Docklands, the massive investment (tax break?) by ABP was to lead the way for Chinese and pan-Asian business investment in London, a new 24 hour business precinct giving opportunities to overseas companies to use the best British workers to service their needs in local time.

200 yards multiplied by two of empty low rise office space. The boulevard of dreams, not turned into the boulevard of reality when it all came crashing down; starting in 2018 and ending when Covid struck in 2020. At least the road leading to the locked road gates sees some use.

The site is open to pedestrians so there was no fence hopping to get in. I saw a couple of people walking along the side of the dock, but there was no one walking between the buildings other than my refection in the clean office windows. The site is obviously being secured and looked after, there were no smashed windows, no graffiti and no sign of anyone squatting.

The only life being a few forlorn trees; though most of the trees were dead.

Mandarin Street is the single main thoroughfare between the four buildings; in two rows of two blocks. One of the buildings seems to house a small local gallery; though it was closed when I was there. Most were just empty. It was weird walking around where there was even less signs of life than in City Island.

I wonder what will happen to this place and it’s big wide promenade, looking over an empty expanse of dock to an airport. Plenty of real-estate companies though.

Hungry, hot and a bit dehydrated I caught the DLR and then the Overground ending the afternoon in a bar in Shoreditch drinking a couple of beers and eating a burger with Aiden. Three hours of walking in the sun pretty much did for me so a seat, some food, cold beer and relaxing chat with my son was a pleasing way to end an interesting and not entirely uplifting day. it was nice to see there is still some street art to be found in Shoreditch.

I read the other day that London is a city containing a million smaller cities. Today I visited more than one of those smaller cities and next time I’m here they will be changed, or gone completely.

Sir John Soane’s House

Saturday 2 July 2022 – London.

As I have alluded to on a couple of occasions recently, life has been very busy. Work has been hectic for most of the past month as a work-mate was on leave; I’m not sure how he coped when I had seven months off. Alongside this I’ve been trying to get the possessions we sent back from New Zealand (things we sent to NZ in the first place) from the shipping company without paying hundreds of pounds in unnecessary tax due to being poorly advised. Thankfully, I managed to achieve an acceptable tax result and expect to see the stuff that was pick up in January delivered shortly, six months after it was collected from us in Auckland.

Last week I finally had confirmation that scaffold will be going up on the rear wall of the block my flat is in so a significant amount of maintenance can be done. As a member of the residents association for the block I started work on this project two years ago and it has been a constant thorn in my side, creating a large amount of unnecessary stress. Hopefully the four months of actual work will pass smoothly and the scaffold will be down on time, and my view to the sea will no longer be compromised by bits of steel pole. I haven’t been at the flat enough this summer.

Running alongside this Eleanor has sold her house. She has accepted an offer on her house at least, fingers crossed all goes according to plan. It was a great reward for the amount of cleaning, tidying and decluttering we have done in the past month. The housing market is hot in London and she was very happy with what the purchaser offered, and it sold immediately. Phew,  now the constant tidying can stop and I can hang my towel on the banister again.

I probably should have mentioned in a prior post; but my youngest son, Aiden, has come to the UK from New Zealand for a few months. Though since he’s been here he’s barely stayed with us; there are festivals to attend and friends to see, and to be fair, if it was me, I would  be doing the same. His timing wasn’t great with the house sale going on, though he stayed for a couple of days soon after arriving and repaired and painted a couple of walls in the conservatory which was much appreciated. Then he buggered off to do fun things and I’ve barely seen him since; till yesterday.

Eleanor is at the flat for the weekend, we spent a couple of days there together this week and I came back to London last night. I met Aiden at Eleanor’s when I got home and we went to the Bell,  the pub at the end of the road for a burger and a beer for dinner.

Today Aiden wanted to do the tourist thing and visit the Tower of London, something I was very up for as it is a favourite tourist attraction of mine, so we left home mid-morning with that intent. We took the tube to The Barbican so I could share with him the last remains of the Roman wall that surrounded the city and was built about 1800 years ago. I’m still amazed that things this old still exist; we live in such a throw-away society; built-in obsolescence is the norm now. Use it and bin it. One of the things I appreciate the most about living away from New Zealand is the sheer volume of fabulous history that you can see and touch and it is seemingly everywhere.

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I took Aiden past St Pauls Cathedral. He was amazed at the size and detail of the building, we all are, and there’s nothing like this in downtown Auckland.

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I’ve never seen this worn and damaged statue, it’s a little disturbing; like his face is melting under the pollution and vile fug atmosphere of the UK in 2022. I digress…

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We crossed the Thames on the bendy bridge and walked along the Southbank, past the new old Shakespeare’s Globe, the new old The Golden Hinde, (the ship Sir Francis Drake sailed around the world) and the new newer Borough Market. I should have seen the warning signs as we walked the Southbank, particularly when we got to Borough Market, but I was too busy telling Aiden about London and talking about the things we walked past; there are a LOT of tourists about. There are few things in life I enjoy more than walking the streets of the centre of London with someone unfamiliar with the city and showing the bits I love; and there are a lot of bits I love.

I took Aiden past the even newer Shard, waved in the general direction of where I lived not far from the Shard for most of 2013 and half of 2014, now mostly obscured by other buildings. Then back to the side of the Thames at City Hall, the ultra modern precinct next to Tower Bridge and over the river from the Tower of London. Our destination for the morning.

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Walking the cobbled way between the outer wall of the Tower and the river we (I) realised that visiting the Tower on a warm and sunny July weekend and the first summer since the pandemic ‘ended’ was a stupid idea. There were a lot of people about and when we discovered it was going to cost £32.90 each to visit we agreed a mid-week in autumn would be a better time.

I was tempted to get tickets to the Superbloom event in the dried up moat outside the walls of the tower, but that was too busy. I took a couple of photos instead. Maybe this is something Eleanor and I can do together? it looks quite spectacular.

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Aiden and I agreed that the next best thing to going to the Tower was to go and have a beer. Though it was a bit of a walk away, and on the other side of St Pauls Cathedral, almost where we had come from, I chose Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese for a drink.

We took a slightly meandering walk to the pub. I tend to avoid the busier streets, not so much because they are busy with people and cars, which they are, but because the back streets are far more interesting, especially those streets in the older parts of the City of London. There are numerous narrow roads and lanes and not quite hidden alley-ways linking even quieter lanes all over, and very few are travelled much outside of working hours. There are plenty of Wren designed churches as well. I must do a Wren photo walk one day.

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One of London’s older pubs, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese was first opened in 1538, then completely rebuilt in 1667 after the great fire that devastated London in 1666. It is a very old pub and a great spot to take a visitor, especially from New Zealand where an old building is anything over 100 years old. we sat in one of the cellar bars and got listen to a very loud American telling his friend about all the drugs you can buy in California. We only stayed for one.

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While we were having our pint Aiden got a message from some friends about a gathering in Lincoln Inn Fields, which is a five minute walk from the Cheese. Rather than take the main roads we took the alley in which the pub entrance sits and walked past the statue of Hodge the Cat. Hodge was owned (are cats ever owned?) by Dr Samuel Johnson, whose house is nearby. It’s the small things in London that are the best.

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Aiden’s friends had yet to arrive when we got to Lincoln Inn Fields so we took the opportunity to visit the free Sir John Soane’s Museum. A place I’ve thought about visiting for ages but never have, and I’m definitely going back again. Born in 1753 Sir John Soane was one of England’s premier regency architects and a wealthy man. Between 1782 and 1823 Soane bought three houses on Lincoln Inn Fields, demolishing and then rebuilding all three, he lived in one and used the other two to house his ever growing and extraordinary collections. In 1833, four years before his death, he had a private act passed in parliament turning his houses and collections over to the people of Britain, to be kept as they were at the time of his death.

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The collections are completely bonkers, vast and varied and very interesting; the highlight for me being the sarcophagus of the Egyptian King Seti who lived between 1303 and 1200 BC. It was incredible to see something like this, in what was once a private collection. We were free to take photos, though no flash was allowed, so a few long exposures were taken, meaning a lot of images were consigned to the bin.

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Most of the rooms are filled to the ceiling with interesting things to look at, in places the space between exhibits is quite narrow, care needs to be taken as you walk around and limited numbers are allowed in the building at any one time to minimise risk. It’s (supposedly) exactly as it was when Sir John passed away in 1837. Our bags were put into clear plastic bags that we had to carry in front us as we perused the collection; I was grateful for this as I’m a little clumsy, and I could imagine me toppling some valuable art work.

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The collection contains a number of original pieces Soane’s discovered on his travels, there is a Greek urn from around 4bc (I recall); hopefully acquired legally and morally! There are also a number of plaster casts made from original Greek and Roman sculpture. I learned that casts was a huge thing in the early to mid 1800s when we visited the Victoria and Albert Museum last week.

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I really enjoyed the museum and will hopefully be heading back there with Eleanor sometime in the not too distant future.

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Aiden and I walked back to Kings Cross Station. We stopped for a beer on the way, or intended to but the prices were mad so we left before buying anything and had a can when we got home.

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Victoria and Albert Museum

Saturday 25 June 2022 – London.

The past couple of months have seen things too busy for much fun, work has been full on and there’s been little relief at the weekend either. I feel like we’ve barely had time to stay at my place in St Leonards since we got back from New Zealand at the end of February, and that didn’t change this weekend either; for a good reason. Eleanor has decided to sell her house and today is open home day, the Walthamstow market is so hot that we really only expect to have one of these and the house should be sold by mid week. The last month seems to have been spent decluttering, tidying, cleaning, and in Eleanor’s case, styling the house, firstly for the official photos and then for today. It will be nice to have it over and done with, and the hope is that it sells well and we don’t need to keep it immaculate all the time, we need to live here too.

The weather was nice so we decided to go to the other side of London, westward to Paddington Station and then walk to the Victoria and Albert Museum through Kensington Gardens, one of the Royal Parks. We haven’t been to the V&A in years, and other than the airport I don’t recall travelling west of my office since well before lockdown.

After many years of delay and many billions over budget the new cross-rail Elizabeth Line opened recently, a brand new underground line traversing London from east to west, and vice-versa. We took the new line from Liverpool Street to Paddington. The trains are bigger, slightly quieter and very well air-conditioned and they only stop a couple of times crossing London which is the big difference for me; not that we will use it much, but good to know it is there and the time to Paddington and Heathrow Airport is reduced which is an absolute bonus. After almost thirty hours on a plane, the 90 minutes on the tube home is just a major drag.

The new stations are great though, I really like the design and the tunnels connecting the platforms are so much bigger than the crammed spaces on other lines. I managed to quickly grab a photo with no passengers in it. The signpost in the shape of a cross was, in it’s way, an apt image to start the day, though I didn’t realise at the time that there would be a lot of symbolism to come.

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We stopped for coffee in Paddington before walking to Kensington Gardens, arriving near the Italian Gardens. As I said earlier we haven’t been to this part of London for ages, and I don’t think we been to the Italian Gardens together before; they were nice, if slightly busy. I had completely forgotten how busy London gets in tourist season, and it’s coming to the peak season now, more so now that the pandemic is ‘over’ and London is again a destination for both British and overseas tourists.

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We walked through the park towards the V&A, stopping to take a few photos on the way, the Royal Parks are letting some areas of their parks return to some form of managed wildness, with long grasses and wild flowers. It was really quite nice and it felt like we were anywhere but the middle of a city. It is very dry, but I like the colours more.

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I was surprised to come across a Henry Moore sculpture, ‘The Arch’ which was first erected in 1980, then taken away in the 90s as it started to crumble, before being re-erected in 2012. I’m not really a fan of sculpture, but loved this, especially with the heron sitting atop.

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Eleanor and I have been to the V&A a few times, mainly for exhibitions, and every time we vow to come back and spend more time, and more time wandering the halls on our own; we have different interests and want to spend time looking at the things we like as well as sharing the experience.

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My travels in Asia left me with a fascination for Buddhist and Hindu carvings and statuary and this engendered a bit of an interest in iconography and European religious art as well. The V&A has plenty of both, though it’s not something Eleanor enjoys as much as me.

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We walked through one of the Buddhist art sections before stopping for a can of wine in the square in the centre of the museum. The wine wasn’t too bad.

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After that brief rest we continued on through a European religious art section, I love this stuff. I’m much more interested in the wood and stone carvings and the beautiful stained glass than I am in painted work. This 16th century Dutch St Peter is just beautiful, hard to believe it’s been in existence for over 500 years.

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I know a number of these works were stolen and should be returned to the country of origin, and I feel privileged to be able to see them, and further privileged that I could see similar when I travelled. I can’t wait to travel again.

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Our next stop was the completely bonkers ‘Cast Courts’. When the museum was built in the 1870s this room was created with an extra high ceiling of 25 metres to cater for the height of the two piece of Trajans Column which were made from a cast commissioned by Napoléon in 1864. The rooms are rammed with seemingly random pieces of art, all plaster casts made from moulds taken from the original artefacts, mainly during the 19th century, filling museums and stately homes with perfect copies of original art works. I love these rooms, they just seem so mad, and exactly what museums should be about;  fun, enlightening, inspiring and educational. I guess that means the Tories will try and ban them.

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Passing through one final Asian art section as we headed towards the front door. I found this early 20th century ‘Emaciated Buddha’ bronze carving from Thailand, which I’ve never seen the like of before. I have seen plenty of Buddha statues before but not from the period when he fasted for six years. It was my favourite object from the day.

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The day started with a cross, so it should end with one as well.

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We caught the tube back to Walthamstow as the open home day was wrapping up mid-afternoon. The agent said it had gone well, that there would be offers coming early next week, and good ones at that.

It was a good day.

Hey Colossus with Kulk @ Studio 9294

Friday 24 June 2022 – Hey Colossus with Kulk @ Studio 9294, Hackney Wick, London.

Hey Colossus have been a favourite band for a few years and I’ve been looking forward to seeing them again since they made a surprise appearance at The Piper in St Leonards way back in November 2019. A gig that turned out to be almost the last I attended pre-lockdown. This London show was originally scheduled as an album release party in 2020, was then postponed to 2021 and then further postponed to now. Life was not normal for most of 2020 and 2021 so it was an eager and expectant crowd that turned up to Studio 9294 in Hackney Wick to see them.

Noise/sludge/doom duo Kulk, I’m not entirely sure how to describe them, were the support act. They were OK, I mostly enjoyed their set, but they weren’t really my cup of tea, a bit too metal for my tastes. 

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Taking photos in the available light was a struggle, the band were mostly in darkness with very strong strip lighting behind them. I took a few photos with some difficulty and then gave up,  these are the best of an average to poor bunch.

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After some last minute monitor cable faffing Hey Colossus were welcomed to the stage by a loud and robust cheer from the audience. As a six piece they managed to survive reasonably intact over the pandemic period with only the drummer and one of the guitarists changing since I last saw them. They have been recording and performing for 16 years and lines-up changes are quite normal for them, the replacement guitarist has been a band member before. The main thing was they survived the pandemic, managed to rehearse even though they live all over the place, and it seems they have written some new songs as well.

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Their 13th LP, a double, “Dances/Curses” came out in November 2020 to critical acclaim and a number of represses, and was released on bass player, Joe’s new label Wrong Speed Records . I have two copies, not for any weird ‘playing one and keeping one mint’ reason, but because one got lost in the post for two months so I ordered another. They’re a small band, albeit with lots of members, and I didn’t want to the Royal Mail’s balls-up to be at their cost. I could afford it, though obviously I didn’t expect the first copy to turn up, which it did about two days after the second copy. Oh well. Wrong Speed have released quite a few recordings during and since lockdown, all have been by obscure artists, across a variety of genres and most have been excellent. I have a few…

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The ten song set was, as you would expect, mostly made up of tracks from the new record, though they played a couple off the previous LP ‘Four Bibles’ which I appreciated as it is a great collection of songs. There was also a new song in the set, which seems to have been called B & G, possibly describing a two chord main riff, who knows?

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The set closed with the 16 minutes track Trembling Rose from the new LP, a favourite of mine and by the enthusiastic reception from the crowd, it was a favourite of most others as well.

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We really enjoyed the gig. Though like the Gnod gig I went to in May it was quite loud and a bit muddy it was difficult to hear individual instruments where we were standing. Ear plugs would have been good so I’ve ordered some for future gigs. My ears are getting old.

It was fab just getting out of the house of evening and doing something, and Hackney Wick isn’t a bad place to do it.

The River Lea

Sometime around late May 2022 – River Lea, London.

I actually can’t remember the date I did this walk. I know I could walk upstairs and find the hard drive with the images on it and they would tell me to the second when they were taken, but that seems like a lot of effort right now. I’m tired. It has been a madly busy almost two months since I last wrote anything and my head has not allowed me any space to put fingers to keyboard and come up with anything vaguely intelligible. More on those last couple of months in the next couple of posts, it’s all pretty good stuff.

I got a really bad head cold a couple of weeks after the Gnod gig and then Eleanor got Covid; along with her son and his partner who were still living with us at the time, though they have moved out since. I tested myself five times during that period and was negative every time, I’m not certain I believe the tests.

Eleanor was working, and I had a day off, so, as I’m enjoying taking photos again and keen to keep that roll going for as long as possible, I decided to walk the River Lea towpath to Stratford. I needed to pick up a couple of things from Marks and Spencer’s and a two hour walk sometimes beats taking the bus. I need the exercise too.

After saying that, I cheated and got the bus to Walthamstow Wetlands, a wildlife reserve that is next to where I was joining the Lea towpath. The walk along Forest Rd from home to Blackhorse Rd just depresses me, so many cars and so much pollution; best to get to the good bits feeling more upbeat than I would’ve been if I had walked.

My walk was off to a good start, I saw a (grey?) heron between the Wetlands and the towpath.

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Though the next scene wasn’t as good.

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The first kilometre or so of path, from Tottenham Hale to Walthamstow Marshes runs alongside residential streets and housing estates, with a view over the river to the raised banks of the Wetlands reservoirs.

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This section of the Lea has always been busy with houseboats but with austerity on the increase and the cost of living going up seemingly daily there are more boats than ever. Some of these riverboats have had a lot of money spent on them, others less so.

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And others; even less.

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Once past the housing estates and parks of Tottenham and Stamford Hill the walk gets a little more interesting; a little darker as the overgrowing foliage narrows the path and pushes walkers closer to the boats. The grass is longer here, uncontrolled, the weeds more feral and the brambles and thistles are close to head high.

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There are few places to stray off the path. Though there are fewer people walking here to stray, the boats seem deserted and derelict, it felt like London was turning into some post-apocalyptic dead-zone as I walked. Maybe I slipped through a portal into a quieter, darker universe. The Lea can do that to you; this is an old waterway and there have long been stories and rumours of mysterious and unusual goings-on; have you heard about the headless corpse of a bear found floating…

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Anyway, on the other side of that thin line of trees are sports fields and houses, and on weekends loads of people. Reverie over, normality returns. The cycle path has been resurfaced since I last rode along here.

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I stopped for a much needed coffee at the far edge of the old Olympic Village before heading in, going to M and S and jumping on a bus back home. It was a nice walk.

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Gnod with The Black Arches @ The Piper, St Leonards-on-Sea.

Friday 6 May 2022 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

This was to be the first gig I’ve attended since January 13, the first since we’ve been back in the UK and the first at The Piper since February 2020 when we went to see Penelope Isles; the last gig I attended before the country went into lockdown the following month. I was a little wary approaching this event as a number of people I follow on various social media platforms have caught Covid at gigs in the past month; while no one was particularly ill, I still didn’t want to join them on the ill list. As I write this two weeks after the event I am day three into a nasty head cold. I’d forgotten just how unpleasant a streaming nose and blocked sinuses can be, I guess it not being Covid is a blessing.

The headliners, Gnod, are an English psych/noise rock band that have been around in various forms since 2006, though they didn’t come into my radar until the 2017 album ‘Just Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine’, a title that surely attracts attention. They have released four albums since then, of which I have three, though the latest album ‘Hexen Valley’ has yet to arrive in my letterbox and is very late due to vinyl pressing issues.

I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight, the last records have been heavier and sludgier than the early drawn out psych jam style tracks which I have been listening to a lot lately.

The Piper has undergone a refurbishment over lockdown and is quite a bit bigger, with the stage moving 90 degrees into the new extension. This is good. What they haven’t fixed is the crap lighting, and tonight was pretty bad, The Black Arches under a red glow and Gnod under the even worse (from a photo perspective), blue.

The night started with a set from the Black Arches, a Hastings group led by the writer Gareth E. Rees. Gareth wrote the book ‘The Stone Tide’, comprised of part fiction/part non-fiction tales of Hastings. It was released just as I looking to move to St Leonards and was in part one of the reasons I decided to move here. The other, non-musical, Black Arches are three arches carved into the side of East Hill in Hastings in the 18th century. On a good day when the scrub is clear and viewed across the valley from west Hill, they look like the entrance to a church. No-one really knows why they were carved, possibly as an elaborate prank. It took three attempts for me to find them, finally achieving that goal in Jan 2021. As you would expect I wrote about them at the time.

I enjoyed The Black Arches set, they were a better band than last time I saw them, tighter and a bit heavier, maybe the sound last time was poor? Apart from going to a lot of gigs I know nothing about sound and systems, but to my ears the Piper has a decent PA, loud enough and oomphy enough to allow a good wall of noise that doesn’t sound like sludge. Anyway, The Black Arches set was good.

As the light was so poor I was shooting at a very low speed so some of the images are a bit blurry. These are the best of a poor bunch of images. Red light, it sucks.

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For the final song of their set the band were joined on vocals by Medway artist/poet/musician Sexton Ming, producing one of the best songs of their short set.

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You have to admire a band that has two drummers. The last band I remember seeing with two onstage was Swans and they were amazing and set a high bar for how well two drummers can synchronise a beat, before that it was probably The Fall, an even higher bar. Two drummers means a lot of volume for the guitars to compete with so it was loud, very loud; not oppressively so but definitely loud; my ears were still humming in the morning as I stupidly didn’t use the earplugs that were in my pocket.

I had a good position close to centre front. Paddy Shine, vocals and guitar, stood in front of the low stage, making it more difficult to take photos of the rest of the band as they were in deeper shadow. He has a very expressive face and it was interesting just watching his performance.

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The band played a few songs I recognised, none of the log slow jams with repeating keyboard and guitar riffs and drones, but I knew that due to the lack of keyboard on stage. The set was pretty aggressive, very much the heavier end of their musical spectrum.

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They started with ‘Regimental’, one of my favourites from the their second to last album ‘La mort du Sens’ (The death of meaning), followed by a track I didn’t know and then ‘Pink Champagne Blues’, also from the La Mort LP.

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The fourth track was the 15 minute , repeating two note ‘Spotlight’ off the most recent LP ‘Hexen Valley’. This was the track where the two drummers truly excelled, 15 minutes of pummelling in perfect synchronicity; with no apparent flagging; just fantastic.

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Spotlight was followed by two more songs from Hexen Valley, then a couple I didn’t recognise. The set finished with a cracking, fast version of my favourite of their heavier tracks ‘Bodies for Money’ from ‘Just say no to the psycho right-wing capitalist fascist industrial machine’, an album title that sums up the political stance taken in their lyrics.

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It was a great gig, well attended, loud, hot, sweaty and I enjoyed it immensely. I heard the following day that apparently the band did as well, and they will be back to play St Leonards on a future tour. Yay.

10 minute walk and I was home, who can ask for better than that.

London Brutal Day Out

Saturday 23 April 2022 – London.

I’ve been looking forward to this ‘Brutal Day Out’ walk since it was muted a couple of weeks back. Someone I follow on Instagram was keen to organise a Southbank brutalist architecture photo walk if there was sufficient interest, which there was, from about 20 people, though only nine turned up on the day; which I guess wasn’t at all bad. It was a great group, everyone got on, there was a load of chat and quite a few photos were taken; I mean I alone took 126, which is a huge number for me. I very much enjoyed myself, and though I mostly prefer photography as a solo activity, going out with a group of like minded individuals for a change was a heck of a lot of fun.

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As the meet-up point was outside Blackfriars Station I caught the tube to St Paul’s and walked the few hundred yards from there, sneaking a bit of practise in on the way. This is a very cliché shot of the cathedral, but it’s also a great angle and a photo had to be taken. I guess it’s why it’s a bit of a cliché shot.

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I lugged the big camera bag around with me today, and used all three of the lenses I packed, but mostly I used the 50mm. I’ll travel lighter if there is another walk, which I think there will be. I will also go back to the National Theatre and take some more photos inside, and try and get there when there are less theatre audience members milling. Apparently taking photos inside can be tricky as security are known to stop people, though I was pretty lucky today it seems.

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The walk started at Baynard House at Blackfriars, a place I haven’t previously visited. I think it’s mostly empty now, but it used to be occupied by BT. The building was completed in 1979 and BT have occupied it ever since. It was an interesting place to walk around, and I took quite a few photos, we were here a lot longer than expected due to the group’s interest. I liked it, partly because there was no-one else about and I knew our next stop on the South Bank would be busy. Herding photographers is like herding cats and our organisers spent a bit of time trying to get us to move along. We all like to get the ‘special’ shot, preferably with no other photographer in it.

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I particularly liked the steps out the front of the building.

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The ‘Seven Ages of Man’ by sculpture Richard Kindersley is a seven metre tall aluminium totem pole, and weirdly I cannot work out when it was either made or erected here. It is definitely strange, and rather creepy. I liked it a lot, though only took photos of the bottom of the seven heads and the text inscription.

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The underpass that links the two halves of the building had a well polished metal mirror that was screaming for a photo.

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We crossed the Thames on Blackfriars Bridge and took a few photos around the River Court apartment building, of which I can find very little about on the internet. I know the building was here on the South Bank in 1986 as I occasionally visited it when I was a courier in this part of London. The other side of the building overlooks the Thames and the view from the flats must be spectacular.

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I have taken photos of the IBM Building, The National Theatre, The Hayward Gallery and Festival Hall quite a few times before, along with the Barbican Centre they are the most well known examples of brutalist architecture in London.

The IBM Building and its neighbour the National Theatre were both designed by the architect Denys Lasdun in the early 1980s. I love the National Theatre building, less so the IBM Building, though am warming to it; it is definitely on the uglier side of ‘brutal’ architecture. I love the stairs on the side next to the about to be/maybe/possibly not demolished ITV tower, I can’t believe I haven’t walked down this side before. They look like the prow of a giant concrete ship.

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I’ve never tried to take photos inside the National Theatre (NT) before, and was surprised I was allowed to take so many as I’ve heard tell that security clamp down on it. They did know I was there as I told them I was taking photos when they searched my bag, maybe they thought I was official? I arrived just as a show was being called so there were a lot of people milling about for a while which hindered progress. I was under a bit of time pressure to meet up with the rest of the group, so didn’t stay as long as I should’ve. I enjoyed it in there, it’s great inside; all harsh lines and clean concrete with interesting light lines. I will go back one day soon.

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We stopped for a lunch break on the steps at the side of the Hayward Gallery, us and 10,000 other people it seemed. Most of whom were being fed from the food market behind Festival Hall, including me; very nice samosas.  A part of me wished I’d stayed inside the NT and taken a few more photos, but I was hungry and it was good to eat and chat. It took a couple of photos around the Gallery, though it was my least inspired location, maybe the lunch break broke the roll I thought I was on.

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After the Hayward we milled about the Festival Hall area for a bit, including a return to the roof garden for the first time in a few years. The scene of an almost fight a few years back with some very drunk poshos. We all got told to leave by security.

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The group agreed it would be an absolute waste if we didn’t walk to Tate Modern and take photos of the magnificent curved staircase in the Blavatnik building. I have taken (everyone has taken) photos of this staircase before, but it is a modern work of art, and it’s verging on mandatory to take a photo of them if you’re in the vicinity of Tate Modern.

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And that was it. A few hours out with likeminded strangers, taking photos of huge lumps of concrete was a lot of fun and I hope there is another walk soon.

Walthamstow Wetlands

Sunday 27 March 2022 – Walthamstow, London.

It was Eleanor and my first walk together that wasn’t just a pre-work walk round the block or trip to the supermarket since we arrived back in the UK a month ago. The plan was to walk down through Walthamstow Market (mostly closed on Sunday) to the Marshes then walk the River Lea towpath to Ferry Lane and back home. It’s about a two hour loop if we don’t stop for lunch at the Ferry Boat Inn; which we won’t as it was awful when we ate there a couple of weeks back. They will get a chance to redeem themselves one day. That was the plan when we left home anyway.

When we arrived at the Coppermill Lane entrance to Walthamstow Wetlands we decided to walk there instead. It’s a slightly shorter walk, but there’s a nice café for coffee, and we took the opportunity for an unplanned and early lunch too. It seemed the right thing to do.

The wetlands were opened to the public in October 2017 and are a 211 hectare collection of ten reservoirs providing water to London. The reservoirs were built over a fifty year period from 1853 to 1904 and run alongside the Lea. Sitting in the Lea Valley the wetlands are part of an important corridor for migrating birds and are very popular with the birding community. There are a number of fishing spots around the various ponds for licensed fisherfolk as well. A multi-purpose environment.

Cormorant Island from Coppermill Lane.

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I love the island, it’s almost completely white with guano, it looks a lot like snow or a good frost, but imagine it doesn’t smell like either of those. The small grouping of trees are leafless in winter and sometimes the large birds can be seen in the branches. Over the years the view back drop has become more and more built up as the developments around Blackhorse Rd Station take shape. From this angle the new buildings almost mirror the shape of the trees.

Just inside the Coppermill Lane entrance is the copper mill itself, now used by Thames water and obscured by tree in this photo. There’s been a mill on this spot since the 14th century and I’m sure bits of the original still exist somewhere buried in the bowels of the building. Originally built to grind corn (the mill was powered by water from the Coppermill Stream) over the centuries the mill has been used in the manufacture of paper, gunpowder and leather. It was mostly rebuilt in 1806 and the publicly accessible viewing platform was added in 1864.

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Over the road from the marshes is a much newer water treatment plant, a site that has been growing in size and complexity over the past few years and there is a lot more security as well.

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The paths around, and between, the reservoirs were quite busy, it was cool but dry out and there were a few families taking the the opportunity to get the kids out. The demographic in this part of North East London has moved even further towards young middle class families over the past year, seemingly accelerating towards some form of peak gentrification. Every time we come back to Walthamstow a little bit more of the older rougher edges have been nibbled away. There is still a way to go mind, Walthamstow isn’t anywhere near being posh!

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As well as families, young and old, there were huge swarms of midges, seemingly not of the biting kind as neither of us were scratching at bites later in the day, though we were constantly waving our hands in front of our faces as we walked. I remember this from when I used to cycle or run home from work along the Lea towpath, this time of year you need something to cover your mouth, nose and eyes.

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I took the big camera with me, a habit I want to maintain as I’m enjoying using it immensely, though as I have previously noted (moaned probably) it’s quite heavy and not the easiest thing to carry around. I’m liking the images I get out of the very lightweight 50mm lens though so it will get lumped around a lot more for a while.

Another angle of the developments at Blackhorse Road Station. There are a bunch of new and small breweries in Blackhorse Rd, all with brew bars, and a couple with decent size music venues. It is turning into a destination now, something no-one would have said about that bit of Walthamstow ten years ago.

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Developments at Tottenham Hale Station.

There is a theme to these new building projects, they are all near transport links into the city and a number of them have limited or no parking, which is obviously a good thing. When they are grouped closer together, like at Blackhorse Rd, they become less jarring and hideous. I’m fairly certain the skyline here will be a lot different in a year, and some of those gaps will be filled in.

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Leaving the Wetlands we walked up Ferry Lane back to Walthamstow, walking past those new Blackhorse Rd apartment blocks, they don’t look so bad. Now.

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My photography has very much drifted from rural landscapes to cityscapes and architecture over recent years. This is now being reflected in what I’m reading, with a number of books about place, cities and walking in cities (flânering) taking up space on my shelves. My place in the cities and towns I live in is constantly on my mind (in a good way) and I’m enjoying taking photos again, I’m getting less frustrated with the perceived lack of opportunity to get out and take photos now I’m interested in my more immediate surroundings. Let’s face it I’m a city kid adult.

A day by the sea

Saturday 19 March 2022 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

It’s been great being back in London and back at work (sort of). London is sooooooo much busier than Auckland and the twice a week commute on the very busy Tube was uncomfortable to start with, but I’m getting used to being so close to so many people again. I’m one of the few wearing a mask on the train and it can be unpleasant when someone unmasked is breathing right into your face as the carriage is rammed tight. Covid numbers are on the rise as all restrictions have now been removed, so I’m taking some responsibility for myself. The Victoria Line train to Oxford Circus this morning was very busy, so it was a bit of a relief to jump lines to the Metropolitan which was much quieter. I love these old carriages on the Metropolitan, so 80s.

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I had a book and my phone to read, though spent most of the journey south from Charing Cross Station with headphones on staring out of the window, bright sun shining in my eyes, enjoying the urban, then country scenery as Eleanor read next to me.

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In the early spring the English deciduous trees are still without leaf giving a longer view over the mostly lovely Kent and East Sussex countryside. The lack of leaves also a reminder that the grimness of winter isn’t long gone, that grimness reflecting what is going in the world outside. I pondered life and England and my hopes and fears for the day as we travelled.

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We moved out of my flat in St Leonards on Friday 26 June 2021, almost nine months ago;  266 days to be precise, I’m not going to count the hours. It seems like yesterday, yet at the same time it feels like forever ago. I could say that I’ve thought about it every single day we’ve been away, but that would be a lie. I have thought about it most days, more so now that we are back in the UK and it’s so close.

I must confess to having had a level of trepidation regarding today’s trip to St Leonards, I was concerned that I may no longer like the place, it’s a small but valid concern. The town has been changing for some time, starting well before I arrived in 2019, though the pace of change has increased over the past year, house prices particularly have sky rocketed. I hope it won’t trip too far over the line and become even more unaffordable for those who were there before gentrification and people like me arrived. I kind of like the balance of roughness, gentrification and the arts the town has, and when it tips too far into gentrification it will be the art that leaves first and that will be a shame. I have the same trepidation about liking the flat, though I don’t get to see inside until April 9, after the tenant has moved out. I very much hope I’m still in love with it when I walk through the front door.

We disembarked at West St Leonards Station strolling up West Hill Rd towards my flat. I’ve seen a number of flats for sale, or sold, for stupidly high prices on this road and was interested to see how things had changed; the answer was not much, but a lot more houses have been painted in the last 9 months. It does look nice, maybe too nice.

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We did a quick walk-by of the flat and it was good to see the old pile looking resplendent in the late morning sun. I liked looking at her, thankfully, and am now very much looking forward to walking in and looking out of the bedroom window to the sea and over to Beachy Head.

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St Leonards feels the same, the residential streets we walked haven’t changed at all, though there seems to be even more scaffold up around the big houses at the top of Pevensey Rd than there was when we left, yet no work seems to have been done over that time. There were a small number of new shops in Kings Rd, no dramatic changes and all the places we liked are still open. It looks like this part of town survived the pandemic well enough.

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I was shocked to see scaffold around the ‘Old England’ pub, what seemed to be the last of the old school boozers boozer. It will be interesting to see what happens to it, it has always been a miserable looking dump, even just a lick of paint will improve that corner of the world. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike a proper pub, even an old school old man’s pub is fine, but the Old England was an eye-sore.

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The day was drifting towards lunch so we walked down to the seafront looking for something to eat. As usual and as expected, Goat Ledge was mega-busy and quite a long queue had formed. We carried on towards Hastings without hanging around, much as I love Goat Ledge, and a fish sandwich would have been great, a 40 minute wait in the wind was not what we were after.

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Bottle Alley is a 480 meter long lower boardwalk along the sea front between St Leonards and Hastings, it was built in the 1930s and the inner wall is concrete inlayed with thousands of fragments of coloured glass, hence the name. Other than the occasional smell of urine and strong cannabis and un-picked-up dog pooh it’s an absolute wonder and I love walking through it; at night it is lit with constant changing coloured lights and I have always felt safe walking home that way.

As we entered I saw some legs with roller skates dangling from the boardwalk above so we stopped to take a few photos. I love a scene like this, they so rarely happen and I was very glad I had brought my camera with me.

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There were a lot of people around, and a lot of those people had small dogs; there has been a dog explosion over lockdown and everyone in St Leonards has one it seems. I’ve never seen so many people (or dogs) around at this time of year, even on sunny days, I suspect this coming summer it will be crazy busy at the weekends. when we are back I must make better use of work from home days and get down to the seafront and the nearby cafes and bars while there is some semblance of peace.

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I’ve never seen a car in Bottle Alley, it was being driven by a policeman. I wasn’t sure where he was going as the car had gone by the time we got to the end, maybe he did it for a dare? Admittedly we stopped for lunch at a new place in the Alley.

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The food was really nice at ‘Starsky and Hatch’, though quite expensive; gentrification is here to stay I guess, hard to roll back wanting people to spend money. Eleanor’s hair reminded me it was windy (it’s always windy in St Leonards) and quite cool as we waited for lunch.

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We strolled past the closed pier (why is it closed?),

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and past Hasting Beach to the old town. With the aid of some judicious tweaking in Lightroom, the beach almost looks like a 1960s postcard.

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Not a lot seems to have changed in either the old or the new town, George St was absolutely rammed in places and it felt like there were fewer shops and more eating/drink establishments, which is probably a good thing for the local economy. Not that we come here much ourselves, we tend to spend money closer to home. There were a few empty shop fronts though that is not unusual this time of year.

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We stopped for a drink and some chips at a pub in Queens Rd, before taking an even slower walk back to St Leonards, stopping for a further drink at Graze. I’m glad Graze made it through the lockdowns, on a good day it’s one of my favourite places for a quiet glass of usually good wine. We were meeting some friends in their flat in Marine Court, my favourite building in St Leonards, though I wouldn’t want to live there due to the service charges and all the maintenance issues.

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The building still has some of the original 30s fittings and I love the common area interiors, faded as they are. I love this font.

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I took a couple of photos from our friend’s front deck that overlooks the sea, and one from their kitchen over the houses behind. The view from the desk is one of the best in St Leonards.

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Some other friends joined us and we all left to go to a gallery opening of an artist friend of our hosts. Eleanor and I stayed briefly before heading off to catch the train back to London. The train was fine, but there were issues with the Tube at London Bridge so we walked up to Liverpool St (knackered) and I took one final photo for the day as we crossed the Thames.

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Reflecting back on the day, both on the train back to London and over the week since, I think it is fair to say I can barely wait to get back to St Leonards, to the sea, to less crowded streets, significantly less air pollution and to the people and places I was enjoying before we left. I’m still hopeful I will love my flat, two more weeks and I will have the answer to that question too.

‘Swell Maps’ @ Rough Trade East, London

Thursday 24 March 2022 – Shoreditch, London.

I’ve no idea when I first heard Swell Maps, given I didn’t start listening to punk until late 1978 and my exposure to new music as a mid-teen in Auckland with no older siblings was limited. I expect I didn’t hear them until after they broke up in 1980. I know I had their first single from 1977 ‘Read about Seymour’ on a cassette one of my workmates made me in 1981. I guess that was possibly the first time for me. It is a great song, as were the other singles.

They are an odd band, originating in Solihull in the English midlands the various members muddled around experimenting with music and sound in various duos and trios from the early 70s but didn’t form as Swell Maps until the punk explosion. Their early singles were short sharp bursts of jagged guitar driven punk, ‘Read about Seymour’ is only 1 minute 27 long. Resolutely DIY, they used cheap instruments in cheap studios and it shows in their early recordings, they all sound fabulous. I love that lo-fi over driven sound.

They released two LPs; the first in 1979 ‘A trip to Marineville’ and the more well known ‘Jane from Occupied Europe’ in 1980. Both were on the fledgling label Rough Trade. The band split soon after ‘Jane’ came out and most of the members went onto other musical projects, none were what you would call commercially successful. Both their LPs are more post-punk than what most would consider punk, with longer songs (Gunboats was over eight minutes), some instrumentals and lots of weird instrumentation and found sounds. Those records still sound good today.

They were not a band I followed, perhaps because they split before I started buying music. However, I suspect it’s more likely that by the time I first heard them their music had moved on from three chord DIY punk to something more challenging and interesting and I hadn’t moved on at all. I have been listening to them more over the last few years though and was interested enough to order bassist/guitarist/vocalist Jowe Head’s book about the band when it was released earlier in the year. A copy is waiting for me in my favourite bookshop, Printed Matter in Hastings, when I get back to St Leonards next month

As was normal in the early punk days most of the band members had made up names, Jowe Head, Epic Soundtracks, Nikki Sudden, Biggles Books, Phones Sportsman and Golden Cockrill. Sadly Nikki Sudden and Epic are no longer with us, both passing too young. After Swell Maps split Jowe Head was in an early line up of the Television Personalities.

I only saw that this interview with Jowe Head was on tonight at Rough Trade on Tuesday. As it was free and early in the evening and the weather was going to be nice I decided to get a ticket and make the walk to Rough Trade in Shoreditch after I finished work in Westminster. I need the exercise and the walk took an hour which was perfect, I’d earned my pint. I didn’t realise that after the interview and Q and A with Jowe there was going to be a live performance of Swell Maps songs by Jowe and friends. This was a massive bonus, and I was glad I had lumped the camera around with me. 

The band tonight comprised of – Jowe Head, guitar and vocals,
Dave Callahan of The Wolfhounds and Moonshake, guitar and vocals,
Luke Haines of The Auteurs, guitar and vocals,
Lucie Rejchrtová of Instant Flight, keyboards,
Jeff Bloom of Television Personalities, drums
Lee McFadden of Alternative TV, bass and vocals.

The band was joined for the songs ‘Harmony’ and ‘Cake Shop’ by Gina Birch from another seminal band, The Raincoats.

It was a lot of fun, the band were great, a little chaotic at times, the mix was really good, and it was a joy listening to songs I never ever expected to hear live.  Midget Submarines was probably my favourite song of the night, though Seymour and International Rescue were brilliant. The set ended with a five minute or so jam of what was apparently a Can track. Kinda the perfect way to end a set really.

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Dave Callahan, Jowe, Luke Haines. Lee McFadden

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Dave Callaghan singing ‘Let’s Build a car’ with Lucie Rejchrtová in the background. I wasn’t able to get a decent photo of Lucie from where I was standing. 

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Gina Birch.

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Lee McFadden and half of drummer Jeff Bloom.

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Luke Haines summing it up (he is a great performer)

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At one point when I was taking photos I realised I’d moved just out of sight of my back pack which contained work laptop, I could feel the person behind me getting closer to me, so I stepped back a bit and turned round and it was Thurston Moore, I realised my bag was going to be fine.

I’m really glad I went, it was a fun atmosphere, with what I’m guessing were loads of friends of the band giving them loads of love.