Lloyd Park, Walthamstow

Monday 14 March 2022 – Lloyd Park, Walthamstow.

We’ve been back in the UK from New Zealand for two weeks and I’m not quite yet in a position to say if it is good or bad here. There’s been plenty of good, but crikey it feels really cold after weeks of temperatures in the mid-to-high twenties. We are at staying at Eleanor’s in Walthamstow until mid-April when we will relocate back to my place in St Leonards for a while. We need to see what demands our employers make on us attending our respective London based offices on a regular basis before making any longer term plans. The good news is that there are currently limited demands, though I’m sure this will change over time.

I’m back at work now, mostly working from home though I’ve been into the office a couple of times. The first time I went in I got off the Tube at Green Park and walked through the park and across St James Park towards Victoria, then down to my office on Marsham Street. It was a lovely morning and a walk through the park seemed the right thing to do as I’m about 7kgs over my normal weight so longer morning walks are a good idea. The following time I took my camera.

I enjoyed walking through these two lovely spring-filled parks, but got a genuine heart-pumping thrill once I got back between the buildings, that lovely mix of gorgeous Queen Anne terraces, the brutalism of the Ministry of Justice Building and my favourite building in the area, the old Transport for London offices at 55 Broadway. This is the city I love, and I never get that little heart pump of joy walking in Auckland city.

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When I’m not going into the office I’ve been taking a pre-work morning walk in nearby Lloyd Park; it’s about 200 metres from the front door and is one of my favourite ‘inner-city’ parks. It is more than logical that I walk there most mornings, though I suspect I’ll get bored by it eventually; hopefully not before we move down to my flat. I can barely wait to move, but I have a tenant in there till 1 April so patience is the key. Eleanor and I are taking a day trip this coming Saturday and I will probably do a walk-by of the flat.

Once the grounds of William Morris home, Lloyd Park was donated to the people of Walthamstow by the Lloyd family in 1898. The council buying a further 16 acres from the Aveling Estate in 1912 to create the park as it stands now. The park hosts a range of activities; there is a bowling club, public tennis courts, a small café and gallery, a skate park, outdoor gym and a kid’s playground. None of those things particularly interest me, I just like the park for walking and I’m not the only one. It’s not a huge park, maybe twenty minutes to loop the whole thing, though it has two large fields and is very popular with runners and dog walkers, especially, it seems, in those hours before work.

My first attempt at taking photos was only partially successful, I left the house about 8:00am and the park was quite full with adults taking small children to the schools that surround it. It was very busy and I’m not comfortable taking photos surrounded by people, though I can settle into it when I try. I’d have thought after years of taking photos that this would be second nature for me, but it isn’t. Perhaps I should do a self-confidence course?

The main gate to Lloyd Park is on Forest Road, and was the front entrance to the lovely, what is now, the William Morris Gallery. Morris was a 19 century artist and ardent socialist, his major contribution to the arts was in textiles, particularly with interiors; wallpapers, tapestries, furniture etc. His influence and work is broad and still relevant today and he was a proud Walthamstowvian too.

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I think the socialist in Morris would be pleased to find his old stately home is over the road from ‘Five Star Fish Bar’ (not bad) and ‘Pat Bunz’ (never tried). Much as Walthamstow has been gentrifying over the past few year, that gentrification is yet to hit Forest Road.

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There is a wall that runs to the west from the side of the gallery, separating the grassed front of the garden from a more formal as well as a ‘wild’ (I’m not sure how to describe it) garden at the rear. I absolutely love this wall, it’s one of my favourite bits of the park. It has aged so gracefully and has been stained over the years by the sun, the rain and the vegetation that has grown up against it.

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There are a few of these plants, (possibly a Cardoon?) growing in front of the wall and they are magnificent, some are taller than me, though they grow on quite slender stems. I took a few photos of them over a couple of visits.

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Outside the  rear of the gallery are what is left of the formal gardens. These get planted each season, but are not as resplendent as they used to be according to Eleanor. I guess with more funding there would be more resource to pour into this popular space, though the council has many other worries and much more important things to do with the limited money they have.

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Moving on from the gardens there is a fenced off moat surrounding an ‘island’, which has a band stand at one end that was used for concerts, public speaking and other events. Inside the fence line on the island side of the moat the scrub has been left to go wild and is now mainly a huge tangle brambles; hopefully home to some of the insects and wildlife that use the park.

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I love how this tree has grown over and around the fence.

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My walking route takes me through the centre of the park, past a small café, the large kids play area and a room that has been used as a small independent gallery space, then on to the skate bowl and outdoor gym area.

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I usually turn right here and walk around a large field. The first morning I was there to take photos it was quite busy,  as I said above I didn’t take any, though I enjoyed walk.

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I went much closer to 7 am the second time out and there were far fewer people when I arrived than before, though it got busier with runners after 7:30. 

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I missed the sunrise, but managed to capture some nice early morning light over the trees and houses that surround the fields at the back of the park.

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Completing the loop I finish back at the front of the gallery before wandering off home to see how successful I had been with the photos. I was pretty happy with my efforrts.

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The loop normally takes 20 minutes or so, it’s not huge; but enough to set a clear delineation between sleeping and starting work each week day.

There is a great mural of William Morris painted on the outside of a house next to the park.

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Wanstead Park

Thursday 03 March 2022 – Wanstead Park, London.

27 April 2022 Update. This post has seen a huge surge of views in the past few days, presumably from lovely folk like yourselves looking for photos or info on Chalet Woods and the bluebells. This post was written well before bluebell season, but you can click here for bluebells.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

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It’s been a long while since a muddy walk has featured in my life and after today’s stroll I’ve vowed to never leave it so long again. A similar vow was also made today about walking in Epping Forest, a place I frequented on an almost weekly basis a few years ago, yet had barely been to since I bought the flat in St Leonards in 2019. This became especially true when we relocated there during the lockdowns as working from home was not just the norm, but was actively encouraged. I intended to walk in Epping Forest in the month we were back in Walthamstow before we left for New Zealand, but like so many other things, I didn’t get around to it. My heart just wasn’t in it. I wonder (if I’m honest with myself, I know) that if I went to the forest, or even just for a decent walk, more regularly I would be in a much better place, and my heart would be in it (whatever ‘it’ is) again. A virtuous circle, unlike the vicious cycle I have been in.

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Wanstead Park is the most southern outcrop of Epping Forest. Looking on a map it doesn’t appear to be connected to the forest itself, though I’m fairly certain I could find a way between the two where I wouldn’t be fully exposed to the sky. A linked muddy trail under tree canopy looping between scrub and ferns and bracken and holly, and the only roads are roads that were crossed, not followed. It would be a grubby edgeland, empty cans and bottles, used tissues scattered everywhere, well used and abused by the human inhabitants that surround or pass through it. Not necessarily a path to take at night.

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A friend of mine who is now retired (I feel I’m turning into an old man as friends start to retire; however my mortgage lender tells me I’m years off joining them) has been walking some mutual friends dogs once or twice a week in Wanstead Park and earlier this week he invited me along on one of his walks, an offer I gratefully accepted. We caught the bus from Walthamstow to Wanstead, I was tempted to walk but in the end I was glad I didn’t as we walked far enough with the dogs and I’d have been even more knackered if I had taken those extra thousands of steps.

I’m not sure what breeds the dogs are or how old, they are small and whitish, extremely well behaved, and frankly, just lovely little dogs. One male and female, the female was the most adventurous. We collected the dogs and were in the forest almost immediately after leaving their home. The dogs were off the leash for the entire walk with the exception of the four road crossings; two there and two back, they knew the walk better than us. The first section of parkland we walked though was possibly Bushwood, though I’m not 100% certain of that. We walked past the rather impressive looking Belgravia Heights, which appeared suddenly when we momentarily popped out from under the trees. It would look great in the fog.

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Wanstead Park was opened to the public in 1882, two years after being acquired by the City of London Corporation, who also manage the wider Epping Forest. The land was enclosed during the reign of Henry VIII, about five hundred years ago, and was the manor ground of Wanstead House, originally a royal hunting lodge. After serious financial mismanagement the house was demolished in 1824 and parts of the grounds were sold off over the following few years. The park has a number of small man-made lakes with islands in the middle and paths round the outside. It’s a great place to walk and I’ve been here a number of times before, usually in late spring for bluebell season. I’ve never done the walk we did today, and I was surprised to find the park was much bigger than I’d previously thought.

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The Temple was originally built in the late 18 century, though numerous additions were made in subsequent years, it is believed the colonnaded middle was the original construction, and it is certainly the nicest part. The building has been fenced off ever since I’ve been visiting and I wonder if there is anything inside. The avenue created by the chestnut trees was only planted in the 1990s; it’s a lovely addition and really does draw your eyes towards the building when you enter the park from the west, as we did.

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Our walk took us along the paths that run alongside the ponds on the southern and eastern boundary of the park, we met quite a few other dog walkers on the way. This is a popular place and the dogs appreciated the opportunity to run unfettered and make a few friends on the way. After a few days of rain it was pretty wet everywhere and the River Roding that flows on the far side of the trees in the below photo was very full and very muddy. There was a lot of mud in the paths under the trees.

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Half way along the ponds we spotted The Grotto, which came as a complete surprise to me as I haven’t heard of it before. It’s original construction was completed in 1764 and it was built as a rich man’s pond side folly. Over the years that building has served a number of purposes though was destroyed in a fire in 1884 when it was being used as a boat house. The ruins have only been exposed in the last ten years, but are sadly all fenced off. They were a nice surprise.

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We stopped for a coffee at the popular tea hut in the park before walking back to where we started, eventually returning a couple of very muddy dogs to their owners. The dogs seemed to have as good a time as we humans did, at least I hope so. I suspect they slept well.

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It was a longer walk than I expected, though very enjoyable. It was so nice being out under the trees, walking in some mud and chatting with a good friend. I need to do more of this.

Some Polaroids

Thursday 22 July 2021 – London.

I went to the office today, the second to last day of work before I start my six-month career break. I didn’t need to go in, one of the positive things I can say about the government department I work for is that there has been no compulsion for us plebs to return to the office, and current thinking suggests there won’t be until at least September. Ironically, that’s what they said about this time last year and we know how that turned out. I had to return my laptop, clear a couple of personal items from my locker, and most importantly, see some workmates I’ve rarely seen in the flesh for quite some time.

To be honest, I am also sick of being at home, especially as it’s been 29/30 degrees most days and I’m working in the dark in the bedroom as I don’t want to let the morning sun in. I think Eleanor would say (if she was being polite) that I have been tetchy these last couple of days. Boredom, heat, electing to not go out because we don’t want to test positive before we have fly, have all made Phil a grumpy old man.

So yeah, getting out of the house was a good thing.

Work was fine, the journey in on the tube was as expected; a lot more people not wearing masks as they don’t have to, and they are selfish arseholes who couldn’t care less for anyone other than themselves

I packed the Polaroid in my bag before I left this morning. I don’t use it enough and have decided not to take it to New Zealand. I had an eight pack of film left so thought I would walk from Westminster to Liverpool St Station and take the overground train home, avoiding the Tube, and take some photos on the way.

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I didn’t have much of a plan; walk Thames side to St Paul’s, take a photo of the cathedral and one of Tate Modern on the opposite side of the river, then see whatever happens.

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After walking up the stairs from the Thames to take the photo of St Pauls I was inspired to cross the river and walk to London Bridge and pay my respects to ‘Fairy Towers’m – my late friend Kev’s flat in London Bridge, where I lived from February 2013 to July 2014.

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Wow, this place has changed in the last seven years. Where there were some garages in the estate where the flat was, there is now another small block. Kev told me they were building something here but it has all been finished and people are living there now. I think it is all much needed social housing, least I hope so.

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Kev’s flat was on the 12th floor and had such a great view, I very much appreciated living there for so long.

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I walked past Guys Hospital and took a photo from the foot of the Shard.

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Then crossed over London Bridge, stopping to take a photo of Tower Bridge and the Thames.

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There are a lot more people around now, I was quite hot from walking in the sun and was going to stop for a last pub pint but everywhere was too busy. So I carried on going and bought a can at the beer shop near home. I drank it on my own in the garden, it was nice.

There is one week until we leave, so we have decided to not go anywhere unnecessary, except Tuesday when we have to go back into central London to get our pre-flight PCR Covid test.

Addendum….

We walked locally and I used the last of the Polaroid film up. Eleanor’s house in Walthamstow.

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The old mill house, now a cafe and gift shop for Walthamstow Wetlands.

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Postman’s Park. Eleanor showed me this lovely little park after we had our PCR tests. It has a small memorial wall to people who died saving others, sadly the final plaque is from 1903. It has some lovely tributes to a range of people, young and old who were killed saving family members or strangers. There were a lot of drownings and fires in 19th century London.

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To return the favour I took Eleanor to St Dunstan-in-the-East as she hadn’t visited before and it is one of my new favourite old places in London. I took one final Polaroid.

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That is it for London and England for a while. We fly tomorrow (29 July), our PCR results came back negative this morning, so nothing left to do but wait for one more day.

Home

Thursday 22 July 2021 – London.

It’s hot, too hot for me. I am wired and tired after a long couple of weeks and the past few nights have been intolerably hot. London summer hot, thick and far too warm for houses built 120 years ago. Sleep has been hard to find for the last seven nights and it’s showing in my mood, which has not been the best. Eleanor has gone to bed (not due to my mood) and I am sat here in the backroom of her house in Walthamstow drinking wine and pondering bed but knowing I will just lie there sweating, with an aching hip or knee or ankle, or some rotating combination of all three, just like last night and nights previous. A part of me is saying what is the point of going to bed? Wine seems like the best solution right now, but shit, I have to make some effort to ‘attend’ the last day of work tomorrow. I have one last document I said I would write…

I was slumped on the sofa, listening to music and staring at the wall in front of me when I realised what was on that wall in front of me. This started me reflecting on what this room contains and what it all means to me. My laptop was on the floor playing music so I picked it up and wrote this.

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Directly in front of me is Eleanor’s tiny desk, she finished her last contract at the end of June and her monitor is now in the loft with a bunch of possessions we are leaving here. Resting on the desk is a map of Auckland with pins and post-its and highlighter marks showing where my family live, the bits we have visited and places we could consider living in. An orientation map; we have visited three times, but I do the driving, and well, if you aren’t driving do you need to know how you get to places? I think this map has been helpful for Eleanor to better understand the layout of the city.

Above and left is a framed map of Walthamstow. Eleanor was born here so this is her home town, and she has a huge amount of (deserved) pride in the ‘Stow. Auckland is not my home town, but it is where I spent my life from the age of 11 so there is some symbiotic relationship between our maps. I love Walthamstow too, and hope Eleanor loves Auckland, maybe she will love it more than I do.

Next to the Walthamstow map is a small book shelf. On top of the shelf is the framed cover of the December 1977 issue of ‘Air Dukes!’ a Walthamstow music fanzine, with a photo of The Clash on the cover. Eleanor saw The Clash, and lots of my other favourite groups, a lot. Next to that is a print of a poster of David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust – Live at the Rainbow. In front of the Air Dukes poster, and mostly covering the photo of The Clash is a half flat football, with Tottenham written on it…

We both love football and music. It has to be said that Eleanor loves football more than me, she has been a Tottenham fan all her life, as I have been an Arsenal fan; though my fan-ness has been distant, and I have not been a multi-year season ticket holder like Eleanor. There are certain games we do not watch together; other than those games our football rivalry only bubbles up in the occasional sarcastic comment regarding refereeing decisions and the odd tetchy moment. Naturally I am at fault for all of these. Apparently.

The bookshelf is packed, doubled up books on every shelf, we have books everywhere; in the shed, in the loft both here and at my flat, and there is a full shelf of books behind me too. I look at the books in front of me and there is no order to the chaos. Eleanor’s books, my books; novels (the pulp ones are mine), music, travel, history, football and cooking, they all stand out. We read a lot, some, but not all have been read by both of us and some have been read more than once.

To the right of me is the record shelf. We have a lot of records between us. Unlike the books our records have remained separated. I point the finger at myself for this, and no I cannot explain this either. It is deeply complex and way too tied up in my psyche to explain, especially after a wine or two too many on a Thursday. We both love music, though I am the active purchaser of records at the moment. Leaning against the shelf is a large framed print of a photo I took from some friends seafront balcony in St Leonards of dark angry storm clouds looming over the sea. They are borrowing the print while we are away and I am quite pleased by this.

To the left is a TV and a door to the garden.

Behind me, to the left is another comingled bookshelf and my meagre collection of 7” singles, and to the right is another shelfing unit with more of my records, my old turntable, an amp and speakers and Eleanor’s 7” singles. The amp and turntable work, but don’t get used as much as the one I had in the flat, which is now in the loft.

The sofa I have semi-slumped into is a 70s Ercol sofa I bought for my flat, Eleanor had the cushions reupholstered  and it’s the only piece of furniture we brought back to Walthamstow.

So, what is this drunken ramble saying? It is saying that this small, 10 by 12 ft (very hot) room pretty much encapsulates what drew us closer together; the things that made that first date in 2013 turn into a second and third date and still interest us now; books, music, football and our place in the world (and pizza).

Next Thursday we leave for Auckland and a new phase in our lives, but I am looking forward to being back in this room, sitting on this sofa, drinking wine, listening to old reggae and reflecting on those new adventures.

Future London past

Sunday 11 July 2021 – London.

Tapping Lido on the shoulder, I raised my fist in the air, signalling to those behind to stop and be silent. We drop to a crouch, eyes searching all around. What instinct made me do this? There is no sound, no unfamiliar noise, nothing to signal apparent and immediate danger. I am the clan tracker and the silence is what worries me; the complete absence of sound. We are in dense undergrowth, deep in a massive forest and not far from a large river, yet there is no bird call. Nothing. I count down 60 seconds in my head. I signal and we rise as one and carefully resume our journey along this narrow, deeply overgrown path, Lido is slashing our way through the tangle of vine and bramble as quietly as possible. Our hunt for food is too critical, we can’t return with nothing.

I hear a bird call, I raise my fist again and we stop, silent once more. The call is repeated, this time it is closely followed by a response. My experienced ears tell me these are not natural and confirm my previous instinct, we are being tracked. The time for slow careful progress is over, those behind me draw bows and, unsheathing my own machete, I move forward to join Lido and we both start to hack our way forward. There’s a ruin ahead, not far I think, if we can make it we will be better able to fight off any challenges with the stone at our backs. We may get to see the day out.

We are way out of our tribal zone of Walthamstow, I pray those following are from Camden where we have occasional and friendly trade, yet fear they are Pimlicans, bitter enemies. Since the great levelling in the 2030s when the Thames flooded and the city reverted to primal swamp and dense jungle, the tribal zones have been at war, fighting for food and drinkable water in this miserable poisonous swamp.

We hear more calling from behind and to one side; they must know we’re heading for the relative safety of the ruin and are trying to get ahead of us. We slash faster, those with bows have them raised with arrows loaded and strings tightened. The top of the collapsed dome of St Paul’s Cathedral appears through the forest, not far. A few more minutes and we will have a fighting chance….

This is future London. Welcome.

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We have been doing quite a bit of packing and tidying over the past couple of days, so after discovering my big camera was actually still working I thought I would take it for a walk around the finance part of the City, then visit one of my favourite hidden spots; the ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East. Modern architecture of London’s scale doesn’t exist in Auckland, and neither do old and ruined churches.

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Today is the final of Euro 2020, postponed from last year due to the pandemic. The final of this European wide football tournament is here in London, at Wembley Stadium, tonight. England are playing Italy, but it’s a pandemic so surely there won’t be loads of pissed-up England fans in the City at 10:30am, 9 half hours before kick-off?

Wrong. They were already standing on the tables at the pub outside Liverpool St Station flailing their plastic pint glasses in the air. The cry of ‘INGER……LAND’ being spat out of frothy lipped red faces. Mask on, I hurried past.

I crossed the road, away from the station and the building crowd, and dived down one of the many side streets and into the financial district. It’s Sunday, it should be quieter here. Other than the short walk to St Dunstans, I had no plan and just let the flow of the buildings guide me, avoiding people where possible, stopping to take photos where appropriate.  I took a few.

The City has changed in the few short years since I was regularly walking past, a number of the towers that were being built have been completed. I guess it has been easier to block roads or to get permission to make noise over extended hours when they are less people around to raise a complaint.

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I liked these chairs and table, particularly that three were tucked in and one was left out; a lone smoker or bored security guard taking a rest?  There were plenty of them about on this Sunday morning.

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I did a fair bit of looking up on my walk, always intrigued by the compressed view as the towers lean in on each other, distorted by the wide-angle lens.

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I took a lot more photos looking up than I did looking along. Today, ground level was less interesting.

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I was trying to find some good examples of age contrast in the buildings and this was the best I could find that didn’t have people blocking the view. St Olave’s Church tower from 1450, through some post war low rise blocks to the least loved building in London, 20 Fenchurch St; ‘The Walkie Talkie’ completed in 2014, built 564 years after the church. I won’t see this in Auckland and I will miss it. I must try and make use of the architecture that is there though, less moaning, more pro-activiity.

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After wandering randomly through a collection of small streets and narrow alleys, I found my destination –  the ruins of St Dunstans-in-the-East. Its overgrown and moss stained walls the inspiration for that short piece of fiction above.

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I came here in January 2018 (it seems like yesterday) and very much wanted to get back before we leave for New Zealand in 18 days. I was hoping I would have it to myself. That was a rather desperate hope and wasn’t to be, though it was quiet enough for me to take photos without anyone sticking themselves in them.

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Its not a big site, but is fantastic and I love it,  a little oasis of peace, at least at the weekend. It’s a lot more overgrown that it was when I was here in winter; it had the feel I was after and I am reasonably pleased with the photos I managed to get in the short time I was there.

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Leaving St Dunstans, I walked down towards the Thames and upon arriving found a lot of people wandering about, heading towards the various bars for the game. It was a lot busier than I wanted it to be so I moved back up into the quieter streets of the city to take a few more images before heading back to the station. Some final (or almost final, who knows I may get out again!) images before we leave. There is something quite special about the City of London on a Sunday.

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The station was rammed, loads of drunk idiots singing and shouting, a train load arrived from Essex as I was walking through. I hurried off onto a quiet platform away from them, mask firmly on. I want to stay clear of potential Covid spreaders. 18 days of Covidiot avoidance to go. I took a home test a couple of days later just in case. Negative, thankfully.

Apart from the really drunk football ‘fans’, that was fun. I am so pleased my camera isn’t dead (this time). Much as it is heavy and the lenses are scratched and the sensor needs cleaning, I love its bulk and feel, the way it works and the quality of the images I can get.

The day before, Saturday, Eleanor and I went for a walk around Walthamstow, up to a strangely almost deserted Hollow Pond. On the way we discovered Phlegm painting a piece on a wall in St Peters-in-the-Forest churchyard as part of the E17 Art Trail. I was very happy with that, a final Phlegm before we go.

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I also took a photo of this small warehouse converted into a house, just because.

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I am going to write another short story soon, and hopefully the two weeks in isolation will give me the time and space to do it.  Lido and future London will definitely be in it.

 

Not forgotten (nor forgiven)

Thursday 08 July 2021 – London.

Time seems to be disappearing at pace at the moment, but it also seems to be dragging unbelievably slowly, the days seemingly taking longer than the weeks. I am struggling with motivation, especially at work. It is difficult, though in real world terms I am of course lucky to have so little to contend with.

This week saw the UK government announce that, even though it is projected there could be up to/at least 100,000 covid-19 infections a day later in the month, it is time to remove all restrictions and let life return to ‘normal’ on 19 July. This in turn caused the NZ government to announce they may ban all flights from the UK to protect the country. We are due to fly on 29 July so you can imagine how this has made me feel. Fingers crossed that neither of these things come to pass, but infections have now passed 30,000 a day and are growing. We are both double vaccinated so theoretically and statistically we should be fine, but I don’t want a positive test to scupper the trip we have been looking forward to for months, nor do we want to get ill.

Now we are back in London I was planning on going to the office two or three days a week. My workspace here is so much smaller than that in the flat and the office is big and air-conditioned and more comfortable than working from home. I have been in a few times and there are very few people on my floor, but with infections rising and mask wearing getting less prevalent on the Tube I am going to wind that back and only go in when needed. Today was one of those days. I had arranged to meet Steve for an after work photo-walk followed by some food and a couple of pints.

In preparation for this, last night I got my big camera out of the camera bag and after charging the battery discovered it was completely dead. No response at all when I turned it on, bugger, this is not what I want just when I am about to finish work, have no job lined up and am three weeks off from embarking on our 6 month minimum trip back to New Zealand. I tried a bunch of things but just could not get it to go, so charged the battery in the little camera and packed that instead. At least it is light.

I was meeting Steve at Embankment station and I took a few photos on the way. Making the most of the opportunity of working in a fairly old part of London; there is no history this historical in Auckland.

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Neither Steve or I were really feeling the photo-walk idea, we have both done this part of London too many times and work has been sucking the life out of both of us lately, interest was low.  We crossed the Thames and agreed to take a slow walk towards the pub he had booked a table at. It was a bit of aimless amble, the graffiti walls of Leake Street Tunnel was the first stop. I was pleased to see that there are now more bars and cafes opened up in the main tunnel offshoots. I always felt these were wasted opportunities.

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We walked round the side of Waterloo Station and found some classic English 60s tower block action.

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Back to the embankment. I had completely forgotten about the Covid Memorial wall, and it is long and frightening and wonderful and immensely sad. There are thousands and thousands of names and memories to those who have succumbed to this hideous virus. Walking past it, looking at the names and reading the messages very much puts into perspective my complaints about my desk at home being too small.

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If only the bastards in this place on the Thames bank directly opposite showed some real humility and came over here and read these all too human stories, then took stock of what their negligence has done, hung their heads in shame and resigned.

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There were not may photos on or by the wall which made this one so poignant. 18 years old, so sad.

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Crossing the river via Vauxhall Bridge took us past Tate Britain and through the grounds of UAL, a space I really like, it is always peaceful here when I pass through and the buildings are lovely, and just a little faded.

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We arrived exactly on time for our table booking at The Cask, a beer pub in Pimlico we have been to before; though memories of that evening are vague as they have some very strong beer. We didn’t make the same ‘mistake’ this time, eating a very good burger and chips as well as drinking substantially less. They have the best pub toilets I have ever seen and I am actually very jealous of those tiles.

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4 days later…. Using the mystic powers of the internet I have fixed my big camera. This has made me very happy.

The South Woodford Interchange

Sunday 04 July 2021 – Walthamstow.

South Woodford high street smells of KFC. It is a rather unique smell, and totally different to the fried stuff smell that emanates from other chicken shops. Not that there were other chicken shops on South Woodford high street. It may be the next suburb over but South Woodford is not Walthamstow where fried chicken shops seem to breed like rabbits, or maybe chickens. I think both sets of residents would be happy with that difference. They might be neighbours but they are worlds apart.

Perhaps the smell of deep fried dead things only existed for that brief moment I walked up the high street and South Woodford normally just smells of burnt diesel and petrol like every other Range Rover filled suburb on London’s Essex fringe. Who knows? I probably won’t be back there in the next three weeks to find out, nor do I know anyone to ask; we may be neighbours etc.

We moved back to London the Friday before last, to Eleanor’s house in Walthamstow, which is currently occupied by one of her sons and his girlfriend. Yesterday a tenant moved into my flat in St Leonards. While these are eminently practical things as we fly to New Zealand in four weeks and we have a lot of organising of stuff to do, one (or maybe two) more weeks by the sea on our own would have been nice. I am finding it stressful sharing a house and with so much to organise, but we have done a huge amount in the last week and things will ease. I hope.

This weekend I have spent time packing stuff away and throwing stuff out (though not books and records!) and was as organised as I was going to be by lunch time. As we were low on bread and milk I volunteered to go and buy some so I could get out of the house for a bit, stretch my legs, clear my mind and maybe take some photos.

Once out of the house and on the way to nowhere in particular I remembered that I wanted to take some photographs of the overpass where the A406 (the dreaded North Circular) joins the M11 and a road that goes somewhere, though I have no idea where. A minor league spaghetti junction that we pass whenever we drive to and from the flat. It was not too far from one of the many supermarkets I can walk to so it seemed like a worthwhile objective.

I took these two photos on the way.

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The overpasses were not quite where I thought they were, or I wasn’t where I thought I was and I found myself walking under a rail bridge in South Woodford where I found a closed car park. Only very small cars would fit in those spaces.

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Out the other side I walked back over the bridge and from the top I could see beyond the houses to the motorway and where I wanted to go, it wasn’t far off. I had just misjudged how deep the bend in the motorway was.

I found an underpass under the A406 and stopped to take a photo, planning on going through it on my way back; though naturally I went another way back and completely forgot about the underpass until I was almost at the supermarket. Lesson learnt; always do something at the time, never plan to do it on the way back or later. Admittedly, this is a lesson I should have learned a long time ago and still fail miserably to on every occasion.

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Back on track I soon found what I was looking for; this wonder of concrete, steel and tar seal. It is not the biggest or most complex intersection, but it is the one I have, and I need to make use of what is local to me, especially now I no longer have a car to hand. I kinda wish I had the big camera with a couple of lenses rather than the little camera with the 20MM lens. [4 days later I discovered that the big camera is now dead, and now I need to make camera related decision again, something I wasn’t expecting, or wanting to do].

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I like how some attempt had been made to green the place, though only half the trees seem to have survived.

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Access to the other side was blocked by a fenced off construction storage area so I couldn’t easily get to the other end, though I had seen enough and was satisfied. One more mission to be taken off this list.

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I really need to do more urban landscape photography as I quite enjoyed myself.

On the way to the supermarket I stopped on a bridge over the A406 and remembered that I had meant to walk under it.

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A short walk by the Lea.

Friday 11 June 2021 – London.

As I walked the tar-sealed path between the River Lea and the football fields of Hackney Marshes, shaded by oak and ash and poplar and willow, the most English of trees, my mind wandered off to the time I clambered down a rock and boulder strewn path in the Borneo jungle. On my own. The benefit of hindsight suggests it was not the smartest thing I have done, there was real potential for something to go terribly wrong. Obviously my walk this morning from Walthamstow to Stratford was not remotely the same, though it was the first time I have walked this particular path and it was the closest I have been to a walk in the forest for a long time. I am missing even the mildest of adventure.

I came up to London on the train after work yesterday and can’t believe how much hotter than St Leonards London is, it must be two or three degrees warmer, and with no cooling breeze. It was not a pleasant night and I had little sleep.

My second Covid-19 vaccination was this morning, and it was a process that went very smoothly. As I am sure I said after the last one, but well done to the NHS for making this easy and stress free. In three weeks I will be safer than I am now. Not that I feel particularly unsafe, we take care when we go out and will continue to do so, vaccination or not. England is a long way from being Covid free and we don’t want to even think about what would happen if we got sick before we leave for New Zealand.

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There was four hours until the train back home. As I needed to return some trousers I bought from the mall last time I was here I decided to walk to Stratford and get some exercise in. From the pharmacy where I was vaccinated the walk is almost entirely though parkland which made the decision an easy one.

There is a fantastic Roa mural just by the pharmacy on St James Street.

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I pass Walthamstow Wetlands on the way to the marshes (and the overbuilding of flats on Blackhorse Rd on the far side of the wetlands).

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We have walked the Wetlands and the marshes on numerous occasions over the past few years, and I’ve never seen the marshes so overgrown. I think the council is letting the grasses and wild flowers run rampant which I am mostly in favour of; there were a lot of bees and other insects buzzing about today.

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There has been some changes where the path passes under the railway line and a lot of scrub has been cleared, perhaps some of the scrubby trees were interfering with the trains? I am guessing the bike ran out of electricity and has been dumped here, it adds to the edgeland feel of marshes; even though they are not on the edge of anything at all.

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The River Lea splits into two near Lea Bridge Rd, into the natural River Lea and the man-made, Lea Navigation. We normally walk the Navigation, so today I chose to walk the river instead, it was slightly longer and I am guessing less busy than the main tow path. Soon after passing under Lea Bridge Road I came across a Phlegm painting I haven’t seen before, something which very much vindicated the path chosen.

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Crossing a short bridge the path follows the river for a couple of miles, thankfully mostly in the shade as it was warm and sunny and I had not thought to put sun screen on.

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It was a nice walk, quiet, but not deserted. I imagine tomorrow it will be busy, the Lea has become a destination for younger folk to party and dip in the cooling water on a hot day, like tomorrow will be. Polluted or not.

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IMG_0722I like the Lea, it is shallow, but wide, not fast flowing; it looks nice, like a proper small river. The tree lined banks place it anywhere in England, so it was easy to take myself out of the city. Looking at the pictures I took as sit here writing I can almost see myself in a jungle somewhere wild; but maybe not those trees can only be English!

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Past the marshes the path crosses under the A21 before entering (or not in my immediate vicinity) the Olympic Park area; a great legacy of the 2012 games.

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Eventually I found a way into the park near the velodrome, which just happens to be my favourite building in the park.

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The walk through the park to the big shopping mall is really pretty, lots of long grass and wild flowers everywhere, lovely. I really like how wildflowers have become a thing again in the past few years and local authorities are letting them flourish rather than mowing them lawn flat.

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I had intended to look for a shirt and some walking shoes while I was at the shops, but I was too hot and sticky to be trying on clothes, and I am sure the shop staff were appreciative of that decision. Once the trousers were returned (too small) I walked out the other end of the mall and caught the Jubilee Line to Southwark. Too many people.

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With 90 minutes to kill before the train back to St Leonards I decided to drop the pace I had set earlier and take a slow walk towards the station. The streets around the Thames were far busier than last time I was here and there are significantly more tourists. With road-work constricted footpaths it was a bit uncomfortable at times. I ducked into Temple to walk in peace.

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I love the Temple area, I often came here on a Sunday as it is virtually deserted with the office workers at home and there are few bars and cafes inside to attract the casual visitor. There were people about not many, and lots of scaffold which was a shame. Temple is the home of the London legal profession and most (all?) of the offices here are filled with legal chambers, some of them very old. It is a beautiful and under-rated section of old London.

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Back on The Strand I popped into Somerset House, another favourite London spot. Eleanor and I love the Herndandez and Wells cafe here; it made the best egg dishes in London and the coffee was always good. However, its gone and has been replaced by the Watch House, fortunately the coffee was equally as good and the sandwich I had for lunch was very nice. I didn’t notice eggs on the menu though, maybe when we get back?

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Lunch filled enough time that I only needed a gentle stroll to Charing Cross Station to get me there a few minutes before the train departed. I had planned on doing some writing on the train, but the journey was so bouncy I gave up and just enjoyed listening to music and reading a novel. A couple of weeks ago I dug out the Kobo ereader I bought ten years ago for my travels, I haven’t used it for a good five years, possibly more, and was surprised that after a quick charge it still worked as it had before. The genius of simplicity. This book reader does one thing, and it does it very well. For the book nerds I am reading Adam Hall’s 1968 novel ‘The Striker Portfolio’, the third in his very successful Quiller series, and I am enjoying it.

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Eleanor had been in Brighton meeting her son Joe for lunch, so I met her back at the station after I going home for a shower and a brief lie down. We popped into a pub for a glass of wine before grabbing some fish and chips and walking back up the hill to eat in front of the first game of the much delayed Euro 2020 football tournament. I was hoping for Turkey to beat Italy, but it was not too be.

I enjoyed my walk and am very keen to see as much as I can of old London as I can before we go to much newer New Zealand in 7 weeks time.

7 WEEKS!!! Where did the time go?

Dungeness.

Saturday 24 April 2021 – Dungeness.

I find it hard to believe that there are (only) 97 days to go until we leave for Auckland. Some times it seems that departure day is so far away, yet other times it feels like there’s no time left at all. 97 days is a bit of a non-period to note; stuck between the newly important ‘100 days’ and the more useful three months. However, as I start typing, that is what the countdown says, and right now I am thinking ‘Wow, there is not a lot of time left.’ Most days I just wish time would hurry up and it would be July now. Is it normal to wish life away?

In unrelated, but interesting news, I entered a piece of flash fiction (in this case a story in under 250 words) into a competition last week. I have no expectation of getting any response other than the ‘thanks for your entry’ email I have already received, but it felt good to do it. This is the first time I have shared any fiction writing with anyone other than Eleanor and a couple of people who provided feedback on the short story I wrote; and still need to finish editing. When the competition closes at the end of May I will post the flash fiction.

Eleanor left for a week in Walthamstow this morning. After doing a few chores at home, (OK, I didn’t but I intended to; I went to the supermarket and wrote that last blog entry instead of painting the wall inside the wardrobe) I drove to Dungeness. I love the sparseness of Dungeness, and have become mildly obsessed with Prospect Cottage, the late Derek Jarman’s home, and it’s semi-famous garden. I used this book as inspiration for today’s photography; though I don’t claim to have managed anything as lovely as what can be found in those pages.

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This entire section of Kent coast is mostly barren, pebbly and marshy flood lands, a narrow ridge with houses is all that separates the sea from pouring inland and I expect that at some point later in my children’s lifetime the sea will claim this land and there will only be marsh and sea, maybe with the occasional chimney visible at low tide.

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It’s sunny and would be warm if there was not a biting cold wind blowing along the coast. I wrapped up warm, as did the seemingly million other people who decided to clog the roads with their dreadfully slow driving and head to the coast as well. Dungeness was as busy as I’ve ever seen it.

Parking outside Prospect Cottage I intended to spend some time here walking around and taking photos of the garden. Given the number of people this was a somewhat flawed plan, so I took a couple of pictures before leaving the family with the kids running around to do their thing and went for a walk on the more deserted beach.

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The nuclear power station perched ominously on the edge of Dungeness beach frequently comes up in Jarman’s diaries; he occasionally dreamed about it blowing up, but most often he refers to it as a quiet neighbour. One of the few interesting backdrops to a cottage on a pebble desert.

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It is a vast beach, though most of the photographically interesting stuff is around the small working fishing fleet. Much like Hastings, Dungeness’s fishing boats are beach launched; using old tractors, diggers and diesel powered winches to get the boats into and out of the water, there is nothing elegant, modern or renewable about beach-launched fishing.

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I am sure I have said it before in previous Dungeness posts, but I love this place. I love the bleakness and harshness of the environment; not much grows on those sun, wind and salt scorched pebbles. There is little sand; maybe some at low tide, this not a holiday-maker beach. Few people come here to sunbathe and swim; people come here to fish, to bird watch, to walk, to be alone; or like me, to voyeur at the boats, the rocks and the fishing cottages slowly being converted into luxury Air BnBs. Sadly it is becoming increasingly popular. I blame the Instagram generation, which includes me I guess.

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I walked a loop, taking some photos of the beach before going to one of the areas with a concentration of boats, tractors and the associated detritus that comes with working boats, before heading back to the cottage. On the subject of detritus; I was really surprised, and very disappointed at the amount of rubbish on the beach around the fishing boats, there was a lot of rope, wire, fishing line, plastic, all sorts of crap, all over the place. For people who should care about the sea and what lives in it they are rather cavalier about how they treat it.

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The natural world is wonderful, I love how over years, maybe decades; or maybe, just over a few weeks, the beach has created its own wave formation, replicating those of the sea. Like the sea these beach waves will be different, maybe not the next time I visit, but not long after.

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I spent some time around the boats and tractors; there are others taking photos as well so I was not alone, one chap I spoke to had a 1920/30s film camera and I would love to see what he was getting in this harsh light. I had been tempted, even before meeting this guy, to convert all the images from today to black and white, but have decided not to. The book has a good mix of both and it is still my guide to today. This environment would suit monochrome though, there are so many contrasts, visual and otherwise.

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A few photos were taken… Maybe I should buy a film camera?

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I walked back to Prospect Cottage. Mid-beach there are a number of platforms, foundations and blackened piles of wood and iron where old cottages, net or smoke huts once stood. Destroyed by nature, by accident or even deliberately? I have no idea. A part of me wishes everything be torched; leave the power station alone on the beach; a monument to the idea that nuclear was the way to go. Scorch the rest of the earth. The future beckons.

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There are bricks and tiles and twisted, rusted iron rebar lying around; my favourite find was this heavy chain; one end loose and the other connected to something in the stones. I have no idea what such heavy chain would be for? Sometimes it is best not to know, I am sure there are stories from here that would keep the sturdiest of us awake at night. I am not that sturdy. I walk on, I don’t want my mind imagining things more than it does already.

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An hour gone; the wind had not abated and it is getting colder (I cannot believe it is late April), there are fewer cars parked on the roadside so I walk back to Prospect Cottage; hoping that at least the families with small children would have buggered off somewhere warm, and I would have the garden more to myself.

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The wind is annoying. I had the tripod with me, though there was no point in getting it out the car. I rarely use it, I don’t care that much for technical perfection in my photography, though today I want to take close up images of things in the garden, and detail requires some sort of stability; my hands aren’t what they used to be. I am less concerned about windblown foliage, in my mind it adds to the scene, as long as the principal object is still.

The tripod remains in the car and I take slightly blurry photos; again. Though it is not yet the season for colour, and I have chosen to use black and white in some images, the  garden has plenty of colour, though muted variants of green dominate. In this environment the plants protect themselves with comformity, only the strong, or the wisest survives.

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I manage a good fifteen minutes taking photos in the garden, it is small to be fair, but I get frustrated by the wind, by other people (admittedly fewer than before) and by my lack of ability to see what I hoped to see. Though as I edit over the following week I am not unhappy with the images I made. I take few photos, usually only one of any single thing, so a good day out taking photos may only ever be 40 or 50 images; those rare days I take 100 are extraordinary. Today I took 76, about half in the garden, so a fairly prolific day by usual standards.

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It is completely the wrong time of year to be taking photos in a garden, especially one that has been scorched dry by salty winter winds, frost, lack of rain and a Covid enforced lack of gardening in a not yet opened ‘museum’ house. However, it is probably the last time I will get to come here before we go to Auckland. I like that it is still only in early spring re-growth and not in full summer bloom. It’s like it should be this time of year, a small semi-cultivated, managed oasis in what was, not that long ago, a desolate wind-swept pebble landscape; and if Jarman’s dreams of the power station melting down ever come true, then that is what it will return to.

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I am uncertain as to why I became mildly obsessed with Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. I am not a film buff and I have only seen one of his works, the punk film ‘Jubilee’. I have no burning desire to see other films either, and that includes ‘The Garden’ which was largely (fully?) shot in Dungeness.

I read his book Modern Nature at the start of the Covid outbreak last year. Initially, because I am interested in writing about nature and place and it is a classic of that genre, he is a good writer. However, the book also resonated due to the correlation with Jarman’s illness with AIDS and how that pandemic was reported in the 1980s, and the situation we found ourselves in with Covid. The panic, finger pointing and misinformation that surrounded AIDS was replicated here in those initial weeks of Covid, it was as if we had learnt nothing in the intervening years (we hadn’t).

In odd way, as well as finding this lack of progress rather depressing, I found comfort knowing there was a way through this pandemic; that others had been there and done that, and that tying oneself to nature and place played an important, balancing, part in recovery.

I look forward to visiting Prospect Cottage and Dungeness when we return to the UK, maybe the cottage will be open then, maybe not. The future is unknown.

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Walthamstow Forest.

Tuesday 6 April 2021 – Walthamstow.

Life has been getting on top of me in a small way over the past few weeks. It has been busy at work, and, along with organising things for New Zealand, plus day to day living in this semi-lockdown world we are still living in the UK, meant things were piling up in my head. I needed a break. To maximise use of Easter’s four days I took the week after off work, giving me a full 10 day break. By the time I returned to work I was feeling significantly better and I manged to achieve a few of the things that need to be done at home. Going back to work was, for a change, quite easy.

We’ve been spending Easter at Eleanor’s place in Walthamstow. There has been a lot of work done over the weekend with de-cluttering and moving things around to create more storage space. I have a lot more records than when we left for St Leonards 11 months ago, and they aren’t coming to Auckland with us, at least not yet. It was a good start, but there is still a way to go, but at least we now have a better understanding of the amount of storage available to us, and how much stuff we need to get rid of; records and books excluded, of course.

It’s Tuesday and Eleanor is working, so I took the camera for a walk. Primarily to find a new Phlegm piece near the forest, it was good to get back into even a small section of forest for the first time in months.

There are a couple of newish Phlegm pieces just off Beacontree Ave On and near one of the underpasses that takes you from the city to the forest; below the A406, the dreaded North Circular.

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Walthamstow Forest is not spectacular; it is a small section of forest that is connected by other small sections of forest all the way through to Epping Forest. I find it very cool that you can walk, or ride, from Walthamstow all the way to Epping without having to touch the road; except where you have to cross them.  This would give you about a five forest hour walk and the start is only 30 minutes or so from the centre of London (by train and then foot), amazing.  I wasn’t doing anything like that today, just a short walk; though perhaps I will when we move back here before we fly away. I definitely want to spend some time in the forest before we go.

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I didn’t take many photos, conditions for photography weren’t great and it isn’t exactly the most exciting section of the forest either, nor the most interesting time of year. To be truthful I really wasn’t feeling it, I rarely am when my head is full. It was very enjoyable being outside with the camera though, and that in itself was enough to perk spirits.

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I had a quick experiment with Intentional Camera Movement to create a couple of impressionist painter style photos. I have not done this for quite some time, though it was an area of photography I enjoyed playing with in the past. Silver birch trees are particualr favourites of mine for this style of photography.

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I wanted to see if there was anything interesting painted on the walls of the passages that pass under the motorway and the main roads around the ‘Waterworks’ Roundabout. I also needed to be back on the other side of the A406 for the walk home, so looped back this way rather than going back the way I came. It looks like the council have cleaned them up, only one of the underpasses I looked at, or used, was tagged. It was a bit weird walking through a clean underpass. I suspect that won’t last.

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