The Battleship Building

Tuesday 25 April 2023 – London.

If I count weekends then this is day four of ten days off between jobs; next Monday is the May Day bank holiday in the UK. I’ve prepared myself a massive list of things that need to be done while I have both time and the mental capacity available. There is a massive backlog on the to-do list that I hope to get through, and getting though it will release the weight I feel building on my slowly sagging with age shoulders.

The break isn’t just going to be work and today I popped my camera into my day bag and caught the tube to Liverpool St just after 9. I was after some photos from the interior of the Barbican Centre and (forlornly) hoped that by getting there soon after it opens at 9:30 it would be quiet; I was then going to go on and find the magnificently named ‘Battleship Building’, which is located somewhere behind Paddington Station.


Arriving in the Barbican Centre I was frustrated to find it busy, with people huddled in conversation or slumped over expensive laptops in every corner and on every photographically nicely spread-out set of table and chairs. I should’ve realised this would be a popular place for remote workers and those who want to be seen hanging out in a creative environment. I bought an expensive coffee and took one of the few empty seats and joined those getting in the way of anyone who had the same mis-thought idea as I did. Perhaps we are all frustrated photographers waiting for space to clear?


I wandered about and took a few photos, though I didn’t really find much that excited me and just wished I had the wide-angle lens as it would have been useful; even more so at the Battleship.


The men’s bathroom is fantastic though, very mid-century modern. It must be one of the best looking urinals in England. Fortunately no-one was in here, or came in while I was taking this photo.



I hopped onto the tube to Paddington Station and found the Battleship Building easily enough, only taking one wrong turn down a dead-end street. It was cold among the mid-rise building canyons that have, and continue to be built behind the station.

The Battleship building was constructed during 1968 and 1969 as a maintenance depot for British Rail but was converted into offices in 2000. It sits under the very noisy (and equally iconic) Westway section of the A4 motorway. I might do a Westway photo-walk one day, it could be interesting, or equally it could be properly dull.


It was difficult to photograph with a standard 50mm lens as it is crowded between other buildings and a slip road; as I said just above I wished I had brought the wide angle lens with me as well.


The building isn’t particularly brutalist and doesn’t appear on the main Brutal London maps, though it has some classic brutalist features and is, in part, lovingly made from concrete; perhaps it’s too curvy, too faux art-deco? It’s a great looking building though, just difficult to photograph. Those concrete towers are great. 





I passed this great derelict frontage on my walk from Paddington to Oxford Circus to get the tube home, though I don’t recall where it is; my path was rather meandering. To meander is the best way to traverse inner London.


MeetUp Barbican photo walk

Saturday 11 March 2023 – Barbican, London.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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



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

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

























A walk through Covid deserted London

Friday 29 March 2021 – That London.

I went for a walk in the centre of lockdown London today. It was rather surreal, not quite 28 Days Later, as construction work continues, but at times it felt not far from it. There were so few people to be seen and even fewer cars on the roads.


Big news first though. We have secured a place in managed isolation in New Zealand!

This is a prerequisite to book a flight to NZ, airlines will not allow a booking without a space and it is remarkably difficult to get one as there is a lot of competition from other Kiwis as they return home from all over the world. It’s like trying to get a ticket to a rare concert by your, and thousands of others, favourite band. There are few places, and there is high demand. As soon as vacancies are available there is a website pile-on and the web server almost grinds to a halt. It was a frustrating process and bad words were said, frequently.

I got there eventually and managed to book flights the following day without too much trouble. We fly Emirates, via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur and leave the UK on 29 July, then start our 14 days in a managed isolation hotel somewhere in NZ on 31 July. So, yay.

This was my second visit to London during March, Eleanor and I had spent most of a week there earlier in the month. On that visit I had a doctor and dentist appointment and Eleanor had a doctor visit as well, reasonable reasons for travel outside of our local area. This trip was an overnighter as I had my first Covid vaccination today.

I came up on the train after work on yesterday, my first train journey longer than six minutes duration in over a year. It was weird, but very enjoyable, a mostly empty carriage and everyone was wearing a mask. Train is my favorite mode of travel, and something I will miss when we are in NZ. I arrived at London Bridge just after 7pm, the weather was nice and I chose to walk to Liverpool St to take the overground to Walthamstow rather than take the tube.

After crossing London Bridge I walked down to the north side of the Thames to take a couple of photos of the Shard and the surrounding buildings. There were very few people about, it really did not feel like 7pm on a Thursday. Obviously all the bars and restaurants were closed, but still. It was eerily quiet; and it was only going to get quieter. These are hand held photos, so not the crispest.



Crossing over Upper (or Lower) Thames I was surprised to see almost no cars, and I didn’t have to wait long to get a photo of an almost deserted street.


Leadenhall Market was no better. This place would usually be absolutely rammed with city drinkers at 7:30 on a Thursday evening, all year round. It was deserted.


I meant to get some food at London Bridge but decided to wait until I arrived at Liverpool St, though on arriving I found a train leaving for Walthamstow almost immediately, and with a 30 minute wait until the following I chose to take the one in front of me. They have upgraded the trains on the Chingford line since I last used it; these are much nicer than the old clunkers that travelled the line previosuly. I had a carriage to myself. I grabbed a take-away burger from the Collab in Walthamstow. As with the city, the streets of the ‘Stow were empty of everyone but uber eats and deliveroo riders, and what looked like some drug dealers on a corner.


My vaccination appointment was at 9:30 am but I arrived early and was vaccinated early too. I was on the platform waiting for a train back to the city before the official appointment time. A highly efficient, friendly and pain free service. Well done the NHS! (and fuck the Tories!)


I had a few hours until my train back to St Leonards from Victoria Station so I elected to get off the train from Walthamstow at Bethnal Green and walk from there; checking out Shoreditch street art and brutalist architecture on the way.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of street art left in Shoreditch, gentrication and a lack of funds is more likely the cause than Covid, I am guessing a lot of the folk who drove the explosion of street art a few years back have moved on as well. There’s a lot of tagging, this was prevalent throughout the city which surprised me, councils had to cut budgets somewhere I guess. I didn’t take many photos of the street art, a lot of the old stuff has gone and the much of the newer stuff isn’t as good.

A very old Stik, and one of my favourite pieces ever.


A new(ish) Dan Kitchener.


I don’t know who these two are by, but I liked them.



The ever prolific Alo – of whom I am a fan.


I walked over to the Barbican Centre to take some photos of the fabulous brutalist buildings. Brutalism, of the building variety, isnot something I will see much of in NZ, particularly in Auckland. I love the Barbican, a place I could wander around for ages. It is huge and there is a lot to see, and it has a pretty good vibe. It is well visited by tourists and I imagine those who live here get a bit sick of people like me,  pointing their camera lenses at everything. Not that there were many tourists around today, anywhere.








I walked over towards St Paul’s and took some photos of the very empty streets. I was genuinely shocked at how empty the city is as I thought a number of people had gone back to Covid safe offices. I heard tales of packed tube trains so I have no idea where those people go to, I don’t believe they are all construction workers or cafe staff. These photos were taken just before mid-day and there should have been some people heading out to buy lunch.




Some of the food places were open, nowhere as many as normal, but enough. I grabbed a coffee and sat on the steps opposite a deserted St Pauls to drink it and pondered how London can be so quiet.


I don’t think I have seen the Millennium Bridge almost empty, ever. I took a photo of the Tate Modern, one of the places in the UK I will miss the most when I am in Auckland.



I came across a Jimmy C. painting outside Blackfriars Stattion, street art on the South Bank. Wow, things have changed in the last couple of years.


Continuing on with my brutalist architecture theme I grabbed a photo of the block of flats on the riverside. I used to deliver here when I was a van driver for DHL in the 80s, I can’t imagine what a flat costs here now, it was a little run down here back then.


I then spent 30 minutes walking around the National Theatre and Festival Hall; two of my favourite London buildings. I may come back here before we leave and take some more photos, though by that time we will have seen some Covid restrictions relaxed, so I suspect it will be busier.






I could only walk aroud the outside as all the stairwells were closed.


With my train departure drawing closer I started the walk towards Victoria Station. Walking along the South Bank where I stopped for lunch; it was almost as empty as the streets in the city, before crossing Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament. There was more police than citizens here. I elected to take a slight detour to take a photo of the office, which I sent to my workmates to show them it was still there.

As I was walking back towards Victoria St it started to drizzle a little and then the sky just opened and dumped one of the heaviest downpours of rain I have experienced in the UK, luckily I managed to find shelter almost immediately and avoided getting drenched. it didn’t last more than a few short minutes.


I arrived at the station mostly dry and with enough time to by a snack and a drink before getting on another mostly empty train back home. The station was very quiet too. Victoria Bus Station is nearby and a lot of the international buses terminate there, discharging their passengers into the train station for onward journeys, but not today. No or limited travels meant no tourists hanging about the station looking lost.


I took a few photos out of the train window as we moved through the city and the countryside, with the aim of continuing the series of slightly blurry and monochrome photos I was working on before Covid derailed transport. It was a bit of a listless affair. When I was home I was surprised to find I had taken 135 photos over the course of the last 24 hours, Wow, that is a heck of a lot for me.




I arrived back in St Leonards, and the sea, just as more rain arrived, though it continued eastward with the train and the walk up the hill to the flat was not too wet, just enough.


I love London, but it was nice to get home.

The beautifully brutal.

Sunday 03 June 2018 – London.

When I started thinking on this post it was going to comprise a number of semi random images taken during June. However, I could not put together much of a thread for the images beyond ‘All taken in June 2018’, and well, some of them were a bit crap. This post thread has now reduced to images taken on a single walk.

On and off over the past three years I have been visiting towns and villages outside of London, looking for somewhere that I would want to live, and that I can afford to live in. There have not been many. Long term readers (are there any? If you are one “Hello, and thanks ” 🙂 ) will know that I was looking quite seriously at Folkestone back in early 2016. Sadly Folkestone was ruled out with the MEP (Member of the European Parliament) election, where the right wing UKIP party won a number of seats in the European Parliament; and then Brexit happened. Folkestone and its surrounding areas were pretty Brexity, this was something I was not happy with so I subsequently wrote Folkestone off as somewhere I wanted to live.  Hastings, however has come back into the picture, and more of that in near-future post.

Anyway, that was a long preamble, and almost, but not quite pointless. Much as I am trying to find somewhere else to live part time, it has to be said that that has nothing to do with the city I live in. I do actually love London, and do not ever see myself not being in or near the city. There is so much to love about this city, access to concerts, to galleries, its history; and its architecture. Today El and I visit two of those things.

Tate Modern has a couple of really interesting exhibitions on at the moment. As members we get to visit these exhibitions for ‘free’, more importantly we get to visit them an hour before the public. This is crucial as sometimes these special exhibitions can be packed, even with a £16+ per person entry. The Picasso 1932 exhibition was very busy even before the public viewing, I am very glad we got in there early! There was some interesting work there, but with a single year focus the broad range of his work was not on display, it was not the best Picasso event I have been to.

The second exhibition we visited was ‘Shape of Light – 100 years of photography and abstract art’ combining painting, photography, and other light manipulation techniques. I will admit to being a bit disappointed, mainly because I misunderstood the subject. It was OK though. This was the first time I have been to an exhibition where photography was allowed, not sure if this is a new thing, or just for that particular show. I liked the idea and took a couple of pictures. I particularly liked this doorway…

This final room was by far my favourite, and seems to be the subject of a number of Instragram posts. A wonderful moving abstract piece by Maya Rochat.

The other great thing about having Tate membership is access to the various members lounges for food and drink, in relative peace. There is a great members lounge on the 8th floor of the new wing, so taking a detour via the free exhibitions we took to the members lounge. This piece ‘Babel’ by Cildo Meireles is quite amazing, and quite loud. At 4 metres(at a guess) tall and with hundreds of radios tuned to different stations it is quite disconcerting; and very aptly named.

This is Terry, according to his Starbucks coffee. I always try to take a picture in this section of the members lounge, the view down this narrow and beautifully lit passage is one of my favourite bits of the building.

After coffee and cake we decided to take a walk from one key London location for brutalist architecture to another; South Bank to The Barbican. The new wing of the museum is amazing, in fact architecturally, both buildings are amazing, I am going to have to come here on my own one day and spend some just taking photos of the building itself. I love it. A lot.

There are a lot of solid, angular, concrete buildings between the Tate and Festival Hall, including this block of flats that used to be on my courier run when I lived here in the 1980s.

The Barbican Estate was built between the 1960s and 1980s on old WWII bomb sites, there is still building going on around the fringes of the estate as, with new buildings being finished on London Wall. I love the Barbican and the area around it, my cousin lived in one of the towers in the 1980s and I visited a couple of times, the view from her flat was magnificent.

The Barbican Estate is the classic example of 60s brutalist architecture. Being a private estate with relatively (and very) wealthy residents, means it is well maintained and its fine sharp, industrial looks are not marred by decay.

I have been here a few times before, usually with EL or other friends, not usually with much of an opportunity to use the camera. I grabbed a few photos today, trying to catch the lovely late spring flowers against the sharp angles and dirty brown and grey concrete.

We stopped for a drink and very nice lunch in the Barbican Centre before wandering slowly to Liverpool St Station and on to home. A really nice end to a great morning.