When mum came to stay.

Friday 06 October 2017 – London.

We had the great pleasure of mum coming to stay for a few days over the past month. Mum turned 80 in May and my sisters and I conspired to buy her return ticket from New Zealand as a present. Mum had not been here for (I think) seven years, and was not sure if she would come back, so our birthday present was a welcome surprise!

In 1973, mum and (my late) dad emigrated to New Zealand, taking me and my sisters along for the ride. I am very glad to have mostly grown up in NZ, a fabulous country to be boy and young  man in, and something I will be for ever grateful for. Mum has two brothers and other friends and relatives in the UK, some of dad’s family are here too.

Mum stayed with El and I for half of her time in London and was out and about with her brothers visiting friends for the rest. If I had not recently started a new job I could have spent more time with her. I was lucky enough to be able to take a few days off here and there, and have the odd ‘work from home’ day.

Mum arrived on Saturday 2 September after 27 hours of travel with Singapore Airlines, she was glad it was over! I took a couple of days off work so Tuesday mum and I went for a drive out to Southend, a place mum had been to a number of times over the decades. After faffing trying to find a place to park we stopped on the west side of Southend and decided to go for a walk towards Westcliff, before turning back for a traditional fish and chip lunch on the waterfront, followed by a gentle post lunch leg stretch and then a Rossi ice cream.

I parked as close to the centre as I could, near a tiny section of virtually empty sand.

We headed westward, towards Westcliff, and view on to London. It was not a hot day, nor was it cold, some where irritatingly inbetween. It was windy and quite cloudy. A bit grim, bit not terribly so., which probably sums up Southend.

Soon after starting our walk, it started to rain, not heavily, though the drops were big and solid and the promise of a windblown downpour was strong. We had coats but chose to turn back, skip the walk and go for lunch instead.

By the time we were half way back the threatening rain had been blown away and while the sky stayed heavy and full, it did not rain on us again. We walked along the seafront, past the pier and the entertainment area.

We were looking for somewhere reasonable for lunch. Somewhere on the sea with a view over the water; and somewhere selling fish and chips. We found that somewhere, and lunch was excellent, we chose the right place. It was full, with small groups of retirees also eating fish and chips, if is full then there has to be a reason. After a large lunch we waddled back to the car, stopping for a famed Rossi ice cream on the way. It was good day out.

On Saturday we took a trip in  to central London to visit the Tates. None of the special exhibitions were of interest to mum at Tate Britain so we took a walk around and perused the general galleries. There are no photo restrictions in the free galleries which was fab.

I am not sure who painted this massive piece but I really like it,  you will have seen similar in some of my photos; A tiny stretch of beach/land and a massive sky taking up most of the frame. The colour reminds me of Turner.

Speaking of JMW Turner, Tate Britain has an exceptional collection of his work. For a long while I was not a fan, art is very subjective, and I just did not get him. Even though he was active during my favourite artistic period and certainly has a lot in common with the impressionists I love, I just did not get him. Over the past couple of years that has been changing and the more I look at his work and think about how it could influence my photography the more I have come to appreciate what he has done. This work from Lausanne from 1841/42 is a great example of what I want to be able to do with my camera. I am not quite there yet.

It was a nice day so mum and I took the opportunity to stroll the south bank of the Thames to Tate Modern. I love the Thames, it is such a nice walk;  history, space, views, city, what more could you ask for; though there are places where the crowds are just maddening. We were lucky in that it was still not too busy, yet…

The office building next door but one to mine!

I took mum for lunch in the members lounge in the new extension to Tate Modern, the view over south London, and up and down the river is just lovely, and worth the members fee alone. The extension is magnificent, a wonderful concrete and steel construction on the side of an already brilliant space.  They should offer afterhours photography tours of the building. Though having the odd person in the shot does give the scale of the building some perspective. 

We had a walk around the Giacometti exhibition, it was really busy and quite hard work, being able to stand back and read the signs and take  a decent, broad view of the pieces was impossible. I am not really a sculpture person, but I do love his mid-period tall skinny people work, fabulous. Hopefully El and I will get an opportunity to go back and take a longer look; at a members only session Smile

Mum stayed with family for most of the next week, coming back to stay with us for a few days when Meliesha was visiting on her way from Bristol to Austria. It was great that mum and Meliesha could hang out for a few days together in my neck of the woods. 

Mum, El and I had a weekend away in Edinburgh, and I will write about that next. On the way back south Mum stayed ‘oop north’ for a few days with one of her brothers and visited some old friends. All too soon it was back to us in London for a few days and then off to Heathrow and back to New Zealand.

It was great having mum over to stay, hopefully there will be at least one more visit before mum does not feel able to travel such long distances again; though maybe we could meet half way for a catch up some time! Love you mum xx

A visit to Sarfend.

Sunday 14 September 2014 – Southend-on-Sea.

While El and I were away on the Isle of Wight last weekend we started discussing the possibility of buying a small holiday home somewhere. This conversation carried on during the week and we talked about what we would want from a holiday place. It seems that in a perfect world we would be able to buy somewhere near St Ives in Cornwall, but that is just way to far away to be practical right now, but is definitely a future consideration.

Much as I am very happy living with El in her house I had become fairly used to living alone and occasionally feel the need to escape to my own pad, with my own things and just chill out. When I moved in after I returned from NZ in July it was intended that once I was working I would look for my own flat and move out. Living together has not raised any alerts and we have pretty much agreed that it would be silly for me to spend 1500-1700 pounds a month renting a flat I would only stay in half the time. This basically means I have some money to invest. So a buying a cheap flat or house somewhere on the coast but near enough to London so we could easily and cheaply visit at the weekends, or I could commute to and from on occasion, seems like a sensible thing to do.

We just need to find somewhere we like. Southend-on-Sea is not going to be one of those places, but it is close by and well worth checking out as it will give us some idea of what is out there, and what seaside towns near to London can be like.

After Steve and I did our Leigh-on-Sea to Southend photo walk back in April I had  been thinking about doing the final leg of the walk from Southend to Shoeburyness, so, as it was a nice day, El and decided to make the trip in reverse.  We caught a train into Liverpool St, walked over to Fenchurch St Station and caught the train out to Shoeburyness. Shoeburyness was interesting, the tide was out, seemingly almost as far as France, and we could see kite surfers way out on the horizon, they were so far out that at first I wondered what they were – and you cannot even see them in this photo taken on my phone. It was a nice enough place, there were some very nice apartments near the sea, but that tide is just too much for me.

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There was a short section of coast with the ubiquitous beach huts on it before we hit a  long section of much nicer beach that was closed to the public as it was/is an MOD testing site, there were numerous signs warning of unexploded shells and other ordinance possibly lying around. Sadly this section of coast was quite long…

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I did love this sign – ‘deep water’ !!! – You can barely see the water.

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It took us about thirty minutes to walk to the outskirts of Southend, and as soon as the MOD area was over, the beach huts appeared. Quite a number of them had people gathered inside and out and there was a bit of a part time sea side community going on. Not my thing, but nice to see people getting out and about, even though the view of the estuary to the power station was not the most attractive.

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I liked this end of Southend, there are some quite nice houses, and as there is no entertainment at this end of the beach it was all very quiet. You can see Southend Pier in the background, the longest in the world apparently – mainly because the sea goes out so far !

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After about an hour and a half of walking we arrived in Southend central, and like before I knew it was just not my place, far too busy for me. We walked through town, heading for the Westcliff area that I wanted to have a look at. We stopped at the famous Rossi’s ice cream shop, a long standing feature of Southend, and one my mum asked me about after she read my blog post from back in April. She used to visit here when she was young and was interested to see if it was still here. The ice cream was very nice too, as I believe it was  in my mum’s day.

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After Rossi’s it was time to go so wandered up through Westcliff to the station and headed back home.

Did I learn anything about buying property on the coast, not really. But I did learn that buying somewhere near the sea, means I want to hear the waves. So that rules out this section of coast!

A coastal walk, Leigh-on-Sea to Southend.

Friday March 28 2014 – Leigh-on-Sea to Southend-on-Sea.

When I was out walking Hampstead Heath on Monday with Steve we came up with a loose plan to head out to the coast on Friday if the weather remained agreeable; which it did. We decided to head to Leigh-on-Sea on the Essex south coast and the mouth of the River Thames. It is only forty or so minutes from London’s Fenchurch St Station, so dead easy to get to.

Leigh-on-Sea is an old fishing village that has become a wee bit gentrified, but still retains some of its working past, so thee was a bit of photographic grittiness mixed with some nice pubs to try for lunch. Who can ask for more than that.

We left London mid-morning, it had been a foggy start to the day, and by the time we arrived the local fog had cleared but the horizon stayed foggy for most of the rest of the day. The railway line cuts the town in half so we ended up staying on the seaward side of the tracks and in the end decided we would walk the 5km or so up to Southend-on-Sea and stop to take pictures on the way.

For a large part of the walk the seaward side is quite narrow, basically a walking path running next to the edge of the sea, with a few small wharves along the way. As you would expect for a fishing and shell-fishing village there was a lot of small boats along the way.

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There was also a small strip of sheds selling seafood, though only one was open on the day. I wonder if the numerous closed sheds open in the summer months – as I suspect this is a very busy walking area. I certainly hope so.IMG 8705

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There is also a bit of history around small ship building in this area as well.

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At the end of the town there are a couple of quite nice looking pubs and cafes, though it was sort of lunch time we carried on walking.

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There was also a couple of places selling locally caught seafood as well as ‘Thia’ fish cakes – not quite sure what they are!

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Just outside of town I was really surprised to come across this nice little beach just outside of Leigh-on-Sea. It was completely not what I was expecting to see. I will admit that my ignorance of this area was pretty profound, I had heard stories of this part of the coast being a bit sad and run down, laughable as a place to holiday – but how wrong I was. OK, it is not Cornwall or Devon, but the beaches looked nice, there was some decent greenery and for a beach under an hour from central London this section of coast is really nice. I stood completely corrected!

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I really liked these beach swimming pools; the tide here does go out a very long way. I liked the hard angles and the shapes and they way they contrasted to the natural surroundings. I also liked the fact that the distant shore of the other side of the Thames estuary is smothered by the fog.

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The old minesweeper, HMS Wilton is now the home of the Essex Yacht Club, but is famous for being the first plastic and fibreglass warship made back in the early 1970’s. It was retired from duty in 1994 and became the yacht club in the early noughties.

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The walk past Chalkwell and Westcliff to Southend took us a couple of hours as we stopped a few times to take photos, I was very fascinated by all the man-made structures poking into the sea and took quite a few pictures as we went.

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I also really like this ever-so seaside British building – the pavilion, not something we have so much of in New Zealand, but everywhere along the coast of England that I have visited.

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Soon we came in sight of the Southend pier, at 2.14 kms, it is the world’s longest pleasure pier. I guess if it had not been so foggy we would have spotted the pier from miles away ! The pier is that long as the tide goes out for over a mile on this section of coast. They must have been really really keen to build the pier here !

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I had a fish and chip lunch in one of the small fish and chip shops open near the pier head and then we caught a small train out to the end of the pier, my knee was really starting hurt – it has been plaguing me for a while and I didn’t fancy another couple of miles of walking. I was glad we did as there was nothing open at the end of the pier, plus it was quite brisk out there, so we did not stay for long.

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Once off the pier we walked up the steps to the top of the cliff for a look back over the pier and the closed fairground.

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We then caught a train back to London. We were going to stop for a pint at Leigh-on-Sea but decided to head back into town and have an end of the day beer there instead.

It was another really good day out, I learned to not always trust what people say about a place as I kinda liked Southend-on-Sea and the other local towns – though I would not go there on a sunny mid-summers weekend – I suspect it would be madness ! I am keen to walk the other way from Southend out to Shrewburyness, so I will definitely visit again.

Next time I will have to try the famous Rossi ice cream as well.