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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!)

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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.

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A new(ish) Dan Kitchener.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Memorial, by Phlegm

Sunday 29 July 2020 – Walthamstow.

As soon as we decided to go to work and stay at my place in St Leonards for a few weeks, my favourite street artist came to Walthamstow to paint some doors. Typical.

I have been a fan of the work of the, primarily, Sheffield based artist, Phlgem for quite some time. I remember trying to find one of his pieces in Sri Lanka when I was there in 2013. There are plenty of great murals all over London to make up for not finding that particular one. There is a fabulous large piece at the end of Walthamstow High Street, and an earlier wall has sadly been painted over, but he does have a history in this area, living in Wanstead for a short period. It was quite exciting to know there has been further work added to the growing collection of high quality street art in Walthamstow.

Now that restrictions are slowly being relaxed and shops are opening Eleanor wanted to come back to visit her hairdresser and for us to spend time with family. I took that opportunity to organise a walk to Blackhorse Lane to check out the paintings, which are possibly called Memorial. It is painted on the doors of the indoor climbing centre Yonder. I loved it, as always.

Photos below. Fabulous as always.

The new way, Week six.

Saturday 25 April 2020 – same as always (London).

So, week six of lockdown has passed. While incredibly unexciting it was a pretty good week, the best working week so far. I was in a work zone, and while I did not contribute hugely, nor directly, to the effort to get us through covid19, my work does allow others to do just that.

Outside of work we didn’t do too much; no group quizzes, nor family video-conference sessions, though there was a bit of exercise. I have listened to a lot of punk rock this week, I don’t think this was in response to anything emotional. An article in The Guardian about the band Discharge started it off.

The sunshine has been off, but mostly, on since lockdown commenced, though it has been quite cool outside. Not this week. Friday was very warm and as we walked back towards home I started thinking about shorts. We had lunch most days in the garden. Vitamin D levels must be improving over the last week, though I take a tablet each day just on case. I have been doing this for quite a while and it is the only supplement I think I need.

Vitamin D is on the list of things that you should consume to boost natural immunity, and a healthy immune system is critical at this time. There are boundless stories, rumours and recommendations of things to consume to protect yourself or reduce the risk of getting sick, or improve chances if you do. Many are debunked almost immediately, particularly the latest mad utterings of the US president. Sunshine on the inside and getting disinfectant into your blood. WTAF! Madness!

I cannot believe people believe or support this man, though I guess we are not much better here. The latest debate is whether we will be forced to wear some form of mask when we leave the house. I suspect we will and it will not be far off, the government message on the benefits of masks seemingly changes  daily. In my mind it is part of their signalling strategy, warming the population up to the idea so it is less of a shock when it comes.

I have been pondering the flat a lot this week, I might have to make a run down and stay for a few days in the near future, especially if the weather continues to be so lovely.

Sunday
Eleanor had to work from 9:00 to 13:00. I had thought about going for a bike ride but am still tired and would rather have the energy to ride in the mornings before work. I spent most of the morning writing, editing and posting last weeks epicly long post. I had  planned to keep it shorter this week, though I have utterly failed.

I made fish cakes with a SE Asian flavoured salad for lunch using left over mashed potato from last night. I must remember to do excess potato more often, and then not hoover it all down as seconds or thirds.

In an effort to give myself more space to work I have taken over one of Eleanor’s sons bedrooms. Moving his bed out of the way and his desk in front of the window I now how have a lot more room to work in. This will hopefully improve my sleep as good sleep hygiene is to only use the bedroom for bedroom activities. Working is not considered a bedroom activity, at least not in my profession.

We went for a late afternoon walk to the shops, passing through St Mary’s Churchyard where the bluebells are popping some colour between the monochromatic gravestones.

We have started wearing masks when we go into the shops, I am not wearing mine on the street as I walk, though some people do. At least we are prepared for the inevitable day that they will become mandatory.

Monday
Another sunny but cold day, we were out early for the pre-work commute walk. We walked through Walthamstow Village as I am getting sick of the park. I took a photo suggesting that we were not in NE London but somewhere more genteel.

I started working from my new position in Eleanor’s son’s room, then realised it just didn’t work. There was less desk space than I thought and even with the sun not shining directly in the window like it will later on it was still too bright for working. I moved myself back to my corner desk in our room and will have to think of plan B.

Work was OK, did stuff, and the day passed quickly enough. No reason to complain and I am definitely in the work from home groove now.

I made vege burgers for tea, and then unsuccessfully made a chocolate cake. The cake tasted OK, and was mostly cake-like in appearance. It would not make it far in Bake Off, so no photo was taken. I have vowed to buy two cake tins that are the same size before the next cake gets made. Though that was not the reason the cake didn’t really work.

Tuesday
Even though we went to bed at 11:00 last night, outrageously late for us (morons down the road playing music loudly) I was still awake about 5:00. I will never shake off the tiredness. I have been having really weird dreams lately. This morning I managed to half note the dream and will create a short weird/horror story from it. Possibly, maybe, one day. Writing stories are always on my one day list.

The thinking on weirdness and horror put me off the route I had planned for this morning’s bike ride. I ended up riding to nearby Wanstead and Chalet Wood to see the bluebell display, even though I said last week I wasn’t going to. FOMO got the better of me in the end. I am glad I did, the bluebells are glorious this year.

I got lost on the way. This is the first time I have cycled there, we usually get the train and walk back, going in the opposite direction was not quite as simple as envisaged, nor had I fully remembered the way.

I found Chalet Wood, and was very glad I did.

Work was OK, another pretty good day, and I knocked a couple of tasks off the list, one of which has been weighing me down for ages. It was a relief to get it done.

The keys I sent to my flat neighbour arrived today and he checked my place out, nothing to report and nothing going off in the fridge. This news, A) lifted my massively spirits as I have nothing to worry about, and B) lowered my spirits as I missing my flat.

Wednesday
I think I just need to get used to waking at stupid o’clock. I might change my routine and just get up at 6:00. Get out for some exercise, then read the news and social media over coffee. Start and finish work a bit earlier.

El and I went for a walk to some of the small supermarkets to pick up groceries before work. Our diet is primarily vegetarian, though we aren’t vegetarians. I was craving meat, so bought some beef mince.

Work was pretty good again, maybe listing to loads of punk rock this week has made me more productive. I watched a short documentary that featured the 90s English hardcore band The Stupids. I loved them at the time, but did not own any records. I amended that this afternoon and ordered two on Discogs. They were cheaper than I expected, a lot of old punk rock on vinyl is ludicrously expensive.

I had intended on getting my haircut, and then lockdown happened. The mop is getting unruly and I am torn between letting it grow or shanking it all off with the beard trimmer and some blunt scissors.

I made meatballs in a spicy paprika tomato sauce with orzo for dinner. It was excellent.

Thursday
I was up early again for a pre-work walk. I took a different route and walked along Hoe St and then up Lea Bridge Rd. It is not the nicest route, and does not look like I was walking through a village. There was an article on thrash metal band Slayer in the paper this morning, so I listened to them while I walked. They seem appropriate for this sort of inner-city suburban walk. There has been an increase in the amount of traffic on the roads, but it is not apparent this early in the day.

Even though I ended up getting bogged down in some ultra-tedious and ridiculously last minute budget spreadsheeting, it was not a bad day. It had to be done, someone had to do it, and it was good to get it out of the way. I listened to Superchunk all day. They were one of my favourite bands around 1990, they came to Auckland twice, which was unusual for an American band. They have an affinity for NZ and have recorded covers of songs by both The Chills and The Verlaines, this made me love them even more. They are still going and released an LP in 2018 and it is pretty good. I made a playlist for that future day when Superchunk is the musical answer to the what do I want to listen to question.

We had on-line drinks again after work which was a bit of fun, I enjoyed socialising with colleagues, something else I miss, though I did not do it often when we were in the office. Sometimes it is the small and unexpected things we miss the most.

Friday
Woke early and could not get motivated to go for a walk, even though it is really nice outside. I was up and working before 8:00. There did not seem be much point in staying in bed any longer and it was good to get the work day done. It was OK, I did not achieve a heck of a lot, but I did a bunch of work admin and am well set up for next week being productive too. This was the most positive work week I have had since lock down. I have cracked it I think. Fingers crossed!

Eleanor and I went for a walk at lunch time, it was warm, verging on hot. I was in t-shirt and jeans and by the time I got home I wished I was wearing shorts. Friends had tofu for us from a supermarket delivery so we collected this, and enjoyed a safely distant conversation with them in the sun. Actually talking to people face to face was a joy, doing so under a warm sun was doubly good.

I got sidetracked in the afternoon when someone posted on twitter that they were listening to Rise Against. I have not listened to them properly for quite a time, I have a couple of tracks on a punk play list, but that is about it. I made another playlist, but it just seemed to be entirely made up of the first four albums, the ones I travelled with. They were my go-to band while I was travelling, particularly in moments of loneliness or when I was feeling down. I listen to them differently now, I think. I am never quite 100% sure where my head is at and in these uncertain times I am sure there is more stress and anxiety going on than I will admit to.

I used the mince I did not use in Wednesday’s meatballs and made a very small meatloaf, with mashed spuds and vege. It was good, I am really enjoying cooking at the moment, and am glad we share the task. I made sure there was left over mash for fishcakes another day. A lesson was learned.

Saturday
The asshats at the end of our road had a party again and played bloody awful loud music to 2:30am. I was fuming, but the council no longer have an anti-social behaviour team, apart from the police there is no-one to call. I had a terrible night, even though I attempted to sleep in a back bedroom. Grrrrrrrrr.

Due to tiredness we did chores in the morning instead of a taking the planned long walk. I made soup for lunch as we had an ancient squash and a couple of old spuds that just needed to be eaten. It was good soup, though the squash had lost some of its flavour. It was four months past its best-by date!

Eleanor had to work in the afternoon so after editing some photos and writing most of this (now novella length) post I rode the commuter bike down to Shoreditch to see if any street art had happened in the past couple of years. The answer was not a lot, but here are some ropey photos of some of what I found;

Shepard Fairey, with a Ben Eine ‘R’.

Mr Cenz and someone I have forgotten, I am pretty sure I have posted this before.

Alo. I am so glad Alo is still adding to London’s walls.

Crano and the balloon is by Fanakapan.

Random paste-up artists. I love it that Jacinda Ardern can share a paste-up with Drumpf.

I should know this artist, but cannot pin a name to it. I will update if it comes to me!

This space used to be dominated by street art, now it has a garage, but the entrance is still covered in paste-ups, stickers and scrawling.

It was great to see that Thierry Noir still has a few pieces left, I am a fan and have a print in the flat.

I stopped to take this photo of the gravestones that have been relocated in one of the churchyards in Hackney as I cycled home. I may have to come back to this spot for a better look.

The roads were pretty quiet, not many cars and no trucks, making for a much improved road riding experience. There were a lot of people out on the street and in the parks, mostly sticking to social distancing guidelines, though Broadway Market was not open it was really busy in the street it is held on. I avoided it.

It was good getting out on the bike, for what was my longest ride in quite a while. I am getting a little fitter. Though this was ruined a bit in the evening as we ate take-away pizza and drank wine in front of the TV.

Roa @ Stolen Space Gallery

Thursday 20 September 2018 – London

I am a big fan of the work of Belgian artist Roa. On the street he often paints large black and white murals of rodents, birds and other small life. There are a number of his pieces scattered around London, though I do not think he has painted here in a while.

These are from an old work from, I am guessing 2013, on the back of a housing estate up Bethnall Green Rd. I remember at the time it took us ages to find it. It has been partly painted over since it went up, but I am glad it is mostly undamaged. Some street art respect I guess.

I was thrilled to attend the opening night of a new exhibition at the Stolen Space gallery on Brick Lane. He has exhibited here before so I was looking forward to this show very much, El came along as well and we met my old street art hunting friend Darryl too.

The work was very cool, like the last time, painted onto cupboards, both found and made, with the inside of the doors displaying the inside of the animals. Lovely.

It was a very cool show. If only I had a few thousand to spare!

was also very excited to discover that while he was in London, Roa painted down at the end of the market in Walthamstow, double yay. The mural is fabulous, but in such a narrow alley it was impossible to get it all in.

 

Aberdeen

Thursday / Friday 31 August / 1 September 2017 – Aberdeen, Scotland.

El and have been considering a visit to Aberdeen for a while, finally rejecting the idea to add this to our planned trip to Edinburgh when mum visits us in September. One of the reasons for going to Aberdeen was to meet El’s Scottish family and see the places El visited when her parents were alive and living there.

Sadly one of those relations, El’s aunt, passed away last week after a short illness. El managed to visit her in hospital last week, so fortunately she got to say goodbye.

We are going up for the funeral on Friday morning, not a reason we envisaged for paying our respects to the Granite City. To compound things, my mum arrives at Heathrow on Saturday afternoon so we cannot even stay for the weekend. Seven and half hours on the train on Thursday, repeated when we return to London on Friday. Fortunately I quie enjoy long train rides.

We left London mid-morning. I must admit I actually enjoy train journeys in the UK, though fortunately so far I have never been on a journey of any distance where I have had to stand up. Being in first class also helps a little too!

I always try to take a few photos out of the window as we go, usually unsuccessfully; too many reflections and too much track side furniture getting in the way. Reflections aside I was quite happy with these two. I love rail side England; all the rolling hills, the fields of wheat, the grass, the farrowed land.

My favourite part of the journey north is once we have passed by Berwick and the train runs up the coast to Edinburgh, watching the sea always excites me, and it is what I miss the most living in London. Sometimes just seeing it is enough; though I did get this photo sort of wrong. Virgin should clean the windows of their trains.

We arrived in Aberdeen late afternoon, after what had been quite nice weather on the way up, it was cloudy and the rain came as we walked to our hotel.

We did not do a lot after checking in. The plan was to walk around the immediate area, check out some of the sights, absorb a bit of Aberdeen atmosphere and then have a meal and a quiet drink. The rain put paid to that. We walked about a hundred yards up the road, found a nice cafe that was open for evening meals – and a bit of street art. We retired early and watched TV in bed. Dinner was good, but boy, Aberdeen competes with London on prices!

The rain broke overnight and Friday started nice and bright, a shame that we had a funeral to attend. It was a small affair at the nuclear bunker-like Aberdeen crematorium. El’s Aunt Margaret had no children and there was not a lot of the wider family left. It was a short and gentle farewell.

We had a few hours before the train back to London, so after some quiet post funeral chat with other family members El and I check out of the hotel and went for a walk around. Back in the spring Nuart came to town and there was a bit of street art added to the grey granite walls of central Aberdeen. I had taken a look at the map before we left for our walk, but didn’t really expect to find much of it as it seemed quite scattered. Surprisingly I did find some as we went; so here are some pieces by,

Mr Cenz,

Alice Pasquini,

The wonderful Hera, half of the Heracut duo,

And some from artists that remain unknown.

Nice, I love coming across street art in different towns, I know a number of these artists are well represented on the walls of London, but that makes that familiarity even more special.

There are a lot of churches in Aberdeen, and I mean a lot. It seemed apparent that a lot have been converted into very un-Presbyterian dens of iniquity. Maybe the church needed the money. Bars and casinos seem to be the main theme. I am not a religious person, but found this lack of respect for these old buildings a bit of a shame. Maybe it is just the cheapness of the frontages I hate.

We had a good walk around, I liked Aberdeen, I loved the dark grey graniteness of the town, I liked the feel of the city, that it isn’t flat, there are alleyways and steps and it is not all square and straight and ordered. I would love to have explored more and to have had some time to understand its history and its famous characters.

Returning to the hotel, we picked up our bags and headed back to the station for lunch before getting on the train for the return seven and half hour journey. I confess to spending most of the journey slumped into my seat, listening to music and drinking red wine. It passed quite quickly.

The return had the same photographic opportunities as the originating journey.

With a stunning sunset as a bonus!

We will be back.

Reconnecting with street art

Thursday 17 August 2017 – London.

I have settled nicely in to my new job, I have a good team, everyone has been really welcoming and has made me feel at home. A good start. The best bit is there have been no stressful days, hopefully that will remain. I work in a fabulous bit of London, not far from the Houses of Parliament. I expect I will be taking the camera in when the days start to get shorter and sunrise and sunset more closely bookend my working day.

I have not been on street art run for months, so I was really looking forward to seeing my mate Daryl after work and going to check out a bit of street art. Daryl still goes out most weeks and still posts the best bits on Instagram, he is the right man to show me around.

We met at Liverpool St station, I was 20 mins early so stopped in for a swift pint with the city types, nice pint of something I cannot remember. The first stop was some new boards that have been put up by the front of a new tower. A tower that is part of a complex built on the ruins of the warehouses, shops and businesses that lined these streets only a few years ago.

Mr Cenz is one or a few artists to have painted where I live in Walthamstow in NE London, in fact he painted a side wall of a snooker hall at the end of my street. Sadly the wall, along with the entire hall has recently been demolished so a new (and probably hideous) block of flats can be built. Mr Cenz has been painting in London for a few years, though this is the first time I have seen a piece that is largely monochrome. I liked it.

Another artist to grace the walls of Walthamstow is Carne Griffiths, I particularly liked this piece of his.

Daryl and I did not have much a plan, short of finding somewhere later on for a drink and maybe something to eat. In the end we stuck to a fairly traditional path and headed up towards Great Eastern St. This area has changed a lot since I first came here, buildings have come and gone, hoardings have come and gone, and a lot of the painting spaces have disappeared along with them. A pub that used to be pretty much deserted after work on a Thursday was now heaving with new city types and the younger, hipper, wealthier crowd that has moved in to the area. There were a couple of things I liked. This by Loreto,

and a traditional, old school work from Dscreet, which did not quite fit in the frame. It was good to see that as much as things have changed, Dscreet has remained true to his art.

Daryl was keen to show me a new bar that had opened in an old police station, the reception was a bottle store and the cells down in the basement have been converted into a cocktail bar. It had a very nice whisky menu, so it would have been rude to walk out without sampling some of the product. On the way we passed a more traditional and colourful Mr Cenz piece and a Fanakan, in a style that he has developed since I last saw some of his work.

It turned out that having one whisky was not enough to form an opinion on the new bar, so we had a second before heading back out again to explore a bit more of the new work around. It seems that the big global artists are not coming to London as much these days. There has been a big surge in the popularity of street art around the world, and around the UK, so there are now festivals in a whole bunch of new, and sometimes obscure places. Good for them, not so good for us as there is not a  great range of big and interesting work to see. The upside to this is loads of small paste ups and painting on the old walls. I quite enjoyed exploring again after such a long time.

There were a couple of pieces by Kai, the first has been tagged,

some C215,

and a bunch of stuff by artists whose names I can no longer remember, though I am sure Daryl pointed them out to me at the time.

In a yard near Truman’s Brewery there were a couple of large pieces, one by Conor Harrington, who I have blogged about before; he has also painted in Walthamstow before.

I do not know who painted this, but I like it.

The light was starting to fade as we got to Hanbury St, always a good location for bigger pieces and bigger name artists. First up was a traditional Dale Grimshaw piece.

With a fairly traditional Alex Senna opposite.

The far end of the street has a couple of newer walls, I really like this large piece, though again I cannot remember the artists name!

Ant Carver had the wall at the end of Hanbury Street.

The light had dropped too much to be able to take a decent hand hold shot so we decided to head off and find something to eat. We passed a new work by a recent visitor to London, Falko One. He had caused some controversy by painting one of his signature elephants on to the bottom of an old piece by Stik. This was deemed, and I sort of agree, as some form of artistic vandalism. Though to counter that argument, street art should be transitory, and in my mind nothing should last forever. Though, if some artists work should last forever, Stik should be one of those artists!

I had a really good time, it is always good to catch up with Daryl, and it was great to rediscover a bit of street art again, it was almost like I had not been before.

Birmingham.

Saturday 18 March 2017 – Birmingham.

I have had a nasty head cold/virus thing for the past three or four weeks. It has not been bad enough to really lay me out, but it has been bad enough that over that period I had to take a couple of days off work. As a contractor on a day rate with no sick leave, that means no pay; so it was a pretty bad cold. It has also meant that El and I have not done a heck of a lot since the start of the year. It being winter hibernation time has not helped either.

The UK’s biggest photography show is at the NEC in Birmingham this weekend. As El had plans for both Friday night and Saturday morning that did not include me I decided I would go to Birmingham to have a look. I am trying to work out what to do with my photography at the moment, I know I want to do more of it; I am just not sure what that more is. Much as I would love to get a new camera, I wasn’t going to look at equipment, I was going with the hope of finding new inspiration.

I worked from home Friday morning and had booked a seat on the 14:13 train from Euston. It was a pretty good journey and I arrived in Birmingham late in the afternoon, just as the drizzle started! I had booked a hotel that was close to the station and headed straight there; after checking the direction on the map on my phone.

I crossed through Holloway Circus and stopped to take a photo of the Asian influenced statue in the middle, with two lovely English tower blocks in the background. My hotel was just on the other side of the circus. So far I was not overly impressed with Birmingham central, though it was living up to my expectations. The station was very modern, and there was a fairly new mall opposite it, but the walk to my hotel was a little ‘gritty’. Perhaps late afternoon on a rainy St Patrick’s Day is not the best time to visit an urban centre for the first time? The sky seemed to reflect the colour of the buildings below it.

When I got to the check-in desk at the hotel I discovered that at some point between checking the map on my phone and arriving I had lost my glasses. Naturally this was one trip away from home when I had not bought a spare. Sh*t! I checked in and headed back the way I came, but as expected, I found nothing. I bought a ‘cheap’ pair from Boots – I need to be able to read things or I will go bonkers. I have never lost a pair of glasses before, and it was a slightly disconcerting feeling. I can see to get around well enough, but I cannot read a thing without them.

It was still drizzling when I left Boots, so I went back to the hotel, and did not leave again until the morning when I left for a walk before heading out to the NEC centre for the opening of the Photography Show at 11:00. I didn’t really have a plan for walking around, though I wanted to see the building at the back of the shopping centre, ‘The Bullring’ building. A new and very futuristic looking construction.  

It is a stunning piece of modern architecture and being right next to the church Saint Martin in the Bullring, it makes for a great old and new contrast.

I knew there must be some street art in the city, I had vague recollections of hearing some paint jams here, so was pleasantly surprised to walk past a Dan Kitchener hoarding nearby.

I had been walking toward what looked like some interesting old/derelict buildings and accidentally stumbled upon a major street art area.

Every street I walked down had art or graff on walls. Big pieces, some by artists I was very familiar with and some not so much, there was like a trail of art of leading me towards something, though I had no idea what. The chimney on this building was what originally led me here, there was a great view back up the street to The Bullring as well.

I was quite intrigued by this building as well, it turned out to be part of a college, in this section of the city there are not many tall buildings, so this one really stood out, I loved the water? tower. I am also a sucker for red brick and government issue green paint.

Following the trail onwards, I passed an Amara,

And something I liked by an unknown artist,

I crossed over a small canal, reminiscent of the canal we saw in York, tightly canyon-ed by the buildings on either side, and much narrower than the canal system in North London.

All of a sudden I found the pot of gold at the end of the street art trail, a couple of big car parks with walls covered in art works.

I recognised a Louis Masai, but not much else. There were a lot of other pieces around.

I think I stumbled into Birmingham’s answer to London’s Shoreditch. It is an area in need of gentle gentrification, more of a tidy than a complete make-over. There are a lot of neglected small factory, warehouse and office buildings, spaces that would make for great studio and gallery places. Though we know what happens when gentrification comes along, and it is not all good news. This little square had been gentrified and was very cool, and if I had seen it yesterday I would have been tempted to come down here last night for a meal and a drink.

I walked past a record fair. I was very very tempted to go in….  I also like the idea that a city is a work of art, and I think this area of the city has achieved that to a degree.

However, I was on a mission to go the Photography Show, so I left the street art and record fair behind and headed to the station to take the train from central Birmingham to the NEC centre, about 10 miles away. My feelings about Birmingham have been turned around and I really enjoyed my walk.

The train was absolutely rammed, with lots of (mostly) young people in costume. Arriving at the NEC I discovered that Comic Con was being held there as well as the Photography Show; and a couple of smaller expos as well. The place is huge. As was the photo expo, much bigger than I expected.

I really enjoyed the expo. I will definitely go back next year, but will plan to go with someone else, preferably someone interested in photography! Though I was not planning on spending time looking at the gear  I would liked to have looked at the cameras and the other technology, discussing pros and cons of the different systems and innovations. It was interesting to look around anyway, plus I wanted to avoid the temptation of holding a Canon 5d Mk4 in my hands!

I wasn’t there for the tech though, I wanted to check out some of the talks. As I said at the start I need some inspiration, I am stuck in a bit of a photographic rut at the moment, hence the lack of blogs and photography. I have some ideas, but need a bit of a kick in the butt to get going.

I attended a talk in the Canon tent by the photographer Jeff Ascough, about how he developed his style and it was really informative and very helpful. I left with good ideas, some thoughts on direction, and a validation of some of my thinking.

I left soon after the talk and headed back to home. I felt good about the trip.

All the photos were taken on my phone, I did take the G16, but did not use it in the end. I am really impressed with the IQ of the Samsung S7.

I am some art.

Friday 14 October 2016  – London.

I have not been on a street art walk in Shoreditch, or anywhere else for quite a long time. I have dabbled here and there with a quick visit, but rarely have I been inspired to take photos. I have been to a few gallery openings with my mate Darryl, and have seen some pretty good stuff, but nothing has gone into the blog for ages.

I had a couple of photo exhibitions to visit today, both in the east end, and with a slight diversion or two, separated by some street art walls. It was time to take a walk – even if it was just a short one.

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To be honest, the heydey of street art in this and most other parts of London seem to be over. That rush of 2012+2013 when fresh, new and exciting artists were being created locally or visiting from far of land is long gone. On the odd occasion I have had a look around, there has been nothing much to report.

However there was some good stuff out there today. I am bit out of touch now, so there are a few artists I do not recognise.

I will start with the ones I know, and very definitely my favourite from the day.  I am a fan of Dale Grimshaw, I own a print of one of his pieces, but I have never seen one this big – on the back wall of the Village Underground. Brilliant! Those eyes….

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I also really like the small paste ups of Jana and JS, I haven’t seem them around much, so nice seeing some of their work back in the country again.

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The always colourful Thierry Noir.

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Mr Cenz.

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Dan Kitchener.

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Ant Carver.

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The rest I liked, but cannot name!

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I am off to Berlin in two weeks time, it is a work conference, but I hope to be able to sneak off for a couple of hours while I am there to do some tourist things. One of which will be to check out some street art.

Two days after I get back from Berlin I am off on my travels to India, Australia, New Zealand and Dubai. I am almost organised now. Wahoo !!

Music never Lied to me.

January 29 2016 – Shoreditch.

It has been a really busy week, a small and frustrating project at work filled far more time that it really needed to. I have been really good this year and have not taken work home with me very often, working my allotted four days and not much more. Though, having said that, this project has spilled into today and I will probably do four or five hours on my day off. It has also been busy socially, El and I had a quick drink after work on Monday for our third anniversary, followed by a wine tasting on Tuesday and  last night we attended a talk in our local bookshop by legendary rock photographer Kevin Cummins. El worked with Kevin many years ago when she was editing 90 Minutes – an English football magazine. I often envy El her work in journalism! The talk was excellent, Kevin is an engaging speaker with some great stories. It did leave me deeply envious and with a plan to do more photography this year.

Even though I do not work Friday I was up early with El and got stuck into work as soon as she left, I managed to knock most of what I needed to do on the head by lunch time and decided I would go to Shoreditch and check out any new street art. I have only been out a couple of times in the past year or so, being a full time worker has certainly cramped my leisure time!

There is also a lot less happening street art wise now, the gentrification and citification of the area is well under way so sadly a lot of the old walls and hoardings have gone. It is the area’s loss in my opinion.

Though I have been to a few gallery openings lately and still keep an eye on my mate Plumms’ Instagram photos, I am really out of touch with what is going on and who the artists are. I have even forgotten the names of a few familiar painters as well. You will have to forgive me for having a few unknown artists below.

Like this one to start with! This photo was taken a few weeks ago as well, but I did not have anything to post it with and I really like it.

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There is a huge amount of construction going on in the area at the moment, which means lots of hoardings around building sites. Some allow painting and some do not. Most seem to be covered in graffiti rather than street art, but there are things more to my taste around. Like this by an artist I feel I should know…

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Good to see Dscreet still panting owls here and there.

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Gent 48

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This piece by Olivier Roubieu is fabulous.

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Blackall Street was always a favourite place, loads of paste-ups and stickers, and I have never seen a Dale Grimshaw paste-up before so this was a cool find.

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Savant provided this post’s title.

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A new artist to me, Lapizola. As it is on a hoarding round a building site I suspect it will not last long.

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Unify

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Unknown

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Another piece by Unify.

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Nice to see Jim Vision is still painting walls, he has done some great pieces on this wall off of Redchurch St over the years.

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I am a big fan of Alo, and it looks like his style has changed a little since I last saw some of his work.

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I do not know this artist either.

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But I am very familiar with Dan Kitchener and was hoping he would paint in Walthamstow last year.

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This Shepard Fairey has been here for a very long time, but I do not recall ever having taken an photo it. Given the rate that buildings are being knocked over, I decided I should grab one just in case!

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I stopped in a Rough Trade to grab El a copy of the new Savages LP, ‘Adore Life’, and also grabbed a photo of this on the way past.  I like them both.

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There is a new(ish) Otto Schade in Brick Lane, I think this a spot he has painted on before.

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It started to rain as I walked down Brick Lane, the rain was not forecast and I was not prepared for it, so decided to call it quits and headed back to Liverpool St Station.

I was shocked to find the old London Exchange building was completely gone, I knew it was going to be demolished, I mean who needs old buildings when new glass ones are so much better. But the hole in the ground was a complete surprise, and an unpleasant one at that! Nice to see they kept the facade… 

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It was good to get out and see some street art again, though I was mildly disappointed at how little there was, and at the lack of something that really wowed me. It is likely there is a lot more hidden away, and if wasn’t for the rain I would have explored a little further.

Last chance to see – a bit of Camden disappearing.

Sunday 25 January 2015 – Camden.

The second in a two part series of recent London street art, this time from Camden.

Last week I saw a tweet from Inspiring City, one of my favourite London street art bloggers, advising that the Hawley Market in Camden had just been closed down, at very short final notice to the stall holders. I guess they knew it was coming as the site had long been marked down as the location for a new school along with the inevitable flats that I am sure no-one from the area will be able to afford.

Over the past few months the permanent market stalls had been painted over by a  variety of both local and overseas artists, with some really nice work being completed, so it was a bit of a shock and a shame to see them all going.  As I mentioned in yesterdays post there are now large tracts of London slowly being bulldozed into oblivion for the sake of ‘progress’. Progress for whom I am not sure.

El and I wanted to go for a walk before a two year anniversary lunch in Islington, and decided to go to Kings Cross on the tube and walk to Islington via a big detour to Camden – almost in the opposite direction.  We walked along the side of Regents Canal, I haven’t been along here for quite a while, but the whole canal system has to be a long and skinny favourite part of London. Even this section just behind Kings Cross station in central London looks like it could be located in a small rural town, apart from the BT Tower sneaking it’s way into the horizon.

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The Hawley Market runs along the side of the canal and is now all fenced off. There are a lot more huts painted than there was the last time I visited, maybe Captain Kris is showing what he thinks if the closure.

IMG_1152It is also a shame to lose this from Gnasher as well.

IMG_1153‘Save the Bees’ from Louis Masai. Both Louis and Gnasher did some work a couple of summers ago on an underpass in Walthamstow Marshes and thankfully there is no plan, yet, to full the marshes with houses.

IMG_1154We walked around to the far side of the market on Hawley St, passed a soon to be unloved Hunto.

IMG_1155Down Selbourne Rd there was a new mural from Lost Souls Crew

IMG_1157And this cool wall from Dan Kitchener – I am hoping Dan will be painting in Walthamstow fairly soon, there has been a bit of painting going on lately organised by a local group Wood St Walls.

IMG_1156There was also a new piece from Mr Cenz.

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Down the side of the railway arches there were a couple of pieces I haven’t seen before, one from Jimmy C.

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And one from an artist who I am vaguely familiar with but cannot pin a name on right now, but I really liked this.

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I was hoping to have a look at the houses along here, as a number have been painted prior to demolition. However, the road is now closed and the crews are moving in. I am not entirely sure if this section is part of the school/flats project or just an excuse to tie in with the school build and ram up some more flats. I guess the one tiny tiny benefit of the closure of these houses was that they became temporary legal canvases.

IMG_1161A door from D7606

IMG_1162A big Himbad

IMG_1163A bit of fun from Zadok

IMG_1164A Je Suis Charlie mural from Tom Blackford.

IMG_1165Dan Kitchener

IMG_1168And finally this very nice mural from Irony.

IMG_1174It was then time to head towards our lunch reservation at the posh fish and chip shop in Islington, almost an hours walk away.  Like Shoreditch yesterday, a small part of town is disappearing, I am sure there are many who will say we need to the housing in London and it is only a small section, but I fear it will be a death by a thousand cuts and all of a sudden we will realise that all the bits that made London the cool city it is will be gone.