Walthamstow Wetlands

Sunday 27 March 2022 – Walthamstow, London.

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

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

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

Cormorant Island from Coppermill Lane.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Developments at Tottenham Hale Station.

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

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

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

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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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.

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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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 ten.

Saturday 23 May 2020 – Walthamstow.

Lousy sleep on Sunday night. Most nights these days I drop off quickly and sleep until soon after sunrise. I go to bed early, yet still do not get quite enough sleep. I try to grab those missing few hours in fitful bursts of dozing on weekend mornings. Sunday was one of those rare returns to the insomnia days of old. I don’t want those to return. I should have just gotten up and read my book, but I don’t do that, I lie there and let my brain race.

I was thinking about SE Asia travel, the places I did not get to, and the places I want to revisit. As it is me and the middle of the night I spent more time thinking on the things that didn’t go as well as I would have liked rather than the awesome bits.

These last couple of weeks I have been struck quite hard by the thing that impacts my life the most. I am sure there is a name for it, though I don’t immediately have one to hand. I am not alone in suffering from this malaise. I have lots of plans, ideas and desires, I mean to do things. I just don’t. There is a mix of miss placed guilt, laziness, tiredness, lack of motivation and lack of drive; a missing will power. Though I am not that lazy, I do have some motivation and some desire. Just not enough. I am not driven and I lack self-confidence.

These things manifest themselves in different ways. I have been meaning to ring my aunt and uncle, neither who are well, to see how they have fared through the covid pandemic. I have not. I mean to email mum more often, I don’t. I mean to do more exercise and take more photos, I don’t; my photo book of Africa is a pile of prints in a drawer. This has long been the way, and I don’t know how to resolve this; or know if I truly want to.

These things impacted on my SE travels in a variety of ways, I spent way too much time on my own in guesthouse and hostel rooms, and didn’t do some things due to lack of belief in myself. Having said that, I packed a hell of a lot in during those five months and did significantly more than I thought possible. Next time will be better….

Sunday
I am really enjoying Sundays. I had a video call with my sister firstish thing which was a good start to the day. The rest of the morning was spent blogging and doing not much, Eleanor I walked when she finished work in the early afternoon. It was a bit of a directionless and vaguely listless walk, though being outside was good enough. We are both a bit bored of walking around Walthamstow.

I like noise, it is most of the music I listen to.

I read a bit in the afternoon, continuing the book of short stories I recently started as well as starting to reread Stephen King’s book on writing. I have so many books on the go at the moment, yet still ordered two more novels this afternoon, second hand and cheap. I must spend less time on this computer and more time reading the books I buy. Another commitment I will fail to achieve I suspect.

In a burst of enthusiasm, driven by Eleanor, I finally hung a print from my photo exhibition 15 months ago in the front room. I have now moved another into the hall, ready to hang in a few months time.

Late in the afternoon I grabbed a can of IPA and moved to being in front of the telly, I started watching a programme on Asian rail journeys and then watched three episodes, drinking the can of beer. followed by two gin and tonics. This started me on looking at posts from 8 years ago when I was travelling. I now have decided to do a ten year anniversary trip to SE Asia to visit the places I missed last time. I would love to think I could and would take another five month journey, though suspect this will be more of a three week quick hop. I have 20 months to come up with a plan and save for it. Hopefully we will be able to travel again by then. I miss travelling.

I spent some time over the week looking at old posts and reminiscing, mostly fondly, on my travels. The travel lust is still there.

Monday
Bad night, the first night in ages when I just could not get to sleep; brain race. I was thinking about holidays; what to do this summer, as well as thinking about this 10 year anniversary trip. I also thought about Kevin and Phil, who I met in Vietnam at Dan and Van’s wedding and who are both sadly no longer with us. They loved travel and let nothing stop them, I was envious of their ambition. I still woke early, not long after the sun made its unstoppable journey around the edges and join of the curtains.

I did get up for a walk this morning, I wasn’t going to, but I felt bad as I also spent some time last night thinking about my laziness and general lack of ‘get up go’. So I got up and went. I started listening to a new punk rock podcast while I walked, two blokes talking about music. I enjoyed it, and have a bunch of bands I don’t know to listen to and add to an ever growing punk rock playlist. The YMCA gym in Walthamstow that Eleanor I both went to for a while some years back.

The book I ordered about The Luddites arrived today, with possibly the smallest print I have ever seen in a book. This is the last book I need for background for the novel, I think. I started writing a (very) short story, my aim is to write at least something each day, hopefully something useful; though anything is better than nothing.

Tuesday
Walked again and listened to another podcast punk rock episode, this time about the band Fugazi. I listened to them while I worked.

It is hot (UK hot, not hot place hot) today; shorts and t-shirt all day and no socks except for both times I walked. I have gotten very used to not having to iron any clothes and wearing a shirt with a collar is but a distant, and unhappy, memory. I am not looking forward to going back to the office, when ever that will be.

This Baptist church on my morning walk reminded me of the Christian churches I saw in SE Asia, or is that just me projecting?

I nipped out at lunch time to see if I could find a new notebook for work. There were a lot of people out in Walthamstow High St; not many wearing masks, or even vaguely interested in social distancing. As suspected none of the book/stationary shops were open and the queue at Wilco was massive. I went home and ordered two online. I still like to write notes, and pencils arrived yesterday. I have used pencils for writing since early school days. It will be easier to erase errors, or bad ideas.

Wednesday
Awake early, coffee at 6:00, walking before 7:00, Eleanor joined me this morning. It was nice out, apart from the pollen which was really bad. My eyes felt like they were full of grit before we got to the end of the road and I spent the morning streaming, sneezing and blowing.

Work was OK, busy again, though I finished dead on five and cracked a can of APA and did some flat related stuff, there is an online residents association board meeting on Tuesday evening. I am contemplating going to the flat on Monday for a few days, we have had some great weather and I want to be by the sea and enjoy walking somewhere different.

Happy Birthday mum!

Thursday
I woke this morning to news that New Zealand band Bailter Space had released three new tracks, their first new material in ages. I was very excited by this.

I didn’t go for a walk, but I did listen to music and then had seven meetings. Thankfully I have tomorrow off. Monday is a bank holiday, so no meetings for four days. Hell yeah!

I heard from my mum today that my late dad’s sister Barbara passed away yesterday. She lived in a care home in Canterbury. I don’t know if it was covid related, assuming and hoping not. Care homes, their staff and residents have been scandalously treated by this government throughout this event. I doubt I will get to say a final goodbye. I loved Aunty Barbara, she was the one responsible for my love of Arsenal Football Club, she had a fabulous sense of humour and was a wonderful warm and caring person. I regret my slackness in not seeing her, or the rest of my UK family as often as I should. Oddly, I wrote the opening of this post well before receiving this news. 

Friday
Awake far too early for a day off. I started scribbling a new short story, the ideas come to me in those early hours, just opening sentences, no story and no substance. The hard part, the part that requires effort does not come in those early hours, or seemingly later in the day. I have a number of opening ideas.

I have the day off work and Eleanor does not work Friday. Now the guidance says we can drive as far as we like for exercise, we drove to Epping Forest for a walk in the trees. All the parking spots near High Beech Church were blocked, but we lucked onto the last space in the park over the road from Butlers Retreat and did a short loop walk in Warren Wood. It is very green at the moment, there is almost no other colour.

I also took the Polaroid for its first outing in a while.

In the evening we had an online dinner party with friends, both cooking the same meal, drinking the same style of wine, all finished off with cheese and crackers. It was good fun, not as good as being in the same space, but nice to share food with friends.

Saturday
Surprised to not be hungover, the benefits of drinking wine of a higher quality than usual. Admittedly I still did very little with the day. One short walk was about it. I did read a lot though, almost finishing two of the books I have on the go, so maybe things will change. There is always hope!

This will likely be the last of the weekly posts, 10 weeks of writing about not doing much is enough and I am boring myself with the content, I cannot imagine what is is like for those who read this.  However, it is good writing practice and I am using some of the techniques I have been reading about; for instance this post is much shorter than the draft and I have tried to remove surplus words, I think with some success.

The new way, Week eight.

Saturday 09 May 2020 – Walthamstow and St Leonards-on-Sea

Ho hum, another week done. It was a good week, it started and ended well, though the middle bit was frustrated by work; not the act of working, working is far better than the alternative. This week would have been as frustrating if life was normal and I was in the office, with the commute as a sort of additional negative bonus.

New Zealand continues to relax its rules and next week they will be taken down another level, I am a little (lot) envious. Here in the UK we continue to receive a stream of mixed messages as talk of relaxing some of the restrictions is being socialised in the media. A large portion of the population is against relaxing anything while the infection rate and number of deaths are so high. A poll this week showed 81% were against relaxing rules, I have never seen such strong opinion on anything in this country. Obviously things will be relaxed a bit, hopefully not by too much.

This started Eleanor and I thinking about maybe moving to the flat if her teacher son comes back to London to work and to live with us. This, in turn made me want to go down for a couple of days. So I did and it was welcome. Spending some time on my own, and allowing Eleanor the same, was something I needed; sun, sea air and records by artists beginning with an ‘S’ also helped.

Some positives from the lock down;

  • Cleaner air, though this is slowly receding as more vehicles are on the road.
  • More cyclists, everywhere, this is very heartening and now there is talk of improving infrastructure to encourage people to continue to cycle and walk once some form of normality returns.
  • I am listening to loads more music, even occasionally moving out of my music bubble.
  • Working from home is much more of a thing. I have done a day a week for quite a while now, but working from home all the time is the new normal and I hope to be able to do more days each week if returning to regular office hours ever happens. 
  • Eleanor and I are alone together, there are no foils in the house, and we are  constantly together every single day, we even share work day tea breaks and lunch. This has yet to be troubling and is a very good sign that our relationship works extremely well and I am extremely grateful and happy about this, as is Eleanor.
  • The best thing has been family group video calls, something we have never done before and something I very much look forward to.

Sunday
Best sleep in ages, which was slightly unfortunate as I was late for a family video call, which was lovely, warm and funny and really appreciated. We sang happy birthday to my eldest son who is 30 tomorrow and my nephew who celebrated his 18th last week. My mum and sisters, who can sing, must have cringed at the awfulness of it all. It was joyous in its terribleness. I should never sing where people can hear me.

I finished last week’s post in the morning and then walked to Walthamstow Wetlands in the afternoon while El worked. It was a great walk and I wrote about it here.

I made proper meat burgers with sweet potato fries for dinner, I miss burgers and may have to order a delivery burger sometime soon. The burgers at Half Man Half Burger in St Leonards are just the business and now I am drooling thinking about them. Next time I am down they are on the menu.

In the evening we co-watched more episodes of ‘Fear the walking dead’ with friends over Skype.

It was the best day in ages.

Monday
We were up early and I took a morning walk over to Walthamstow village for fruit and vege, stopping to take some photos in St Mary’s Church on the way.

As I type this on Friday I have no recollection of what happened at work, though I know Monday and Tuesday were just full of meetings, so perhaps I have blanked them both from my memory. It is a four day week and I am having a day off, so something to look forward to.

Dave Greenfield the keyboard player from original UK punk/new wave band The Stranglers was taken by the virus yesterday. He is just one in a vast number of unnecessary deaths, but the first that has impacted me in any way. I created a Stranglers playlist not that long ago, and will listen to it tomorrow.

In the evening we had a Zoom chat with Eleanor’s sons both of whom are in different towns to us. Eleanor’s youngest is a teacher and may have to come back to stay later this month if the schools re-open. This means we may go and stay at the flat to reduce any risk of infections coming home from school. It was a good catch up.

Tuesday
I took a walk around the park and then visited the local Tescos for bread and crisps, before another day of meetings, seven in total today.

I made these spinach and feta pastry things for dinner and they were good.

Wednesday
It was a funny old day. I started work really early, before 7:30 as I could not be bothered going for a walk. I had stuff to do as I have taken tomorrow off ahead of the long weekend. It was a really busy day, at times frustrating, at times liberating. There is a lot going on in my area at the moment and I do not know what to make of it all, anyway the work day ended satisfactorily enough.

El and I went for a short walk around the park before slumping in front of the TV, watching another couple of episodes of Devs which I love and am dragging out to make it last as long as possible. We started a movie that was truly awful and got turned off, finishing the evening with a really good documentary on the ground breaking photographer Lee Miller. Though I am not sure photographer sums up Lee Miller, she was that and so much more, an extraordinary, complex women.

Thursday
Last weekend I decided to take a leave day from work. I have a bunch of flat related admin to complete and don’t get the chance to do this during the week. I could make the chance, but I try not to sit on the laptop too much in the evening. Friday is a bank holiday, one I won’t be celebrating, other than by not going to work.

It made sense to use a normal work day for this flat work, take a day of annual leave I will otherwise not get to use and go to the flat. I know, some people will say I am breaking the rules; but, the flat is my home, the only home I own, I am not going to be staying with other people, and to be frank those people can go f*ck themselves. I need some time on my own, and anyway the big headlines this morning said the rules will be changed on Monday; though the government is now denying this, possibly due to the negative public reaction.

The drive down was uneventful and reasonably quick, the motorway was quiet for rush hour, but the road into Hastings was as it normally is. Soon after arriving I was out the door for a walk along the sea front.

It was lovely. Fresh sea air, warm but not hot, not too many people, the promenade was really clean there were people swimming in a way too cool sea. To counter this there was the normal number of cars on the road, the usual speeding on the side roads and of course the ubiquitous St Leonards double yellow line parking. No one does double yellow parking like Hastings and St Leonards.

It was a short walk to Hastings old town and back, but it was so nice to not be walking in Walthamstow, variety, spice of life, etc.

After taking this photo on my phone and walking on I noticed a woman glaring at me from behind the dark of the closed window…

Apart from one work conference call, important enough to dial in on my day off, I played records all afternoon and did little else.

The highlight was the sunset, it was glorious. I miss St Leonards sunsets and the mostly uninterrupted view I get of them.

It was a good day.

Friday
VE Day, Victory in Europe, celebrating victory in Europe, a victory over fascism, or at least the Nazis. Fascism never really went away; Franco’s Spain and Tito’s Yugoslavia for example, it is now making an unwelcome return in too many places. I do not celebrate the day, especially now it has been taken over by the flag waving, braying brexity mob. I had a lie in, then did all the flat admin stuff that was my main excuse for coming to the flat. I didn’t do much else with the day; chilled, read, listened to records.

I went for a walk late in the afternoon, it was warm out, much warmer than the flat suggested it would be; like yesterday, I wished I had worn shorts, not jeans.

There were fewer people out than I expected for a warm bank holiday. Hastings has not been badly impacted by covid19, which is remarkable given how high it places on the chart of relative deprivation, and the link between deprived areas and high covid mortality. The lack of folk out maybe shows that they take the messages of distancing seriously.

Saturday
I was wide awake by 5, had coffee and read the news and the socials by 6 so I got up, tidied, packed and drove back to Walthamstow, arriving there before Eleanor started work at 9. Best drive time ever, and I stuck pretty much to the speed limit. I loved my small break away, and would like to spend more time in my own home. This is not practical yet, and I would rather be with Eleanor than on my own for a few weeks.

After a couple of weeks of procrastination I finally made it out the front and trimmed the privet. I had to wear my covid mask as the pollen was killing me, one of the reasons for pruning it back, the other was to provide another foot of footpath width. Contributing to making social distant walking just a tiny tiny bit safer. I acknowledge that the hedge is not exactly straight…

We got this through the letter box, a zine from one of the local coffee shops, with a Phlegm picture on the front. This one is going into a frame, I love a bit of Phlegm!

In the evening we had another Fear the walking dead TV watching session with Skype friends, this time we both ordered takeaway from one of the local Turkish places. We finally managed to finish series three, which I actually enjoyed.  We will start the next series next week hopefully.  It was a fun evening, though I was exhausted from being up at 5;30 and by 11:30 I was ready for sleep.

As i said at the beginning, it was (mostly) a pretty good week.

This coming week will be interesting, new official guidelines come out this afternoon (Sunday). What changes will they bring ? and how will the nation react? 

The Polaroid.

24 September 2019 – London and St Leonards.

In May I attended a photography workshop in the North Yorkshire Dales where we primarily used Polaroid and Instax cameras to make images. I had a lot of fun that day and have wanted an instant camera ever since. It was my birthday last week and that want became a reality as El picked me one up from ebay. A Polaroid Impulse AF. My first ever instant camera.  A plastic  work  of art.

First made in 1988, this is a proper vintage Polaroid camera, and it certainly looks it. I am not sure when this one was made, but you can buy them new from Polaroid Originals, a company started in 2017 by the Impossible Project. I don’t think this one is terribly new. The Impossible Project is Dutch company founded in 2008 when Polaroid announced they were no longer going to make the film they were so famous for. Impossible Project bought one of the manufacturing plants and continued to make the film, before restarting the brand and releasing new cameras.

I was surprised to find the camera had a film in it with some shots left. I had to test it out immediately, so snapped a photo of El sitting on the couch. She was a bit quizzical about the whole thing.

Coinciding with the arrival of the new camera and my birthday, and not directly related, was the separate arrivals of my sister and my daughter. My sister is over from New Zealand for work and has a week with us before returning home; my daughter is here after working in Croatia and is on the way to a three month Yoga teaching job in Sri Lanka. It was lovely to have two family members visit at the same time, though my daughter did have to sleep on the floor in the back room!

Saturday afternoon the three of us went for a three hour loop walk including a section along the River Lea from Tottenham Hale to Walthamstow Marshes. A loop El and I have done on a few occasions. I wanted to show my sister a little bit more of Walthamstow. I took the Polaroid with me.

I love this section of the Lea; Tottenham to Stratford is a lovely walk with a nice variety of things to see. River boats, water birds, families walking, cyclists and fisherman, old cranes, trees and the river. I was pleased to see that this, the second photo I took with the Polaroid, and the first in daylight, came out OK. There was some artifacting which was fine, I like that in a Polaroid.

I was carrying the camera, among other things, in a cotton tote bag slung over my shoulder. Putting the camera away I completely missed the opening of the bag and the bag flew past the opening of the bag, crashing on to the path on the edge of the river bank. My first reaction was ‘crap, it’s going to fall in the river’, but luckily it didn’t. My second thought was hoping it was all OK. When I picked it up two images came out at the same time, not a good sign. The both looked like this abstract image, which I actually quite like. Having a weird abstract image as the last from a broken camera was not going to be any sort of comfort, and I was not looking forward to telling El I broke the gift she had just bought me. This is the first she will know about this….

Not much further along the river are these lovely old crane booms. This was a good opportunity to test if the camera was OK after its fall. Clicking the shutter release, another two frames came out. One looking pretty good, there was some striping, which is not too bad. I actually really like this to be honest.

The second frame was just the striping. I was hoping this was not going to be it for the camera. Gupl!

20 minutes further on, at the bridge crossing the Lea to the Walthamstow side, I took a photo of my sister and daughter and thankfully it came out very nicely and there was no wasted, damaged frame with it. Phew. It all seems to be OK. This was the final image from the film that was left in the camera. I have no idea how old the film  was,nor  how  long  it  had  been  in  the  camera.

The camera has three exposure settings, I am guessing a -1 stop, neutral and +1 stop. The first film I shot on neutral and it was a bit under exposed in my mind.

The next day, Sunday, El, my sister and I visited relatives on both sides of my family. An aunt and uncle on my father’s side and the same on my mother, with added extra uncle, a cousin and their children. After a very large lunch we headed off down to St Leonards. I wanted to show my sister my flat, and a little bit of the area I (occasionally) live in. We arrived late afternoon, still full from lunch, once settled we went for a short walk along the sea front.

There was a very typical, colourful, cloud strewn sunset. I set the camera at what I thought was +1 stop to let a bit more light in for the sunset, however after playing with the -1 setting the following day, I must have had this around the wrong way. I took these two images one after the other, it was a little cool so there was a not enough time for them to process fully before I realised that they were going to be so dark. I do really like them though. These are the first two shots from a new film, so I am A) very happy that a camera bought from ebay is very good, and B) the fall yesterday did not damage it!

I had also brought the digital camera with me, just in case.

The following morning El and I too Sarah on a longer walk around St Leonards and Hastings, taking a walk up Hastings Pier. Walking to the end of the pier is not something I have done before.

I also took a photo on the digital camera, back over the St Leonards sea front, fast becoming one of my favourite views.

I love the walk from St Leonards to Hastings, under a mile, but the sea air, the sound of the waves on the stony beach, the fact it is not deserted but also not crowded. It is just a nice walk in any weather.

At The Stade I took a quick detour down amongst the old tractors and bulldozers used to haul fishing boats up and down the beach. They were a nice subject to experiment with the Polaroid, though mostly came out over exposed. The sun was quite bright and I was pretty much shooting directly into it. I am happy the way these turned out, and experimentation is always fun.

I was quite surprised at how busy the old town was on a Monday, and most of the shops were open, given this was the end of September, verging into autumn, this is a good sign for the state of Hastings at the moment. My sister liked it as well, thankfully. Picking up a bottle of wine we went back to the flat for a pre-dinner drink before heading down to Farmyard in St Leonards for a very nice meal. There are a number of really nice eating and drinking establishments around, Farmyard, possibly being my pick of the bunch at the moment. London prices though!

I am still learning the art of scanning, the second film were scanned better than the first. The images have all been through Lightroom, but I have not done much too them, bit of sharpening and tone adjustments, so they are very close the original. I am happy enough with the camera that I have bought another three 8-packs and hope to get out with it next weekend.

A most excellent birthday present. xx

I am now experimenting with some leaf photos, a bit of still life for the winter.

Hollow Pond

Sunday 10 December 2017 – Walthamstow.

The snow continued to fall throughout the morning and into the early afternoon. By the time we returned from our morning walk the footpaths either side of our road had mostly been turned to grey sludge, though the footprints I had made in the garden were slowly being buried under crisp new flakes.

I was itching to go out again, and by mid-afternoon that itch had proven unscratchable, so I donned jacket, hat and gloves and went back out into a very light sprinkling of snow. I had initially considered taking the car up to the forest, but was a little concerned about the roads. Less about my driving, more about some of the pillocks out there roaring up and down the icy main roads! It was a decent, if not cold and wet day for a walk.

Hollow Pond is a far corner of Epping Forest, not far from where we live. It is an interesting place. There is a small boating lake, an area of clear heathland, and some scratchy forest. It is mostly surrounded by busy roads. It is hugely popular with local dog walkers and families; lots of places for children to run, kick and throw balls, fly kites and do big outdoorie type things. It also has a dark, dirty and sleazy side and is a well known location for dogging and men wandering around in the forested areas looking for sex. There is a strange mix of people and uses. It was here I decided to walk to;  I was hoping for solitude.

I was wearing my trail running shoes, they have great grip in slippery conditions, but they are not really waterproof, mildly resistant is an apt description. The footpaths were really slushy, so lack of grip was not really the issue, wetness was possibly going to be though. I decided to walk in the road, tyres of passing cars had cleared two nice, reasonably dry lines. There was not a lot of traffic on the side streets and bizarrely I could hear the water from the melted snow rushing through the drains beneath my feet. There must been a heck of a lot of water.

Passing through St Mary’s churchyard I stopped to take my first photo, I was hoping for some interesting churchy/graveyardy covered in snow scenes, but nothing much really caught my eye. Though I do like the door and the cracks in the wall and the snow in this, the only picture I took.

There was not a lot of people out on the streets on a snowy Sunday afternoon, enough to mush things up, though not as many as normal, I suspect a lot of people had been out in the morning. With the low sky and the falling snow and the lack of people it was surprisingly quiet, even with the traffic noise. I liked it. The first scene that caught my eye was a small copse on Whipps Cross Corner, a small scruffy stand of trees between the roundabout and the hospital. There was just enough colour in the remaining leaves to attract my attention.

Crossing the road I found a small trail between the snow loaded and bent brambles and the, thankfully, buried nettles that led into the tree line. Given the time of day I was surprised at how much snow was left, the well walked paths were worn and muddy, but snow lay to the sides and I managed to avoid the worst of the mud. 

I found my way to the edge of the boating lake and to my favourite tree skeleton. I have taken a few photos of this tree, none successfully, and I am not overly happy with this one either. But it was the best I managed today.

The lake was half iced over, there were a large number of gulls standing on the ice, though the moored boats seemed to be in free water.

I drifted back into the trees for a while, randomly following short narrow pathways running between the road and the major paths, the little bits of the forest I do not normally venture into. Not that there was anything much that caught the eye of my camera. I continued on a fairly random path out of the forest on to the heath, back to where the larger trees had space to grow, clear of holly and bramble. I love scenes like this, living in London with its lack of snow I so rarely get to see them, when I do I appreciate them even more. 

There were a few more people on this side of the lake, I could hear families playing in the distance and sign of their earlier presence was everywhere. Away from the road, my own presence is all I noted, I could hear my footsteps, see and hear my breath, and when I looked behind I could see, even mixed with other prints, where I had been.  I must be utterly fabulous to be out in the wild on a day like today.

The day was drawing to a close, so I started to end the loop around the boating lake, coming across this large gaggle of geese. A man had arrived with a bag of bread and they seemed to be familiar with him and his gift.

Following  the lake I stopped to take a last couple of photos of the boats, and my favourite tree before starting the schlep back home.

I had not noticed but the snow had stopped falling while I was in the trees, there had been no wind all day so it was not particularly cold now, though a very light rain had started to come down as I walked. I made faster steps home than I did on the way.

That was pretty much the end of the snow, there was not a lot left when I went to work in the morning. Hopefully we will see some more this winter! Next time I will get up earlier, wrap up very warm and ride my bike up to the forest, get into the areas less travelled and wander around leaving my own print on the land.

Yay! Snow in the ‘Stow.

Sunday 10 December 2017 – Walthamstow.

A couple of days ago El and I were  visiting Liverpool and it was absolutely freezing, culminating in a small sleet/snow flurry as we were on our way to the station to catch the train back home. London seemed almost tropical by comparison.

El had just gotten up to make tea, I was planning on a decent lie in after a couple of nights of poor sleep, when she called out from downstairs that it was snowing, and it had been settling. I leapt up, looked at the window, and YES. SNOW!

I love snow. Just the fluffy white stuff fresh on the ground, not the grey dirty muddy trampled slush that it turns into once it has stopped falling and humans have traversed it. Living in Auckland for so long and being too lazy/busy to make the trip to the mountains in the centre of the North Island, I hardly ever saw it. This is my fifth winter in London and I have only seen snow once in that time. There was a scant fall last year and in previous years it waited till I was out of the country to pay a visit.

A quick coffee followed getting dressed and we were out the door fairly quickly. I could already see local kids playing in the street, as it was not particularly early we were keen to get to Lloyd Park, near the end of our street, before too many people arrived to mess up that lovely cold white blanket. Wrapping up warmly, as the snow was still falling, I popped the little camera in my pocket and we were out the door. Slipping and sliding down the hill.

The William Morris Gallery sits just inside the entrance to the park and was our first stop. I love this building at the best of times but with snow falling and a big Christmas tree out the front, it looked magnificent today.

As did this nearby tree. I could see we were early enough to find the snow untrampled, and to hear the crunch and squeak of the snow underfoot as we walked round the gallery into the park itself.

I ended up taking a few photos as we walked around the park, though a lot of them were quite smeared and blurred by falling snow. I did not think to bring anything to clean the lens as we walked…

The park was gradually getting busier and busier as time moved on and more and more families arrived with young children in tow. Quite literally in some cases, there were a few plastic sleds on display. Though Lloyd Park could not be any flatter!

This is my favourite photo from the short outing. I Like that the scene is mostly monochromatic from the bare trees and the snow, but human intervention has added a smattering of colour. This is largely unedited by the way.

After completing a full circuit of the park we passed the back of the gallery, and headed for the warmth of home.

It was still snowing a couple of hours later, leaving a good covering on some old garden furniture. I popped my head out the bathroom window and took this photo, which I may well print one day.

I will sneak out again a bit later on in the day…