Wednesday, 13 June 2018

A thing of beauty

I think William Morris would have liked these.



Yes, its a tiny thing in the face of all the MASSIVE plastic issues our planet and we are facing, but if we all bought wooden dish-brushes rather than the plastic versions . . .
Monoprix make, or at least sell these for just over two euros and they are a small work of art in every way.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Hidden places

While trying to find an abandoned mine up on a hillside recently - as you do - me and the boy took a wrong turning and ended up on a gravelly overgrown track, the sides of which were lined with dismantled bicycles. It had to be worth further investigation, even with the risk of slavering dogs, or a slavering owner.
At the end of the track we came across a semi-derelict windmill and a huge rotting lorry, its inside full of everything from crockery, pans, hoses, sinks, to records, books, bedding, toys, furniture, dead plants, and more bike parts.



How had they got such a massive vehicle up there? And what had happened to the owners of the place? It was possible to see inside the windmill (I assume it was an ex-windmill) and there was a slight Mary Celeste scenario - plates and cups on the table, a stove with pans on it . . .
Feeling uneasy about trespassing, despite the place looking long-forgotten, I took a few photos, the weirdest being a picture of a decrepit Harry Secombe record in a wire basket along with many other long-forgotten English vinyls.



I often think about that place now as I drive along the main road and look up into the hills, wondering if all the stuff is still gradually decaying away up there, or perhaps someone has returned for the summer and is re-fitting the windmill with a shiny new Ikea kitchen - probably not.

       






Monday, 4 June 2018

Bloody waste of tax-payers' money

I'd only seen our local news-hyped contemporary art-work - that of Felice Varini's yellow-striping of La Cite, from the air, which was impressive enough, but went a couple of days ago to look more closely.
La Cité the fairytale collection of ramparts and pencil-point roofs is celebrating its 20th year as a UNESCO heritage site and for that reason the Carcassonne council decided to commission a work from Varini.
I've just tried to look up how much the project cost but no one's saying . . . a million euros? No idea but probably not more than some unnecessary prettifying a few of the department's roundabouts and planting all municipal flower beds with plants destined for landfill.
I do admit to having mixed feelings about massive art statements when there are so many human-scale necessities - better schools, better quality canteen food, council housing improvements, etc etc. BUT, why not create something extraordinary that will create debate, up the numbers of curious visitors and in some way make people look just a bit harder at the structure and sheer building feat of such a monument?

                                             
It is spectacular from far away and close up. In fact, close-up it's quite touching to see the way the yellow strips have been moulded to each stone by one of many pairs of artist hands.

                                                    
I was hoping to hear some choice moans while standing gawping but I must have been there at a point of extreme positive vibes; everyone snapping away, selfi-ing and discussing the amount of time and maths it must have taken to make such a thing.
Mark went recently and caught some super-whinging - how it would spoil wedding photos; how people had travelled thousands of miles to see this fabulous monument - their trips utterly ruined!
Actually, it's only on one side, so you don't have to look at it if you can't bear the idea, and also, most people seem to spend most time inside the walls eating ice-cream and waffles, buying plastic helmets and looking at appalling art.

No parking
 I just read a local newspaper article in which a woman said: 'looking at this spoils our lives'. This does seem a little extreme - it's not permanent, either in time or paint, (as some onlookers assumed). After my visit, I think my overall feeling was pride, and wonder, that our local tourist attraction had been honoured in such a way.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Dorset wanderings

Most of my wanderings tend to be London-based but on this trip back to see Mum in Wimborne I took the time to explore my teenage-years' town a little further.
Usually I stay with my lovely cousin up on the hill but as she was having work done in the house she had absurdly generously booked me a house by the river to stay in - despite my weedy protestings about finding a cheapo B and B somewhere.
A view on the river Stour - what a rare treat to wake every morning and see swans and reeds reflected in the slow-moving waters; I may have almost moved my desire of living with a sea view to a river view - either might be good.



When I was about thirteen, Mum and I used to take a rowing boat out from the Hanham's Boat Yard and disappear up the river for hours - those holiday days that seemed to always be sun-filled. I can't recall who did the rowing but I did find a photo of her in her university rowing team - so possibly, more her - it's easy to forget that one's parent of nearly ninety and mostly clamped to a wheelchair used to do such things - and we shouldn't forget . . .

A different boat-hire place operates now with rather more strict rules about time and how far you are allowed to row to, but they were affable folk and when my friend came to stay for a couple of nights we hired a vessel, and rediscovered certain arm muscles.
Messing about in boats. Everything observed and heard from a boat is very different: the scale of trees, bridges, the plop of small animals and the skid of ducks' feet as they regain their watery territory.



Even though I lived in Wimborne for about six years I never did actually explore the potential of its river-bank walking. I suppose my main walking was in the form of the daily traipses to and from school, (which were bordering on small hikes) at each end of the day, and favourite jaunts out to places like Badbury Rings, Chalbury Church and bits of the coast; the Stour wasn't really on my day-to-day walk radar.
So, in a house with view of river - where does it actually pass through and how far can you walk?
Boots on, I started near the boat place and paced a few miles discovering brand new swanky housing estates, water meadows full of early summer flowers and the most perfect little suspension bridge that leads over to Canford School - a prestigious place with a parking area full of Range Rovers and Mercedes.



The spots visible in my photograph below were actually a few of the billions of Mayflies that were enjoying their twenty-four hours (or, perhaps to them, long lifespan involving relationships, where to eat, and musings on the meaning of life).



Taking the other direction the following day took me through a fine area of 1920/30s suburbia with some surviving original houses and many renovated dwellings - or large edifices where bungalows of that era once stood. If I'd had a freer day I might have walked on to the next village signposted - Lytchett Matravers - said, I believe, to be the longest village in the UK. I'm sure I read that somewhere but can't find it now. Anyway, the word Lychett comes from the Saxon word, Litchet, meaning Grey Wood. Rather Poetic.

          
                   Mm, very . . . clean

        

                             sadly this one was up for 'renovation'


                     

A beautiful snicket/ginnel - don't know the Dorset word for a thin path between houses. Maybe there isn't one.

Further mooching after seeing Mum in her home revealed such delights as a 2009 time capsule placed into the concrete of the new Stour Footbridge - to be opened in 2059. If one of my novels turns out to be a premonition, this momentous moment will not be recorded and put onto Facebook/Instagram, etc as the internet will have collapsed around 2038 - and this blog will be a slight and fading memory in my own head. Another reason for finding the time to make it into a REAL book.

                                  

Other noted things: the pub I used to work in - and got fired from as I couldn't add up (no auto tills in those days), and a tree that I must have gawped at for about fifteen minutes. I've never even seen one of these in Kew Gardens. Sadly the tree's owner was out so I still don't know what it is.

                                            

                                 

On one of the evenings my friend stayed, we drove to Studland via the clanking vehicular ferry at Sandbanks - a riveted metal wonderment that has been crossing the narrow stretch of water since 1994 - the original vessel started crossing in 1923. It's a magical stretch of land out towards Old Harry Rocks: grass with human tracks cut into the chalk, windblown scrubby trees and sheep - at that point with playful, bouncing lambs.
As the Pig on the Beach was fully booked we ate at the Baker's Arms where a massive chuck of tree smouldered in the fireplace and happy walkers/sightseers and locals quaffed pints of beer from, possibly, the wonderfully named, Piddle Brewing Company.
Our walk to the cliffs culminated in the most life-affirming sunset after which we took the Ferry back and interrogated two of the crew, one of whom had been doing the crossing for thirty years.

   



  
                                                                                          Pic from Simplonpc.com

The days passed with Mum in the usual round of tea shops, (think I did get scone-poisoning on my last visit) church and river perambulations - the smaller, Bourne, river. We collected leaves, shells on the trip to the beach, flowers and seeds and exclaimed over Kingfishers, swans and many more surreal sightings. Mum often sees things that I can't - small dogs sitting in trees and the like, but who's to say if they aren't there? In fact, after a lengthy discussion with afore-mentioned friend about us all being particles and time not existing, maybe small dogs sitting in trees are as normal as anything else.



On the last evening, I left Mum in the Royal-Wedding festooned home's dining room and walked back to the river house for the last time. Two swans moved majestically down the Stour as I packed my suitcase and attempted to leave the gite as spotless as I had found it.














Monday, 21 May 2018

What we don't know about ourselves


A great deal - a vast deal . . .

If you are a doctor, you, (hopefully) will have a very clear map of your own and other peoples' internal organs, lymph system, blood vessels, skeleton and so on - the rest of us . . . a vague notion of where one's heart, lungs and liver are, and probably not much than that.

It's weird to think of all these unknown miles of gut and vessels doing their thing, keeping you going, and not really knowing how any of it actually works or where it is placed in the body. I probably, even after not living there for some years, have a better idea of London's layout than where any of my lymph glands are, or what any of them look like.

Talking of glands . . . do you know where your adrenal glands are? those such vital things that control and deal with stress, flight or fight, etc. I didn't know until I stared reading about what happens when they become depleted - vaguely thought they must be somewhere in the neck. Nope . . . they sit snugly on top of the kidneys, and are complex/vital in operation and most often overlooked.

After a boring bout of Trigeminal neuralgia, which is still wobbling on slightly, I'm still trying to figure out what IT likes and doesn't, so started researching more into diet, stress, exercise, etc, and found out some fairly amazing stuff.

Sadly IT doesn't like me sitting too long at the computer, so I'll go and clean out the shed instead, but if you are as interested as I was, here's the rather wonderful Dr Berg explaining about how these Toblerone-shaped wonderments work.









Sunday, 20 May 2018

just when you think . . .

everyone is waking up to the fact that the environment is in desperate need of help - demand for less packaging, more eco-friendly stuff appearing, etc etc, you go into Waitrose . . . I went in to get some chilies (they do excellent ones) and stood gawping at the toilet paper isle - for rather a long time. What do we need to wipe our bums with? White, or preferably off-white, recycled stuff made from newspaper or the like . . . not triple layered quilted paper with extracts of CASHMERE. Or Jojoba or aloe vera.

                         

Admittedly we've come a long way from the weird shiny pale green sheets of tracing paper we had in the 70s - IZAL but kitten soft, and all the rest of the marketing meetings garbage - nope.
And why? is all this paper encased in plastic? Even our eco-shop ones are. I seem to recall Andrex  being wrapped in paper (with cute puppies on it). I think with what the paper is actually going to be doing the possibility of hygiene issues seems unlikely; cost? ease? less damage, whatever it is, I'm sure most people would rather not throw yet more plastic.
Recycled paper covering recycled paper preferably with no added scent, padding, flower/kittens embossings; less expensive, less waste and less clogging up of drains.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Vauxhall and Waterloo

Following on from last post . . .
One and a half days in London: part nostalgic wanderings and part book-research.
As I'd not managed to get south of the river and visit my imagined underground premises of the Vaux-hauler gang the day before, I took the tube to Waterloo, stashed my case and walked to the embankment to follow the river Southwards.
All those years of London life, and there's still so many places I'd never seen . . .
Ensconced mainly in my farting old Morris Traveller and zig-zagging across the city in search of props (life as a stylist) I'd rarely done what I do now when returning - walk with a vague trajectory which inevitably shifts as I glimpse something intriguing at the end of a street.
I did the Lambeth Walk and then sat in the garden of a café attached to the Garden Museum (near Lambeth Palace) and drank the best hot milk, ever. This is a rare, peace-inducing spot with vast plane trees challenging the hight of nearby steel and glass edifices. I must have sat there for at least half an hour imagining the changing landscape from fields to paving slabs, tarmac and concrete. Do trees recall the sounds and smells from across the years recorded within their sap and bark?


        


A hotel made of containers


 

Continuing Southwards, I encountered a tweed-housed man looking rather lost. I noticed his arm band that announced 'Tweed Marathon' and said,
'Bit hot for walking miles in such cloth?' To which he told me it was a cycle marathon and that he'd lost the rest of his party, but he looked happy enough. I forgot to ask what sort of bikes they were on, imaging a fleet of penny-farthings.
The backstreets on such a blue-sky day are sculptures of line and shadow; over-looked buildings wonderments of the city, equal in my eye to the tourist monuments.

Brick behemoth 


 

I meandered happily towards Vauxhall's messianic new bus station that I had only seen on Google Earth and was duly impressed, and slightly disappointed, having conjured up images of silver space-pod buses to go with the structure, not the usual red vehicles lurking about its perimeter.



shadow of the seldom seen Vauxhall egret
Boat seats on the embankment

Realising the morning had disappeared and a train had to be caught, I walked back to Waterloo with a brief stop for a cup of tea in the shadow of a semi-constructed office building that may have been inspired by a penguin - head yet to be added.

  

Roupell street (had to be in B and W)

Perhaps my favourite discovery of the morning was Roupell Street - again, how had I never seen this preserved road, which sadly - really sad! is possibly under threat of partial demolition due to the enlargement of a school. It cannot happen; there are so few historically perfect examples of old London. I hardly dare go back on my next trip . . .
And, someone was obviously a collector of my most-desired car - Citroën DS, and the King's Arms looked most inviting, but no time, so a quick look around, photos taken and a less meandering route back to the madness of Waterloo station.

Ohhhh!
 

Monday, 7 May 2018

London wanderings

Rather than my usual stay in St Athan's hotel in Bloomsbury, I decided to try somewhere in the East end as I was going to be doing some research for my book, Hoxton.

                                                                                * * *
I drew the curtains in my ex-council flat B and B room and looked out on a clear day - unlike my last trip which had been of curtailed wanderings due to lashing rain and old trainers with holes. I still have the trainers with holes as they are the most comfortable footwear, so put them on (with other clothing) and set off with a clear plan - which lasted about seven minutes before I'd got distracted by gasometers, an Austin Allegro, inviting side roads going the wrong way, etc . . .



  



                                                  

After a detour, I arrived at Victoria Park in Hackney where one of my characters (Jake the Prophet) lives in a shed (book is set in 2072). I'd forgotten what a beautiful park it is, especially on this bright spring day - the horse chestnuts were looking particularly magnificent. I conversed with people about their dogs, and one man about fishing. He (pictured below) told me there was perch, dace, bream and trout in this lake. When I asked if he eats the ones he catches, he laughed, 'God no - I'm not European.'
'So, it's just the thrill of the chase, then?' I said.
'Yep - better than sitting' at home and watching day time T.V.'
I agreed it was.





The Victoria Park drinking fountain (not functioning now)

A tulip floating in one of the fountain's ponds

I might change Jake the prophet's abode to this
Long fascinated by the varying colour of London's mustardy bricks, I've started a sub-sub-sub blog. Here's three examples.

   

On from Victoria Park, I passed through many streets which I meant to write the names of and then highlight on my NEW huge London map, but failed such was the excitement of discovery.
I visited Hackney city farm, got lost, emerged somewhere on a very busy main road and then took more back roads to suddenly recognise the very groovy Hackney Broadway Market road with its eclectic mix of ironmongers, funky cafés organic shops and the sort of clothes shops I wouldn't dare enter.
The owner of a very beautiful fish shop remarked that I looked lost. I said I wasn't (at that point) but was just reminiscing - possibly with a glazed expression like one of his fish - of how London that I knew in the 70s 80s and 90s has changed. We chatted for a bit and I congratulated him on his fish display before moving off to look at the magnificent eel and pie shop. I did once eat eel in there after being warned by an old guy, 'tastes like bloody pond water' and he was right except he didn't say it was also mainly composed of sludgy gristle and bone. Their tea was good though.

Not eel
 I paced on vaguely in the direction of Old Bethnal Green Road (as my stomach was suggesting it was time to eat and there's an interesting café called The Common E2 there who follow me and vice versa on Instagram) and passed by a million fascinating things - urban trees delighting in the sudden warmth and sprouting forth magnificent blossom, building sites, afore-mentioned gasometers, old signs, people strolling and people arguing - this was a good one: a stunning, ruby-haired woman walking manically down the street, child in tow, with lover/partner/husband running, catching her up and falling to his knees - 'Babe, I'm SO sorry . . . please don't do this.' Woman: 'Fuck off.' Man running on and doing the knee thing again: 'REALLY - just listen'. Woman: 'I said, fuck off', etc etc. I turned the corner at that point but I think it was likely to continue for a mile or so.
Then as an antidote I saw this most beautifully- attired old(ish) guy and just had to ask if I could take his picture. 'Why?' he said with a smile. I gestured to the hat, tie and the whole wonderfulness of his being and he nodded after a quick adjustment to his tie pin.



Liberace's London residence?

Second-hand clothes' seller applying sun-cream

Lucky them


a beautiful gasometer

outside an railway arch Italian restaurant 
Iron foundry somewhere of Bethnal Green Road

Market stalls of Bethnal Green Road
     


someone's home



I hadn't been in the Whitechapel art gallery for years and so pushing aside the question of is conceptual art really relevant with people sleeping in doorways, I went, and, was unbelievably glad I had done. New art hero - Mark Dion whose work seems to encompass all that should be encompassed in art (to me anyway): a true meaning - in this case, concern about our effects on nature; humour, and something extraordinary and moving to contemplate.
The main piece was composed of a giant aviary that you could enter and be come part of, for a while, the lives of eleven pairs of Zebra finches, peeping and flitting about as they went about their bird lives amongst Dion's chosen props of ornithology books, pictures of David Attenborough, binoculars, picnic baskets etc. The overall theme presiding: for all our gadgetry, and supposed knowledge, we really don't know anything much about the wild world, well, it was more complicated and intriguing than that . . . 
  




Another work, which I would LOVE to have been involved with was Dion and a team of 'scavengers' removing things from the Thames's mud, cataloging and then arranging them in a magnificent display in a giant hardwood cabinet. 
The expo continued upstairs with many superb and gently wry-humoured drawings; then on into a dark room in which you were greeted by green luminescent creatures and objects. I could have stood and ogled for hours except the lure of the Thames was pulling me Southwards.
I left the busy high street and wended my way in the direction of Wapping, and wend I did - much distraction and so it should be on a derive.

skinny building near the gallery with certain concerns of the 21st century - nails and fried chicken


the Whitechapel gallery

somewhere near Shadwell Basin
At Wapping High Street I walked a longish way encountering practically no one except the odd dog-walker until arriving at London bridge where about half of all London visitors had gathered like some noisy seagull nesting colony to eat ice-cream and drink cocktails. I'd quite like to have seen a few ravens but decided to back-track and go in search of The Prospect of Whitby which is apparently the oldest river-front pub in London. Back into silent streets. It seems extraordinary to me that just off the guide-book highlight trails are these wonderful stretches of atmospheric city to explore but which are utterly empty - great!
I went to all of the stairs along this river-stretch where you can (carefully) climb down and sit on a weed-covered step and admire the pale brown waters of the river sloshing against ancient stone and wood. Actually, I was quite surprised you CAN do this - I'd imagined locked gates not just a polite warning sign suggesting care on slippy stone.

   

Possibly my favourite sign in London - the black and cream on mustard brick - ohh!
The painted sign above was on part of a building that I failed to take a picture of but of which, if I had an absurd amount of money, I would live in - a Georgian (?) block of flats with inner gardens and river view.
After Spotted Dick, (pudding, for those of you without knowledge of classic oldy English puds) custard and tea in the Ramsgate pub, I walked on and did find the Prospect of Whitby with its magnificent pewter bar and hang-noose outside above the river - someone told me the chief hangman used to partake of his lunch and regard the hangings, presumably to check they were being carried out with accuracy.

The pewter bar and flagstones

I walked past Metropolitan wharf and had a strong recollection of the point mine and two other peoples' lives might have taken a different turn (hello Mal, if you read this). At the time, living respectively in the Streatham and somewhere in Brixton, we had a crazed idea to take on a whole floor of this building as a art studio/styling props place/photography studio/animation, etc. After doing (vaguely) the maths it certainly didn't add up so we dropped the idea - shame really as the place is now probably worth a zillion pounds at least.

                                  

So, meandering on . . . lots more detours but an overwhelming urge to eat curry in Brick Lane pointed me in the direction of Spitalfields; a place I spent every years being an apprentice stylist and collecting an impressive bag of parking tickets (called up by housemate one morning and told to get down to Wells Street Magistrate court with a large wad of cash as there was a warrant out for my arrest . . .)

A lovely solid pub that would survive any apocalypse 
A bit of a school mural
where I used to work in Wilkes Street
Look at this! Genius - miniature river cut to take away the overspill
Dorset? Surry? Nope, just off Bethnal Green High Street
Beautiful Alms houses

resilient dandylion
a girls and boys school from 1760

Brick Lane has morphed into some part of Benidorm with restaurant owners standing in their open doorways and practically pulling you in - 'hello, my friend', etc. I noticed most restaurants had been rated 'best curry house in Brick Lane' by TripAdvisor so I went down a quieter side road and had a dosa and paneer curry without anyone saying 'hello my friend' and it was probably the best in whatever-that-street-was as there weren't any other restaurants there.



Curry eaten, I walked back to Bow and got really lost as I tried to find my B and B. The light was fading, underpasses suggesting scenes from David Lynch films. The tiny A to Z became illegible and the thought of hailing a taxi, attractive, except it would have been a ride of about three and a half minutes and there weren't any taxis about. I stuffed the map back into my bag and paced onwards to find I had been indeed about three minutes away, the lights of my residence gleaming in the semidarkness. Forth floor attained, I threw off shoes, had a shower and consulted the map for the next day's jaunt.