Walking and chatting. The River Lea with M.

Saturday 14 April 2018. River Lea, Walthamstow.

I think it is reasonably safe to say that I can be a little obsessive. I am no single issue fanatic, often obsessing over multiple things at the same time; work, photography, books, writing, fitness (lack thereof). Flipping and flopping my focus, thus ensuring I never achieve anything at all. This strategy has served me reliably, if not well, for most of my life. I never suffer humiliation and public failure, and dreams are never shattered because I never quite finish things. There is always something shinier and newer that catches my attention, and the last thing languishes unfinished, often at a tricky or awkward stage in its gestation.

Recently this obsession has been reading books set in and around where I currently live. I don’t mean to be unfair to Walthamstow, but on the surface it is not the most exciting part of London. It does have the longest street market in Europe, but to be honest, the damn market is not something I particularly value. What Walthamstow does have is some authors who make the place sound interesting. I have mentioned Will Ashon’s book about Epping Forest in the past and I have recently enjoyed reading ‘Marshlands’ by Gareth E. Rees, stories set in and around the River Lea. I have Esther Kinsky’s ‘River’ to read next, with further tales set in the areas near the Lea.

I am off to New Zealand and Australia for two weeks from next weekend. A quick trip to see my family, and to make sure the grand kids don’t completely forget who I am. My daughter, who is now nannying for a family in Stroud, wanted to come and visit us before I left. She chose the best weather weekend of the year to come down. Today was glorious; warm sun and no wind. A perfect day to stroll the Lea down as far as the shopping centre in Stratford to buy some gifts to take back to New Zealand.

We took the long way, walking up Forest Rd, through Ferry Lane to Walthamstow Wetlands. I wanted to stop for coffee and then walk M. through the Wetlands to Coppermill Lane. However the Coppermill Lane exit was closed, so we carried on along Ferry Lane to the Lea, which was not a bad second choice. It was not too busy at that time of the morning, a lot of runners out; maybe a last minute stretch out before the London Marathon, but few cyclists. It was nice to just stroll and chat; without having to duck out of the way all the time. Spring has finally started to deliver some natural colour to the city, it is proving to be popular.

There is a lot to see, though for some reason I did not take any pictures of the river or the many river boats that are moored here. I guess I wasn’t really thinking photos and blogs when we walked and talked, as we have not seen each other in a while.

The filter beds feature in the ‘Marshlands’ book, I have been planning on visiting here again after a wander through a couple of years ago. Bright sunshine did not set the right mood, or light for the photographs I had in mind, though no mist has descended on this part of London for ages, not once all winter. Unusual.

The Middlesex Filter Beds were built in the 1850s in response to new thinking about cholera, after an epidemic in London in 1849 took 14,000 lives. Physician John Snow correctly deducing that cholera was spread via contaminated drinking water, not the thick dirty air of London. The filter beds were built where the River Lea met the Hackney Cut canal and filtered the cleaner water of Essex through sand and gravel and pumped it into reservoirs and on to the homes of NE London. The filter beds expanded massively over the years until the Coppermill Waterworks, nearer the reservoirs, was opened in 1969. The area has been left to be re-wilded and is now a nature reserve. It is very green.

I have been here twice before, and been virtually alone both times, seeing only a ‘romancing’ couple under the trees on the bank of the Lea last time I passed by. Today it was really busy, families with kids, bikes and strollers. We are re-wilding our landscape for the benefit of the urban and urbane, the least wild of us.

Back out on the Lea-side path the traffic got heavier as we made our way towards Hackney, M. wanted to walk barefoot so we detoured off the broken chipped path on to a mud track in the grass, feet having softened from a few months in Europe. It was nicer in the trees and off the path. The A12 road bridges have long been a shelter for river barges and boats under repair, sheltering from the rain and the worst of the wind. There has always been graffiti and odd artworks on the concrete shoulder and bridge abutments. This morning there were three guys working spray cans on the wall and a stone-carver at work, I have never seen the actual artists before. There was also a group of climbers, practising roping up the short, thick round pillars supporting the hellishly loud road above.

We stopped for lunch and coffee at one of the new cafes on the Stratford side of the river, they were all really busy, but we found spot in the sun to chill and wait, people watching the new East Londoners who mean that places that serve vegan food and nice coffee exist.

We had left home with the intent of walking to the mall in Stratford, which was only a few minutes from where we sat sharing nachos in the sun. It was early afternoon and though I really needed to get gifts to take with me it was just too nice to even think about walking into a busy and noisy mall. We chose to turn round and start walking home.

On the way we had passed a stand of young silver birch, back from the river, and behind a fence. I have seen these trees before and always wanted to find out how to get amongst them. Though had never seen away through the fence when coming from the direction of home, walking the other way an entry point was obvious. The silver birches were a bit disappointing, though this path covered by arched trees revealed itself to us, a haven from the now very busy tow path.

We followed it and the mud tracks as far towards home as we could, finally stopping for a cold pint before jumping on a bus at Lea Bridge Rd.

El was at the football on Saturday night so M. and I went to Brick Lane for a dosa.

I had a great day, I really like spending time with my daughter, we are different enough to disagree on many things, but share enough passions and ideas that the differences of opinion (and age) do not get in the way of long, rambling and enjoyable chats.

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The Epping Forest Project, Phase 3-March

March 2018.

I am so glad I managed to get out earlier in the month to take some photos as that was it for forest trips this month. I have to thank the snowy weather that got me there. I am making this once a month photo-blogging project of the ever changing Epping Forest far harder than it should be.

Here are a small number of favourite photos of the winter wonderland that was a snow covered forest, not in any particular order. As always they have all been posted previously.

I am trying to be more experimental in photography again so here is March’s Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) image, or impressionist photography as we used to call it.

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The Little Muddy

Sunday 01 April 2018 – Wivenhoe, Essex.

The Big Muddy is a river in the United States that feeds the mighty Mississippi, which also takes on the name as its nickname. Muddy it may be, but the River Colne in Essex is definitely not big, it is one of the shorter rivers in the UK and is very tidal, at low tide it is very unimpressive. Though calling it The Little Muddy would be slightly hurtful.

There are some affordable houses in Wivenhoe, which is perched on the north bank of the Colne, and just over an hour from home by car. it is also about an hour from London on a direct train which adds to its attraction.

It is not spectacular, though we were not expecting it to be. It was surprisingly quiet, with very few people walking or driving the narrow streets, and quite pleasant. The first person we saw as we walked up from the car to the cafe said “Good morning” to us. Now that never happens in London.

It is not spectacularly old, though there are some lovely older houses mixed in with some tastefully architectured newer builds. Wivenhoe has a long history as a port town serving inland Essex as well as fishing and boat building. There is still a small fleet based here and a couple of boat yards. There are a few pubs, though mostly deserted late on a Sunday morning, but we did visit a very nice cafe where I was served an excellent flat white before we went for a walk.

The church of St Mary’s is the oldest building in town, dating back to the late 13th century.

Though I was in good spirits and the town is quite pretty, even under a heavy grey sky, I seemed to have only taken photos that show the town as being rather ramshackle and rundown, which is very much not the case. It is a pretty place, with a nice  vibe, an artistic community and a tiny range of independent shops; there are two book shops. Wow!

We had a very nice lunch in a Syrian vegan cafe and then went for another walk. After all the rain lately it was quite muddy, though there is nothing wrong with that at all. It was a short loop out of the town and along a flood bank between the river and a wetland, overlooking the town of Rowhedge on the far side of the river. In summer months there is a small ferry between the towns.

After the walk it was time to head back to London, avoiding the worst of the Easter Sunday returning traffic, and get home in time to watch some football on the telly.

In two weeks today, I will be back in New Zealand for a short family visit. I am hoping the long hot summer will have stretched into the early autumn!

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3 nights, 3 gigs.

Friday 23 March 2018 – London.

Walking out of the Tufnell Park Dome into the cool and drizzly north London night, both ears ringing, I had a big smile on my face after two loud gigs in two nights. Guitar Wolf last night and The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing tonight.  A very much needed blow out after a really busy  and stressful work week. Six performance reviews completed, meetings galore and an inundation of last minute requests had me thinking that three nights out in a row would just be too much to take and I would not last the distance.

We are very fortunate here in Walthamstow to have the e17 Rock and Roll Book Club. Run by Mark, he organises authors to come along and talk about themselves and their books. Most often these authors write about music or are musicians themselves. A couple of weeks ago we had Brett Anderson, the singer from Suede. Tonight (Wednesday) we have Hooky at Mirth, Marvel and Maud. Peter Hook, bass player from Joy Division and New Order. Joy Division being one of my most loved groups of all time, arriving in my life at the same time as the break up with my first girlfriend. Staying with me through both good and bad times ever since. 

Hooky was hugely entertaining. I don’t think he directly answered any of the questions posed, not trying to avoid, just he had way better anecdotes that wandered off in many different directions. Very funny, and very engaging. He also played a couple of quick tunes as part of the show, the longest of the many e17 RnR Book Club events we have been too.

Mirth, Marvel and Maud is a large bar in the foyer/reception area of a reclaimed cinema about a five minute walk from home and a fairly recent addition to a rapidly gentrifying Walthamstow. The Maud theatre, where the Hooky talk was, stands about 120 people maybe and was the venue for Thursday nights much different and much louder affair. A gig by Japanese punk and rollers, Guitar Wolf. This was the first gig I have attended in the venue.

We missed the first band, arriving in time for the second, Los Pepes. Slightly clichéd Ramones style punk rock with a bit of lead guitar thrown in for good measure. I really liked them. I was really impressed with the sound quality and having a gently sloping floor meant those of us at the back had some sort of view. Why are there so many tall people at gigs? I took to the front  for a couple of songs to take a couple of photos. If I had been younger and the circumstances different I would have been tempted to jump up and down a bit.  A shame no one did as the band deserved some sort of reaction.

Sadly the same quality of sound was not there for the headliners. Guitar Wolf have been around for decades, they have been to NZ a few times, though I have never seen them.

They were unlistenably loud; and I love loud, even more I love a wall of noise, but this was just a sludgy overdriven mess and I could hear nothing but a roaring noise. I was really disappointed as they were a bit of fun.

I stayed up the front for a couple of photos and then moved to the back for a bit with El and some friends. Frustrated, and deaf, we left soon after. The light was pretty terrible for photography as well.

Friday I was in Tufnell Park with Steve and Arthur to see The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing (TMTWNBBFN). Steve has seen them a few times, but this was my first experience of a live steam punk band. I was also new to the Dome,which is a great venue and I will go and see a band there again, great bar and selling my favourite beer was a definite bonus.

There were three support acts, the first two were neither here nor there, but I really enjoyed ‘I Destroy’ who were by miles the best of them.

TMTWNBBFN were mostly brilliant, a couple of dud tracks in the middle, but they were a lot of fun, playing a variety of different styles, but not veering too far from a punky/metal sound. Lyrics are where they truly excel, songs about Victoriana, Marie Curie, Jack the Ripper; and the set finale is the classic rock and roll tale of Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Everyone’s favourite civil engineer.  Brilliant!

Three nights out in a row, haven’t done that for a very long time; and I didn’t even have a big lie in the next Saturday! I have tickets to five more gigs, I have never been this well organised in the past. Really looking forward to them all, next up is Graeme Jefferies in Auckland in four weeks.

Rock on 🙂

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On the hunt for the elusive ‘Skull Tree’

Sunday 18 March 2018 – Epping Forest.

In a tight clump of holly trees I once discovered an old dining room chair, alone and discarded, missing the companionship of its fellows chairs and the table itself. After an unsuccessful mission this morning to find ‘the skull tree’, I had resolved to at least re-finding the chair. This too proved to be unsuccessful. As I was crashing through a small, dense and tangled thicket of undergrowth, I spotted a very dark fox ambling through the snow in a clearing in front of me. Giving up on the chair, I forced myself clear of the holly and into the clearing. Hoping at least to find some fox prints in the snow that I could follow, in some sort of primitive huntery way. Though I was only armed with my camera.

Unlike two weeks ago, the snow was not thick enough to leave trace of light footed passers-by and my brief urge to be primeval man was over. Standing up I was looking around trying to work out where I was and spotted the back end of at least two small deer skipping away from me. I stood and watched until they disappeared from view, then spent ten minutes trying to find them. To no avail.

I did take this picture in the location I stopped looking. It is my favourite from the day.

The beast from the east made an unexpected and unwanted return this weekend, dumping a light load of snow on to London, most of which fell late on Saturday afternoon. Sunday was cold, much colder than two weeks ago, so I anticipated the snow lying on the ground for longer that it did on my last visit. Even if it didn’t last, going for a walk in the forest is always a good thing.

Last weekend, El and I went to a book reading and talk by the author Will Ashon. I enjoyed his book Strange Labyrinth and its stories of Epping Forest. On the cover of the book, and mentioned in its pages is a small skull carved into the trunk of a tree. I have tried, and failed, to find the tree before, and the talk inspired me to try again today. I had a broad idea where to look, but no specifics. In the questions after the talk I was assured it existed, but no further details were given.

Though I had to clear a light dusting from the car first.

The skull tree is supposedly not far from Loughton Camp so I parked the car nearby and set off, wrapped up warm as I was quite cold. Fingerless gloves to operate the camera not quite adequate enough while not under trees.

Strawberry Hill Ponds

Loughton Camp

Crossing over to the ‘lost pond’, I meandered around the trees for a while, not straying too far from trails, in the assumption that Will must have found the skull tree while walking on a path. I found lots of trees with writing, but no skulls.

I also found a summertime camp, looking long abandoned, and a small group with packs and furled away tents who looked like they may be nomadically living in the forest.

I was getting quite cold wandering around the lost pond area, and felt uncomfortable taking pictures if people were living in the area, so paid my respects to my favourite ancient tree before starting to walk back towards the car, though following a snow covered forest trail rather than the path.

I stumbled across the romantically named Loughton Brook Storage Pond, a place I have never been to, and then followed the brook back down to the car.

Before heading home feeling unsuccessful with not finding the skull tree, I thought I should try and find the old chair I came across back in summer, buried deep in a holly grove. I wanted to see it covered it ice and snow.

Leaving the mandarin ducks in the northern of the two Strawberry Hill Ponds I took to the trees again to find the chair, which takes us back to the start of this post, and a further lack of success.

I was quite cold by now, and getting a wee bit hungry as well, so after taking a couple of photos around the larger southern pond, I took to the main path, and went back to the warmth of the car. Next time I bring food!

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The Epping Forest Project, Phase 2–February

February 2018 – Epping Forest.

February was a strange month, we seemed to be really busy each weekend with different activities that allowed me no time for the Epping Forest photography project I started in January. It is also winter, though winter did not fully happen until the very end of the month, even though I was still not feeling as inspired as I should have been. This is not untypical though.

I made two trips to Hollow Pond, a 30 minute walk from home. It is on the southern edge of Epping Forest, a small outpost with a thin link to the larger forest area. I like Hollow Pond, though it has its seedy, sleazy, tree-covered edges that are less attractive and reduce its overall appeal as a place to wander vacantly about. The sunny, open shores are very popular. Families and young and old couples stroll through trees and reeds, feeding the ducks, geese and swans, trying to avoid the marauding , thieving gulls.

Here are the best of the photos from the two walks.

Walk one started sunny, but very windy. El and I were half way around when the clouds started to form in the distance, and we could see rain falling over Woodford. We made a run for the lovely All you read is love bookshop in nearby Leytonstone. Before catching a bus back home.

Walk two was a solo walk starting from Waterworks Roundabout on a gloriously sunny, but cold day. I was aiming for some super close-up with massive of field shots, but there was just enough of a breeze to make them quite tricky, so I went for the loads of intrusive flare instead. Rule breaking by shooting in to the sun. Again.

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Epping Forest in snow.

Saturday 03 March 2018 – Epping Forest.

What a difference three hours can make.

The meagre blanket of snow that covered the plain when I arrived on the edge of the forest was all but gone when I left. Arriving with hat, scarf, gloves on and jacket zipped to the neck, departing with all the accessories packed away and my coat wide open to cool down. It was a great morning’s walk between those points.

Three hours later.

The ‘beast from the east’ weather system passed through London, and the rest of the UK, over the last five days. The system brought some terrible weather to many parts of the country, though we in London were unscathed – as usual. What we did have was four days of on and off snow, resulting in the longest period of settled snow in the five years I have lived here.

It has been a really busy month at work so I was not able to take time off to get to the forest, so it was a little worrying to see the snow no longer falling on Friday evening. It was with some nervousness I peered out from behind the bedroom curtains early this morning to see what it was like. Snow on the ground, very flat grey sky and the roads were clear. Perfect!

I am not sure what I wanted to achieve this morning, take photos being the obvious objective, getting some quiet time also appealed. I never listen to music when I am there, one of the few places where I am on my own that I do not. Wandering vacantly appears to be what I excel at.

Chingford Plain

Warren Pond

Butlers Retreat – where I stopped for coffee on my way home. Very nice coffee and cake 🙂

Surprisingly I was alone for most of the morning, only seeing a couple of mountain bikers and a few dog walkers. I saw no-one on the main routes apart from one solitary runner, the dog walkers were all in the trees on what I have considered bike trails. Perhaps they just took the opportunity to roam more freely than usual? There were signs others had been here mid-week.

I was really (pleasantly) surprised how many animal foot prints I saw in the snow, though this is a forest so not sure why I was surprised. Deer, rabbit, fox and bird trails criss-crossed every human marked trail. Great signs for a healthy forest. Apart from birds I saw none of the animals that left these trails, though I was looking.

The snow was very shallow and very light; a foot step enough to disturb it, leaving earthen trails behind. Enough to cover light undergrowth and tree fall. Brambles, nettles and ferns were barely visible and where I would normally walk around the undergrowth I just walked over the top, only becoming entangled the once. It allowed for a more random path though the trees, inevitably letting me get hopelessly lost. As always.

As well as providing an amazing contrasting backdrop for photos and letting the trees stand out from the natural toned background the snow made finding my way around far harder than I expected, I was lost almost immediately I was into the trees and I never found the spot I was at barely two weeks ago. Though discovering this small grove of beech made my morning. The coppery gold leaves just popping out of the background. Humping the tripod around was worth every ounce of extra weight.

Following a bike tyre trail from what I thought was Cuckoo Brook I was aiming to get to a stand of silver birch near the church at High Beech. Silver birch in the snow is a real cliche I know, but then I do love a cliche. I never did get there. I had no idea where I was by this stage.

The morning was getting on and it was time to head back towards the station, with no idea of my location I turned towards the distant traffic noise from Epping New Rd. With the snow and the flat low clouds the forest was very quiet, I could hear the squeak of my shoes on the snow, the occasional bird and a dull but constant, surf like hum in the background. It was almost like being slightly inland from the sea.

I followed one of the main paths for a while, seeing one of the few people that were also out enjoying this rare solitude.

I soon left the main path again and back into the trees hoping to find Connaught Water. It turned out I still didn’t know where I was, though I did find a nice stand of young silver birch to make up for missing the one I was aiming for earlier. It is all a bit Scandi !

Finding another one of the main paths I experimented with a bit of impressionist photography before checking the map on my phone, finally working out where I was and setting off in the right direction.

The paths around an almost totally iced over Connaught Water were almost empty of people, I found this so unusual as this place is normally full of walkers. I had visions of families and young couples out enjoying the snow, tossing snowballs at each other and admiring the dedication of the birds sitting on the cold ice.

The snow was slowly melting away where there was no tree cover and I was quite shocked to see grass that had a white top coat when I arrived was almost bare of snow as I left.

I was really pleased I made it in time, that I had not followed my normal weekend routine and had a lie in.

It was a lovely, peaceful, beautiful morning out, and I hope you enjoyed the photos.

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The Beast from the East

Thursday 01 March 2018, London.

Yay, winter is over!  Spring officially starts today. the first day of March. The signs of its arrival have been showing themselves anew every day over the past week. On Friday I took a few photos of the daffodils that are popping their blooms out of the grass in the parks on the way to work. In fact it was getting light enough and nice enough that I had started thinking about cycling to work.

With predictable unpredictability the official start of spring was marked by the worst weather Britain has seen in decades. ‘The Beast from the East’, as the weather system was dubbed, arrived from the Siberian steppes over the weekend bringing chaos and heavy snow to the north. For us in the south it was a bitter wind that set the ball rolling, preparing us for what was to come.

I left for work on Monday morning, prepared for anything, a very light snow had started to fall just before I left the house and the forecast hinted that this would be the start of a long week of snow.

I was excited to find when I got to work that the snow was still falling. I do not actually work here,  though my office is not far away; and not quite as palatial.

Unfortunately for me, but not so much my work colleagues, or the majority of working Londoners, that seemed to be the end of the snow. There was no layer of white as I walked back to the station after work. Tuesday was equally disappointing. During the day at least, the night was a whole different story!

Peering out of the bedroom window when I awoke on Wednesday I was confronted with a sea of white in the street below me, and to make the sight even more welcoming the sky above was a lovely crisp blue. I was up immediately, feeding the cat and then out to take a couple of pictures in the garden before anything more than the neighbour’s cat left tracks in the fresh blanket.

I am quite lucky in that my commute is quite short and very crowded, it is completely unpleasant. The Victoria Line is fully underground and is not impacted like so many of the overground train lines by adverse weather. I still hate every one of the 25 or so minutes I am underground though; not due to fear of undergroundness, or claustrophobia. I just hate commuting! The only good thing about my commute is exiting the tube at Green Park station, and the 15 minute walk to the office; traversing both Green and St James Parks. I have been waiting all winter for today. Stunning !

Crossing the Mall to take a photo of Buckingham Palace I was told off by the police for standing in the middle of the road. I have been waiting for the right day to take a photo of the dodgy neighbourhood I have to walk through to get to and from work.

St James Park was very busy this morning. At this time of the day it is rare to see more than a couple of tourists, the odd jogger and bunch of bored and tired office workers trudging, head down through the park. Today, there were smiles and ‘good mornings’ and seemingly everyone was taking pictures of the snow and ice. I took a few myself.

The daffodils were looking a lot less happy than they were last week!

That was the end of the sun for a few hours. Lunch time the cloud cover was low, it was grey, bleak, windy cold and snowing. Heading out to buy a sandwich I grabbed the camera to take a couple of pictures as I went. It was not particularly nice, though a large group of tourists were enjoying a snowball fight on the edge of the park.  At least the traffic, which plagues this part of London, was light today. A silver lining in every snow laden cloud.

Fortunately it was all smiles again late afternoon, leaving work early I took a few more pictures as I went.

I also tried my hand at a bit more intentional camera movement, impressionist images as I went.

Obviously this weather system was not all jolly japes like it was for me in relatively unscathed London. It has had a terrible impact on other parts of the UK, with roads and rail lines closed, people stuck in cars for many hours and a number of people losing their lives to the bitter cold. The snow levels in some places hit historic levels, and the cold set new records. It was so hard to plan or predict anything, forecasting seemed to have gotten so much better over the last few years, but this week nothing seemed to work as predicted. Snow fell when it wasn’t supposed to and did not when it was. The one thing they got right was it lasted all week.

Thursday was a blanket of grey, it was colder than it had been all week, colder than the rest of winter, crossing the bridge in St James Park the cross wind was savage. I pity the poor pigeons. Brrrrr. There were no smiling, welcoming commuters today.

I left work early for the fourth day this week (any excuse), a break in the snow was a good time to nip off. El has been sick all week, finally succumbing to the cold I had when we were in St Ives, so I had a mission to make to the chemist on the way home. (Thankfully she is over the worst of it as I write this, four days later). I managed to grab a couple of final snowy images on the way through the St James Park.

Friday was bleak, and I was finally over the cold, windy and damp weather. I still love the snow though.

The Beast from the East finally finished in London with a brief but heavyish snow shower mid-afternoon on Friday, and then it was, thankfully all over. Even I had finally got bored with the snow. Bring on the grey slush !

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Beach hut heaven.

Saturday 24 February 2018. Brightlingsea, Essex.

A while ago we were thinking of taking a weekend away in Brightlingsea, but as usual, did nothing about it. I cannot remember why. I vaguely recall that El was thinking of it as a possible place to go for a few days, away from the attractions of a larger town, to do some writing. Whatever the reason was, at whatever time it was we never made it there, or anywhere close by. It has been lurking in the back of our minds since.

There is no specific reason why it appeals, it is not really coastal, there are no amazing landscapes, and no castles or abbey ruins to visit. It is just a small rural estuarine town in Essex with a good name and an easy drive from home.

Saturday woke to be one of those great sunny but damn cold English winter days. With threats of pending snowy doom from the ‘beast from the east’ weather front coming on Monday it seemed a shame to waste the opportunity the day presented.

It was also time to take the car for a decent spin, the last time I used it was before Christmas when I was going to drive to Norfolk until I found the flat tyre. When I finally got around to taking the car to the shop to get the tyre repaired I found a second flat (suspicious!) With the wheels off I found my brake pads were knackered so I had those replaced as well. With all the work done  the car felt and ran better than ever.

Brightlingsea is about one and half hours north of home in mid-Essex, sitting near the point where the Colne River estuary meets the southern North Sea. Like a lot of coastal Britain, Brightlingsea is a very old town, it gets a mention in the Doomsday Book of 1087. Apparently the oldest wooden framed building in the UK is in the middle of town though I did not know that until now, so we did not go and visit this 14th century relic.

What we did do was stop for a hearty and nice lunch at a cafe in town before going for a walk around the waterfront and the most beach huts I have ever seen. Surprising because there is not a lot of beach. It is nice though.

It is very windy and very cold, heavy coats, gloves, hats and scarves were on, but the sky was a brilliant blue, a great winter  ‘seaside’ walking day.

Beach huts feature a bit in these photos, there were just so many, every nook and cranny seemed to have a beach hut crammed in. The great thing with the beach huts here was there seemed to be no real rules, unlike the tedious line-up of identikit huts on the south coast.

Even with this small amount of skin exposed it was still cold!

Heading back into town I found this nice old boat shed, that I am sure will not last much longer as small blocks of posh modern flats are sprouting up nearby.

We wandered down to where the ferry up the Colne to Colchester would leave in the warmer months.

We stopped in a cafe for a warming coffee before walking back to the car for the journey home.

It is not a town I could live in, there is not a lot there, there is no train and it is a bit remote. Plus there is no proper sea. But I liked it as a place to visit, and lunch was damn good.

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RIP The Kings Arms Tavern, may you rest loudly.

Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland. 2007-2009

The Kings Arms Tavern has been a key venue in the Auckland music scene since 1995. It opened soon after the equally (in)famous Gluepot closed to bands. Sadly the Kings Arms, the KA, closes its doors for the last time at the end of February 2018. Even sadder for me, I am not going to be there to farewell it, or attend any of the excellent farewell gigs

Auckland city has a long and terrible history in closing down music venues since I started going to shows in the late 70s. The Station Hotel, Rhumba Bar, Reverb Room, Windsor Castle, XS Cafe to name a few, all gone. Many to noise control, some to the violence that plagued the punk and alternative scene and some; like the KA to full fill the constant need for homes.  I have been to see many great bands at the KA  and many of the other now defunct venues.

After I bought my first DSLR in 2007 I was lucky to spend 2008 and 2009 shooting bands for a website. There was no such thing as a photo pit at the KA, but I love being in the crowd. I did wish they had better lighting though!

Here are some of my favourite images from some of those shows; in chronological order.

My favourite Auckland band for a while, amazing live and a brilliant first LP. Mint Chicks, Mar 2007.

The late great Jason Molina and the Magnolia Electric Company, August 2007.

I think this is my most used band photos. Shocking Pinks, support for The Clean. Jan 2008.

New Zealand and Flying Nun records finest. The Clean, Jan 2008.

Canadian’s Broken Social Scene, Feb 2008.

Still regularly played in my house, and performers at one of the KA farewell shows. Fabulous post-rockers, Jakob, Mar 2008.

Another brilliant post-rock band and great guys too, from Hamilton, Sora Shima. August 2008.

I arrived late and the crowd for Aussie metal-core band Parkway Drive was nuts. No way to get to the front, October 2008.

Ruby Suns, December 2008.

Cobra Kahn, supporting Florida punkers, The Bronx. December 2008.

Probably the most fun live band I have seen, loved seeing these guys! The DHDFDs, Jan 2009.

Equally brilliant, and with two amazing blazingly fast pop-punk LPs, the tragically late Jay Reatard toured with his band in Jan 2009.

Supported by the equally brilliant Los Angeleans No Age.

Californian duo, the Dodos toured in Jan 2009. Summer was always a great time for touring bands, and with the NZ dollar being so bad 10 years ago, visiting Auckland was quite popular for smaller bands from the US.

Ahead of the curve for wild loud rock and roll duos, the Hasselhof Experiment deafened in Feb 2009.

Out of retirement for a series of shows the wonderful Head Like a Hole, played a show in March 2009. Older and ‘wiser’ they remained fully clothed, unlike some crazy performances from the nineties.

Half of completely bonkers, cover band Masters of Metal are good friends of friends of mine. They played once or twice a year, performing two hour shows of classic metal covers. Talented musicianship and great stage presence made their shows hugely popular. Zak, March 2009.

Sleazeball punks The Dwarves visited our shores from Chicago in October 2009, including Nick Olivieri the bass player from the mighty Kyuss.

The Kings Arms was sold to developers who are bulldozing the building to build more flats. Fuck You!

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