A trip to the 60s, under Euston Station.

Sunday 24 February 2019 – Euston Station London.

Wow. That was a pretty cool day!

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but this was definitely better than I expected. It was also what I needed to get out of a fairly long photographic malaise. I haven’t been wanting to go out just with the intent of taking photos for months, so paying for an expensive event was a good motivator to get out.

I am not sure how often London Museum/Hidden London run this photographic event, but if you are interested in seeing a very small and normally unseen part of London’s history, have an interest in photography and a good tripod; this event, while not cheap, is very worth investigating. Hidden London run a number of tours into disused London Underground stations, most of these are very busy and are not specialist photography tours. This tour is different, focused on photography, with a maximum of eight people, split into four groups of two and across four zones s no-one gets in anyones way. The visit allows for two hours underground, though I would have liked at least one more. 

Steve and I met outside Euston station and were joined by the other six members of the group along with three staff from Hidden London. Our bags were searched (I guess for hidden bombs) and we donned hi-viz jackets; promptly covering them in camera and tripod bags. We were escorted into the station, through the ticket barriers, down to the Victoria Line platform, and then through one of those locked doors that you see every day and sometimes wonder what lurks behind.

This door took us to a short set of up steps that used to be the end of the platform, and back to the 1960s…

Once inside and the door closed to the normal people we were given a quick safety briefing and then a history of the tunnels, what we were about to see and a quick look at the four locations we would shoot in.

The mainline station at Euston was served by two underground lines. The first stage of the Charing Cross, Euston and Hampstead Railway opened in 1907, and The City and South London Railway, running from Stockwell to the city, was extended north to Euston in the same year.

The two lines, from competing companies, were separate and had stations on either side of Euston mainline station. However, they did agree to building an interconnecting passageway that contained a ticket hall and lifts to the mainline station platform.

The two above ground station buildings for those underground lines were closed in September 1914 after the two railways were taken under the ownership of the Underground Electric Railways of London, though the lifts and the tunnels remained in place. Eventually these two lines turned into the two branches of the Northern Line. Eventually the interconnecting tunnels were closed in 1967 when the Victoria Line was opened.

One of the key attractions for the tours is that tunnel walls are still liberally adorned with posters from the weeks and months before closure. Mostly they are badly damaged, though some are in remarkably good condition given they have been stuck to walls for over 50 years

After the brief history lesson on what we were seeing we were split into four groups of two, Steve and I pairing up. We were given a guide to ensure nothing untoward happened, and I guess to make sure we didn’t scarper into the tunnels for further exploration, though it was tempting…

We were allowed 20 minutes in each of the four zones, there was enough room for two people to take photos without getting in each other’s way. Steve and I have shot together before so know how we work. We are quite different in style and method, which is even better.

Our first 20 minutes was spent in a section with a number of posters as well as one of the old lift shafts. With the advent of the Victoria Line the lift shafts and old tunnels are part of the air conditioning system for the Victoria and Northern Lines. Nothing was wasted. My attempts are capturing the lift shaft failed, for some reason I did not think to bring a flash… I did have a tripod, though shooting vertically was quite difficult.

There were a few old posters here, but none of them were in particularly good condition. Though tatty and old is good.

The airconditioning is all quite modern, and I was surprised at how small the units were, probably explains why the Victoria Line is so hot in summer !

A lot of the old tile work in these stations is from Leslie Green, the man pretty much responsible for all the design and tiling in 50 stations built between 1903 and 1907. His work is iconic, and glorious and you always know when you are in one of his stations.

Section two was also comprised of two shooting areas, the first along one of the vast air venting tunnels. There is nothing pretty in this dark section, just dirt, dust and rusty pipes. It is very dirty here – we were warned before coming to not be wearing our finest. The plates making up the air conditioning ducts are all stamped with their details, size, bolt holes, batch and date manufactured. This one is from 1965. I love that sort of detail!

The second part of this section allowed us to peer down into the Victoria Line and the tops of the trains as they passed. It had been surprisingly quiet so far, but coming through the vents was the sound of a busker playing a bouzouki or similar instrument, it was eerie and appropriate. I have never noticed the vents before, and have yet to see them now I know they are there. I am not entirely sure how they can be some invisible, they are hardly small. It was quite fun watching people move on and off the trains, and seeing the trains whizz by underneath.

Section three was the main passenger link between the platforms of the two lines. It also contained the lovely tiled ticket office, which I managed to take a very poor photo of as I ran out of time due to there being so much to see.

Strangely none of the posters had a year on them, even the ones with dates.

This is my favourite of the posters.

Section four was the most one most used by those who work on our tube system while we sleep. There are stacks of tools, and large metal components, brooms and a bunch of stuff that I did not recognise at all.

There were a number of posters here, a lot had been ripped and damaged over the years and it was really interesting to see the layer on layer on layer of paper that had accrued over the years. Though the famous Psycho poster is still there 🙂

I had a bit of a play with some long exposures at the far end of the tunnel. It was quite dark here so perfect for attempting some ghostly walking, though I ran out of time to get anything I really liked.

Far too soon the visit was over and we had to down cameras, pack bags and head back above ground. I really could have done with another hour or two, and to have been able to explore a little further…..

It was a fabulous experience, and one I would highly recommend. Do the photo tour rather than the general one as you get to take a tripod and spend some proper time.

Thanks Steve for organising, and Hidden London and London Transport Museum for making it available!

Posted in Blog, Britain, England | Tagged , ,

For Kevin. Rest in Peace my friend.

Tuesday 5 March 2019 – London.

This is a tricky one, not sure how to start this or even if it will be finished, though I am guessing if it has been posted then finish it I did.

I have been thinking about death a bit this year. My friend Kevin getting ill last year and being a few years younger than me opened this door, and subsequent events never allowed it to fully close.

Visiting the spot where we scattered dad’s ashes in 2007 with Mum, El and my sister when we were in New Zealand in January naturally makes me remember Dad. Fond memories; he was a good and gentle man and a great father and granddad to my children. If I had turned out to be more like him, I would probably be a better person. I am lucky that I have fond memories of him, not everyone is so lucky.

As I noted four of five posts ago, when we were in New Zealand I was reading about eligibility for Superannuation, the NZ version of state pension and was horrified to find that I may no longer qualify for it unless I go back to live there for five year between now and 65. 65 is not far away, retirement is for old people, old people eventually die. There always seems to be too much to do, and now there is less time, and who really knows how much there is. It made me think of wasted time, unfinished things and unvisited friends; then money and all that tiresome stuff I shouldn’t dwell on.

Mark Hollis, a musician, and the singer and song writer of the band Talk Talk, passed away on Monday 25th Feb. I was a little shocked, he was only 62, not much more than five years older than me. 62 used to be so old. Now, as I close in on 60, 62 seems so young. I was not a massive fan of Talk Talk when they first arrived deep in my punk/post-punk phase in 1982, I discarded their pretentious poppiness as a far too clever Duran Duran. Ten years ago I rediscovered them and the final two of their five LPs. The two LPs are considered post-rock masterpieces, the genesis of the genre, and the genre that has dominated my listening for those ten years. Tracks from 1988’s ‘Spirit of Eden’ and their last LP, 1991’s ‘Laughing Stock’ are always on an active playlist, and I have been listening to them almost exclusively since Mark passed away. They are broody and dark, vocally almost indecipherable; but the music is wonderful and complex and in its way, uplifting. It started me brooding on life’s shortness again.

On Monday it was announced that Keith Flynn, the singer from the band The Prodigy, had died. I was never a fan of the band, but was familiar with them. As it was announced on the TV news they showed a clip from one of their hits, ‘Firestarter’, a song I actually liked. I could see the clip was filmed in the tunnels under Euston Station, a place I had the pleasure of photographing last weekend. It was going to be next blog post. Seeing the video connected me to Keith, via the location, and on to thinking about people dying too young again. He was 49.

This finally brings me to Kev

I met Kevin in Da Nang, Vietnam on the 4th April 2012. Kevin and I were both there, along with a small group of Kiwis and Aussies, for the wedding of our mutual friend Dan. Kevin was there with his partner Phil and was a seasoned traveller, way more comfortable with life somewhere alien than me; and I had been on the road for three months. Kevin is a big personality, very much a life three quarters full guy, genuinely fun, nice, open and friendly. A few years younger than me he is a Kiwi, but has been living in London for a long time. After the wedding, as we went our separate ways, Kevin and I agreed to catch up when I got to the UK. Me on the left, looking leaner and browner than I am now, and Kevin on the far right, with Leonie who joined me on my Africa adventures later that year.

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I was fortunate to arrive in London just before Kevin and Phil went away for a few weeks over Christmas and into 2013. I was offered Phil’s flat in She Bu (Shepherds Bush) as a place to stay while they were gone, an offer I took up. It was while I was staying at Phil’s that I met El. I absolutely believe that without that opportunity we never would have met, life would be totally different, and not in a good way.

Not long after Kevin and Phil returned to the UK, I disappeared for a few weeks travelling. Backpacking in wonderful Sri Lanka, boat diving off the coast of Malaysia and visiting my family in New Zealand. I arrived back in the UK in late May 2013, with no job and no home. While I was looking for a job and while El and my relationship slowly bloomed I stayed in Kevin’s spare room in, as he called it, ‘Fairy Towers’; a twenty floor council tower in London Bridge. I ended up staying there for a year.

I loved my time in Fairy Towers. Kevin was rarely there, spending a lot of time with Phil so I pretty much had a central London flat all to myself. It was such a cool place to live. I took a lot of photos from the balcony.

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When Kevin was staying, often after a row with Phil, we spent a lot of time walking (and talking) around the south side of the Thames;  to Greenwich, the Elephant, along the river,. All over central south London. They were great walks and talks, discussing love and leisure, travel and home. Family a lot. I eventually left in 2014 when I moved to El’s house in Walthamstow, where I am now.

Tragically Phil passed away in mid 2015, from a heart related illness. It was very sudden, I hadn’t seen Phil in quite a while, though had kept in frequent contact with Kevin, continuing walks and cheap meals in a favourite mixed Asian cafe on the fringes of Soho and Chinatown. Our catch-ups became less regular after Phil passed, though picked up again for a while after Kevin met Adrian later that year.

I received a very excited call in summer 2018 and Kevin told me that he and Adrian were going to get married this year, and they had some big plans for travelling in the interim. It was great news and I was glad Kevin had a new partner and opportunities to continue doing what he loved so much.

I received another call in early autumn and had lunch with Kevin in Brixton. He told me had been feeling unwell and had finally gotten round to going to the doctor,  to discover he had stage 4 stomach and oesophagus cancer. It was terrible news, though in his normal highly optimistic way it was all going to be fine; bit of chemo, maybe some surgery after and all will be well. Sadly that was not to be the case.

Kevin and Adrian moved the wedding to December, I hadn’t seen Kevin in a couple of months and was frankly shocked at how frail he looked, he had lost a lot of weight as he had not been able to eat. It was  great to see him, and see how happy he was, knowing he was being well looked after by his mum and his sister’s family and Adrian. Kevin and Adrian entered the ceremony to the sound of a waiata, a Maori song which was utterly beautiful and made me cry. It was a wonderful occasion, made more poignant with Kevin’s illness and prognosis.

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I met Kevin travelling, and travelling is where Kevin was truly happy, he has seen far more of the world than I. He developed a number of friendships in his travels. Kevin managed to get a final trip in this year, visiting his beloved India, Australia and NZ. He arrived back in London on 22nd February, was admitted into hospital and passed away with his family a week later.

I had been meaning to visit him in hospital that week, but like so many things, I didn’t get around to it.

Rest in peace, Kevin. Without your enthusiasm for travel I would not have seen as much as I have, and would not yearn to do more. Without your friendship I would not have stayed in London, I would not have met El and I would not be as happy with life as I am. xx

Phil and Kev Dec 2018

Posted in Blog, Britain, England | 2 Comments

Singapore. Part 3.

Saturday 26 January 2019 – Singapore. Part 3.

With Chinatown visited yesterday it would have been rude to not visit Little India and Kampong Glam, the historic Malay Muslim section of Singapore. After eating our body weight in hotel breakfast we were back down to the metro and off to Little India. Just after rush hour it was still quiet early in the day, particularly for Little India, and even more so for Kampong Glam.

Our first stop was the Tekka Centre, a must for anyone visiting Singapore. I always take a walk though here, often stopping to buy a snack, though not today after the amount I hoovered down during breakfast. The ground floor of the building is all about food, the outer ring being well patroned food courts and the centre a large fresh food market. The upper level is pretty much all about the sari, lots and lots, and lots of saris. With the occasional tailor tossed in to balance things out. The middle of the ground floor is a large fresh food market, selling everything from live (short lived) chickens, to fish and seafood and on to that wonderful range of Asian vegetables and fruit. Including the dreaded durian. It wa very quiet.

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We did not stay long in Little India, there was not a lot open and not many people out and about, way too early. We crossed over towards Bugis and walked past the Kwan Im Thon Hood Temple. 

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There is a lot happening in the streets here, and towards Bugis with quite a few market stalls selling all the tat you would ever need for Chinese New Year. There was a good mix of European tourists and Chinese here, probably the most diverse crowd we have been in since we arrived.

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I like Kampong Glam, it is my favourite part of Singapore, mainly because it is the most hipster-ish east London area. It has changed massively since I last came here seven years ago. There are a lot more bars and cafes and a lot more street art. I still liked it, and if I wasn’t so tired all the time we should have come here one evening to experience it more fully. We found a Scandinavian coffee shop and stopped for the first flat white since we left NZ. It was good.

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I like the contrast between the older shop houses and the ultra-modern glass towers, along with the very un-Singaporean awning on the sandwich shop. Public profanity! Outrageous!

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Leaving Kampong Glam we started a walk down to the City Hall metro station, it was getting quite warm, and time again to think about getting off the open streets. On the way we passed by the magnificent Parkview Square building. Being a sucker for Gotham Gothic architecture this is one of my favourite tall buildings anywhere. Straight out of a Batman movie. Belying its 1930s art deco look the tower is entirely modern, being completed in 2002.

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There is a small art gallery on the third floor, showing a collection of Chinese prints; we had a look but it was not really my thing. The ground floor lobby was pretty stunning!

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Continuing on the journey we happened to come across Raffles Hotel next to City Hall station.

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It seemed to be very rude to not complete the ultimate Singapore tourist task and go to the Long Room and have a Singapore Sling cocktail. Not being rude people, that is exactly what we did. All the tables in the Long Room bar have a large bag of peanuts for customers to graze on with their drinks. Shelling the nuts and discarding the empty shells on the floor is all part of the pleasure of visiting. The nuts were so wonderfully fresh, I ate quite a few, leaving a decent size sea of mess around me.

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Today is the sixth anniversary of El and I meeting, so El had booked dinner in one of the restaurants in Marina Bay Sand Hotel. After an after of relaxing and writing back at the hotel we headed down to the metro and out again in to the late afternoon. We arrived early so had a bit of a walk around the marina.

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Walking through the mall to the hotel we passeda  very large and impressive DC comics shop. we were tempted to buy a little something to take back as gifts, but decided not too.

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Dinner was early, it was the only table we could get at such short notice. The restaurant was an all you can eat buffet and was pretty amazing. There was a terrific array of foods, and it is fair to say I ate a lot. Including things I do not normally eat, like crab and lobster. I also got to have what turned out to be only laksa I had during the stay. It was very nice, I love laksa. nooodle soups in general. This will be another thing I will endeavour to cook at home. 

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There is a night time light trail here, I was really looking forward to seeing some of the installations, but found it all a little uninteresting, though there are works over quite a large area of downtown Singapore and all around the marina. I was expecting BIG, but big was not the thing.

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Saturday was our final day in the city, we had a whole day to kill before our evening flight back to London. We lingered in the hotel for a while, making the most of breakfast again, and the air conditioning. We had decided to take one of the city bus tours. I don’t normally do them, but found the one I did do in Dubai to be quite a good time killer, and we had a lot of time to kill today. The weather foreacast was not brilliant either, so this really made sense.

We jumped on one near the hotel and it took us to the massive Suntec Plaza where we had to wait for a different tour. The bus was not that interesting, there was a huge amount of traffic and it moved very slowly, mainly past the places we had already been. After consulting the map and we jumped off one bus and on to another heading in a different direction and ended up by the riverside. Something I wanted to do today anyway.

We found a riverside, and touristy, Vietnamese place and sat down for a drink and a couple of Vietnamese snacks and just enjoyed sitting by the river in the warmth, no work to do and no real cares. The last until our next holiday. It was a pleasant end to the afternoon, and to the trip.

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Soon enough it was back to the hotel, a shower and a change in the gym bathroom before a final glass of wine on the rooftop bar and then the airport and home.

It was a good few days, I am glad I got to share one of my favourite cities with El. We will come back to Singapore, it is an easy place to visit.

Posted in Blog, Singapore, South East Asia | Tagged | 4 Comments

Singapore. Part 2.

Saturday 26 January 2019 – Singapore. Part 2.

Having gained a little knowledge on the Singapore metro system yesterday we avoided the streets and took the lift down to the metro station underneath the hotel. Speaking of hotels, I should mention breakfast. OMG (as the kids used to say, but probably not any more as that was so 2016). The breakfast buffet was enormous. One of the things I love about a large Asian hotel is the wide and wonderful array of Asian and European breakfast choices. Every day was a treat, and I could indulge in fried rice and egg for breakfast again. Mmmmmm.

We left fairly early for our visit to the amazing Gardens by the Bay. The walk from the metro to the gardens exit was a pretty good start to what was a very good day. I am loving this combo of hooped t-shirt, check shorts and sandals that I am modelling here. Travelling allows me to indulge in terrible fashion, while pointing and laughing at other tourists poor fashion choices. El, was far more elegant, I am surprised I was allowed  to take this photo of me standing next to her dressed as I am.

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I was expecting there to be a fee to get into the gardens, but the area is free, you just pay for things you want to do. I like this. We wanted to visit the magnificent Supertree Grove. I saw these from the rooftop viewing platform of Marina Bay Sands Hotel last time I was here, and they are the number one thing I wanted to see.. They did not disappoint, they are quite amazing. Standing between 25 and 50 metres tall and with a viewing walkway between two of the taller ones, they totally dominate this section of the gardens.

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We were there reasonably early so there were not too many people queuing for tickets, or to take the lift up to the walkway. I would hate to be here when it was busy, it would be brutally hot waiting for entry. The view was pretty special, obviously not the same as being at the top of those three towers, but lovely none the less. These SuperTrees are pretty awesome!

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I had a bit of a plan in mind for a walk. It was not much past 10:00 when we left the gardens as we didn’t visit any of the other attractions, yesterdays botanical morning was enough garden for this trip. Something saved for next time. We crossed back over the road and entered the strange world of Marina Bay Sands shopping mall. It is big, not massive, but still pretty big. As I observed seven years and a few days ago when I first came here, it is full of shops I could never afford to even walk in, not that I ever would.  Seven years ago today I was 27 days into the jounrey that started this blog and diving in Malaysian Borneo, I cannot believe it was that long ago!

We stopped for a cold drink in a small gallery on the far side of the marina and after consulting a map decided to skip plan A and do freshly conceived plan B; a short walk to China Town. It was a good a plan. Chinese new year is not far away, and preparations are well under way to welcome in the year of the pig. If planning had been better, it would be great to have been here for Chinese New Year.

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It was starting to get quite hot and China Town was busy as mid-day approached. I wanted El to visit a temple while we here, get a feel for the things I love about visiting SE Asia and its mix of religion and culture that is so different to our experience in the west. I am fairly sure I have visited Thiang Hock Kem temple before, but am not 100% on that. I still enjoy walking through Buddhist temples. My abiding memory of those months travelling, and the subsequent trip to Sri Lanka, was visiting these small oasis’ of calm and peace. Singapore is a young country and this is not an ancient place of Buddhist worship, only being established in 1840. It was an enjoyable visit.

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We walked through some of the side streets backing on to the temple before the heat overcame us and we found the nearest metro, jumping into a nicely air-conditioned train back to Orchard Rd.

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Somewhere along the way I must have dropped my cap. I had just bought it in NZ, specifically as I left one back in the UK and I didn’t want to get sunburnt here in Singapore. We decided to visit some of the lower-end malls on Orchard Rd to find a replacement. One that didn’t cost more than a small number of pounds. There is a vast array of shopping choice on this street.

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Arriving back in the hotel in the afternoon, I chose to start on one of my priorities for these four days in Singapore. Finding a quiet spot in the hotel bar (me and the bar person) I started writing a very short story, my first piece of fiction since school, 40 years ago. El and I have set a challenge to write a short story each month. It is going to be tough; it is close to the end of February as I write this and I haven’t started on this month’s story yet. I want to be a better writer, I love words, stories and books, and all sorts of written things. One of the reasons I have maintained this blog for so long is to be able to write more than a few words in an email, though I have yet to find my ‘voice’. I did enjoy writing some fiction in a bar in Singapore though.

As the evening settled into something cooler than day and we had recovered from earlier activities we headed out from the hotel to look for a local food court I had found on the internet. I wanted Malaysian food, to be specific I wanted char keow teow; a flat noodle dish with chicken and prawns. This was one of the first meals Alex introduced me to when I stayed with him in Kuching, and my introduction to local Malay food. It is simple, hearty and delicious and I cook it badly on occasion. I found one, and It was good.

One of the things I love about food court food, is being served the meal, and then being able to add the garnishes; choosing from dishes of chilli, spring onions, coriander, soy sauce. Adding that little extra zing, exactly how you want it to be. In the spirit of not being in London, I added a pile of diced red chilli. Maybe it was a little too much…

I cannot remember what El had, but she visited a different stall to me. It was good too.

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Posted in Blog, Singapore, South East Asia | Tagged

Singapore. Part one.

Saturday 26 January 2019 – Singapore.

This is my fifth visit to Singapore and El’s first. I was keen to come here for a few reasons. Obviously, it is on the way back from New Zealand and is sort of half way. Not having been here before it is a fun place for El to visit and for me to show her around. It is a nice city and an easy introduction to SE Asia. Finally, I have done everything I want to do in Singapore, except Gardens at the Bay, so with four nights here I was planning on spending some proper time doing nothing. Not that we did much of that of that nothing. I didnt finish my book!

Before I launch into Singapore I have to confess that I made by first ever flight scheduling blunder. I was trying to book everything via BA and the only way BA does NZ to Singapore is via Australia. I grudgingly booked us via Sydney, but absolutely missed that there was a six hour layover, only noticing a couple of days before the flight. Sydney airport is not too bad, but six hours is a long time. We ate.

We arrived in Singapore quite late on Tuesday night, but with time enough to check in to the hotel on Orchard Rd, get up to the 19th floor rooftop bar and pool and indulge in an end of a long day drink.  We also got to enjoy the amazing view over the city and towards the magnificent structure that is the Marina Bay Sands Hotel. It was humid, but not outrageously so, and it wasn’t too hot, conditions that remained for the whole trip. Thankfully.

In what seems to have become a standard activity for this holiday we hit the Botanical Gardens on Wednesday morning, a recommendation from a friend who had been here recently. A very good recommendation too. I could get into this plant thing. The gardens were seemingly not too far from the hotel, so I decided we should walk, time wise it was the same as taking the metro. The metro is air-conditioned, walking isn’t. We were hot before we arrived, so our first stop was a cool drink in one of the many cafes.

The gardens are huge, laid out in different blocks, we got to see about a third of it before getting too tired and hot. I really liked it, tropical plants are so utterly different to what we see in the UK, and to a lesser degree NZ. The difference is just so pleasurable, big, big leaves, los of weird shapes and am amazing colour.

These leaves looked like someone had painted the colour on.

I particularly enjoyed the orchid garden, I know these are fancy flowers with a billion varieties and shades, shapes and colours, but seeing so many in one place really did make me appreciate nature, and her human tweaked variations so much more.

There was a nice fake waterfall that was very much the key attraction for a large group of small children on a school trip.

After lunching in the park we headed to the nearby metro station and with a bit of help from the ticket counter got ourselves metro passes and took the, very long, ride back to Orchard Rd. We learned how to use the Metro as we went. It is a good system for the centre of the city.

I have to say that in the four days we spent in Singapore, not one single person I/we interacted with was anything but courteous, friendly or helpful. I know Singapore is very touristy, and very authoritarian and retail and hospitality jobs are probably better than other options, but it was a really friendly place and it made me very happy. I was walking down a road one afternoon and a cycle courier clipped my shoulder with the very edge of his bag, it was the most minor thing ever. I was shocked when he stopped, apologised and asked if I was OK. England used to polite like this, but now we have Brexit.

I love this big and very old plane trees outside the entrance to the President’s residence.

One of the things on El’s list of things to see in Singapore was Emerald Hill, a street of lovely old  shop houses that I had taken photos of on previous visits. Purely by luck, definitely not good planning, the street was literally over the road from the hotel. Emerald Hill is a conservation area so the houses that remain here from the early 1900s have been well preserved, they are a small snapshot of what a lot of Chinese influenced SE Asia looks like. They are very nice.

Our hotel from Emerald Hill.

Emerald Hill from the hotel bar.

We were pretty whacked when we got back to the room, so the decent thing to do was to head up to the roof, have a swim and then relax by the pool. Conveniently it was happy hour with half price Singapore Sling cocktails. It would have been rude not too….

The view from the roof.

We didn’t venture too far for dinner, the tiredness and jetlag that had plagued me in New Zealand followed me to Singapore. We found a ‘street’ curry house for dinner, and enjoyed a very nice meal, and not too far away from the hotel.

It was a good first day in Singapore!

Posted in Blog, Singapore, South East Asia | Tagged | 3 Comments

Family time in Auckland.

Monday 21 January 2019 – Auckland, New Zealand.

We had a total of eight nights in Auckland, not long considering how far we flew and how bad the jet lag hit. Five nights staying with mum, two with my sister and one at an airport hotel the day before we left. Not a lot of things were done, but not a lot of things were planned to be done. It was a pretty successful trip really. The only regret was not getting time to see friends, a quick drink on Friday afternoon with a couple of friends was it. We did get to celebrate my youngest sister’s birthday which was an added bonus.

I never get too excited about going to New Zealand, I love seeing family and friends and getting outside, but I have limited holiday to use each year and a list of a 1000 places I want to experience, If only I had the will and the courage to go to them. New Zealand was good this time though. El came along this time too, and I am enjoying seeing her develop a relationship with my family. Not planning on doing a lot meant getting to spend more time doing family things, seeing my grandson and son, hanging out with mum and my Auckland based sister. yeah, it was a good trip.

Highlights;

The weather was nice for virtually the whole time we were away, including Brisbane and Singapore. There was the odd shower but not one that impacted or made us change our plans at all. This has to be a first for me on a holiday.

Spending some time with my son and grandson. Mason is four now, we have spent time together before so he is quite familiar with me. He was a lot of fun to spend time with, very engaging and engaged. His family do not want him on social media, so just a sneaky photo of him unwrapping the Lego we bought him for Christmas.

I got to go for a swim in the sea with Mason and my son, Aiden. We drove up to Orewa Beach, just north of the city for a swim and an ice cream. I love the sea, and do not get to swim in it that much, though perhaps moving to St Leonards will fix that. The sea was remarkably warm, it has been a warm summer in NZ. There were no gasps when the water hit the goolies !!

The first time El and I came to Auckland we took a day trip to Waiheke Island, about 40 minutes away from the city in the Hauraki Gulf, and one of its many wineries. We had a fabulous lunch (and a few glasses of wine), and it was one of the highlights of that visit. We decided to repeat the trip this year, taking my sister as a birthday gift. Like the visit four or so years ago we had magnificent weather, another fabulous lunch (and a few glasses of wine). Waiheke is certainly an Auckland region gem, and one I highly recommend taking a day to visit.

There was a nice view of the iconicRangitoto Island from the ferry.

A key part of a every visit I make is taking a drive up to Muriwai Beach with mum. Walking to the cliff tops over the gannet colony, looking back up Muriwai to the north and over the spot where we scattered dad’s ashes. Muriwai was always one of my most loved locations, made even more so now that dad is there to. It is not a maudlin trip, and we never talk about dad when we go, but it is always on my trip plan when I go back. It was a blustery Sunday, probably the worst weather of the trip, but the rain held off, eventually clearing to sun over lunch. There were a number of gannets nesting in the colony, and I managed to get a photo of a mother feeding a small fish to her chick, wishing, not for the first time, that I had a better camera on me.

We stopped for lunch at the very busy Hallertau Brewery on the way home. The food, wine and beer we had in NZ was fantastic, even the risotto I cooked one night at mums!

Mum and my sister, Sarah.

On the day of my sister’s birthday we (mum, El, my sister and I) went to the botanical gardens for a walk, where it did actually rain for a few seconds. I haven’t been here for decades, and while I am not really a plant person I really enjoyed walking round looking at things. You cannot really tell from my photography that I am not a plant person, as there are a lot of photos of plants, and here are some more!

I enjoyed New Zealand this time, more so than usual. I didn’t have expectations and I didn’t plan on trying to fill every minute and see as many people as possible. I was really jet lagged, so lots of early nights, and the occasional afternoon nap. I think I needed the rest. Not being able to work while I was away due to not be able to take work equipment out of the country really made a difference to.

For our last night we had decided to sleep in a hotel at the airport, primarily to avoid the morning traffic that could add stress to getting to the airport at 6:30. There is a mini-golf course nearby so Aiden and I decided to have a quick round. He thrashed me.

I can confess, and didnt mention it to him at the time. After sneaking off for a quick wee behind a bush in the carpark, I jumped over the low fence to get back in I took a tumble, landing heavily on  my shoulder. I was in pain for the last 9 holes. That was really why I lost !

Singapore next!

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Brisvegas.

Sunday 13 January 2019 – Brisbane, Australia.

I am going to strike while things are hot. Having just written my first post in over three months I am going to start and will aim to finish, this, a second.

When I was in New Zealand in May I committed to mum that we would come over for Christmas. Come October when I finally got around to booking tickets the intention and desire for Christmas was still there. I knew it was going to be expensive to fly either side of Christmas, but wow. It was a lot, a very large lot. Made infinitely more expensive and complex by our desire to go to Brisbane, then Auckland, finishing in Singapore. Our original thinking had also included a week in Japan, but we soon gave up on that idea. With added work restrictions on timing and duration I ended up having to call mum and tell her we could not afford to be there for Christmas, but would come over in early January. Which is what we did.

Fast forward to Friday 11 January, and we were finally off. British Airways to Hong Kong, then two hours later Qantas to Brisbane, Australia. Arriving at 6:00am on Sunday. We completely lost Saturday somewhere.

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We had 29 hours in Brisbane. A very quick trip, here to spend a little time with my son Dom and my granddaughter Cadence. Unfortunately things had conspired against us and Dom and his partner had to finish moving house this weekend. They were moving from south of the city to Murgon, a town three hours north. I wasn’t willing to make that drive after 27 hours of flying and little sleep, and then repeat the drive back to the hotel a little later.

It was convenient in the end, we met Dom in a park as they were passing through town, and I only had a short drive to make to get there. It was great to see Dom, his partner, Tabithe and their daughter Cadence again. Cadence was very shy this time, and was not very interactive, and very unhappy with me taking photos. She is two years old now, and more self aware. The move has been a bit disruptive for her, but she did enjoy the late Christmas present we brought over with us.

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After an hour or so with them in a quite warm park El and I drove back to the hotel and had an afternoon nap. We needed it. It was late afternoon when we arose. I had booked us in a hotel that was close to the Brisbane River, on the northern, city side. The South Bank is quite a popular tourist destination, similar to London’s version, there are numerous eating places and things to do, alongside a relaxing river side walk.

The sun sets really early in Brisbane, and with no daylight saving to extend the day, getting out for a walk early was important, I had a bit of a plan in mind and wanted to get the first part done in daylight. We walked through the botanical gardens (a recurring theme for the holiday), though just along the riverside path. Thankfully it was a bit cooler on the riverside and in the late afternoon. Crossing over on the Goodwill Bridge we stopped at the first restaurant we came across that had a free outside table. Even though we had been eating pretty much non-stop since we left London, I was still hungry!

After eating my bodyweight for the second or third time in the last two days and supping a couple of very nice Australian wines we set off into the early evening dark for a walk along the river.

It is a very busy place, and there were a lot of walkers, riders and electric scooter users wizzing their way along the path. Even the beach and pool was still busy.

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The most bizarre thing on the South Bank is this Nepalese Peace Pagoda. It was assembled in 1988 for the World Expo after having all its component pieces made in Nepal. It is quite lovely.

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Crossing back over the river we walked back through the downtown area, past all the closed shops and surprisingly closed restaurants. It was a Sunday night I guess, and we certainly did not need any more food. Back at the hotel we stopped for a glass of wine in the river side bistro, before heading off for more sleep. Day one of our holiday was complete.

Monday morning we were up early, I think I woke up about 3:30 am. Lying in bed until a reasonable time to get up. Yesterday we had found quite a nice cafe up the road so went there for breakfast. 

Our flight to Auckland was at 13:00, but we headed to the airport at hotel check out time, got checked in early and waited for a third flight in three days. On our way to Auckland.

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hello world.

I have been staring at this blank screen for a while now; after days, weeks and months of staring at nothing, contemplating what to write after such a long break from the blog. It is not that I have not been up to much (I haven’t been up to too much), nor that I am too busy (I am too busy), and it is not even that I have lost interest (I have lost interest). It is a little of all those things, and probably a few other things I don’t want to acknowledge.

I logged into WordPress this morning and saw that my last post was 29 October 2018, over three months ago. The longest break since that first barely comprehensible scrawl made in 2011. Interestingly people still view posts. I am not sure if they ever stay once they start reading, and not many travel further than the page they land on, though occasionally someone will read a few pages which always pleases me. I just wish they would stop and say hello. Am I too negative all the time? Do I come across too curmudgeonly and anti-social?

I look back at posts every now and then and acknowledge that I was a bit negative at times on my travels, even though I thoroughly enjoyed it and look back very fondly on them. I have twice recently considered going off for a few weeks of backpacking, El was even encouraging me to do so. However, I seem to have hit a wall of fear and doubt, and it all just seemed too hard to contemplate, let alone do. One day.

I best start with a quick update on things since October…

  • The photography exhibition seemed to go well, I didn’t make any use of the exposure and did not sell anything, though I wasn’t planning on selling. I received good feedback and am planning something else for later in the year.
  • The apartment purchase in St Leonards-on-Sea is still slowly grinding along, tectonic plate like. I feel it is getting closer, though the seller and/or their solicitor hardly seem the most motivated. I haven’t been down to St Leonards this year yet, but will visit  soon. I still like it  and am looking forward to calling this little seaside part of England, home. Or at least a second home.
  • Work. I still go each day, still get stressed and feel overworked and unloved. Trying to sort that out at the moment. I have some ideas, one of which is leaving.
  • New Zealand. El and I had a two week trip back to NZ, spending a day in Brisbane visiting my son, his partner and my granddaughter, eight days in Auckland with family finishing with four days in Singapore relaxing. I aim to do a couple of posts on the trip, maybe even something this afternoon as I seem to be on a roll.
  • New Zealand two. When we were in NZ I spent some time reading on how pensions now work. I have over 30 years of living and working in NZ and wanted to make sure that I could still claim my pension, or have some of that obligation transferred to the UK, assuming we are still living there when it comes to retirement. What I read was that I may have to live for five years in NZ from the age of 50 to be eligible. As I am now 56, this was quite shocking news to me (and El too). In the two weeks we have been back in the UK we have done a little bit of research and it may not be quite the case. What it did do is seed the thought more firmly in our heads about going to live in NZ for a while. Watch this space for news…
  • Photography. I have pretty much done none since October. I took a few pictures on our holiday which was good. I did seriously contemplate replacing the 5d Mk1 with another ‘proper’ (expensive) camera. Though what I was really doing was finding a way out my creative slump and lack of interest. It wasn’t the answer. Though I am going to replace the little camera as the scratches on the lenses are ruining too many shots now.
  • Photography two. I have a new project, yay Smile

Wow, that was a bit longer than I expected, all I needed to do was start, and what I need to now is stop. Find an appropriate photo to attach to this and post it. Then start on a holiday post or two.

St Leonards-on-Sea.

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My photography exhibition!

Thursday 11 October 2018 – Walthamstow.

I am going to say I was very nervous about tonight, an opening viewing of an exhibition of photos I was showing at Buhler and Co, a lovely cafe just down the road from where I live. I was worrying that no one would turn up, that something stupid would happen; like a picture would fall off the wall. Stupid worries, but worries none the less.

This exhibition had a rather short gestation; it was not even in my thoughts three months ago. I have been seeing a career coach off and on over the past 18 months. Among the many things we have talked about is that a lack of confidence holds me back from doing some of things I think I would like to do or try.

This includes my photography. I know I take good pictures, I am often told I take good pictures; however, I still doubt my ability. Apart from posting photos as part of this blog, and putting some on IG I do not do anything with them. I have been taking photos for a very long time, but have few prints and do not display them anywhere.

There is a biannual art trail where I live, and two months ago my career coach, Nat, challenged me to organise an exhibition for the next event, in June 2019. I visited Buhler and Co to ask them if they had wall space I could use next June, but those walls were already booked. What they did offer me was the space to use for two months from October 9th. Oops, that is a bit close!

I really struggled with choosing a theme for the exhibition, and I had already decided that I was going to print some big images. I didn’t want to display a stream of small images. Less and big was my plan. If I was going to put things on a wall I may as well put big things on a wall.

There were a few weeks of stress, consternation, worry, doubt and all the other emotions I have when trying to do some creative, Here are the 11 images I chose to display.

The first four are all printed at 50*50cm.

The next seven were printed at A1, the biggest prints I have ever made.

There was a lot of work, and not a little expense in getting this set up. I had a lot of help from friends and of course some magnificent support from El who kept me sane and kept my confidence up as I want through the various phases of doubt and frustration.

The opening evening went really well, there were a lot more people there than I expected, pretty much everyone I invited turned up, along with a couple of people I did not know. It was a good night, and left quite late, but very happy.

Posted in Blog, Britain, England | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Roa @ Stolen Space Gallery

Thursday 20 September 2018 – London

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Posted in Blog, Britain, England, Street Art | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments