Greensted Church. The world’s oldest wooden church.

Saturday 21 July 2018 – Chipping Ongar, Essex.

I love the names of some English Villages. ‘Chipping Ongar’, it couldn’t be anywhere else but England. It is not too far from home, just north of the M25 motorway into rural Essex.

Though we didn’t go into the village, our destination for this drive was Greensted Church in the countryside outside.

Greensted Church is the oldest wooden church in the world and one of the oldest wooden buildings still standing in Europe. The wooden walls date back about 1000 years, the brick work from the 16th century and the white wooden tower from the 17th.

It is a beautiful building.

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A walk along the River Lea

Saturday 14 June 2018 – Walthamstow to Liverpool St.

I am pretty sure I start every post off with the fact that I have been very busy and I am way behind with writing and photo-editing. I can at least say this time that I am up to date with photo-editing. However, I am now six weeks behind in post writing, with five left to do to just catch up, and now I have two big things on that are consuming all my non-working hours.

After a small amount of negotiation I have an offer agreed on a flat purchase in St Leonards-on-Sea, on the East Sussex coast.  I have taken a few trips down there over the past couple of months, more on those trips in a later post. Naturally I am very happy with this. Though of course it will mean I will have a lot less money.

I also have an exhibition of photography coming up in October. My favourite local cafe are giving me their walls for two months and I am going to show 13 photos, they will be big photos!

That is the future dealt with, now back to the past!

It was one of those nice Saturdays back in July, the middle of the longest and hottest summer for many a year. There was a record out I wanted to buy and I thought it would be a good idea to take the 8 mile trip to Brick Lane on foot. Most of the journey is quite nice, along the River Lea and canal tow paths.

I also wanted to get some images I could use for the exhibition, some close up shots of grasses and plants as I passed through Walthamstow Marshes, the Middlesex Filterbeds and along the Lea itself.

So here they all are!

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It took me three and a bit hours to get to Rough Trade, and they didn’t have the record I wanted. I was in no way disappointed, it had been a great walk.

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The Epping Forest Project, Phase 7 – July.

July was a bit of a wash out. I only made it to the forest once. El and I took a bery enjoyable walk from home to Chingford, following the bike trails I would normally ride.

I took a few photos but they are all terrible, so here is the only one I saved. A face in a tree.

Hopefully August will be more inspiring.

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Fear of the Walking Dead.

Sunday 01 July 2018 – Xelardo, Lliria, Valencia, Spain.

Acting innocent, trying to blend, look like a local or a regular visitor, someone possibly walking, in my case, an imaginary dog, I wait for the lone car to pass down this quiet, dusty road. As soon as it is out of sight, with pounding heart and sweat pouring (it is Spain and really hot) I scramble through the hole in the fence and into a scene from The Walking Dead.

Welcome to Camping Aguas de Lliria. Contentiously and rapidly abandoned in 2009, the site is a ghostly reminder of what was a large campground with some permanent residents. I am not sure how long it was open but this website suggests it was running for at least 15 years before the council at, very short notice, closed it down for supposedly not having a permit when it was originally built, locking residents and holiday makers out.

On reading the website I was shocked to see the place had been closed for so long. There is lots of rubbish and some vandalism, but nothing that says almost 10 years have passed. Perhaps its isolation and the dry weather has allowed for some level of preservation? We will see.

Before venturing to the campground I wanted to check the abandoned house I visited last year. There was an old stuffed chair in one of its three rooms and I hoped it was still lurking, lumpen, in the corner. I approached cautiously again, a little nervous. I didn’t want to run into the owner. I now know this is private property and being semi-rural the likelihood is no one speaks English. My Spanish is worse than poor, even the words I do know come out sounding mangled, dulled by my flat New Zealand accent. Unintelligible.

Approaching, I saw a stuffed chair outside the front door, someone had tried to burn it, stuffing had been ripped, but it had been resilient to their attempts. I was pleased, this was not the end I wanted for my chair. I wanted a long slow gradual decay, perhaps to be found by future generations, still lurking, lumpen in its corner.

Passing inside the door, over broken glass and other detritus I discovered the outside chair must have been the twin of mine, for there mine was still lurking, still lumpy and tatty; but mostly complete. Unburnt, unmoved, still dignified. Still in the corner where I first found it.

People have been here since I last came, there is more damage to the interior, more rubbish on the ground, dead fires, empty and smashed bottles. Signs of small parties, youthful nights, exuberance and stupidity. Sometimes I miss those days.

I start to head in the direction of the campsite, discovering I am not too far from a road, and a house. A car comes down the road and stops. I am standing on the edge of a ploughed field, sort of behind a small scrubby tree, a man gets out of the car, though just walks to, and then in to, the driveway of the house. Phew. I beat a hasty retreat, back over the slight ridge, past the house and up a small rocky trail to some old gates that I know, from last year, lead to land that is open and used by locals to walk their dogs.

I feel more certain of my legitimacy and stop to take some photos of the grass and these weird little plants that I like the look of, but have no idea what they are called.

Soon I am walking down the road, along the fence line of the campsite, looking for entry points; maybe rapid exit points if needed later. I find a way in, a gap big enough to get through quickly. Just as I approach, a car comes down the road. I start to walk purposefully, innocently, waving to the driver as he passes, slowing immediately he is gone. I wait till the car is out of sight, then turn back and quickly enter into the campground, into a scene from The Walking Dead, thankfully without the flesh eating zombies.

It immediately feels strange, as if crossing through that chain link fence has crossed me into another less joyful dimension. It ‘feels’ quiet, deserted. Both are good things, hopefully reality will match the feeling and I will not come across anyone or anything that presents a danger.

I get the camera out of my bag, I have bought the old 5d with a 50mm lens, nothing fancy, no big heavy lenses and nothing that would get caught on the fence if I have to make a hurried exit. There is a surprisingly large amount of stuff, the result of the rapid departure of the people who lived here.

There has been some vandalism, though I am surprised at the condition after nine or so years of desertion, there are even some windows that have not been smashed. Though there is a ton of rubbish strewn about.

I can see people have dossed/camped or hidden away here over the years, small fire pits are scattered here and there. I am guessing the council or the original owners used to sweep through here in the early days. Numerous holes in the fence have been repaired, but more have been made and I spotted three or four as I walked down the road, keeping an eye on escape points.

I am still a bit nervous, I worry about wild dogs, and wilder people. The image of disturbed zombies does not leave my mind. I know these things do not exist, but…

I do not wander too far in, I am not that courageous. The place is massive, far bigger than it looks from outside, a large portion has been burnt down, though none of the fixed dwellings look fire damaged. There is some irony to be found.

After thirty minutes of quiet skulking I decide to leave. Heading back to the hole I came in, I walk up the road to the chained entrance. Stopping to take a photo through the gate. A final reminder that my fears a zombie apocalypse had occurred as I crossed dimensions were not entirely unfounded. It was good to be back in the real world again. I think.

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Was this the best paella?

Tuesday July 3 2018 – Valencia, Spain.

This is my fourth, and Eleanor’s third visit to Valencia, staying with friends Paula and Paul in their holiday home on the edge of Lliria, a small town at the far end of one of the Metro lines. We are all here for three nights, with not a lot planned apart from lunch on Sunday with an old work mate. My idea for this trip was to relax, drink cheap lager and wine in and round the pool, eat some food and do some planning, photo editing and writing. I also wanted to make a sneaky visit to the abandoned camp ground nearby.

In hindsight I think the trip was pretty good, but in the immediate aftermath I considered it a bit of a failure. I didn’t really achieve any planning, photo editing or do much writing. That was probably good, I needed to make some time to relax. The reason for the lack of photo editing was the cable for the portable hard drive that contains all my photos disappeared somewhere between security at Stansted Airport and the arrival hall in Valencia. To say I was pissed off would be an understatement. It did remind me that I HAVE to do a backup of that drive when I get home and have a replacement cable…

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Sunday we met ex-work-mate, Fran, for lunch. Fran is Valencian, returning from London earlier this year. He has long recommended Casa Carmela for the best paella in town and was keen to introduce us to it, and we were keen to accept the offer.

It is a scorcher of a day, 30 degrees plus, with the clearest sky and not a breath of breeze to speak of. A lot of Valencians were hitting the beach, and it was a very crowded tram ride from the station to the sea front; but so nice to travel by tram rather than car or foot.

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We arrived early and took the opportunity to walk along the beach front, Casa Carmela being at the far end of the beach from the tram stop. The beach was very busy, I should have bought swimming gear with me, I cannot remember the last time I was in the sea, I miss it.

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The walk along the promenade is nice, too hot to be thoroughly enjoyable. Being able to stop for a very cold San Miguel at the far end was a fine reward and made walking in the heat almost bearable. Stupidly (or arrogantly) I did not put any sun screen on my face before we left and I could feel my skin tightening and burning as we walked. There was not a lot of shade till the beach bar. Lesson possibly learned.

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Lunch at Casa Carmela was everything I had been led to believe. We had an extraordinary local white wine and the bbqed squid was just exceptional, I have never had squid that nice, nor expect to again, unless we come back. However, we were there for the paella, not the squid nor the wine, and we were not let down. The seafood paella was massive, unbelievably we all ate till bursting, yet there was still some left at the end. It was as good as Fran had said.

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There was a tiny, tiny space left after the paella, even the dessert stomach had been used up. Fran suggested a cafe bombon to wrap up the perfect Valencian meal. Cafe Bombon originated in Valencia and is a European version of coffee found all over SE Asia, a shot of espresso mixed with sweetened condensed milk. I absolutely loved this drink on my travels in Asia and did not know existed in Europe. It was perfect and a fine end to a very enjoyable feasting experience.

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After lunch we piled into Fran’s car and he took us to a  nearby horcheta bar, horcheta is a non-alcoholic drink made from tiger nut and is a regional speciality. I have had it before and it is very nice, like a mildly sweet milk shake, and over ice was very welcome on such a hot day. The bar had the TV on and a good crowd there for the Spain v Russia world cup game, the other reason for going there. Surprisingly, and sadly Spain lost, so it was a quiet crowd that left after the game.

Late that afternoon I went on a small tour of discovery in the abandoned campground I came across last time we visited. Camping Aguas De Lliria was shut down by the council in 2009 and my next post I will explore it and the nearby fields more closely.

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The following day we did not do much, lots of reading, some eating, swimming, lounging etc.

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Perhaps some watching of football on the telly. The sunset was verging, on but was not quite, spectacular.

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I have seen spectacular here before, and good as this sunset was, it was not up to that standard.

Tuesday was all about packing, cleaning, waiting for a delayed flight back to London and then home.

The answer was yes, that was the best paella….

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The Epping Forest Project, Phase 6 – June.

The Epping Forest Project, Phase 6 – June.

Another crazy month! June passed in a blur of activity and as I sit here writing at the end of July, June just seems so long ago. This year is disappearing too quickly. Some days I find myself mentally looking for the stop button so I can put a temporary halt to life and get some rest, though I can never find the damn thing. As I look forward to August and further beyond I see no respite, I am going to have to plan a weekend of NOTHING. Sticking to it will be the hard part.

A few months ago I started seeing a career coach, Nat. I was looking for advice on how I can transition from my IT job into something different, something I enjoy, can make a basic living from and can carry into those first years of ‘retirement’. I have really enjoyed seeing Nat and over time the sessions have morphed into discussions on a range of things. The last couple have looked at what holds me back from doing things, and tactics to challenge those barriers. One of thing has been a reluctance to do anything with my photography. Another is an inability to take photos when I feel people are watching and perhaps judging me. I miss taking a lot of photos if I feel that I look like some sort of weirdo taking photos of inane or uninteresting objects or scenes. Stupid I know, but this is something that goes on in my head pretty much every time I go out with my camera.

Both of those things are around bravery and confidence. I am not, not have very much of either. I know I did a lot of travelling back when this blog started, that took a massive leap in confidence. Looking back it was still very safe travelling, not that I am disrespecting my travelling and what I achieved with it. It was life changing. Some may say that continuing to write this blog is a challenge to the reluctance to put myself out there. However the blog is pretty anonymous, I would be surprised if many people I know actually know this blog exists. I I do not share the blog widely, rarely is it linked to in FB or Twitter.

I have taken a couple of steps to challenge this lack of confidence. Firstly I talked to Buhler and Co, our local cafe about holding an exhibition there during the e17 Art Trail during June 2019. The art trail is a big event, lots of artists and lots of venues, it has been running for years and is quite popular. Sadly, they already have an artist booked for next year, but they have asked me if I would like to show some photos for two months starting in October. Two months to plan, shoot, frame and hang a number of photos for three walls in a very busy cafe. No challenge then!

Secondly, I decided for the June month of my photo project I would go to the busiest part of Epping Forest, suck up my reluctance, my lack of confidence and my avoidance of any potential embarrassment and take photos of what I wanted, how I wanted and where I wanted.

It was an interesting session, this area of the forest is not the most photogenic in my opinion, and summer is not great for forest photography – it is all too green. 

I was again experimenting with intentional camera movement photography (ICM). Continuing to develop my style within this genre. I was initially proposing using some of these in this exhibition and the cafe were happy with this idea.

I am still pondering using  ICM images, but am tending towards doing a series of close up photos of grass and the plants within them. I have been taking a lot of photos like this lately. This is one of those areas where I feel uncomfortable. Standing in a field with my camera shoved into the grass,  ‘What will people be thinking’ is what goes through my head, not ‘wow this grass is amazing to take photos of’.

I loved this tree and its fungal growth. Sadly none of the photos I took of the fungus were interesting or good enough to share. But I liked the face in the tree and the jaunty cap. I spent a lot of time on this tree, using the tripod, different lenses, and avoiding looking at the people looking at me as they walked past.

It was good to challenge my own fear. I just need to do it every time I pick up a camera!

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Wax Chattels @ Lock Tavern

Tuesday 26 June 2018 – Wax Chattels @ Camden Lock.

I am a massive fan of Auckland, by way of Dunedin, band Die! Die! Die!. I believe they are the band I have seen the most often over the 38 years I have been going to gigs. It is fortunate that they come to London pretty regularly. I have seen them three times since I have been here, only missing their last gig here as I was too sick to go.

Wax Chattels are a young Auckland band, also a three piece and clearly influenced by Die! Die! DieI, though with one massive difference; Wax Chattels have keyboards rather guitar as the lead instrument. They have been described as a “guitarless guitar band”, an apt, and frankly brilliant description for them.

Wax Chattels released an LP a few weeks ago and have come to London for a couple of release shows. The first was on Saturday night, however El and I were already at a gig, seeing the mighty My Bloody Valentine, a band I have always wanted to see, but have never had the chance to before. This was My Bloody Valentine’s first UK show in over five years, so I wasn’t going to miss that.

Fortunately there was a second gig, on a Tuesday night in Camden. It is not my favourite night to go out, but at least Camden is not a major pain to get too, and it would be a reasonably early one. Plus, it was free.

This was my third gig in six days, definitely a record for me.

I got to the Lock Tavern in Camden pretty early, far too early in fact and had to wait for most of an hour for the support band, Careers, to come on. They were Ok, a bit derivative, a bit London indie pop. Un-offensive but not spectacular, there were a couple of good tracks and I was entertained enough. The light was really poor, and the stage was between two doors to an open balcony holding a private party and the daylight just streamed in. None of my photos were any good sadly.

There was a thirty minute wait for Wax Chattels to get their gear ready and come on stage, it was still pretty light outside, but the light was slightly better. I wasn’t really banking on a full room, so didn’t get myself a spot for taking photos until it was too late. I grabbed a few shots from one side of the stage before moving to the other. I took the big camera and the 50mm lens, but even shooting wide open it was still a bit too dark for the low top-end ISO this old beast of a camera has.

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They were really good, great songs, and good performances, nice to see from a young band playing a free gig to a small, albeit full room. Highlights for me were Concrete, Shrinkage (the best Die Die Die song not written by Die Die Die) and In my mouth, a song I do not particularly like on the LP. It made more sense live.

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This is my favourite image from the night.

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I really enjoyed the show, and did buy the LP from the merch stand. Hopefully they will be back in London soon. I would definitely pay money to see them again. This is my favourite image from the night.

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Mogwai @ Royal Festival Hall.

Thursday 21 June 2018 – Mogwai @ Royal Festival Hall.

Confession time. I came late to the Mogwai party, not knowingly hearing them until the mid-2000s when instrumental post-rock started to dominate my music listening, which it still does. Even then Mogwai were not my first pick, New Zealand groups Sora Shima and Jakob, Japan’s Mono and Texans Explosions in the Sky were usually first to the turntable or CD player. Post-rock really helped get me through the endless journeys I took on my travels. Many of those hours spent in planes, trains, buses and trucks were passed listening to long, winding instrumental tracks.

I am not quite sure when this changed; when Mogwai became not just my favourite post-rock band, but my favourite band of all and any genre; sometime after arriving in the UK I guess. This will be the third time we have seen them.

When Robert Smith (singer, guitarist, songwriter and main man from The Cure, another long time favourite group) was announced as the curator of 2018’s Southbank Meltdown Festival I was excitedly looking forward to the acts he would announce to play over the course of the festival’s two weeks. He does have very good taste, but wow, what a line up, exceeded my expectations! If I was wealthy enough and could take two weeks out of work I could have gone to at least one gig each night, so many great acts were playing. However I am not wealthy, nor able to take two weeks holiday, so I restricted myself to booking two shows. Mogwai and My Bloody Valentine. It was a tense couple of hours when pre-release tickets went on sale, hovering over the refresh button on my computer; even cancelling a meeting at work just to be sure. But I did get the tickets I wanted; and My Bloody Valentine sold out almost immediately. The online queuing was well worth it.

I love the Royal Festival Hall, a fully seated venue with excellent acoustics it is perfect for Mogwai’s instrumental loud-quiet sonic assault. With loads of bars and bathrooms the venue does not seem rushed or crowded and with a long veranda overlooking the South Bank and the River Thames, getting there early for pre-show glass of wine is no chore either.

Kathryn Joseph was the support act, I have not heard her before. A two piece set of piano, drums and voice. It was OK, I warmed to her style towards the end but it was not really my cup of tea.

Mogwai came on stage exactly on time, to a loud roar from the capacity crowd. Opening the 90 minute set with the title track of their new LP ‘Every Country’s Sun; co-incidentally, my new favourite track. A cracking start!

Playing material from the full range of their 22 year existence, they finished an outstanding first set with ‘Mogwai fear Satan’, another favourite track and one from their first LP. The early tracks are a lot more guitar based than the later material which incorporate more electronics, glitchey noises and samples along with piano. Their music maintains a certain core ethic, they always sound like Mogwai, though the sound is shifting and dynamic, developing with each new LP. There are even the occasional vocal tracks on albums these days.

After a short intermission they appeared back on stage, with original drummer Martin Bulloch taking the seat The ‘encore’ was excellent, concluding with a fabulous 15 minute of ‘My father, my king’, coincidentally was my previous favourite track. It all made me feel very very happy!

We were a few rows back from the front so not in the best seats for taking photos. The light show was amazing, as good as the music deserved. I would love to get a press pass one day and be able to take all the photos I want using the big old DSLR. These photos just do not do justice to how amazing the lighting was.

Third time, and I think this was the best set yet. They are a fabulous band, one that very easily transcends both record and live performance , not something that is always accomplished.

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The beautifully brutal.

Sunday 03 June 2018 – London.

When I started thinking on this post it was going to comprise a number of semi random images taken during June. However, I could not put together much of a thread for the images beyond ‘All taken in June 2018’, and well, some of them were a bit crap. This post thread has now reduced to images taken on a single walk.

On and off over the past three years I have been visiting towns and villages outside of London, looking for somewhere that I would want to live, and that I can afford to live in. There have not been many. Long term readers (are there any? If you are one “Hello, and thanks ” 🙂 ) will know that I was looking quite seriously at Folkestone back in early 2016. Sadly Folkestone was ruled out with the MEP (Member of the European Parliament) election, where the right wing UKIP party won a number of seats in the European Parliament; and then Brexit happened. Folkestone and its surrounding areas were pretty Brexity, this was something I was not happy with so I subsequently wrote Folkestone off as somewhere I wanted to live.  Hastings, however has come back into the picture, and more of that in near-future post.

Anyway, that was a long preamble, and almost, but not quite pointless. Much as I am trying to find somewhere else to live part time, it has to be said that that has nothing to do with the city I live in. I do actually love London, and do not ever see myself not being in or near the city. There is so much to love about this city, access to concerts, to galleries, its history; and its architecture. Today El and I visit two of those things.

Tate Modern has a couple of really interesting exhibitions on at the moment. As members we get to visit these exhibitions for ‘free’, more importantly we get to visit them an hour before the public. This is crucial as sometimes these special exhibitions can be packed, even with a £16+ per person entry. The Picasso 1932 exhibition was very busy even before the public viewing, I am very glad we got in there early! There was some interesting work there, but with a single year focus the broad range of his work was not on display, it was not the best Picasso event I have been to.

The second exhibition we visited was ‘Shape of Light – 100 years of photography and abstract art’ combining painting, photography, and other light manipulation techniques. I will admit to being a bit disappointed, mainly because I misunderstood the subject. It was OK though. This was the first time I have been to an exhibition where photography was allowed, not sure if this is a new thing, or just for that particular show. I liked the idea and took a couple of pictures. I particularly liked this doorway…

This final room was by far my favourite, and seems to be the subject of a number of Instragram posts. A wonderful moving abstract piece by Maya Rochat.

The other great thing about having Tate membership is access to the various members lounges for food and drink, in relative peace. There is a great members lounge on the 8th floor of the new wing, so taking a detour via the free exhibitions we took to the members lounge. This piece ‘Babel’ by Cildo Meireles is quite amazing, and quite loud. At 4 metres(at a guess) tall and with hundreds of radios tuned to different stations it is quite disconcerting; and very aptly named.

This is Terry, according to his Starbucks coffee. I always try to take a picture in this section of the members lounge, the view down this narrow and beautifully lit passage is one of my favourite bits of the building.

After coffee and cake we decided to take a walk from one key London location for brutalist architecture to another; South Bank to The Barbican. The new wing of the museum is amazing, in fact architecturally, both buildings are amazing, I am going to have to come here on my own one day and spend some just taking photos of the building itself. I love it. A lot.

There are a lot of solid, angular, concrete buildings between the Tate and Festival Hall, including this block of flats that used to be on my courier run when I lived here in the 1980s.

The Barbican Estate was built between the 1960s and 1980s on old WWII bomb sites, there is still building going on around the fringes of the estate as, with new buildings being finished on London Wall. I love the Barbican and the area around it, my cousin lived in one of the towers in the 1980s and I visited a couple of times, the view from her flat was magnificent.

The Barbican Estate is the classic example of 60s brutalist architecture. Being a private estate with relatively (and very) wealthy residents, means it is well maintained and its fine sharp, industrial looks are not marred by decay.

I have been here a few times before, usually with EL or other friends, not usually with much of an opportunity to use the camera. I grabbed a few photos today, trying to catch the lovely late spring flowers against the sharp angles and dirty brown and grey concrete.

We stopped for a drink and very nice lunch in the Barbican Centre before wandering slowly to Liverpool St Station and on to home. A really nice end to a great morning.

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A quick trip ‘Up North’

Wednesday 13 June 2018 – Newcastle.

Not a brown ale in sight. The ten minute walk from station to hotel took me past two bars and nothing; no advertising, no ale drinkers, not even the sad relic of a shattered brown bottle in the gutter. So far, Newcastle has been a disappointment.

My view of Newcastle has always been tainted; a city built for and populated by ‘Newkey Brown’ drinkers, dour, gruff/rough northerners, black and white football shirt wearing anti-football thugs, haters of southern softies, the metropolitan liberal elite from London; me for instance.

As is usually the case I was wrong, very wrong. I really enjoyed the 24 hours I spent in Newcastle, it is friendly, welcoming and a lovely city. This sticker I found near the hotel I was staying in didn’t help my original thoughts. I am sure there was some ironic humour there.

I am up in Newcastle on my first official visit to another Cabinet Office location (have I mentioned where I work before? ) There is a large government hub on the outskirts and the team there are doing some interesting development work. It seemed like to a good opportunity to visit them, see what they are doing; and hopefully dispel my ideas of the city.

But first, York.

El and I visited York three years ago (bloody hell, I cannot believe it was that long ago!) and absolutely loved it. One of my key vendors is based in York and with a big project coming up I took the opportunity to visit York as the Newcastle train stopped there. I am very aware that as a civil servant, everything I do, including my salary, is paid for by the citizens of the UK. Taking trips to visit vendors when there is a cost involved is not something I do, though there will be future savings to made after this trip though, so all is good.

I didn’t have a lot of time in York after meeting the vendor. They did buy me lunch, and I had a glass of wine, all under the £25 declaration limit  🙂 There was just time for a short loop walk back to the station. Passing the fort, the minster, and the old cit walls on the way.

The few times we have been to Edinburgh we have passed through Newcastle station and over the River Tyne and the great view of the other magnificent Tyne bridges. I have liked the look of the station and was looking forward to finally being able to get off the train. I was not disappointed; it is a really nice station.

Arriving in town in the late afternoon I went straight to the hotel to dump my bag, passing the above sticker on the way. I was meeting one of my London colleagues for a walk around town before having a beer and burger planning session ahead of tomorrow’s full day of meetings.

Not having a huge amount of time, nor a plan, we started in the centre of town and walked down hill towards the river, passing the now shut, castle on the way. I didn’t know there was a castle here, and know nothing about it all, it was castle-like. Nothing wrong with that at all.

Newcastle is well known for the bridges that cross the River Tyne, individually they are excellent bridges, but the sum of the parts does exceed the components and together they are wonderful, different engineers, different styles, colours and construction. Lovely. There has been massive investment in the river front area and it is a really nice place to stroll, and not full of bars and restaurants for the tourist trade like so many other river and sea front cities. Being able to walk unimpeded by construction and ‘private’ property is a massive bonus, something Sydney could possibly learn from.

Walking back in to the centre of town we found somewhere to eat over a couple of beers, and still no Newcastle Brown Ale in sight.

I was hoping for a little time off after meetings the following day, but in the end it was a rush to the station, though naturally the train back to London was late.

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