The Clash, London Calling @ The Museum of London

19 January 2020 – London.

Opening with a twice repeated ratatat burst of snare drum, followed by quick fire down and up strum of overdriven distorted six string and bass guitars, mimicking the sound of that famous weapon; Tommy Gun burst into the ear drums of the 17 year old me. The music, the words, the voice; this was everything that had been missing in music. Working class, political punk rock snarl at its finest.

My memory is poor, but I do remember this song being played two weeks in a row on the Barry Jenkin’s hosted Radio with Pictures TV show in New Zealand. I am pretty sure no other song was treated with such reverence. It is a good song, my favourite song by The Clash; and they wrote a lot of very good songs.

Tommy Gun was the the first track on ‘Give ‘em enough rope’, The Clash’s second LP. It was released in 1978 and was the first LP I bought with my own money, I am guessing I bought it very early in 1979. I am imagining that I had the first album on a cassette, taped off a friends older brother’s record. I didn’t buy that first LP until much later. Cassettes worked just as well for my teenage years (and teenage ears); plus I could play cassettes on my walkman or the small single speaker boombox I had in the early 80s. Music portability was as important then as it is now.

The third album, London Calling, was released in 1979 and the song and video for the title track were on fairly high rotate, at least on the TV and radio channels aimed at me and my tastes. I loved the song, though recently went off it due to over playing. I bought the album at the time, but was pretty disappointed with it not being as ‘punk’ as I wanted, I never really got over that. Eventually going off The Clash.

All my records were stolen in a burglary in 1981, and I didn’t replace London Calling, though I did buy the first two LPs again, then sold them with most of my collection in 1985 when I moved to England for the first time. Replacing them yet again between then and now, and now I can only find ‘Give ‘em enough rope’, and the single.

The Museum of London is holding a small, free exhibition celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of London Calling. Black Market Clash was another small exhibition in Soho of The Clash memorabilia that El and I visited back in 2013. It had a slightly different focus to this one so it was good to see some different things. The famous bass from the London Calling album cover was at both. As it should be, the finest album cover of all time. Apparently Pennie Smith, the photographer who took this photo in New York did not want them to use it for the cover as it is too out of focus! It is one of the best rock photos ever; capturing the energy, the anger, the frustration of that show.

Every few months our Walthamstow social group do some sort of day time social activity, usually involving an exhibition, a walk and some food and/or drink. Today eleven of us caught the train to Liverpool St and walked to the museum via the Barbican. I love the Barbican, though haven’t been there for a good explore for quite a quite a while. I will have to go back again.

The exhibition was good; busy, with a lot of middle aged men and women walking down memory lane. As I mentioned above it was not big, there were three guitars, some photos, clothing, a couple of screens, some smaller memorabilia, notebooks and lyric sheets.

Even though it is a long way from my favourite The Clash LP I very much enjoyed the exhibits, and it was great checking them out with a group of friends who all had similar, youthful tastes in music.

The exhibition displayed a very good map of Clash London, places they hung out, rehearsed, gigged and recorded. I discovered that the London Calling rehearsal studio from 1978 was in a building I walk past every day I go to work. The now ‘London Dioceses House’ (rather ironic) at 36 Caulston St in Pimlico. 

After a coffee and a long chat we left the museum of London with half of us going to a food hall off Brick Lane for lunch. I haven’t been to Brick Lane for ages, I could not believe how many people were there. It was a really nice day so I guess it was a good day to be out. And it is tourist central these days.

We walked back to Liverpool St via a passage in the back of one of the office blocks that runs alongside the station. Another place to come back to with the camera…

 

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Christmas in St Leonards

20 December 2019 – St Leonards.

In a departure from the norm El and I decided to have Christmas Day at the flat, on our own. We both had the week off work and wanted to get away for some, if not all of that time. We gave plenty of notice to El’s sons and they arranged to have Christmas Day with their partners family, so we had ‘family’ Christmas the Saturday before and on Sunday morning I packed the car and drove down to the flat. El followed me down on the train later that day. She is a season ticket holder at Tottenham Hotspur, and wasn’t going to miss a home game. I got the flat in order, while she had fun at the football.

This was going to be a week of doing not a lot; reading books, watching TV, cooking, eating too much and drinking almost too much, all balanced with the occasional walk. I drove down as we had a car load of stuff;  Christmas presents for each other (we broke all the buying each other presents rules),  a load of records to listen to and a lot of food and drink to be consumed over the week. I wanted to do as little supermarket shopping while we there as possible.

The first thing we did on Monday morning was walk over to Hastings. I wanted to get the supermarket shopping done as early as possible, while the head was in the right space for hitting a supermarket on the busiest day of the year. It was busy, very busy, but we survived and it was not as awful as it could have been. The good thing was all the food shopping for the week was done.

I took photos on the way.

Christmas day was a stunner, from memory the best weather I have seen on a Christmas day since I have been in London. An almost cloudless sky and very little wind, it was too good to be sat inside all day.

After breakfast we went for a walk along the sea front, along with pretty much everyone else who was in St Leonards and Hastings. The rest of the day was spent either preparing or eating food. I have never prepared Christmas lunch before, though very much enjoyed it. It was the most complex meal I have made with a vegetable wellington, and two different types of vegetable; followed by a form of Eton Mess. The Wellington was great, though I was a little disappointed that the brussell sprout dish ended up being a bit cold by the time I had finished serving. I like working in my small kitchen. Lots of TV, wine and brandy followed. It was a good day.

I was really surprised to see surfers on out on our Boxing Day walk. There are always paddle boarders out, but I am pretty sure this is the first time I have seen surfers. It is probably the first time I have seen a decent even, though small, break. We ate a lot again…

The following day we walked the opposite way, towards Bexhill, but only going as far as Bulverhythe beach before turning back. I took the Polaroid along. I am enjoying playing with this camera, I am never quite sure what is going to come out, which makes it quite interesting. Not sure why I started writing names on the Polaroids, I won’t be doing it again.

As we were walking on the beach I was telling El about hagstones and the hagstone curse.  A hagstone is a stone with a natural hole in it, they are of course, fairly uncommon. Aleister Crowley, the (in)famous occultist who died in Hastings in 1947 once cursed the town saying, and I massively paraphrase, ‘No-one can fully leave Hastings unless they have found a hagstone on the beach, and if they do leave they will end up coming back’. I guess I will be able to leave Hastings, as unbelievably, minutes after talking about this I found one.

I am starting to collect photographs of the ever changing beach and the way the sea changes the pebbles. I really like how the beach is slowly burying the beach furniture. The irony of the sign is beyond humorous.

Having driven down from London for a change it was good to have the use of the car to drive over to Pevensey Bay for a walk, and a visit to the castle; which was closed. I will have to go back one day when it is open, and will then write a bit about it then. Working on the assumption that I will keep maintaining this blog. The castle was pretty cool, mostly Norman in origin; it was built soon after William invaded England in 1066.

I liked the church as well.

There were a few cracking sunsets during the week and I am glad I took the big camera with the big lens, as well as the small camera and the Polaroid. So many cameras!

It was a really good week, and it was a real shame to go back to London to go back to work after the week was over.

It was good to have Christmas at the flat!

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Walking home.

14 December 2019 – Epping Forest.

Standing in the kitchen at the flat in St Leonards, I am cooking my new favourite quick comfort food; chorizo and white bean stew, looking at the photos I took almost a month ago in the forest and wondering how and where to start writing. Wondering if I should start writing at all. The photos were not inspired and I am not feeling them or any of the words needed to describe the walk. Perhaps it was too long ago and the joy felt while walking has left me. Perhaps it is dry January. Perhaps I am just bored with it all; the photography, writing and blogging.

I have been trying to find some photographic direction, trying a few different things and been found wanting each time. Maybe I should take a break from photography and writing for a while; maybe I will finish these last few posts and call it quits. The blog lasted longer than I expected and I am not exactly using it for anything more than recording my activities, which have long shifted from the original purpose of the blog; travel. It is not like many would miss me. Enough whining.

Let’s get this done, and see what tomorrow brings.

Soon after my list visit to the forest in November, when El and I walked and took loads of photos of the range of weird and wonderful mushrooms, I bought a second hand Canon 5d Mk2 body to replace the Mk1 I broke in May. I had yet to use the camera for anything more than a couple of test shots so today was its first outing. The main reason for going out was to walk, not take photos, so I didn’t take a tripod. This decision  was partly responsible for the dissatisfaction with the photographic output.

I caught the train to Chingford, and walked home, mostly via a variety of forest paths. It was a glorious day for walking; bright sun, not too cold and not too hot, but a bit of a breeze. Not a good day for photos in a forest. I had a few photographic ideas I wanted to play with, but the conditions and location were not really right for them, possibly contributing to the malaise I feel right now.

I started off on Chingford Plain, walking up to the lodge where I stopped for coffee and cake; carb loading before the walk home.

Warren Pond has some lovely old trees, cleared of undergrowth and saplings, it is a nice open area to start a walk, though the light was incredibly harsh. Too harsh even for some high-key photography which I was hoping to experiment with again, not having played with the technique for quite some time. The trees make up for anything lacking in my ability to take photos of them.

There was smatterings of colour other than green in the trees on the way down to Whitehall Plain. There has been a lot of rain lately and the ground was wet, muddy and occasionally slippery underfoot. I am glad I wore my old trail running shoes with good grip.

Crossing over Whitehall Rd I picked up the River Ching. When I walked through here in summer it was so dry it was non-existent in parts, bone dry. I have never seen it this high in the six or so years I have been walking or riding this strip of forest. Admittedly this has not been a lot lately.

There was even a tiny waterfall and I could hear the water moving, that is unusual!

This section of the walk home passes by the edge of Woodford Golf Club, normally I steer clear and stay under the trees along the side of the river, but today there was no-one on the course. I walked up one of the fairways and took my favourite photo from the walk.

Crossing over Chingford Lane, I entered the section of forest that contains Highams Park Lake. Most of the walk from Chingford is under tree cover, until I get to Forest Rd, which unsurprisingly is not in the forest, it is lined on both sides by houses. The council, or Epping Forest, have put up a load of signs, presumably to make walking to and in the forest less challenging. Not that it is challenging at all; if you don’t mind getting a little misplaced on occasion.

One of my favourite trees is in the part of the forest and today I was fortunate to find a squirrel in it, though the squirrel did not pose for long.

I was really surprised at how few people were out walking round the lake, normally this place is quite busy, maybe everyone is out Christmas shopping? I was not complaining as I walk for the solitude, and the forest is one of very few places I am not playing music through headphones. The lake was looking good under this, almost, clear blue sky.

Crossing over Charter Rd, and then Oak Hill I enter Walthamstow Forest and the last section under the trees before the last mile of road walking home. I like this section of woodland, but have yet to fully explore it. It is not big, but it is on the way to somewhere else, so I only ever pass through. I promised that when it next snows I will come here with the camera and take some photos, before going up to the main forest.

The path crossing over the A406, the dreaded North Circular, though it was flowing nicely today.

Just over the bridge is a narrow strip of trees separating the houses on Beacontree Ave from the motorway, and that is where the tree covered, reasonably quiet and sheltered from the wind walk finishes. The rest is just a downhill schlep along Forest Rd to home. Passing the lovely Peoples Republic of Waltham Forest town hall building.

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Nottingham

08 December 2019 – Nottingham.

Much like Mandalay, Zanzibar and Timbuktu, Nottingham is a city that fascinated me as a child. Even though we lived in the UK until I was eleven, we never had a family trip there. Sherwood Forest and its nearby city, are names that evoke adventure, swashbuckling tales of daring do, good v evil and a hero who can save us all.

Unlike Mandalay, Zanzibar and Timbuktu, I have never had a burning desire to visit Nottingham.  Maybe because it is one of those places we could visit ‘any day’; if we chose to.  El’s eldest son, Joe is completing his PhD at Nottingham and has been living there for a few years, so we did make a quick trip there three ago. Driving a car load of stuff, dropping it at his flat, having a cup of coffee and then driving back to London soon after, not time for site seeing.

Last night, in preparation for this visit, I watched the latest version of the Robin Hood story. I am fairly sure the movie on Netflix was heavily panned, and I could understand why, it was pretty bad. However, I enjoyed it. Maybe it was the red wine, but I liked the weird mix of game style video, CGI effects, and the dystopian look of a story set in the 13th century. It looked good, and well, I am a sucker for a swashbuckling hero.

The train journey from St Pancras to Nottingham is pretty quick, much quicker than I expected at 90 minutes. Headphones on and book reading, we don’t really do long chats on the train, and I need to block out the inane natter of the people around me.  This is my first East Midlands Railway experience and I enjoyed it, the train was comfortable and clean and the loos worked, we were on time; what’s not to like.

I took a few photos out of the window on the way.

We were facing backwards, which is not my preference as I like to see what is coming, and whether I want to take a photo of it. At East Midland Parkway station the train stops next to Ratcliffe Power Station with its massive cooling towers. I would loved to have seen more of this industrial landscape. So alien to my suburban lifestyle.

We arrived in Nottingham soon after midday and took a tram out to where Joe and his girlfriend live. I loved the tram; a day pass was £4 and we used it quite a few times, easily enough for maximum value. We were also really lucky with timing the trams, only waiting more than a minute once on Saturday, I wish I had the same luck with trains.

We had a quick coffee with Joe before he had to go off to the theatre for a matinee show. Joe is very active in the Nottingham theatre scene, and is directing a play at the New Theatre, which we will go to tonight. After he had gone we caught the tram back into central Nottingham. It was very busy as it is Christmas market time.

We stopped for a late lunch / early dinner at a very nice Thai place before spending a couple of hours vacantly wandering the streets around the city centre. I mostly liked it, there are a lot of independent, shops, bars and cafes and a very good Rough Trade record shop. It did appear that some genius, probably working for the council in the 1960s/70s, decided it would be great idea to knock down all the old buildings and create a city centre of hideous modern structures, some of which are now in turn, being knocked down. The centre did seem a bit architecturally disjointed. Though I liked this little haven, and if it was not so cold could have been tempted to sit outside with a drink.

There was a distinct lack of street art, maybe we were in the wrong area, but even around Rough Trade which seemed to be the ‘hipster’ section, there was not much. I did like these cats on the wall, but it was outside a cat place, so was probably more marketing than art. Cool though.

I wanted to see the castle and the Robin Hood statue, so following a street sign we made our way in that direction. The castle was a major disappointment as it is under refurbishment, though we could see the scaffolding from the tram on the way in so it was not a surprise, just a shame.

However, the Robin Hood statue by the front entrance was there for all to see, so I took two photos to make up for the lack of photos of the castle.

Our final stop for the day was the Contemporary Art Gallery. They are showing a Bauhaus exhibition, it is the 100th anniversary of the founding of the movement. The coolest thing about the exhibition was it was called ‘Still Undead’, which is a reference to Bauhaus’ (the band, not the art movement) song ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, which was released by Small Wonder Records, who were based in Walthamstow. There is a nice synchronicity in that. There is a small Bauhaus exhibition at the William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park, near the end of our road in Walthamstow, though they missed the opportunity to reference the band.

We both very much liked the exhibition; it is small, with only a few items on display, but is very good. What I did find was my now new favourite photograph of all time, and from a photographer I have not previously heard of. Florence Henri learn photography at the Bauhaus soon after arriving as a painter in 1927. This photograph of Jeanne Lanvin was taken in 1929 and is lovely.

The last room of the exhibition was dedicated to artists whose work owed a debt to the Bauhaus school, there was quite a focus on record covers, video and design. There was a even a record player and a bunch of vinyl from artists such as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Joy Division and New Order. The covers for these records were designed by Peter Saville who was heavily influenced by the design principles of the Bauhaus movement, and integral part of the aesthetic of the bands. There was also a small TV showing the video of Bela Lugosi’s Dead, which I thought was pretty cool. It is a great song!

It was dark, though still only 5pm, when we left the gallery and caught the tram back to Joe’s place.

We had a rest for an hour before donning winter woollies again and catching another tram to the university, and the Nottingham New Theatre for Joe’s play; ‘The Wonderful World of Dissocia’, by Anthony Neilson. It was a very strange play, though I did enjoy it. I also enjoyed the bar in the theatre where a double nip of spiced rum was £2.50. It was cold out, I needed the warmth!

Sunday morning we hung about the house, reading and, for me, catching up on dozing. El, Joe and I went into central Nottingham for lunch at mid-day and Joe introduced us to Coco Tang, a nightclub/cocktail bar by night and a fabulous modern Vietnamese restaurant by day. The food was excellent and the décor of the place was just my style, slightly grungy, a little bit faux European Vietnam. I absolutely loved it and would go back.

After lunch we said farewell to Joe and then El and I took a tour of the Old City Caves. A small number of the hundreds of caves and tunnels under Nottingham, the tour was OK, the guide was brilliant, but we were part of a large group and we didn’t really see that much or venture very deep.

Once the tour was over we took a slow stroll back to the station to take the train back to London and home.

I liked Nottingham, it was a busy, buzzing place, a bit too busy with it being two weekends before Christmas, I suspect there is plenty going on at other times as well. We were lucky with the weather; it was cold, though the rain stayed away, at least while we were outside, so we got to walk around aimlessly. Something I quite like to do.

The train back to St Pancras was a good one, full, but on time and not too painful. I am eternally happy for having headphones. We will be back here at St Pancras in a couple of weeks for our annual Christmas dinner at the St Pancras hotel with our friends Paula and Paul. I am very much looking forward to that!

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The Arboria Luminarium

24 November 2019 – Arboria Luminaria, Lloyd Park, Walthamstow.

I have had a very good run of being able to spend Friday working at the flat, as well as being able to do a couple of Thursdays as well. For the past couple of months I have been there once a week, which is a lot more than I expected. I am quite happy with this. I will get back next weekend, but that will be it until Christmas when we have the week off and will spend most of it in St Leonards.

El and I both worked there on Friday, even managing to be at the same table for the entire day and being quite productive. It was the start of a nice weekend.

We had planned to meet some friends back in Walthamstow at lunch time on Sunday so we were on the 9:53 train from St Leonards and back in London with enough time for me to nip down to the supermarket for a couple of provisions.

On the way I took some photos of the trees of Lime Tree Walk outside Walthamstow’s mall. There is a plan to massively expand the mall and to add at least two very tall residential towers on top. This plan has doomed the lime trees in the square by the front of the mall. This has upset a lot of people, us included. These are beautiful trees, and provide a lovely shaded walk from the mall to the station in the summer. Less so as winter approaches!

Our friends came round soon after we got home and sorted and we all walked to nearby Lloyd Park, home of the wonderful William Morris Gallery, to see Arboria.

I am not quite sure how to describe Arboria, a luminarium designed and built by Architects of Air. I will quote some words from their literature. “ARBORIA is inspired by the beauty of natural geometry and by Islamic architecture. It features winding passages of small domes inspired by the repetitious forms found in the bazaars of Iran.” Does that help ?

It is a series of large ‘tents’ sealed and pressurised to maintain shape, the tents are joined by a series of passages and made from a coloured material that allows light and shadow to play inside. It was free and very family orientated, there was a huge queue and a lot of kids. We had a priority booking which meant we skipped the queue, thankfully. This was a perfect place for kids to be running about and having fun, and I did not mind them one little bit.

After taking our shoes off we enter through one door into an ‘airlock’, before entering through a second door into the pressurised Green Dome. It was pretty wow in there. Amazing light, hot air is pumped in causing a small amount of humid mist, it was not very obvious inside, but photos show fuzziness around heads.

There were a few people in there, impossible to get a photo without people, but it wasn’t over busy, and people, especially the young kids running through the tunnels, made it more enjoyable.

There are three domes, red, green and main, and three trees, red, green and blue, all connected by short passages. I had taken the camera and was very glad I did!

Red Trees. I liked the nooks for sitting in.

Main Dome

Red Dome.

We both took photos of each other.

After an enjoyable 30 minutes or so we left the luminarium and wandered up the road to the Collab for vege burgers and beer. A great end to a very good day.

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Hey Colossus Supported by Mullholland @ The Piper, St Leonards.

06 November 2019 – Hey Colossus with Mullholland @ The Piper

Hey Colossus are a bit of an odd beast; a sort of noise/droney/experimental/metal with a bit of pop, band. They are impossible to accurately describe, and each album is a little different to the previous. They are resolutely low-key. I had not heard of them in NZ, yet they have been around since the early noughties, releasing records and touring. They released a new LP, ‘Four Bibles’ in May, and it sits very high up on my album of the year list. I was pleasantly surprised that they were playing a gig in St Leonards, and for a paltry £5.50. OK it was a Wednesday, but now I have discovered I can work from a Hastings office a Wednesday is not as tricky as it could be.

After a busy day at work in London I had a fairly stressful drive down to the flat. It was as busy as you would expect for rush hour. I am not a big fan of driving in the dark, off the main highways the roads are crap and I don’t drive often enough now to be totally comfortable on the road. I am becoming one of those slow and overly cautious drivers I hated being stuck behind when I was in NZ. I am seeing the other side now.

Arriving at the flat not long before the gig started, I dumped the load of stuff I brought down, and headed to the pub almost immediately. Rushing  didn’t help the stress levels. I really like The Piper, it is a new pub, having opened since I have been in St Leonards. They have bands, most of which I like, the music in the pub is often really good, and they have a really good house red at a decent price. [*note; 3 weeks later, the good house red at a decent price seems to have ended.]

Hey Colossus were supported by Mullholland, a young instrumental duo from the Channel Islands, now living in Brighton, I am guessing there is not much of a music scene on Jersey. I thought they were brilliant, they have released a couple of albums, which I had listened to at work, but they were very much a live band. I took a few photos, and am looking forward to hearing the next, pending, record.

Hey Colossus are a six piece guitar, bass and drum band. A bit too big for the stage at The Piper, and too big for the 20mm lens on the GX800 (basically a 50mm lens on a normal camera). I could not fit all of them in a single shot. This is the first gig on a European tour, they are from London and the south west, so I guess this was on the way to the ferry to France. There had been no sound check, it was at times a total wall of noise, at others the sound was crisp and clean. Either way it was pretty damn good. The vocalist was standing directly under that hideous purple spot light, so I was forced to convert these to black and white.

When they hit the stage I am fairly sure they was more band members than audience, something I was pretty upset about, though it did fill out a little once the the music started. I know this is small town coastal England, Brexit country, small ‘c’ conservative, and yes Hey Colossus are never going to be Ed fucking Sheeran, but they deserved a much bigger crowd than this. They are innovative, noisy, talented, though to be fair I doubt they gave a shit. Small audiences are what they are used to I guess.

I was mesmerised by the vocalist, he does not look like his voice. Maybe it was the ‘tache.

I loved them. My ears less so, they were still humming well after I got to work on Thursday.

I posted  couple of photos on Instagram on Thursday night and Mullholland asked if they could use them, which was very nice. My photos on their Instagram feed get more likes than any photos on my feed!

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Fungi

Sunday 03 November 2019 – Epping Forest.

Sunday turned out to be a much better day than Saturday, no stormy weather, no high wind, no rain and very little cloud. It was almost lovely. El and I took the opportunity the weather presented us to take the car up to Chingford and go for an autumnal walk in Epping Forest, hoping to see some colour changing in the trees.

We didn’t really see a lot of tree colour, very early into our walk we took an interest in the fungi that was growing in the damp conditions. This is prime fungi season, though there is a complete picking ban in the forest, which has led to there being a vast amount of fungi, of all different shapes and shades. Wonderful. I took a lot of photos.

We did a fairly short loop, probably only a couple of miles, but it took a good couple of hours to complete, mainly because we walked stooped low, looking at and photographing mushrooms. The variety of colour was quite something.

Though occasional photos of trees were taken.

This log with a massive family of small mushrooms was he highlight for me.

I had brought the new Lumix GX800 camera with me with a fixed 20mm lens. It worked well enough, but looking at the images it was not focusing exactly as I thought on all occasions which was a little disappointing, but overall I was happy with what I captured. This is my favourite photo from the walk.

Once I had uploaded the photos to my laptop and started to edit them in Lightroom I realised how difficult a touch screen is to focus with any precision, especially with stubby fingers. This was the moment I realised that I was not going to be truly happy with this nice little Lumix GX800 camera. It is a nice bit of kit, has great low light and pretty good tone, but it is not as crisp and it just doesn’t ‘feel’ right. I went on to eBay and bought myself a second hand Canon 5d Mk2 body to replace the Mk1 I broke. Looking at its Wikipedia entry I see it was announced on my birthday, in 2008. It is hardly a new camera, but it is for me. I am very excited about it. I just need to get a new 50mm lens now 🙂

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A stormy sea front walk.

31 October 2019 – St Leonards.

I had arranged to meet the electrician at the flat on Friday. After trying to secure a date for him to do quite a list of small tasks, I reduced the list just one urgent thing, install a Hive central heating controller. The Hive allows me to turn on the heating remotely using my phone. I need this, the flat is cold now that autumn has sent in. We want to spend some winter time here, planning to do Christmas, and the last thing we want is to turn up of an evening and have a freezing cold flat. It works well, I love technology. Sometimes!

I came down on the train after work on Thursday, it was a nice night so I walked the 30 minutes to Hastings old town. There was a day of the dead thing happening, but it didn’t happen too much in front of me; and I was not engaged enough to get any decent photos. At least there was something happening though, good signs for a healthy nightlife in a fairly deprived coastal town.

I did take a few photos in Bottle Alley as I walked there and back home again.

I worked from the flat on Friday, I get a lot done when I am working here, no distractions, and importantly I am close to coffee and the stereo. It was a very productive day. I will do more of them. I walked down to the supermarket at lunch time, via St Leonards Park, which is round the corner from the flat and is a scenic and largely car free way to get to the seafront.

I have started working on a photo project to document the ever shifting beach along this stretch between St Leonards and Hastings. Every time I walk along here it is somehow different. I love how the beach furniture is slowly disappearing into the stones. It was not the best of days, a good one to be working inside.

On Saturday I was returning to London, the weather was really bad, with high winds and at times horizontal rain. High tide was as at 14:30 and looked to be a big one soI decided to stay until then and get down to the sea front and try and get some photos of the sea crashing on the wall. I also wanted to finally get to see what the sea is like is when it strong enough to push stones over the lower boardwalk. My original plan was to walk to the station via the sea front, but as high tide approached the rain was very heavy and I did not fancy 90 minutes on the train soaking wet. I just went for a walk instead. I got soaked.

The sea was pretty wild, the wind was howling, probably one of the strongest I have experienced. I walked down to the beach straight down the hill from the flat, near the Azure bar. There are often stones on the path here, so it was a place to see some of the waves coming right up the beach.

Almost immediately I was experiencing the waves, luckily they were quite slow and I did not get sea wet, though I did have to make a few sudden runs to jump onto a seat or step. I did get very rain wet though. Less fun, but just as cold.

I see how the stones get there now…

I walked along to Goat Ledge Cafe, which was open and had a few visitors. I took a warming coffee, though I was tempted to sit with a glass of red and watch the sea through the window, but I was pretty wet and didn’t want to sit down for long. There were a surprising number of people out considering the conditions. Though I guess they were so bad that they were almost good.

Leaving Goat Ledge I walked to the nearby shelter of Bottle Alley, the wind was blasting through but at least I was free of the rain.

I stopped to take photos in one of the bays, and BOOM, a massive wave burst against the side, I was leaping back and snapping the shutter at the same time, expecting to get a complete drenching. Not the best quality photo but the timing was good!

What actually came through was a mere trickle of the wall of water that hit sea wall. Luckily.

Thankfully I stayed completely untouched, though it was a good reminder of how strong and unpredictable the sea can be. I waited for a few minutes to see if another boomer came though, before walking along to the pier end of Bottle Alley. I wanted to get a bit closer as waves were breaking over the end of the pier.

Annoyingly I only had a 20mm lens on the GX800, the effective equivalent of the 50mm on the big camera. Not the best for close up photography when it comes to wild seas, but good enough for the closer images.

I was hoping to get some shots of the sea breaking onto the sea wall at the end of the pier. The beach is really close to the wall at this point, so I was expecting some decent wave action, and I was not disappointed at all.

There were a few others taking photos, or just watching this magnificent wind blown sea crashing on to the land, none of us get wet when this wave came to say hello, much closer than the last one!

I was wiser after that one, so the next was less of a surprise for me.

I have taken a number of photos using the pillars of Bottle Alley as a frame, today was such a good day to use them to show off that lovely wild sea.

It was getting to be time to go home, it had stopped raining, so worth taking the walk back to the flat, get changed and get back to the station before the next wave of heavy, cold and horizontal rain arrived.

I walked back along the front, the path was reasonably dry in most places, but past the slight bend in the beach just before Azure it was really wet, ankle deep in parts and I was lucky to avoid wet feet, finally giving up and taking some steps to the upper boardwalk.

Now knowing what the sea looks like when the beach stones are pushed up on the path, and seeing another wall of rain coming, I turned up the hill and walked home. Missing the downpour by seconds.

It was fabulous out there today!

I have since bought a replacement big camera. Finally acknowledging to myself the Canon 5d was an absolute gem. After two years of thinking about upgrading the mk1, and 6 months since I dropped it, I have now picked up a second hand Mk2. No way could I afford the £2400 Mk5!

I am looking forward to using it.

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Kingsdown and St Margarets Bay, Kent.

13 October 2019 – YHA Weekend, the south Kent Coast.

Our Walthamstow social group has been holding a weekend away for many years, well before I came on the scene. These are family affairs with 20 or 30 people or all ages attending. This is the fourth year that El and I have gone, and these weekends have appeared in past posts. The events are held in Youth Hostel Assocation (YHA) or similar properties, often in off-the-beaten-track locations. This year we were staying in a big old hostel building in Ringwould, just up the coast and slightly inland from Dover. I am guessing there was about 25 of us, including the ‘kids’, the youngest are all at university, so maybe kids is not quite right, maybe youf is more apt. Everyone was of drinking age, and there was a lot of drinking.

I have recently become a director of the residents association for the block where my flat is. The AGM was on Friday night so I worked from the flat during the day, attending the meeting in the early evening before joining El who had come down to join me after work.

The Saturday activity at the YHA weekender is a bike ride, as El doesn’t ride we didn’t rush up the coast from St Leonards to Ringwould. We eventually arranged to meet some other non-riders for lunch in a pub in the small coastal Kent village of Kingsdown.

I severely under-estimated how long it would take to drive from the flat, thinking it was going to be an hour or so. It took close to two hours, and not just because of bad traffic, it was a lot further than I expected. Apparently maps would have me this, lesson learned. I was very tempted to stop on the way and take some photos; it was quite gloomy out, lots of drizzle and low cloud. It would have been a great day to visit Dungeness, a place I had just finished reading a book about. However, we had committed to meeting friends for lunch, so I carried on. I finally conceded we were going to be very late so we rang out friends and found their deadline had changed so they could not wait for us any longer than they had. I then stopped and took this photo of the pylons half shrouded in cloud, my favourite of the photos I have taken on the Polaroid. These cameras are made for a ghostly bleak environment.

Even though our friends had left we chose to visit Kingsdown regardless, it is very close to where we are staying and had a pub that looked like a nice spot for lunch. The Zetland Arms was mentioned in another book I had recently finished reading and as it was right on the beach I thought it might make for some good photo opportunities. It did. It was also a great pub, with a very good pint of red ale, a friendly vibe, and a difficult to choose from excellent menu. We both had fish chowder and it was delicious.

I immediately liked Kingsdown, it is a small village nestled in a narrow strip between the sea and the cliffs, and it will not exist when the sea level rises. Off the main road the ‘streets’ are pebble, like the beach. The line between the beach, the roads and gardens is a blurred, marked by fences and chains. After heavy rain the ‘road’ was full of luckily, not deep puddles.  Its permanence seems quite temporary.

Kingsdown sits between the northern end of the white cliffs of Dover and Walmer/Deal. It is not on any tourist trail, maybe with the exception of the Zetland Arms and its great view and menu. Camera and Polaroid.

After lunch we took a very quick walk around, and I took some pictures on both the Polaroid and the digital cameras. I really like this place, and I love this stretch of coast for its not quite barrenness, it’s almost isolation and it’s almost bleakness.

After our late lunch and the brief photographic stroll we drove the six minutes to the YHA and let ourselves in, everyone else was still out. Once settled I had a glass of wine; the less said about the evening the better! Sunday morning was slow, very slow.

Once packed up we all drove to St Margarets in Cliffe, another village one Kent coast. Just south of Kingsdown, between there and Dover. The weather continued to be poor, not cold, but windy, damp and miserable. I have been here before, a couple of years ago when El and I did a week long tour of the south coast; trying to find the perfect location for me to buy a flat. Not that we were looking at St Margaret’s Bay, there is nothing here, but it does have a view of some white cliffs, which is what we were came here for back then, as now.

We had a brief walk, and stare at the sea, I took a couple more photos before we got in the car and I drove us back to Walthamstow.

Unpacking the car at home I managed to drop the Polaroid again, this time it was in \ bag, and juggling for house keys while carrying too many things I dropped the bag. The camera did not recover this time, and no longer works 😦

I was very angry and upset with myself, this was a gift from El, something I had wanted for a while and I had broken it inside five weeks. I was lucky that El was more forgiving. Thank you lovely xx

I have now bought a replacement, the same model and of similar vintage, thankfully they are reasonably common on eBay. I hope it works as well and as magically as the one El bought me.

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The Polaroid.

24 September 2019 – London and St Leonards.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A most excellent birthday present. xx

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

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