A short walk by the Lea.

Friday 11 June 2021 – London.

As I walked the tar-sealed path between the River Lea and the football fields of Hackney Marshes, shaded by oak and ash and poplar and willow, the most English of trees, my mind wandered off to the time I clambered down a rock and boulder strewn path in the Borneo jungle. On my own. The benefit of hindsight suggests it was not the smartest thing I have done, there was real potential for something to go terribly wrong. Obviously my walk this morning from Walthamstow to Stratford was not remotely the same, though it was the first time I have walked this particular path and it was the closest I have been to a walk in the forest for a long time. I am missing even the mildest of adventure.

I came up to London on the train after work yesterday and can’t believe how much hotter than St Leonards London is, it must be two or three degrees warmer, and with no cooling breeze. It was not a pleasant night and I had little sleep.

My second Covid-19 vaccination was this morning, and it was a process that went very smoothly. As I am sure I said after the last one, but well done to the NHS for making this easy and stress free. In three weeks I will be safer than I am now. Not that I feel particularly unsafe, we take care when we go out and will continue to do so, vaccination or not. England is a long way from being Covid free and we don’t want to even think about what would happen if we got sick before we leave for New Zealand.

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There was four hours until the train back home. As I needed to return some trousers I bought from the mall last time I was here I decided to walk to Stratford and get some exercise in. From the pharmacy where I was vaccinated the walk is almost entirely though parkland which made the decision an easy one.

There is a fantastic Roa mural just by the pharmacy on St James Street.

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I pass Walthamstow Wetlands on the way to the marshes (and the overbuilding of flats on Blackhorse Rd on the far side of the wetlands).

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We have walked the Wetlands and the marshes on numerous occasions over the past few years, and I’ve never seen the marshes so overgrown. I think the council is letting the grasses and wild flowers run rampant which I am mostly in favour of; there were a lot of bees and other insects buzzing about today.

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There has been some changes where the path passes under the railway line and a lot of scrub has been cleared, perhaps some of the scrubby trees were interfering with the trains? I am guessing the bike ran out of electricity and has been dumped here, it adds to the edgeland feel of marshes; even though they are not on the edge of anything at all.

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The River Lea splits into two near Lea Bridge Rd, into the natural River Lea and the man-made, Lea Navigation. We normally walk the Navigation, so today I chose to walk the river instead, it was slightly longer and I am guessing less busy than the main tow path. Soon after passing under Lea Bridge Road I came across a Phlegm painting I haven’t seen before, something which very much vindicated the path chosen.

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Crossing a short bridge the path follows the river for a couple of miles, thankfully mostly in the shade as it was warm and sunny and I had not thought to put sun screen on.

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It was a nice walk, quiet, but not deserted. I imagine tomorrow it will be busy, the Lea has become a destination for younger folk to party and dip in the cooling water on a hot day, like tomorrow will be. Polluted or not.

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IMG_0722I like the Lea, it is shallow, but wide, not fast flowing; it looks nice, like a proper small river. The tree lined banks place it anywhere in England, so it was easy to take myself out of the city. Looking at the pictures I took as sit here writing I can almost see myself in a jungle somewhere wild; but maybe not those trees can only be English!

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Past the marshes the path crosses under the A21 before entering (or not in my immediate vicinity) the Olympic Park area; a great legacy of the 2012 games.

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Eventually I found a way into the park near the velodrome, which just happens to be my favourite building in the park.

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The walk through the park to the big shopping mall is really pretty, lots of long grass and wild flowers everywhere, lovely. I really like how wildflowers have become a thing again in the past few years and local authorities are letting them flourish rather than mowing them lawn flat.

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I had intended to look for a shirt and some walking shoes while I was at the shops, but I was too hot and sticky to be trying on clothes, and I am sure the shop staff were appreciative of that decision. Once the trousers were returned (too small) I walked out the other end of the mall and caught the Jubilee Line to Southwark. Too many people.

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With 90 minutes to kill before the train back to St Leonards I decided to drop the pace I had set earlier and take a slow walk towards the station. The streets around the Thames were far busier than last time I was here and there are significantly more tourists. With road-work constricted footpaths it was a bit uncomfortable at times. I ducked into Temple to walk in peace.

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I love the Temple area, I often came here on a Sunday as it is virtually deserted with the office workers at home and there are few bars and cafes inside to attract the casual visitor. There were people about not many, and lots of scaffold which was a shame. Temple is the home of the London legal profession and most (all?) of the offices here are filled with legal chambers, some of them very old. It is a beautiful and under-rated section of old London.

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Back on The Strand I popped into Somerset House, another favourite London spot. Eleanor and I love the Herndandez and Wells cafe here; it made the best egg dishes in London and the coffee was always good. However, its gone and has been replaced by the Watch House, fortunately the coffee was equally as good and the sandwich I had for lunch was very nice. I didn’t notice eggs on the menu though, maybe when we get back?

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Lunch filled enough time that I only needed a gentle stroll to Charing Cross Station to get me there a few minutes before the train departed. I had planned on doing some writing on the train, but the journey was so bouncy I gave up and just enjoyed listening to music and reading a novel. A couple of weeks ago I dug out the Kobo ereader I bought ten years ago for my travels, I haven’t used it for a good five years, possibly more, and was surprised that after a quick charge it still worked as it had before. The genius of simplicity. This book reader does one thing, and it does it very well. For the book nerds I am reading Adam Hall’s 1968 novel ‘The Striker Portfolio’, the third in his very successful Quiller series, and I am enjoying it.

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Eleanor had been in Brighton meeting her son Joe for lunch, so I met her back at the station after I going home for a shower and a brief lie down. We popped into a pub for a glass of wine before grabbing some fish and chips and walking back up the hill to eat in front of the first game of the much delayed Euro 2020 football tournament. I was hoping for Turkey to beat Italy, but it was not too be.

I enjoyed my walk and am very keen to see as much as I can of old London as I can before we go to much newer New Zealand in 7 weeks time.

7 WEEKS!!! Where did the time go?

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New Zealand Music Month, 2009 Gig photos

Auckland 2009
New Zealand Music Month.

The second and final post for New Zealand music month.

For a few month across 2008 and 2009 I did some gig photography for an Auckland based website. In the end it just got too much and I could not sustain late nights taking photos as well as working a busy job and a family; albeit only one of the kids was at home by then. Looking at the dates of these photos it looks like I stopped in March and then did a couple more months in July and August. I did get to some great gigs, mainly by New Zealand bands; though I did get to see legendary English band Spiritualized.

DHDFDs,
Kings Arms, January.
I absolutely loved seeing these guys, completely bonkers, and they could play too.

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Set On End,
Somewhere, January.
Metalcore band from West Auckland who were good friends of my son Dom.

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X-Features,
Support for Spiritualized, Powerstation, January.

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Hasselhoff Experiment,
Cassette 9, February.

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Head Like a Hole,
Kings Arms, February.
Wellington’s Head Like a Hole were a must see gig when they first started coming to Auckland in the early 90s. Absolutely insane live.

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Lawrence Arabia,
Early evening gig in a Cafe on K’Rd, March.
I was contacted by the band after the photos went up and some were used in a print article in NZ Musician magazine. The only time any of my gig photos have made it into print.

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The Randoms,
Somewhere on Nelson St, July.

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Silhouette of the guitarist from Frayden,
Somewhere on Nelson St, July.

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Piece War,
Support for Shocking Pinks, Cassette 9, July.

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Shocking Pinks,
Cassette 9, July.

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Drab Doo Riffs
Cassette 9, July
Karl Steven was probably the most engaging live vocalist in NZ at the time, it was great watching him perform, I have a lot of photos.

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Brand New Math,
Support for Handsome Furs, Cassette 9, August.

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 And that was the end of my short-lived, unpaid career as a gig photographer. It was mostly fun, but also hard work. With such terrible public transport in Auckland, a lot of people drove into the city for gigs, which meant they were always on really late, often finishing at 2am, even mid week.  One of the (many) things I love about the UK is most gigs are done by 11pm, getting home early is something I very much appreciate.

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New Zealand Music Month, 2008 Gig photos.

Auckland 2008
New Zealand Music Month.

I have been a music fan since my teens and have had an interest in photography for almost as long, so it was inevitable that these two interests would collide. I bought my first digital SLR in late 2007 and though I didn’t go to many gigs in those days I did take my camera to the ones went to.

Bill Direen and the Builders
Masonic Tavern, Devonport, November 2007.

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Mint Chicks
Kings Arms, March 2007.

I loved the Mint Chicks!

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I can’t remember which photo I posted on the Flickr website that led to ‘A’ from the ‘website that shall not be named’ getting in contact with me to ask if I would do some gig work for the website, though I am pretty sure it was photos from the above Mint Chicks show. I did a couple of years of photography for him, but in the end it got too much and I had to stop. I couldn’t do two late nights a week and my immensely busy day job. Of course the gig photos were done for free, but I did get a photo pass.

As May is New Zealand music month, the images here are just the New Zealand bands I shot for the website. I only shot a small number of overseas acts, though I did get to see some good ones; Broken Social Scene, The Breeders, Spiritualised and Stiff Little Fingers being highlights.

So, here we go, gigs from 2008.

Shocking Pinks
Supporting The Clean, Kings Arms, January.

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Nick Harte, in the photo, is the Shocking Pinks, with band members roped in for gigs. This photo still gets used by him and is the photo on their Spotify page. I guess it is my most viewed image.

The Clean
Kings Arms, January.

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Surf City
Supporting Broken Social Scene, Kings Arms, February.

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The Bats
The Media Club, Christchurch, March.

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Tentacles Of Destruction
Helen Melville Hall, June.

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Kerretta
Supporting The Breeders, North Shore Centre, August.

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Sora Shima
Kings Arms, August.

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Cut of your hands
K’ Rd venue unknown, October.

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Anabys
Supporting Set on End, October.

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Set On End
Metal bar on Nelson St? Cannot remember the name, October.

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Spelling Mistakes
AK79 reunion shows, venue unknown, November.

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X-Features
AK79 reunion shows, venue unknown, November.

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Die! Die! Die!
Zen Bar, November.

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My favourite gig of that year.

Los Hories
Website 5 Birthday Gig, Cassette No 9, December.

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Princess Diana
Website 5 Birthday Gig, Cassette No 9, December.

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Trees Climbing Trees
The website 5 Birthday bash, Cassette No 9, December.

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Bemsha Swing
Holy Fuck Support, The Studio, December.

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Golden Axe
Holy Fuck Support, The Studio, December.

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The Conjurors
Ruby Suns Support, Kings Arms, December.

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Ruby Suns
Kings Arms, December.

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Cobra Khan
The Bronx support, Kings Arms, December.  

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It was a busy end to the year, but I loved all those gigs.

Posted in Auckland, Blog, Gigs, New Zealand | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Dungeness.

Saturday 24 April 2021 – Dungeness.

I find it hard to believe that there are (only) 97 days to go until we leave for Auckland. Some times it seems that departure day is so far away, yet other times it feels like there’s no time left at all. 97 days is a bit of a non-period to note; stuck between the newly important ‘100 days’ and the more useful three months. However, as I start typing, that is what the countdown says, and right now I am thinking ‘Wow, there is not a lot of time left.’ Most days I just wish time would hurry up and it would be July now. Is it normal to wish life away?

In unrelated, but interesting news, I entered a piece of flash fiction (in this case a story in under 250 words) into a competition last week. I have no expectation of getting any response other than the ‘thanks for your entry’ email I have already received, but it felt good to do it. This is the first time I have shared any fiction writing with anyone other than Eleanor and a couple of people who provided feedback on the short story I wrote; and still need to finish editing. When the competition closes at the end of May I will post the flash fiction.

Eleanor left for a week in Walthamstow this morning. After doing a few chores at home, (OK, I didn’t but I intended to; I went to the supermarket and wrote that last blog entry instead of painting the wall inside the wardrobe) I drove to Dungeness. I love the sparseness of Dungeness, and have become mildly obsessed with Prospect Cottage, the late Derek Jarman’s home, and it’s semi-famous garden. I used this book as inspiration for today’s photography; though I don’t claim to have managed anything as lovely as what can be found in those pages.

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This entire section of Kent coast is mostly barren, pebbly and marshy flood lands, a narrow ridge with houses is all that separates the sea from pouring inland and I expect that at some point later in my children’s lifetime the sea will claim this land and there will only be marsh and sea, maybe with the occasional chimney visible at low tide.

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It’s sunny and would be warm if there was not a biting cold wind blowing along the coast. I wrapped up warm, as did the seemingly million other people who decided to clog the roads with their dreadfully slow driving and head to the coast as well. Dungeness was as busy as I’ve ever seen it.

Parking outside Prospect Cottage I intended to spend some time here walking around and taking photos of the garden. Given the number of people this was a somewhat flawed plan, so I took a couple of pictures before leaving the family with the kids running around to do their thing and went for a walk on the more deserted beach.

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The nuclear power station perched ominously on the edge of Dungeness beach frequently comes up in Jarman’s diaries; he occasionally dreamed about it blowing up, but most often he refers to it as a quiet neighbour. One of the few interesting backdrops to a cottage on a pebble desert.

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It is a vast beach, though most of the photographically interesting stuff is around the small working fishing fleet. Much like Hastings, Dungeness’s fishing boats are beach launched; using old tractors, diggers and diesel powered winches to get the boats into and out of the water, there is nothing elegant, modern or renewable about beach-launched fishing.

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I am sure I have said it before in previous Dungeness posts, but I love this place. I love the bleakness and harshness of the environment; not much grows on those sun, wind and salt scorched pebbles. There is little sand; maybe some at low tide, this not a holiday-maker beach. Few people come here to sunbathe and swim; people come here to fish, to bird watch, to walk, to be alone; or like me, to voyeur at the boats, the rocks and the fishing cottages slowly being converted into luxury Air BnBs. Sadly it is becoming increasingly popular. I blame the Instagram generation, which includes me I guess.

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I walked a loop, taking some photos of the beach before going to one of the areas with a concentration of boats, tractors and the associated detritus that comes with working boats, before heading back to the cottage. On the subject of detritus; I was really surprised, and very disappointed at the amount of rubbish on the beach around the fishing boats, there was a lot of rope, wire, fishing line, plastic, all sorts of crap, all over the place. For people who should care about the sea and what lives in it they are rather cavalier about how they treat it.

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The natural world is wonderful, I love how over years, maybe decades; or maybe, just over a few weeks, the beach has created its own wave formation, replicating those of the sea. Like the sea these beach waves will be different, maybe not the next time I visit, but not long after.

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I spent some time around the boats and tractors; there are others taking photos as well so I was not alone, one chap I spoke to had a 1920/30s film camera and I would love to see what he was getting in this harsh light. I had been tempted, even before meeting this guy, to convert all the images from today to black and white, but have decided not to. The book has a good mix of both and it is still my guide to today. This environment would suit monochrome though, there are so many contrasts, visual and otherwise.

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A few photos were taken… Maybe I should buy a film camera?

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I walked back to Prospect Cottage. Mid-beach there are a number of platforms, foundations and blackened piles of wood and iron where old cottages, net or smoke huts once stood. Destroyed by nature, by accident or even deliberately? I have no idea. A part of me wishes everything be torched; leave the power station alone on the beach; a monument to the idea that nuclear was the way to go. Scorch the rest of the earth. The future beckons.

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There are bricks and tiles and twisted, rusted iron rebar lying around; my favourite find was this heavy chain; one end loose and the other connected to something in the stones. I have no idea what such heavy chain would be for? Sometimes it is best not to know, I am sure there are stories from here that would keep the sturdiest of us awake at night. I am not that sturdy. I walk on, I don’t want my mind imagining things more than it does already.

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An hour gone; the wind had not abated and it is getting colder (I cannot believe it is late April), there are fewer cars parked on the roadside so I walk back to Prospect Cottage; hoping that at least the families with small children would have buggered off somewhere warm, and I would have the garden more to myself.

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The wind is annoying. I had the tripod with me, though there was no point in getting it out the car. I rarely use it, I don’t care that much for technical perfection in my photography, though today I want to take close up images of things in the garden, and detail requires some sort of stability; my hands aren’t what they used to be. I am less concerned about windblown foliage, in my mind it adds to the scene, as long as the principal object is still.

The tripod remains in the car and I take slightly blurry photos; again. Though it is not yet the season for colour, and I have chosen to use black and white in some images, the  garden has plenty of colour, though muted variants of green dominate. In this environment the plants protect themselves with comformity, only the strong, or the wisest survives.

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I manage a good fifteen minutes taking photos in the garden, it is small to be fair, but I get frustrated by the wind, by other people (admittedly fewer than before) and by my lack of ability to see what I hoped to see. Though as I edit over the following week I am not unhappy with the images I made. I take few photos, usually only one of any single thing, so a good day out taking photos may only ever be 40 or 50 images; those rare days I take 100 are extraordinary. Today I took 76, about half in the garden, so a fairly prolific day by usual standards.

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It is completely the wrong time of year to be taking photos in a garden, especially one that has been scorched dry by salty winter winds, frost, lack of rain and a Covid enforced lack of gardening in a not yet opened ‘museum’ house. However, it is probably the last time I will get to come here before we go to Auckland. I like that it is still only in early spring re-growth and not in full summer bloom. It’s like it should be this time of year, a small semi-cultivated, managed oasis in what was, not that long ago, a desolate wind-swept pebble landscape; and if Jarman’s dreams of the power station melting down ever come true, then that is what it will return to.

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I am uncertain as to why I became mildly obsessed with Jarman’s Prospect Cottage. I am not a film buff and I have only seen one of his works, the punk film ‘Jubilee’. I have no burning desire to see other films either, and that includes ‘The Garden’ which was largely (fully?) shot in Dungeness.

I read his book Modern Nature at the start of the Covid outbreak last year. Initially, because I am interested in writing about nature and place and it is a classic of that genre, he is a good writer. However, the book also resonated due to the correlation with Jarman’s illness with AIDS and how that pandemic was reported in the 1980s, and the situation we found ourselves in with Covid. The panic, finger pointing and misinformation that surrounded AIDS was replicated here in those initial weeks of Covid, it was as if we had learnt nothing in the intervening years (we hadn’t).

In odd way, as well as finding this lack of progress rather depressing, I found comfort knowing there was a way through this pandemic; that others had been there and done that, and that tying oneself to nature and place played an important, balancing, part in recovery.

I look forward to visiting Prospect Cottage and Dungeness when we return to the UK, maybe the cottage will be open then, maybe not. The future is unknown.

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Walthamstow Forest.

Tuesday 6 April 2021 – Walthamstow.

Life has been getting on top of me in a small way over the past few weeks. It has been busy at work, and, along with organising things for New Zealand, plus day to day living in this semi-lockdown world we are still living in the UK, meant things were piling up in my head. I needed a break. To maximise use of Easter’s four days I took the week after off work, giving me a full 10 day break. By the time I returned to work I was feeling significantly better and I manged to achieve a few of the things that need to be done at home. Going back to work was, for a change, quite easy.

We’ve been spending Easter at Eleanor’s place in Walthamstow. There has been a lot of work done over the weekend with de-cluttering and moving things around to create more storage space. I have a lot more records than when we left for St Leonards 11 months ago, and they aren’t coming to Auckland with us, at least not yet. It was a good start, but there is still a way to go, but at least we now have a better understanding of the amount of storage available to us, and how much stuff we need to get rid of; records and books excluded, of course.

It’s Tuesday and Eleanor is working, so I took the camera for a walk. Primarily to find a new Phlegm piece near the forest, it was good to get back into even a small section of forest for the first time in months.

There are a couple of newish Phlegm pieces just off Beacontree Ave On and near one of the underpasses that takes you from the city to the forest; below the A406, the dreaded North Circular.

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Walthamstow Forest is not spectacular; it is a small section of forest that is connected by other small sections of forest all the way through to Epping Forest. I find it very cool that you can walk, or ride, from Walthamstow all the way to Epping without having to touch the road; except where you have to cross them.  This would give you about a five forest hour walk and the start is only 30 minutes or so from the centre of London (by train and then foot), amazing.  I wasn’t doing anything like that today, just a short walk; though perhaps I will when we move back here before we fly away. I definitely want to spend some time in the forest before we go.

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I didn’t take many photos, conditions for photography weren’t great and it isn’t exactly the most exciting section of the forest either, nor the most interesting time of year. To be truthful I really wasn’t feeling it, I rarely am when my head is full. It was very enjoyable being outside with the camera though, and that in itself was enough to perk spirits.

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I had a quick experiment with Intentional Camera Movement to create a couple of impressionist painter style photos. I have not done this for quite some time, though it was an area of photography I enjoyed playing with in the past. Silver birch trees are particualr favourites of mine for this style of photography.

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I wanted to see if there was anything interesting painted on the walls of the passages that pass under the motorway and the main roads around the ‘Waterworks’ Roundabout. I also needed to be back on the other side of the A406 for the walk home, so looped back this way rather than going back the way I came. It looks like the council have cleaned them up, only one of the underpasses I looked at, or used, was tagged. It was a bit weird walking through a clean underpass. I suspect that won’t last.

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A walk through Covid deserted London

Friday 29 March 2021 – That London.

I went for a walk in the centre of lockdown London today. It was rather surreal, not quite 28 Days Later, as construction work continues, but at times it felt not far from it. There were so few people to be seen and even fewer cars on the roads.

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Big news first though. We have secured a place in managed isolation in New Zealand!

This is a prerequisite to book a flight to NZ, airlines will not allow a booking without a space and it is remarkably difficult to get one as there is a lot of competition from other Kiwis as they return home from all over the world. It’s like trying to get a ticket to a rare concert by your, and thousands of others, favourite band. There are few places, and there is high demand. As soon as vacancies are available there is a website pile-on and the web server almost grinds to a halt. It was a frustrating process and bad words were said, frequently.

I got there eventually and managed to book flights the following day without too much trouble. We fly Emirates, via Dubai and Kuala Lumpur and leave the UK on 29 July, then start our 14 days in a managed isolation hotel somewhere in NZ on 31 July. So, yay.

This was my second visit to London during March, Eleanor and I had spent most of a week there earlier in the month. On that visit I had a doctor and dentist appointment and Eleanor had a doctor visit as well, reasonable reasons for travel outside of our local area. This trip was an overnighter as I had my first Covid vaccination today.

I came up on the train after work on yesterday, my first train journey longer than six minutes duration in over a year. It was weird, but very enjoyable, a mostly empty carriage and everyone was wearing a mask. Train is my favorite mode of travel, and something I will miss when we are in NZ. I arrived at London Bridge just after 7pm, the weather was nice and I chose to walk to Liverpool St to take the overground to Walthamstow rather than take the tube.

After crossing London Bridge I walked down to the north side of the Thames to take a couple of photos of the Shard and the surrounding buildings. There were very few people about, it really did not feel like 7pm on a Thursday. Obviously all the bars and restaurants were closed, but still. It was eerily quiet; and it was only going to get quieter. These are hand held photos, so not the crispest.

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Crossing over Upper (or Lower) Thames I was surprised to see almost no cars, and I didn’t have to wait long to get a photo of an almost deserted street.

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Leadenhall Market was no better. This place would usually be absolutely rammed with city drinkers at 7:30 on a Thursday evening, all year round. It was deserted.

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I meant to get some food at London Bridge but decided to wait until I arrived at Liverpool St, though on arriving I found a train leaving for Walthamstow almost immediately, and with a 30 minute wait until the following I chose to take the one in front of me. They have upgraded the trains on the Chingford line since I last used it; these are much nicer than the old clunkers that travelled the line previosuly. I had a carriage to myself. I grabbed a take-away burger from the Collab in Walthamstow. As with the city, the streets of the ‘Stow were empty of everyone but uber eats and deliveroo riders, and what looked like some drug dealers on a corner.

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My vaccination appointment was at 9:30 am but I arrived early and was vaccinated early too. I was on the platform waiting for a train back to the city before the official appointment time. A highly efficient, friendly and pain free service. Well done the NHS! (and fuck the Tories!)

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I had a few hours until my train back to St Leonards from Victoria Station so I elected to get off the train from Walthamstow at Bethnal Green and walk from there; checking out Shoreditch street art and brutalist architecture on the way.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of street art left in Shoreditch, gentrication and a lack of funds is more likely the cause than Covid, I am guessing a lot of the folk who drove the explosion of street art a few years back have moved on as well. There’s a lot of tagging, this was prevalent throughout the city which surprised me, councils had to cut budgets somewhere I guess. I didn’t take many photos of the street art, a lot of the old stuff has gone and the much of the newer stuff isn’t as good.

A very old Stik, and one of my favourite pieces ever.

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A new(ish) Dan Kitchener.

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I don’t know who these two are by, but I liked them.

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The ever prolific Alo – of whom I am a fan.

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I walked over to the Barbican Centre to take some photos of the fabulous brutalist buildings. Brutalism, of the building variety, isnot something I will see much of in NZ, particularly in Auckland. I love the Barbican, a place I could wander around for ages. It is huge and there is a lot to see, and it has a pretty good vibe. It is well visited by tourists and I imagine those who live here get a bit sick of people like me,  pointing their camera lenses at everything. Not that there were many tourists around today, anywhere.

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I walked over towards St Paul’s and took some photos of the very empty streets. I was genuinely shocked at how empty the city is as I thought a number of people had gone back to Covid safe offices. I heard tales of packed tube trains so I have no idea where those people go to, I don’t believe they are all construction workers or cafe staff. These photos were taken just before mid-day and there should have been some people heading out to buy lunch.

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Some of the food places were open, nowhere as many as normal, but enough. I grabbed a coffee and sat on the steps opposite a deserted St Pauls to drink it and pondered how London can be so quiet.

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I don’t think I have seen the Millennium Bridge almost empty, ever. I took a photo of the Tate Modern, one of the places in the UK I will miss the most when I am in Auckland.

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I came across a Jimmy C. painting outside Blackfriars Stattion, street art on the South Bank. Wow, things have changed in the last couple of years.

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Continuing on with my brutalist architecture theme I grabbed a photo of the block of flats on the riverside. I used to deliver here when I was a van driver for DHL in the 80s, I can’t imagine what a flat costs here now, it was a little run down here back then.

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I then spent 30 minutes walking around the National Theatre and Festival Hall; two of my favourite London buildings. I may come back here before we leave and take some more photos, though by that time we will have seen some Covid restrictions relaxed, so I suspect it will be busier.

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I could only walk aroud the outside as all the stairwells were closed.

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With my train departure drawing closer I started the walk towards Victoria Station. Walking along the South Bank where I stopped for lunch; it was almost as empty as the streets in the city, before crossing Westminster Bridge to the Houses of Parliament. There was more police than citizens here. I elected to take a slight detour to take a photo of the office, which I sent to my workmates to show them it was still there.

As I was walking back towards Victoria St it started to drizzle a little and then the sky just opened and dumped one of the heaviest downpours of rain I have experienced in the UK, luckily I managed to find shelter almost immediately and avoided getting drenched. it didn’t last more than a few short minutes.

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I arrived at the station mostly dry and with enough time to by a snack and a drink before getting on another mostly empty train back home. The station was very quiet too. Victoria Bus Station is nearby and a lot of the international buses terminate there, discharging their passengers into the train station for onward journeys, but not today. No or limited travels meant no tourists hanging about the station looking lost.

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I took a few photos out of the train window as we moved through the city and the countryside, with the aim of continuing the series of slightly blurry and monochrome photos I was working on before Covid derailed transport. It was a bit of a listless affair. When I was home I was surprised to find I had taken 135 photos over the course of the last 24 hours, Wow, that is a heck of a lot for me.

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I arrived back in St Leonards, and the sea, just as more rain arrived, though it continued eastward with the train and the walk up the hill to the flat was not too wet, just enough.

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I love London, but it was nice to get home.

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Europe 1987 – Part three.

The plan to do a two-part post seems to have been completely blown out of the water, though this will be the final in the Europe 1987 series. My diary suggests the journey was more action packed the further south we travelled, or maybe I just wrote more. The diary is certainly a lot more verbose in the latter entries, perhaps this was due to me spending more time on my own? Sadly, it appears that the more I wrote the fewer photos I took; most of the photos I have left were taken early in the trip.

We take up the journey on 28 October 1987, soon after crossing the border into Greece from Yugoslavia, after what seems to have been a couple of miserable days; with poor weather, a lack of places to camp and hard driving on busy and winding mountain roads not making us the happiest of campers.

It turned out Northern Greece was a continuation of the Southern Yugoslavia experience. It was cold, it was wet, it was very deprived and there were few places to camp. I note that one night we slept in the van in a field and were surrounded by feral dogs in the morning. I have no photos from that period. I noted in my diary that we were almost killed on the road somewhere between the border and Thessalonica. I was driving and barrelling along about 50 miles an hour when someone pulled out of a side road in front of me, forcing me to swerve off the road into the dirt and back onto the road again. It was very scary and the closest we came to dying. I can still visualise the car coming out of nowhere, me wrenching the wheel to the right, hitting the dusty bank, then wrenching left and back on the road again. I cannot visualise the swearing, though I suspect some bad bad things were said.

Thessalonica was effectively closed as a senior government official was visiting, there were armed police and soldiers everywhere, including tanks on the main roads. We didn’t stay, but found a campground somewhere between the city and the Turkish border, and blessed relief, there were hot showers. It had been a long time between showers and sometimes it is the little things that make all the difference.

After two days driving across Greece we entered Turkey. I noted in my diary that there was loud cannon fire near the border and a lot of soldiers on manoeuvres on the Turkish side, though the border crossing was straightforward. Turkey was my second favourite country after Germany; and the polar opposite of tidy, clean and organised West Germany. I seem to enjoy the really tidy and strict countries like Singapore AND the mad, loose and scruffy countries like Cambodia and Laos. It is the in between I dislike more than anything.

I only saw a fraction of Turkey, just Istanbul and down to Bodrum on the coast, and it was the country I wanted to return to the most when I got back to New Zealand. In the main it was very friendly, the people were open and generous, the food cheap, tasty and plentiful and I liked it very much.

We arrived in Istanbul during rush hour on a Friday night. The roads were complete madness, five lanes of cars on a three lane road, honking and yelling, cars all over the shop. I noted that I loved it, the Kiwi driver in me looking for a challenge. We had no maps or guidebooks for Istanbul and Turkey so just drove toward the centre of town looking for signs pointing to campgrounds or hostels. Driving down a one way street we saw the ‘True Blue Souvenir’ shop with a small Aussie flag painted on the front. I stopped the van so Sam and Trudy could run back to the shop to ask for advice on places to stay, they came back with Simon and Typhun from the shop (No idea of the spelling of his name). They told us we could park and camp outside of their shop for a small fee, it had 24 hour security (armed policeman outside the station two doors up) and we could nip into a nearby hotel to use the loo and sinks. It sounded perfect to us, so much better than fields and wild dogs.

Simon said he would direct us to the shop, and jumped in the van. We drove round the corner onto a rammed three lane highway, approaching a roundabout Simon jumped out of the car, walked into the middle of the road and stopped all the traffic so I could cross the three lanes. He then move the barrier blocking the road entrance to the Blue Mosque, and we drove through its car park, across the front of this glorious building and out the other side. To cap it off we drove up the one way street the wrong way, past the police station, parking outside the shop. I wasn’t sure whether to laughing my head off at the madness of it all, or be fearful of spending 10 years in a Turkish prison. Once parked and not arrested, I chose the first option. Welcome to Istanbul!

Nov 1987 Istanbul Campsite

We spent three days in Istanbul, parked up outside the shop, other vans joined us and it was largely a lot of fun. I loved Istanbul, the old town, the mosques and the market were all highlights, as was being shown around by our hosts, eating in local cafes and drinking copious quantities of apple tea and brutally strong coffee. I am surprised I have so few photos.

Nov 1987 Blue Mosque Istanbul

Typhun and Simon.

Nov 1987 Soluman and Typhun Istanbul

Hubbly Bubbly cafe.

Nov 1987 Istanbul with Typhun

I noted in my diary that there was a bus strike in Turkey, and I could not get back to London for a few days, so after a short, interrupted phone call I agreed with Deana that I would carry on to the coast and then get a ferry to Athens and bus it from there. I could not afford to fly. So, on 2 November we carried on south, taking two days to get to Selcuk.

My diary says ‘I liked Selcuk’. We spent the best part of four days here, the most we spent in any small town. The first night was spent sleeping in the van outside the public toilets with a bunch of other van tourists. The second night we stayed in a guest house as it had been six days again without a shower. I noted it was nice to sleep in a proper bed. I also noted that I lost my wallet, but didn’t think it had been stolen and thankfully it didn’t have all my cards in it, and only a small amount of cash.

Nov 1987 Selcuk Turkey

We hung out with quite a bunch of people, including a Kiwi hitch hiker Pete who stayed with us to Bodrum. The main reason for coming to Selcuk was to visit the ancient Roman ruins of Ephesus, made famous in the book, ‘The Bible’. We arrived in town too late to visit on the first day, and the second day it rained for the first time in eight months (the Phil holiday curse). We finally made it there on day three. Pete had a guide book which was really handy.

Nov 1987 Ephesus

These were my first proper ancient ruins, none of this 1000 year old stuff like you get in the UK, these were 2000 years old. Proper ancient, and what I had been really wanting to see, the legacy from my childhood neighbours. I really liked exploring Ephesus, I liked the fact that nothing was fenced off and I could roam all over. I liked it that I didn’t accidently destroy something which I almost did when visiting the Roluos Group of temples in Cambodia. I liked that I could sit on the old toilet and read my book. I would love a pair of Doc Marten boot that look that worn in now!

Nov 1987 Ephesus Turkey

The next day we carried on south stopping at some even older ruins, the Greek ruins of the Temple to Athena in Priene, these ruins are from 1000BC. Wow, 3000 years old! Fabulous. There was no one there except us and while not as extensive as Ephesus they were still mighty impressive, and we had a bit of fun with mock sacrifices on the alter. Not that the ancient Greeks did human sacrifices!

Nov 1987 Greek ruins of Priene Turkey

Nov 1987 Priene Turkey

As we were leaving Priene Trudy realised she had been short changed that morning by the bank in Selcuk when changing Japanese Yen for Turkish Lira, by two zeros, a not unsubstantial sum. We shot back to Selcuk just in time, arriving before the bank closed. The bank knew they had made a mistake and there were no issues in getting the extra money. We spent the night parked outside the toilets again and went to our favourite cafe for lamb stuffed peppers and beer. The next morning I almost got busted by the toilet cleaner who arrived while I was still in there after climbing over the wall, I made a rapid exit the same way. He knew and stood there glaring at us until we drove off.

The next morning we drove south again, this time making it to the port town of Bodrum, and my final destination. It was Trudy’s birthday and my last night in the van with the Grieve sisters. We had cake and wine, and most of us were sick, we were all tired. It was not the bestest of nights to say goodbye.

I see a couple of dogs came to farewell me as well. 

Nov 1987 Bodrum Turkey

Goodbye Turkey. kiss kiss.

Nov 1987 Bodrum Fort from the Ferry

Early the following morning I was on the ferry to the Greek Island of Kos, where I stayed for a few hours before getting on another, overnight ferry to Athens. I slept on the hard metal deck with a load of other tourists.  Arriving in Athens I discovered there were still strikes and I had to wait three days for a bus to London.

I was not very excited by this and this was reflected in my negative feelings for Athens and my predicament. I only have a couple of photos from the three days I spent in an ancient and interesting city, and that is of the Acropolis. I didn’t even like that as it was behind a fence, there was construction going on and there were loads of people all around. My diary also says a lot of the museums were closed due to strike action, and the ones that were open were too expensive. I must have been pretty broke by then. I seemed to have spent a lot time hanging around in a youth hostel, talking and eating.

Nov 1987 The Parthenon Athens

Eventually I got a ferry to Brindisi in Italy and then a bus which took three days to get to London. I arrived back on the 14 November 1987. Apparently I smelt and looked terrible after three days on a smoke filled bus.

Not long after I arrived back Deana and I flew to Australia where we stayed for three months with her family on the Gold Coast before flying on to New Zealand in February 1988 where I stayed for the next 23 years. Which loops back to the start of this blog in 2011.

I very much enjoyed that trip, I didn’t see anywhere near as much as I would have liked, but it opened my eyes to the world and the possibilities of travelling and seeing things differently. There is a great world out there and I deplore the views of the narrow minded nationalists that want to shut borders and blindfold our young to the possibilities that should be available to them. I cannot wait to get back on the road again and would love to ‘do Europe’ one more time. Maybe with more showers.

The photos posted in these four blogs are from an album I put together after the trip and are all I have left of the between 250 and 350 I took over the ten weeks. I know I used 12 rolls of film and am sure these would have been a mix of 24 and 36 shot rolls. The other photos would have been tossed out when I sold the house in 2011 and had a massive cull of my possessions.

The diary is going in the bin now. It is time to declutter just a little bit more. As LP Hartley most famously wrote ‘The past is another country’, but it is one I have visited.

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Europe 1987 – Part two

Berlin, oh Berlin. Outside of the photos my memory from staying there is pretty much completely blank now. All I remember is that it was an absolute highlight of the 10 weeks I was in Europe; apart from the incident with the drunk, and my diary doesn’t help fill in gaps. Berlin is one of those cities; along with New York, London and Dunedin that is implicitly linked in my mind with good music; Bowie, Lou Reed, Eno, Killing Joke, Nick Cave, Neubaten, all have recorded or lived there. A number of my favourite novels have been set in Berlin, and that thrill of East meets West, of mystery and intrigue was one of its key attractions and I was very much looking forward to visiting, and am equally looking forward to going back.

Oct 1987 The Wall and East Berlin

Before we continue it is important to remind that this October 1987; the Wall was still up and the East was very definitely a foreign country. West Berlin was an island surrounded by East Germany, and according to my notes there was a 300km drive north of the border, crossing. I don’t mention any hassle or delay getting into East Germany, just that we drove straight to Berlin.

Over the entire trip we shared the driving, with each of us having a full day behind the wheel. I don’t recall any hassles on the road apart from almost being killed in Greece, just the regular occurrences of getting lost and massive traffic jams. One thing that has stayed with me is we only had 7 cassettes. Maybe we only had 7 cassettes that the others liked, I can’t believe I didn’t have some of my own music. In my diary I frequently reference lying in bed listening to music on my Walkman and I wouldn’t have listened to those tapes. I remember we had The Angels, Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, The Long Ryders but not the other four, though they would be a similar style I am sure. I think the driver got to chose what cassette was in the machine on their day behind the wheel. 

I don’t remember a huge amount of what we did in Berlin, we spent some time in the lovely Tiergarten, where one of my favourite photos of the trip was taken, with the others throwing leaves in the air and me standing watching. I am ever amused when I see photos of myself from 30 plus years ago and see that my dress has not changed at all.

Oct 1987 Tiergarten West Berlin

We entered and exited East Berlin through the famous Checkpoint Charlie; you have to return to the west via the checkpoint you entered. My notes say it took us 90 minutes to get across, you have to exchange 25 German marks for the same amount of East German ost marks, though the currency of the East is worthless and you cannot take any back to the West. Apart from food there is not much to spend money on.

Oct 1987 Border Crossing Berlin

It was a weird place, obviously at the time it was an authoritarian communist state and very different to the freewheeling west, and I imagine it looks a lot different now. The area near the border, the unpainted and unapproachable eastern side of the wall was bomb sites and rubble, left clear or cleared after the wall went up in ’61 as a visible boundary zone.

Oct 1987 East Berlin

I had someone take a photo of us in front of the wall on the eastern side of the Brandenburg Gate.

Oct 1987 Brandenberg Gate West Berlin

I liked East Berlin though, I noted the people were friendly and it was cheap, that the food was low quality and there was little to do other than walk, visit museums and eat. We bought sausage.

Oct 1987 Wurst seller East Berlin

Oct 1987 East Berlin 1

Now knowing she was pregnant Deana decided to go back to London; travelling in a crowded van, sleeping in a tent on roadsides and eating cheaply and simply, I won’t say dodgily, but… these were not ideal conditions to be carrying your first child. I imagine the rest of us were also drinking a lot as well, so probably not ideal van-mates. I know we, or I, certainly drank more after she had left as it is mentioned on numerous occasions later in my travel diary. As Deana had already travelled Europe and I hadn’t we agreed that I could spend a couple of weeks in the van and see a bit more before returning to London. Deana caught a train back from Berlin, and apart from being late had a successful trip.

It was our last night together, we had all eaten in the centre of Berlin and Deana had to wait for the train which was leaving quite late in the evening. We bought a bottle of wine and found a bench the Kaiser William Memorial Church to sit and drink it. Not long before we were finishing a drunk guy came up to us slurring away in German, he grabbed the almost empty bottle that was standing on the ground in front of us. Someone, I think it was Trudy jumped up and gave him a mouthful, and he retaliated by taking a swing at my head with the bottle, I was still seated. He missed with his swing so threw the bottle at us, his throw missed too and the bottle smashed on the ground. Fortunately, he staggered off on his way and gave us no further trouble. It was a bizarre and unsettling experience, and thankfully, the only threatening event in all of my travels. The others got the train back to the campsite on the outskirts of the city and Deana and I waited for the London train, with me eventually deserting my pregnant wife in a McDonalds in Berlin’s central main train station so I could get the last train back to the campground. She was more capable than me to be fair.

The next day the five of us left Berlin and headed south, towards the sun. We didn’t do a lot on the way, this was the road travelled when we went north and a couple of days later we crossed into Austria. Stopping for a while in Salzburg, though it was too crowded to stay so we just carried on, and into Yugoslavia.

Oct 1987 Salzburg

My memory of Yugoslavia is not a positive one; there was no specific incident, just lots of little ones and we also a load of hassle, it was my least favourite country. Like East Germany Yugoslavia was a communist state, though not as authoritarian as the former. It was the poorest country we visited, and the first time I had seen genuine poverty; half built houses, car chassis being towed by donkeys, rubbish strewn roadsides, little choice of food and small towns with gas stations with no petrol.  Though this was less the case near the Dalmatian Coast where we spent the most time.

At the border crossing all the cars and vans were parked, empty of belongings while bags and vehicles were being searched. Once we had passports stamped and visas bought we went back to the van and unloaded it onto the car park, then waited for the border police to come and check us out; we waited, and waited and waited. Eventually we loaded everything back in again, waited a bit more then drove off. Nothing happened.

Our first night in Yugoslavia was spent in a campground in the Julian Mountains, it snowed and I was very cold in the tent. We headed to the coast the next day.

Nov 1987 - Julien Alps Yugoslavia

It took us two days to get to Split on the Dalmatian coast, I note that we were very worried about running out of petrol on occasion as a lot of gas stations had no gas and that we had trouble buying food to cook, though eating out was cheap and easy. I had calamari for the first time and it was the best calamari I had for years after.

It is illegal to free-camp in Yugoslavia, so we found a campground near Split, above the Adriatic Sea and stayed for three days, the weather was glorious and we needed the break. Days to clean and do maintenance on the van, air sleeping bags and do a load of washing. 

Nov 1987 Split

I remember enjoying swimming and eating and not going anywhere, however it was not really that much of a happy experience. The girls were constantly being harassed by the men, on one occasion as we walked to the beach, a guy in a small group put his hands in his shorts pulled his package out and waved it at the girls. We took to carrying sticks with us to the beach.

Nov 1987 Split Campsite

One afternoon while walking through the old town our washing was stolen off the line, so the next day we left, carrying on southward. Andrea left us in Split, taking the train back to Munich for a flight back to London as her two weeks were up. That left just me and three sisters.

Nov 1987 Split Marketplace

Our next stop was Dubrovnik. I really liked the old town, though noted that the surrounding areas were really dirty with loads of rubbish everywhere. We could not find a campsite that was open so ended up driving into a closed one and staying the night there. I drank most of a bottle of vodka in the van and was woken up in the very early hours of the morning by the police, sleeping on the ground outside my tent. Thankfully nothing further happened apart from me crawling back in the tent and going back to sleep.

Nov 1987 Dubrovnik

The next day I was driving and failed to take a corner on a greasy bit of road, fortunately I overran into a small car park and didn’t hit anything, or more importantly, anybody. Someone else wisely took over the driving. We drove down to Ulcinj, and could not find anywhere open to camp, it was the 24 October so I guess the tourist season was mostly over. We drove down the very long beach, eventually finding an area of forest near the end. It was really dark, the road was terrible and quite deserted so we decided to park and stay the night, it was the first night I slept in the van and not the tent. In the morning we discovered we almost on the border with Albania and there were land mine warning signs off the side of the road. I am glad we didn’t wander far from the van.

Nov 1987 Ulcinj Yugoslavia

The next four days were spent continuing to drive southward towards Greece. I have one photo from that period, a woman walking a goat on a lonely highway as we drove up and down windy mountain roads.

Nov 1987 Woman walking goat

My diary suggests we drove, illegally camping a couple of times, that the south was poor and I drank a lot; not while driving obviously.  There was one further incident. I think we were in Macedonia, we were not far from the Greek border anyway. We were stopped by a police patrol. The police took our passports and then demanded an instant fine as we were speeding. We were driving a heavily loaded ancient VW Combi, there was no way we were speeding, but at least one of them was carrying a machine gun, and we wanted our passports back. We handed over the about £40 and the cops left us alone.  Police corruption at its finest.

On the 28 October we drove across the border into northern Greece, and it felt like with some relief.

The final part will be up soon.

 

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Europe 1987. Part one

Interestingly or not, (it was interesting to me), when I picked up my 1980s diaries from London a few days ago I didn’t take any time to read them. I just brought the box back with me to St Leonards, found the diary that covered my European trip, packed the rest away and took them back to London a week later. I had fully expected to spend some reminiscing time flicking through them and looking for youthful highlights, much as I have always done when I dig them out for whatever weird reason, (usually looking up a concert date) which is then forgotten while I reminisce . Maybe I have finally moved on from the 80s?

The notebook that has my European trip starts in September 1987 and runs through to the birth of my daughter in May 1988, covering time spent in London, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The handwriting is often terrible, in places it is verging on unreadable, and the content is not Pulitzer winning either. I definitely did not babble as much as I do in this blog. What it provided was dates, place names and sometimes context to go with the photos I took. There was very little sentimentality, though I have only read half the story so far.

The trip started, as do so many of the things I do, with me being bored and disliking work. Though to be fair, I have fond memories of van driving for DHL in the 80s, at least I wasn’t driving a desk like I have been doing since. My memory, supported by the sketchy notes in the diary, was that we were both sick of living in London, working dead endish jobs and not having any money. Deana, my Australian wife, had been living there significantly longer than me and wanted to head back south to somewhere less manic and a lot warmer.

Trudi (I stayed with Trudi when I was in Sri Lanka in 2013) and Sam, are two of three sisters of an Aussie friend of Deana, were staying with us in our one bedroom flat while they were waited for the third sister, Mandy, to arrive in London. The three sisters had bought a green VW Combi van and were off to travel Europe for as long as they could until the cash ran out. Somehow we contrived to get ourselves invited along and all of a sudden we were quitting jobs, organising our affairs, buying a tent and packing to go travelling. I had never done anything like this before, though Deana had previousy back-packed around Europe, with Tracy, the fourth of the sisters.

On 14 September 1987 we were up at 4:00 to drive from our flat in Richmond to Dover for the 6:30 am ferry to Calais. My first experience of driving the left-hand drive van was driving off the ferry and into France, something I fortunately did not screw up. I am not sure what, plan we had that day, I don’t think we had any plan for the trip, apart from picking up a friend of the sisters in Munich on 9 October who was joining us for a couple of weeks. Six people in a van sounds about right. As well as not having a plan I am also not sure what we had in the way of maps, I know we had a big Europe road atlas, and have convinced myself that was probably it; obviously no GPS or Google Maps in those days. Not having a plan meant not having a map was less of a worry; and unlike hitching or bussing around at least in a van you can doss pretty much anywhere and getting lost is less of a concern.

We hit France and turned left, ending up in Bruges in Belgium. It was the last I saw of France until visiting Paris in 2012. I loved Bruges, I mean I just totally and utterly fell in love with it, a similar experience to when Eleanor and I stayed there in 2015. I shot almost two rolls of film on the Canon AE-1 just in Bruges, out of a total of 12 for the whole 10 weeks. I pretty much loved all the ancient towns we passed through; the centuries of history in the streets and roads of Europe. Yes, New Zealand has a millennia of history, but there is not much that you can walk around, look at, touch or even climb on, and that is what I want. 


The first night, tent up and everything is clean and tidy.

We spent two days in Bruges before heading east to Antwerp and then into Holland. I had my birthday breakfast in Arnhem National Park, one of the few places I clearly remember from the trip.it stuck in my mind for two reasons; one, they had bicycles that you could just pick up for free and then ride them from destination to destination inside the park, I had never seen that before, or since. Secondly, there was an art museum in the park and the gallery had proper famous artists; Picasso, Van Gogh etc etc. I had never seen original work by famous artists before, it was thrilling and it was in a park!

September 17 was my 25 birthday and we had cake in the van in a campground outside of Amsterdam. I look thrilled in the photo, though this is my default photo face and I am probably smiling. I remember leaving my only pair of lightweight shoes on the roof of the van, but that memory only occurred when I was looking for them a few hundred miles later on. I was left with a pair of Doc Marten boots and a pair of jandals/flip flops.

The next few days were spent driving northwest up through Holland and into Germany, following the coast some of the way. For most of the next few weeks, when outside of the big cities we slept in roadside lay-bys, Deana and I pitching the tent on any patch of grass we could find. Free camping where possible and using public toilets (usually clean) as bathrooms. I noted at one stage in Switzerland, we had gone 9 days without a shower; the things you do when you are young, relatively free and short of money. My diary notes that just outside Hamburg one of the windscreen wipers fell off. I also noted that I bought a replacement a few days later but did not fit it until we were in Switzerland, it can’t have been on the drivers side.

Holland.

A lake outside Bremen, Germany.

Hamburg.

I noted that though it was getting cold, we headed north into Denmark, I suspect to get some Scandi experience before it got to cold, I also noted it cost too much to take the ferry over to Copenhagen so we went to Odense on 23 September, where we broke a brake line, which I replaced. I had wisely packed some tools.

I have no recollection of why we drove down to Ristinge, but we did get to cross one of those amazing Danish bridges, in this case the Rudkobing Bridge.

We camped for one night on the beach near Ristinge, found it too cold, so back-tracked all the way back to Germany. looking for some last vestiges of summer.

I have no recollection of why we chose to go to the places we visited, Ristinge ? there is nothing there, I hadn’t heard of it before we went, and until I read my diary I hadn’t heard of it since. I wonder if we had some sort of guide book, but don’t remember anything, I guess we must have. We passed though Hamlyn, Hannover, Rothenberg and Wurzburg on the way to Munich. I noted on the 27th that Deana thought she might be pregnant, so a letter was written to Andrea, the woman who was meeting us in Munich in a couple of weeks time to bring a pregnancy test kit.

Hamlyn.

Hannover.

Wurzburg.

Rothenberg.

Munich. End of September, early October. A right of passage for all antipodeans who happen to be in this part of the world at that time. Oktoberfest. We were not planning on going, it is a massive money trap, but hey, we were in the neighbourhood, and we ended up staying in a campground for three nights while we looked around Munich, and partook in the various beer related activities. We didn’t drink too much, it is really expensive! We talked to a number of Kiwis/Aussies in the campground who had blow their travelling money on a week in Munich. The allure of those large steins was obviously too much for them. Me, I was more interested in seeing things than beer drinking.

Leaving Munich on the 2 October we drove round, possibly via a few circles; the Bavarian Alps, which I loved; into Austria, Lichtenstein and Switzerland, breaking down and getting towed to a garage for repairs in Lucerne. We visited some absolutely amazing, beautiful places and this area was one of the highlights of my trip. I noted at the end that Germany and Turkey were my favourite countries.

Oberammergau.

Crossing the Alps into Austria.

Bern.

Broken down and towed away.

Lucerne. While we were hanging out by the side of the lake, two Swiss girls came down and invited all five of us up to their flat for dinner which was massively appreciated.

Konstanz. A number of the older buildings in this part of Germany have murals, often religious, painted on the outside, I had never seen this before and thought it was just stunning.  One of the many reasons I loved Bavaria.

Hohenschwangau Castle from the fabulous Neuschwanstein (Disneyland) Castle. What a location, I would love to go back here and spend a few days exploring the mountains, the lakes and these amazing buildings.

We picked up the final member of our touring party, Andrea, at Munich airport on 9 October and drove back out of town; aiming for a straight run to Berlin. Our first overnight stop was in a roadside rest area just outside Nuremberg. The following morning Deana used the pregnancy test kit which Andrea had remembered to bring. After waiting the required time wrapped in a sleeping bag next to a rubbish bin by the side of an Autobahn she confirmed she was pregnant. Boom, life changer. It was fortunate that we had already booked flights to Australia for November, at least we had some sort of plan.

To celebrate we drove for most of the day then illegally camped right near the border with East Germany.

Part two coming once it has been written.

Posted in Blog, Europe | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Europe 1987. Part one

A short walk down memory lane.

A few weeks ago I scanned and uploaded to BookFace some photos from the 10 week European excursion I made from September to November 1987. The intent at that time I scanned them was to write a blog post about the trip, which was my introduction to open ended travelling; and the start of the wanderlust that remained, pretty much unrequited again to 2011. I kept a diary of the trip, but it, along with other diaries from the 80s, was still in London and last week was the first time in a while that we went back there.

I was going to launch straight into writing about the trip, there are quite a few photos and I was initially thinking of just adding them to a post with minimal text, but as usual I have changed my mind and have decided to go way back in time and add some context. There is a good chance that I decide that that is not a good idea and this post doesn’t get uploaded and you won’t be reading any of this. If I do post it maybe you could let me know if writing this preamble was worth while, or least not a bad thing.

That 1987 European trip really was the impetus for the travels I undertook when I left NZ in December 2011 and obviously this blog is the continuation of those diaries I wrote in my 20s. It just took 24 years, three children and a divorce to get from 1987 to 2011. I was patient I guess.

We may as well start at the beginning or at least close to it. I was born in Carshalton Hospital, Surrey, England in September 1962. This makes me not far off 60 and I cannot believe how old I have gotten while I wasn’t looking, I certainly don’t feel (almost) 59. We moved to 177 Windsor Ave, North Cheam, Surrey when I was two, I have no idea of where we lived prior to that, though we didn’t move far I believe. The grey pebble dash house is 177 Windsor Ave and this was taken when I did a walk-by in 2013. North Cheam is and was a working class/lower middle class suburb on the southern fringe of London. I was happy there.

Our neighbours at 177 were the Aubreys. I think they were both retired, I also think they looked after me, and possibly my younger sisters after school if my parent’s shifts overlapped. I don’t have many memories of life in London as a child, but one of those memories is spending time at the Aubreys. They were very interested in archaeology and history and travelled to exotic places like Rome and Greece, occasionally bringing home small souvenirs of their visits. They bought me books and read to me about ancient Troy, Rome and Greece; particularly the myths and legends from those and other places. I still have some of the books they bought me, and they remain treasured items, particularly The Story of Rome and Story of Greece.

The most valued gift of the Aubrey’s was an interest in ancient history, in the exotic, in the far-off places; and the gift of an enquiring mind, though I am sure as a 10 year old I appreciated the stone arrow heads and small fossils they found in England more than the enquiring mind. I will never forget the Aubreys, or the ‘Strawberries’ as the childhood me named them. That interest in the ancient and the exotic has never left me, and though I am not overly interested in the detail of each and every place I visit, I still relish the visit, along with standing, absorbing and marveling at where generations of people have stood before and what they left behind.

We left England for Auckland, New Zealand in February 1973. With years of experience in the industry Dad soon found himself a job with Air New Zealand which meant cheap flights and numerous trips back to the UK. I think we went back to England three times between 1973 and when I left school at the end 79. Each of those trips was via Los Angeles, Hawaii and occasionally Fiji; the route Air NZ flew. We always stayed a few days somewhere on the way there or back, taking in San Francisco and Washington DC on one occasion. I fondly remember those trips and they were a strong introduction into the realities of travelling and long distant flight, of immigration controls and customs; queuing and sleeping in airports and the less glamourous parts of going to a different country. 

I completed a five year aircraft engineering apprenticeship with Air New Zealand after leaving school; finishing in 1985. While I worked there I holidayed in Fiji and Los Angeles. I went to LA with workmates, Scott and Dave, and we rented a car for a few days, just to cruise; like you do when in LA. Just before I went on this trip I bought my first SLR, a Canon AE-1. I still have it though it stopped working in 1994 and was too expensive to repair at the time.

A lot of my workmates went further, particularly Europe, but I spent too much money on music; records and concerts. Some things just haven’t changed. I did holiday a little in NZ, with hitch-hiking trips and camping holidays and adventures down to the central North Island ski fields. A little taster for the mostly tame adventure I enjoy now.

I didn’t particularly enjoy my apprenticeship and engineering was not my thing; too tactile and I am all thumbs. It was probably safer for all when I left, anyway I had an urge to travel and holding down a job with limited annual leave was never going to satisfy that urge.

In October 1985 I left NZ for my first Overseas Experience (OE) as we called it then, going back to stay in my old suburb in south London. I lasted two years. In that time I met and married Deana, moved to the very nice suburb of Richmond-upon-Thames and did a small amount of travel around the UK and touched briefly on Europe with a visit to northern Italy in 1986,

and to Northern Ireland and the Republic. I have Cavan written on the back of this photo, and love the donkey and cart in the high street. I think it was taken out of the window of a bus.

Mostly I just worked to get by; we lived in an expensive part of London and both of us had relatively low paying jobs; I was a courier driver. My desire to travel the world wasn’t really working out.

That was about to change when Deana’s friends from Australia turned up and bought a VW Combi van… This is the van, but the people are neighbours and friends from NZ.

Posted in Blog, Britain, England | Tagged , , | 2 Comments