My photography exhibition!

Thursday 11 October 2018 – Walthamstow.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Roa @ Stolen Space Gallery

Thursday 20 September 2018 – London

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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A birthday trip to Bristol.

Sunday 16 September 2018 – Bristol.

Staring out of the hotel window, I waited for something to happen. Street walkers, workers or cleaners, a homeless person looking for somewhere to rest weary feet, maybe students heading home, something. Maybe even a passing bus, or better still one that stops to disgorge a wobbly drunk or a hurried worker returning home.

But no; nothing, nada, not a thing. So here is a picture of a bus stop at night with nothing happening. I do like the photo though.

It is Saturday night; late evening to be honest, we are tired and full from a long day and an excellent pre-birthday meal, and we are in Clifton, Bristol. Nothing happening out the window, good. Perhaps a full night of sleeping ahead!

This morning we were up early as I drove us and a car load of Charlie’s possessions down to Exeter as he prepares to start his third year of university. Charlie had made his way down earlier in the week which was convenient as the car was chocker with his stuff and he would have been strapped to the roof, or vice-versa.

It is my birthday on Monday, so we decided to break the trip to Exeter up with a night in Bristol, and have a birthday meal there. I love Bristol, but in a different way to how I love Edinburgh. My experience of Edinburgh is hotels, clean streets, old buildings, nice restaurants, wine and whisky. My Bristol experience is the complete opposite. Staying with my daughter, Meliesha in over-full shared houses in run down suburbs, cans of Polish lager, street art, loud dance music, mad conversations over shared vegetarian meals and drinking in student pubs.

On the way to Bristol we took a side trip to lunch with Meliesha, and her boyfriend in a small off the beaten-track pub near the M5. For the life of me I cannot remember where it was. It was good to see Meliesha again. She has been in Ireland and is soon back to Spain. Oh, the life she leads.

El and I took a hotel in Clifton, away from the city centre and club districts, a bit more genteel than Stokes Croft; and close to the wonderful suspension bridge. I was hoping it would be quiet, but it wasn’t really. There was not full night of sleeping ahead.

We arrived mid afternoon and took a walk to the bridge. Built in 1864 it spans the Avon Gorge and the River Avon, it is a magnificent thing and a big tourist draw. There were a lot of people there. We took a walk around Clifton village, which we both particularly liked. It is resolutely middle class, there is no graffiti and street art here, no huddled street drinkers, except in the village street fair, where beers were expensive.

As it was my birthday weekend El had booked us dinner in the Clifton Lido Restaurant. The restaurant is in the local outdoor swimming pool. All that was available was an early evening booking so there were still a number of people swimming below us as we ate, which was quite relaxing; for me anyway, I wasn’t swimming. The restaurant is fabulous, the food was interesting and lovely, great wine range and the service was outstanding; all represented in the price on the menu, it is not cheap. I hardly ever recommend places in posts, but I do recommend The Lido. It was a wonderful birthday meal, thanks El 🙂

After dinner we walked back to the bridge to allow food to settle before heading back to the room, where i didn’t sleep due to noisy people on the street, and then the paper thin walls in the hotel as the late night folk came home at 3. Oh well…

On Sunday morning we had breakfast in one of the local Clifton cafes, which was almost as good as dinner; there is some fantastic eating to be had in Clifton, and Bristol. We were not in any rush to head back to London so walked down from Clifton into Bristol itself.

I wanted to have a walk through Stokes Croft to look for some of the street art that was there, I was a little surprised at how run down Stokes Croft looked early on a Sunday morning. It seemed to be a worse than I remember. There were a lot of homeless an street drinkers out, not that I am blaming them for their predicament, nor for the states of the street. I was just shocked at the numbers. Things are worse here than I thought; Brexit surprises me less when I leave the shelter of my London bubble, I can see why people want change. Though Bristol was a staunch ‘remain’ city.

I took a photo of on old piece of Phlegm street art, he is still my favourite.

We walked down and around through the city centre aiming for M Shed, one of Bristol’s museums. There was an exhibition of Bristol music, which I thought was excellent, though they didn’t mention one of my current favourite bands, Spectres, who are Bristol residents, which surprised me a bit as they have some notoriety and should be locally known, and celebrated.

Another good weekend away. I love this country xx

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Back to St Leonards

Saturday 01 September 2018 – St Leonards-on-Sea and Hastings.

I am a bit drunk as I let myself in through the front door of the airbnb I am staying in tonight. The house is Tudor, according to my host, it is the second oldest building in Hastings. I struggle with the lock, it turns 180 degrees to home. My (wine, gin, whisky) addled brain eventually works it out and I am in. Creaking quietly up to my first floor room, every board of this ancient staircase creaks. My door squeaks open and bangs closed, the latch doesn’t work. I then realise no one else is home, and the floors and doors can make whatever noise they want.

Barefoot I feel every dip and rise in the wooden floor, it’s not just the old walls that are uneven. In the morning I discover the floor has quite a slope, perhaps I was less drunk than I thought.

The room is lovely, white and wooden, noisy from the street. Headphones on I try Eno’s ambient Descreet Music as a means to sleep, whisky helping. Though morning may have regrets. Much like today almost did.

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This is my third visit to Hastings and St Leonards in recent weeks. I have offered on a flat in St Leonards. Two bedrooms, the top floor of a building built by the admiralty in 1884 to house retired senior naval officers, it is red brick and I really, really like it.  The flat is under the word ‘flat’!

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However…….

I fell in love with the first flat I saw online when I started looking for flats in this area a few weeks ago. It is not this flat in St Leonards, but one in Hastings old town. It disappeared off the market almost immediately, before I could get down to see it. Last week it was online again.

The vendor of the St Leonards flat had yet to get back to me on my offer, it had been rather cheeky. In case if fell through I decided to come down and have a look at this Old Town flat as a plan B. El and I came down last weekend, and it is really, really nice. Just off the high street, out of the way up a steep path and view over the roofs of the old town and out to sea is magnificent. I decided I would offer on it as well and see how things worked out.

As this place is so close to the centre of old town nightlife I thought it wise to come down for a Friday night, find an AirBnB nearby and see, and hear, what it is like of evening. IS it really noisy? Is there closing time trouble? Junkies and drunks sleeping in doorways etc.

After booking an old town AirBnB the St Leonards vendor accepted my offer, I gave the Hastings old Town vendor a chance to do the same, but they didn’t so St Leonards here I come. My first property purchase in the UK. Assuming all goes through of course.

Even though staying in the old town is not relevant I went ahead anyway. St Leonards does not have a lot of night life so the old town, a 30 minute walk away is where we would likely go anyway.

I caught the train from London after work, sneaking off slightly early and getting a train from Victoria Station just before 4:00. The Victoria to Hastings line is the slowest of the three from central London, taking just under two hours. It is a direct train, but it stops in a lot of places. I like trains so was not unhappy with the trip and I should get used to it.

However….

Walking alone out of Hastings station into the early evening sunlight I was overcome with a wave of despondency. Why was I buying here? Not wanting to come across sounding like a complete middle class snob, but it was all so chav. Street drinkers, bad tattoos, run down cars, smokers in doorways. I know everywhere is like this, but I want it to feel like I am perpetually on holiday when I come here. I had a moment of regretting buying here, even though the weather is nice, it just feels a bit grim in this part of Hastings. My steps were heavy as I made my way down from the station to the sea front.

As soon as I hit the sea, my mood lightened. Walking along the promenade towards the old town and watching the skates and bmxers, the dog walkers and the families strolling I knew that I had made the right call. The brief flash of regret was regretted and disposed of.

I dumped my bag in my room in the creaky old AirBnB, after a quick chat with the owners I made my way out the door again. They have lived here for five years and are now looking to move to St Leonards themselves, somewhere quieter.

Tonight is the opening of Coastal Currents, a month long annual art event in Hastings and St Lenoards. The opening party is free and is being held in the big waterfront bar where I spent my first evening last time I came down. It is early evening am hungry, I checked out the pier, but didn’t fancy eating here. I did stop for a glass of wine and to take a few photos up the beach.

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I was warned by the BnB hosts that I might find it hard getting a table in any of the eating places. It is the last weekend of the holidays, the weather it lovely and the art festival opening is on. They were right. By the time I had walked to St Leonards, taken a walk by my flat to see what the street was like on a Friday night (dead) there were no table at any of the cafes. I made my way back to the sea front and stopped in to the Goat Ledge cafe for another glass of wine and an excellent fish burger and fries. It was pretty packed, but it was nice sitting on the beach listening to the dark sea behind me.

As I was leaving a load of people on brightly lit bikes riding from Hastings pier to the opening party stopped in at the cafe. I took a few photos.

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I was lured in to the opening party by the wonderful sounds of Velvet Underground on the sound system, though discovered this was just a trap, once I had bought a gin and tonic the music had turned to some terrible house music. Not knowing anyone here I didn’t hang around for long before walking back to Hastings. There are some lovely Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian buildings along here, slowly being repainted and during the day it is quite nice, the evening equally so.

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As I arrived in the Hastings new town I heard The Ruts, ‘Babylons Burning’ being played loudly by a cover band from the local ‘biker’ bar, crossing the road I stopped in for a look, just as the band finished. The pub is not my cup of tea, but I could see myself in there for a punk rock covers band on the odd and right occasion. I put a tick in the positive box and walked on. Two doors up from my BnB there was another pub, there are a lot of pubs here, all open and doing business, another good sign. This pub had a blues band going, knowing I would not be able to sleep and as it was close to throwing out time I ordered a Jamesons and sat at the back and enjoyed their last couple of songs. At last orders I had one more drink and basically waited till the place shut before heading to my room, and then not sleeping for a while.

I was up early on Saturday and off before 9:00, stopping for an excellent coffee on the pier and an OK fry-up in a greasy spoon cafe. 

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I walked back to St Leonards, past the flat for another look, it is just as quiet today. I would have expected nothing else. The flat is in Helena Court, at the top of Pevensey Road, a ten minute walk up a hill from St Leonards station and the main shopping streets. It is not somewhere you would go unless you needed to. There are a lot of hills here.  Once I have settled and the flat is mine, I will post some photos of the interior.

There is a lot happening in St Leonards, it is another glorious day, loads of people about, there is street market in Kings Rd, the cafes are bursting, there is chatter and smiles. I stopped at a specialist photography gallery which had an exhibition of photos of David Bowie and talked to the owner for a while. Everyone I have met here has been nice.

I think I will be happy here !

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Edinburgh Fringe

Sunday 05 August 2018 – Edinburgh.

A quick post, I am trying to catch up with a big backlog of photos I have taken in various places. As I commented in the last post I am going through a ‘cannot be bothered with the blog’ moment. Admittedly the blog has lasted way longer than I expected, so I am not killing it off.  At least I don’t think so anyway.

Beyond his life as a Phd student El’s eldest son, Joe is a playwright, magician and theatre producer. He has been producing a show at Edinburgh Fringe for the past couple of years. This was the first year I have actually been in the country while Fringe is on, and able to visit. Edinburgh during Fringe is mad; and massively expensive. We had a packed couple of days ahead, starting with an early morning train. Train travel in the UK is an interesting thing. Highly and often deservedly derided, it can be extremely expensive, is often utterly unreliable, can be crowded and uncomfortable, but when it works it is brilliant. Today worked. The journey to Edinburgh from London is one of my favourites, booking early and travelling first class makes it that much more enjoyable. I can eat and drink the cost difference with ease.

We arrived early afternoon Friday with enough time to get to the small theatre for Joe’s first show ‘Creating Rumours’, a play set during the recording of Fleetwood Mac’s album ‘Rumours’. People who know me well, will know that this would be a real test of love. I fucking hate Fleetwood Mac, though I mostly enjoyed the show. The funniest thing about it was Joe with curly hair.

In the evening we went to see the stand-up comedian Reginald D. Hunter in a pre-festival warm up show. I have not seen or heard of him before, though El assured me I would enjoy it. She was right, I did. He was brilliant, if a little unpolished. This was a pre-fringe warm up and tickets were cheaper than they would be in the full show, he did acknowledge he was refining material and somethings wouldn’t work.

The walk back from the edge of the old town to our hotel in the new town was pretty special. Edinburgh is an amazing city, I love the place. It looks magnificent, the people are brilliant, it is busy, it buzzes, there is great food and drink, and, yeah it is a good place to be. Unless you want sleep. Then forget it…

On Saturday morning we visited the ‘Rip it Up’ history of Scottish pop exhibition at the Museum of Scotland. I 98% liked it. They had also made a three part TV series that we had seen, it was pretty good, though it had missed a lot of music I like, some of which was covered in the exhibition. However…. Why were The Exploited not mentioned once? Scotland’s finest and most enduring, and maybe even endearing punk band. Great to see Mogwai were represented though.

We took a long walk around the old town for a couple of hours before going to see the second of Joe’s productions ‘Strangers – Pairs’ a series of two piece magic vignettes. Much more my cup of tea.

That evening we went to see David Doherty, another stand up comedian. Unlike last night this was the proper show and it was utterly brilliant. I enjoyed last night, but this was another level of excellence. I laughed, a lot.

The sunset, and fireworks on display as we crossed the North St Bridge were amazing as well.

It was another relatively sleepless night, I got up once, around 3:00 as I thought someone was being killed in the street outside, the screaming was terrible. It was just idiots. My love for the city centre was waning. You know you are in a hotel that caters for a different market when there is a bottle opener screwed to the side of the desk!

On Sunday morning we visited the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. I am not a big fan of portraiture, which I guess is reflected in, the often, absence of people in my photos, however I really enjoyed the gallery. Designed around a history of Scotland, the paintings and the corresponding notes on the artist and the subject were informative, had a consistent narrative and made sense. The light was amazing and I convinced El to let me take her photo, again.

And that was it for Edinburgh. A quick weekend, lots of food, a whisky or two, some shows, some overcrowded madness, little sleep, but still, it is a great city. Fringe is madness, maybe not my thing, too many people, too expensive, but there is a big buzz in town and who can argue with that!

Back to Edinburgh Waverley Station for the train home. More lovely light and a last portrait or two.

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Flat Hunting, St Leonards version

Wednesday 25 July 2018 – St Leonards and Hastings.

Oh I do want to be by the seaside.

I know I have banged on about it often enough over the past couple of years, but I have finally done it. I have found a flat I want to buy!

After months of procrastination, mind-changing (and laziness) I took three days off work this week to use up the last of my annual leave allocation. I spent the time in St Leonards and Hastings looking at flats. I eliminated Hastings during the week and decided to focus on one area and not two. I did the consult the font of all knowledge on things local; the ‘Down From London (DFL)’ BookFace group before making that decision. Though both places have their social issues; this is quite a deprived part of Britain, St Leonards just seems quieter, and that is important to me.

I arranged four flat viewings through various agents for Tuesday and took the train down on Monday morning, planning to spend those days looking round the area, doing some writing, photo editing and generally catching up. I didn’t too much of the writing and editing and catching up, but I did read most of a book.

I booked myself in to a lovely Victorian B and B on Pevensey St as two of the flats I wanted to view were in the street, so it made sense to stay in the area. The other two were on Warrior Square, which I think will just be too noisy. Though one of those Warrior Square flats was lovely. The B and B was brilliant, full or Victoriana, Russian and English religious icons and symbols from China and the far east. The owners were very well travelled and I was a bit jealous of all the things they have accumulated on their travels, though the house is very busy.

As it is a Victorian B and B there is no TV (thankfully there is wi-fi J ) and no shower. I was forced to lie in a bath each night and read my book, something I very much enjoyed.

On Monday night I had dinner and a glass of wine at Azur, a beach side restaurant and bar, it was OK, but it did have a great view though!

After breakfast on Tuesday I stopped for a great coffee at Graze. Key for me in enjoying this as a place to buy is to find one or two places that I can stop for coffee or a glass of wine, as well as having the option for a more traditional pint-of-beer style boozer pub. I have to have places that cater for me. Graze had a very good wine menu and I went there later in the evening for dinner, and again for more wine on Wednesday. One box ticked.

Tuesday I was meeting an ex-work colleague for lunch about three miles out of town, along the very long seafront, towards Bexhill. It was a glorious day and perfect for a walk. I took pictures as you would expect.

A lot of photos…

I even took some images that may (or not turn up in the exhibition I have in October. I have decided to print some really large (A1) prints of close-ups of plants with huge amounts of blurred backgrounds. I brought the big old Canon 5d with me so I would be forced to actually take photos seeing as I was lugging such a weight around.

I was knackered after a very hot walk so caught the bus back to Hastings after lunch. With some food and water inside and the lunch time and bus ride sit down I was re-energised and took a walk around The Stade. The Stade means ‘landing place’ in the ancient Saxon language and contains the largest beach launched fishing fleet in the Europe. It is a pretty cool place, full of old and new fishing boats, ancient and not so ancient tractors and bulldozers used to move the boats into and out of the water. Photographically it is a great spot, and another reason I have chosen this as a place to live, even if it is just part time.

Wednesday was flat viewing day, I didn’t have a lot of time for much else, I visited a couple of local shops to chat to the owners. There are a number of small independent shops around St Leonards and Hastings, lots of antique shops, second hand places, a great wine / beer shop and I even discovered a good record shop. It is all looking up. Everyone I spoke to was positive about the place, it is on the up. Though incomers like me are not 100% welcome, or so I understand. I saw no negativity.

The good news is I really liked one of the flats, it pushed all my buttons and I loved it when i walked in the door. Pending a visit at the weekend with Eleanor I will offer, I really value her opinion and she will see the things I miss and view it with head and not heart!

I did not do too much after the viewings, it is tiring looking at flats. After a rest I walked down to the waterfront for lunch at one of the beach cafes. I tried Goat Ledge and had the best fish-finger sandwich ever, another bonus find! After lunch (and a respectable gap, I was a boy scout and know you cannot go swimming immediately after eating) I took to the sea. It was not too bad. It is a pebble beach, and stretches for miles in each direction. It never gets crowded!

In the evening I met up with some of the Bookface group I am a member of and went to see a local light jazz singer perform at an album launch in one of the pubs in Hastings Old Town. The music was tiresome, but it was good to meet and chat to others who have made the move down from London, and see that there is some nightlife as well. The pub was packed, as were some of the others.

Thursday, I was back in the car and back to London. Mission accomplished. Successfully. I liked St Leonards and Hastings.

PS

El and I came back down the following Saturday, she loved the place as much as me, though pointed out it needed a lick of paint, and a bit of love. I never noticed the paint. I have offered, it has been accepted and I am now in the process of purchasing.

PPS

I seem to have lost interest in the blog in the last few weeks, I have huge backlog of things I would blog if I had the time and the motivation, but it is waning. This wont be the final post. I am thinking of just doing some photo posts for a bit until I catch up with myself. I also want to write better, and that takes time and I have to be in the right headspace, somewhere I do not find myself in very often these days.

There will be more, maybe once I have moved.

Thanks to those who read me. xxx

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Greensted Church. The world’s oldest wooden church.

Saturday 21 July 2018 – Chipping Ongar, Essex.

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

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

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

It is a beautiful building.

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A walk along the River Lea

Saturday 14 June 2018 – Walthamstow to Liverpool St.

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here they all are!

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

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The Epping Forest Project, Phase 7 – July.

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

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

Hopefully August will be more inspiring.

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Fear of the Walking Dead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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