May 22, 2015

the day the swifts came back

May’s been a funny old month. Colder than March, some days. Full of brisk winds and heavy storms that stripped the blossom off the trees in my street before I’d barely had time to stop and appreciate it. Nights of violent dreams and creeping nightmares, days of bad news and exhaustion. Too many moments of frustration and loneliness.

Yesterday afternoon there was a break in the clouds, so I went for a walk up Primrose Hill. I lay down in the grass and looked up at the sky, and I took these photos.

new shoes on Primrose Hill

cloudwatching

on Primrose Hill

on Primrose Hill

bug's eye view of Primrose Hill

And as I lay on the grass near the top of the hill, watching the clouds, I spotted the first swifts of the summer. They always arrive around the third or fourth week in May, so I’ve been looking out for them, but it was a lovely surprise to spot them anyway. They were way up high amongst the cirrus, tiny black specks flitting around, so high that you could blink and miss them.

I made my way up to the peak of the hill and craned my face upwards to get a better glimpse, only to realise that nobody else had noticed them, the heralds of summer. This was a moment for me, alone.

And I walked off down the hill with a smile on my face, towards a tree with new buds of pink blossom starting to bloom, a sign that the storms of May didn’t blow everything off the trees.

down Primrose Hill

blossom

May’s been a funny old month. Stormy weather and bad dreams took their toll on me. But it’s also been a month of mellow afternoons with good sounds spilling out of windows opened wide to warm sunshine. Days of creative encouragement and good food. Days to linger under lush green trees, listen to the bees and watch the birds in the sky.

Yesterday the swifts came back, and I almost didn’t see them.

sunshine

[photos taken with the Hipstamatic app, using the Adler 9009 lens and Blanko Freedom13 Film]

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May 21, 2015

to the river

Some photos from a riverside walk in Richmond on a sunny afternoon last month….

to the river, Richmond

Richmond riverside

boathouses, Richmond

Richmond riverside

Richmond riverside

Richmond riverside

Richmond riverside

Richmond riverside

Richmond riverside
(I got divebombed by a bullfinch when I was taking this)

Richmond riverside

There’s more Richmond riverside on my blog here.

May 12, 2015

return to Kensal Green

A couple of weeks ago I went for a wander through Kensal Green, one of London’s Magnificent Seven cemeteries. I didn’t take many photos, but the atmosphere inspired me to take a few with the Hipstamatic app on my old phone. I used to love experimenting with the different combinations of lenses/films, but I haven’t really played around with it much of late. This particular combination has always been a favourite of mine because of the way it imparts a timeless dream-like quality that is perfectly suited for old stone structures in the sunshine.

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green Cemetery

Kensal Green Cemetery

[photos taken with Hipstamatic, using the BettieXL lens and Kodot XGrizzled film]

As the post-title suggests, this wasn’t my first visit to Kensal Green, you can read my previous posts here: Kensal Green Cemetery // Faces of Kensal Green.

May 9, 2015

walk on, past

On Thursday, after I’d voted (and I’m not going to talk about the election result because it is just too depressing), I ended up taking a long walk through the woods on Hampstead Heath, which I hadn’t done for a while.

One of the drawbacks about going to classes two days a week is that I seem to have less energy for walking as much as I did last year — chronic fatigue means I have to balance what I want to do against what I have to do, and walking for pleasure often gets left out of the equation. Because of this, I haven’t been walking as much as I’d hoped and planned to this year. I usually walk to my printmaking class, but although I had great intentions when I started the drawing class that, since it’s in the afternoon, I’d have enough time to walk there too (it’s in a different place to my printmaking class), I never seem to have enough energy to do that, and I’m pretty sure if I did walk down there it would make me too tired to focus on the class (as I’ve mentioned before, it’s a pretty intense class).

All of which means that I’ve hardly been in the woods on the Heath this year (although I have been up on Parliament Hill a few times), and Thursday’s walk reminded me how much I’ve missed it. I did take photos when I was out on Thursday, but I recently came across these photos I took last year (which I had uploaded at the time but not got around to blogging, because that was when I ended up taking that impromptu blog break for a few months), so I thought I’d post them now. I always find something very soothing about being on my own out in the woods, and I think these pictures capture that soothing atmosphere so you can share it, too.

Vale of Health, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
I can never tell if this is wild chervil (aka cow parsley), wild carrot (aka Queen Anne’s lace) or hogweed
(which is poisonous)

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
it’s a bit confusing that baby coots have red beaks like adult moorhens

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
don’t know what this plant is, but it’s got pretty leaves

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
cleavers, aka goosegrass, one of those multipurpose plants: eat it, make dye, stuff beds, use as a sieve…

Hampstead Heath, spring 2014
garlic mustard, aka Jack-by-the-Hedge, is tasty in soups, salads and stir-fries

bluebells, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

bluebells, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

bluebells, Hampstead Heath, spring 2014

May 3, 2015

May Day in Greenwich

On Friday, I donned my flowery skirt and went down to Greenwich to enjoy some May Day celebrations.

I met up with a friend at Surrey Quays station, and we got the bus to Greenwich. I spotted this lovely bird mural on the way to the bus stop, does anyone know who painted it?

mural in Surrey Quays // a raised bridge

While we were on the bus, we had to stop for the road over Deptford Creek to raise, which was a surprise to me as I had no idea the road did that!

Once we were in Greenwich we took a wander through the Old Royal Naval College. Sounds from a music class spilled from an open window, and we stopped to admire the spectacle of the Painted Hall.

Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

We wandered along towards the old Edwardian power station down by the river, past the Trinity Hospital Almshouses, and around the old wall with the story embedded into it. (We were curious about the purpose of that little hexagonal tower at the back of the power station, with the little windows at the top, any ideas what it was for?).

Greenwich Power Station

At the Star & Garter we stopped for a drink, and waited for the revellers from the Jack in the Green parade. It’s one of the few unspoiled pubs in that area, with wooden beams, a dartboard, racing on the telly and a brassy blonde barmaid who calls you “luv”. Just my kind of pub.

Jack in the Green at the Star & Garter

Jack in the Green at the Star & Garter

When the parade arrived we went outside where one of the revellers was telling a tall tale of the Leviathan which seemed to involve a lot of roaring. We hung around enjoying the sunshine and admiring the costumes, before setting off along our way again.

spring flowers and bright colours

We wandered towards Greenwich Park, where we stopped to admire the view from quiet One Tree Hill where we were more-or-less alone, and again outside the Observatory, which of course was full of tourists. We relaxed for a while inside the tiny Observatory Gardens, which always feels surprisingly secluded, despite being so close to where so many tourists congregate (and long may it stay that way!)

around Greenwich Park

We heard the drums from the Jack in the Green parade as we headed down through the park and side streets towards the Richard I pub, another stop on the parade route.

wisteria galore

We stopped here for a drink and some (overpriced) chips, and bitched about the refurbishment of what was formerly just a nice boozer rather than a posh gastropub with shabby chic pretensions.

Jack in the Green at the Richard I

By the time we’d finished our drinks, it was getting towards evening, so we walked over to Greenwich Station and headed homewards.

You can learn more about the Jack in the Green May Day traditions here and check out the Company of the Green Man‘s picture archive here.

April 21, 2015

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

Here’s another music-related post for you — about another music-related exhibition.

On Saturday I got the bus into town, to see an exhibition about fifty years of record shops in Soho. It was the last day before the exhibition closed, and it also happened to be Record Store Day.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996
(there’s a better view of the map here)

The exhibition was in Berwick Street, which used to be home to so many record shops that it was even known (amongst my friends, anyway), as “The Famous Street of Record Shops”. I think at one point we counted 16, if we included music stalls in the market, and some of the shops on the streets leading off Berwick Street, so although we used the name ironically, it was also well-earned.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

As part of the Record Store Day celebrations, there was a mini music festival in Berwick Street, so the area was rammed with people sitting in the streets, although they all seemed to be waiting around for something to actually happen, and there wasn’t any music playing. I didn’t notice many of them holding any record shop bags, either (mostly they were just holding beer), but the sun was out and there was quite a nice atmosphere. You really can’t beat Soho in the sunshine.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

The exhibition itself was pretty interesting, and there was quite a wealth of information, ephemera and memories crammed into a small space, of which the images here were only a small selection.

One of the first things I noticed when going around the exhibition was how many of the shops’ bag designs had the same red+black+white colour-scheme.

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996

Record Shops of Soho, 1946-1996
(oops, just realised that Musicland bag is featured twice, oh well)

The other thing was that I didn’t spot anything of the shops I used to go to back in the 1990s, like Selectadisc (which closed down, but still has a shop in Nottingham) and Sister Ray (which is now in the spot that Selectadisc vacated, though it used to be further down the street). I was also puzzled as to why the collection only went up to 1996, which is almost twenty years ago. I know 1996 is fifty years on from 1946, which is a nice round number and all that, but they could have extended the dates to 2006 and celebrated sixty years of Soho record shops, which would have included more of the time I actually shopped there myself (although I was shopping in Selectadisc and Sister Ray before 1996, as well). Hopefully they’ll be able to extend the exhibition and put it on again next year, when it will be seventy years since 1946. In fact, they really have enough stuff to make it into a book. They should make it into a book. (If you fancy reading more about the record shops in the 1990s, this is a great post on those days.)

After seeing the exhibition, I popped next door to Gosh (one of my favourite bookshops), to say hi to my artist chum Lizz Lunney who had mentioned on Instagram that she was going to be there (she currently lives in Berlin). Unfortunately I didn’t really get to chat to her because the shop was heaving with people and she was busy painting the window (one of the things I love about Gosh is that they regularly get artists and illustrators to paint their windows with wonderful pictures). On the upside, I bumped into another artist chum, Andy Poyiadgi who has a new comic being launched at Gosh this very Friday. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s about a postman who finds all the things he’s ever lost have been stored in the local lost-and-found, which is very similar idea to this artwork by Lally MacBeth, don’t you think? It’s funny how certain ideas seem to find their Time.

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