The Long Way Down

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Herself and I are looking for our first place together. We see each other everyday and spend all our free time together anyway, so figure it’s probably time to take that next step and just see what happens. We’re hoping to move within the next month as the lease on her place runs out in early September, so we spent the best part of yesterday morning bothering the estate agents of North East London. With unrealistic demands, a laughable budget, and an impossible deadline, we were humoured, had our details taken, and then swiftly shown the door from at least 10 different offices. If anywhere was available, they told us, it was taken just before we walked in – of course. Not to worry, I said to Herself, if it comes to the worst then we can always spend a few weeks sleeping on the Embankment like a pair of down and outs. At least we’re having nice weather at the moment. I can start collecting cardboard boxes just in case. I like to think of these kinds of ideas as being romantic, she prefers to call them stupid.

Never to be disheartened, we decided on a change of scenery for the afternoon and hopped on a bus to Angel Islington for lunch. Fattened up on Mexican food and homemade lemonade, we set out on what was supposed to be a short walk through the neighbourhood, but actually turned into a 10 mile trek down through the city, eventually ending up at the London Docklands in Wapping. Along the way, we stopped for tea in the shadow of the mighty Saint Paul’s Cathedral, played hide and seek amongst the columns of the Old Port of London Authority Building on Tower Hill, and marvelled at the luxury yachts moored at the St. Katherine Dock. Like tourists in our home city, we took pictures of what we’ve seen a hundred times and wondered why we had never noticed these things before. We tried to remember the lyrics to songs by The Beatles and danced to tunes that we made up on the spot before racing each other back to her apartment and collapsing when we got in the door.

In the evening, we shared a bottle of Newcaste Brown Ale and talked about our future home together (wherever we might end up). By then, we were both so exhausted that most of what came out was half nonsense. When you’ve spent the whole day exploring the city together then you already know what the other person is thinking and words do little more than clutter the air between you. As we settled down for the night, I just kept quiet and concentrated on not ruining the moment by saying something too stupid. Now it’s Sunday and as she works on her Master’s dissertation, I’m typing the end of this story. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

 
  

 

Even More Street Art in Camden Town

I’m becomming increasingly aware of the fact I’m starting to look like some description of chronicler for the Camden Town graffiti scene, and I’m not sure if I like that. Nonetheless, I saw this new piece on the way into work this morning and, I have to admit, I like it. Opinion may differ as to whether this kind of work should be considered Art, but if you ever happen to spend some time down the grim backstreets of North London, then I am sure will come to agree that the place could do with a spot of colour. To give you some clue as to the kind of neighbourhood I’m talking about, the locals call the street featured below “Shit Alley” because it’s where the drunkards and addicts go to relieve themselves at night. In his lesser known 1928 essay, Why I Don’t Like Living in London, D. H. Lawrence derided the city for being a “dull, “grey” and “monotonous” place. He writes:

The morning of departure, I look out of the taxi upon the strange dulness of London’s, arousing a sort of death, and hope and life only return when I get my seat in the boat-train

Truth be told, Old Davy Lawrence had a point. London can be quite a dull place to have to look at. Especially when it’s been raining, it’s like walking through Lowry‘s worst nightmare. However, as long as spray-painters continue to create these colourful murals then at least some of the city will be half tolerable to look at.

The sign reads “The Real Art of Street Art”

What do you think?

Mural Swapping in Camden

Perhaps some of you may remember a post from few weeks ago in which I displayed some new public art that had been painted onto a wall near the office. It appears that another artist has now painted over that mural. I must admit, the new work is a striking and bold piece, but it also starts to hurt my eyes a moment after the immediate glance. Tell me, what do you think?

Camden Street Art

Happy Sunday from London

We shared a can of beer after work and went for a walk in the cool evening air, Wednesday last. Herself lives near the old London Docks, so we threw some shapes down through Wapping by way of Shadwell.

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This here is Shadwell Basin. It’s a beautiful little spot. I’m sure you will agree. The water was as calm as glass and you could actually hear yourself think for once – a rare luxury around these parts. It is by calling on these little occasions of serenity that you will keep sane through the many more frantic and maddening moments that make up life in a city such as London.

A new week starts tomorrow, here’s hoping it’s a good one.

A Long Walk Through The City

One of the Broadway Market Traders.

We started our weekend with a visit to Broadway Food Market in Hackney, and, if you can get to this hidden gem of a spot early enough on a Saturday afternoon, you will find yourself absolutely spoiled for choice. The stallholders on Broadway are a proud bunch with a love for what they do and the things that they’re selling. They also know very well that there will always be people willing to make the journey across town to pay hand-over-fist for such high quality produce; freshly baked breads; delicious cheeses, sweating and stinking in the warm summer air; absolutely beautiful fruit and veg; whole legs of Spanish ham displayed and carved-up right there on the open street. It was all very tempting, but instead of spoiling ourselves too early, we decided to push on and caught the train to Camden Road where we had a light lunch of  fish before settling on a plan to trek to Covent Garden. After all, it was a fine day for a walk and we have never been the sort to let the good weather go to waste.

The journey from Camden to Mornington Crescent can be quite a grim affair even at the best of times and it’s little wonder why so many guidebooks choose to omit this grubby patch of road from their listings. You can barely move for ten feet without running into a drug addict, a prostitute, or a petty hoodlum, and even in the broad light of day, you would be good to keep your wallet firmly pocketed. Once you hit Euston and University College London, however, the neighborhood becomes respectable once more and you can stop worrying about becoming a crime statistic. Soon we found ourselves in Bloomsbury where around every corner you half expect to find T.S Eliot or Virginia Woolf stood in discussion with one of their literary acquaintances from that little bourgeois social circle of theirs. When Americans see London in their movies, says my old man, this is the London they are seeing.

As we passed Euston Square Gardens and made our way down Woburn Place, we caught sight of a mound of wreaths and bouquets on the pavement next to BMA House (the headquarters of the British Medical Association). We inquisitively approached the stack of flowers and cards to discover that we had happened upon one of the sites of the 7/7 London Bombings. This summer marks the 10th anniversary since the attacks and it would not be out of line to say that the city still hasn’t fully recovered from the tragedy. I know that I can hardly take a bus or the underground without thinking about it. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little choked up when I saw that one of the wreaths had been placed there by George Psaradakis, the driver of the bus that was bombed at Tavistock Square.

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It reads, “May you rest in peace. You will never be forgotten. Much-much love. From George Psaradakis, No 30 bus driver.”

Shaken and saddened, we ventured into the park in search of a distraction and occupied ourselves by watching the squirrels chase one another across the grass and up through the trees. We found a bench to rest for a short while, but before long, we were back on our trek. By the time we arrived at Covent Garden it was early evening and the place was humming with activity. We saw street magicians, dancers and singers entertaining the crowds of cheering tourists while bachelor and hen parties noisily stumbled from bar to bar. We took a brief stroll around the Piazza but even the buzz and excitement of a Saturday night in central London were not enough to shake the exhaustion one is bound to feel after a long day spent walking the city. Surrendering to our tired and heavy legs, we admitted defeat and made our way to the nearest bus home. I haven’t slept so well in weeks.

We took a few pictures along the way. I hope you enjoy.

Feminists and the non-story

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I logged on to my Twitter this morning to find that a number of the self-identified feminist users that I follow had decided to take exception to the fact that the managing editor of Vice Magazine’s new “Women’s Channel,” Broadly, was a young gentleman by the name of Mitch Sunderland. Add to that the channel’s marketing slogan, “For women who know their place,” and you have all the ingredients for a perfect storm of outrage. The odd and morally ambivalent thoughts I have toward the very idea of a gender targeted publication being launched in 2015 aside – this being a time in which it has been reported that increasing numbers of young people actually understand gender to be more of a spectrum as opposed to being limited to fixed categories of male and female. As an oppositionalist, it pains me to say that the western world seems to be becoming a fairer and more equal place (at least legislatively – society still needs a bit more time to catch-up). We are not in Utopia yet, but we are starting to understand how to get there. Nonetheless, the wronged feminists were quick to express their outrage, with some people even pulling the matter of race into the equation:

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What’s most interesting about this whole story is that while the feminists (many of whom are published journalists) were quick to jump on to the uproar band wagon, they had evidently forgotten to do even the most basic research. If they had, they would quickly of realized that while Mr. Sunderland is the Managing Editor of the channel, the Editor-in-Chief  (i.e. the real creative and editorial head honcho) is actually a lady by the name of Tracie Morrissey.

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Suddenly that “For women who know their place” slogan takes on a whole less sinister vibe, doesn’t it? That so many supposedly intelligent people fell for such a simple misunderstanding and turned it into an unnecessary game of gender politics is almost beyond belief. Besides all that, what if, shock horror – how could this white patriarchal bastard dare to write such a thing? – Mitch Sunderland was announced as the EIC? Who is to say that he could not have been the best person for the job? Why does being a man disqualify you from engaging in women’s issues? The whole argument – which, remember, started from a false premise – is utterly ridiculous, not to mention that it’s also kinda sexist. I’m not upset as a man, I’m confused as a rational person.

It is not my intention to denigrate feminists here; I support a great many of the ideas that they claim to fight for (equality, decency, pluralism, etc.). It is most definitely true that there are a great many topics on which we differ, but there are even more on which we agree. This, however, is not one of them. The whole matter was a total non-story from the very beginning, with Vice being the only profiteers. They love this kind this attention. Vice is all about controversy; it’s what they are most well known for. I mean, surely everybody and their cat knows that tired old cliche of an expression, “There is no bad publicity” by now. A great many of the commentators were alerted to their misgivings and swiftly apologized and retracted their statements. Some deleted their original posts. However, many did not. Once a lie has been accepted, the truth no longer matters. This completely incorrect story was manipulated to suit a political purpose and splashed halfway across the internet before anyone took the time to question its validity. Well done feminism.

Yes, in a great many organizations, there still exists an old-boys club mentality, and we should be doing everything we can to remedy that. However, that is simply not the case in this instance, and getting reactionary and all bent out of shape about absolutely everything does nothing in the way of mature or logical discussion. If anything, this little debacle only serves to highlight just how petty, confused and ridiculous certain corners of feminism have become. Injustice is a terrible thing, but the best way to fix things is not to start making shit up. Hopefully this embarrassing little episode will make some people think a little bit more about how they choose to engage with politics. Unfortunately, I doubt it will.

Also, if you’re a feminist and want to comment on Vice’s history and relationship with gender politics, then perhaps a better place to start would be this slightly preposterous video featuring one of Vice’s co-founders, Gavin McInnes:

Stevie Wonder: The Video Game Soundtrack

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When I first graduated from University, Ireland was in the middle of a complete economic meltdown and the prospects were not good. To distract myself from the misery of high unemployment and recession, I turned to music to keep me sane. I have always been a fan of Stevie Wonder’s music, so I figured I could keep myself amused and my brain active (when not posting out dozens of job applications) by transcribing and rearranging some of his work. I transcribed I Wish on some music notation software and then converted the midi track to sound like an 8-bit video game. That kind of goofy stuff has always kept me amused.

I was looking through some of my old stuff on my computer this afternoon and found this track. I played the song and it made me smile, maybe it will do the same for you.

Some Big Tunes For a Big Monday

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I have been posting quite a bit of music lately, and so, I ask myself, why stop now? We went to see the Moderately Optimistic Jazz Orchestra (MOJO) at the Vortex Club in Dalston Kingsland yesterday. We had a few drinks and met with some good friends, it was an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The band were on fire and played a blinding set, so I recorded a couple of tunes to see how they would come out. I tweaked the audio levels a little in work this morning and I think it sounds quite decent. Of course, you can never really fully capture the experience of a live 18-piece jazz ensemble short of actually going there to see for yourself, but I did the best I could. This tune is called Count Bubba and was originally recorded by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. It’s a big and brassy number and will certainly blow away those Monday blues. I hope you enjoy.

Datum Plane – Lighthouse

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My friend’s band, Datum Plane, have just released their first music video for the song Lighthouse, taken from their debut EP, Things You Need to Hear. The video was filmed at Beachy Head on the British coast in early March of this year, so I’m sure you can appreciate how cold it must have been out there. They are a very cool bunch of lads and the perfect accompaniment to a sunny day in the park, drinking good wine and eating olives. I hope you enjoy.

The EP is available for download here and you can follow them on Twitter @datum_plane.