Rowing in the East End with its histories and all

Two years ago I came accross the documentary called Men of the Thames. The film is a journey of watermen and lightermen working in businesses on the Liquid Highway of London.

The story is narrated through the family histories of people with long associations to the London docks, the changes that have shaped their local industry since and their closeness to rowing.

Rowing for them is a family affair, taken up to continue the tradition of family participation in competitions, or as a means of rehabilitation from severe injury in pursue of ‘bringing those who stray back into a much supportive community’. It also highlights how tragedy is reflected upon and the power of responsibility owned by those working on the river.

The second documentary zooms in on the Doggetts Coat and Badge race.

Introduced and funded by Thomas Doggetts, the film takes us into the community within one of the oldest livery companies in London, housed at the Watermen’s Hall.

This is a single sculling race for apprentices in the lightermen and watermen sectors of London, traditionally originating East from the Tower of London.

Rowing in these parts of London was a far cry from the associations of today to university crews and the boat race.

Oared vessels were used to transport people by the river, and the importance of understanding the tides, steering in the streams and the elements in these wider parts of Thames were key to safe and time efficient passage.

Many of the references point to rowing facilities in the east of London. The London Youth Rowing, next to the City Airport is a more recent addition utilised by many regional clubs. Poplar and Blackwall District Rowing Club hosts exhibits from generations of Doggetts winners, many of whom trained from the club. Further athletes went on to row competitively in high performance national, international and Olympic events.

The Eastend is a place of transience and evolving histories, still unfolding to date.

Advertisements

Chefchaouen, the blue pearl of north Morocco.

Chefchaouen is the perfect day or weekend trip on your travels in Morocco.

Famous for the blue painted buildings, more recently featured on French Montana’s ‘Famous’ videoclip

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHkxOU7zz8 that was filmed in the souks and circular main road around the town sitting on the mountain side. The 33 year old  moroccan-american artist is from the Casablanca and often pays tribute to his love for Morocco.

Back to Chefchaouen, the town is easily navigable by foot, but not wheelchair users, or for those with mobility difficulties. Built on the mountain side, souk and town streets climb up and down through the mountain curves, offering exquisite views over the town and the landscape beyond.

Chefchaouen is one of the easier villages to travel through Morocco. It is small enough to walk through in a day, and big enough that you can find another photogenic corner to help you on your dream-scape of what life may be like in the town, or in-fact to those that grow up in the alleys and buildings, protected by the elements and near everything else.

Here are some of the photos from our visit, we arrived on a cloudy and rainy day, yet it was also wonderful to see the town in non-postcard conditions, a different, and what felt more genuine side of life there. Rain gently encouraged us to go into the local cafe, not the tourist ones, and to get lost around the back streets to a school, trying to find a way through to the main square.

Chefchaouen’s location is equally impressive nesting on the mountain feet, reminds you of the perspectives on life which is so easy to forget when bouncing about between places in a city.

You could say Chefchaouen becomes the little blue light, twilight, dream-scape of adventure.

London Art Fair review

The London Art Fair is a unique opportunity to summarise what is happening in the high end gallery led art scene around the globe in that one year.

The collective in London hosted most of the main brand galleries representing mainly visual arts, with some sculpture and three dimensional work for sale, in the case where 3d was the only medium the artist worked in.

This year there were surprisingly a lot of trees, and in similar shapes. This made me wonder if there was a synchronicity between the artists but then again most of the works were made at different time frames. Yet the shape of the tree was prevailing over and over again.

Another repetitive feature was the cut out Victorian style book illustrations turned mini 3d landscapes. Is there a return to the kind of darkness that books enlighten through the imagination?

The artists that stood out are:

Elle Davies for the greenness of the forest shots. Did she go for the exotication of green spaces?

https://elliedavies.co.uk

Michael Ormerod for his American urban. landscapes washing out the impact of capitalism.

https://www.cranekalmanbrighton.com/photographer-category/20th-century-photographers/michael-ormerod/

Nicholas Feldmeyer for his stunning post apocalyptic digitally produced black and white landscapes.

http://www.feldmeyer.ch/index.php?page=290

Ian Berry’s jeans made 3d frame of Roosevelt Hotel.

http://www.ianberry.org

Driving around in Westfalen

Christmas in Germany, through the markets and shops, the streets decorated with pine trees, lights out letting the natural phenomena shed light as clouds, day and dusk allow.

Yet the most fascinating part in the journey is driving from place to place.

Unlike the English quintessential village feel, the countryside in Westfalia is a mix of wild growth areas and farmed fields, wind turbines and easyness, in the sense of a down to earth grounded kind.

The only brother in a gym in Peckham, London

Written by an anonymous friend, November 2018

I have lived in Peckham from 1994 and have seen various gyms pop up in the area. However, a lot of these gyms did not really fit what I wanted. Recently, I saw an advertisement for a gym of FB and it looked like it hit all the right buttons, more cardio then weights type.

I will now tell you my experience of the gym, as it was interesting to me as I don’t really train at gyms in general.

I was going shopping one morning down Peckham Rye and saw that the F45 Training gym that I saw on FB was advertising their opening, so decided to pop in. I was greeted by a female trainer that was very friendly and was looking to sign me up straight away. The sells pitch was good for a trail membership. Now the gym is purely class based (only downside), meaning you can’t show up and do your own training thing. No big deal for me as I do my own thing with my homeboy and by myself. Goal was to do 1 or 2 hard workouts a week with this gym as it was close to home (main reason for joining.) So back to sales pitch, I would say they had all the right looks to draw people in, attractive trainers, sweet looking new equipment etc.. Now the kicker was the price 189 a month.. Damn am I still in Peckham. Commercial price for commercial gym, I guess.

So knowing it might kill my pocket, I joined as close to home, my type of training and good equipment, sleds, sledge hammers etc..
So I thought the price being what it was that most of the clients would be white as most Peckham people I know ain’t paying that price (Laughing). So attending the classes I noticed firstly more woman than men (no biggy). So I have been to a few classes since joining in August, however, every time I go, I notice that I am the only brother (meaning Dark Skin Black Man) in the class. And first few times only black person period.

Noticed some sistas showing up, but still no brothers. Only brotha I saw was a trainer. So here I am in the middle of Peckham (known to be a so called Black Area) and I am the only brother a the gym, in this day and age gotta make you smile. But this fits in with the Costa and other cafe’s popping up in the area, vape shop etc.. (Gentrification). Luckily I am not bothered about being the only brotha, but now the pressures on to represent (Laughing). So at times it does feel strange, as the only brotha, but I keep my focus, as it is about the work.

Now my theory on why I am the only brotha I have seen is that most guys in general are into the weight training side of exercise more than cardio, so hence less men in general. And most Black guys I know prefer to weight train rather than cardio. So it will be interesting to see if the membership and look of the gym changes over time.

side note- On FB a Sista was looking at the advertisement and said that there were no Black People in the promotional video(interesting). I had a laugh and put in the comment section, that there are a few of us in there including myself. She replied, how come you not in the video, but there is no way I would be in the video as I am not one of there devoted members, I am in and out, so I assume the peeps in the video would be devoted members.

Until next time, Keep on Keeping.

Back in education

I am back at the university studying full time twenty years after the last time I was in formal education.

There are some things that have changed since. I’m not lacking of confidence. And I have work experience on the subject. Did I think I would be an alien, at least a decade older than the majority of the students? Yes. And I can see some twenty years old students talk the theory but weak in joining the dots. Then there are exceptions, the smart ones. That put the hours in and build coherence across perspectives and layers. And the professors the Bank of knowledge of recalculations across parallel universes, the poets that make you laugh, worry, question, empower.

Do the 20 something year olds see what I see?

I’m emerged, taken, absorbed.

The weight of information is frying my brains, I can feel the heat emitting. I feel like a Nick Cave song. Poverty, testosterone, rebirth, death, crisis, grouping, introspection, self and sense check.
I can see again and with that I came to find a purpose for the frame I hold in my hands as I type.

Here are the shots from the first month in uni. After 20 years. Just as my memories from the first time, fading away in the distance, this somehow has poured new colours on to it.

Brazil, after Italy

I can’t even begin to imagine what it feels like for Brazilians.

Half will be sharpening their machetes while the other half are shuddering in terror.

This is the defining moment in contemporary history. Humans eating their insides, being fooled to put the blame on the most vulnerable, articulating things they are neither proud or representative of.

No excuses for fascists anymore. This is a true war and it will leave many souless bodies behind.

Cemetery walk, at the Victorian Tower Hamlets

The Tower Hamlets cemetery is one of the seven ‘magnificent’ Victorian resting places remaining in London. They were created to settle the dangerously overcrowded parish cemeteries. Dracula was filmed at Highgate Cemetery.

DSC_3093.JPGMy local, the The Tower Hamlets cemetery, is located in the back streets of the heart of the Eastend between Mile End and Bow Station. It has certainly gone to sleep and woken up to the sound of the Bow Bells for many years. Not surprisingly for an Eastend lock-in, it is open 24 hours a day.

In the past I have attended art events and film festivals,  including the Shuffle festival curated by Danny Boyle. My visit recently was made in search of a contemplating walking space away from the hectic pace of a Monday mid morning and in search of clean air and quietness.

What I like about this cemetery is it’s capacity to disorient you and draw you off track between the thick growing foliage, and fallen gravestones.

DSC_3091.JPGI love how the place smells fresh in contrast to the rest of the wonderfully diverse smells in the Eastend. I love how it is equally shared by hooded youth, trendy dog walkers, old cockneys and the odd walker, like myself, just taking the green goth-icky scenery in.

DSC_3101.JPG

The cemetery is now a nature reserve looked after by a friendly society, looking out for the wildlife residing in the woods. They hold bat watching events in true Gothic style.

This reminds me of references of the tours at Highgate cemetery, that coincidentally I discovered that on occasions were run by well acclaimed author Audrey Niffernegger who’s one familiar book is Her Fearful Symmetry, a ghost story, is also based in the cemetery surrounding area. Ghostly enough, only two weeks after learning that she gives site seeing trips around the cemetery, one if her books found its way in front of me on a very rare visit to an Eastend charity shop. Good enough reason to write this, right?

There is an uncanny beauty in the ‘Magnificent Seven’. I have not heard of other cities’ stories of overflowing burials, to the extend of contaminating water and grounds.

DSC_3092.JPG

Victorian Eastend couldn’t have been a happy place, non-the-less for the very unpleasant presence of many evil and opportunist men, without forgetting Jack the Ripper, who roamed the streets freely only a mile or so down the road.

DSC_3095.JPG

Being able to walk through a place that hosted so much pain once, to soothe the pain of city living in the 21st century is a gift that I rest assured was not planned originally.

I can’t say enough, thank you.