April 2020, the month of coronavirus lockdown. My breathing exercises in spring views of East London, UK

I would like to start this blogpost acknowledging this has been one changeable mood kind of a month.

It begun in semi frustration and acceptance: this is what we need to do and we commit to it. Blindfolded into commitment, no questions asked. Then days, then weeks passed. The exhaustion of changing habits in and out of home. The disappointment of realising you can’t walk into this pub, or straight into the shop, they are either shut, or there is a queue. You can’t hug your friend or pat the back of your neighbour. And that cycle route you always thought as the best, is out of bounds, too many runners using the tow path and daddies training their little ones to cycle. So forced into rediscovering your vicinity in new conditions, you get to become the tourist again, and that is cool.

Then the important stuff happening unnoticed until you think there’s value in the time you have saved from travelling and all the social stuff you can no longer do. So talking to friends and neighbours you end up rocking up to a community space in a church build on the ruins of one that was built in the 1600s, thinking you’re not the religious type but there are enough Muslim kids and white working class families about to take the edge off.

Next thing you’re committed and talking to new people. That guy is familiar, of course he is in and out of my block, and we chat, I hear the news and off we go.

Those who are organising everything, early on in the outbreak, with little knowledge of the impact yet without hesitation, they set up shop quickly. They asked and got donations, listened unjudgmentally to the community’s input, and attracted people of all ethnicities and faiths to help. They reassigned resources quickly. The initial food was delivered to 40 odd people three times a week and now it has grown to double of that.

Today, the last day of April feels like a halfway point on a long holiday. It’s been thrilling, confusing, too long, too short, too busy, and now seems to be going too fast and to be true, I don’t want it to end yet, but I do want to be able to make plans for the future.

Somehow the reality is: I can’t, and none of us can.

As we will gradually re-enter a version of normality in the coming months, there will be plenty of vulnerable people who will still not be able to leave their home. This help will not stop with our needs being met, and not until they have their fully met. It has been challenging at times running up and down unfamiliar estates, motivating oneself to get out, cover up, do your deed, run home, take everything off, clean everything, shower. Yet it’s been worth it. The smiles, the chats, the waves, the odd requests, or the kind wishes and offers. It all makes it so special.

This month has also been one where I covered nearly 200km cycling. It’s not a lot, however in addition to my training, and the bursting energy of spring colours and smells, there was plenty of visual richness to record.

The blog and the photos are dedicated to the community leaders, and those who need their swift action. They are being both my inspiration and motivation throughout the past six weeks and the very out of the ordinary month of April 2020.

Canary Wharf

Even more so, this month I hope does not go by forgotten. Everyone has been affected by it and I purposely included the empty canary wharf development. No one is immune to this and I hope this chance for a level playing field is finally grasped like the breath of fresh air we so much need.

Cozy spots for the last days of winter in London

Black Sheep coffee in Canary Wharf; one of my favourite spots for a good cup of coffee and chat and laptop working on the wharf.

The Williams Ale & Cider House; just cozy in Central East City in the heart of Spitalfields. A hidden gem for after-work chilled out drinks, a date, a catch up, surrounded by ancient looking stone walls and arches.

Boundary London rooftop bar; Nordic chic designer warm in the winter, quiet, great service, friendly vibes, hidden away on one of the rooftops in the heart of Shoreditch. Will come back in the summer.

Good vibes, always.

Consulting for the not for profit/civil society, some business development thoughts

Fourteen years of experience have brought me a number of realisations when working with clients in the third sector.

In development, the expectations are to build networks and to ‘cultivate’ the relationships. Then build a case for Support, aka business plan, for various programmatic areas stemming from the organisation’s theory of change.

It should be a straight forward mutually dependable action. You may have a highly skilled team, lots of contacts but outcomes are reliant on the exec team’s understanding of business development and willingness to incorporate in the day to day business outputs for it to succeed.

Grants and donors may be willing to support the cause however unless the programme teams have longer term plans and the exec team are open about discussing them with donors, there’s little scope for sustainable business.

Often, without integration, organisations suffer in the longer term.

In campaigning it is often hard to know how lobbying will affect policy. Excluding assumptions, teams know the topics and focus of the work, and may incorporate emerging trends an themes in the broader proposition. This is a inclusive way of indicating awareness of things businesses are talking about. This is paramount to bridging the slower pace of civil society to the faster paced corporate environment.

Organisational resilience can only successfully survive when the relationships, both internal and external, have a clear understanding on today’s expectations with an eye on spotting opportunities to lay the brick work for the future.

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

A walk in the port of Piraeus

Westward from the ferry port for destinations to the Cyclades and Crete, the port of Pireaus has a few hidden surprises.

Boats get larger and the space wider, abandoned warehouses as a backdrop, grafitti and murals galore.

The Chinese Road and Belt initiative will be redeveloping this area and on a beautifully sunny autumnal Sunday morning, I could not find an excuse to not document the blue of the sea with the yellows and blues of the ferries and the brownish grey concrete warehouses overshadowing the port streets.

I can’t predict what the port will look like in the future development, however I know for sure, the colourful ferries will still be floating on the beautiful coloured sea all the same.

Camden, for the soul

On the first chilly day of autumn, I walked out of the house for work to find my brain clicking into Camden cravings.

I’m not talking about the food options, the bashing vibes, the shopping or drinking ports.

That would be too much detail.

I’m talking about the warming feeling I get when I’m here.

In Camden Town, at sunset, on a crisp day. It feels like belonging, it feels like home.

I could climb under the cobble stones and sleep there for the night.

And wake up to crawl back up from beneath them, to see Camden in sunrise.

Bath and Wiltshire

So I decided to pull this guide together after having visited Bath and the wider Wiltshire a number of times over the last two years, visiting friends who moved there from London, for a change of lifestyle.

Wiltshire is a true representation of rolling English countryside, opening up to create the setting for the landscape of fields further afield in Devon and Cornwall, and to the end of the land of the British Isle. Scenic drives, quaint old cotsworld like villages dot the landscape, however note these are increasingly interrupted by new housing developments.

The area is knows for its afluent resident demographics. Housing is as expensive as it is in London, and Bath is a catwalk of contemporary design options, found in inoffensive gorgeously lit boutique shops. There are a lot of options to choose from, and an equal amount of cafes and foodie options to satisfy the pickiest of the souls out there.

Some of my favourite moments are both in Bath and the surrounding Somersetian countryside. When I get there, on a Friday, we head for the Star, the only – I believe – authentic pub, a mix of old and new, music or not, regulars and all embraced in a coffin shaped building. The walk there is equally cool, strolling past residential windows of yellow brick roman dwellings, sitting on the rustic raised walkway above the passing traffic passing below.

On days out, more recently I discovered Corsham. The walk through the tiny village, or the walk of the green space outside the stately home, are true to form of cutiness. The home itself and the gardens are architectural highlights so pick based on the season, trusting both will be a very rewarding experience.

Castle Combe is another little wonder to check out. I loved the walk from the car park to the village itself, hanging branches of tall trees canopying over the road. Prettily decorated door fronts, stone buildings, stone brick bridges, and water streams would have you thinking you are visiting Smurf land. It is not too far off that, hoping no offense caused by this description.

My earlier experience of Wiltshire was visiting Avebury stone circle. If you haven’t, this is a piece of british ancient history that equals Stonehedge. Avebury stone circle is the largest, with a village in the middle of it, supported by numerous super natural stories. I think my dream home is also in that village. Walk around the circle, but also do go for a walk through the village. I am sure you will get lost.

Box is known for the train tunnell and Thomas the tank. There is an underground town down there built out of sight to evacuate local residents on occassion of need.

Devizes has an eerie story of its own. The Black Swan is known to harbour ghosts of past times, and I did stay in room no 4 where numerous signtings and disturbances are known to take place. I must say I did not enjoy neither slept much and things happenned that I can not explain. The landlord soon sold the pub and moved on, like many others. However can’t fault the pub food and the atmosphere – warm, cozy and lively.

Devizes is also known for another trouble – that of its locks. If you own a riverboat, you will know the ladder of locks one has to wait through to get one side to another. A friend that did it told me that it took them around 9 hours to do Caen Hill. Not a feat for the lighthearted boat dwellers.

There is a lot more to see in this wonderful area however I will leave you with these pointers to begin with. I am sure you will be soon returning for more.

A.E.K. stadium is on its way

AEK is building a new stadium in Nea Filadelphia, Athens, Greece.

The ‘Athlitiki Enosh Konstantinoupolis’ will have a new home in its original site soon.

Their old home was demolished, like many of the Asia Minor dwellings in its neighbourhood, following the earthquake that rattled Athens, in September 1999.

For nearly twenty years, the athletic club trained in grounds borrowed by other clubs, steadily declining in performance, getting in debt, and dropping to second division.

AEK has a passionate following, mainly Greek Asia Minor refugees that were moved in stone build dwellings in Nea Philadelphia following the exchange of the population with Turkey, in the 1920’s. They were settled as refugees, in a town modeled in the minor asian counterpart’s design and the stadium was donated as a training ground for the Greek refugees.

The plans for the new stadium changed and shaped over the past two decades, often being put on hold due to the scale of the proposals, the lack of investment, the infrastructure of the local area and the architectural tone of the neighbourhood, much of which was rebuild and repaired in the traditional architectural tone of the area, as it was before the earthquake.

275px-Agia_Sofia_Stadium_Concept
Agia Sophia, AEK’s new stadium concept

Fans every year gathered on the old grounds, for ceremonies in honor of their club. You would see them putting a Christmas tree on the grounds that the old stadium once stood.

In 2017, after faithfully waiting for this to happen, the ground was once blessed again, in traditional style of priest incense and teargas. The AEK fans are not modest in the ways they show their devotion and support for their club.

The blessing of the AEK building works.

On a daily basis faithful observers gather and watch on as each kg of cement is poured.

The launch of the Agia Sophia stadium is expected in 18 months. The celebration will be unforgettable, to say the least!