In my shoes

It all begun late at night walking the streets of Rome.

Me and a bunch of Italians, in our 20s where walking to a place I can’t quite remember now.

I can recall the excitement of the new experience ahead, a new thing to discover, having fun, drifting from one place onto another.

Coming back to art school, developing the photos, I realised having taken a photo of our feet, walking. This small and unimportant detail became the point of recall of what the hang out felt like at that point in time.

The style, became a thing over the years.

Photos of shoes on feet in places. They were taken when there was time to absorb the moment. When life paused. A documentary without the documentation, yet a personal moment of just being.

The following photos follow the trail of moments over the past twelve months or so, from early 2018.

This is something I wanted to do for awhile. There may be more from the past in blog posts to come, or of moments from further back into the past.

Take a walk with me…

This was taken in Methoni, in summer 2018, walking through the village late evening
Taken at my stylist’s back garden in North London
This was taken inside the beautifully serene riad, in the heart of Fez, Morocco
This is an odd one, but the stone paved ground rings Camden Town Market to me, at the Stables.
A Friday night at the Star in Bath “when in Bath…”
Leaving Stansted Airport after landing from summer holidays, full of vitamin D
At the Blues Bar, on a night out with Dad, Carnaby Street London
In Tromso, Norway, looking up at the northern lights
Attending a lecture by a friend in Central London, the Strand
Waiting for the train ride accross Cinque Terra, West Italy
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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.

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.

Meet Dangerous Dave,  the death-defying fisher poet

Original posted by ntskinner in peoplewemet.org

I interviewed Dave Densmore over the phone in December 2016, for a story about the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon. The photos were taken by Malte Jaeger on an earlier trip to Astoria.

Stories aren’t exactly in short supply at the Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon, or so I’m told. In the bars around this gentrifying blue-collar town, a hundred or so men and women – all of whom have had commercial fishing experience – read poetry, sing songs and tell tall tales of life on the seas.

But few, surely, can hope to match the storytelling chops of “Dangerous” Dave Densmore – who was the youngest king crab skipper on the Bering Sea, off Alaska, at 23; who survived four days on a tiny life raft in a violent storm in 1971; and whose father and son died in the same fishing accident in 1985. Dave has some stories.

Today, he’s speaking to me from the 54-foot ketch he lives on in in Astoria, and on which he’s planning to set sail around the world with his partner. “I guess I’m just happier on the ocean,” he says. “On land, it gets complicated – people, relationships, status, all that stuff. Out there, none of that matters so much. You’re in nature’s pocket, and you realise that in all that beauty and power, your shit doesn’t mean much.”

Born in the commercial fishing hub of Kodiak, Alaska, Dave bought his first boat at 13, and became a king crab skipper at 23, a preposterously young age in a game where respect is all. But, hearing about his time on that life raft, which is the subject of one of his best-known poems, you get a sense of the man that Dave was, and is.

“We’d been out fishing king crab, not far from the shore, when the boat caught fire and we had to jump ship. Having got on the life raft, we watched, helplessly, as a storm rose up, taking us further and further out to sea.  

“This was before survival suits were invented, and we were freezing – but I didn’t allow myself to think we’d die on that raft, bobbing around in huge waves, with driving snow. On the first night, I told my guys the rules: We weren’t gonna talk about food, water, wives, girlfriends. It was just the four of us, the raft and the here and now. We were going to tough it out, and we were going to live.”

Eventually, four long nights later, fate played a hand. A Japanese trawler came past and flipped the raft. “If they hadn’t seen us and stopped, that would have been that,” says Dave. But the sailors heard the screams and did stop, dragging the shivering Alaskan fishermen onboard. Not speaking a word, the Japanese seamen got to work instantly, taking to turns to massage Dave and his crews’ feet with Savlon and warm water.

“Without them,” says Dave, “I was told I would have lost both feet. It was a miracle that all of my crew survived without losing any parts of their bodies.”

But if that didn’t break Dave, what happened on June 28th, 1985, would have broken most men. Dave had been through a stint running a salmon trawler in Oregon and Washington, and a divorce. He’d moved back to Kodiak Island with his new partner, Pat, and his son Skeeter, in 1980.

June 28th, 1985, was Skeeter’s 14th birthday. That day the boy went out with Dave’s father on a skiff in Uyak Bay, Kodiak. Both were experienced on boats. Neither came back.   

“I lost everything that day,” says Dave. “It was mighty dark for a couple years, and to this day there isn’t a day that I don’t think about my son and the life he might have had. But, one day, I wrote a poem about my boy, and I realised that it helped. It was the start of a long road to coming to terms with what had happened.”  

He read ‘Skeeter’s Song’ in public for the first time at the Fisherpoets Gathering, which was first held in the winter 1998. “There was a couple in the audience who’d lost their son and they weren’t doing too well. It meant a lot that I wasn’t just helping myself, but that the poetry meant something to other people, too. Of course, it still hurts – but you can find a silver lining if you look hard enough.”

As for the idea of fishermen writing poetry, to Dave it makes perfect sense. “There’s real poetry in fishing,” he says. “You can’t live that close to nature without seeing the spiritual side of it. We see miracles out there all the time, whether you’re talking about the flight or a bird or a whale planing. I’m not a religious man, but I can see the spirituality in it all.”

You can’t live that close to nature without seeing the spiritual side of it.

He also sees poetry as a way to change perceptions about fishermen and commercial fishing. “It’s something I love and have given my life to, but as an industry, it sometimes gets a bad rap. I want to show people that there’s a human story behind that piece of fish in Styrofoam: blood, sweat and tears; a guy who missed Christmas with his family; a guy who lost a finger, or more.”

Dave talks about preserving the oceans, and making sure that future generations can experience the raw beauty that he loves so much. He talks about his plans for sailing the world. His story, it turns out, isn’t really one of suffering and loss, or how tough the life of a fisherman is. It’s one of beauty, and hope.

Read Dave Densmore’s poem about his son here, and his poem about surviving on the life raft here. Read more about the Astoria Fisherpoets Gathering here.