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.
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.
Walking through the waterways, up and down across the bridges I am confused as to what price you can place on which experience.
The Olympic stadium glares light in the distance, reflecting onto the waterways, drawing the eye over. There are street lights, yellow glare making seeing harder than it ought to be in the dark.
There is lighting and different shades, colours and intensities, warming up the night’s colouring from square box apartments paid for by the mill.
There are peeping john’s from dilapidated rooms upstairs from warehouse spaces.
The paradox is uncanny. Boxes upon boxes, with different vibration of electric energy lighting up the inside of the box, marking their position to the street below.
Dark chipped corners, with flaking paper glue adverts hanging off, contrasting the clean cut edges of the new apartments.
The most colourful and mesmerising visuals, the caked graffiti. Layers over layers, of spray paint. Different times of the day pushing backgrounds to fore, that shape and the separation from the other spaces, a rolling show of two dimensional characters and shapes.
We are still in January and naturally been spending a fair amount of time indoors.
Whether it is in our nature to be looking ahead or instilled by the tradition of looking out at vistas, the landscape is our place of contemplation, connection and restoration.
We have in modern times moved away from trying to beautify it. In the 80’s and 90’s work by photographers like Martin Parr and Willie Doherty showed us our reality of urbanisation with landscapes littered by rubber tires and eye blinding beach accessories offending the natural flow of a beachy landscape.
In our sense of voyerism, I have been fighting my own struggle of being in a city whereas I feel being in nature is my call.
To balance this feeling I recorded the landscape as it changes with the weather from my office window. It doesn’t talk about the environment our damage to it or any of that. It is what you see, and with little description, I invite you to be part of that experience.
It is January after all and apparently the month of the highest divorce rates, blues and drawing boards.
Ultimately, January makes us question what we have achieved and how to better our mental and physical health, as well as our income, and closet (in the broadest sense of the word, including all translations!)
I know it can be a challenging month. Family arguments, split ups, income difficulties. Let’s not forget those who can’t afford the heating on or a hot meal.
Everyone’s existence is imaginative and created on an aspiration, wish, dream.
I am sharing the things that help my creativity, happiness and resourcefulness.
Browsing the latest Billabong story (European site here’s the link, choose your region) watching Simone Biles perform Simone Biles routine 2017, reading her tweets especially this one Simone Biles ecstatic about gymnastics game, watching Surfing experiences, visualising the colours of the souks in Marrakesh My flickr photo of the souks in Marrakesh and the humidity of the hot air of the streets in Havana in cuba My flickr photo of Malecon, Havana, Cuba
Colours, lights, smells and planning new experiences is the juice for January.
In London, a beautiful festival will light up corners across the city. Lumiere Fest is on the latter part of the month. It was inspired by the Fete Des Lumieres in Leon and promises a enlightening experience, pun intended.
Enjoy what this time has to offer.