Lockdown urban London photos with people

Well here we go again, only this time things are a bit different.

In London, there are noticeably less people out after dark, but shopping malls and cafes are still serving take outs and grocery essentials.

This means the earlier photos from the lockdown in spring bear a significant difference to the way urban landscapes look now.

For example, there are a fair amount of labourers and cleaning staff going out and about their business as usual. Spaces look less derelict and more like Sundays before London got crowded millennium onwards.

In urban green spaces, people don’t consider being in fairly crowded conditions, a threat from covid anymore. Benches are open and cyclists have equal access to parks.

The level of interaction with larger crowds is a personal preference.

On a recent cycle with Simon around trendy Hackney Wick and guardian reader pretentious Hackney on Victoria Park, the crowds were heavily dense in many public play areas and entrances.

Away from the long queues outside to pick up coffees and take outs in places where some think it’s important to be at, our was certaintly picking a fish and chips from a good old reliable affordable local chippy just east of Victoria Park to the Wick.

No queues, no wait, no hassle. After a five minute walk, we were enjoying dinner on a bench in the park.

In my next blog I will write about meaningful ways to spend preparing for Christmas holidays and Christmas day itself.

Many get carried away with meaningless cultural traditions, missing the point. Culture can be as oppressive as American culture’s cultural non existence, when it adds no experiental reflection or mindful rest.

In a time of self reflection I couldn’t be luckier having met four days after landing back from a two month trip away early August 2019. And here we are still are today.

Back in the park, we sat watching the lowering sun introducing the mist, the temperature drop, the sensation of colours struggling to define themselves in this new reality.

I suppose this time, it is also the first time of the year’s season under covid for our urban neighbourhoods too. Well I say, we can only pay homage to this another new reality for the family albums to come.

Really, what’s there to complain about? And why not to?

Autumnal English hews

Noticing the small changes in the way the air’s scent carries cooking smells, perfumes and sound vibrations…

The light moisture chilling the edges off living things…

The light mist flowing through the land, thickening and lightening as it absorbs the wind.

Victoria Park, London

Wood burning in the city, logs burning in the fireplace, smoke climbing up from canal boat chimneys into the gaps of the urban air channels.

The yellowy orange with blues of the sunsets and the sunrises. A sun blessed season eclipsing into the vibrancy of the next. Nature signalling for a final celebration before it returns next year in spring.

Leafy kisses, giggles in the air

The cozyness of the orange, greys, dark purples, bronze and blacks decorating cozy corners energised by alchemy, alcohol and warmth.

Lesnes Abbey and woods

This gem of a scenery is tucked away a few kms east of Woolwich, in Erith.

Lesnes Abbey is a site of ruins from 12th century, in the Borough of Bexley. At one point a few centuries later on the building was used as a monastery.

The site offers a lot for a day packed with a variety of fun activities. It’s free to visit. Walking amongst the ruins of the rooms from where the abbey once stood, there is plenty of  hide and seek games to be had and reimagining the spaces from past times.

Uphill from the abbey, the path swings to an outlook with the most extraordinary views over the City of London. Bear in mind, this is a very long cycle even from the Eastend, and over 1 hour drive or trip on public transport from central London, yet the proximity apparent in the views tell a different story.

Lesnes Abbey and woods are on the Green Chain Walk route from Oxleas Wood to Thamesmead Riverside. We took a different route on the Woolwich Ferry and cycling east on the Thames Path, through Crossness Nature Reserve.

Lesnes Woods up on the hill are a true sanctuary of old tall trees, ferns and squirrels playfully enjoying the abundance of the nature reserve. There’s a fossil park, a cool tree trunk sculpture of a Green Man, and a plethora of secluded walks through the dense woodland rich in flora and fauna.

At the top of the woods a heath is a welcome flat walk through fern surrounded paths. On the way back, try a different way down. If you get to the clearing with the abbey for a view, you’re onto another special lookout over the ruins.

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.

Hiking in the UK

For outdoorsy adventurers, hiking is a much-loved choice of activity taken close to one’s place of habitat or place of visit.

The subtle differences between hiking in different parts of the world are on the type the equipment, the style of the hike like the intensity of the walk, and the distance covered. This reveals a lot about the flora and fauna, the weather conditions expected in general and the end objective for the hike.

This article presents a short oversight of hiking in the south of the United Kingdom, and towards the end of the winter. The overall equipment relevant message is to wear comfortable waterproof boots, bring a change of cotton t-shirts, carry 1-2 litres of water, prepare lunch snacks and carry cash for group saver fares, the pub lunch option and pub celebration at the end.

I have hiked in India, the Pacific North West in the US, in Scotland, in Bali, in Italy, in the Arctic part of Norway, in Morocco, on the north coast of Trinidad and in Tobago and in Fuerteventura and every single hike was different on many aspects.

In the south of the UK, hikes tend to be longer, often including a couple of very steep climbs up hills and the same dissent. The most recent hike took me up and down Pitch Hill in Surrey Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, twice climbed it on the same day, a near-vertical and rather muddy aspect, and over a distance of 30km round trip on foot.

Walking sticks were encouraged whereas in other parts of the world they are prohibited as it can attract lightning strikes in tundra conditions. UK’s well known cloudy skies, even in winter, require sunblock as there is still plenty of exposure doing outdoor sports to cause skin damage.

20 min stops every two hours are also encouraged to take in the views from higher viewpoints. In contrast, stopping for this long or any period of time longer to a couple of minutes, in the middle of the winter, in the northernmost part of Norway, will cause your body temperature to drop really quickly and dramatically and make the focus of the latter part of your hike an effort to warm up instead of watching the path or scenery. This can make the body feel very uncomfortable, and rather demoralising, in severe sub minus C conditions.

The photos in this post are from my hike in Surrey this week.

It looks mud messy but it was a great all round exercise. I could not recommend anything else more satisfactory to do outdoors this time of the year. Hiking engages people in community spirited discussions, recharges the body with a full-on exercise uptake, and in the UK, it is rewarded with log fires in the pub, local bitter brews, and new memories and vistas to take away.

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.

The Red Hand Files (every single word in this post is copied from Nick Cave’s site). I own no rights or copyright. Issue #59 On Poetry, or infidelity.

Intro by blog owner:

Everyone should read Nick’s beautifully empathetic, humility fuelled, comicly crafted answers, coming from a big pool of love for his fans.

I first encountered his music as a punk/gothy teen at the Rebound club in Athens and my mature years had me thinking he needs to grow up and out of the pool of self-absorbsion and then his son died, and that was the fundamental lifetime event that I perceive when he did. We so need loss of life to define our reality and reconnect us with life again.

ISSUE #59 / SEPTEMBER 2019

My girlfriend, a woman I love through soaring heaven and table-flipping hell, refuses to read any of my writing because she always sees some hint of infidelity, resentment, or perhaps madness in it. How do I get her to understand that just because I might write a poem about some lusty girl I saw on the train I don’t actually want to sleep with another woman?

CIRCIUM, COLORADO, USA

Dear Circium,

Tom Waits famously wrote “You are innocent when you dream”, yet dreams are not nearly as innocent as they seem. Neither are songs nor poetry. Songwriting and poetry are perilous callings, full of intrigue and infidelity. They are covert undertakings that creep around our deepest and most hazardous needs. They are not for the squeamish or the eager to please.

I believe you when you say you don’t want to sleep with the ‘lusty girl on the train’ – the problem is what you want to do is actually worse. You want to write a poem about her. To write a song or a poem about another human being can be one of the most intensely intimate acts a person can perform, it is an act of profound, unblinking contemplation, a near religious meditation on that moment of carnal recognition.

Listen to Patti Smith’s version of ‘Gloria’, where she has taken Van Morrison’s already wolfish classic and expanded it into a supercharged religious rumination on lust.

I look out the window

See a sweet young thing

Humpin’ on the parking meter

Leanin’ on the parking meter

Patti Smith’s ‘Gloria’ is not concerned so much with the actual sexual encounter, but rather with the brutal carnality and religious ecstasy of language itself. It is one of the most demented displays of predatory sexual desire ever recorded. Yet, it is beyond sex. It is even beyond worship. It is poetry. The “sweet young thing” that is “humpin’ on the parking meter” is your “lusty girl on a train”.

Gloria, Peggy Sue, Billie Jean, Angie, Delilah, Fernando, Jolene, Ruby, Maggie May, Chuck E., Sharona, Sara, Suzanne, Sweet Caroline and, indeed, Deanna – these names live on, as sacrificial lambs, compulsively sexualised in our collective consciousness.

My song ‘Deanna’ was seen as a particularly brutal act of betrayal, and thirty years on I still haven’t been fully forgiven. I console myself with the thought that I was unflinching in my duties as a songwriter and in doing so wrote a song that brought joy to the lives of many, even though it broke a heart (or two) in the process.

From one wordsmith to another, and from someone who has spent a considerable amount of a long and contentious career in the songwriter’s doghouse, that’s the name of the game, Circium. Harsh as it is, we spend our lives walking on the hearts and messy eggshells we have smashed in order to make the omelet that feeds the multitudes.

I can perfectly understand why you want your girlfriend to read your stuff, as we poets and songwriters often have little else to offer than our words, and of course our perverse little truths. However, your poems are intimations of an eroticized and imaginative adventure of which your partner is excluded. It’s little wonder she might be reluctant to get involved.

Having said that, over time I have discovered great poetic and personal value in writing about the familiar, that which is in front of you, that which you see every day, that which sleeps beside you, for often that quotidian presence is the most extraordinarily complex and dangerous thing of all. It holds a looking glass up to beautiful and terrible truths that live inside us. As we look into our lover’s eyes and see our reflected selves, our courage as writers is tested and enlarged.

The girl on the train will always be there, forever travelling through that imaginative space, but maybe the challenge for you as a poet lies within the intricate wonder of the one who sits before you. She is, after all, your mirror.

Love, Nick