Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Lea Valley

Now that the blackberries are starting to bloom, all the hedgerows are coming to life. 

A path leads away from the Lea Bridge Road, winding through thickets that catch tin cans, crisp packets and pieces of paper, weaving its way like a gentle river into Hackney marshes. The traffic noise calms to a slow simmer, and it's as though a large animal has been tamed or grown tired. Magpies cackle in the trees, Blackbirds sing. Bindweed climbs across a bank of nettles throwing up white flowers like tiny porcelain bowls. Bright green parakeets dash between leaves. A tree sends out a covering of seeds that fall upon the footpath and the brambles beside it like a thick layer of cotton wool. If my googling is correct, this is the Black Poplar, or Water Poplar, and said to be the most endangered hardwood tree in the UK. Water Poplars can live up to 200 years. 100 Years ago there was the water works, the filter beds, and pump systems. 200 years ago there were the trees, the animals, and the Lea river moving slowly over the marshes. 

Though the path is concrete and fenced on either side by black iron rails, there is still a sense of civilisation unravelling into wilderness. This is a landscape of birds, and wind, and trees, and tall grass. Only this giant red metal bridge crossing the river, blocking almost all view of it reminds you that the landscape has been shaped by humans. Beyond the bridge wild flowers move in the breeze. The land opens out into a huge field with rows and rows of white goal posts.

The path turns behind a row of Silver Birch to avoid the football pitches. Now the view is small again and the birds return, calling to one another. In the longer grass and in the hedges there are spaces were animals have made their own paths.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Behind the Lea Valley Riding Centre

Following a path across Millfields park, behind the ice rink and on through the riding centre. The path crosses the Lea River before continuing over the train tracks and on towards Walthamstow.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Sailors´ Village without sailors.

I would like to talk to you about these sailors.

Well, at least I like thinking they are sailors, although they're not close to a seashore, if they have ever been close to one.

Their houses made of wood and their facades painted in colours. Their roofs raise up to the stormy skies like the crest of waves, breaking against imaginary figureheads.

Every morning I cross their village.

The wind blows around its corners, and fills its alleys with brown leaves and blue carrier bags sailing against the whirlwinds.

The cables hit the mast of the antenas at a continuous metallic pace.

Never I have seen kids on the front yard decks, the swing in the playground only rocks its own shadow.

Every morning, alone.

I look for eyes behind the net curtains or whistles coming from the slot of an open window. Doors open behind my steps, and close instantly when I turn my head to them.

My eyes hang from a sudden camera zoom.

Nothing happens at the sailors' village without sailors, without boats.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Collecting Dandelions

In the summer of 1985 my Mum and I went for a walk through the country lanes close to our house.

It was warm and dry and we had an idea that if we collected flowers from the side of the road we could later press them into a notebook.

I say 'we' but it must have been her idea really. Perhaps it was something she had done as a child.

I would have been four years old.

I remember the fields being yellow.

In the banks of grass beside the roads we found dandelions, buttercups, and bright blue flowers that I don't know the name of.


We must have walked in a loop. Perhaps we cut across fields, although we would have a pushchair with us so that seems unlikely.

I think I remember the fields being quiet though I'm sure cars passed at intervals, becoming louder as they approached and then quickly dying away.

The idea of silent yellow fields and cars mixes in my mind with a kind of early summer morning smell and the sound of blackbirds.

But these must be from later summers. The smell of the shade behind the house with the sun baking down and cutting the garden in two. Blackbirds outside a bedroom window in the early evening.

Did I sellotape the flowers into the Transformers notebook? I think so; look at the way the tape has been torn.

Also, the flowers were fixed into position with the book upside down and back to front. I recognise my own work here.

Did we walk back together or did I sleep in the pushchair? Were the flowers carried in my mum's handbag or did I want to hold onto them?

We must have stuck them down after lunch, placing a heavy object on top of the book to press the flowers into position.

We would have shown them to my Dad that evening.


Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Sleepwalking Soul

Cada cuerpo con su deseo
y el mar el frente.
Cada lecho con su naufragio
y los barcos al horizonte.
- Eugenio Montejo

For a swimmer, making his way into the sea
the waves are a physical reminder of time.
The space between each wave is calculated,
the body carefully positioned to ride over
or glide through each wave. Here time equals action.
The trough of each wave is enjoyed; the heat of the sun,
the coolness of the water, the taste of salt, a yacht seeming
not to move on the horizon, disappearing behind a wave, and the next,
and another, until he emerges triumphant into the tranquility of clear water.

The horizon is one long
stripe of blue, looking back land stretches out
bisecting the blue of the sky and the
blue of the sea and it is here
that the soul begins its drift;
gently and without announcement.

The beach may be empty or it
may appear as a pointillist landscape
dotted with the coloured bags and towels
of other bathers. He will search for his own,
scouring the beach for private landmarks,
tracing the memory of his steps
across the sand down to the shore.

If he manages to locate his towel, it will be far
from where he expected to find it.
The sensation is of a slippage of time.
There are no footprints to mark the journey.
It is as though he has moved between time zones
and though he knows that a day has been lost,
that he must adjust his watch, the body refuses to believe it;
the disjuncture between the reality of place and the sensation of place being too great.

A quiet acceptance washes in.
He can't point to a when or a how but he knows
that a change has occurred over which he has had no control,
or if he had, he has come to realise it too late.

And so he feels the heat of the sun,
the coolness of the water against his skin
and he makes his way, slowly, allowing the waves
to propel him, back toward the beach.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Random Impressions 1

I tried and failed about ten times to write this as one coherent piece so I'm going to list things as a series of jump cuts instead:


The road between Blackhorse road station and Tottenham. I walked along there hoping to see the reservoirs but it was so misty that I couldn't see more than a few metres past the fence. At intervals fishermen and geese appear through the fog.


A bridge over the canal in Tottenham has a plaque explaining that it was built in the first year of the great war. This and the mist makes me think of the poet Edward Thomas. 


Walking past Ghanaian churches hidden amongst the warehouses close to the canal in Tottenham. A taxi driver confirms that the churches are all Ghanaian but that he is Nigerian. Once, when living in Lagos, one of Fela Kuti's wives had been his landlady and he was a regular visitor to 'The Shrine'.


Two ducks swimming in a small stream banked by rubbish.


A yellow tree raining leaves down onto the pavement close to the Lea Bridge roundabout.


The Downs pub has a sign which says that in 1870 the first cycle club in the UK had their inaugural meeting there. Opposite, the Downs are empty, cold, and windswept.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Hartham road

Hartham road is a right angle. It is neither perpendicular nor parallel to the almost straight Hillmarton road, which joins Caledonian and Camden road to be the south side of a triangle. Same as Hartham road joins the beginning of Hillmarton road and the end of Hungerford road, which flows into Hillmarton road again forming this time an imperfect quadrangle, only cut in two by a cul-de-sac called Freegrove road.

Hartham road at its beginning from Hilmarton road.
London planes and cherry trees crown the pavements and get dressed and undressed as time goes by. Some of the trunks have eaten the bricks on the fences; they look like gigantic swollen gums breaking through the bricks. Some owners have decided to rebuild the fences a step forward, so you can see - in inverse proportion - the aging of the bricks and the movement of the trees. Some trees even have a private altar so they can preach to the pedestrians walking by. Acacias or black locusts can be seen at some front yards, even an exotic loquat at the upper part of the road. You could also find some palm trees, avocados and olive trees – I have even seen a kentia and a Swiss cheese plant or two, all the latest, of course, through the bay windows of the Victorian Houses, trying to reach out for fresh air. Interesting people, that try to grow tropical plants inside their homes, live at Hartham road. The English always dreaming overseas, beyond the cloud. Imagine their back yards, the secret gardens that could be found at the other side of the gates of moss and screech; the glass ponds, the liquid willows, the stone benches. But let’s go back to the street.

Not much happens at Hartham road apart from the spring and the autumn, bringing both seasonal colors to the dun-bricked street. Time in Hartham road hangs like dried clothes from the line. I remember once having breakfast on a Saturday early morning in front of the kitchen window, the sun already shaving the top leaves of the trees, when I saw a man dressed in night, walking up the street with a severe drunk pace but still maneuvering his mobile phone with one hand. When he got to the house opposite my position, he felt that he needed to urinate – he hesitated around ten seconds and then started to look for his fly with the other hand. When he got to find his penis, he pulled it out to the cold, then opened the fence to the yard without taking his eyes from the little screen, stepped into it and next to the cherry tree, he peed until he was satisfied. It took him the time it took me to finish half of my warm coffee and a bite of my toast, his phone kept him busy all the time. When he finished the piss, he forgot to put back his willy, stepped out of the yard and, leaving the gate opened, continued his walk at the same pace up the street.

I should not skip telling you about the golden light that coats the air in the afternoon from the month of February until early November. The sun rays get lower than the clouds before the sun sets, and transforms the shriveled branches into Chinese silhouettes in the winter, and filters through the green leaves creating a bit of fresh air in the long summer afternoons. And that is a great moment for contemplation.