Saturday, 28 November 2009

Street Art Hoxton style

I wandered around Hoxton and Shoreditch today, something I've been meaning to do for a while. It was a chilly, bright winter's day and quiet... perfect for browsing the art that adorns these Hackney streets. I love the mix of old and new here... old warehouses, now inhabited by cutting edge creatives, against the backdrop of corporate glass towers. The coolest clubs, bars and boutiques thrive here - adding to the buzz. Nineteenth century graphics, signage, street furniture and cobbles remain, a heritage of it's industrious past. Aged walls, doors and railway arches are the canvases of some super talented street artists whose works transform the area into a living, urban gallery for all to enjoy.

Mossbourne Craft Fair

These are some of the things I made (with the help of the kids) for the Sustainability Stall at Mossbourne's 2009 Winter Fair... Oyster card wallets made with images cut from magazines and comics, covered with old plastic folders and stitched. Our denim monster dolls and keyrings were made from the cut off legs of old jeans and other scraps of fabric.

Monday, 9 November 2009


I first travelled to Greece in 1984. It was the start of an enduring love of the country and it's way of life. In the 25 years since my first holiday on the island of Kos I have spent so many memorable holidays there that I feel as though it is my second home. In 1987 and 88 I spent two of my best summers ever on the little Saronic island of Spetses with my sister. I still laugh when I remember being deposited unwittingly at the tiny jetty in Kosta at 6am, dragging our huge suitcases noisily behind us. Then having to jump onto a beautiful little caique, worried that our wardrobes-on-wheels would drag us overboard as we leapt on, for the short journey across the mediterranean sea, to the island. I recall us gasping with wonder at the sight of the imposing grandeur of Hotel Poseidon, majestic beside the beautiful Dapia, a cosmpolitan cobbled harbour lined with glamorous boutiques. There are no cars on the island so we were taken to our, very basic, 18-30s hotel by horse and cart with our baggage wedged in around our feet. My first impressions of Greece were truly idyllic.
During those holidays I vowed that I would one day buy a little house in Greece and I spent many hours back in London looking through estate agents' photos dreaming, window shopping. Back then I had no way of raising enough money on my then first-job wage at a small publishing house in Kensington. So I returned, many magical times, to that pine clad, mystical little island - the setting for one of my most favourite books The Magus by John Fowles (who then lived on Spetses).
My sister and I had some adventures there... another story!! When my partner and I returned a few years later it's allure was still as powerful. Yet I haven't been back there for maybe ten years... I wonder if it has changed?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

We are rainbow-o-o-os

Bonfire night... family and friends huddled in our small Hackney garden, gaily twirling their sparklers - scribbling frantically in the cold, damp air. Apparently we were 'bright dancing'? Yep, it seems that our Saturday evening revelry was hijacked by those annoyingly clever ad people at TalkTalk. The brainwashing X Factor sponsor's tune even infected my six year old nephew Jay, who sang.... "and we ah wainbo-wow-wows" as he whirled his sparkler, cautiously at arms length.

Friday, 6 November 2009

London Fields Lido

Photo: The Hackney Citizen

It's pouring with rain. The explosion of fireworks is almost constant outside my cosy Clapton sanctum. But I'm shivering at the thought of getting up at 7.30am tomorrow morning for my Saturday swim at the Lido. It has to be done though... I'm determined to swim right through the winter again this year. The memory of the biting cold on the soles of my feet as I run from the lockers and plunge into the steaming water, has faded and the unseasonably mild weather has lured me into a false sense of bravado. So, I will be there with the other Saturday swimmers and die-hard regulars doing my lengths and I know that when I've done them I'll be glad I dragged myself from my warm bed and woke up in London Fields Lido.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Graffiti wall

Just along the River Lea in Markfield Park (N15) my son sprayed his first graffiti this summer. All legally done on the graffiti wall there. Not too bad for a first go!

Invasion in Kent

I came across some old photos taken by my partner on a visit to Deal a few years ago (2003). Whilst staying at our friend's seaside retreat we wandered down to the nearby beach one morning and found that it was already occupied! 

Hackney Marshes, our legacy

Our little bit of countryside... and the pylons are gone now

Riverside art!

A barge with a view!

A missing bus under the A12... did it fall off the flyover?

Living on the doorstep of Hackney Marshes, we spend a lot of time here with the kids, cycling, walking, collecting blackberries, playing, drawing and even golfing. We feel lucky to have this fantastic green space as our playground, our little piece of countryside so close to Central London. Meandering around it's pathways we often see herons, kingfishers, swans and rabbits who live in the wild woodlands and fields that border the River Lea. In contrast we marvel at brilliantly expressive graffiti art, the embellished carcass of a burnt out bus and the weathered barges of the river dwellers that line the route eastwards towards the Olympic site. Hackney Marshes, famous for it's football pitches, is used by so many; as a scenic cycle route to work, to walk the dog, for sport and exercise, for children to run, explore and play, for picnics, horse riding, as a canvas, for thought and reflection and so much more...

Is all of this about to change? Will it be cleaned up, landscaped, chopped down, sterilised. Will it's art (and soul) be eradicated, it's wildness tamed and it's footballers banished - so that the world can see a superficially cleaned up, refurbished, world-class London for those few weeks in 2012?

I soooo hope not! The legacy I want from the Olympics is that the Marshes are left wild and unmanicured and that the creativity, indicative of our vibrant corner of London, remains a testament to it's unique artistic edge and isn't just scrubbed away. I hope that it's history isn't erased and that people who use the Marshes are not pushed away – that the river remains a home and habitat to all it's residents. This haven, a jewel in the crowded, urban chaos of Hackney, is a priceless antidote to city life, coveted and loved by it's people.

As we look forward to the big event we'll continue to ride the riverside route, cycling past the transformed Leebank Square and the decaying Lesney's Matchbox factory, to the 11 mile gaza-esque perimeter wall of the Olympic site to record how the landscape evolves.