On Worthing Pier

I sit here in the follow spot deck of the Pavilion Theatre, Worthing waiting for the show to start, my camera idle. They hide the sea well in Worthing – I had to actually run round the theatre to grab a view. I love these old theatres – backstage corridors lined with memories of shows past, 60’s TV stars earning some extra coin in a 1970’s seaside special. The heavy velvet curtains and proud proscenium arch. 


The support act is getting a nice swell of applause but I bet some end of the Pier acts have died a thousand deaths on that stage. The Crankies must have been here, that bloke with his hand up Orville’s ass, Russ Abbott, Freddie Star. 

Right I’d better concentrate on the show now.

A Lea Valley Odyssey – Leytonstone to Rye House

Here are a few images from a research trip I took on Sunday for my new book (as yet untitled). I wanted to start at Leytonstone House, the home of Edward North Buxton – author of Epping Forest (1884) the book that informs most of my forest walks. There was more to the Buxton link but you’ll have to wait for the book to find out (and also till I’ve untangled the complicated web cast by the fact the Buxtons seemed to use about two names throughout the family and all marry members of the Gurney banking dynasty).

It wasn’t my intention to morbidly gawp at the crime scene at the Hollow Ponds where a body was recently discovered but it was en-route to the W16 bus stop on Shernall Street. I then walked from Sewardstone to Rye House near Hoddesdon.

The trip just happened to fall on the second anniversary of the publication of This Other London. Work on the follow up is slower than I would have liked but you know, there it is, you can’t rush these things unless you’ve got a publisher breathing down your neck which I currently don’t have. As my friend Nick Papadimitriou pointed out, ‘you’re gathering lots of material’, and he’s not wrong, there’s stacks of the stuff, and I intend to gather a lot more.

The incredible shrinking park

The London Olympic Park certainly is ‘No Ordinary Park’ as dubbed in the marketing tag line – it just keeps getting smaller and smaller while sprouting bigger and more impressive cranes. Where once there were international sporting events there are now world class cement mixers, spectators have been replaced by phalanxes of builders in hard hats and fluro vests.  The true London Olympic Legacy appears to be a never ending building scheme.

Viva Sweetstopia! London’s newest microstate

The other week I returned to the Sweets Way Estate in the London Borough of Barnet to visit Sweetstopia – a newly declared microstate.

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I was greeted by Daniel, who I’d first met at the Sweets Way Sleepover back in March, and it seems that Daniel has been busy since, helping to establish Sweetstopia with a collective of permaculture practitioners, bohemians, artists, squatters and activists. And two dogs – one of which is President of Sweetstopia.

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The idealism of Sweetstopia in the face of the barbarism of the destruction of the estate by Annington Homes is seductive. They continue to pursue their mission of creative resistance and promoting sustainability and autonomy while being aggressively intimidated by the private security guards who patrol the estate and stalk the Sweetstopia residents. One Sweetstopian was violently assaulted by a security guard last week and required medical treatment. The authorities are clearly rattled by such a bold display of utopianism.

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There are echoes of the microstates of Leytonstonia and Wanstonia that grew out of the M11 Link Road protests in the early 90’s. Then it was anti-road protests – today the housing struggle and estate regeneration is the new battlefront.

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Link Road veteran Ian Bourn recounted how there was a vote to use carrots as currency in Leytonstonia – because they could be sliced into coin like discs and also the militant vegans were pushing the idea. A similar air of playful eccentricity infuses Sweetstopia – you are invited to make your own passport which is then validated with an official potato stamp.

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The only rules in Sweetstopia are – NO KNITTING AFTER DARK and DON’T FEED THE UNICORNS – I saw neither knitting needles nor Unicorns so it seems to be working. Daniel told me there would be no laws only traditions.

Long may Sweetstopia prosper and grow.


The death of a Naturalist

Last night I was enjoying a read of a 1948 edition of The London Naturalist and was particularly impressed by a detailed survey of the regrowth of bombed areas of Epping Forest.

I then flicked onto the next page, which just happened to be the obituaries. My night time calm full of thoughts of Holcus mollis and Argrostis tenuis was destroyed when I read:

‘The tragic death of Percy J. Hanson at the hands of burglars at his place of business deprives our Society of another of the dwindling number of members of the old “North London” period.’

So tonight I might target my reading more precisely.