Twilight wander through the Olympic Park

I still don’t understand the Westfield-Olympic Park retail gulag – just can’t process what it is. This sign and the plans for the new ‘east village london E20′ is making my cognitive dissonance even worse – should I be excited by the emergence of a whole new area of London rising out of the marshes just down the road? But why do feel a combination of fear, horror and anger.

I got drawn along the inspiring and imaginatively named Westfield Avenue towards the expansion of this miniature Singapore.

The new mega-ghetto is this high-rise block of student apartments. Clearly the student rental market is a more lucrative investment than when I moved to a terraced house just off the Romford Road in Stratford at the end of the 80’s when landlords were actively discouraging student tenants.

The cynical suspicion that ‘east village E20′ is being set up as a privately-controlled outpost of transient, well-off, passive consumers with MBAs rather than ASBOs is offset by this glorious view north across the top of the Velodrome to a dark smudge of distant hills.

Although there is a steady trickle of traffic, the fact the footpath is fenced off starts to make me feel as if the way isn’t formally open to pedestrians. This makes me even more determined to push on towards Hackney Marshes.

Soon there are not even bollards to separate me from the 4x4s who seem to be enjoying the smoothness of the newly laid tarmac a bit too much for comfort. A voice with a strong African accent calls out, ‘Excuse you can’t walk here’. It is a female security guard in her hut. ‘You need to go back the other way – I am worried for your welfare’. I take her careful advice. Beyond the hut there was not even a kerb to tightrope walk along, and the light was all but gone.

The park looks far from finished, and I shared a joke with the security guard that the the summer opening may take place in November but that they’ll call it ‘late summer’ somehow, like calling the new suburb ‘east village’. Whatever they call it, and whatever they build – the once mighty River Lea couldn’t care less, it’s just waiting for a chance to reclaim the marshes.

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Bathroom proto window garden

I started growing some sweetpeas from seed by the window in the bathroom – and they seemed to like it there compared to the monsoon conditions outside.
I love the idea of a window garden, but it always seemed slightly ridiculous when you have an actual garden with a lawn and trees and fox poo. It seemed synonymous with Dalston Hipsters and annoying oversized bicycles on the Overground.
However the sweetpeas (which are now clearly dying) and the rain have changed my mind. Although those preposterous bikes on the train are still a pain in the arse.

Aussie Psychogeography podcast

ABC Australia has beaten the BBC to producing a podcast devoted to the practice of psychogeography. I haven’t listened to it yet so can’t pass comment just yet on the content but at least they took the plunge.
Here’s their blurb:
“All in the Mind takes you on an extraordinarily ordinary journey across the mental and physical terrain of a big city. For many the ideal method of urban travel is straight out of Star Trek—teleporting. But in the 21st century city there are flaneurs and commuters savouring their journeys, on foot and by bike. They’re taking in the smells and sounds of back alleys, recalling emotional memories at intersections and celebrating stacks of shipping containers. Join us on a ‘psychogeographical’ adventure, and discover the impact of the city on your psyche.”
Download the podcast here

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psychogeography and the High Wycombe terror suspects

Psychogeography and the High Wycombe terror suspects
We’re exploring the meaning of the recent arrests in High Wycombe in the context of the town’s sense of place and our personal connection to it.

In November 2004 we did a derive workshop with a group of local school children which at one stage took us through Kings Wood where the police are now searching for evidence of bomb making equipment. 18 months ago the associations of this wood, through the eyes and minds of young teenagers was one of adventure, exploration and discovery of wildlife and flora and debris from an old burnt out car. We met dog walkers who were happy to stand and chat and the children were happy and familiar leading the party around an environment which was obviously a regular playground. How quickly the perceptions of place change.

One question we’re asking is to what extent is the presence of religious extremism in the town (supposing the allegations are correct) somehow in keeping with its heritage of religious dissent. Wycombe was a Lollard and Quaker stronghold for many years (Quakers still meet in Wycombe) and in their day they were viewed by the State in almost the same way that Islamic militants are today. This is not drawing a direct comparison in terms of beliefs or methods, or drawing a direct parallel between dissenters and what we now call extremists, it’s searching for historic symmetries between current events and echoes from the past.
Click here to read some further thoughts on psychogeography, autotopography and the terror suspects. We’d be keen to know what you think and we’ll continue to add updates as we get them.