The mysterious allure of the backs of buildings

 

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Why did this vista grab me by the elastic hood straps of my rain jacket this morning? I walk past it every day – sometimes twice but today I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I was compelled to take out my camera in the rain and grab a couple of snaps. A tube train a-clunk-a-clunked past and ruined the first photo and to be honest even this one that I’ve cropped doesn’t do the magnificence and mysteriousness of the view proper justice. It’s the back and side of the 491 Gallery – the front of which must be one of the most photographed buildings in Leytonstone with its glowering Alfred Hitchcock mural. The other rear corner is pretty interesting too, offering a peek into the gallery’s sculpture garden. But this aspect almost appeared to me this morning across the tube tracks as a Tuscan hill town bathed in the Leytonstone rain. The moisture from the grey pellets showered down from the cinder block sky saturated the colours of the pollution marinated brickwork. The doors shone brilliant azure, the white walls gleamed dazzling the drivers on the M11 Link Road. I’ve done life drawing classes in one of those rooms and never saw anything as remarkable – not even the display of Japanese Rope Bondage that proved to be a sketch too far.

Kensington Church Walk and all that

Donnachadh McCarthy

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Kensington Church Walk

Ezra Pound Kensington Blue Plaque

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I was down in High Street Kensington the other morning to interview Donnachadh McCarthy for Drift Report so it seemed apt to drift afterwards in a more literal sense.

Talking to Donnachadh, who is involved in cycle activism in London, may have made me notice the bike by the railings on the busy High Street. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of this rusting, shabby machine surrounded by such glitz and glam – either way I had to photograph it – 4 times. It was only now that I noticed the yellow tag attached with a blue plastic tie – what did it say? I’m tormented by this mystery now. What if it spelt out some cryptic clue or a nugget of wisdom. Actually I’d be intrigued if it was just some sort of municipal warning that the bike would be removed by the Council.

I couldn’t help being drawn up Kensington Church Walk – can’t resist these little byways and alleys. When at home I was sure there’d be something about it or a sketch in one of the old topography books I collect – but there’s nothing. It’s exactly the kind of feature that I would have expected James Bone, HV Morton, or Wilfred Whitten to pick up on – but it seems not.

The American modernist poet Ezra Pound lived in Church Walk – they’ve given him a nice Blue Plaque. He visited TS Elliot in my hometown of High Wycombe – that is my main association with Pound. There’s an article in The Guardian about Pound’s London (no mention of trips to visit Elliot in Wycombe) which throws up the image from his Church Walk days of him “sitting on the bed with a volume of Tacitus on his knee.”

It’s such another world down there around Kensington and Notting Hill – a different city altogether, and not just because of the wealth and the lunching oligarchs – although that does constitute a large chunk of its ‘otherness’. I bought a Sainsbury’s ‘Meal Deal’ and pondered this as I munched on my stroll up to Notting Hill then along Bayswater Road to Queensway. I still haven’t completely worked it out.

The Remains of Leyton FC

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The gate just off Lea Bridge Road was open so I wandered into the old ground of Leyton Football Club. The pitch now a make-shift parking lot, weed-fringed with bare dusty patches, rubbish and building supplies littered all around. The stands and floodlights lie waiting for the Saturday crowds to return.

The original Leyton F.C. was formed in 1868 although the club that played here was a more recent incarnation. The club disbanded in 2011 halfway through the Isthmian League Division One North season.