Like a ‘grunge Keiller’

An article I wrote for 3:AM magazine about Paul Kelly & St. Etienne’s A London Trilogy dvd and my own London perambulations.

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“I first met Paul Kelly and Bob Stanley after a screening of their film Finisterre in 2005, recently released on a BFI DVD, A London Trilogy. I approached them in the foyer of the ICA enthusiastically thrusting forward my treasured copy of Gordon S. Maxwell’s 1925 ‘ramble book’, The Fringe of London. I’d been nurturing the theory that Maxwell’s lost classic was the missing link in the topographical tradition connecting the romantic walkers and flâneurs to the modern trend in neo-psychogeography, and had bothered all the usual suspects with my grand idea drawing a blank on each occasion. Paul and Bob similarly had never heard of Maxwell or the book and compensated by handing me a copy of the Finisterre DVD.” continue reading here

 

The sound of: Lewisham High Street

I recorded this on Lewisham High Street at the beginning of the walk to Herne Hill Velodrome and on to Tulse Hill in search of the birthplace of astrophysics. The journey is recounted in Chapter 4 of This Other London.

I’d meant to follow the Ravensbourne from the DLR to Ladywell Fields but had been coaxed into the High Street by the bright hand-painted sign for Lewisham Model Market. It was a sedate September Sunday morning with a few early drinkers sucking on fags outside the Wetherspoon’s. There’s a gentility to the High Street hiding behind the identikit shopfronts – Currys, Primark and Poundworld all mask fine modernist-looking buildings.

The sounds of a loud, joyous chorus of evangelical singing backed up by a pulsing rhythm section wafted across the High Street from a room above a shop next to Primark  A one-legged man sitting on a folding stool outside has the look of a fella who’s seen it all.

The road to Erith Pier

This was one of my favourite places that I passed through on the walks for This Other London

Erith Pier

Erith Pier

The name ‘Erith’ apparently means ‘ancient haven’. Excavations have found extensive flint working in the area dating from the Mesolithic period and grave goods buried by Bronze Age Beaker People. The mud flats along the riverbank at low tide have the look of a primordial landscape. Long, wooden slipways reach out over the alluvial sludge into the river. At low tide the dark fossilized trunks of a 5000 year-old Neolithic Forest poke up through the muddy bank. For over two thousand years a dense woodland of ash, oak, alder and elm grew along the Thames foreshore till the waters gradually eroded it away. Morrisons supermarket and car park occupy the site of a Victorian pleasure gardens and hotel when daily steamers stopping at the grand pier gave the town an all-too-brief status as a chic tourist magnet. The pier may only be a 1950s replacement but it provides a sojourn from the busy city.

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I spoke to the Dutch crew sat having a beer on the deck of one of these boats. They told me they were collecting sand excavated from the building of the new ‘super- sewer’ at Beckton and ferrying it downriver. They were fed up with the ever-changing schedule, days then nights, then back on days. They were keen to return to Holland but found themselves marooned at Erith Pier awaiting instructions.

Sometimes at night I wonder where they are now and look them up on a website that plots the live position of ships on a map.

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At the time of writing they’re docked at the North Sea port of Farsund in Norway. I wonder whether they ever think back to that summer they spent marooned at Erith Pier and wistfully reminisce.

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