Strange light in the skies over Leytonstone (seen from Ilford)

Yesterday I decided to tackle the video footage accumulated on the 10 walks I did for my book, This Other London – adventures in the overlooked city (published in September by HarperCollins).
I laid all four hours of rushes down on a timeline. The very last clip was shot by my wife through the front window of a number 145 bus as we trundled down Eastern Avenue from Ilford approaching Redbridge Roundabout. I hadn’t looked at this clip before as it was after the last walk had ended and we were making our way home – a part of the journey not included in the book.

As Final Cut rendered the footage (it was a different frame rate to the rest of the timeline) it played the clip back much slower than real-time and I noticed a strange light in the corner of the frame near the end of the clip. Assuming it was a reflection in the window I went back through the clip – there was no reflection in the glass. I went through the clip frame by frame till I was convinced that it was indeed a fast moving light across the skyline at sunset. But what was it?

I posted it on Youtube & Twitter yesterday and comments seem to suggest it’s either a shooting star, a meteorite or perhaps space debris. Nobody seems to think it’s a UFO sadly. I’d been to the three places you’re most likely to get abducted by aliens in London – Woolwich, Clapham Common, and Walthamstow – and not seen a single ET or funny light in the sky. Were a group of narcissistic Greys trying to get a mention on the final page? Probably not. But the plausible explanations are cosmic enough for me.
I like the idea that the end of my year-long journey exploring some of the regions of ‘overlooked’ London was marked by a shooting star in the skies over Leytonstone.

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Walk from West Ruislip to Beaconsfield

I was woken early by the postman and had the urge to walk – but where. After weighing up the options I decided to head west by the simplest route – to the end of the Central Line and then walk westwards from there.
The only maps I had were an A-Z, which was good for about 2 miles before I dropped off the edge of its pages, and a ’30 miles around London’ road map which kept me going in roughly the right direction. Otherwise I found my way by following my desires (and the footpaths).


View W Ruislip to Beaconsfield in a larger map

Across the road from West Ruislip Station I entered a world of Bluebell banks down hollow ways and gentle streams crossed by wooden bridges. Old Clack Farm has its own post box. Crossing Breakspear Lane and Jordans Lane, jumping over ditches and clambering over rickety stiles to safety were as treacherous as anything Indiana Jones had to deal with.
I lost a shoe in the deep mud of a horsefield in Harefield, my socked foot plunging ankle-deep in mud. I didn’t see a single shop between West Ruislip and Chalfont St. Peter. I resisted the rustic temptations of the Breakspear Arms and The Dumb Bell saving myself for a end of walk pint in Beaconsfield Old Town only to find that the pubs have mutated in an old Aunt’s chintzi lounge dominated by nattering diners. I started off further west down the London Road to Wooburn and Wycombe but after a mile or two realized I’d end up stranded with no train home.
Beaconsfield New Town was ghostly quiet at 9.30pm. A handful of people kicking their heals on the station platform waiting for the train to Marylebone. 7 hours on the move and 18 miles covered in a haphazard line, a left sock and shoe still caked in mud, only one pint downed and a feeling of euphoria. I’d found the entrance to Arcadia at the end of the Central Line

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Walking in Palestine with Raja Shehadeh

In 2008 I was lucky enough to have a chat with author Raja Shehadeh about his book Palestinian Walks: ‪Forays into a Vanishing Landscape‬.
On the one hand I was talking to a fellow rambler about the experience of walking and the love of the landscape. I was also intrigued by the Palestinian idea of the ‘Sarha’ meaning to roam without restraint where the spirit takes you, which I thought had symmetry with the English ‘topographical rambling’ tradition and the psychoegeographic ‘derive’ or drift.
But of course Raja’s experience of walking in the hills of Ramallah carries a bit more jeopardy than a walk across Leyton Marshes. He sees a connection to the land through walking as being essential to both the human condition but also an important element of non-violent resistance to the occupation of Palestine. Walking as an act of liberation.

Charlie Brown’s Roundabout (1972)

Here’s some great amateur footage from the Metropolitan Screen Archives of early work on the M11 Link Road at South Woodford.
Although this was shot in 1972 the road didn’t open till 1999 – after a protracted, colourful and determined protest fought in Leytonstone. I’ve been writing about this recently so won’t blow all my good work just yet.

I walked past Charlie Brown’s Roundabout a couple of years ago on my way out to the old Claybury Mental Hospital. It was a mash-up of fly-overs and warehouse retail units – handy for a cheap cup of tea and a pasty but hell on the lungs.

Left me wondering – what did Charlie Brown do to deserve such a thing?

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Profile of a city – experiment

City Experiment from fugueur on Vimeo.

At the end of a project comes the sorting through some hard-drives – clearing the decks. The mind starts to think about the next film, without any pressure at this stage.

I found some fragments on a sequence in the London Perambulator folder – bits of archive footage from the Prelinger Archives, some ephemeral shoots of pre-Xmas crowds in central London and a tracking shot through Leytonstone station with my son holding the camera on his lap in a pram and was passed through (you can hear him campaign when go we back for another pass).

I’m wondering whether there is a germ of an idea in here that could be expanded into my next film – I’ve made two portraits of people, maybe the next one could be of a place. I’m shooting footage on walks I’m doing for a book (published in September 2013) – could that merge with some of the footage above. Who knows – it’s all up for grabs at the moment – this is the fun part.

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