Last Sunday evening my old friend Andy Ross came over to Leytonstone to make a video previewing his debut album Almost People, which was produced by ex-Stereolab drummer Andy Ramsay at Press Play Studios in South London.
Andy was my room-mate in a terraced house in Forest Gate when I arrived in London from the Chilterns back in 1989. We had both rocked up carrying guitars that we could barely play but that didn’t stop us spending the next 3 years writing songs and forming a band with the rest of our dubious bunch of housemates who had little more musical apptitude than us. We were a parody of a late Thatcher student band with songs like ‘Block of Concrete Flats’, ‘Brian Walden’ and others too cringe-worthy to set down here.We carried on writing music for a bit after leaving Poly, recording songs on borrowed four-track machines, but I wandered off on my travels (buying a guitar on the way) and that ended our musical collaboration.
But Andy has perservered and honed his craft over the ensuing 20 years and he’s now made a really beautiful album. It was a genuine treat for me to be able to rekindle the collaboration in some form but this time with some proper songs that don’t have titles that sound like they had come from the pen of Rick from The Young Ones
We went up to The Hollow Ponds to catch the last hour of light which I seem to have slightly miscalculated meaning that we were chasing the sunset around the edge of the water. Being a Sunday we ambled round the grounds of the parish church and I grabbed a few images of Andy on the church steps before, out of the gloom, the vicar started shouting angrily at us about the Churchyard being private property and that we should ask permission to enter – no wonder church numbers are dwindling.
Oddly one of Andy’s songs I remember most from Poly days was called Vicar in his Chapel – perhaps it was a prophecy.
Headed out this afternoon up past the Hollow Ponds through Epping Forest to Loughton.
I didn’t consult my copy of Buxton as much as I should have to glean the names of the specific parts of the forest – such as Gilbert’s Slade that runs beside Forest School and is a muddy bog for most of the year; and also Rushey Plain that I passed at some point.
Here are few images from the walk
This is the walk I did this afternoon depicted in a beautiful map in Edward North Buxton’s ‘Epping Forest’ (1923). Wish I had refered to Buxton’s book before heading out as he would have pre-warned me 88 years in advance of the swamp that consumes Gilbert’s Slade in winter. Not only did this fill my left shoe with freezing mud but also cause me to twist my right knee in the midst of the hornbell and holy. I swear the blackbirds and sparrows celebrated this throughout the treetops. Nonetheless I pushed on through dusk. By the time I reached Salway Hill I was a limping muddy wreck, albeit in a nice new cap sent by some kind folk who live on a cotton farm in Mississippi.
Had I been visiting in the later half of the 18th Century I could have dragged my right leg along the old Lea Bridge Road to Woodford Wells where SP Sunderland (1912) informs us that the chalybeate spring was used by invalids to ease their pains. But alas this is 2011 so I was left to slope down Snakes Lane to board a rail replacement bus service.
I should be asleep – resting for tomorrow’s (now today’s) walk and field recording for Ventures and Adventures in Topography radio show on Resonance 104.4fm. The next show is on Pathfinder’s Afoot Around London published in 1909 so me, Nick and Pete are going to attempt to follow the walk from Grange Hill to Waltham Abbey – a meniscus grinding 10 miles. I’ve been trying to read up a bit before heading off into Epping Forest and have been skimming through EN Buxton’s classic turn-of the C20th Epping Forest, Addison’s book of basically the same name but with a longer subtitle and delving into Iain Sinclair’s London Orbital.
The first two episodes of Ventures have gone really well – I sometimes think radio is my favourite medium (then I get hold of a camera again and film something absorbing). The podcast of the first show, where we fleshed out some of the ideas that we’ll be following in the series, is available to download now.
In the second show we headed off to Maxwell’s Monks Park a place that has intrigued me since I first picked up the book and have now discovered features in Patrick Keiller’s early short film Stonebridge Park.
So many books we could do – we’ll have to just keep on tramping