echoes of the past, roaring in our ears

You’re obliged to pretend respect for people and institutions you think absurd. You live attached in a cowardly fashion to moral and social conventions you despise, condemn and know lack all foundation.

It is that permanent contradiction between your ideas and desires and all the dead formalities and vain pretenses of your civilization which makes you sad, troubled and unbalanced. In that intolerable conflict you lose all joy of life and all feeling of personality, because at every moment they suppress and restrain and check the free play of your powers.

That’s the poisoned and mortal wound of the civilized world.”

Octave Mirbeau, Garden of Tortures.

Every day I take the bus.  From Tottenham Hale, up through  Edmonton.  To Enfield.  I travel in that way to attend the college, at Capel Manor.  And this means I hear a lot from 17 year olds.  Young London so savvy and nonchalant.  The radio, on the journey there and back, plays a constant song.

Calvin Harris told me that radio has never sounded so good.  I must dispute this.

We have just heard Chase and Status’s new tune ‘Count on Me‘.  It sounds to me like a beautiful facsimile of any given output of pop/dance records  from around the year of 1992.  And I wonder how this must sound to the 17 year old, sat across from me on the bus.

Ghost Box. Victorian postcards, Edwardian mannerisms. An art nouveau poster advertising Parisian tobacco.  Play out to someone who is 17 years of age.  Where does this nostalgic radio production sound for the kids of today?  All I can hear is a rushing noise; faint aural traces of some aspecific mid-1990s history playing at low-level ambiance in the background of my mornings.  Good Pop Music.  Musical immediacy only valuable in terms of what it sounds like, reminder or stand-in for a lost period of time.  A culture that is no longer with us?  

But what is?  Because when the music I hear, today, attempts to present some rousing definition of what the present is actually about, there’s a worrying and bland resignation underlining the tune.  This morning we heard Ellie Golding with her new single ‘Burn‘.  In the chorus of ‘Burn’, here, Ellie implores us to “Burn it up, up, up so they can put it out, out, out.”  And I am irked by the ‘so’, the idea that we might only burn something in order for them to put it out.  Equally, the award-winning combination of Ne-Yo, Akon and David Guetta coming together for a hit pop tune where the collected chorus boasts of how these superstars “Work hard, Play hard.”

Again, “Work hard, Play hard.”

As if working hard is part of it now.  The call centre.  The security on the door at Primark.  The night shift on reception at a Travel Lodge in a deserted night time business park.  Was pop music not meant to inspire the escape?  Rather than reify and shore up the monotony and drudgery of life.  (“O Life… with all its thistles and thorns,” the Reverend Macleod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the Zoan Chapel, Whitechapel, recently).  The chorus to ‘Play Hard’ rides out over Mr Guetta’s remix of Alice Deejay’s ‘Do You Think You’re Better Off Alone?‘.

I drift off into a reverie, imagining a vision of the future as a happy, well-fed inter-generational community of mixed-race and mix-cultured Londoners working hard on some outdoor task.  Their cheaply printed tools assist with the work, rather than dominating or demeaning it.  To make their labour more palatable, they are singing communally.  To the unaccustomed ear, they sing what sounds like a layered but contemporary Gregorian Chant.  It is actually an intricate vocal rendition of Alice Deejay’s ‘Do You Think You’re Better Off Alone?’

The Sounds of the Summer.  Another song which gets played on almost every single bus journey is ‘Wake me Up!‘ by the Swedish producer Avicii.  The fucking faux-folk songwriter/singer, tells us that because he’s “caught up in a dream.” He thinks ” life will pass me by if I don’t open up my eyes.  Well that’s fine by me.

Why is it fine if life passes one by?  I look at the posture of these kids and they’ve got no energy.  A nation of sloths, rising.

What do any of us gain from a popular culture except a grim resignation to the stale aesthetics of mainstream-sanctioned rappers boasting over bland euro-house synth noises?  They’ve just offered us the chance to win tickets to meet Taylor Swift in person.

Maybe I’m listening too hard.  The echoes of the past sound convincing to me.  I feel like I don’t understand anymore.  Suddenly, I’m almost 30.  Maybe I’m not supposed to.

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St Peter’s Seminary


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Whitechapel Anarchy, magpies and the blood outside my door

After a week of hot sun and dappled light, dancing through the leaves and blossoms, Whitechapel just got colder.  A stern wind picked up last night, and I woke to a dustbin lid clattering around Jubilee Street.

Bleak Housing

A funny day for a conspiracy, granted, but nine of us met yesterday, whilst the weather was still pleasant.  We climbed the stair to an attic room, of a property on Back Church Lane.  And the agenda set before us laid out our business – the state of the world before us, our politics and the suitable adequate response to the changing conditions.

Bleak reflections on Death

All were affirmed: a successful meeting was had by all.  And it was agreed that we nine will meet again, informally, for curry.  I enjoyed myself, for it is hard to be conspiratorial upon such a lovely day…

deep-pression - the critical state of loneliness

Today, magpies bounce around as a wet rain soaks everything.  It really has been raining hard but this is good news for my candytuft, aquilegia and a small shrub of marjoram I planted this week-end.  My mouth was dry from black licorice as I paced to the local banks along the High Street.  I am constantly irked by those in this parish, who, with money and influence, insist on removing all traces of history from the streets.  They seem to have it in for the cracks in the pavement and so whole tracts of the pedestrian passageway are forever being wrenched up to make way for cleaner, shinier pavement.

malcuidant - l'hymne de la ghilde

On my return, a street urchin followed me from Cavell Street; a sickly looking child, his eyes rheumy with some infection or pest.  And though I neither encouraged nor discouraged him to follow, something about his wide-eyed manner spooked me rather.  At the turn of my road, I asked “where are you going to?” to which he gave a moan, turned on his heel and fled, stubbing his toe horribly.  And the weirdest thing: the pavement near to my doorway was pocked with spots of bright red blood.  It was as if he had got there before me.  I don’t know.  Maybe I shall look out for him in future.

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Life on the Farm

Tempora batter.  I’ve never spent more time on Broadwater Farm.  Twice a day, 4 times a week.  I’ve got to know what the front line looks like.  Dead chickens, no carcass.  Just feathers.  Justine by Lawrence Durrell, lost in transit, somewhere between here and France.  Naomi is in Paris going to a 24 hour rave, advising me from there.  In two days time, I escape to Dunfermline.

Bad Church

I’m panicking somewhat.  It’s never felt like this.

June 2013.  Today I followed the flow of the Moselle.  What a lovely park.

Good golly - what a shit park!

I take it we can all expect delays.

Expect Delayz

Cigarette in hand.  Life breathes walking calmy beside the expensive game.

improvement works

They’re re-paving everywhere.

industrial neglect

Welfare loses sight of itself on an industrial scale

17.05.2013 014

a monument   Elephant and Castle   inside a crisp packet

Portmanteau   Note     24.05.2013 007


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Last month I said goodbye to my baby.  Last night I said goodbye to my Shifu.

Mizong Quan.  Igwe banter.  Lu Jun Hai.  I bought him scotch whiskey.  I travelled to Great Portland Street tube ever Wedesday.  Half past six until 8 o’clock.  Others in the class stayed behind to learn Shifu’s family Taiji style.  He wrote the manual on the Qing Ping system of Daoist swordfighting.


I’ve grown up a bit over the 4 years I’ve studied under him.  Almost 7 under and on top of her.

Park Crescent, John Nash

We practiced kung fu in the rooms of John Nash’s regency circus overlooking Regents Park.  Sometimes on Summers evenings, we would be moved from our regular haunts of the Portland Room or the Theatre, upstairs, to the grand Gulbenkian Room.  Huge ceilings.  Floor to ceiling windows.

Here is my Shifu demonstrating the Qing Ping swordstyle in village hall in Essex.  Thanks to Sinkpoint.  I support his conclusion.  

Lu Jun Hai

Even now, a month on and my toes are gripping the carpet through woollen socks.


I’m dropping mizong poses, questions about the hips.  I don’t know how low should they go?  My Shifu is 76 and he can drop his to the floor.   I am unsure as to what should I practice.  I’ve just heard the most horrendous screaming outside the Omega Works on Hermitage Road.  Literally a terrifying wail was happening for a couple of minutes.  It didn’t sound human but it definitely came from a large creature that was in great pain.  And it floated around and moved off, into the night.  I hope someone else heard it.  It has left me quite terrified.  It’s 01.44am.

My sword looms large in the shadows at the edge of my bedroom.

Qing Ping.  Qing Ping.

Black Swallow Skims the Sea.  The Barbarian Offers a Gift.  The Purple Swallow Flies on its Side.  Scoop the Seabed to find Pearls 🙂 🙂

boo yaa ghost

Lu Jun Hai with Jian

Black + Decker

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A Mad Day Out

Paul and John, sparring

1968, The Beatles, doing martial arts on top of the roundabout at Old Street.  

Today, London still waits for the light of Spring to emerge through the gloom.  Waiting for someone, my brother I think it was.  Off the train at the station, we wandered over to the Cock Tavern in Somers Town.  Only had enough for a half pint each.  Previously, I had found myself in the Old Church Gardens of St Pancras…

The Gardens of the Old Church

Mental States reflected in Mad Mosaics.  In my life’s practice, I’m trying to open the gates.  In the Gardens that day, I found a gate already open.  Fingertips getting freezing, pushing palms in fingerless gloves.

The Gate, already open

Mad Mosaics

Concentric octagons.  A random memorial set in church gardens.

Mosaics, in context

Memorial in St. Pancras Gardens

The Beatles, sat in the Old Churchyard

I happened across a plaque which revealed a great deal.  I hadn’t heard of the Beatles’ Mad Day Out.  Of course, it was in ’68.  Look at Paul’s suit.  Of course they were in London, able to lark around the Old Church Gardens of St Pancras.

Plaque on the Bench

The Beatles at the Old Church Yard

Another image from the Church Yard

See, as the decades lapse and wane, how gardens here bordered in Hollyhock are replaced by easy-to-maintain drab shrubbery.  What would John and George make of the scene now?

Lovecraft Administrative

The Beatles keep off the grass

The band, accompanied by a coterie of photographers and their team, moved on from the Gardens and frollicked around London.  Paul is fairly flexible.  Look at his out-turned foot, he could aim a nasty kick to the groin.

Paul executes a decent kick

I want to pare these images, of fun and leisure with more from today.  Below is the skeleton of the new Sainsburys development which is currently being constructed on Northumberland Park, in Tottenham.

The new Sainsburys development in Northumberland Park

Light industrial units make way for a major sports-led regeneration project.  I don’t recognise White Hart Lane.  They have scraped away the ground, cutting in to the planet to raise monoliths to progress and comfort graven with corporate CGI images of happy customers, a happy Tottenham.

bleak landscape of un-regeneration

I don’t meet people who find the cutting edge of today, this moment right now, so upsetting.  These images make me angry.  They don’t speak of a world I want to live in.  They represent major investment, technological expertise, partnership working, health and safety policies.  Things I am not part of, despite them being visited upon my community, my Tottenham.  I don’t like them because they are ugly and I don’t want to live in an ugly world.

new architecture of the Zeitgeist i.

I want Mad Days Out

new architecture of the Zeitgeist ii.

new architecture of the Zeitgeist iii.

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from the brick dust2012, a pattern emerges

Over the Christmas period, I found out that LimaZulu occupies the site of the Challen piano factory where the world’s largest piano was built.  Here it is…

The Largest Grand Piano in the World

Billy Mayerl playing the Challen in 1935

Mike says that at quiet moments, you can still hear the moans of a child who was killed in the factory when trying to play a piano, got their hand caught and died that night.


5 days of it.  London, warm and grey.  I have just returned from the first Page Green Residents’ Association meeting to be held in 2013.  And very nice it was too.

N.I.M.B.Y, Reece Jones

Sometime after midnight on New Year’s Eve, we found ourselves at Highbury Corner.  We’d just lost half our crowd.  They exited in a black cab: pained extortionately NYE priced exhorbitantly.  So Jim called Ski and Ski picked us up in his black cab.  We crossed the intersection of Canonbury Square (Orwell at No. 27b, Waugh at 17a) and headed for Hackney.

At this point in the morning, the tallow was already guttering…  World Unknown.  Autumn Road.  We entered and found ourselves amongst hordes of hip young things, their minds deadened by drugs.  Ears deafen’d by feedback.  There was nothing for it but to immerse oneself.  But what in?  And at what cost?  I’ve never seen Cava for sale at a warehouse rave…

Cava £3 per glass

Cava £3 per glass

The Bar that night, at World Unknown

The Bar that night

And I would never have imagined I’d see anyone celebrating Fairport’s Cropredy in the midst of a techno party…  The mind reeled as people around me got off.

Who would wear this?

Who would wear this?

Sometimes I feel that I’m beginning to loose track of London and its youth.

Hum, Reece Jones

And then something strange happened.  It started to snow.  And Tin Can Dan arrived.  Things fairly quickly orientated themselves towards Alcohol + Death.  We drank at the Kings College Students Union bar overlooking the Thames, then encountered ghastly manifestations of death and dying at the Wellcome collection’s rather brilliant exhibition.  Death at the Wellcome

When Shall We Meet Again

This photograph does pose a good question.  When shall we meet again?  Death so hidden, tucked away in the elderly wards and disinfected hospital rooms.  Death hyped by headlines in the Metro, sensational news coverage.  But it quietly stalks us all.  Some of us try and outrun it.  But it’s there, waiting just around the corner.

Later, we found ourselves stoned and cold at Abney Park Cemetry…

The Graves at Abney Park

the ruined chapel

Graves in Snow

My!  Look at how even the cemetry authorities are obsessed with the prospect of a death on their premises…

The Warning is to Keep Out

The Chapel, wreathed in a protective fence painted gun-metal grey.

The Temporary Fence, for our safety


... make his songs... of their tongues

…Make his songs… of their tongues.  What does it mean?

A black rag, blowing from a high window

The Man at Hamilton Hall

I hadn't seen this guy for so long...

The City... it was so cold

The Cranes will never leave the skyline

The Plough

obtuse angles on a freezing death-themed walk

London Wall

the final resting place of Joseph Creasey and William Joseph Creasey

A context

We were looking for Postman’s Park,

What are they doing in there?

City Offices, lit up yellow

a small green in the depths of the Square Mile, which houses the Memorial to Heroic Self-Sacrifice, created by George Frederic Watt in 1900.

Photograph of George Frederic Watts, Ogden's Guinea Gold Cigarettes trade card No.74

The gate was locked and we had to clamber over the wrought iron fence.  Centuries of surface burials and bodies piled high into the English soil have raised the level of the park so that it now stands feet above street level.  Rows of ceramic tiles, listing the grim deaths of ordinary passers-by and family members, who put their own life on the line to save that of another and ended up losing.

Some memorials

More Memorials

Even More Memorials

A Carved Wooden Figurine

We exited the park, only to be addressed by the driver of a black cab: a Scot who almost immediately told us of burying his brother before Christmas.  The man had drunk a full bottle of whiskey and walked to the end of a nearby pier and waited for the sea to claim him.  This, the cabbie explained, was the second brother had had buried from drowning.  He went on, that his solace in the following weeks had come from God – he interjected, “No’ the kind of theological thing, I’m no’ preaching at yees, ahm jis’ talkin’ aboot the different dimension, the higher realms, ken?” – and Chris Martin.  This man understood that Chris Martin was trying to teach the youth how to live a better and true life.  We were taken aback, none of us being massive Coldplay fans.  In due course, we asked him where the nearest Wetherspoons was and secured directions – he obviously has The Knowledge.  He sent us off into the city.  But on our walk there, we were availed by the noise of car horn and the cabbie had followed us!  The doors unlocked.  “Do yees want a lift boys?” – we did.  Once safely inside the warmth, we sped off and the man asked if we wanted to listen to the song which had helped him through the dark days.  He turned the stereo up as loud as it could go…

The Taxi Driver

… and played Major Minus by Coldplay.  We sat in silence, none of us could understand the reverence this man had for it.  But as we arrived, we agreed how great the song was, thanked him profusely and got into the pub.
Dan and Al

The Tower of London lit up in the background.  A Hundred Men held hostage in an oil refinery in the middle of the Algerian desert.   Breaking News...

Dan left.  Went back to the South Coast leaving Al and I to carry on.  Homerton, lit up by the snow.  More drinks at the Elderfield and an uncomfortable discussion outside with the young barman about gentrification.

As I walked home, I came across a row of neatly parked and preserved Citroën Deux Chevaux

Homerton, snowbound

the bonnet

The 2 C.V.

Citroens in Homerton

The Full Menagerie

I particularly like the vans.

And lastly, an apposite image of the digger, claw raised aloft full of broken bricks of a demolished building just down from Manor House.

The Brick Dust Settles


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