New motherhood is like a trip to a foreign country: Flatlands

Here’s a recent visual experiment that I made in the stolen moments of Beano’s naps. The setting is the 3-room rental flat we used to stay in, a very mundane 3-room “New Generation” (slab block) default template HDB flat built back in the 70s and 80s. And I think I’ve finally found a way to explain this thing that I’ve tried to explain many times before (but struggle to explain, similar to how its hard to explain my experience of taste-shape and mirror-touch synthesthesia).

For me, at any one time I always feel other superimpositions or juxtapositions of other places that feel a bit like memory palaces where I can store facts, thoughts, and memories of another time. Its hard to explain, but it is like when you have a work phone call, you might start doodling nonsense on a piece of paper. But in my case, when I start to daydream or let the mind wander (also: this happens when I am extremely focused on an urgent task and everything else zones out), I always end up recalling a visual memory of a place I’ve visited in the past. I am imagining tracing out its contours, I am imagining what the details must be like, what the lighting must be like. Honestly, I can’t really explain why certain views for me just keep popping up as the ‘memory palace’, as some of the locations are pretty inconsequential and emotionally insignificant to me. Yet! My mind returns to them for further rumination. To what end? I do not know.

I began writing the following some time back when Beano was a much smaller baby. But now that we are all locked down at home for the corona, and I haven’t left the house and its vicinity in days, fleeting memories of parks I’ve walked in come to mind. I found myself scrubbing through these albums trying to find the name of a particular memory that may as well be a dream. There was something oddly compelling about these images I had taken of my walks and frustratingly I COULD NOT FIND THAT ONE IMAGE OF THAT ONE WALK IN MY MIND. And turns out some of these images are pretty weird. Why are there no people in them?

It was always in the back of my mind to do something with this huge lot of photographs, so…. now they have ended up in this visual experiment. I actually think it looks better than I expected it; so I think I might even make more of them soon…


New motherhood is like a trip to a foreign country. Firstly, the middle of the night feedings are conducted in near-darkness, with the endless droning of the white noise machine in the background, and some random show on Netflix playing to sustain your consciousness beyond all normal hours lest you fall asleep on the sofa and baby accidentally rolls off; not unlike when one takes a plane and night-time is arbitrarily enforced upon you, the sound of the engines whirring is ubiquitous, and all you’ve got to watch are some random blockbusters or episodes of Big Bang Theory on the inflight.

When Beano was very very small, I found myself trying to claw back a sense of mobility through a series of ever increasingly longer walks with Beano strapped to me. In some ways, this strategy reminds of me of the Capital Ring walk I did in 2017. Living in Greater London makes one feel crushed by one’s own insignificance in a big city that is too vast to know by foot, so I thought I’d try to complete a ring around the city.

Once upon a time I was going to do a detailed expository blog post for each leg but AINT NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT so here are quite simply the photo albums for each leg of the walk…

Debbie’s 2017 Capital Ring Walk!

The source material for “Flatlands”

“I decided to walk the supposedly 78 mile Capital Ring over 6 consecutive days. I say “supposedly”, for Debbie does not go “as the crow flies” but rather haphazardly in a squiggly line all over the map, and according to other mapping devices it seems I may have walked more than 150 miles in total. Rather than starting with the traditional route as listed in TFL’s maps and David Sharp’s guide book to the Capital Ring, I decided to start and end my journey at Stoke Newington’s Rochester Castle.”

14 March 2017: CAPITAL RING Stoke Newington to Woolwich

Day 1: Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick
Day 1: Hackney Wick to Beckton District Park
Day 1: Beckton District Park to Woolwich Foot Tunnel

15 March: CAPITAL RING

Day 2: Woolwich Foot Tunnel to Falconwood
Day 2: Falconwood to Grove Park

16 March 2017: CAPITAL RING

Day 3: Grove Park to Crystal Palace
Day 3: Crystal Palace to Streatham Common

17 March 2017: CAPITAL RING

Day 4: Streatham Common to Wimbledon Park
Day 4: Wimbledon Park to Richmond

18 March 2017: Capital Ring

Day 5: Richmond to Osterley Lock
Day 5: Osterley Lock to Greenford
Day 5: Greenford to South Kenton

19 March 2017: CAPITAL RING

Day 6: South Kenton to Hendon Park
Day 6: Hendon Park to Highgate
Day 6: Highgate to Stoke Newington

A Tour of London’s Historical Wetherspoons

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Wetherspoons! The smell of spilled ale, steak pie, salt and pepper, and red wine stains on the carpets! I’ve always liked the historical buildings in which Wetherspoon pubs are located, so for Boxing Day LAST YEAR I decided to design a tour of London’s historical Wetherspoons! (Unfortunately I have only come around to writing out my guide NOW, and I’m in a different country, but still..)

In theory, a spoons day sounds like it would be an excellent boxing day out, but all of central London seems to shut down on Boxing Day so the pubs in the most central part of town are closed. So we had to make a visit to some of the pubs on the list on another occasion.

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Empty Central London.

Secondly, London is a pretty big town so any “cross-London” journey is going to involve a significant amount of time and energy spent walking or taking public transport.

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Hours and hours of Buses. Forever.

Finally, what follows is obviously going to be a day entirely centred around the endless consumption of ales and pub food, which starts off well and fine until you get to the fourth Wetherspoons of the day and will suddenly find yourself (and anyone else unfortunate enough to have done the route) having voluntarily sworn off going to any more pubs for possible for the next month…. (Or at least until the next weekend, when the wild pubbing can start all over again!)

Debbie’s Historical Wetherspoons Tour

(Central and North London)


My selections were based upon the following simple three criteria:

IS IT HUGE?
IS IT HISTORIC?
IS IT EPIC?

You’ll have noticed that several Wetherspoon pubs have got ‘moon’ in their names. These all relate back to “The Moon Under Water” – the name of a fictional pub in an article by George Orwell, published in the London Evening Standard. This fictional pub was described as the perfect pub, serving a wide range of beers, extremely decent food, and yet curiously without any music or loud entertainment. So indeed the Wetherspoon pubs have been modelled after that idea of the ideal pub – a pub without loud music you have to shout over! Indeed, Tim Martin also felt that ‘moon’ was a good link for some of the pubs to have to the fictional one. Some required reading is the Orwell’s “Moon Under Water”.

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1. The Crosse Keys

9 Gracechurch St, London EC3V 0DR, UK

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IS IT HUGE? – Tall ceilings. Said to have the MOST NUMBER of handpulls in any Spoons pub. 24 in total apparently.
IS IT HISTORIC? – It was first built as the Woolpack Hotel & buffet in 1899 and later
IS IT EPIC? – “Marbled columns, coffered ceilings a Victorian baroque facade and a drinking space large enough to house a whole fleet of Routemasters…”

2. Knights Templar

95 Chancery Ln, London WC2A 1DT, UK

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IS IT HUGE? – A very high ceilinged bar.
IS IT HISTORIC? – The Knights Templar owned land on which Chancery Lane was built, along with this former Union Bank of London. Grade II Listed building. Its front railings are also listed! And it was in that Da Vinci Movie or something…
IS IT EPIC? – It has retained many decorative features such as the original scroll of the “union bank of London”.

3. Lord Moon of the Mall

16-18 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY, UK

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IS IT HUGE? – Huge and tall ceilinged
IS IT HISTORIC? – Former Cocks Biddulph Bank. Latterly Martins Bank. Then Barclays, closed 1992.
IS IT EPIC? – This is Spoons home turf – perhaps could be seen as its the Central London home. There’s a massive painting of Tim Martin in here. Also the pub sign has his face on it. Apparently this is often lauded in tour books for being “too grand”. People comment that its like “withdrawing a beer” instead of investing in a pint.

This place has rather more the vibe of a tourist trap than the earlier two (Knights Templar and Crosse Keys). Teeming with gaudy signs in multiple languages warning of pickpockets and thefts, its hard to

4. Montagu Pyke

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IS IT HUGE? – Huge old cinema
IS IT HISTORIC? – 1911 cinema and former Marquee Club venue
IS IT EPIC? – It feels squeezed in the middle of high street shops. From its description it was very promising, as most pubs do not have the benefit of a large interior area like this, however its current modern interior update doesn’t seem to do the historic venue justice.

5. The Coronet

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“WHAT? ITS THE SAME MENU AGAIN?”


IS IT HUGE? – Huge old cinema
IS IT HISTORIC? – Former Savoy Cinema. Was renamed ABC in 1962, then Coronet in 1979; last screened a film in 1983.
IS IT EPIC? – Appears on many highlights lists of spoon pubs in London for its grandeur and interiors

6. Spouter’s Corner

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IS IT HUGE? – No
IS IT HISTORIC? – Part of the Hollywood Green leisure complex, that corner of the High Road was called Spouter’s Corner in the past for its popularity for free speech, or “spouting” in a similar style to Speaker’s Corner at Hyde Park. Open air meetings were held until the 1950s and it was also an assembly point for hiring workers.
IS IT EPIC? – Honestly, I only added this one as a palette cleanser and because it was pretty close to home.


#LATERGRAM
I hope it doesn’t confuse people that I’ve decided to backdate my posts even though I’m writing this in Dec 2017 – but it does make more sense since I’ve had such a huge number of posts to push out and I like to think of this as a #latergram

The Impossiblity of grave-hunting in Abney Park Cemetery

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Recently I attempted to go headstone hunting or grave hunting in Abney Park Cemetery after noticing there were many requests for people to find the grave sites – from descendants who no longer lived in the UK. There were so many plaintive requests for photos of lost memorials. I wondered why no one had helped these people with their requests for photos, and I thought I’d try to do this over the weekend, for just an hour or two. You know, just head on to Abney one afternoon and FIND ALL THE GRAVES. Fulfill a photo request. Or two. Or three…. Or a hundred and eighty five?


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At first when I scrolled down the list I thought it would be a piece of cake to help search for the graves. There didn’t seem so many when you’re just speed scrolling through the names. But when I tried to copy out the data, I realised there were actually a whopping total of 185 requests. This was more than I had expected in terms of a number. 185 individuals had clicked on this site wanting to find a specific grave for a specific person in this cemetery. And these were just the people who knew where the memorials were located in the cemetery. I mean, from a brief glance, I had thought there were just a few dozen requests online, but not 185 requests. Perhaps I was out of my depth trying to attempt to fulfill all 185 requests. It sounded like a tall order to photograph, let alone locate 185 graves in an afternoon. But every name was a person, and how could I miss a single name on the list?

As I copied out the names, I began to develop the illusion that this was not a world so far away. I knew the area and the roads of Stoke Newington like the back of my hand, I had already read a lot about the local history, I could imagine the roads and places and houses and the work and lives that went on inside them; certain surnames resurfaced many times like Wood, Woods, Watts, Loomes, Levesque,… as I copied the names out I began to imagine I could understand how this cemetery worked, but that was definitely just some weird kind of survivorship bias

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For some reason I erroneously had the number “40,000” in my head – I thought there were 40,000 people buried in Abney Park’s 12.53 hectares (31.0 acres). I realise now that I thought this because I must have seen this signboard stating that there were 40,000 headstones still remaining. But the real number of burials in Abney Park is actually well over 200,000 at this point! I was surprised by this density. For my own reference I went to google the size of one of Singapore’s oldest cemeteries, Bukit Brown, which occupies about 85 hectares (211 acres) and is said to house “over 100,000 graves”. The British Isle Genealogy website keeps an online index of the 194,815 burials that took place in Abney Park from 1840 to 1978. 185 out of the 194,815 graves tabulated in 1978 in a time before I was even born – that makes a mere 0.09496188691 % of the graves there at Abney. Alas, ’twere nothing but an illusion of understanding the sheer volume of graves at Abney….

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After tediously copying out and cross referencing the lost graves and memorials onto a section map I made my way down to Abney. By the way, if anyone wants a copy of my list, here is the google doc: Abney Park Cemetery Photo Requests

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I was instantly overwhelmed and completely thwarted by thick overgrowth. It was not even possible to go beyond the second or third row of graves in a section unless I wanted to step on countless gravestones which had fallen over. Now I always knew it was thick in there, but until you attempt to match a name to a grave in a specific section, you may not fully appreciate how many graves there are!

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There were Commonwealth war graves at this cemetery – instantly recognisable from afar – now that I’ve visited many Commonwealth war memorials…

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Because the war graves were standardised through the war graves commission, I always knew what I was looking at when I saw a war grave.

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But graves come in all shapes…

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in all formats…

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in all sizes….

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Some are very wordy…

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Some get straight to the point…

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Many are standing (or falling over) in all sorts of different angles…

I have a newfound respect for gravehunting as it is extremely difficult. In fact, I think it is entirely impossible. George also said I shouldn’t just go around the cemetery “randomly” shrieking out names as I was looking for them.

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“SECTION D06!!! HENRY VALE! WHERE ARE YOU?”

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“Could Henry Vale be in there?”

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“Or is Henry Vale in there?”

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“Ada Wincup? Is that your headstone?”

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“Mary Wood? Is your stone somewhere in there?”

CONCLUSION:
When people post a request for a photo of a grave, it is probably because:

– the grave stone no longer exists
– the grave stone cannot be found within the cemetery due to overgrowth
– the grave stone is broken or in pieces (sad but common sight)
– the text on the grave stone was too worn to read
– the location provided was wrong
– the surname provided was wrong because the female had her surname changed from her maiden name to married name
– the person requesting for the photo was simply hoping for a complete miracle

Alas I cannot work miracles, and I have much respect for the countless findagrave contributors and your tireless searching for lost memorials! I could not even find a single headstone out of my list of 185! AH! I HAVE FAILED!!! But at least I tried…

And speaking of the impossibility of finding graves in Abney, its worth noting that Abney Park Cemetery is no longer a ‘working’ cemetery accepting new burials, so you can’t find a grave plot there anymore even if you were wanting to have yourself buried there. In case you were wondering what is the cost of being buried at one of London’s ‘finest’ such as Highgate Cemetery, it was mentioned in a Guardian article that the cost of being buried at Highgate is currently £18,325. £16,475 for the plot and £1,850 for digging. So… yep, unless you are rolling in the money, it would truly be pretty impossible to find your grave here…

Common


“Oaken richness”, one reviewer begrudgingly writes, “but at other times, there is a sense of linguistic overload”…
Common at the National Theatre until 5 August 2017

For some time now I’ve had the habit of purchasing those £15 Travelex National Theatre tickets way in advance and completely forgetting about then until the day rolls along. I usually don’t write reviews or keep notes on the plays and performances that I attend in London, but today after seeing Common at the Olivier I happened to google it – only to find it had received such scathing reviews for the very reason that I had most enjoyed it for: its incredibly dense language and rich imagery, all quite frenetically delivered. So I have decided to quickly write this.

I always find it hard to believe, but apparently semantic density is not quite everyone’s cup of tea? “Oaken richness”, one reviewer begrudgingly writes, “but at other times, there is a sense of linguistic overload”. What is wrong with everybody? I don’t know about you, and I’ll admit I’m no theatre critic either, but when I go to the theatre, I’ve come to be dazzled by nonstop theatrical epiphanic glossolalia and outlandish lexical gymnastics beyond what my puny mind can conjure up on the spot. Common delivered it with a flourish, or rather, a big fat noisy hit on a clangy tin pan. A thunderous chorus of rough music.

And as for complaints of the plot being ‘too obscure’, and another reviewer writing “As to what the play is about: well, that’s not exactly clear.” – Well excuse me, not clear? Did we even watch the same play? Surely it was not that hard to follow the logical progression of Mary’s ever increasingly preposterous schemes. (SPOILER ALERT) So the play begins with Mary returning to her homeland to figure out what her homeland means to her, and she has come to take her lover away from this parochial land to America where together they can build a new home. However, her lover can no longer recognise Mary after her many years of hard grafting in the big city; her lover also rejects her city attitudes, foreign voice and foreign dressing, and her lover refuses to escape with her because of what Mary believes to be a mistaken notion of loyalty to the soil.

The backdrop of the play is 19th century England just as the Enclosure Act was passed to force people from their land so that larger and more ‘efficient and profitable’ farming techniques could be put in place; but with the inhumane effect of painfully separating people from their land and villages, producing a large landless labour force that would eventually fuel the industrial revolution in the big cities and the modernisation of agriculture.

At first Mary is led to believe that if she can prevent the land from being enclosed, her lover will finally feel free of her shared responsibility to help keep the common land free for the common people. Her lover tells her she might consider running away to a new land with Mary if only she could be freed of her common responsibility to the land. But it turns out this was all a trick; the land comes before love, her lover only asked her to a late-night rendezvous in order to lure her into becoming the next sacrifice for the village’s harvest.

Having somehow survived the murderous plot, Mary then hatches a scheme to accelerate the loss of the commons to eject all those who had ousted her from her homeland in the very first place, taking advantage of the largess of the weak aristocratic lord of the land and using his men and his powers to obliterate the villagers who had tried to sacrifice her for the harvest and who stood protecting their common farming land from becoming Enclosed.

What makes it hardest of all is that the land that the villagers are being forced to leave behind is depicted as cruel and unsympathetic to their emotions and attachment to it; the land is harsh and barren and can hardly sustain them; in turn the land has fomented the villagers into helplessly continuing their strangely cruel practices of paganistic harvest sacrifice rituals. With the failed harvest looming, the only cycle to be seen is that of an eye for an eye, a murder for a murder, the displacement of people being followed by more displacement as those who are forcefully displaced move on and try to take other territories for their own. In a memorable fight-to-the-death scene, Mary turns the knife that her lover has prepared to stab her with – back upon on her lover! As life ebbs out of her lover, Mary uselessly tries to tell her that there is actually a bigger world out there to be lived in, but her lover will never get to see that. Mary cries at her own actions, but there is nothing left for her in that land, nothing else she can do but gather herself up and ready herself for a new life in a new land.

I wonder, did I have such a strong impression of clarity (if “mumbling” was an issue) because I sat in the front row where I was so close I could hear every single word in perfect detail; so close I could even see a stray fibre on Anne-Marie Duff’s finger, illuminated in the stage light from above? Or is it only my own reading of the play that gives the play meaning to me? Or has the play been cut down in length since the previous reviews? For £15 it also seemed amazing to have what seems like the finest seat in the house – dead centre of stage, so close you can lean over and breathe on the soil itself. I understood the set with its soil-splattered cyclorama to be a depiction of the terrifying barrenness of the land – certainly amplified from the angle I was seated at, with my face in line with the ground, gazing up at the actors. Perhaps for a venue as large as the Olivier, the presence of the play may have been diminished if you were seated at the opposite end of the house; instead of the sublime barrenness experienced at the first few rows in the stalls, it might have been read as boringly empty from a seat at the top.

You can call me of simple tastes, but if you ask me, never was there a dull moment in the play for me, what with the fences set on fire, the dead animals, Mary’s entertaining “clairvoyance” performances, Eggy Tom’s tarry hand covered in feathers, a talking mechatronic crow (with fine comedic timing!), intimations of incest, lost lesbian love, fear of a wasted life, fear of mortality, the digging (and filling) of many holes, an Irish man reduced to begging to be allowed to finish his last song before being sacrificed for the harvest, disembowelment, English villagers donning sinister pagan masks, a human heart in a bag, ribbons of blood spraying everywhere, sudden death, sudden gunshot, smoke and fire. As Mary left the stage presumably walking into her new life, I could have sworn she winked directly at me.

Debbie gives it: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

See also:

Common at the National Theatre – On until 5 August

Hidden in the Heath: The Hill Garden and Pergola of Hampstead

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Resuming my documentation of London adventures! Tucked away in a corner near to Hampstead Heath is the strangely picturesque Hill Garden and Pergola. I have visited Hampstead Heath on many an occasion but honestly this isn’t likely to be a part that one is likely to stumble over on a walk on the heath, as it is completely separated from the main grassy verge (that everyone gravitates to) by two roads. Technically speaking it is adjacent to Golders Hill Park and its easiest approach is via a pedestrian footpath on Inverforth Close (via N End Way) [Buses 210, 268, and N5 also ply N End Way]

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The Pergola is a Grade II listed Edwardian structure built by Lord Leverhulme, together with his dream of having a hill garden. At the time in 1905 as it was being constructed, the nearby Hampstead extension to the Northern Line was also being constructed, so Leverhulme was able to acquire the soil dug up from those tunnels at a nominal cost and used that to build the rolling hills you see in the Hill Garden today.

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You have to walk towards the houses and take the right turn into the Hill Garden.

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It leads onto a beautiful garden with a pond, with the Pergola beyond…

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It can be a real trek but it is definitely worth the effort to walk from Hampstead Heath to see the Pergola. Whilst I was there I didn’t see a single soul except at the front, where there was a lady who seemed to be part of the garden staff and she came up to me to ask “are you the girl who is coming down to do the shoot?” (No…) and that was it. How strange it is on a summer’s day when all the parks are teeming with people intent on baking themselves in the sun – yet this hidden corner of the heath with all of its structures remained completely devoid of people – which I suppose must also deviate from Leverhulme’s original vision of summer garden parties on the Pergola. Perhaps it is just a bit hard to get to, as compared to the other part of Hampstead Heath.

(Now that I’ve told you about the secret of the garden, I will have to kill you…) (KIDDING!)

Back in the Loop

I’m alive!

This blog is alive!!

I’ve quite enjoyed being completely out of the loop for the last few months, but I’ve finally come back into orbit now. Over the next few weeks I’m going to try to push out a huge backlog of old notes and documentation of various journeys in London and Singapore – the first draft of my working notes for what I hope will develop into a more cohesive documentation of my long-distance walking adventures. As I write them, I will link them up to this ‘catch-up’ page…

Capital Ring

I decided to walk the supposedly 78 mile Capital Ring over 6 consecutive days. I say “supposedly”, for Debbie does not go “as the crow flies” but rather haphazardly in a squiggly line all over the map, and according to other mapping devices it seems I may have walked more than 150 miles in total. Rather than starting with the traditional route as listed in TFL’s maps and David Sharp’s guide book to the Capital Ring, I decided to start and end my journey at Stoke Newington’s Rochester Castle.

Day 1: Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick
Day 1: Hackney Wick to Beckton District Park
Day 1: Beckton District Park to Woolwich Foot Tunnel
Day 2: Woolwich Foot Tunnel to Falconwood
Day 2: Falconwood to Grove Park
Day 3: Grove Park to Crystal Palace
Day 3: Crystal Palace to Streatham Common
Day 4: Streatham Common to Wimbledon Park
Day 4: Wimbledon Park to Richmond
Day 5: Richmond to Osterley Lock
Day 5: Osterley Lock to Greenford
Day 5: Greenford to South Kenton
Day 6: South Kenton to Hendon Park
Day 6: Hendon Park to Highgate
Day 6: Highgate to Stoke Newington

Hertford Loop

I’ve been living next to one of the Hertford Loop Line stations which run from Moorgate to Stevenage and other parts of Hertfordshire. Having been used to sitting on so many new trains in Singapore (where a new train line with completely brand new trains seem to roll out every other year) I was initially shocked by the advanced and worn state of the Herts Loop trains. The windows are warped with age, the cabins are stained with mud, and there are no additional passenger facilities or station announcements on board this train – so at night, you end up fitfully peering out of the dirt streaked and heavily scratched windows to see if you can see any signs on the deserted platform. In fact, the trains used on this line (British Rail Class 313) are supposed to be some of the very oldest still in regular use in Britain and would have been built somewhere between 1976 and 1977 (over 40 years old!).

Finsbury Park, Gillespie, and Highbury Fields
Arnos Grove, Groveland Park, and Winchmore Hill
Enfield Town, Enfield Chase, World’s End, Cockfosters
Gordon Hill, Lavender Hill Cemetery, Strayfield Road Cemetery, Hillyfields Park
Pymmes Brook, Oakleigh Park, Oak Hill Park, Brunswick Park, New Southgate
Hadley Wood, Salmon Brook, Stagg Hill
New Southgate, Hidden River, Alexandra Palace
Welwyn Garden City
Letchworth Garden City
A Special Note about Drayton Park

Assorted London Journeys

I devised a foolhardy plan to visit many historical Wetherspoons in one day, visited the “doppelganger” of my North London street (N4) in South London (SE25), re-discovered that I actually have a devastating phobia of falling into the sky when in an open field (which I must confess is quite bizarre), and found the plaque which marks where Raffles is buried. And other walks…

An All Day Spoons Tour!!!
Burgoyne Road (North London) to Burgoyne Road (South London)
Angel Road Superstores, Lea Valley, Tottenham Marshes, Blackhorse Lane
Dollis Valley during Storm Doris, St Mary Hendon and Raffles’ Burial site
Gospel Oak, Lismore Circus, Primrose Hill, Regent’s Park
Willesden Junction, Camden, Primrose Hill
Wanstead Flats and Epping Forest
Woodberry Wetlands, New River Path
Pubs in Harringay
Hampstead’s Hill Garden and Pergola
Notes on footwear, footcare, and sun protection for long-distance walking

Outside of London

Margate to Ramsgate
Eastbourne to Beachy Head
Sicily


AND MORE CURRENT SINGAPORE NOTES COMING UP WHEN I AM DONE WITH THE ABOVE LOT…??

Long overdue documentation of work process in 2016

Shelter at Singapore Biennale
Emotional Departure
soft/wall/shroom
Here the River lies 2.0
A Blender workshop I conducted at Fabcafe
A computational poetry workshop I conducted at Sch of Uncommon Knowledge

WWII Sites in Singapore

Changi Museum
Former Ford Factory
Fort Canning Battlebox
Reflections at Bukit Chandu
National Museum Singapore – Surviving Syonan
National Gallery Singapore – Supreme Court Wing

Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne

Australian War Memorial – Last Post
National Museum of Australia
National Capital Exhibition
Questacon, Powerhouse, Scienceworks, CSIRO Discovery, Mt Stromlo Observatory
Changi Chapel in Duntroon
Remembrance Driveway

Writing out this list alone took so long that I’m going to have to take a rest before I embark on all of this…

Visiting my Geographical “Googleganger”: From Burgoyne Road N4 to Burgoyne Road SE25

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I lived on Burgoyne Road for some years but although I specifically set my home address to “Burgoyne Road N4”, whenever I tried to use Google Maps to plot a route back home, Google would occasionally send me the directions to “Burgoyne Road SE25” instead of “Burgoyne Road N4”. No matter what I did – such as entering in my entire postcode, unit number, landmarks, etc – Google still kept trying to send me to SE25.

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So a few months ago I decided to visit the OTHER Burgoyne Road, the “Googleganger” of my road that I kept being directed to – since I was already passing through Norwood on my Capital Ring walk.

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The other Burgoyne Road in South Norwood was a short walk from Norwood Junction, peppered with churches, payday loan shops, chicken shops, and the very average fly-tip strewn suburbia of South London.

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Unlike the very long and dramatically inclined Burgoyne Road in North London, which was situated off the very lively Green Lanes and on the Harringay Ladder itself, the Burgoyne Road in South London here was very short and flat.

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One of these very ordinary houses is the geographical googleganger of my flat in North London.

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It was all together very ordinary, but as I stood there for some time on this totally empty road, a woman came out of nowhere. All of my naive youthful excitement must have attracted this strange gypsy lady who then asked me what I was doing standing there. She started what seemed to be a rather normal conversation with me. “I’m from Burgoyne Road in North London!” I told her, “and you’re from Burgoyne Road in South London!” “Yes… Yes… very nice.” She smiled… following which things took a surreal turn and she suddenly turned a bit nasty and refused to let me leave unless I gave her money immediately. IMMEDIATELY! IMMEDIATELY! “But why?” “Because I have a baby.” “Ok, but that doesn’t answer why?” Even when I said I had no cash on me, she said she would take to me to the cash machine where I could draw money and give it to her a la daylight robbery! Very strange. But why would I give her all my money just because she was holding my arm and verbally insisting that I do so? I found myself running away from this Burgoyne Road…

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The neighbourhood didn’t seem so friendly after the weird experience. As I ran further down this claustrophobic road, a cyclist zoomed past a pedestrian in the vicinity too quickly and I heard a woman yell “WATCH WHERE YOU’RE GOING, WANKER!!!” – followed by another very demonstrative shout “SORRY!!!!?!?!!”

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UH, WELCOME TO SOUTH NORWOOD, I GUESS…?

Capital Ring #1: Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick

Stoke Newington to Hackney Wick
Distance: 4 miles / 6.4 km
Feels like: a breeze through the marshes
Date: 14 March 2017

 

A Return to the Rochester Castle – Springfield Park – Wilsons Hill – Avroplane crash landing site – Hackney Henge – Wick Woodland – Giant dogs with headphones and hoodies – Approaching Olympic territory

This is the start of 15 posts about how I did the Capital Ring in 6 days…

THIS IS HOW IT ENDED:

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AND THIS IS HOW IT BEGAN:

The walk usually begins in Woolwich, but I decided to start my loop in Stoke Newington. The first time that I came to the UK, the first area that I landed in happened to be Stoke Newington, and the first establishment I went to was also the splendid Rochester Castle which has the distinct honour of being the oldest Spoon, with its skylights, carpets, strange paintings, and wooden box seating. The familiar red-wine-and-pepper stained carpets of the humble Spoon! The extremely reasonable prices! So it seemed only fitting to begin my walk here with a hearty hot (kid-sized!) breakfast…

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THE START! THE START! Why do I always make this unfortunate face on camera.

Most of Stoke Newington and Stamford Hill is already intimately familiar to me, having lived around those parts over the years. These parts of Hackney are scattered with these large rocks embedded into the pavement at junctions, and lots of community scribblings engraved into the pavement. At certain hours one also sees a lot of the Hasidic Jews with their distinctive hats (and secretive lives) quietly crossing from building to building.

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Ducks of Springfield Park

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The first significant stop on this walk is Springfield Park, which I personally always seem to forget the name of, until I am there, because its name sounds so generic. Springfield is one of those words like Sunnyvale (SEE ALSO: TRAILER PARK BOYS, HOUSOS). I’m not sure if the name Stamford Hill refers to any particular hill really, but if it were to be a hill this is the point at which Upper Clapton riseth-upper to a peak, thus it involves what some would say is an open slope down into the valley of River Lea. But of course in Debbie’s world this hill is a potentially vertiginous tumble that reminds me of that one time I got on a bike in this park, instantly almost fell off it, and concluded that combination of said bicycle and hill was most certainly a DEATH TRAP.

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The most prominent part of the hill, also known as Wilsons Hill, has existed here for at least 200 years in this singularly sloped form.

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From the northern end of Springfield Park, there’s a gate and footbridge leads out into the Lea Valley’s Walthamstow Marshes. Variously spelt LEY, LEE and LEA, its original name was Ley, but it was more commonly written as Lea on maps, whilst Acts of Parliament referred to it as Lee. Ultimately it was decided that natural elements of the river would be spelt as LEA and man-made features would be spelt as LEE. As the natural river winds through here, it is spelt as LEA.

As there is very little to hold on to, this part of the Lea Valley, as with other parts of the Lea Valley I’ve walked along is vertigo territory for me. But I’ll get back to that later.

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The open sandy track goes under a railway arch under which Aliot Verdon-Roe rented in 1909 to build his “Avroplane”, the first all-british tri-plane. He used the soft marshes of Walthamstow for his flight and crash landings. If you’ve ever seen one of these early experimental airplanes up close, it consists of wooden sticks and control cables and flaps and its one of my favourite eras of airplane building since it was so much so a prototype in progress and its an absolute marvel these precarious contraptions ever flew…

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Kings Head bridge
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Middlesex Filter Beds
Continuing on via the heavy black “Kings Head” footbridge to the canalised section of the Lee Navigation, one eventually passes the Middlesex Filter Beds on the left, more commonly known as the Hackneyhenge because huge blocks of granite formerly used as the foundations of the engine house have been converted into a mini Stonehenge.

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The canalway follows on for quite some distance, passing quite a lot of plane trees (including a giant dead plane tree cracked into two).

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As recent as 1995 all of these woodlands did not exist; beyond the trees, the Hackney Marsh once were the site of WWII gun emplacements and bunkers. After the war its vast open space were used as football pitches, until the 90s when it was decided that part of the space would be converted back to woodland. The success of the woodland has been due to planting programmes as well an episode of accidental flooding in 1997 (water mains burst!) which attracted ducks and other waterfowl to move in on their own accord.

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Wick Woodland

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Further down there is Wick Woodland – from a distance I saw some splotches of bright pink and could not resist walking towards it until I found the magic spot where one could see the message…

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This segment of the walk ends at White Post Lane, just after a well-graffitied bridge and several giant murals of urban dogs, and we’re entering into Stratford Olympic territory proper…

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The visible change in the landscape says we’re entering Stratford!

Multi-electrification system on Hertford Loop Line: Drayton Park’s electric sizzle

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FCC 313040 @ Drayton Park

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FUN FACTS ABOUT THE HERTS LOOP TRAINS!: An interesting fact is that the Moorgate to Drayton Park segment of the Hertford Loop line is underground and uses third rail DC (750V). Whenever trains stop at Drayton Park from either direction, you’ll always hear an electric sizzle followed by the engine cutting out, and the lights on board the train will black out temporarily, as it being switched to or from overhead AC (250kV). Due to the gradient of the train and timing in which the driver conducts the switch, the electrical switch is usually more apparent when coming down from the North to Moorgate.

Most of the trains I’ve taken have involved only one railway electrification system, a multi-system rail like this usually only occurs where trains cross a boundary, such as a national boundary, where two different countries have implemented different electrification systems.

The World’s First Cash Machine and New River Swans: A walk through Enfield Town, World’s End and Cockfosters

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In my years of living in Stamford Hill and Harringay, Enfield has always felt so close because we were right by the stations with direct train services going to Enfield (Abellio Greater Anglia’s Lea Valley Line and Great Northern’s Hertford Loop). And I suppose it is typically still referred to as the “London Borough of Enfield”, even though it is technically Middlesex and it has its own postcode zone (EN). And if one considers the distance, a trip to Enfield honestly is a trip out of London. If Harringay is given a rough estimate of being about 5/6 miles away from Central, then Enfield is a whopping 10/11 miles from Central, depending on what you want to refer to as the centre of London. On the map it looks like this:

So what is there to see in Enfield?

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For one it is the site of the FIRST CASH MACHINE IN THE WORLD! A modest blue plaque stands outside the Barclays Bank in Enfield Town, proclaiming the words “LIVES MADE MUCH EASIER”. As I began writing this some months after having visited Enfield Town on several occasions (the most recent of which was 3 March 2017, to which this post will be dated), I realised that today (27 June 2017, the date that I” writing this post) is coincidentally the 50th anniversary of the unveiling of this machine!

The first cash machine or hole in the wall was opened by comedian Reg Varney (the star of “On the Buses”, which if you’re not familiar with, is truly a show of its time – ultimate 70s bawdy innuendo – and speaking of Enfields, Harry Enfield together with Paul Whitehouse did do a hilarious On the Buses spoof).

All you could have taken out from this cash machine at the time was £10, but according to Bank of England’s Inflation calculator, £10 back in 1967 would have been the equivalent of £166.57 in 2016. Nevertheless it was already supposed to have been a revolution at the time – getting cash out from the bank on the weekend? Oh my! How things have changed in 50 years; here we are in 2017 and the bank I use has just closed every single branch that I’ve ever used within London!.

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This is the same New River which flows from up in Hertfordshire, past our house in Green Lanes, and all the way down to the Woodberry Wetlands in Stoke Newington. Neither actually a River nor “new”, this is an artificial waterway dating from 1613 which supplies London with fresh drinking water from the River Lea.

In 1823 in his Essays of Elia, Charles Lamb raged and railed against the New River after apparently witnessing a dear friend nearly drowning in the New River, which he apparently felt as a swan-less spirit-less man-made tributary was not worthy of claiming the lives of poets:

Waters of Sir Hugh Middleton—what a spark you were like to have extinguished for ever! Your salubrious streams to this City, for now near two centuries, would hardly have atoned for what you were in a moment washing away. Mockery of a river — liquid artifice — wretched conduit! henceforth rank with canals, and sluggish aqueducts. Was it for this, that, smit in boyhood with the explorations of that Abyssinian traveller, I paced the vales of Amwell to explore your tributary springs, to trace your salutary waters sparkling through green Hertfordshire, and cultured Enfield parks?—Ye have no swans—no Naiads—no river God—or did the benevolent hoary aspect of my friend tempt ye to suck him in, that ye also might have the tutelary genius of your waters?

Oh if Charles Lamb were still alive to see the New River now… it is teeming with swans!

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Swans!

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SWANNNS!!

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And also loads of Canadian Geese.

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Enfield’s Millennium Fountain

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New River Loop…

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I walked around the New River and by the banks there were these lovely plants…

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Which insisted on taking a ride on my hand.

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I probably need to write a post entirely dedicated to lost balls.

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I walked westwards towards a place called “World’s End”. If you’ve been around London/UK you’ll often see the term “World’s End” which basically refers to anything which people melodramatically feel is so far away its basically at the end, or the boundary of their world. (or church parish)

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Indeed there are some vast fields which really feel like you’re in the countryside.

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On google maps it is hard to tell sometimes if a field or green area can be crossed. That is if one takes the assumption that all green areas can be crossed by pedestrians, but this is not true. For the most part, if a green area is not publicly named, then it is probably not land in which the public has right of way. Which is unfortunate because sometimes you just want to walk from one place to another in a straight line and there’s a temptingly open field in the way!

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World’s End consists of private land with significant amounts of barbed wire so don’t be as foolish as me as to make an extended excursion around the perimeter of what looks like grassland when none of it can actually be entered/crossed.

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By this point I had already walked so much that I thought I may as well head on to Cockfosters via the A110, a thoroughly bleak highway with little to no pedestrians on it on a winter’s day.

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There was some distant neighing.

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Eventually the road converged back into civilisation.

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I did finally reach Cockfosters and its distinctively designed station, designed by Charles Holden and built in 1933.

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The Walk:

 

[I’m still backdating this post to 3 March 2017, which is when I took the pictures…]