Being European

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Being European

Feeling at home anywhere yet belonging in no one place in particular is part of the No Fixed Abode vibe, but Brexit had us all at sea. We're still not sure whether to up sticks and leave the country, or stay true to London where we can travel the world within one postcode. No Fixed Abode regular, Cristina Salvi, put down her thoughts about seeing Europe with fresh eyes ...

Following the Brexit earthquake, I found myself thinking about what being European means and how to translate my belonging into words for an international community. I left my family and my hometown 15 years ago. Since then, my home has been Milan, Barcelona, Dublin and London –so far– and my friends and everyone I have met during my nomadic travelling.

Being European is to experience the incredible variety and richness of our continent every day in a peaceful, border-free and safe environment.

Living abroad has shaped my entire existence, and helped me to better understand myself. It has taught me to respect my roots, and enabled me to appreciate their beauty and authenticity even more. I now see my hometown differently, and am able to rediscover my childhood haunts through fresh eyes.

In June, I returned home and was excited to find interesting examples of social and creative engagement taking place there. Christo’s The Floating Piers installation on Lake Iseo, and ALT (Arte, Lavoro, Territorio), an experimental center for the arts, are two wonderful local projects that take a global approach to current events.

THE FLOATING PIERS

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The Floating Piers was conceived by Christo and Jeanne-Claude in 1970. But it wasn’t until 2014 that Christo found Lake Iseo to be the most inspiring location for the installation. The lake’s water, and its surrounding landscape and communities all became part of this temporary and nomadic project. The artists’ aim has always been to create works of art for the public to freely experience and enjoy. 

‘Like all of our projects, The Floating Piers is absolutely free and accessible 24 hours a day, weather permitting,’ Christo said. ‘There are no tickets, no openings, no reservations and no owners. The floating piers are an extension of the street and belong to everyone.’

For 16 days – 18 June through 3 July, 2016 – Lake Iseo was completely reimagined. One hundred thousand square meters of shimmering yellow fabric, positioned atop a modular floating dock system of 220,000 high-density polyethylene cubes, undulated with the movement of the waves as The Floating Piers rose just above the surface of the water.

The mountains surrounding the lake offered a bird’s-eye view of The Floating Piers, exposing unnoticed angles and altering perspectives. The water, wind and sun, the process of getting there, queuing and walking on The Floating Piers were all part of this temporary but intense experience for 1.2 million visitors.

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‘Those who experienced The Floating Piers felt like they were walking on water – or perhaps the back of a whale. The light and water transformed the bright yellow fabric to shades of red and gold throughout the 16 days,’ Christo said.

After the installation, all components were removed and industrially recycled for a range of uses at various European locations.

‘We had people from all over the world come to work with us just because they wanted to be a part of this work of art. Many stayed longer than expected and found it hard to say goodbye,’ Christo said.
 

ALT: ARTE, LAVORO, TERRITORIO

ALT – which stands for Arte, Lavoro, Territorio (Art, Work, Territory) – is a new Italian centre dedicated to reconceptualising Contemporary Art. The centre was established in honour of Fausto Radici, the ski champion, entrepreneur and contemporary art collector. It was redesigned by the architect Tullio Leggeri, Radici’s friend, and aims to promote art locally while attracting an international audience.

ALT is located in a former cement factory that dates to the XVII century. Art is exhibited across more than 3,500 square meters of immersive and intimate space, with rhythmic columns and vaults with skylights that filter a beautiful, natural light.

ALT’s significant collection includes works by Balla, Beecroft, Cattelan, Cragg, Duchamp, Holler, Horn, Kosuth, Long, Man Ray, Manzoni, Merz, Mc Carthy and Pistoletto. The centre also offers an innovative display of excellent local, national and international creative talents, and is a valuable resource for art researchers who seek to better understand our historical moment.

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photos and text © Cristina Salvi

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NINTH EDITION: WILTON'S MUSIC HALL

Brexit shook Europe. Brexit has shaken London. If it only had one “positive” effect, it would be to get people from all over the world together to talk about Europe and what it means to them. 

Monday 4th July. 8 pm.

Fifties music escapes from the bar below at Wilton’s Music Hall. We're in a part of London's East End characterised by waves of migration, and a suitably theatrical place to talk about Brexit. The table is laid with a spread of papers and souvenirs from around the world: Le Monde, El País, New York Times, The Irish Times and La Repubblica. Italian biscuits, a Spanish cookbook, a guide to the Edgware road. Around us gather guests from Italy, Puerto Rico, New Mexico, Texas, Ireland, Lebanon. Just one from Britain. Perhaps this mix is your typical table in London?

We asked, ‘What does Europe mean to you?’ so each one of us brought something explain our connection.

A photo of two girls posing together.
“This is my step-sister who’s half German. I’m Italian.  Europe is a the core of my family and I can’t imagine countries from this continent being apart.”

A book bought on a trip to Iceland.
“My wife and I have been travelling all around Europe and each one of us would pick a book from a local bookshop in the country we’re visiting which would define the place or moment.”

A cookbook.
“This is a cookbook I got from Barcelona while I was doing Erasmus. Erasmus completely broke all the prejudice I had with other cultures. It’s probably one of the most enriching experiences I’ve had in my life.”
 

 

A sixties travel guide to Europe (which still smells like the sixties). “It’s crazy that this book was published 50 years ago but the little tips about local customs and character of each country still bears true today!”

A business card. "This card holds the name of my 3 business partners, and we're from all over Europe. So without the EU, would my livelihood even exist?"

Pictures of a road trip to four European cities in four different countries within 11 hours (from a man who later proclaims he's only ever been on one holiday, Jorge Mendez). “Discovering such a variety of architecture in such close proximity was just crazy.”

At its best, Europe is about experiences that define us, inspire us and fill us with joy. Brexit feels like a divorce in a way, but one we didn't see coming. Will Britain cut its umbilical cord with Europe? Hopefully not. The 'mixing' is too deep, at least in London.

In the wake of the referendum, Time Out London, probably the most widely read magazine in London, wrote: “Our city has not changed. It remains a place that cherishes human beings of all nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. So, people of Europe and people of the world, thank you for making our city your home. No, let’s rephrase that. Thank you for making YOUR city your home.”

The whole Brexit affair has come as a ruthless shock, but reading the words from Time Out was heartening. The kind of warm feeling you get when you head inside after hours in the cold. Perhaps there’s little we can do now a decision is taken, but the our conversations helped : talking about Europe and the interplay of cultures with people from all over the world.

Text © Nastasia Basil, Images © Cristina Salvi

Nastasia Basil is a Lebanese engineer and founder of the LondonY an online magazine for London's Y Generation. She has studied, lives and works in London.

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Gone to Iceland

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Gone to Iceland

We love to spend those infinite summer solstice nights at high latitudes. In June Iceland is at its bizarre best. We think back to sunny midnight treks and dancing in Reykjavik clubs in the 3am light. 

At last month’s No Fixed Abode we got a double whammy of this unusual island, from designer Eva Koehler’s ghost stories to photographer James Devereaux-Ward’s description of the Northern Lights.

James blew us away with vivid images of his Icelandic roadtrip, which transport us in full cinematic vision through these dramatic landscapes. Shot on a winter trip, they're like a study in colour, texture and form but it's the Northern Lights that inspired him most: "It may sound cliche, but it really does take your breath away. You're driving around looking for it, and at first you're not sure what you're looking for. But when you see it, it makes you tingle and no pictures do it justice. You become engulfed in a curtain of colour and want to stay up watching it dance through the night.”

Check out James' ever-inspiring instagram feed for more ...

The Knowledge

We always get asked for Iceland tips, so here comes our list, straight from mouth of unofficial Icelandic ambassador, Andri Klausen. It's been recently road tested by fellow architect, Lisa Cumming and is too good to let languish in an email. “As you can tell,”says Andri “I enjoy talking about my island.” 

The city i.e. Reykjavik:
Go swimming in Laugardalslaug and try the hotdogs afterwards.
Hit the Fleamarket at Kolaportið (only open Sat, Sun till 5pm).
Take in the best view from Hallgrímskirka, the bell tower of our iconic church.
Head to Harpa, the newest architectural marvel, the glass concert hall by the harbour.
Enjoy dinner at Snaps, my friend's restaurant, brilliant food, I recommend the french onion soup. Or at Sægreifinn try the whale (ask for it rare!), and the best lobster soup in the world.
Drink at Slippbarinn the best cocktail bar in the city, where my cousin used to be the bar manager. 
Or Kitchen and Wine at the 101 Hotel, where he's now serving excellent drinks. It's on Ingolfstraeti, also home to a mikkeller bar, pizza restaurant and a rooftop bar on top of the old theatre and opera house.

Here is the guesthouse where we stayed in the city and we loved it. If interested, mention my name in your message to Ingunn and she might be even nicer to you. There are so many hotels in the city and hostels to choose from as well, but I hear Kex is nice too.

Now for outside the city...
Blue Lagoon is a must, between the city and the airport. I recommend driving south out of the city on route 1 down the south coast. That´s how you get the most for your time. Route 1 for cars are very fair and good to deal with.

On the South coast you should drive to at least Jökulsárlón under Vatnajökull (Europe´s largest glacier). After you get out of Reykjavík, start here, 40 mins or less from the city.

Don't miss Klambragil, Hveragerði It's all the way in the rear of the town of Hveragerði, you drive through the whole town till you end up at a car park in gravel, my a little stream and a shady wooden bridge. Then begins the 3.2 km high up the hills towards the steam rising from the ground. After the about 45 min hike you come to a place where you can lie in the warm stream. You need waterproof shoes for this hike for sure.

Then hit the road again and visit the following on your drive:
Seljalandsfoss (waterfall you can walk behind)
Seljavallalaug (swimming pool in the mountains) Turn left at Hotel Edinborg sign, drive past the actual hotel down the gravel road until it ends. park there, walk along the river into the mountains and voila, there she lies.
Skógafoss This is where my mother grew up and I spent most of my summers there. My grandfather was the head master in the big school there and there is also a very interesting house and transportation museum there.
I recommend camping here for the night! Dyrhólaey or Reynisfjara

Vík The plane in Jame’s photos was on Sólheimasandur black sand beach, South Iceland near Vik. It took about 50 mins to walk to. You used to be able to drive to it but the land owner got annoyed people where driving all over the place. Grab a bite in this town. 

At Kirkjubæjarklaustur get some supplies or skip and go straight to Skaftafell. You have to go here, do some hiking. It's easy and worth it. This is one of the most beautiful places with all the glaciers and Svartifoss the black waterfall. You should camp here too. Then you can drive to Jökulsárlón . This is where you can hitch a ride with the boatcar. This is probably the order in which I would do this and on the way back to the city take a detour through Gullfoss and Geysir. Go through Laugarvatn thereafter and check out the new spa

Then I'd follow the signs to Þingvellir, where the world's oldest parliament was founded and the Eurasian and the American tectonic plates meet. 

Then head back to the city. Or, you could just keep going east from Jökulsárlón and not back towards the city if you feel ambitious and want do the whole circle, but that's at least a 5 day trip, rather rushed. Ask around at a tourist info or something and they might give you some more pointers. The Glaciers in James’ photos are in Jökulsárlón. Where the colour of the ice is out of this world. Such a rich blue. Hallormsstaðarskógur

MývatnDimmuborgir Akureyri (and I can go on forever) are gorgeous places not to be missed.
These are places on the North and North East coast. The West has a lot to offer as well: Selárdalur , LátrabjargSnæfellsjökull   

Have fun and stay safe. Also ask about ash wind policies when you rent the cars. Ash winds have been destroying the paints and finishes of vehicles and some rental companies have been charging the tourists 800 euros for damages. The guys at route1 warned me about this and gave some guidelines and advice. They also said they would not hold us accountable for ash wind damages.

Other than this all, eat a lot of hot dogs and remember to shower well before entering the pools, the only strict rule in Iceland. Dress for all kinds of weather and always expect the worst (weather, that is!)
Enjoy, Andri

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“Deixa Rolar” Let it Roll

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“Deixa Rolar” Let it Roll

“Don’t go to São Paulo,” people told us, and out came the expletives: Concrete junglecrime-ridden, rain-drenched. But we had a long-lost friend who'd fallen in love there, and just had to see her before we left Brazil. Squeezing in two days, the city came good and surprised us. After Rio’s tropical rain São Paulo's hot streets felt like holiday. People were generous, welcoming even, and the place had an air of community that London would envy. But I blame that on SESC Pompeia. 

SESC is a Brazilian NGO that provides sporting and cultural activities, but to call this complex, in the São Paulo suburb of Pompeia, a leisure centre does it an injustice. I’d heard of SESC through Louise, my favourite Carioca, who is straight-up about the good and bad of places. This place felt good. Sure it's a concrete jungle: jungle, in the sense of a spot teeming with all kinds of life; concrete, in itsbrutalist towers which give it status and confidence. The city opened up to us and here we encountered all walks of life: a group of Grandmas celebrating a birthday barbecue; neighbours getting quiet time in the library; students shying from work in the beer hall; curators musing video art in the gallery; kids challenging each other to futsal in the gym. The place had soul. 

It takes a certain genius to make a place like this — a savvy intuition for people, performance and architecture. Lina Bo Bardi, who created it, was a diverse talent: architect, editor, curator, designer. No wonder she found her home in Brazil, a country that hates to pigeon-hole and embraces improvisation as a matter of national pride. There’s a beloved term for it, ‘o jeitinho’ a way of achieving something by skilfully circumnavigating rules and conventions. So in this landscape of re-invention Lina flourished, and her ability to sway from architect to curator to editor to designer was celebrated. It’s always the spaces in between disciplines, those that defy definition, that create the freshest and most exciting projects. Here, boundaries are pushed and new approaches shaped that can move a whole society forward. That’s the field where Lina played. Perhaps her most pioneering work came in the cross-over between architecture and content (she didn’t like the word culture). It’s no mistake that so many of her most revered buildings are theatres, leisure centres, museums, galleries: platforms for curating and communicating content; places with a point of view.

Lina’s early forays into editorial could have something to do with it. Taking influence from her work at Domus and Habitat, and her husband as an editor and art critic, she was able to apply a sensitive approach to content in her architecture. It created spaces that allowed for multiple voices, that could be re-programmed by the people who would use them to make the space theirs. There’s a tendency in architectural practice to view content as ‘the soft stuff’ that comes in second place to the tangible and physical. The conversations, memories and community pride often have to yield to concrete, render and stone that makes ‘real’ buildings. But Lina flipped that dynamic and made places with soft power. Rather than intimidate activity, the soaring concrete towers at SESC Pompeia pump up the confidence of the football teams that play there, the clay roofs of the factory’s down below were kept to yield to memories of the sites’s past. “Brutal, but also delicate” is how her collaborator Marcelo Ferraz described it. 

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Something special lies at the sweet spot between people and a place, between a context and a culture. Lina had an intuition for it and knew exactly how powerful that magic could be. She called it ‘popular soul.’ It’s a quality that’s hard to define but one that arguably all her works are characterised by, and why they’re still considered so important today. Put simply, her buildings work because people love being in and among them. Lina succeeded in creating physical spaces that ‘speak’ to the people who inhabit them, and could spark an emotional connection that draws people to the places she made.

Lina today might be re-titled a ‘narrative designer’: someone who considers emotions and senses, poetry and stories within her palette and like a playwright weaves them into architectural space. The most successful storytellers know how to captivate, to move their audience, but most importantly to hand over the flame to others to make the make the story theirs. That’s where Lina’s content-driven architecture comes into play. She handles places like oral histories, platforms where a story or activity is passed from one person to the next until it becomes a ritual and myth founded in culture. From this approach the audience becomes the actor and ultimately the director.

Deixa rolar,” Louise recommended before I headed out for Brazil. “Let it roll, don't plan too much and you'll see where your journey takes you” I relented. In that same ethos, the relaxed handover of control to allow for everyone else’s talents is Lina Bo Bardi’s legacy.


Love Lina's work? For more on Lina Bo Bardi...

Lina Bo Bardi Together
Lina Bo Bardi: Together is a travelling exhibit and events programme, and online archive paying tribute to Lina's capacity to engage with every facet of culture and see the potential in all manner of people. 
http://linabobarditogether.com/

Dramatic Space 
As part of this year's London Festival of Architecture, the British Council and Central Saint Martins are hosting an event with opera director Finn Beames, Lina Bo Bardi Fellow 2015, to present his research following his trip to Brazil on Bo Bardi's approach to 'dramatising spaces'. Sign up here for the event on Friday 17 June. 

Lina Bo Bardi Fellow 2016 
The fourth and final year of the Fellowship will kick off next month, as Studio Julia are set to travel to Brazil to investigate Bo Bardi's editorial work as a compendium of her practice.


 

 

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EIGHTH EDITION: THE INDIA CLUB

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EIGHTH EDITION: THE INDIA CLUB

After years of thinking this place was mere myth, we chanced across the India Club. Hidden above the Strand, this legendary bar was originally a meeting place for civil servants working for the Indian High Commission across the road. It's a time-warp with a price list that hasn't changed in years and made for a fine spot for No Fixed Abode to meet up.

From India we went to Iceland to hear of Eva's encounters with boarding school ghosts and James' experience of 'curtains of colour', the Northern Lights; To Cambodia with Cristina to study floating bamboo architecture; To Lebanon with Nastasia who thrilled us with true-life horror stories set in dangerous caves; to Rio with Daniel and his riot of colour sketches of Roçinha, for an exhibition working with kids in the favela. And to Naples to talk camorra and creativity with Virna and Rosanna. 

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Until next time folks!

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Sonic Explorers

Nuno and Tom gave us a sweeping introduction into the true origins of the 'dérive' at last year's Porto Travelogue Summer School. But if you missed it, Laurie Taylor covers 'The Flaneur' in a recent edition of Thinking Allowed, our favourite sociology podcast. Thanks Myrna and the team at Publica! 

Thinking of sound and the city, it brought to mind the well-travelled but brilliant Domus Mixtapes 

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Dispatches: Vietnam

The talented Sergio Cameira shut down his computer, ditched London for a couple of months and has been travelling around South East Asia on his tod. We've been following his Instagram feed and longing to be sitting in a Cá Phê and people watch too. In the meantime we satisfy ourselves with his sketches and dispatches ... safe travels Sergio!

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Armchair Nomad | CARNIVAL IN RIO

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Armchair Nomad | CARNIVAL IN RIO

Pedro made a pilgrimage to Sounds of the Universe and I followed. He'd come from Barcelona to take this head-trip through sonic culture: to a tardis of a record-store where you can browse through every dimension of time, space and music. With vinyl-flicking fingers we time-warped from Ethiopian Jazz Funk to Ohio's Mid-Western Punk scene; from 90's Chicago house back to 70's Brazilian Tropicalia. Downstairs the journey evolved, as rare books and records transported us beyond this rainy corner of Soho. The shelves read like the travel library of an afro-latin-american aficionado, each book carefully catalogued and wrapped in a plastic record sleeve: Nigeria; New York; New Orleans; Brazil. 

There I stopped. Music had born a love-affair with that country for Pedro and I, but it was samba that I'd truly fallen for. As the drizzle drummed grey outside we dusted off a plain-covered book, opening it up to find a cacophony of colour. A classic photo-reportage of the most delirious celebration, at the most spectacular era, in the most hedonistic city on earth: Carnival in Rio

"During Carnival, Rio is not simply beautiful or picturesque or moodily romantic; it is ebullient and delirious; ecstatic and explosive; fantastic and hallucinatory."

Albert Goldman, Carnival in Rio

The book was co-authored by a jet-set crew invited to Rio by one of the city's most notorious party-hosts. Douglas Villiers, the photographer, was a man of many talents: a property-tycoon/treasure-hunter/film-producer and photo-journalist, he was the son of a rag-trader from Golders Green who brought disco and casino to London and an unconventional glamour to everything he did. Villiers and his Swedish model wife, Lena, travelled back and forth to Rio in the 70’s. Bored of socialite parties, the couple took to the streets to photograph Carnival in all its raw and sordid glory. Together with Albert Goldman, the American music-writer and Carioca-lover, they created one hell of a book on the origins, the spectacle and the experience of Carnival in Rio.

The photos are a blur. The writing super-charged. This book seduces with the sticky energy of that city on heat: 

Hard-body Latinas clad in nothing but sequins and sweat
Black boys dolled up in ruffles and faceprint
Masked girls tanning in bikinis and garters
Sassy transvestites decked out in glittering platform shoes
Favela queens and baianas, skeletons and hangmen
Bottles, cigarettes and drums

"Carnival is the greatest pyschodrama ever staged." 

Albert Goldman, Carnival in Rio

Carnival in Rio knows the city well enough to go beyond the make-up and masquerade of this lavish party. It examines the complex rituals behind the high and low of society, from samba school rehearsal halls to penthouse suites. As the glamour fades, the face-paint smears, and sun-rises on Carnival's final day, the reader finds Rio on a city-wide comedown. The fleeting nature of this celebration with its four-day inversion of social rules: the time when man-becomes-woman; maid-becomes-master; black-becomes-white. By Wednesday the fantasy fizzles out and we're reminded of the melancholy lyrics of the classic samba tune: 'Tristeza nao tem fin, felicidade sim.'Sadness has no end, happiness does.'
 

What did Pedro find? On the theme of Brazil '78, album of Brazilian disco with this unforgettable image from the classic telenovela.


What did Pedro find? On the theme of Brazil '78, album of Brazilian disco with this unforgettable image from the classic telenovela.

 

TRAVEL LIBRARY
Music inspires travel, it takes you places. A beat and a lyric comes from the gut but is also a reaction to a context. It's the most heartfelt reflection of a place and its people. Hankering for Brazil? A handful of armchair nomad links with musical connections, designed to take you there: 

Carnival In Rio
Many of the best photos are online, but the book is worth tracking down for
its glamorous 70's layout and entertaining essays
Photographs by Douglas and Lena Villers, Text by Albert Goldman

Rio de Janiero: Carnival Under Fire
A brilliantly humourous portrait of the thrill, the vibrance and the violence of Rio
by one of Brazil's greatest music writers
Ruy Castro

Musica E Letra
64 short and sweet essays in Portuguese on the eternal song and magic words that come together to make Brazilian culture. Plus, as with many Cosac Naify books, the design is unreal! 
Ruy Castro

Na Trilha das Novelas
In Brazil, even the mundane turns dramatic. Through his blog, "Na Trilha das Novelas" Freddie Pellachin takes a critical view of the history of Brazilian TV and society through the fascinating national and international soundtracks of classic telenovelas. My favourite, 'Te Contei?' which tralates as 'Did I tell you?'  and centres around high-society cleptomania and double-lives.

Sounds of the Universe
The home of Soul Jazz Records, unearthing forgotten classics and travelling the world to bring you the latest from Jamaica to Japan. A window into other universes through sound.

Uma, duas, tres semanas no Brasil
I've only been to Brazil once, but was so inspired that I captured it all in a book
made with lifelong friend and creative ball of energy, Emily Woollett.
One, two, three weeks in Brazil...

 

 

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THE WALKATIVE SOCIETY: To Bow, Poplar and the Balfron Tower

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THE WALKATIVE SOCIETY: To Bow, Poplar and the Balfron Tower

“Musing takes place in a kind of meadowlands of the imagination, a part of the imagination that has not yet been plowed, developed, or put to any immediately practical use…time spent there is not work time, yet without that time the mind becomes sterile, dull, domesticated. The fight for free space — for wilderness and public space — must be accompanied by a fight for free time to spend wandering in that space.” 

Rebecca Solnit: Wanderlust, a history of walking

We walk and talk through the backstreets of Bow. Today’s Walkative Society consists of a bunch of RCA students, architecture buffs and curious hangers-on. ‘Musings on the notions of private and public space’ is an intellectual title for what’s surely a salt-of-the-earth wander around East End housing estates. But as Rebecca Solnit writes, that free-time spent walking, wandering, wondering unleashes a vital part of our imagination.

There are all the dreary details the cynics might expect: old-man pubs; net curtains; ragged St Georges cross flags and discarded cans of Holsten Pils. But this is London so really all you can expect is surprise: a chain-link fence is crocheted to create flower patterns; a watering hole that holds an unusual history; a March day that is nothing short of balmy. London’s socio-economic history is especially patchwork in Tower Hamlets, and a timeline unfolds in raging sunlight as our walk progresses. A 70’s lo-rise is sewn together with a a converted Victorian printworks; a hopeful ’90’s estate house edges towards a modern development, foundations just out of the ground. London changes. It’s disconnected, almost dislocated. New blocks boast irrelevant street names like Ligurian Walk (which doesn’t seem to exist on google maps when I search again). The obscure stations of Devon’s Road and Langdon Park take us into the nether regions of the DLR. 

The sort of scale of development we don’t often see here. “It’s like Spain,” someone says: all clean hard surfaces, patterned façades and new-builds. Turn the corner, and pockets of past are pulled out: The Widows Son, a pub with a melancholy story: 

Over the bar of “The Widow’s Son” in Devon’s Road, Bow, hangs a cluster of Hot Cross Buns.
On Good Friday a sailor will add a new bun to the collection. 126 years ago a widowed mother, expecting her sailed son hime from sea at Easter, saved a Hot Cross Bun for him. He never returned, but for the rest of her life she hung upbun every Good Friday. Since she died the custom has been faithfully observed.

Inscription on the pub wall

‘No groups allowed, by appointment only’ reads the sign in the misted up window. A proper boozer.

We near Poplar, and signs of pride emerge. A statue to a boxer done good; local boy to world champion. A fresh-out-the-box secondary school clad in iridescent pink and green; spruced up Harca estates with thoughtfully added fences and terraces to create a little private space for tenants.

Then boom. Here comes Balfron. You can’t miss the Balfron Tower with the kind of ballsy, badass brutalism you’d never see in housing nowadays. Goldfinger, the architect of this Grade 2 Listed tower, was known as a humourless man prone to rages, and perhaps the tower reflects his lack of empathy. The architect was Ian Fleming’s role model for that classic James Bond Villain Auric Goldfinger. For the first two months of the towers inhabitance he lived on the top floor with his wife to troubleshoot, then promptly decamped to his house in Hampstead. Tower blocks became the bad guys, and often for good reason.

“She referred to the high-rise as if it were some kind of huge animate presence, brooding over them and keeping a magisterial eye on the events taking place.” High Rise, JG Ballard


We somehow make it inside and it’s human nature to head to the top. Packed into the slender 12 person lift, the engineers among us run a quick calculation to establish that the average person’s weight in the skinny 60’s was only 75kg. The elevator makes it up on the 24th floor, Nuno buzzes a friend and cajoles him into letting us into the tenants area: One flat empty, one inhabited; one on, one off. The place is on its last legs. The final tenants vacate in April and the block is already covered in surveyor’s stickers, like a plastic surgeon’s marks ready to nip, tuck and restore it to former glory.

For some of us it’s claustrophobic up here, hemmed in between slabs of rough aggregate and safety glass. But Paula is wistful, remembering her Polish upbringing among concrete pre-fabs. There's an escape: with an engineers sleight of hand we unhook the safety catch on the 24th floor window, wince as we stick our heads into the fresh air and gasp at the glorious expanse of patchwork London before us. 

Back outside and half the group have paid the £1 entry fee to the Brownfield Community cabin: the busy social-club-cum-estate pub where teenagers play pool and granddads prop up the bar. “A pint's only £2.50,” says the barman all gold chains, belly and Aertex shirt “whereas it’s £3.50 round the corner, so you’ve already saved money, see?” They must think we’re a strange lot walking around the Poplar for a laugh, but the Balfron has been a potent mix of native East End families, property guardians and artists for a while and anything goes in the East End. 

On through Chrisp Street, the first purpose-built pedestrian shopping area in the UK. Past Hope Enterprise Bible sellers, the Ideas Factory and Tandoori Nites. Into the infamous Robin Hood Gardens, crumbling, half occupied and now set for demolition. Why was Balfron saved and listed, and this is coming down? The papers say 76% of residents now want to leave, but have the council just left the place to rot to push them out? Is the real reason the proximity to Canary Wharf which will warrant higher land values than hidden-away Balfron? We learn from Nuno how in Sweden, 80% of homes are social housing. The British obsession with status and class can sometimes taint the values that drive social housing, pushing everyone to now unaffordable or out of reach ownership. What comes down isn’t the building, but the intricate social structures that become a part of it. 

We all need somewhere to live, a place to call home. This might seem ironic coming from a collective called ‘No Fixed Abode’ but shelter is of course a fundamental right, yet one that we see the world increasingly struggle with: migrants are buffeted around Europe, Balfron’s social tenants are ‘decanted’ and told to their surprise they can’t return; private renters are out-priced and forced to move further away. But we also see tenants homes improved and estates made safer; the demolition of badly maintained buildings making way for new. Our homes are contested in London as we tug between space, money, location, comfort and status. It takes fighting spirit to live here, but now more for economic reasons rather than street smarts. 

 

The Knowledge

To join a walk with the Walkative Society
https://walkative.wordpress.com/

A great resource and archive on the Balfron Tower.
A building archive
http://www.balfrontower.org/

And a balanced bit of background on the full picture at Balfron from the East End Review

To consider a broader point of view on contested social-housing in London, including other Estates such as the Heygate and Carpenter's Road
 Urban Pamphleteer
Regeneration Realities
 

Or better yet, just go for a walk...

Thanks to Nuno Coelho, Paula Smolarska, Tom Spooner, Simon King and all the walkers

 

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LOST IN THE THE LONDON LIBRARY

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LOST IN THE THE LONDON LIBRARY

 

"Whatever social changes come about, the disappearance of the London Library would be a disaster to civilisation"
T.S. Eliot

Tucked into a corner of St James Square, this is the place the place to spot any self-respecting writer browsing the shelves. With over 1 million books on subjects ranging from Flower Arranging to Flagellation it is one of the leading independent lending libraries in the world, but open to members only. Aside from annual membership, the best way to wander the 17 miles of books is to sign up for a free tour : a entertaining hour spent writer-spotting, leafing historic editions of the Times and hearing how a dead president’s underpants saved Sicily from invasion. 

We loved the fact that the hat stand is still in use!


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SEVENTH EDITION The Urban Explorer Workshop

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SEVENTH EDITION The Urban Explorer Workshop

 "There’s something enigmatic about the very concept of a journey. From fleeting thoughts to momentary reflections, it evokes a multitude of emotions. Its mystification lies in its transitions, its ability to create a space in time."  Kimberley Goes, The Urban Explorer

We're true believers in the mantra that it's not necessarily what you see, it's how you see it. So we fell head over heels for The Urban Explorer, a project which encourages us to see our surroundings through new eyes. One grey Winter's day No Fixed Abode met the project's creator Kimberley Goes, and took ten 'triggers' for a walk to challenge our perceptions of the places around us. From free-writing in French to cranes with rhythm , here come Kimberley's recollections of what we found...

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The Urban Explorer Workshop, 13th December 2015, Hackney Wick, London

The practice of psychogeography largely depends on favourable weather conditions. Having scheduled the workshop in the month of December, the unpredictability of London (not just winter) weather was something we remained quite wary of.

The gloomy Sunday morning of the 13th of December brought rain and an impending sense of doubt. Should we have rescheduled, we pondered. Over time and the forecast of better weather for later in the day, the doubt was eventually replaced by a sense of excitement. I wasn't going to let the weather cast a gloom over the first Urban Explorer Workshop.

Introducing ten triggers part of the Urban Explorer Guide to the participants; the purpose of this workshop was to collectively document our psychogeographic journeys. To experience and record the urban environment we were surrounded by; it wasn't as much about the results to be produced but a step towards provoking a sense of place.


All aboard the Alfred Le Roy docked at the Queen’s Yard, Hackney Wick, the first few minutes revolved around introductions between an eclectic mix of participants ranging from architects, writers, engineers, urban designers and a baby. Yes, you heard right, a baby! Sipping hot spiced apple drinks, the conversation moved on to the Urban Explorer Project and a viewing of the books on display. What followed was an informal presentation on the project; the triggers and the ways in which each could be documented. The group then sifted through the pile of blank pocket books to choose a trigger they were most fascinated to test out.

The idea was simple - to pick a trigger, then set out individually or in a group to document the surroundings through the trigger chosen. In order to maintain a control over the unpredictable drift, a time limit of about 40 minutes was set. We were to look beyond the usual, into the details and the often overlooked aspects of the urban environment.

We rushed out with a sense of curiosity and excitement, following our instinct to wander and observe the area we were surrounded by. Industrial buildings in the face of redevelopment; graffiti paint splattered intentionally across brick facades, a colourful array of writings on the wall - Hackney Wick was nothing short of the ideal urban environment to be explored.

Upon return, each of us took a minute to present our documentation and experience of the practice. From the documentation of the familiar everyday bicycle wheel as an object to the observation of the repetitive rhythm of cranes; from drawing the natural surroundings using [earth] pigments as colour to a visual narrative of words in the environment, each documented trigger provoked a sense of wonder and led to a string of discussions.

Eva presented drawings of bricks and their varied placements, shapes and colours in the area she explored. Thought experiments and questions arose - ‘Would it be possible to count these bricks?’ ‘Could these be classified according to their characteristics?’ Inigo who viewed and captured the environment through an irregular perspective, suggested it as a possible new trigger! Nastassia, an engineer who took over the challenge of free writing communicated the difficulty in penning down her thoughts. Although her exploration resulted in a discovery of a wonderful postcard by art students in the market; it also led to a realisation and discussion that not every trigger could be mastered or practiced over one attempt. Free writing, for instance, required practice to absolutely surrender to the art of writing without hesitation.

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On the whole, the workshop successfully sparked a sense of curiosity and even raised questions on the further use of the documentation. Suggestions were made on the possibility of taking the results forward - through either improvements in the area explored or the creation of a documentation database for further use. As the light gradually faded at dusk, conversations drifted to the holidays and other visual musings.

Kimberly Goes

For more information and to provide feedback, write to goeskimberly@gmail.com

Thanking all the participants for the testing and feedback which has been significant in paving a strong way for the development of the Urban Explorer Project.

Photography by Kimberly Goes, Ronit Mirsky, Cristina Salvi, Eva Koehle, Rosanna Vitiello and Nastassia Basil.

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From Vienna to Budapest: Between the woods and the water

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From Vienna to Budapest: Between the woods and the water

Day 1

Wien

Architect's apartment | woolly leggings | -10ºC | Strauss and Mahler | Wurst und bier

Day 2

Schönau an der Donau >> Hainburg

15 miles

Herons | two buzzards | three people | frozen water | silence and snow

Hainburg

Day 3

Bratislava >> Esztergom

6 miles + train

Slovakian train | walked the border | St Stephen's Basilica | the Black Gate | restaurants closed | Hungarian heavy metal | New Year's Eve abandoned

Day 4

Esztergom >> Visegrad

17 miles

Basilica domes across the fields | river walk | Hungarian runners | valley of the dogs | bells across the water | blood on the snow | walking into Visegrad as the sky grows dark | strange drumming from the Danube

Day 5

Visegrad >> Szentendre

16 miles over the Pilis Hills

Castles in the mist | medieval fun | hoar frosted forest | ridge walk | man with walrus moustache | hundreds of Hungarians out for a jolly | sunset over the Danube | the temperature rising

Day 6

Szentendre >> Budapest

16.5 miles

Morning bells | early start | river path | leftover leisure | entering the city | car engines, crowds | St Margaret's Island | footsore and triumphant

We dubbed Charlotte Kingston 'Charlotte the Explorer' for her relentless curiosity and her voracious appetite for a challenge. Last December, while most of us were watching re-runs of Only Fools and Horses, she hiked for seven days from Vienna to Budapest inspired by the words and walks of the legendary Patrick Leigh Fermor, returning footsore but triumphant.

 

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We got mail!

Ness made it to Scotland, inspired by comprehensive stack of Scottish OS maps from adventurers Charlotte and Ed.  If you're off somewhere wild and wonderful, send us a good old fashioned postcard!

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SIXTH EDITION Porto Sundown Sessions | Flavours of the City

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SIXTH EDITION Porto Sundown Sessions | Flavours of the City

A city experienced by night takes on a very different character to the day, something spontaneous that your average guidebook can never quite capture. As the city darkens, senses other than sight take over: and sound and taste become ever more important ways to explore our surroundings. This is the B-Side, the alter-ego of Porto.

Capturing the night for the Porto Travelogue Summer School, our sundown sessions will unfold each evening this week. These quick warm-ups/cool-downs are an "aperitif" of playful discussions and simple triggers for your night out, encouraging you to experience Porto from different perspectives. They're light, spontaneous and intended to lead you to unexpected places to meet unexpected people. We believe in serendipity, and that's the way these sessions have worked out. Here's the first of two stories about Porto's evening alter-egos that found us by chance, and will lead us off who knows where?

Flavours of the City | Pedro Limão
As if by magic, we're staying in the home of a food lover who goes by the nickname of Pedro Limao or Peter Lemon. It turns out he's a super-open super-chef from Porto, who with his artist wife Catia and other collaborators, has cooked up creative food projects to stir up the tastebuds of the city. With the belief that the concept of a restaurant needed a shake-up, Pedro created the 'Kitchen Studio', a non-restaurant in his (nick)name. No menu, no prices, an open kitchen where you can stop in and talk to the chefs, and workshops where you can learn the techniques. The word spread, and we've heard of food fanatics travelling from Italy to savour their delectable dishes.

It's now closed, but Pedro has let us in on the places to eat and drink he finds most interesting, and with this in hand we'll explore the city and its flavours as we taste our way through a foodmap of Porto. Eating is one aspect of food, but perhaps you only truly get to know a city when you create something with your own hands. We have an opportunity to create and document our own food project with the help of local chefs Bruno and Ana, Pedro's long-time collaborators. They are offering a Porto food workshop and meal to celebrate the course on the evening for Thursday August 6th, for both vegetarians and meat-lovers to learn to cook with them. We can even pick fresh herbs from Pedro's garden. 18 euros per head will cover the cost of ingredients and their expertise.

If we've whet your appetite, download our Flavours of The City Unfolded here and contribute to a collaborative map here.

We'll explore more on Monday, starting with African flavours with super Filó, an Angolan chef.

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Two Travel Fellowships

Image: Detroit, Wildsam Press

Image: Detroit, Wildsam Press

There's no excuse not to get lost in your work this Summer. Trawling the worldwideweb we found two standout fellowships that will give you the time, space and funds to go explore. 

Wildsam Travel Fellowship
Wildsam is an American travel brand built upon telling true stories of place. Their field guides to American cities have that nostalgic Americana vibe, where a little dream goes a long way, and the sun seems to be permanently setting. It's that twinkle of the American Dream in the eye that we love about them. In that same pioneering yet wistful vein, their fellowship is inspired by the epic undertaking that was Federal Writer's Project of the Great Depression era. This Summer they offer two travellers the chance to head out on a road trip to explore American heritage and culture, using the visual, written or digital tools of your trade to capture the stories, people and places you find along the way. They'll make their selection of two travel fellows by June 1st, so fix up, look sharp people!

http://wildsam.com/travel-fellows/

Winston Churchill Memorial Trust
Churchill was a prolific traveller and writer throughout his career, and this trust exists to open horizons and bring the best of the world back home. The fellowships offer the time and space for British citizens travel overseas and bring fresh ideas and solutions back for the benefit of others in the UK. Over 100 fellowships are awarded each year in eclectic fields from craft to horticulturalists to educators, with the intention of sharing their learnings when they return. Worthwhile for a thoughtful and impactful project. You have until September 22nd to get thinking and apply.

http://www.wcmt.org.uk/

 

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Travelogue Summer School : Alternative perspectives on Porto

APPLICATIONS NOW OPEN

Travelogue Summer School is pleased to announce that applications are now open for our first summer programme taking place on August 3–8, 2015 at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Porto (PT).

Travelogue Summer School is a one-week forum for debate and collaborative practice dedicated to professionals and students in the fields of design, architecture, arts and related disciplines.

Through a psychogeographic deconstruction of the urban environment, Travelogue Summer School aims to investigate the city through a type of ‘fieldwork’ comprised of a stimulating programme of guided tours, talks and workshops run by multidisciplinary practitioners. Based upon these experiences, the summer school will culminate in a publication where participants will collaborate on a unique guidebook about the city. The goal of the guidebook will be to envision an account of Porto that serves as an alternative to the official national narratives and eulogising language so often found in travel literature in order to reimagine the urban arena as a space to question social and political relations.

We encourage applications from Portuguese and international applicants who are fascinated by the exploration of urban space, share a genuine desire to work collaboratively and are interested in advancing their work in a unique context.

Talks and Workshops by: EuropaDK-CMBrave New AlpsMário Moura,The Worst ToursAnna BestIsabel CarvalhoProject Paper and Ricardo Melo.

To apply, please visit travelogue.fba.up.pt
Application deadline: 29 May 2015.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Travelogue Summer School is a project by Ana ScheferMárcia Novaisand Teo Furtado, in partnership with the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto. Kindly supported by University of Porto, Câmara Municipal do Porto, and the MA in Graphic Design and Editorial Projects.

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FIFTH EDITION A salient reminder

Missed us back in March? All is not lost. Big thank you to James Devereaux-Ward for his beautiful video capturing the last event at Arthur Beale. Looking forward to more with you James.

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FIFTH EDITION A night of navigation with Seaward Radio and Arthur Beale

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FIFTH EDITION A night of navigation with Seaward Radio and Arthur Beale

“...I saw the real sea at last, head on, a sudden end to the land, a great sweep of curved nothing rolling out to the invisible horizon and revealing more distance than I’d ever see before…compared with the land it seemed a huge hypnotic blank, putting everything to sleep that touched it.”

Laurie Lee, As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning


What was it like to first see the sea? Wouldn’t there be magic in bringing that moment back? We are sometimes so determined to chart a course that we forget the pleasure that drew us to this profound expanse in the first place. The Seaward podcast was created as a celebration of this sensation, this deep appreciation of the sea. 


We sat expectant and set to embark, packed in on the shop floor of Arthur Beale, among rows of rubber-duck-yellow waterproofs, admiralty charts and nautical almanacs. Arthur Beale is legendary. The 400-year old yacht chandler has outfitted some of the most epic expeditions in British history, from Shackleton's treks to Everest's climbs. But this evening, a journey of a different kind. 

We cast off. Seaward radio took us gently away, drifting through a spell-binding hour of illustrations, movements and meditations on the sea and what it means to us. Navigating our thoughts through a narrative that charted us downriver, out into deep water and descending under, Lilly and Emma transported us for a few hours of sea-lovers escape in a wholly unexpected way. 


The evening changed tack, as an essential part of the crew came on board. One-half of the revived Arthur Beale, Alasdair is intrepid, perhaps both in his sailing and his approach to business. Upon hearing the legendary shop was in danger of closing he took a leap of faith, and took the place over. For Seaward, he pulled out some well-loved tools of the trade, and enlightened us on the delicate art of navigating with a sextant: "Navigation's not as much fun these days," he shrugged, as he kept us gripped through talk of stars at sea, power-naps on solo-voyages and facing death sailing to the Lofoten Islands and across the North Sea. 

"Beyond the line of the sea horizon the world for me did not exist ... I am speaking now of that innermost life, containing the best and the worst that can happen to us in the temperamental depths of our being, where a man indeed must live alone but need not give up all hope of holding converse with his kind."

Joseph Conrad, The Mirror of the Sea

The intensity of sailing can pare us back to the essentials. Lack of space, sleep, and company combine with near death scrapes to underscore our small place in the vastness of life. And so a sailor's words often contain wisdom that is deeper than appears at the surface. “When you’re navigating towards a port to make landfall, you never aim for the mouth of the harbour direct, but always to a landmark or point a little way off,” said Alasdair. "So that if you approach in fog or haze, you then know you can sail along the coastline until the harbour mouth becomes visible." Mulling over this simple skill in naval navigation some members of our audience drew out a metaphor for life. Charting a direct course isn't the surest way to arrive at your destination: your passage may be obscured and conditions treacherous. Being lost at sea isn't always so dangerous, as you take great care knowing you are lost. There's no shipping forecast for life. But head in and around the general direction — a little off — and you'll get there safer, and more sure of your bearings and position in the wide open world. 

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FOR MORE SEA APPRECIATION... 

Listen Again
Missed it? The full podcast is available online, in two parts
https://soundcloud.com/shed-radio/seaward-no-fixed-abode-pt-1

https://soundcloud.com/shed-radio/seaward-no-fixed-abode-pt-2

Arthur Beale
For the finest marine supplies in all of London (and pretty good for theatre too)
www.arthurbeale.co.uk
194 Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Seaward Radio
www.shedradio.co.uk/seaward
Follow Seaward's tumblr for the evening's playlist and general sea appreciation 

Readings from Laurie Lee's, As I walked out one Midsummer Morning and Tove Jansson's
The Summer Book

With thanks to Arthur Beale for hosting, the SHED Radio team for technical magic, and James Devereaux-Ward for the great-looking photo and film   

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FOURTH EDITION Around the world in eighty minutes

Sometimes you just get lucky, and serendipity finds you...

We corralled a corner of the Three Kings, an eclectic boozer named after the mash-up monarchy of Henry VIII,  King Kong, and the King himself, Elvis Presley. Crammed with souvenirs collected from a life of travels, rhino heads clash with baseball cards and london maps, all strung together with fairy lights and jukebox nights. A faded poster decorated our corner spot: 'Let's get Lost' it declaredLike a modern-day Madonna, the 'Let's Get Lost' poster becomes the patron saint of No Fixed Abode. And with that blessing, we set off on an around-the-world race of 80 minutes...

Anthony's American travelogue looked like a Wild West sunset with its 'why not?' gradient cover, and told of a Summer of Dude Motels, Welcome Stranger signs and Cowboy Cafes...

Cristina's box of tricks unveiled ten stashed keepsakes, each one a memory made tangible of a place along her Moroccan journey...

Daniel's well-travelled sketchbooks were worked through with textures of France and gardens of Copenhagen, tales of mark-making, skating and brushing up his French...

Kate's library gazed out at the world from all angles,  taking us to the Museum of Beachcombing and shipwrecks in Texel, to the newspaper of the outback in Australia...

Cheng's video of death-defying revellers in motorbike helmets set our minds running wild at the firework festival in Taiwan. "Island style," she winked...

And Yeliz needed to bring nothing but herself, as she set up for her imminent trip to Turkey a few days later. Young Turks! We see a No Fixed Abode Istanbul on the horizon...
 

FOR MORE...
On Anthony's American Travels
See the latest edition of Oh Comely magazine. Aptly, issue 24 is the long drive to nowhere of which Anthony can tell you all about. Or buy his book

On Daniel's Garden Drawings
For pleasure or for sale

 

 

 

 

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Great Gardens: Dungeness and Great Dixter

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Great Gardens: Dungeness and Great Dixter

Knowing that we were headed to Dungeness, an old friend of mine, Marieje, got in touch:

"Hi Rosie, I see you are heading towards Derek Jarman's garden. Howard Sooley is a good friend of ours and used to be very close to Jarman and photographed his garden for the book Derek Jarman's Garden. Recently this short film was released and is worth a look. https://www.nowness.com/series/great-gardens/derek-jarmans-prospect-cottageHowever I am a great admirer of all Howard's work which you can check out at http://www.howardsooley.com "

This beautiful short is part of a series on Great Gardens, published by The Nowness. So poetic is this series that it will slow you right down, make you want to up sticks and leave the city, but that's nature for you. It includes a film, also by Howard, on Christopher Lloyd's crafted explosion of a garden at Great Dixter, not far from Dungeness in Northiam, East Sussex. 

My brother — who can at least lay claim to being a trained gardener — told me Great Dixter was so beautiful it would make me cry. More of an optimist, I say Christopher Llyod's work will bring you out in a smile, for two reasons: The 'high octane planting' at Great Dixter is so jam-packed full of life it's thrilling; And his audacious, entertaining writing, that makes light work of heavy gardening. Here's Lloyd's comic take on when a plant dies.

Mysterious Deaths

"When a plant dies in your garden, how do you react? Do you re-enact one of the historic tragic roles: Medea, Phaedra, Werther, Macbeth? Do you lash out? Or do you, with a glazed, all-passion-spent expression, merely comment that plants invariably die on you anyway, and that you only have to look at it for one to wilt forthwith? Or perhaps you gleefully rub your hands and say 'Good. Now that's made room for a mandragora. I have been longing for the excuse to get one for years."

Christopher Llyod
The Well-Tempered Garden


READING LIST

Derek Jarman's Garden
Derek Jarman, Howard Sooley

The Well-Tempered Garden
Christopher Lloyd


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