London Journeys

I went through my sketchbooks and copied out any notes which I felt captured something from travelling around the capital. I didn't add anything, but took out some words where it seemed appropriate

Willesden Junction Freight trains rumbling past. So warm, could have stayed all night. Walking home from Bloomsbury to Waterloo, peaceful streets. The length of the walk is a kind of mental breathing space, like the narrative of a series of thoughts, 1960s rebuilt hotel. like something from an old postcard, the warm concrete.

Canada Water… I remember coming here years ago. Skateboarding in the background. Water in the old dock basin in front of me, gentle breeze.

Trains gradually creeping back into the suburbs. The movement of the city falling away. Longer patches of dark out of the windows. Walked so far today… the long road by the docks.

The Ship in Elephant and Castle. Walked from Denmark Hill. The view from Nunhead Station at night. Train from there to Denmark Hill… Camberwell. Elephant. Beautiful Victorian streets of Camberwell, forms and proportions, so wonderful. So many memories. The richness of time after the sun’s gone down.

That area around Waterloo. The 24 hour shops. Strip lights glowing. All the products shining out. The idea of an area so central still having a form of local community. Somebody popping in for a few beers, heading back to their home nearby. Strange streets round by the graffiti tunnel. The empty Eurostar building, the walkways and stairwells. Shops which come and go. Cafes, places selling tat.

West Norwood so beautiful in October sun. Trees still with their leaves. peaceful feeling inner London suburb. ‘70s station building. So leafy along the train tracks. Hazy blue sky. Cool but not cold.

Hotpot at Peggy's. Walk back through Wapping. Cold and lights high up on the buildings shining down. The hard, slippery cobbles under my feet, hoists and doorways up in the darkness. Those stretches, Glamis Road and Wapping Wall, peaceful but full of character in their own way. Something strangely quiet about the area, quite different from Rotherhithe.

Painfully busy train.

Amazing how still it is by Peggy’s. The river rolling past. Clouds cruising, blowing. Sky is a field of glowing stars. Shades, colours like pear drops. Kind of gentle crispness and water laps around the legs of the disused jetty. The round stars and oblongs and squares of the windows. Little movements and moments, all the lives seen through glimpses. Stitching together the picture of the city for that night.

Library. Closed now, the clatter of the last things being put away. Different noises, humming, closing door echoes down the landing. Tables scraping. That space behind the scenes. Walk through the sticky rain to Waterloo. The Techuarium, tiny mobile phone shop. What ever happened to Smaland coffee? Was so cool that place. The the space in that foyer along there. Can’t believe the Shell centre is being turned into luxury flats.

All the masonry up on the high walls. Leaves sprouting from impossible ledges above the traffic. Little spots you can only see if passing on the train. Smuts and dirt covering weathered classical mouldings. Bicycles leaving scrapes against a hall wall, dents in the carpet from a kid’s bed, tiny scratches around the keyhole from missed attempts at the lock when coming home.

Vicious wind and showers. Waiting room is open amazingly. Seems such an old fashioned British thing, sitting in the waiting room, reading.

The colours round the streets in Vauxhall. Plants sprouting over dusty tiles, thick plastic of a streetlight. Scars from removed graffiti. Rich colours of a peeling panel, paint flaking and buckling, colours changing. Train thundering over, lights shining out from the toughened, scratched glass. Bricks laid in the depths of industrial revolution London, sentinels, lives passing by as they picked up the rain from hundreds of Sunday afternoons. Layers of soot, paint, time, building up and disappearing. Cotton wool of the cloudy sky dampened by rain, glow from the offices diffusing into the thin watery strands above.

The numbers made in metal. Kind of red, forged somewhere in London. Clattering letters, welded to a small sign to hang over a lock-up, rusting. Above them conduits for various cables raised above the track. Could think to hop over the fence and clatter among the loose stones on the tracks, the ominous humming and buzzing from the power never far away.

People busying round Vauxhall Station, could stay there all night, just watching them.

Strip lights and worn blue carpet in a video shop. Dirt building and teeming on yellow road markings, seen from a bus stop late at night. A block of flats with many narratives playing out through the lights shining from the windows. Like a kind of fish tank, the colours flooding out from television sets. Kind of a chance to be anywhere, the images washing over you and the room is transformed. Static…the different lives and worlds which you glimpse in those moments. All the lives lived in different rooms around London. The tiny traces left, marks, stains on the wall or the carpet, a sticker in the boiler cupboard, tiny bit of writing underneath a desk. All those times, sun setting and the room filling with evening light.

Spitting rain tonight, cold too, chilly rainy London night. Makes me feel calm being in that busy part of town. All the crowds and textures. Colours.

Hole in the Wall. Somehow surviving right outside Waterloo Station. Really old copy of The Mirror from 1969 up on the wall. Canterbury versus Australia programme behind the counter, up on a shelf.

“When I was in Thailand…”

Train rumbles overhead

“Just bought a house in Streatham”

Waiting at the station, that sense of expectancy. Machinery humming, people tidying, but you know the train’s on it’s way.

Rumbling, base noises shuddering through. The rails screeching, complaining, red light shines, thin plastic lens, time liquid.

The train rocking, strewn with papers - beer bottle, crisp packet, strip lights. Humming along. Little glimpses passing the windows. Seems it’s on an unfamiliar line. Passing the depot on another set of raised tracks.

Lights high above the tarmac. Cold metal poles reaching out over the carpark. Up in the darkness. Cool which comes after a warm day. Moisture in the air. Concrete smooth under an amber bath of colour. Tiny stones, ants busying along. Flyer for special offer discount, crushed into the texture of the ground. Packaging blister of a cheap toy, now covered in a layer of grime.

Flipping cold out. Clear sky and wind and somehow a dampness that seems to come from the rain earlier, soaked into the fabric of the night.

Those films from around 2000. Record London just before it changed so much. The Gherkin is there, maybe an occasional mobile, but no smartphones, no instagram, no mad property race, endless new build, luxury bespoke artisan, hand-crafted homes. Somehow the parts of London feel different, more mysterious, more separate. Before Google Streetview and Imagesearch there was the A-Z, the Yellow Pages, a guidebook, or you could go there.

Sitting in the Festival Hall. Feels quite animated. Lots of excited conversations. Freezing outside again.

City so cold. Denuded of people. In The Hole in The Wall again. Feels like the end of the world.

‘Yes I can here you Giles' (sighs)

‘Hole in The…’ ‘Giles!’

Some young posh lads on a night out.

Brown painted bricks The endless caverns of the rail network Tiny scrap of soft, torn paper Wind blowing, so cold At a bus stop Scouring everything away

Buddleia plants outlined against the sky Reaching up from behind the wall Unwound fire hose falling into Scratchy darkness Thin grey carpet panels Tiny rows of tough synthetic thread Two floors up Partitioned spaces resting, blue and quiet

Maze Hill, faded book of footballers’ haircuts through a barber shop window. Ancient ‘Access Card’ sign in an insurance shop which looked like it had been closed for about 15 years. Ceefax style TV displays of the train timetables at the station.

Clapton. Interesting metal markers for some kind of London boundary. The River Lea winding through the earth, at the side of Hackney Marshes football fields. Crazy 70s style adventure playground.

Purples and browns and the cold stars in the London sky. Metal steps, three sets and barbed wire, the irregular bends in the hard metal, Abandoned shed below. Old signs, pipes, concrete, textured metal.

The reaches of the Thames, Windy and little bits of sand blowing across the concrete. Water spitting and flying up from choppy waves. Bin bags rustling. Plastic dust sheet hanging shredded on barbed wire. Birds high above, quickly disappearing from view.

Waterloo East. Funny, it really has a feel of the east of London and Kent about it.

At Gallions Reach, well just behind the station. Strange modern open space, run down plaza by busy roundabout, Could be anywhere really. So much traffic going by, lots of rubbish in the grass by the side of the park. Long stairs up to the track. It’s so windy now, but warm. Raw something art cafe, Bow Arts. Everything here is so new! They whole thing still taking shape. lots of new-builds springing up, with the standard highly produced hoardings, images of what is supposed to come. Windy but a little warmth from the sun.

Rain just starting, gentle, cardboard picking up little spots, tones changing, overlapping.

Double glazed window, reflection of a room full of strip lights

Walking along a Thames Path, looking over to where I cycled a few years back. Usual detritus caught in the undergrowth. Plastic of various sorts, cans, bottles. Big listening radar thing in an open, concreted space.

So hot today! Been a long time coming. Exhausting walk to Borough to get my phone back. It gets so crowded everywhere when it’s like this.

All the hotels, old and new, buses passing. Some girls crossing the road arm in arm. Some people sitting, chatting, maybe they’re studying. Orange letters, view into the big windows across the road.

Crossing a worn carpet Space

Washing powder vapour coming out into the street from a tumble dryer Sea of old and new estates. Splash of light as I reach Angel. Busy tube.

Late night shop, the friendly Indian lady. the London souvenir products, the dusty shelves, marks which had been there for decades unquestioned. Toys and mementos. Each new member of staff accepting their existence. Sellotape turning brown. Striplights presiding over excited students and travellers, deep in the night. Beers, snacks, coming and going.

So peaceful in the Festival Hall, So nice when it’s like this. Some people discussing architecture. Streets are slick with rain around the building. Those little humming noises from different parts of the space. A light in the bar flickering.

Raining tonight, feels like the first time in ages. The sky lit up smokey green / yellow and the pink / purple with the glow from the city. Houses overlooking the busy Islington street. Faces passing by in the clattering hurry of people trying not to get soaked. A rack of Evening Standards gradually growing sodden and swollen with water, pages matting together.

‘This is the London Overground train to Stratford’

‘The next station is Highbury and Islington’

Such a long journey on the Overground each time, Different faces, conversations. Noises pinging and bleeping. Humming.

Interesting day travelling across London. So cold. Real winter cold. Melted snow and that feeling of life going on regardless. Willesden Junction with some islands of white holding out on bits of gravelly land. So much to take in, walking through Clapton. The naked trees, grey green of the bark. A field of dying snowmen on Hackney Marshes. Sunset behind the tower blocks and rooftops.

The train ride to Bethnal Green and Liverpool Street is so amazing. Lots of views into office blocks, chairs, desks, computer screens, a few people chatting at the end of their day. Studios, collections of tools, materials, seen through those factory windows with lots of small panes of glass. Flats, somebody eating dinner, putting washing in the machine, watching TV with the light draping and playing over them.

Dusk over all the plants along the tracks. Tree branches tracing against the sky

I’m awake (not asleep) A city crawling with dust vegetating plots of land The crumbling bricks on Limehouse Cut The small hours. Thinking. Times in London, so many Wandering, late into the night, The leaves that spring about a rusting railing. Amber glow that reveals some dirt settled on the painted surface. Teeming with energy, even in a quiet park. Rain, with drops on the windows, an electric blue light in a far away building, seen across a restless but quiet city.

drawing of an A to Z