Sunday, October 31, 2010

London - Dunston Road - bikers hit and run

The Flash-BMX Scene

Walking along Regents Canal to Kingsland Road from Hackney - on a dreary cold October night I came across what I thought, from a distance, was an extraordinarily large gang of local kids on bikes.

On closer inspection I found that they weren't the group of territorial thugs I had feared they might be, but were instead a relatively friendly bunch of BMXers setting up two jump ramps. Several guys wearing jeans sagging from their arses, ran here and there, building the ramps out of pieces of wood.

There was a generous crowd of Hoxtonites swilling from bottles, chewing the fat and showing a half-baked interest in proceedings.

I overheard one of the crows criticise a guy that had been pointed out to him by a girl for being 'so generic' - momentarily I felt sick - the girl shrieked with laughter and mocked him for being 'so cruel'.

Chemistry built on sadism.

The police turned up; at first two officers, and then a big van, all illogical it seems, given that the van then reversed back into obscurity - almost as if the whole thing was some ill thought out bit of action in a badly programmed computer game.

Otherwise there were some impressive tricks and moves being pulled - the jumpers or BMXers or whatever you call these practitionres on wheels - put on an awesome spectacle - it was a great way to refresh from what had otherwise been a night of red wine and conversation indoors.

Two kids from the flats across the canal were let out side to watch. They jumped up and down and screamed with excitement.

That's what I love about this place - with so many creative types - you never know what's round the corner.

Questions: Does anyone know if this kind of meet goes on on a regular basis? Any idea who organises these things? When and where the next one is?

Converse are everywhere down Old Street

A few weeks back I saw this old wrinkly geezer sporting some clothes on a billboard in Old Street station. I thought that's a bit odd; a) they don't usually put random old men down in Old Street - its usually nubile young OMG models a la and b) he bears a striking resemblance to Bernard Sumner. Then I saw another fairly non-descript guy who bore a passing resemblance to that geezer out of Coronation Street. Then it clicked.

I haven't done any research on it, but if anyone can elaborate by adding a message that would be great. Converse seem to have gathered a selection of actors and singers (most of whom are unknown to me) - can anyway tell me who the others are?) and lined them up in Converse clothes and shoes. The fact that one of them is Bernard Sumner, lead man of New Order, and poet' laureate to millions of co-dependentts and emotinal juveniles during the eighties is in itself enough to produce a buzz in me.

But Converse's campaign is noticetable by its scale. Three things in particular strike me. One they took down the conventional advertising board in Old Street escalator to plaster the walls with their endless Christmas party hat cat walk of models. Second, they are putting adverts everywhere that they can, including the 333. And finally they seem to have even enlisted local artists to create some great big murals, mimicking theiir adverts, outside Village Underground and up Curtain Road.

As an advertising campaign it has certainly etched its presence in my mind; and enabled some esrstwhile  never considered mental connections - Bernard Sumner, Corrie, Converse. It also reminds me of the fact that Old Street seems to be the cultural capital of streetwear - its where (wear?) its at - certainly for London, and maybe even for Europe.

But finally, it is a reminder of how, at least in this part of London, street art has always had a very accepting relationship with commercialism and consumerism.

Update [20 Nov]...

Street artists at Village Underground have since worked on the Converse design, evolving it to give us these incredibly awkward skawky skorky images....

Which seems to be in the same style as the work displayed in the car park opposite... Some of the best street art in London.

Walking down Kingsland Road at 1 am on Friday night

In Italy whenever the boys and girls go out, they spend little time in the bars, and as much time as possible, strolling up and down the streets looking at each other. They love it; and I love it to; there's just so much to enjoy about it.

Trading piazzas with a classic renaissance style with a dirty old Roman road - Kingsland Road in this case - I get the same buzz from walking back home at 1 in the morning.

Walking down Kingsland Road from Stoke Newington, every so often you come across a small crowd of scruffy hippy trendy types, all having a fag and a bottle, huddled up, smiling, chatting, slightly freezing and doing a bit of end of the night theatre, outside some dingey bar.

My mate and me, after getting a beigel and a piece of cake, found ourselves receicnig a round of applause from the other side of the road, from a group that were stood outside one of the pubs. Given that most of our night is dedicated to infectious laughter and marvelling at the surprises that greet you on this melting pot of a road, we lapped this attention up.

My mate said he's never received a round of applause like that before.

Neither had I.

Compared to a northern town, Londoners do seem to be a bit more cliquey when they go out, they tend to be more confined and stuck to their group. It is of course possible to approach someone; but its just not expected here. We are altogether a lot more Italian about everything.

Stream of Conciousness - London

Have you ever streamed your conciousness?
OK - so this is how it works - as applied to London - sit down with your lap top and let your mind drift through London - focus on memories and feelings - of nostalgia, sadness, loneliness, fear, togethernesss and celebration - write whatever words come to mind - don't worry about grammar or spelling or even making sense - just write as you feel - a stream of conciousness - see what you come up with and please do not hesitate to post to the bottom of this post....
I feel like i have a new perspective on London; i feel like i know it so well now; i feel like i know north London like the  back of my hand; like Old Street, the action the stylists the artists, those trapped in a kind of self-effacing of the emotions, and instead a channelling of the emotions through a very thing thread, into their designs and expressions, into the superficial, but a rich superficiality, full of feeling, warmth, colour and surprise. a squeezing of the emotions into fabric and texture and touch; into style and vogue, and being and walking and jauntiness; and everything like the sound of one's voice; but never relaxed, and never depressed; and never bathed in the pain of one's emotions, and never vulnerable, and never listless, and never bathing in the relaxing waters of one's own disquiets and worries; and never facing up; and never slowly softly drowning in one's own feelings; but instead expressing, and looking, and viewing, and investing, and designing and creating and admiring and aspiring and producing and hoping; hoping that the thing you make is the thing that people love; that if people cannot love you they can at least love the thing you make; the way you look; your style, if they cannot accept you if they are not bonded to you; that you can at least make something that transiently momentarily attracks their sparkling eye, their eye for sparkle.... that is i have to say what Old street and Kingsland Road and its surrounds is ALL about - it is all that and sun dried tomatoes, chiabbata and Pizza Express, and loverly dresses, and ornate crurves and hips, and hips that need to be purchased, and AMmerican apparel, and amazing arses, and modest breasts, revealed half, white, black, cocoa, cream, and then therefore to the EAST of all this is a different reality, one bathed in the reality of abuse and rape, and past childhood abuses, that is HAckney, of a dismay and despair mixed with artistry, and drug taking, copious amounts of drug taking, escpaism, shared escapsim, so it feels like its together, shared drug taking which feels like a holiday to a far off distant place, and more outrageous clothes and shoes, and a bit gay, and a bit effeminate and a bit over the top and a bit shaggy, and a bit this and a bit that, and forty-five year old women, who have just had children, rolling in money, never need to worry about money, walking through Haggerston Park and Hackney City Farm, and the surrounds, watching and worrying about age, as one's toddler trundles impervious to the dangers of modern life, on their hand made wooden tricycle, as most of the Scottish community resident in HAckney, are fallen fast asleep, still fallen after being felled in the early hours of that very morning, docile, pit bullish, wrinkled, rhinocerous skin, humour, intimidating, personality, strength and depth of voice, pure aggression, happiness, a certain gravity, and now unshaven, and powerful man; mens; but then beyond that we have the outer reaches of my own imagination of London; we have Upton Park and the avenue, that big long boulevard, that avenue of Islamic and Muslim peripatetic foot trundling, moving, overcoats white that flirt with the paving stones, markets with poor people and cheap vegetables, and Islamic shops with Islamic clocks, and scripts and pictures, so keep Islamic, keep bound, keep GOd, Allah and all, Mohammed and everything, everything is Muhammed, and Allah, and junk and things and things and cloths, and books and teachings about how the inner mechanisms of this world that produces and upon which it depends; is a bad heathan infedelic world, amongst whose feet, walk the heathens, one by one, of odd English still remaining, and of hindus, and carribeans, and this and that; and God knows what; there are far too many skin colours, or blending into one for me to know who is who, and who comes from who, and if anyone can remember where they came from anymore, the outer regions of the east then - moving south - god i know nothing of this city movign south - places like charlton and the like which i imagine a mix of white working classes, valley supporters, and asians, who care not for the football and the pubs - and its like this as we head south, south, past London bridge, waterloo, where who lives there kmnow not i, foreigners, newly arrives, not knowing that home in London is anywhere but places like Waterloo and London Bridge. and then on to Chelsea and Kensington to the place where the pmystical people live, the ones' that control the weather and all time and space and can buy a mango from Harrods for twenty pounds because it is big a huge mango the best mango in London ; and who do mystical things that we know not of; expensese and money of an incredible scale, to feed us all, but to feed just them, and houses in Notting HIll where models and expensive guys have mass orgies, penises and vaginas, and smells everywhere, hmm, dreams of the Muslim soldier lived on earth, and despised and envy, and you will have seventy virgins and they do, those rich guys, those Formula 1 bosses, and carribeans who own houses that once were not wanted, but now are gold apparently, and carnivals, and shit, and i dont know what its like living round there, Brixton of course, further further south somewhere, and also beyond Wimbledon, and Croydon, and all these places, on the edges of my understanding and cognisance, but coming back across Wimbledon, where more Asians live, and White people, poor, getting by, a bit unhappy, making do, emotionally connected, at least when compared with the fashionistas'; those childless barron artistes, the hated kids of Shoreditch and surrounds, where furniture was once made; and all i can do is sweep eastwards, from the west along that hated irrascible train line, that overground train line, that competes with snails to make it across to Dalston Kingsland, where i arrive at Hampstead, and St Johns, and Golders Green, and Temple Fortune and then BArnet; this hinterland, this pleasant hinterland, where people go to die; where people stop living and just exist inside four very safe walls, walls which encompass a kind of pleasant space, a size of which is unknown for the rest of the city; and God i want that peace, i wasnt to sleep forever, but mighten i never wake up; and Hampstead and Highgate, where people go to sleep forever in opulence and luxury; and estate agentse; those bastards; oh shit, and Highgate old man's reading room, and then down to Crouch End library, where Saturday's can feel immemorial, can feel like forever, and ever, and where time stops, and where knowledge and knowing, stump pain and feeling; and where one can find Heimat; such great and revered choices, stock great... and i am closing in on my knowledge of htis great city, closing the net, rapping it up, for what have i left, to mention but that hell hole that is Camden, Regents Park, Somers Town... Angel pretty, bla, bla,, Euston Kings Cross, the City and west end i care not, not one shit for; for my spirit whirls around these places, but dies on their border, least thing to say that the most melancholy and rich street that i ever did know was Archway, Holloway ROad, so many nights waiting for the N43, broken dreams, ideas, invested dreams and fantasies, of women waiting for a bus home; and the endless spine of this road, small dusty dirty shops; Irish connections, IRish pubs, history, nostalgia and sadness, shorts, ghosts, rich in spirit, so rich and sad, bury me there, and finally of mention is Finsbury Park where my soul gravitates; the places that draws me in from so many directions, for so many reasons, so much history, my village, my meaning; is all here in this park, and please god kill me there in, stick a dagger in my heart, let me cry out for one last time in Finsbury Park.
What do you reckon?
Worth reading? Evocative?
Or introspective ramblings that would be better kept to myself? 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Londoners affected by the Coalition's new housing benefit policy?

Ravish London would be intersted in first and second hand accounts of the stresses and strains that these new policies are putting families under. Please add links and stories.

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Londoners it would seem love an independently minded mayor.

First Ken Livingstone who left his own party to defeat its candidate. And now Boris Johnson, who has always had a reputation for not seeing eye to eye with David Cameron, but who a few days ago blew the relationship out of the water with his comments on the effects of Conservative policy on London's poor.

The context to this is the decision made by David Cameron's coalition government to make housing benefit an absolute payment (i.e. limited to below a particular figure, 250 pounds a week for a one bedroom flat has been quoted) rather than a relative one (i.e. as a proportion of the rent being charged by the landlord).

The point is that people whose new housing benefit allowance will not cover their old rent will have no option but to move out of home.

Of course, if you are one of those who lives in such a home, moving out will tear you from your home, your sense of belonging, your people and your community - it is beyond that humiliating - the emotional and health impacts are likely to be dire for anyone who has to deal with such an experience.

For economists and hard nosed politicians, who have nice houses subsidised by the tax payer, the emotional, social and health consequences of such a move are by the by - the important thing is cutting the budget, saving money and repaying the debt.

For those that despise those that claim benefits - and there are many of these - some of whom themselves will receive some kind of benefit as we all, one way or another, do - they will take a particularly vindictive delight in contemplating the misfortunate of those who they feel need to be working harder, and enduring more pain to make a living.

For those who are ideologically opposed to the Conservatives and the capitalistic classes they generally stand for, such a move deserves and is perfectly set up for them to air their revulsion.

It would seem that Boris Johnson, momentarily succumbed to the feelings and emotions felt by the latter group, just this last week, when he was quoted as saying, "We will not accept any kind of Kosovo-style social cleansing of London. On my watch, you are not going to see thousands of families evicted from the place where they have been living and have put down roots"

The use of the Kosovo metaphor is likely to effect different feelings in different audiences.

Anyone who experienced the attempts of Serbs and Kosovans to ethnically cleanse Kosovo are unlikely to be impressed with such a comparison. Whilst having to leave one's house is the common factor; the push factors and the consequences of not doing so were considerably more serious and fear inducing in Kosovo than they will be in London. Others have compared the effects of the policy to the Highland clearances, in Scotland, where hundreds and thousands of poor people were savagely beaten and murdered off their land, by the ruling aristocractices, whose ancestors continue to reap the benefits today.

Those who are prepared to put aside the insensitivities of the statement, and who feel sickened by the lack of compassion shown by Tories both historically, and by the likes of Cameron and Osbourne, whose private and unjust levels of privilege helped elevate them to the positions in life they now occupy, will no doubt be piqued with excitement and glee at the imagined discomfort of Cameron, who has worked so hard to portray his cuts as being faily applied across all sectors of society.

Despite the furore caused by the statement Boris Johnson quickly back tracked, pointing out that, "My consistent position has been that the Government is absolutely right to reform the housing benefit system which has become completely unsustainable...  I do not agree with the wild accusations from defenders of the current system that reform will lead to social cleansin... [and]...but the point I was making this morning is that London has specific needs due to the exceptional way in which the housing market works in the capital and it is my job as Mayor to make the Government aware of these."

The statement is likely to have done Boris Johnson little harm amongst London voters, who tend to favour offbeat politicians with an air of anti-establishment about them; although it may have offended those who prefer their politicians to keep a cool and reasonable demeanour.

But aside from Boris Johnson's political ambitions, his comments has drawn attention to the thousands of people, who are likely going to have to vacate their accomodation over the coming year. The problem of finding new cheaper housing will not be easy for them. There are few first time buyers at the moment; meaning that more people are looking to rent. Competition for rented accomodation is likely to become more and more fierce.

Ravish London would be intersted in first and second hand accounts of the stresses and strains that these new policies are putting families under. Please add links and stories.


Welcome to the Ravish London Blog

What would you say are the most important ingredients in your own happiness?

My answer would be roots and compassion.

Although I am a big fan of anything with ginger in it, the roots I'm referring to are the social connections and sense of belonging that one has to an area and the people in it.

Compassion, the ability to feel comfortable with love, to feel at ease with oneself and others is key to a sense of well-being.

The two things are closely linked through the concept of stability. Social stability provides the basis through which one can establish relationships and get to know and develop that sense of belonging to place. In stable times, and when one has developed a sense of belonging, then it is easier for compassion to flow.

So what the hell as any of this got to do with London?

London, a place where peope, from one reason or another, are torn from their roots, their origins and come together in this melting pot.

Here in London, people from all walks of life strive to keep their old roots alive, but at the same time, in this seething mass of people; struggle and strive to lay down new roots, new connections and new relationships.

But this is not an easy city to achieve a sense of belonging in. People come, and before you know it they've gone. One minute you're happy where you're living the next minute the landlord puts the rent up so you have to look elsewhere. There are nefarious influences; the worship of money; the importance of image about substance; the mistrust; the lack of a common culture; which keep us apart from each other.

It is nevertheless to a celebration, a study and an understanding of quite how all this is done; of how in this city of the individual; the individual is yet propelled towards finding acceptance, compassion and love; community and indentity that this blog and its website is devoted.

So tell me what is this blog about again?

So quite what, in practical terms, this blog is going to include I cannot say, for it is more or less the product of my own whims, feelings and flitting ideas; and has never been much more than that.

At the very least though, I can, as I have, given you an idea of what motivates to me to write, to understand how others both deal with the vicissitudes of life in this city; as they seek out the joys; as I seek to understand how I do the same. 

This blog is the sister site to the main site: Ravish London.