Some photos taken on evening strolls after the work from home shift, coming up to Christmas 2020. A strange time, all round, but we’re keeping safe, staying local, and all those important things. I hope you’ve had a peaceful end of year. Here’s to going slightly further afield at some point in 2021.
A non-chronological look back at a week that felt like it was 90% work – but maybe in hindsight wasn’t so bad. I did get out for a couple of walks and bike rides at least.
A Sunday afternoon walk to Greenwich Park to take in the view and have an ice cream (soft serve on a cone, with flake).
New graffiti on the way to the Met Car Pound – executed a bit better than much of what we see around here.
A couple of foxes seen on an evening stroll. They’ve always been pretty visible in the neighbourhood but lockdown conditions seem to be suiting them very well.
Taped up artwork on a Westcombe Park bus stop. No other clues to its meaning or provenance to be seen. To be encouraged, though, I think.
Closer to home, a Painted Lady butterfly in my front garden, and a new felt ‘pot’ for tomatoes in my back garden. Having had one abortive trip lockdown to the garden centre, leaving after seeing the queue snaking round the car park in the full midday sun, my gardening supplies have come via the internet with all of the randomness and suprise in what actually gets delivered that that implies. It’s worked well enough so far, though. Some new sedums arrived shortly after a 24 hour downpour, leaving me feeling slightly foolish as I went round the garden with a watering can after planting them out.
A short evening walk round the block after a torrential downpour. Nice to see the old phone box light working.
A Father’s Day morning bike ride with my daughter and a couple of friends along the Thames Path towards Thamesmead and back again, starting in very light rain and ending in full sun as we climbed the hill from the river back up to Charlton. Building up to a longer ride to Erith Pier before the summer’s out, I hope.
A cycling end note: last week I mentioned the scheme to close off Blackheath’s South Row to cars with a note of optimism. That optimism is, like the scheme, now temporarily suspended... In the meantime, Greenwich Council have announced the ‘details’ of the safe walking and cycling schemes to TfL for funding, but so far this just seems to be a list of routes or road names, with nothing to explain to the public what is actually planned. As lockdown eases and the roads get busier, it feels very much like an opportunity to really make the neighbourhood more pleasant for walkers and cyclists is being missed.
Indoors for much of this week: working, homeschooling and, most pressingly, looking after a Covid patient (thankfully over the worst and getting better now but – and while I realise this is not especially practical advice – I really, really recommend not catching it if you possibly can).
The pics above and below are from an exploratory go at astrophotography earlier in the week, mostly as an evening distraction once the rest of the family had gone to bed. I’m not sure the conversion to WordPress-friendly jpegs will do the results justice, but I was pleased with what I managed with my Fuji Xt-20 on a tripod, and a somewhat hit-and-hope approach to exposure parameters.
Since the weather’s been dry and the air pollution dropped away dramatically we’ve been able to see the stars in a way I’ve never experienced in semi-suburban south-east London before. The Plough has been particularly prominent so I focused most of my efforts on that. We’re due some wet weather this week; once that’s cleared I might have another go as the constellations move on.
One problem with photographing the sky at night is that, beyond the technical challenges, is that unlike what I usually shoot, where my camera is significantly more than good enough for 95% of situations, a bigger, faster sensor would definitely produce better results in the dark. I’ve probably spent enough money recently, though.
One result of our now-necessary self-isolation is that the horizons seem to have shrunk even further than they had before. Maybe this was a subconscious prompt for looking at the stars… I find that when I’m focused on the day-to-day routine then the upsides of this peculiar moment can seem quite appealing: lunch with the family every day; more time for guitar practise; tidying the garden; the pleasures of regular deliveries to break up the day (this week brought local bread, groceries via friends, a new wireless router, some extension cables, and other domestic items that suddenly seem very important), and so on. When I look beyond the day-to-day, though, I find I’m really badly missing the routine parts of life-before: Parkrun with friends, swimming at the lido, socialising with actual people, popping to the pub and talking about whatever we used to talk about, playing music with other people… Despite some ‘end the lockdown’ noises in the press, I don’t see this ending soon, however. We’ve got to push on and get through it somehow, but I worry that in the necessity of making it happen we underestimate just how strange and unnatural this period of time is, how difficult it is for so many people, and the trade-offs we’re making.
Other news and diversions:
- Had a first jazz guitar lesson via Skype. Feels like jumping into a new rabbit hole, but there’s probably never been a better time for me to try it.
- Listening to the Tokyo Jazz Joints podcast and daydreaming about opening a South East London Jazz Micropub. I’m sure it would be very popular (with about 3 other people).
- Dabbling – like every bloke in my demographic – with a sourdough starter. It smells quite unpleasant and I’m not convinced it’s working, but it’s something to do…
- Reading Johnny Pitts’ ‘Afropean’ book. An unexpected side-effect of which, no doubt lockdown-related, is a strong desire to holiday in a mundane suburb of a large European city.
[I thought I’d published this back in mid-October, but there it was, stuck in my Drafts folder. Since I wrote it I’ve been back to the club a few times and seem to have taken up over-40’s boxing classes as a regular weekly activity. To say that I was surprised to find myself browsing boxing gloves in Decathlon recently would be a considerable understatement]
I spent a really lovely Saturday morning photographing Champions 4 Change, a boxing club at St Thomas’ church in Charlton that does outreach sessions for underprivileged kids, particularly child carers. I was massively impressed with the way the whole thing was run. There was a really positive atmosphere, and the kids were just great; they start learning boxing techniques and doing a lot of fitness work, then the teenagers are put through GB boxing qualifications and go on to help teach the over-40 classes, amongst other things.
The last weekend of October half-term threw up a rare Saturday without the usual day-time commitments, so I took the chance to go and photograph my local non-league team, mindful that with the clocks changing that night there wouldn’t be too many more opportuities to do so with 90 minutes of daylight for a while.
Bridon Ropes FC were formed in 1935 as the works team of the rope factory based in Charlton’s industrial riverside area. The ropeworks has long gone, but the team carries on, now playing home games at the Meridian Sports Club, in the corner between Charlton Park and the QE hospital. The match was pretty entertaining, in the way that football can sometimes contrive to make interest out of what was, on paper, a walkover – Bridon Ropes beat South Kilburn 8-0 to progress through to the next round of the London Senior Cup. And 8 goals for a fiver can never be bad. My friend and collaborator, Darryl Chamberlain, wrote up our trip in more detail for The Charlton Champion.
More photos below (I did find myself hankering after a proper long lens, though…)
A walk to the pub on Bank Holiday Sunday evening (because you have to go out on a Bank Holiday Sunday evening, don’t you?), the rain almost stopped after pouring down all afternoon. This shot taken from Charlton Road, looking into the Springfield estate. I’d love the chance to take my camera to the top floor of one of these blocks, with their view across the river and over to Canary Wharf.
A Bank Holiday Sunday morning look around Charlton’s Flytipping Quarter* to take some photos, and have a look at the current state of the abandoned and derelict Victoria pub on Woolwich Road. It’s a sorry sight, with much of the back missing. It’s difficult to see now how it could be restored and, if it could, how someone could run a viable pub business on this stretch of the road, unless the new residential developments spring up quickly and are populated by keen pub-goers. Planning objections to proposed new pubs around East Greenwich’s new developments suggest the two may not go hand in hand…
Update: From The Murky Depths blog had a post last year on plans to build accommodation at the back of the pub. It’s not clear if any progress has been made with this plan, though. A cynic would suggest that any developer would benefit from the pub falling apart further before making a new application to demolish it as unsalvageable.
(*AKA, New Charlton Industrial Estate, shortly to be rebooted as Charlton Riverside – read the latest in the planning saga here)
A freezing cold February morning on the Thames path revealed a dumped and burnt-out car under one of the (possibly disused) chutes for transferring aggregates between boats and the Angerstein branch railhead in Charlton. Almost all the plastic and rubber had burnt away; some of the paint on the wall melted off with the heat.
A Saturday afternoon interlude spent peering over the edge of the Thames path near Charlton.
PS. I’m working towards making a much wider range of my pictures available to purchase as prints (all on high-quality, archival paper). If there are any photos on this site that you’d like to own as a print (prices start at £40), please get in touch.
(I’m also always interested in print swaps, if you make paintings/photos/linocuts/woodcuts/screenprints/similar – just get in touch!)