Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Viral Rides

Like many others, I took to my bike for daily exercise when the lockdown began. I'd forgotten the pleasures of two wheels, and found the switch from walking to cycling made it easier to keep my distance from oblivious pedestrians with social distancing amnesia. But after a few days of aimless forays I got bored. I decided to take a camera with me, with the intention of bringing back at least one useable picture from every trip.

A bike is a wonderful thing. It gets you to places without hassle, at little cost and minimal planning. But bringing a camera along is very different from photographing on foot. If something catches your eye you have to stop, check the traffic, check for bicycle thieves, put the bike somewhere where it isn't going to trip up a pedestrian or get crushed by a bus, before you can even get the camera out of its bag.

So by the time you're in position, the bike is safe, and your camera set, the perfectly framed incident, or moment of light and shade, that you had spotted from the saddle has most likely been and gone.

But not always. I don't know what my collection of images does, or will, add up to once the pandemic has become a distant memory, if that ever happens, but the fruits of my cycle expeditions in and around North West London over the last few weeks are enough to keep me pedalling. More pictures here.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Blitz Spirit

Maybe it's talk of 'The Blitz Spirit' reawakened by the coronvirus pandemic that has prompted me to see echos of wartime stiff upper lippery in the latest batch of scans from my archive.

In the mid 1970s memory of the Second World War was still strong, and in some of the photographs I took around that time, of pensioners' lunch clubs and other community support groups in North Paddington, there is an unmistakable military bearing to many of the men, neatly turned out in jacket, collar and tie.

And it was not just the men. These shots are from a Women's Voluntary Service lunch club on the Harrow Road, where the aprons worn by the staff still had WVS Civil Defence badges sewn into them. More photos from North Paddington in the 1970s here.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

HS2: Too Late For Some

Stan Passmore, 2013

When I met Stan Passmore and his friend George Phillips in 2013 they were both facing the prospect of the demolition of their homes on the Regent's Park Estate, to make way for the HS2 high speed rail terminus at the adjacent Euston station.

George Phillips, 2013

Stan, then aged 87, had lived in his fourth floor flat in the Eskdale block since 1961.  His near neighbour George, then aged 94, had lived in his since it was built in 1955. Both told me they hoped to die before the bulldozers arrived. George achieved his wish not long after, but Stan, who died earlier this month, lived just long enough to see his former home turned into a pile of rubble.  

Eskdale (pink block on right), Regent's Park Estate, 2013

Euston is now one giant construction site. Many hundreds of homes have been demolished, lives disrupted, businesses closed, graves dug up, ancient trees felled. And yet, even at this late stage in the progress of this misconceived project, the politicians are still debating whether to proceed. Whatever they decide, it will be too late for Eskdale and its former residents. More pictures here. More words here.