Monthly Archives: January 2012

Painting the pram sheds

As the world moves on apace in East London in preparation for the Olympics: they tear down old post-war housing, grotty little shopping centres are turned into consumerist Meccas and those pale ghost bikes spring up with their sad garlands of flowers, some things stay the same.

Stamford Hill is a Hasidic Jewish stronghold and some of the council housing there has the luxury of a pram shed to go with the tenancy of a flat. Of course, from time to time, someone has to come along and give these outbuildings a lick of paint.

My mind travels back to the days when mothers pushed proper shiny prams (uncollapsible in every way) and lived above ground level, without lifts. Straightaway you see why you’d need, not a garage, but a pram shed.

I am reminded of pushing my own sister round the block in one, a second-hand cream contraption, with instructions to keep going round and around until she stopped screaming, sometimes with Toby the dog for company. She was a colicky baby, perhaps. Just as well we didn’t have pram sheds in Lincolnshire, if we had it would have certainly crossed my mind to park them both in it. And close the door quietly before tiptoeing down the dyke to watch a fenland sunset…

There’s an excellent insight to life on a Hackney estate from an aesthete’s point of view at this blog.

Letting go

of an ideal of perfection is equally and concurrently liberating and scary

but the older I get the more I see the possibilities contained within the mistaken, the broken, the misshapen and the downright ugly

maybe because I have to

nonetheless, in the mess and the lack of punctuation, under the dust and dog hair, in the grit and the mud and the blush and the sweat of it and the tumbling incoherent words of everything

and all of it

so, (and) you should never start a sentence with that word, don’t you know?

so, today I may have taught a class with all of the above. And ketchup round my mouth.

and teeth on loan like overdue library books

Breathtaking Landscapes from Old Books by Guy Laramee

Winter Sunset: Southend-on-Sea

What amazingly intense apricot orange coral-like tones there were this weekend.

I cannot help but wonder what I could have got with
i) a better camera
ii) dry feet
iii) no moaning children

There was a man shooting with all the above on Pier Hill and no moaning kids; I will have to check out the Southend Flickr group later.

Note the city of Oz on the horizon. I would move there, but I know all about wizards and flying monkeys.

Outsiders’ inside views of city life via Urban Earth

My favourite find this week. More details at the website

A London walk is planned in March.

The film starts, serendipitously, in Hackney.

Will it ever stop raining?

I suppose it will have to, eventually. Every morning it’s the same: wet.

Anyway, this song has been a friend to me for as long as I can remember, at least a quarter of a century. That explains why I think of James Taylor as this beautiful young dude with long hair but now the reality is this much older face. When he sings this song the music transfigures him, it reminds me, and it moves me.

Like, I said, it’s always raining in the morning round here.

‘Is all I want to say to you’

Reflective lyricism on the side of snowy slope, matching red trews: this band had real class.


The Commons Education Committee are calling for the public to tweet questions and ideas for their oral evidence session with the Minister of State for Education next week.

You have until Friday 27th January at 11.00 a.m. to submit your question using the #askgove hashtag

Graham Stuart MP, who chairs the committee said

“This is a good way of breaking down the seemingly vast gap between the governed and the governing. We are always looking at ways of reaching out and making sure people can use our services to help us hold the government to account.” More on the story here

I’ll start the ball rolling

Why does the Minister feel it necessary to impose his own personal curriculum likes on the children of the 21st century? #askgove

How will the Minister rebalance the curriculum to ensure that the value of education lies in the process and not in the production of league tables? #askgove

Does the Minister feel it would a good idea for him to shadow some teachers to get a real feel for the scale of the task the profession faces in today’s test-mad culture #askgove

I could go on…

The Northern Lights, Cresswell Beach, Northumberland by Lee Jennings

Gedankenexperiment 2: Schrödinger’s Cat

The blog seems to be drawn only to thought experiments that involve cats. I suspect there is not an infinite supply of these (thought experiments involving cats, not cats, of which there may well be).

When I run out, I will have to think up my own.

Schrödinger’s cat explores the interpretation of quantum mechanics through the possibilities for the fate of the cat in the box, before the box is opened and observed.

It’s a good mental warm-up on a Sunday for the woman thinking of cooking an unobserved roast dinner.

Occupy Southend @Saturdayafternoon

The Occupy second temporary occupation of Southend was set up today at the north end of the high street outside the Odeon Cinema. A few tents and a video booth, a huddle of the enlightened 99% and an apparently oblivous majority of the same. There was a flag which was quite impressive and a handful of police officers, who were not.

Funny spot. Funny sort of place Southend. The High Street, although a symbol of rampant consumerism and capitalist concerns, is actually struggling – no 1% to be found here. There’s quite a lot of shop space empty and those that thrive seem to be the pound shops and discount stores. Marks and Spencer’s maw gaped open wide, the broken automatic sliding doors were taped off for the health and safety of the beige brigade punters who seem to turn eternal geriatric pirouettes of confusion in the food aisles.

I passed a homeless guy outside The Factory Shop. It’s a an aphorism, but you do tend to notice the homeless more when they are holed up with a dog. Sad but true. I couldn’t tell you a thing about the guy, he was hunkered down with his head in his chest and not in the way a racehorse goes to post, but in the other way. The dog slept, but was a big brown teddy bear type mongrel; looked fierce if needs be and I suppose needs do be often on the streets.

When I walked back up the street about an hour later, the temporary Occupy Southend camp had gone; it’ll be back more permanently somewhere in Southend in February. The homeless guy was on the move with another man, probably not homeless, and the big brown dog. As I passed by, the vagrant chucked his polystyrene cup into a shrub. I don’t suppose he bothers picking up his dog’s shit either – why would he?

It’s not too cold out tonight, but it’s going to get that way again soon according to the weather reports.

All the above makes me think. None of what it makes me think is new. If your are recycling thoughts, it might be time to act on them.

Buy your Littlest Hobo T-shirt at

More, but different, from Gregory Porter: Be Good

This track hearts my hurt to hear it ♫ ♥ (jazz) ♥ ♫

From his new album, out in February.