London 2005: Spitalfields, Mass, Nav (on Trisha!), Grooverider

Day Four: Sunday 7 August

(My Sunday photos were lower in both quantity and quality than for the other days – I was too busy shopping. But I’ll bung some in anyway, it brightens up the page. As usual, click for larger versions.)

A Just Married red London bus with open top deck
Match made in London.

I see this on the way to Spitalfields, but just miss the bridal couple leaving the upper deck, unfortunately. What a lovely idea for a summer wedding in London. (It just wouldn’t be the same on a bendy bus now, would it? Routemaster forever!)


Saddest welcome ever.

Yes, for the third time in four days I am back in the Spitalfields/Brick Lane area, which is a bit much even for a Shoreditch twat like me, but it was always such a happy Sunday place that I can’t resist, plus I just have to go to Spitalfields before the fuckers-that-be bulldoze the whole place.


Off Cheshire Street.

As usual, Spitalfields is full of beautiful things, most of which I’m too cheap to buy. The new “(Up)Market” (yes, really) is, thank God, no more upmarket than Spitalfields, and has the advantage of being a little less crammed with stalls and people. Throughout the markets I resist the various epicurean delights on offer because I know that as long as I can hold out till I reach Brick Lane, heaven awaits me in a Beigel Bake hot salt beef bagel. (Lovely photo here.) I end my shopping in Beyond Retro where I find, sadly, that even the British woman of yesteryear is still bigger than me and no clothes fit.

Total damage:

  • A photo-print board for Alec from Tom Shedden Photography in Spitalfields. Can’t find the one I bought on the site, but it’s a close-up of an old black and white horseracing photo mounted on weathered wood.
  • Thingy which can double as a scarf, belt or hairband, also double-sided with lovely prints on either side – £5, Spitalfields.
  • Pacman badge! £1, Up(Market).
  • 2 vintage scarves – £1.50 each, Beyond Retro.
  • Hot salt beef bagel! £2-something, and worth every hot salty beefy penny.

I rush to Ogle Street for evening mass. Fr Fudge (stop laughing) is as powerful a preacher as he always was, and like last year, I savour the differences between mass here and mass in Singapore. Old hymns, none of this meandering nu-Christian pan-pipes tedium that I keep getting fed in my parish at home. A sermon I couldn’t have just made up myself from common sense. No bloody mobile phones going off, no bloody mobile phones going off, no bloody mobile phones going off! I roll my lips and tongue and heart around the small differences in the prayers here – Trespasses. Lead us not into temptation. Became incarnate of the Virgin Mary – and treasure the taste of the Blood in my mouth.

I meet Nav for dinner at Carluccio’s, where I am crushed to find they’ve taken my wild boar ragu off the menu. I try the spicy sausage penne but it isn’t as nice. A few months ago, Nav came to Singapore and broke the news that she was going to be in the audience of Trisha. This of course filled me with absolute glee, and I along with everyone else there at the time who were familiar with Trisha began reciting clichés that Nav totally had to get up and slam the guests with, e.g. “Once a cheat-ah, ALWAYS a cheat-ah!”, “Yuh need to get up and take responsibilit-y for yuh life, innit?” etc.etc. Tonight Nav updates me on this, and as usual, she doesn’t disappoint. Apparently she chewed out the mother of a murder victim for whining on TV about all her problems when she’d never sought professional help. I love Nav so much. My only disappointment is that she didn’t put on an estuary accent.

From here, Russ picks me up and we head for Herbal. Grooverider’s there tonight, and I get in for free. BOOYA! It’s a little too jazzy for my tastes at first, but the last hour is great, sweaty, junglist action. I relish the feeling of being the only yellow skin on the dancefloor (there’s a Japanese couple around, but they don’t dance), although I do wish the three immense black guys in front of me weren’t strenuously disproving that old chestnutty stereotype that all black people have rhythm. They certainly share my tastes in jungle though – Grooverider drops an amazing raggalicious track and they go wild in what I can only describe as an ape-like dance, stomping and swaying from side to side while crouched over, heads arching and rearing with each sway. One grabs the other’s shoulders and they do the dance together, laughing and cheering. If you’re looking for racism anywhere here, don’t bother – it is the perfect dance to that song, and a perfect end to the night.

London 2005: Dulwich, Peckham, Brick Lane Memories, Gig

Day Two: Friday 5 August

(As usual, click on the photos to see larger versions.)

I used to keep putting off a trip to the Dulwich Picture Gallery because it was too far out of central London (dahling), but now I’m staying in Wimbledon there’s really no excuse any more. And as usual, I arrive to find a gallery so charming it mocks me for my previous laziness. The last time I was in London this happened with the Sir John Soane museum, so there’s a nice serendipity in the discovery that Soane was the architect for this building as well. He designed it without charge out of friendship for its Bourgeois (yes, that’s his actual name) bequestor.


This isn’t the gallery, it’s a gatehouse at Dulwich Park nearby. Feel the twee!


Heading into central London, we have to drive through Peckham, and at times we fear we’ll never get out. Apart from the Stirling Prize-winning Peckham Library, which is very nice, we see rather more of Peckham than we really need to due to one-way street hell and a couple of bloopers.

Me, poring over A-Z: Turn into Mouth Road!
Russ, at the wheel: I don’t see that anywhere, we’re at Bournemouth Road now.
Me: Ah yes, the map cut the road name in two. Mouth Road is actually Bournemouth Road! Turn turn turn!

I even think we pass the VD clinic Alec brought me to on one of our first dates, thinking he was bringing me to an evening of theatre at the Old Vic. (It’s a rather long story, and contains too much sheer daftness to fit comfortably within this post, but perhaps I’ll write about it in future.) Several wrong turns, road closures and funny street names (Bird In Bush Road!) later, we finally claw our way out and Tower Bridge looms ahead, except it doesn’t, because things that loom are not usually welcoming and beautiful.

Foster family

We pass the Greater London Authority building and see the Swiss Re tower in the distance, and I muse on how Norman Foster should have given Singapore’s highest court of justice a cock or ball like these instead of a freaking UFO. (Yes, there are many cynical jokes to be made there. No, I am not about to make them.)


Russ drops me on Commercial Street and goes off to view another flat. The gig I’m attending at the Spitz only starts around 9, so I’ve got 2 hours free before that for visiting old friends – and by old friends I mean streets, vandalism and memories.

Hanbury Street:

The hardware slump

I discover a sad robot I haven’t photographed before. He’s my sixth.


Survival of the graffittest

Law of the concrete jungle or not, I still think a stencilled grizzly bear against a freehanded platypus isn’t really a fair fight.


The Old Truman Brewery car park:

Little pink Corvette?

I do a double take when I see that Banksy’s car is now shocking pink. In the midst of my surprise I am vaguely aware of another shocking pink object in my peripheral vision, moving rapidly towards me. It’s a brightly-turbanned Sikh on a scooter. I get out of his way, feeling insipid.


Anything but frigid

Under a flight of stairs, a friendly fridge!


An altered sign

I guess the London congestion charge isn’t working well enough yet.


Brick Lane:

Wrong way, turn back

“FRESH MAGIC MUSHROOMS” elude what appears to be a street art allegory of the yuppie mindset. Or something.


Philip Larkin stencilled on a club night banner
“I work all day, and get half-drunk at night”

Larkin’ Out Records are doing a party at the Vibe Bar tonight, and this is one of their promo banners. Along with stuff I photographed later in this holiday such as Norway’s fjords and Germany’s ruined castles, I think the picture captures something you don’t get in Singapore. (Another example is Time Out’s headline to its writeup for a documentary on the Hiroshima bombing: “Wave of mutilation.”)


I photograph a lavender Vespa outside The Ten Bells, Christ Church resplendent in the evening sun, a guy with a huge ginger ‘fro outside what used to be Eat My Handbag Bitch. I don’t trust memory alone to record this return. Over time, living in Singapore dog-ears and fades those memories till they feel like dusty offerings at an estate sale – someone else’s life, which I pretend was mine.

I sit in Cafe 1001, eating a crispy bacon ciabatta and reading Time Out, and this is when I start feeling morose. I look at everyone around me with so much envy, not because they all have company and I am sitting here alone (that never bothers me in London), but because they can call London their city, and without bending the facts, I no longer can.

It’s time for the gig, and the Chris Bowden Trio quickly pulls me out of my gloom by making me its bitch. This isn’t smooth hotel lounge jazz, it’s voluptuous outrageously confident music that struts coolly into the room and knows it has everybody’s undivided attention. I don’t always like Ninja Tune’s jazz acts, but it’s struck gold with Chris Bowden. Seriously, don’t pass up an opportunity to see this guy even if you’ve never been that drawn to instrumental jazz music or the saxophone. He could change your mind.

Broadway Project are up next. I suppose I haven’t kept up enough with Broadway Project since the first album, because instead of one guy with a sampler creating moody beautiful found sounds for quiet nights in when autumn’s on the cusp of winter, it now involves about five guys and fairly block rockin’ beats. Still, it’s pretty interesting to listen to after I get over the initial surprise, and they finish the set with the opening track of Compassion, bringing me right back to the wonder of my first encounter with Broadway Project, which is a great place to end.

Mark Rae’s finishing up the night with some good party tracks, but I go downstairs to join Russ and Dave in the bistro, and treat myself to my beloved Fruli. At the end of the evening, Russ drops me near Fleet Street, where I’ll be staying for the weekend in Nav’s flat while she’s off in Wales. I settle down there to plan the next day, write my journal, and count my blessings for generous friends.

I am so happy to be back here.