Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Trip to Aylesbury

I got back from Aylesbury last night. I had a great trip! On Sunday evening, my friend picked me up from Harrow and we drove up to Stoke Manderville Hospital where she's currently staying in the staff accommodation.

When we got in it was quite late, so instead of going out we decided to cook some food, we watched TV and had a cup of tea before going to bed.

The next morning my friend left early to go to work. I had some breakfast before heading out, equipped with a bottle of water and a map I managed to print off the day before. I love that feeling you get when you're roaming around a new area and the streets look different, and the people and the landscapes and you feel like you could be any one, a stranger in a crowd. So I set off towards Aylesbury in search of the canal basin. I started off in the wrong direction but soon enough found my way again. Once I reached the town, I searched for the Grand Union Canal and must have asked a dozen people (all very friendly) for directions but alas no one seemed to really know what I was on about. At last I decided to give up and explore the old town instead. I visited a very beautiful church called St Mary the Virgin. It was quite different, but equally beautiful.

Afterwards I decided to go for lunch and have a cup of tea in the town centre. Once I had finished, and feeling a bit renewed I decided to try one last time to find the canal basin, and I did! It was completely hidden behind building works, ah that feeling I got when I set eyes upon it!

So I walked along the Grand Union Canal, the Aylesbury Arm for quite a long while. It was a beautiful walk! I passed some derelict sites and many farms with sheep, horses and cows. I also spotted many birds! The walk was quite remote, which I wasn't really surprised about considering how difficult it was for me to find! It was very quiet and peaceful and def worth the long and arduous search. Ever since I saw an episode of Canal Walks with Julia Bradbury on BBC4 I've really wanted to do a walk by the Grand Union Canal. The autumnal landscapes looked stunning and I could see the Chilterns off in the distance too.

Soon it started to rain and I decided to make my way back towards Aylesbury...

Fortunately I got back to town just before it started to get dark (and before it started really pelting). I decided to go to the library when I got back, clothes damp and shoes a bit muddied! At the library I stumbled across this very interesting book called 'Clothed with Gladness, the Story of Saint Clare.' I got quite absorbed in reading it. Later after my friend finished at work, she picked me from the town centre and we headed home to clean up a bit before going to Prezzo's for dinner. We then headed to Odeon in hopes to see Skyfall but alas, all the good seats for the 8pm showing had been taken- Aylesbury only has one cinema. We decided to head back instead where we drunk tea and watched a bit of Twilight on TV. 

The next morning, I woke up quite late and was quite tired from the previous day's hike! My battered converses have all but fallen apart- a sign of a good walk I think. I decided to clean the room and pack up some of my stuff. Once I had finished, I found a copy of Life of Pi on my friends bookshelf and started reading. It's a brilliant book, and I was completely hooked especially as I'm really interested in zoology and religious studies. Pi is a genius and his story is really captivating and beautiful!

So my friend got back from work early and we decided to drive to the Chiltern Forest. By the time we got up there is was pretty dark so we couldn't see much, but the moon looked stunning and quite otherworldly again the navy sky! The city lights shined too and the chalky hills looked beautiful, the tops were streaked with an ethereal stretch of purple sky. The photo's definitely don't do justice.

When we got back to town we got a takeaway and headed back to enjoy our last meal together, before my friend gave me a lift to the train station. We said our goodbyes and I got a single train ticket back to London Marylebone.

On a different note, I can't seem to enable comments on my blog any more, ever since I bought a Google domain, my settings have been messed up. If you have any comments or want to get in touch you can find me on twitter @sysprints or email me) :-)

Saturday, 27 October 2012

First Day on the Job

So after completing a week of training, I officially started working at the Natural History Museum today. It was mad- but a good mad! I think I must have seen a hundred thousand people today from all different parts of the globe! The Museum is a really fascinating place to work, so far I've had a chance to explore some of the different galleries. I've also met some very interesting characters! This week I'll be working in a few different shops including the Dino Shop, the Earth Shop, the Wildlife Photography shop and the Museum shop.

I took this picture of the NHM logo on my new uniform shirt. I've just realised that I still have clothes to return from the last four jobs I've had! I'm thinking of sewing them all together to make some kind of mural/ collage... sort of to remind me of all the places I've been...

Anyway, I'm planning on going to Aylesbury tomorrow for a few days to stay with a friend. Hoping to explore the Chilterns, or maybe go for a walk along the Grand Union Canal while I'm up there- who knows! Have a great weekend! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

A Lonely Eid

It's Eid today
Why are you so far away? 
A lonely Eid, 
For you, for me
why are you still there, 
when you should be here
The days have been hard, 
I know- you've got a lot to fear. 
But I'm still here. 
I'm here- for you, for me, 
for good. 
Stay strong- 
for the days are long- 
and cold and sad.
You know you're the best friend I ever had. 
These last few years have been rough. 
And Lord knows, we've been though enough. 
But stay strong. 
My truest blad, my fam. 
I really miss you Ham. 
I'm sorry I haven't been there
But you know how much I care. 
My dear, 
you say you're sinking
And I've been doing some thinking
And I think you should come home. 
So that we can roam 
like the old days
through forests and streets
and by them dodgy creeks
Drive around and around
to nowhere to anywhere
like we do
like Thelma and Lou
like maniacs -so true. 
Tooting misses you. 

Remember Me

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Floating Words #2

Floating Words #2

You know what, I think you just like stepping in cow pat... Just get off it, the longer you're here, the harder it'll get. This isn't somewhere you want to be right now. Back then you were flying so high and now look, you're barely getting by. And we once had a Russian gang that came and tried to steal the diamonds. What was the name of that dinosaur? Ah sometimes life eludes me. And in Dublin, there was this shack on a hill top and on Halloween the people would go up there at midnight dressed in dark clothes to perform rituals. And in Singapore, you know they would actually marry the spirits of the two dead people, and they would prepare a feast for them. You wouldn't believe the amount of food that would be wasted, the bins were over-flowing! Everyone who lives there is either a builder or a plumber, and their wives all work in an office. 

How much further do we have to go till we get to Southease? Ah man, I'm sinking in the sludge! I know it's hard, but you can do it, you're talented you know and I'm not just saying that. Nah, my nephew is deaf, my sister knows sign language. And so the Devil climbed the apple tree and Jack carved out a cross on the trunk. I mean stories that deeply embedded in a culture, they have to have come from somewhere. Look at that bath tub! There are places, really remote places in rural areas especially where people still engage in human sacrifices. I remember when I was a child I always found the bonfire particularly eerie- the light of the fire would attract the spirits, and you had to walk through the two flames. I worry about my kids, I do. And the pagan name for Halloween is named after Iblis, the Lord of the Dead and people continue to do what the forefathers did and it's a sign of the Day of Judgement and it's wrong- casting spells for the devil and dressing up like the shayateen. 

I did ballet you see and I've calculated the odds what with all the young new things and the number of theatres in the West End and I won't get that chance. I'm old. I lived two blocks away from Niagra Falls, my first job was in the Observatory Tower for the tourism department. I would cross the border and go to America to buy petrol, it's cheaper there. And in my first year I went to college in Polegate- Herstmonceux Castle. I'm getting really stressed out, I don't know who it could be. Should I go to the police? Can you take a picture of me in front of the London Eye. Maybe the artist who painted it went to the lavender field? We have over seventy million collections. I'm not homesick, not yet. The way I see it, it's just like an advanced bible. I'm sure you can name at least five dinosaurs! Her ex-boyfriend was a busker, that's why she hates them. There was a time when you let me know, what's really going on below. But now you never show it to me, do you? I like you, you're cool and you're a fast learner. Do you know much about minerals? You've got your quartz, onyx, amethyst. I can't believe you studied geology and you didn't know that! I mean I don't know where my heart is at the moment, I don't know what I believe. I just need to move on, you know. Are you working in the Dino Shop? Laaara!! Laara! I think he's talking to you.

This is it, the exhibition? Thank you for taking me here! What a great city we live in! I was thinking about you today, we should go see the butterflies in St Albans next week. Look at the vampires and goths over there! Ah we've just entered hipster-ville. Do you know how I can get to Earls Court from here? It will get better, I'm sure it will. You'll see. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son and with a knife at his neck Isaac instructed his father to make the cut...

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

This Fine City

I was hanging around London again today with a friend. We went to the William Klein exhibition at the Tate Modern and to the Obey: Sound & Vision exhibition at the Stolen Space Gallery. We also did quite a lot of walking (as usual). I love London, I think it's such a brilliant city to take photographs! Sadly though, I dropped my new camera in mud the other day when I was out hiking and it's been playing up since. I hope it will fix itself... if not who knows...

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Bath Tub Dreamer

I took this photo a few days ago and knew that I had to do something with it! I'm not sure if this quite constitutes as a poem...

Monday, 22 October 2012

Still Wandering...

I went for a walk along the River Wandle this morning. It was quite foggy and beautiful out. I'm not quite sure how I ended up in Wimbledon Park...

Dream within a Dream

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Coast and Country II

I took these along the way to Alfriston. I quite like the ones of my friend...

Coast and Country I

I went for a hike with a mate yesterday, we walked part of the South Coast before following the river Cuckmere to the village of Alfriston. We planned on going all the way to Southease but alas, it started to get dark and we didn't want to miss the last bus to the train station. It was a great trip despite the mud! It's strange how the landscapes seem to transform with the seasons.

I done parts of this walk earlier this year (in Spring), Couldn't believe how different it looked (lots more bogs and wetlands and wildlife)! Here are some of the photos of the Seven Sisters/ River Cuckmere. Autumnal photos to follow....

Friday, 19 October 2012

Floating Words #1

I've been trying to live more mindfully lately and to help, I thought it might be an interesting idea to document bits of memorable dialogue that I've absorbed from the past week through conversations that I've shared with different people- strangers and friends, people from all walks of life. Anyway I quite like how this came together and sort of wrote itself. I think the very process of putting words down and reading through them, offers a whole new dimension to everyday life and everyday living...

Floating Words #1

I miss you, but I can't come back to Tooting because I know if I do, I'll never go back. That dog was on LSD! I could feel its teeth gnawing on my face. I shouldn't have pushed her, not with her ankle! I think we should wait here till the rain stops. Can you all follow me, the fire alarm has just gone off. I set fire to the rain! And she just pushed in front of me, as though I wasn't even there. I told you it was the queue for Oxfam books! It was about a man with quadriplegia and he fell in love with this woman, and even though it was secular, it was so Muslim. She told me that same day that I didn't get it, I couldn't list all the books on the best-seller list. My son loves wildlife, he once brought a snail home and we gave it lettuce and carrots. Would you be interested in paid work as a nanny? I've been looking for someone just like you. You've got that, but if you get this, I'm making you take it! So I see you've done a lot of work with a lot different charities. Thank you for being such a great team leader on the hike, the photo's were beautiful. We should plan the next one soon! My God, look at that spider's web suspended in air. You have to take a picture of that. It looks like its dotted with beads, because of those rain drops. I don't think I'm going to get married, it's not for me. I mean some people get married, some don't, what so wrong with that! And I came back feeling so depressed, I can't tell you. I'm content, you know, it just takes a good meal and I'm content. I like working in the library. I like books, I like the quiet.  

My husband started up The Ecologist, when he was young, back before working in the environment was fashionable. That was so funny! Come with me to Egypt. It'll only be for a month and we can go expeditions out there while we're learning Arabic  So what sort of person am I? I just need to start reading the Quran again. I expect for things to change, but I'm sinning constantly. We specialise in Nordic languages too, you know. The old ladies stole the multi-packs of chewing gum and I was like, seriously? I'm cooking my own Birthday dinner. Sisters, don't miss these ten days of Dhul Hijjah, you're never going to get them back! I just want to talk to my sister. Do you have any more interviews lined up? Do you want to go for tea? Well I'm sure they've both told you all about us, we're a small company, but we do well. She provided her three tiny daughters with lessons in Mandarin, it's invaluable, education and what it can do. And languages, languages are like portals into different universes. Oh she's so funny. She makes me laugh, she does. I feel suicidal, I don't think I should be on my own. They said they would repossess my house and I was like Daaaaaamn I just thought it was a bonus! It left its trails everywhere. And this lady, she couldn't speak English four months ago and now here she was emailing me. I couldn't believe it. It's these little things. Oh Barnes Village, beautiful! I just missed the bus by a whiskers. Have you got far to go? Tea time, computer off- now! We hire foreign language teachers from all over, we also have corporate clients like the BBC. She left university to help Dave and then I jumped on board and we've been working on the business for ten years now. You are do-main problem! I can't believe you didn't wait for me!

Do you still want the job, because they just called me to tell me that you've been successful. I work in construction, as an administrative assistant, but it's temporary. You're very accomplished for someone so young. I had a few friends who went there, when did you graduate? I worked in Diesel once, can you believe that? I've just come back from maternity leave and it's all changed. I'm going to throw a carrot at your head now. I can't believe you did that, you're dead! I felt betrayed. I just feel uncomfortable in North London. Can we just do something, can we go somewhere- in January. Let's go somewhere? Mind you, I'm only here on a visit, my husband and I decided to move to Italy a few years ago. Oh it's all changing, I remember in my day we would just have to speak to someone. I'm so glad you feel the same. I like talking about literature and politics and I don't like drama. Are you okay? Well try it out, if nothing else you could always write a short story about it! Good luck!

Thursday, 18 October 2012

The Interview

The Interview

Tolu gazed back at her reflection in the glass window of River Island. She looked positively raggedy in her baggy faded blue jacket, her old black trousers and beat up Reebok Classics. She most definitely didn't look like she was going for a job interview. Ah hell, I should have at least borrowed Abayomi's ballet pumps she thought as she entered the trendy clothes shop on Oxford Street. The security guard eyed her suspiciously at the entrance, she smiled at him earnestly then and he looked away embarrassed. Tolu glanced at her watch as she wandered around, it was quarter to ten, she was early for her interview. As she loafed around the store, Tolu browsed uninterestedly through racks upon racks of different coloured material. She looked positively uncomfortable. Tolu had never been one for shopping, or fashion, or stores in general. In fact clothe shops made her particularly queasy, but hanging around there sure as heck beat hanging about by the door of the office. She glanced at her watch again after a while. It had just gone five to. Alright, she thought, I may as well get this over with.
          She exited the shop and walked a few feet ahead until she reached a small door half open between two shops. Tolu looked inside, there was a young chap in a crisp suit standing in the doorway.
'I'm here to see Erin Samuels' he said into the intercom.
Tolu heard a women's voice on the other side saying come on up, before the door buzzed open, Tolu quickly slipped through the door behind the suited chap.
'Are you here for the interview, for the job at the Natural History Museum?' she asked as followed him up the stairs.
'Yeah, I'm guessing you are too?'
As they entered through another door a group of trendy young people, all dressed smartly were sat in the lobby. They looked like professional hipsters, if there was such a thing! A lady, probably Erin, appeared then with a corporate smile on her face.
'Right okay, follow me'
          They all followed her through the offices into a small board room with comfy black corporate looking chairs around it, the kind you'd imagine on The Apprentice. Tolu walked over to the back of the room and sunk into a chair in the corner. She looked around the room then at the people around her. They were all quite young, maybe around her age and they all had a creative look about them, unlike her they were dressed to impressed- in that alternative chic hipster fashion. In fact they all looked like they walked right out of the pages of I.D magazine or Tank. As she listened to a few of them exchange words, she quickly picked up on their posh accents, they sounded middle-class for sure. Tolu suddenly felt a bit out of place.
'I've got some paperwork for you all to fill out' Erin said as she began passing down massive wads of paper. Tolu flicked over them incredulously when they finally reached her.
'Ill be back in a bit,' the lady said before leaving the room.
You've got to be kidding me, Tolu thought as she hesitantly picked up a pen and began to fill out the first sheet in her trademark scruffy handwriting.
'Anyone know what wmp stands for?' she asked when she reached the second page. It was full of random little boxes and bits of text.
'I don't know what half this shit means' one of the girls replied. Tolu left it blank and went on to the next page and then the page after that...
          Soon after everyone had finished filling out the forms, conversations started up across the room. Tolu listened to everyone talk about where they were from and what they had been doing. She was right, most of them were artists (or actors or theatre practitioners). As time went on and words had been shared, Tolu had come up with playful, and what she thought, were quite apt names for everyone around the table.
          First there was Afroman, a tall guy with a golden streak in his bushy afro. He was wearing a pin stripe shirt under his punkish leather jacket. He was currently in the process writing a novel about a boy with a disability. Then was Nerdy, he had shiny blond hair and was wearing a v-neck jumper, his face was framed in squarish glasses. Nerdy had just finished his degree in illustration and had recently had his work published in The Observer. Then there was Rabbit Girl, she was an actress who had just left her job at Cyber Candy in the city, she wore a green jacket and had a side plait. Miss Priss definitely looked the poshest out of all of them, she spoke the poshest too. She had just finished her degree in Art History and was looking for gallery work. She had emailed about thirty places that week to find a job or a placement. Then there was Pretty Boy, he had that rich boy look about him, he spoke with a certain confidence. He had finished his masters at the University of Arts and had since applied for over two hundred placements, or so he claimed.  Irish Blondie looked like the oldest in the group, he had also finished a masters in Fine Art. Then there was Red-Head, she was a newbie in London, a confident theatre practitioner looking for a job. And then there was Slick. The dark-haired mysterious guy Tolu had followed up, he had wavy shoulder length hair, a tiny moustache and of course he was wearing that crisp suit. Tolu wondered then what her name would be...
        Soon a different lady came into the room and began going over the forms. Once she had finished she collected all the paperwork back.
'Okay now for the ice-breaker. I want you to get to know the person sitting next to you. I want to know what they've been doing for the last couple of years, what their interests are and then I want you both to come up with a joke.' The Asian lady left then and Tolu reluctantly turned to Slick, the dark-haired boy with the crisp suit and tiny moustache.
'So what are we supposed to discussing?' he asked.
'I have no idea, I spaced out,' Tolu replied. 
'Ah I hate this sort of thing.'
'Yeah me too.'
'So what have you been doing for the last two years then?'
Tolu thought for a minute, what have I been doing?
'Floating, ah I don't know all sorts of stuff...' she said vaguely before quickly turning it around, 'What about you?'
'Err I recently finished my degree in Fine Art at Bournemouth.'
'Oh cool, did you like the course?'
'Yeah, no... it was great. For my final year project I walked the Thames path and recorded the sounds along the way.
'No way, now that's interesting!' Tolu said genuinely, she'd always liked walking, especially along waterways or rivers.
'Yeah the recording came out really good. I started walking at 1'am from Hampton Court, it was quiet then.'
'Did you finish off somewhere around Canvey Island' Tolu asked.
'Nah Erith..the landscape was bizarre, like something out of that film Hook, dotted with rotting pirate boats and shit.'
'Cool, that must've been quite the project. I would never have thought about recording something like that through sound.'
'A big part of the work was on how you would document it, if you decided to use film, you would be judged by the way you'd go about filming it, the techniques you used, even the very process of filming it. But with sound, it's different.'
'That's interesting.'
'Yeah I mean, I'm more interested in music now. Like songs for instance they're like a memory bank of stuff that's happened, music triggers off all sorts of mental stuff...'
'That's deep,' Tolu said.
'So did you go to uni?' he then asked somewhat curiously.
'Yeah I did BA in Astronomy, Space Science and Astrophysics at Kent.'
'Seriously, that's a degree?' he asked a bit surprised.
'Oh yeah,' Tolu replied.
'Wow, that's different!' he said suddenly taking more of an interest in her. 'So you into stars and cosmos and science and shit?'
'Yeah, something like that' Tolu said laughter in her voice. She was used to people's reactions when she told them what and where she had studied. She had to admit, it was a pretty random course to do, especially if you're a black girl from a working class family living in Peckham. 
'You should have applied for a job at the Science Museum.'
'Yeah well, I like to be different,' she said in a deadpan voice.
'Ah I need a job,' Slick said then, 'It's so bad being back at home after living out for three years.'
'I know' Tolu said. He probably didn't know how good he had it compared to her. 
          Just then the lady who gave out the forms returned. 'Okay great, so lets go around the room and you can tell us about the person you've been talking to.' One by one, everyone offered up random bits of information about the person sitting next to them, what they were doing, a general story or opinion, a lame joke here and there- though most people opted out of offering a joke deeming them to be inappropriate for the interview setting. Tolu quickly gathered that almost everyone in the room was either a graduate or a post-graduate. They were all arty and creative and thus they ended up where most arty and creative people did, applying for low-paid and morale-destroying jobs, for society didn't have room for the artist. After the introductions were done with, and the lame jokes offered up, Erin got down to business.
'So just to make this clear, you're all here for the retail positions at the Natural History Museum, is that right?' Everyone around the room nodded and chorused a vague yes'.
'Good. If you get it you'll be paid about £6.19 an hour.'
'Isn't that the national minimum wage?' Rabbit Girl asked surprised
'Yes, something like that,' Erin replied skittishly. Suddenly Tolu didn't feel quite so bad for looking so street.
          The morning continued to drag on. They were split up into two groups. Tolu ended up with Miss Priss, Pretty Boy, Afroman and the Red-Head. They went into another room and concocted a sufficiently cringey play to highlight the do's and don't's of customer service. Tolu volunteered to play the kid who presents his weird drawing of the dinosaur to the shop assistant. Miss Priss would play his mother and Afroman, the awful sales assistant who would crack up laughing at the drawing and take pictures of it. Pretty Boy would then play the over-helpful and polite assistant who would help Red-Head pick a good book. Once they were done rehearsing they went back into the board room to join the others and there they performed their D-grade play to the others. It was positively awful. The next group followed and began displaying a number of illustrations the creative genius, Nerdy had done. Rabbit Girl and Slick offered well-timed one liners in order to make the experience a little less dire. God, what happened to the good old days of just giving your CV out in shops, Tolu thought as she watched the group from her seat. This was just plain rubbish, a bloody three hour inquisition for a temporary minimum- wage shop assistant position. What was the world coming too! Once they were done, the members of the group took their seats and Erin stood up and explained to them what they would have to do next.
'Outside there are a number of objects, what you have to do is try to sell them. Try to remember the acronym FAB when you're up here, the features, advantages and benefits of the product. Now who wants to go first?'
Rabbit Girl volunteered herself, she went outside and came back with a small ornate elephant.
'What I have here is a beautiful ornate elephant...' she said twirling the object in her hand 'It's hand-carved and ethnic, perfect for the mantle peace or to prop up books...'
She sat down after she had run out of things to say. Miss Priss was next, she picked out a small tub of lotion from the body-shop.
'It's perfect for those of you with dry skin. It smells glorious...' she continued, it was almost unbearable to watch. This went on for a while. Pretty Boy tried to sell a pack of throat Soothers, claiming that they were instilled with magic dust and were known for their marvellous healing qualities. Nerdy presented a small Spongebob treasure chest. Slick, got a small Australian flag, his piece was by far the most entertaining, marked by an incredulous sarcasm and humour.
'I'd sell it for minus 30p,' he finished. Tolu could tell that her comrades were just as horrified and in awe of the whole ridiculous charade as she was. All this for a £6.19 an hour job. Is this what it's come to, life? 
          Tolu was the last to go. She went outside and looked at all the objects on the table, they had all been used apart from one- a pair of tacky bangles. Ah hell, she thought picking them up and walking back into the room.
'Err so I have a pair of stunning pearl-studded bracelets here,' she began feeling more and more stupid with every word. 'You can wear one on each wrist, or on each ankle. They're great for kids and for the ladies and for guys too, if you're into that sort of thing...' She looked ahead at the blank faces of her fellow comrades. 'And you can even get your name engraved into the silver...' she finished. 'That was rubbish,' she said to no one in particular as they clapped for her. She quickly sat back down, she didn't care. Pants, everything about the interview was pants! I went to space school for four years for this?! Tolu thought suddenly feeling quite upset and angry at the system.
          Finally Erin stood up again and offered a final few words instructing the group to keep their phones on and that they would be hearing from them shortly. As soon as she was done talking, the hipsters and creative's began to slowly file out. Tolu grabbed her bag and her jacket before she followed them. Once outside she noticed Irish Blondie and Rabbit Girl lighting up cigarettes by the doorway.
'Can you believe that?' Tolu asked them incredulously.
They both grimaced as they shook their heads in awe.
'It's insane'
'What a joke!' Rabbit Girl said. They stood there in a contemplative silence for a few seconds.
'Anyway It was nice to meet you guys' Tolu said then, 'See you around.' They both offered their goodbyes and Tolu turned around and walked towards the tube station.
          As Tolu walked down the escalator at Oxford Circus station she was met by a man busking in the open underground. He was playing his guitar as he sung The Smiths.
Take me out tonight 
Take me anywhere, I don't care 
I don't care, I don't care 
And in the darkened underpass 
I thought Oh God, my chance has come at last 
But then a strange fear gripped me and I 
Just couldn't ask
          As Tolu stood and watched him a forlorn feeling washed over her, for nothing makes one more forlorn than a busker singing a song by The Smiths (or Johnny Cash for that matter). It was hypnotizing and Tolu felt herself drifting to another place. Once the song had ended she placed a few well-valued pound coins on top of the the buskers coat on the floor, they exchanged a smile and she made her way back down. On the train platform she noticed a billboard advertising a photography exhibition at the Natural History Museum and she laughed a bit. What a joke! She thought, what a joke this life was!
          Tolu decided to head somewhere nice. She decided to head to Regents Park, the sun was shining and the autumn colours looked beautiful and the wind blew and suddenly she didn't feel quite so troubled. Suddenly the world made a bit more sense and seemed a bit less crazy. As she wandered around the park, Tolu noticed a familiar looking person, an old friend, Jas was sat on a park bench reading a book. She couldn't quite believe it, it really was Jas. She hadn't seen her for months.
'Jas!' Tolu called out, just then the young mixed race woman looked up.
'Tolu! She exclaimed surprised, she jumped out of her seat and hugged her friend.
'What are you doing here?'
'I just had a job interview, thought I'd go for a bit of walk...'
         The two of them wandered around the park together arm-in-arm- lamenting, laughing and sharing woeful stories of life as unemployed bums. They finally settled on a bench by the fountains, opposite the park gardeners and Jas regaled Tolu with stories of her recent travels and read her some of a short story from a horror book she was reading. Tolu felt glad then, that she went to the interview, for it led to her to being there with her friend, after such a long, long time apart....
        When Tolu checked her phone that evening she saw she had a received a voice-mail, she was hesitant to check it. She did and through the phone she heard Erin's voice, 'we want to invite you to the assessment day at the Natural History Museum, give us a call back and we'll give you the details.' Tolu couldn't believe it. She got through, beat up Reeboks an' all. But she thought then, she thought carefully- did she really want to go for another assessment day? Another uber-lame group interview? Was it worth it? Ah of course she would go- just for the laugh, for the experience and for where it could lead. Maybe to another long lost friend, another interesting conversation, another opportunity...who knew. 

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Group Photo

Group photo from a walk I organised for Tooting sisters circle- it was great trip!

...and another group photo from a trip I organised for Goldsmiths ISOC to the Hope Gap...

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Just Another Day In London

I was hanging around London with a mate today, it was great, we went to quite a few different places including the Rain Room at the Barbican, Angel, a Turkish Mosque and a few other places around Hackney. I really loved the Rain Room (despite the long wait!) I'd recommend a visit to anyone living in London. It sort of reminded me of the Yohji Yamamoto exhibition that was on at the Wapping Hydraulic Power Station... I've included some info below from the Barbican Centre website.

Random International invites you to experience what it’s like to control the rain. Visitors can choose to simply watch the spectacle or find their way carefully through the rain, putting their trust in the work to the test. More than the technical virtuosity necessary for its success, the piece relies on a sculptural rigour, with the entire Curve transformed by the monumental proportions of this carefully choreographed downpour and the sound of water. 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Romney Marsh

I really enjoyed exploring the mysterious and desolate landscape of Romney Marsh the other day. I've since been doing a bit of research on the area and found this fascinating article on the BBC website.

The name Romney or Rumenea derives from Old English for a wide river, originally referring to the Romney Marsh in general, not just the port towns of Old and New Romney. During the 13th century violent storms swept along the coastline and New Romney was devastated by ferocious storms in 1287 and 1288. The River Rother had altered its course by this time and was flowing through Rye. The harbour was lost as shingle and mud swept into New Romney and severed its links with the sea.

"The World, according to the best geographers, is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney Marsh", wrote the Reverend Richard Harris Barham, writing as Thomas Ingoldsby, in The Ingoldsby Legends, his gothic tales of superstition and folklore, in the 1840s. It's not hard to see why he described the area on the Kent/Sussex border as being an altogether separate part of the world. Even today, where caravan sites dot the coast and the nuclear power stations stand bleakly on the shingle shore of the English Channel at nearby Dungeness, it is still possible to see exactly what Barham meant. At its heart, the 100-square-mile marsh is almost as mysterious and lonely as it was in the 17th century. A thousand years ago it would have been a vast area of reeds and water and some of the church ruins were once on an island. This was all drained away in the 1960's.

It has a strange beauty and the area has always had to defend itself against the elements as well as against foreign invaders. Due to the isolation of the area, its low lying marshland, and being close to France, the marsh churches are unusual, leading to the suspicion that one of their primary uses was smuggling. The marshes and the small villages were dominated by smugglers or 'owlers' where smugglers swapped local wool for brandy from France. There were pitched battles between smugglers and the revenue officers in most towns. Some reports speak of 200 smugglers regularly using an inn when the revenue men had a day off!

St Clement of Old Romney was a film setting for legendary Doctor Syn, a 18th century smuggler. It was based on book A Tale of the Romney Marsh by Russell Thorndike. (1915). The boxed pews were painted pink and stayed pink. Today, it is a flat landscape of rich soil stretching out under an immense sky, defended from the sea by a bank of shingle dotted with Romney Marsh sheep, or 'Kents', skylarks and soul-soothing towns. it still conjures up the memory of great writers who called this corner of England home. Romney Marsh sheep are seen in the open fields which are often swept with harsh winds and heavy rainfall. Their hooves are resistant to foot rot and their fleeces remain healthy in the harsh weather. They are exported all over the world.

Historians, fishermen, farmers, painters and ecologists describe the spirit of the place and what it means to them. “Wilderness is terribly important to people,” says one local. “Perhaps it is a sense that there is somewhere left to go.”

Friday, 12 October 2012

First Claim

First Claim

Zoya looked up at the shabby building with the small green Job Centre Plus sign poking out of its side. She then glanced at her watch, it had just gone past ten. She was early. Maybe I could go for a walk and then come back, she thought to herself. She knew she wouldn't, come back, but maybe that would be okay. Maybe she could just keep searching...
          As Zoya stood there considering whether or not to go in, a heavy rain began to fall from the grey sky. She looked up ahead at the entrance, there was a lone hooded man sat on the near wall smoking, his large bulldog was sniffing the concrete beside him. Zoya took a deep breath as she reluctantly made her way to the side door. It will be alright, she said to herself as she went inside, it will be fine. The small area inside was empty- there was a door at the end of the narrow passage way, a flight of stairs and a single lift. Zoya decided on the lift. As she pressed the button, the lift doors opened and she hesitantly walked in, she was followed in by a young Chinese woman. The hefty metal doors clanked shut behind her.
'Do you know which floor the reception is on? Is it the first floor?' Zoya asked the lady after a few seconds of silence. Just then, the lift doors opened and Zoya stuck her head out. There was no one around.
'I think it's the next floor,' the lady said as she stuck her head back in.
'Great, thanks.'
After a quick ascent, the lift doors opened again and the lady got off. Zoya followed her onto the second floor. She pushed open the door and walked inside the large open area crammed with identical desks with smart looking advisers behind them. There were two tall security guards on either side of the doorway looking down at her expectantly.
'Do have an appointment?' the podgier man said.
'I have an interview, at 10:30' Zoya responded sheepishly.
'Do you know who it's with?'
'No, this is my first time here.'
'New claims, second floor' he said.
'Okay thanks' And so Zoya turned back around, exited through the doors and walked up the narrow stairs. When she got to the third floor, she was met by two men who looked strangely identical to the men she had just passed downstairs. The area looked exactly the same too, with those same desks and monitors and advisers. As she absent-mindedly scanned her surroundings one of the two men turned his attention to her.
'Do you have your attendance card?' he asked
'No, I'm here for an interview.'
Right then a young Asian lad wearing cords and a chequered shirt not much older than her casually swaggered over clipboard in hand.
'What's your last name?' he asked.
'Doorani,' Zoya replied. She peered over at the long list in front of him and scanned it till she found her name near the bottom, she pointed at it and he ticked her off the list.
'Alright, you can take a seat. It will be a while.'
          Zoya wandered over to the sofa seats. They were all taken and so she stood awkwardly by the wall and watched the people flit around her. The place was buzzing with all sorts of different characters, young and old and of an assortment of colours. She felt strangely out of place. Zoya wondered whether to turn around and go back. No, she wouldn't, she would wait. She had come this far- no, she would face it. A woman approached the seated area right then and called out a name, a middle-aged man got up and followed her. Zoya wandered over and took the newly empty seat beside an old man and a young woman. Both were still and appeared to be lost in thought and Zoya turned her attention back to the circus that was the third floor. The advisers were click, click, clicking on the their computer mouses and there were bits of paper scattered and the same questions were repeated at all corners of the room: Do you have proof of identity? Are you claiming any housing benefits? Are you a carer? As she watched and waited, Zoya found herself wondering what their stories were, the different people, the colourful characters...
          Outside the rain was still falling from the grey October sky and the people filed in and out and everyone knew what to do and where to go and she just stared into space and her thoughts drifted and she listened and watched and waited. Some of the conversations were more interesting than others, some of the questions too, like why did you leave France? Or where have you been living all this time? When was your house repossessed? Zoya wanted to know more about the different people and had she been any where else she would have struck up a conversation with someone for sure, but this was new territory for Zoya. She felt displaced and rather uncomfortable and a bit guilty too, for being there. She had never had trouble finding a job in the past. Zoya had been working since she was seventeen, in fact this was the first time she was unemployed in five years. It had all happened so suddenly, things had fallen apart and now here she was- signing on at the job centre. What was worse, was that Zoya had no idea what she wanted to do, she didn't really know why she was there or what she was looking for. She felt lost. She felt like she was going nowhere in life- fast. The days were flitting by, months too and she wasn't moving, she wasn't going anywhere.
          Suddenly, after what seemed like a lifetime of waiting, a lady called her name. Zoya jumped out of her seat, walked over and planted herself in front of the desk.
'Hi, my name is Pat and I'll be helping you today,' the lady in front of her said. She was a big friendly woman- she had warmth about her, a natural friendliness.
'I'm Zoya.'
'Do you have any ID love?' Pat asked
Zoya looked through her bag and took out her passport. She slid it across the desk and the woman picked it up and flicked to the last page to see the picture.
'Great, I'm just going to need to photocopy this. But first, lets go through some the details on your application together, just to make sure you haven't missed anything or made any mistakes.' She tilted the computer monitor around so that Zoya could see it and then read the information out loud. Zoya followed, looking at the screen. Everything was a muddle, all that was written down, it was all incoherent and random – her work history and studies and finances and everything. Zoya felt disconnected to the words, they were out of touch with her reality, her real life- none of it mattered.
        Zoya nodded along all the time and kept repeating 'that's OK, that's all fine' until they had gone over the entire application.
'Right, so you need to sign these papers and then you'll see an advisor who will book you in for your first appointment,' Pat said finally. 'You can take a seat again and you'll be called over.'
'Okay thanks.'
          Zoya got up and moved towards a different set of sofa seats, this time in the middle of the room -they were empty. Not long after she sat down she was joined by an old Indian man and then a few minutes later a young black guy. He sat down a seat away from her, headphones in ears and legs outstretched, with a confidence and coolness that suggested that this was a pretty regular visit for him. As Zoya waited she once again become immersed in her surroundings. At the desk in front an advisor was talking to a man and woman, beside them was a toddler in a pushchair. Next to them a middle-aged Jamaican woman was speaking into a headset. As soon as her conversation had ended she warmly shouted 'Ai badman!' to the guy sat near to Zoya. He nodded at her as he shuffled in his seat before turned to face Zoya.
'Do you have your appointment with her?' he asked sympathetically.
'I have no idea,' Zoya said glad someone was actually talking to. 'Do you?'
'Nah, I'm with that lady over there,' he said pointing to the smart Asian lady in a corner.
'I don't know who I'm supposed to see, this is my first time here, I think someone's supposed to be calling me...'
'What time's your interview?' the guy asked.
'10:30' Zoya replied.
'Not long then.'
'It's 11:30 now' Zoya said laughing.
'Ah yeah..' he said not at all put out. He seemed to be a bit out of touch with time in a way that people with jobs weren't. There was a glad freeness about him, a certain sublime. 
'I had an appointment with a finance assessor first,' Zoya continued.
'Where are you coming from?' she asked him then.
'Battersea, what about you?'
'Mitcham.' He nodded in acknowledgement of some kind of shared unspoken kinship. The silence resumed for a while.
'How old are you?' the young man asked.
'Twenty-three,' Zoya replied.
'You're young'
'How old are you?'
'You're young' Zoya repeated and he laughed.
'Where are you from?' he asked. Zoya thought for a minute.
'Afghanistan, you?'
'Africa' he said a sense of pride evident in his voice.
'Ah cool, where in Africa?' He muttered a reply but Zoya didn't hear, maybe Rwanda she thought, he looked Rwandan.
'I'm Callum' he said finally.
          Just then the big man at the door came up from behind. 'Miss, the lady's calling you.' Slightly put out, Zoya quickly got up and followed him to a desk where a small stern looking lady was sat waiting.
'Okay I've got a lot of paperwork for you to fill out' she said before Zoya even sat down. 'I should tell you now that as you chose to leave your last job you might not be entitled to JSA.'
'But I was only working on a casual basis,' Zoya said annoyed. She knew something would come up, things were never simple or straight-forward for her. There had to be some sort of problem, there always was.
'It doesn't matter. I need you to sign and date this and then this and then fill out this form.' Zoya looked down at the ever growing pile of papers feeling overwhelmed.
'Is this your first time claiming?' she asked looking Zoya in the eye for the first time.
'Yes' Zoya replied quietly before asking the one question that mattered to her at that moment 'If I don't get JSA then is there any point of me coming here?'
The lady shifted in her seat.
'That's up to you, you'll receive national insurance credits...' she went on for a bit speaking in a language Zoya didn't understand before changing the subject.
'Okay so I've put you down for admin roles as that's what you've been doing for the last fifteen months...' Zoya was lost. Admin? What?
'I'm not looking for an admin position, my last job was in visitor services.' The lady looked at Zoya blankly.
'Okay, I will just sign these,' Zoya said, she suddenly had an overwhelming urge to escape. She quickly signed and dated the pieces of paper, before moving on to the form. She stared at it for a long while not knowing what to write. If only she had stuck with the same job for long enough, if only her work history wasn't so scatty, if only she didn't look so crazy on paper! She jotted down anything before swiftly sliding the papers back to the woman sat opposite her.
'Look, when you have your first appointment, you'll have a lot clearer idea of what to do,' she said reassuringly. Zoya didn't buy it. The job centre didn't have the answers she needed. Of course they didn't.... 
'So this is your first appointment,' the lady said handing her a small attendance booklet with a date jotted along a blank white space. 'You'll have to come in once ever two weeks, however this week there aren't any available advisers. You'll have to sign in anyway. That's everything' she finished. 
'Okay thanks,' Zoya said as she quickly stuffed the papers in her bag and got up to leave. She said a quick goodbye to the security guards as she exited though the door and then hurriedly walked down the stairs. 
          It was still raining heavily when she stepped outside, she pulled her hood over her head. So now what, Zoya thought, as she wandered down the street. She decided on a whim to head to Waterstones to read for a while, to be transported to a different place for a bit, before getting the bus back South...

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Camber Sands and Rye Harbour

A friend and I spontaneously decided to go on a road trip yesterday! It was great. We ended up checking out Camber Sands, Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and Romney Marsh. On the way back to London, we even stopped by Bodiam Castle. I really love the South of England, the landscapes are so incredibly varied and every village has it's own unique character...