Tag Archives: Canary Wharf

The Towers Of London (Part 1)

11 Aug

A Photo Blog

 

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Canon EOS 30D. GoProHero3BE.  iPhone4S and iPhoneSE (using the Camera Plus Pro app and Instagram).

 Cover design and graphics by Steve Swindells

Here’s my ambient instrumental multi-track album The Enigma Elevations for your listening enjoyment to accompany the photos.  I recorded this on my Korg T2 in the late 1980s.

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The Shard Seen From Tooley Street. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

On Saturday July 16th 2016, the weather forecast was good (although you wouldn’t think so from the ominous-looking clouds swirling around the ever-photogenic Shard in the photo above) so I decided to set off on a photographic odyssey, capturing not just tall buildings, but London towers of every description. I started off from London Bridge then headed down the beguilingly beautiful Bermondsey Street (the White Cube Gallery is awesome, but doesn’t count as a tower) taking pics of The Shard – designed by starchitect Renzo Piano – from various angles on my three cameras. The GoPro was a recent gift (thanks so much Abdul) and the quality really has blown me away – it’s tiny and looks like a toy, but certainly is not. It shoots great video too. My iPhone 4S recently died on me, so I was forced to buy a new one.  I’d seen good reviews of the iPhoneSE and had noted that it was smaller and cheaper than the 6S, so I piled yet more pressure on my credit cards and took the plunge. The quality of the lens is quite amazing – as you will see in the next photo.

A Shard Day’s Night. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells

I suppose I could have done the obvious thing and payed the outrageous sum of £28 to go to the viewing platform on top of The Shard, but I suffer terribly from vertigo – it actually makes my legs hurt really badly and I get really dizzy – so that wasn’t an option. One thing is for sure – it’s a breathtakingly beautiful building and truly iconic and sculptural.  Truly a thing of wonder.

 

 

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20. Tooley Street. GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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A Shard Community. Bermondsey.  Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

I bought this excellent camera – complete with a 50mm lens – for £600 from a close friend in 2003, or thereabouts. He’d been a bit of a pop star and was constantly upgrading his ‘geek gear’.

 

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House Of Shard. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

 

Modern Architecture On Tooley StGlass And Steel.  iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

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Spikes. GoProHer3BE © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

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Shard Hats Obligatory. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

Ain’t No Stoppin’Us Now. iPhoneSE ©Steve Swindells

 

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Behind City Hall. GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells

 

 


 

 

 

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A Cluster Of Towers In The City Of London. Taken from Bankside, on the Southern side of The River Thames.  Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

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Tower Bridge Hen Party. GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells.  July 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Tower Bridge From The Dancing Fountains. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

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Cruising The Tower Of London. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

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Two Towers Of London And City Hall. GoProHer3BE © Steve Swindells

 

Shard Visions

Shard Visions. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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Golden Tower. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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Houseboats by Tower Bridge. The campaigning MP Jo Cox, who was brutally murdered in her Yorkshire constituency, lived here with her family. The towers Of Canary Wharf Are On The Horizon. Canon EOS 30D

 

 

The housing and architecture on the South Bank of the Thames as you head towards the dramatic architectural statements of Canary Wharf are quite dull and muted.  Mostly dreary 80s stuff with some warped and tired vernaculars going on. But the warehouses and their residential and office (or live-work) conversions in Rotherhithe are mostly quite spectacular. But where are the shops? A lovely old lady (a bit central-casting to be honest) was leaning on the wall above the river looking kind-of wistful. She must have been in her late 70s and was wearing way too much make-up.  She’d seen me taking pics – and had asked why I was doing that. ‘Just because I want to.’ I’d replied. Apropos of nothing she pointed back behind us and stated: ‘That’s my balcony’. It was on the first floor of an ugly 80s block and had a magnificent view across the river to Wapping. She must have read my green-fingered mind and said: ‘The plants are all fake, so much easier my dear.’

I surmised that this was social housing, and that she’d been rehoused when all the initial Docklands development had started in the 1980s.  But I figured it would have been churlish to ask for the details. Then I suggested: ‘It must be wonderful living with that amazing view!’

She replied: ‘Well, love, once you’ve seen it once, it doesn’t mean a thing.’  Then she added kind-of sadly , pointing across the river towards Wapping: ‘I grew up there love, everyone worked in the docks.

‘The main reason that you don’t like living here is the lack of shops.  Am I right?’

‘Spot on, my darlin’.’ Said the old lady, with a slightly plaintive wink.

 

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Towers Of Power. Looking Back Towards The City From Rotherhithe. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

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Tower Bridge Between Two Towers. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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A Cantilevered Living Room In An Art Deco-influenced Apartment Block In Rotherhithe. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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Heavy Metal. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

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Canary Wharf From Across The River. CanonEOS 30D © Steve Swindells.

I jumped on a bus to Canada Water and took the Jubilee Line To West Hampstead, then the Overground to Willesden Junction, five minutes from where I live in central Harlesden.

The following day, which was hot and sunny, I decided to journey deep into the heart of the beast known as Canary Wharf (which is incidentally now owned by a Qatari property company, aka the Royal Family).

 

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Canary Wharf From The DLR. iPhone SE © Steve Swindells

 

 

Inside Canary Wharf Tube Station

Canary Wharf Underground Station. iPhone SE © Steve Swindells

Arguably, the most beautiful tube station on the entire TFL network. The architects were Norman Forter & Partners and it opened in 1999.

 

 

 

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‘Insider Trading’

#1 Canada Square from the shopping mall below.  GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

 

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The Lobby Of #1 Canada Square (the one with the pyramid on top) at Canary Wharf. GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells.  July 2016.

A security guard was approaching me in a somewhat challenging fashion and trying to engage me in conversation. A power-dressed elderly woman who was sitting nearby in the lobby pointed out: ‘The security guard wishes to speak to you’.  I shrugged my shoulders and said ‘How dreary. I know I’ve got a bit of a tan, but do I really look that Middle-Eastern?’ And strolled off purposefully, pointing my camera upwards, as if to find its weak points, or more accurately, its architectural details.

 

 

 

 

 

JP MOrgan Tower Canary Wharf

Bridge Tower. iPhone SE © Steve Swindells. July 2016.

It would seem that a ‘street artist’ has been commissioned to make a ‘gr0ovy’ design on the DLR bridge beneath The JP Morgan tower.  How unintentionally  ironic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Escape From #1 Canada Square.  GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells July 2016.

 

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Reflections On Canary Wharf. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells.  July 2016.

 

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Skyscrapin’ Blues.  #GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells July 2016.

 

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#1 Canada Square From Beneath.  Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016.

 

 

 

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Be The Fastest.  #GoPreHero3BE © Steve Swindells July 2016.

#OlympicChampBolt #VirginMedia #Capital #ism #City #TheTowersOfLondonBlog

 

 

 

 

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Facade

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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Canary Wharf Cluster

#GroProHero3BE © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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U Tube

I have dubbed this nearly-completed tower thus as I have no idea what its name is. I believe that it will be a residential tower. It cuts quite a swathe on Canary Wharf already.

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016.

 

 

 

 

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Canary Wharf Tube Station

GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells. July 2016

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Sculpture-Scrapers

GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells July 2016.

 

 

The next day, the weather was again really beautiful, with a very special ‘light’, so I decided to take the overground train just a few stops to Hampstead Heath, from where it’s a short, uphill walk to take in the stunning view of London. I did take a few pics on my three cameras, but decided that just one would suffice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Towers Of London From Parliament Hill

The Towers Of London From Parliament Hill. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells. July 2016.

 

 

The following day was bright and sunny as I set off to Greenwich, taking The Tube to Bank, then the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) to Greenwich Cutty Sark , where I tried to get a seat in the front of the driverless train (So I could pretend, as usual, that I was driving), but it was too busy. So I pulled my Canon out of my bag and went to the doors, brushing by a scruffy-looking man with a rucksack on his back. ‘You’re trying to get in my bag!’ He suddenly yelled, evidently drunk (it was about 2pm).  ‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ I shouted, as people in the packed carriage looked rather worried.  I pointed to my camera, which I was holding towards the window and stated: ‘See, CAMERA, WINDOW… oh, and by the way, your bag is open.’ Several bottles of wine were pretruding from it. He continued to rant, slurring his words, this time about people posthing photos on the intherneth withouth permissionth.  I decided I’d had enough and got off at the next station to grab some shots,  then jump on the next train.

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Chimney And Towers. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

 

 

 

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Canary Wharf (And The Dome Of The Greenwich Foot Tunnel) From The Cutty Sark. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

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Towering Contrasts. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

I headed for the park in the glorious sunshine after a light al fresco lunch in a funky cafe.

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The Maritime Museum And Canary Wharf From Greenwich Park. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

 

 

The Towers Of London From Greenwich Observatory

Getting Higher! iPhone SE © Steve Swindells 2016

 

 

 

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Meantime… Sunny Selfie At The Observatory. GoProHero3 © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

 

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The Easterly Aspect From The Observatory. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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Enjoying The View And The Sunshine. Canon EOS 30d © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming Down – Behind The Observatory. GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells 2016

 

 

 

 

 

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Coming Back Through Canary Wharf DLR Station. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

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Train-driving Photographer! GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells July 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ghost Train. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016. Note the architect Goldfinger’s stumpier version of  Notting Hill’s Trellick Tower (see below) on the right.  Apologies to the mystery woman whose reflection I inadvertantly captured. 

 

 

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Goldfinger’s iconic Trellick Tower. GoProHero3BE © Steve Swindells June 2016.

 

Coming back from Greenwich, I emerged from the DLR station at Bank (literally The Bank Of England) into the  heart of The City Of London, The Capital’s financial hub, which really is an architectural treasure trove.  Contrasts sums it up in one word.  Narrow streets and alleys now mere footnotes to the ever-growing cluster of towers looming above them. My undoubted favourite is Richard Roger’s Lloyd’s Building, the modernist daddy of them all, with its sinuous curves and exposed ducts and fire escapes.  Early evening, then sunset, on a gloriously sunny summer day, proved to be the perfect setting in which these ruling Towers Of London could strut their stuff.

 

TIme And The Walkie Talkie

It’s Walkie-Talkie Time! iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells

 

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The ‘Cheese Grater’ Resplendent In The Evening Sunshine. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

 

 

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The Cheese Grater Stands Out From The Crowd. GoProHere3BE © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

 

 

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It’s Not Cheesey At All – it Grrrrreat! Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

 

 

 

 

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Smashing The Blue Ceiling! iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells 2016

Check out this amazingly detailed  and well-presented piece from The Guardian Online on the bevy of bold new towers being built in The City.

 

 

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Towers Of Steel and Glass. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2016

The title above the above photo is a quoted lyrical slice from ‘Turn It On Turn It Off’,  from my second album ‘Fresh Blood’  which was released on Atco/WEA worldwide in 1980. It reached #3 in the US airplay charts in its second week of release.

Turn It On Turn It Off

And here are the lyrics from the rather romantically crumpled inner sleeve of my only  vinyl copy of Fresh Blood.

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‘Turn It On Turn It Off’ lyrics. Inner sleeve of ‘Fresh Blood vinyl 1980 photographed lit by cheap torch from Poundland. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells. 28. 7. 16

IMG_8216The Lloyd’s Building By Richard Rogers 

 Opened by The Queen in 1986, it received a Grade 1 listing in 2011, the youngest-ever building to achieve this status – and well deserved IMHO. I captured it at the perfect time on a beautiful summer’s evening –  it’s sinuous curves and famous inside-out innards (known architecturally as bowellism) glowing gold  as the sun began to go down.

One of my all-time favourite buildings in London.

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2015.

 

Gold And Silver

Gold And Silver. The Lloyd’s building and The adjacent Willis Building jostle for visual supremacy. You can catch a glimpse of The Gherkins in between.  iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells July 2015.

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The Frieze Above The Entrance To The Lloyd’s Building

This is all that remains of the original Lloyd’s building. Personally, I love the dramatic and rather cheeky contrast.

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2015.

 

 

 

 

Roger, Over And Out

Roger(s), Over And Out     

The ‘Walkie-talkie’ dwarfs The Lloyd’s Building in its curvaceous shadow.

iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells July 2015.

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The Cheese Grater towers over the gilded galleries of the ancient Leadenhall Market in the heart of The City, which is now home to upmarket bars, restaurants and retail outlets, encouraging the city fat cats to part with their annual bonuses.

#GoProHero3BE © Steve swindells 2016.

 

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A pink balloon is trapped in the rooflight of the magnificent central atrium of Leadenhall Market. iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells 2016.

 

 

 

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The Gherkin And A Pendant

Designed by Norman Foster and The Arup Group and opened in 2004. Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells July 2015.

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Steel

Blue Steel                                                                                                      

The ‘Cheese Grater’ and its towering neighbour, subtly reflecting the Lloyd’s Building.

iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells July 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tower 42

Silver Sculpture And Tower 42

Originally known as The NatWest Tower, this was designed by Richard Seifert, whose practice also designed Centre Point (coming later) and was also opened by her Maj, in 1981. Standing 183 metres tall, It was the first of the City Of London’s mega-towers but will soon  have a plethora of towering young pretenders raining on its parade.

iPhoneSE © Copyright Steve Swindells July 2016.

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I hear there’s a very good Sushi restaurant at the top of Tower 42! Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells 2016.

 

 

 

 

The Monument

A Plane Flies over The Monument In The Golden Sunlight

iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells

This slender tower is a monument to the Great Fire of London and is 202 ft (62 m) tall and 202 ft from the spot in Pudding Lane where the Great Fire started on 2 September 1666. An elegant Doric column topped with a gilded urn of fire, it was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and Robert Hooke and opened in 1677.  311 narrow, winding steps take visitors to the top. It could perhaps be described as the 17th Century forerunner to The Shard’s somewhat loftier viewing platform.

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The Gilded Urn of Fire Atop The Monument

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

I head South out of The City Of London and cross back over the river to Bankside in the vibrant evening light.

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Tower Bridge Shimmers Magnificently As I walk over London Bridge

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Game Of Shards

The Inevitable Return Of The Shard iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells 2016.

 

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A Tale Of Two Towers – The Shard And Southwark Cathedral

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells 2016

 

 

 

 

The Golden Hind

Tower 42 Glimpsed Beneath The Rigging Of The Golden Hind

iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells 2016

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A Trio Of City Towers And The Golden Hind 

Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells

 

                                            Time For A Sundowner?  Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells 2016

                               

No Busking

The Tower Of The Tate Modern Gallery

iphoneSE © Steve Swindells

sunset SillhouettesOn Millennium Bridge

Sunset Sillhouettes On The Millennium Bridge

iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells 2016

Walking Across The Millennium Bridge At Sundown

St Paul’s – And Pedestrians On The Millennium Bridge In The Golden Hour

iPhoneSE © Steve Swindells 2016

 

 

 

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The Switch House And Some Rich Houses!

 

 

 

 

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It Is What It Says On The Tin – The Oxo Tower

 

 

 

 

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Sunset Reflections

 

 

 

 

Sunset Towers

Eastward Ho! The Lights will Soon Come On –  All  four of the above taken on my Canon EOS 30D © Steve Swindells 2016.

 

 

 

Streetlamp Sunset

Streetlamp At Sunset – iPhoneSE.  All photos © Steve Swindells 2016 .  All rights Reserved.  Part II coming soon…

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Freedom Pass

20 Mar

Freedom Pass.

Me at 60 (Saturday Night Oldie Fever)

Me at 60 (Saturday Night Oldie Fever)

A Short, Autobiographical Story (with multimedia) By Steve Swindells.

Freedom Pass One (Computer painting). 7.5.13

Willesden Junction has been at the centre of my London travelling universe for nearly four years – since I moved to central Harlesden in 2009. This is an excellent transport hub that gets you to just about anywhere you want to go in London with relative ease, using the Bakerloo Line and three overground rail routes:  these go to Clapham Junction in the South, Stratford in the East (via the verdant acres of Hampstead Heath, which has a dedicated station), Richmond in the West, Watford in the North (not that you’d want to go there) and Euston in the centre of London.

The goods yards by Willesden Junction

The goods yards by Willesden Junction

I was in Hampstead earlier on this crispy, spring day, wandering around taking pictures (with my Canon EOS 30D and a 50mm lens) of its delicious hodgepodge of architectural styles.  Then I ambled onto Parliament Hill, with its kite-flyers, cyclists, joggers, walkers, tourists, photographers and artists and, of course, its famous panoramic views of this great sprawling metropolis, now dominated by a silvery needle soaring into the sky – The Shard – along with St Paul’s Cathedral (that’s what I call basilican, monumental longevity), The ‘Gherkin’ and No.1 Canada Square, topped with its ever-flashing pyramid, in the cold heart of Canary Wharf.

A happy woman smiles as she paints on Parliament Hill

A happy woman smiles as she paints on Parliament Hill

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Having wandered in the limpid, lemony sunshine on the Heath and in the  beautiful grounds of  Kenwood House, taking pictures of the people, flora and fauna, I headed into Hampstead village, passing Boy George’s house on Well Walk (sorry, I forgot to take a pic), where a gaggle of Japanese tourists were giggling and posing for pictures in front of the wooden gate – which is more like a door, and covered in scrawled messages from fans.

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George hasn’t lived there for years – I believe he’s a denizen of trendy, arty Shoreditch these days , and apparently rents his house-out.  People don’t generally realise that it’s not the massive, vaguely gothic mansion that it appears to be; it’s actually semi-detached; and his half, which is nearest to the Heath, boasts a mere three bedrooms. Maybe he’s sold the house, after all those brushes with the law (alleged, industrial levels of cocaine abuse, wasting police time, chained-up rent boys… the usual frock n’ roll excess) in New York and London. I don’t know, I haven’t bumped into him for years. I hardly go out at all these days – nothing to do with my age really, more about my financial situation. I’m totally broke (back mountain).

Walking by George’s house into Hampstead Village prompted me to muse that I hadn’t seen Jon Moss (famously George’s ex-lover and the drummer in Culture Club, one of the biggest-selling bands in the 80s) since my sixtieth birthday party in Camden last November, in 2012,  which made me wonder whether he might be at home, providing he hadn’t sold his house on the other side of the village, which is a rather wonderful, Tardis-like, Art-Deco homage to Le Corbusier and Modernism. I decided to text him after I’d had brunch in that funky old cafe on the High Street that’s been there, unchanged, forever… what’s it called? Oh yes, The Coffee Cup (a cup of twee!).  Jon occasionally goes there for brunch too –  maybe he’ll be there today, reading The Jewish Chronicle. Okay, I made the last bit-up. He is a Spurs supporter though.

Jon and me at my 60th b/day party

Jon and me at my 60th b/day party

Me… sixty? How can this be? That means that I’m supposed to act like an old person and go on Saga holidays doesn’t it? I shudder at the thought, whilst junking gruesome emails offering me deals on Stannah Stairlifts, mobility bikes along with no-win-no-fee ‘accident claims’ and oldie insurance.

Everybody tells me that I don’t look my age at all, so that’s all good for the morale.  But I am now the proud owner of a Freedom Pass; so that’s possibly the only advantage of being sixty in London.

Ageism is, unfortunately, already rearing its ugly head; usually perpetuated by ignorant, inarticulate little shits, who generally aspire to being models, or pop/reality/soap  – delete-where-appplicable – stars and ‘famous’. Pathetic. And they evidently seem to expect all this to fall into their laps with no diligence, preparation or hard graft. Callow youth, forever presumptuous and lacking in respect for their still-struggling elders, who never had the supposed advantages of reality TV and kiss n’ tell. Sheer talent tended to do it back-in-the-day – providing you had good connections, or some fortuitous serendipity. I never, ever used my youthful, physical charms to advance my career, and this didn’t stop me landing two major record deals in my twenties. But it also didn’t help me much when I was down and out. I stuck to my guns. Never sold my body.

Anyway,  I can now go swimming for free at Willesden Recreation Centre; somewhat motivated, perhaps, by the lifeguards,  several of whom are well fit!

The fact that I actually have a Freedom Pass is a bit of miracle, as I was under the impression that our wonderful, caring, Con-dem government had raised the proverbial glass ceiling to the clear blue skies of sixty-two. I was genuinely in the thick of of it; well, ignorant of the fact that us lucky, wrinkly old Londoners qualify for an FP, at a mere sixty-years old. Good old, bumbling Boris eh? He’s London’s Conservative-Party Mayor, in case you didn’t know (you may remember him basking in the golden televisual glow of our rather triumphant Olympics in 2012). The Freedom Pass information is, however,  buried beneath Byzantine clouds in cyberspace – on Transport For London’s appallingly-difficult-to-navigate (how ironic) website. It’s not like they actually publicise the fact that us doddery old Londoners can swan around the metrop with our cooly-customised Zimmer frames, for free, once we’ve passed the dreaded big Six-O milestone. I’ll bet that quite a few of my fellow 60-year olds weren’t even aware that they were eligible?  They are now.

Transport For London: why? What was wrong with London Transport? Didn’t that ludicrous rebranding cost gazillions of pounds? How very New Labour. Why New Labour? Anyway… I digress.

I only stumbled (arthritically, natch) across this info because I was researching online to see when I might actually be eligible for a FP, and whether there would be restrictions or limitations attached. I’m pleased to report that there are none – the Freedom Pass really lives up to its name (woo-hoo daddio – I used to play in beat groups don’t ya know!). You can travel anywhere within the M25, Greater London’s orbital motorway, as far as I can gather, well, certainly to the outer reaches of Zone Six.  Does that rule out Watford?  I sincerely hope so. Obviously, I’m not going to post a scan of my FP on here – identity theft alert!  Someone might make a fake and try to pretend to be me at Willesden Sports Centre, thereby blagging a free swim – and also possibly sneaking into the gloriously mis-titled Health Suite – a very basic sauna and steam room accessed from a swampy-floored changing area with broken showers and a wobbley cold tap –  hoping that ‘security” weren’t going to do one of their random checks for the obligatory wrist bands; as even us oldies have to pay for the privilege of  visiting this alleged, higher-level amenity.

I didn’t actually get my FP until late January, because of some truly Kafka-esque, bureaucratic bungling in some back-office of TFL’s headquarters, which appears to be manned by just two people.  I don’t wish to sound ungrateful, or like a grumpy old man (tee hee); but actually getting to speak to one of the said people on the phone about why it hadn’t arrived within the supposed time-frame of two weeks, mooted to be before Christmas last year, proved to be something of a London Marathon.

I eventually discovered, after numerous phone calls, that they’d sent it to the wrong address, and it was several weeks before I  finally hobbled over the metaphorical finishing line, triumphantly waving my ‘Free Oyster  Over-60s Photo Pass’ (hows THAT for a great bit of branding eh?) before undertaking a celebratory ‘journey’ (the most over-used word of the 21st century?) involving deliciously random tube/train/tram and Docklands Light Railway-hopping, wrapped in one of those silver-foil sheets that they dole-out after marathons… the latter being entirely in my imagination. Why don’t they make them available as onesies (2013’s answer to the shell suit)? That would be fun and practical – especially if they donated them to the millions of people who are sleeping rough in the world, after the race was over, when the participants no longer had any need for them?

I can’t help wondering when I’ll be able to ride back-and-forth all day on that new cable car over the Thames for free as well, taking pictures. Perhaps when the Emirates sponsorship expires, dare I say, when I’m 64?  This makes me pause to wonder how  Paul McCartney  actually celebrated his 64th? Did he perhaps hire the Bootleg Beatles to play at the party? Was Lady Heather still in the house? Did she get legless with Vera, Chuck and Dave?

Jon Moss (who went out with Paul’s daughter Mary for a while, in the 80s, I believe) wasn’t brunching in The Coffee Cup, and when I texted him, he didn’t reply until much later.  It transpired that this is because he’s skiing in The French Alps with his three beautiful kids – by his ex-wife – with his relatively new girlfriend. At my 60th birthday party in Zensai, in Camden, he’d told me that someone had made an amazingly generous offer on his house, but that, of course, he hated the idea of leaving his much-cherished home of many years, but really had no choice.  Divorce settlement etc etc. He’d have to slum it somewhere on the other side of Finchley Road, he moaned, with mock-horror, making a hopeless gesture with his hands. Then he reiterated how much he loved the mulifarious DanMingo  tracks – there are twenty-one – which we recorded in 2003, mostly in Christchurch Studios in Bristol, which made me think: grrr – why was there no success with these classy, soulful tunes? My  original name for DanMingo had been Emoticon – clever, but perhaps a little dry.  When we’d made a brief appearance, playing live in a rehearsal studio, on a documentary about Culture Club in 2003, when we were still going under that name.  Jon undertook an in-depth interview about Culture Cliub and Boy George, which was refreshingly frank and honest, and he was very complimentary about me in it, towards the end, when he was asked about ‘what he was doing now’.

‘Leap Of Faith – The Prequel’ was the aptly ironic name for this excellent double-album-that-never-was. Now, I’ve just made a resolution to get so-called ‘crowd-funding’ to enable me to put out a limited-edition, exclusive,  classy double-CD, digipac package (with a twelve-page booklet of lyrics and loads of pics) of  just 1,000 copies of this most excellent opus (I’m inordinately proud of it); followed by a limited-edition double vinyl edition of, say, 500.

Vinyl has been having a huge resurge in popularity these days.  Why is this? Well, I reckon it’s because when you play a vinyl record, it has a tangible audio ‘vibe’ – a woomph and a certain chunky resonance –  which transcends the crisply bland, digital encoding of CDs and downloads. Also, you don’t need a magnifying glass to read the sleeve notes and the lyrics.

A rather wonderfully over-the-top artwork created by a fan

A rather wonderfully over-the-top artwork created by a fan

Jon Moss and SS @ Christchurch Studios in Bristol in 2003

Jon Moss and SS @ Christchurch Studios in Bristol in 2003

Dale Davies (who guested on bass on 3 tracks), Jon and Jerry

Dale Davies (who guested on bass on 3 tracks), Jon and Jerry

Stevesinging

The main bass player with DanMingo was the very gifted and charmingly avuncular Winston Blissett, who’s played with everyone from Massive Attack (whose studio was upstairs in Christchurch Studios in Bristol) to Phil Collins, and Dizzy Rascal and Jimmy Cliff, to name just a few. The guitarist was Jerry Richards of Hawkwind (who’s now playing with the Hawklords, as did I, briefly. The touring, however, was too much for me, due to my ongoing health issues:  I was diagnosed  with pancreatitis and emphysema in 2006).  I played keyboards and sang all the songs with DanMingo, all of which I wrote, or co-wrote. My good mate Dale Davis, who was the great Amy Winehouse’s musical director right up until her tragic demise, also played bass on three of the tracks – when Winston couldn’t record with us as he was doing sessions in New York, or wherever – as did the excellent American session player Otto Williams.

Winston Blissett in the studio.

Winston Blissett in the studio.

DMGO-LOF-The-Prequel-v1-A4

DanMingo also recorded 3 songs in Cabin Studios in Coventry.

DanMingo also recorded 3 songs in Cabin Studios in Coventry.

When I visit Jon Moss’s house, I love to play the Yamaha baby-grand piano in his capacious, beautifully proportioned, L-shaped living room, which still has its original, herring-bone-patterned parquet floor and a thirty-foot wall of sliding glass doors onto the garden.  There’s furniture by Philippe Starck, B & B Italia (bed and breakfast in Italy?) and Ligne Roset, along with retro-modern, signature pieces and interesting (and valuable) artworks. Unless, that is,  he’s already, reluctantly, sold the house .

I’d first met Jon in the mid-80s, when he regularly used to come to my club night Jungle, which was one of a portfolio of club nights run by The Pure Organisation, of which I was a co-founder and director. Good bit of branding eh? Yep, I dreamt it up. We also organised parties for record companies and magazines such as The Face and Time Out and created the Love Sexy after-parties for Prince in ’88 and Madonna’s birthday party at the Groucho Club… was that also in ’88? The Alzheimer’s must be kicking-in. Senior moments, as I like to jest. My good friend Thom Topham – who has a parallel career to mine as a writer and singer-songwriter – was also  involved, when he wasn’t too busy being a secret agent.

The original acrylic Jungle Flyer, designed by me. If it didn't have a hole punched out, then it was free entry before midnight.

The original acrylic Jungle Flyer, designed by me. If it didn’t have a hole punched out, then it was free entry before midnight.

Me in the Pure Organisation's offices in Craven St, Charing Cross, in around 1985.  Note ye olde Amstrad!

Me in the Pure Organisation’s offices in Craven St, Charing Cross, in around 1985. Note ye olde Amstrad!

DJ Vicki Edwards and Tony Felix at Jungle.

DJ Vicki Edwards and Tony Felix at Jungle.

Paul Rutherford and friend at Jungle

Paul Rutherford and friend at Jungle

Photo 10

Photo 11

SS, Julienne Dolphin-Wilding and Serge Sommaire at Jungle - 1985?

SS, Julienne Dolphin-Wilding and Serge Sommaire at Jungle – 1985?

Jungle was held every Monday (yes, Monday!) in what was then called Busby’s, on Charing Cross Road.  Busby’s later became Mean Fiddler 2,  before recently being demolished as part of the redevelopment of Tottenham Court Road Station, as a result of the construction of Crossrail (you see, I’m warming to my Freedom Pass theme). The  Jungle DJs were Kiss FM’s Colin Faver and the  notorious Fat Tony (it was the latter’s first, regular DJing gig, I believe, and he did  the occasional brilliantly tacky ‘turn’, lip-synching as Dusty Springfield).  There were over one thousand people there every week. One thousand people on a MONDAY?

*Victor Meldrew voice* I simply don’t believe it!

The 80s really was the seminal clubbing decade. Other nights that The Pure Organisation ran included Bad (in The Sound Shaft behind Heaven, underneath Charing Cross Station) every Friday, and Babylon, on Thursdays at Heaven, along with Discotek (who could forget The Rowing Dance – pictures anyone?) and Casablanca – an oasis of cool on a Saturday night. At one point we had eight club nights running every week. Bad was gay-mixed, and the DJs were my good friend the beautiful and talented Vicki Edwards, and the late, lamented Breeze, playing soulful, vocal house music and New York garage –  and it was packed every Friday.  The crowd was generally about seventy-percent black – mostly gay males. Regulars included The Pet Shop Boys and Jean-Paul Gaultier, along with many ‘down-low’ black singers and rappers who were mostly in the closet – at least publicly. Then again, is it possible to be publicly in the closet without somehow pointing the proverbial finger at yourself… so to speak?

Bad Logo

DJ Breeze

DJ Breeze

Props to Frank Ocean after that courageous public outing of himself in 2012. Why courageous? Because it’s way more difficult to do that if you’re a brother. He’s pretty much the first, apart from Ne-Yo (ish), who recently simpered that he might be ‘vaguely bisexual’ (perhaps on Tuesdays?). He is an accomplished songwriter though. But then, so am I. And I’ve been ‘out’ for fucking years.

Babylon also featured DJ Vicki Edwards wowing the crowd on the main floor, and, for the second room in The Star Bar, I had come up with a first:  a rare-groove, acid-jazz and breakbeat dance floor with DJs Gilles Peterson (who now has a great show on BBC Radio 6) and Marco – from the excellent Young Disciples – which attracted bevies of brilliant break dancers. The crowd at Babylon – my deliberately ironic name for the night – was largely black and mostly straight-ish.

Now, before you illiberal white folks allow your innate prejudice to tempt you to think –  ‘But wasn’t there lots of trouble at Bad and Babylon?’ – allow me to politely-but-firmly inform you that… no: there wasn’t.

Bad lasted for nearly five wonderful years until, one night in 1992, there was minor skirmish involving two young, black, gay men, which resulted in one of them getting a bloody ear.  It was evidently a jealousy issue regarding a third party – they were ‘an item’ –  and they were subsequently swiftly ejected. I thought that would be the end of that, but the next day I had the manager of Heaven on the phone saying that he was very concerned ‘now that the gangs were evidently moving in’ and that we’d have to close: the final night was to be the next Friday.  End of.  I was devastated and upset. On a commercial level, Bad had been extremely successful for Heaven – and the atmosphere had always been brilliant: relaxed, upbeat and friendly. The following Friday was to be a totally unexpected wake.

Towards the end of the closing night (that was back when clubs had to close at 3am in central London) I got on the mic and wholeheartedly thanked the heaving, emotional crowd for their loyalty, support and greatness *cheers* over the years *whoops and fists-in-the-air*… then paused, somewhat theatrically, and calmly stated that: I wouldn’t, however… dream of suggesting…’  A hush fell over the crowd…’I wouldn’t dream… of suggesting that Heaven was…racist.’  Then… slowly repeated my statement. The place erupted with cheers. Suddenly,  several security guards burst in and the head of security ran up to the DJ box and hissed at me: ‘What the hell are doing Steve – trying to start a riot?’.  As the cheers and whooping continued all around us,  I quietly replied that I’d clearly stated that ‘I wouldn’t dream of suggesting that Heaven was racist’ – shrugging my shoulders, tilting my head and looking suitably innocent.  The security team eventually left and we partied on without incident.

The racism didn’t stop there – we weren’t able to find a new home in the West End for Bad. This was a club night that was guaranteed to be rammed every week, as well as having a proven track record of being 99.99% trouble-free. Suddenly, sadly, badly; Bad was no more.

A similar incident had closed the hugely successful Babylon, after just one year, in 1988 – except that this time ‘the fight’ wasn’t even in the club, it had taken place outside another club night in what was Bad’s home, The Sound Shaft, around the back of Heaven, which was promoted by different people on Thursdays. It wasn’t the first time that that the tired, inherently racist and ignorant mantra: ‘the gangs are moving in’, had been evoked.

There was never any trouble at Jungle either – it lasted for well over four years in London as well, before decamping (be quiet at the back!) to Friday nights at The Rex Club in Strasbourg-St-Denis in Paris for a year or so.

We had great great fun flying to Paris and back every week and eating in a different, fabulous restaurant every week before enjoying the uplifting street-meets-celeb vibes of our very successful club night Jungle Paris,  in the Art-Deco splendour of Au Rex, which was in the basement of The Rex Cinema. The security we put in place at the entrance was achingly cool too – two handsome, hunky guys – one black, one white – dressed in biker’s leathers, sitting astride Harley Davidsons, on each side of the entrance.  Chic!

Me and friends at Jungle Paris

Me and friends at Jungle Paris

Photo 5

When I was starting to develop the Jungle Paris concept, I’d come up with the idea of hiring an American-in-Paris to handle PR for it.  The guy I soon found was a painter (how enlightened; I doubt that you’d find someone employed as a PR on that basis in London or New York these days) and the PR for a group of restaurants similar to Richard Caring’s current Caprice Holdings in London (The Ivy, J Sheekey, Le Caprice etc), which included La Coupole – with its priceless pillars which had been painted by all the great impressionists when they were struggling, starving artists – ah, the absinthe-soaked romance – in return for food and drink;  and the stunning, art-nouveau gem Chez Julien, just around the corner from the Rex, on Rue St-Denis, where we were to hold a very glamorous, pre-opening, exclusive, complimentary, three-course dinner, with Champagne and fine wine, for forty people – including Rupert Everett and Bertice Dalle, prior to the opening of Jungle Paris.

Photo 12

After this extravagant pre-opening dinner,  everyone walked to Jungle Paris’s opening party around the corner; which was a huge success.  There was full-page coverage in all the best  French newspapers and magazines with lots of pictures of everyone – DJs Vicki Edwards and Colin Faver, myself and my business partner Kevin Millins, my friend Thom Topham, Bertice Dalle, Rupert Everett and the creme of the  Parisien demi-monde – all looking very glamorous and branche´ (French slang for ‘cool’).

I’d negotiated a great deal with the club, which included us getting one hundred free drinks tickets every week – five tickets got you a bottle of house champagne. There was no V.I.P room – we didn’t approve of such elitism – and the club scene in Paris was quite different to London, in as much as older, rich men and women (albeit a little ‘Euro-trash’) partied with young people who were very ‘street’. It was, however, very similar to our club nights in London in as much that it was pleasingly multiracial.

My heady reminiscences were eventually interrupted by a phone call. It was my mother Audrey:  she was calling to thank me for finishing editing and proof-reading ‘Mitty’s Letter’, which is the first volume (volume!) of  ‘Mitty’, her excellent historical trilogy. Forget Mary Wesley, who’s first novel was published when she was, I believe, 71. My mum Audrey is 85 this year!  She wrote the original on an Amstrad (shudder!) word processor in the mid-80s, and  recently, somehow managed to find some geek-in-a-computer-shop who could transpose the ancient floppy discs into a digital format.  No wonder she’s known by the family as Cyber-Gran. I told her that I reckon ‘Mitty’ is far more likely to be a success than my ongoing, growing collection of short stories, and my brother-in-law Kae’s epic book BOYGIRL (which I also edited and proof-read); simply because of  ‘Mitty’s’ innate commerciality.  It could become the next Downton Abbey, I assured her – she was chuffed to bits – then I added, with mock incredulity:  ‘I can’t believe that its very talented, late-blooming author has been the proud owner of a Freedom Pass for nearly 24 years!’.

Me and my mum at a celebratory lunch in London, with the whole family, after she was awarded the MBE in 2010.

Me and my mum at a celebratory lunch in London, with the whole family, after she was awarded the MBE in 2010.

Freedom Pass 2 (Computer painting). 7.5.13

Words, paintings and Photographs © Steve Swindells. All Rights Reserved.

 

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