picosgemeos: (Default)

I leave the tower block 8 a.m. on the dot. He's standing by the bus stop, a young version of Paul Simon, sunglasses on, waiting for the No. 488 to Hackney Wick station.

I walk past him and turn left, past the garden centre, Growing Concerns. On the other side of the road, cyclists and joggers wait to cross the bridge over the Hertford Union canal. A shuttered pub looms over them, the shadows of a man and woman etched on its door. In a few months this pub will be knocked down to make way for expensive flats.

I walk alongside Victoria Park's eastern edge – past families dropping off their children at the Montessori school, past builders about to spend a long day painting and plastering, past the middle-aged going for a run or standing by their window, a cup of tea in hand, watching the world wake up. I then turn right onto Cadogan Close and a few steps later I’m up on the metallic bridge over the A12 motorway, breathing in the fumes.

I watch the cars for a moment speeding north and south. A giant poster on the other side of the bridge tantalises drivers with the image of a cool bottle of beer propped on a Caribbean beach.

There’s a mattress and duvet underneath the eastern pedestrian ramp, newspapers and books scattered around it, like a Tracey Emin art piece. Two of the legible novels are David Baldacci’s The Escape and Angela Carter's A Night at the Circus. It was once the home of a black man, always asleep whenever I walked past. He’s moved on, or been moved on.

One day, I notice young Paul Simon following me from the bus stop. I feel self-aware as I take my usual route by foot, as if all my movements are being carefully watched. Maybe he realised taking the 488 bus to the station didn't buy him any more time. Maybe London’s summer is finally nice enough for him to take a little walk instead of relying on public transportation. Maybe he's just looking for a short cut.

I catch him looking in my direction on Hackney Wick’s platform. I can’t see his eyes behind the sunshades.

In the evening, I stop on the other side of the bridge and take a photo of the A12 motorway and the ramp. I then post it on Instagram. When I click on the image’s A12 location, to see what other people have posted, I find a photo of the homeless man on his mattress. The person who took the image comments: ‘How can this man sleep with all the noise?’

Another Monday morning and young Paul Simon is by the bus stop as usual. He looks at his watch with some annoyance. When he looks up and sees me, he spins around and takes off. When I reach the bridge, he’s already on the other side, walking down the ramp with his hands in his pocket.

First published in The Fractured Nuance: Place, issue #4, May 2017

picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
#camden #london #chemtrails

A link from Twitter leads to Jack Kerouac’s thoughts on writing and living in the present. Soon, I'm lost in thought watching the crows outside our living room, hopping from one Victoria Park tree to the next.

On the Overground to work, I listen to The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians and watch the faces of fellow passengers. Sun pours into the carriage, spring a week early.

A letter sent off at lunch time, a walk through Camden in the glorious sunshine. Chemtrails cover the sky, homeless people congregate outside high street bank branches. Very reluctantly, I return to my desk.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
The beautiful season.#victoriapark #fall #autumn #london

He runs in the park on weekends. The sunlight pouring through the red and golden leaves brings a silent thanks to the universe for letting him be alive and healthy.

He takes a bath in the dark, just a small white candle for company. He calls upon all his dead ancestors, and even a few pets, to watch over and protect his family.

Then he lies on his bed and watches the clouds speed east. He sends a silent prayer to the ones he loves, wishing for them complete happiness on Earth and that all their dreams may come true.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Young and old.#victoriapark #fall #autumn #london

He wakes up to the smell of coffee and the sound of his boyfriend in the kitchen frying pancakes and bacon. After they are done with breakfast, he looks outside and thinks: “it’s a writing day.”

He types handwritten notes for a few hours then showers. As a reward, he gives himself a walk through Victoria Park.

He stops to eat a bagel on a bench facing the pond. Each tree warmed by autumnal light begs to be photographed. A passing old man watches a young couple kissing in a rowboat.

One day, he realises, he will only have memories.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Thank you Universe for another day on Planet Earth. 😍#victoriapark #mist #run #morningrun #london #sunrise #eastlondon #autumn #fall

He drags himself to the park despite the dark and the cold, despite the growing itch in his throat. He’s going to run, goddammit, even if it means extra doses of flu medicine later on.

A thin white mist hangs over the grass; sunlight slowly breaks through the leaves. His fingers are frozen around his flat’s keys, but the music is upbeat and his feet won’t stop.

As the sun rises, cyclists and joggers stop to take pictures. He finishes his run with a stretch, red leaves all around him. The mist is now like a cloud dissipating under light.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
It's that time of the year again - the time where I try to post every single day in October and (almost) single-handedly save Livejournal.

I realise I'm overdue a proper life update. A lot happened this summer - some of which is too private even for Livejournal - but hopefully in the coming days I'll be able to share some of the news with you.

I'm currently sitting in my living room in East London, watching rain lash down on Victoria Park. I'm leaving the house in a few hours for a birthday lunch in Camden. All my shoes have holes.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by Alba Pena Castro

A bank holiday weekend in London graced by sunshine.

A shirtless young man does pull-ups in Victoria Park. Later, he’ll post a flawless selfie on Instagram. A runner stops to catch her breath and check if her stats uploaded onto RunKeeper. Then comes a group in their twenties, sharing a joke. They’ll have something to tweet about in the evening.

All the benches facing the park’s pond are occupied. Happy young families on the paddleboats upload their photos onto Facebook before they’ve even stepped back onshore.

He wonders what’s the best way to synthesise it all for his online journal.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

My brother sent me a video through Facebook of an elderly man in a care home – part of the Music and Memory iPod Project.

The man was in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and didn’t recognise anyone anymore. A caretaker placed headphones on him and connected him to an iPod. She then explained to him she was going to play a song. When she pressed play, his eyes lit up, nearly bulged out of their sockets: he was hearing a song he used to love as a young man. He began to sing along to it. When they asked him questions later, he could talk a little about his past, about that song and its musicians. The song had dislodged something that was stored deep inside his brain, brought him back to life for a few minutes.

I wrote back to my brother suggesting we start a list of all our mom’s favourite albums. He agreed and reminded me that she already had many vinyls and CDs at home.

Over the weekend, I took advantage of the unusual sunshine over London to walk around Victoria Park. I suddenly had an idea: from now on, every time I called my mother I’d ask her about something from her past, I’d get her to expand on it, and I’d then write it down for her – for us.

In the evening, I gave her a call and, after our initial chit chat about what was going on in our lives, I asked her what was the first album or song she had ever bought.

‘I can’t remember,’ she said. ‘Why do you want to know?’

‘You don’t remember going to Lojas Americanas perhaps? (Americanas was a popular department store in the brasilian town she grew up in, Londrina, where I knew she and her siblings liked to go for ice creams and shopping when they were young.) Or someone giving you a record?’

‘No,’ she said, a little exasperated. ‘We used to listen to a lot of soap operas on the radio though.’


‘We’d gather around the table at night and listen to soaps. There was no TV at the time.’

‘Did your younger brothers and sisters stay quiet while you listened?’

‘They must have,’ she said. ‘I can’t remember.’

Later, I told my boyfriend of this exchange and how disappointed I was -- that realisation that my mother wasn’t like me. What might seem interesting – essential even – for me to remember held no interest to her. Which songs from my past held importance to me?

I remember my first vinyls containing children stories – Peter Pan, Charlie Brown, Sleeping Beauty – and my first proper music album being a two-disc compilation of early 80s hard rock (Joan Jett, Survivor, Judas Priest, etc) called Rock na Cabeça (Rock in the Head). I was 8 and my brother was 6 when we received it as a gift from our dad. As we both owned the compilation together, we decided that disc no.1 would be mine and the second his. He ruined his record soon afterwards when he tried playing it with our dog’s paws as the turntable’s needle.

But would Rock na Cabeça jog my memory if I were ever in Henry's place? The Best of The Smiths probably would, and Suede's first album. Maybe Madonna's Immaculate Collection as well.

‘Why don’t you ask her about her pet pig?’ my boyfriend suggested. ‘She might have more to say about that. She once told me all about him.’

picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Going home.#london #camden #spring #sunset

It’s now sunny in London, but still cold.

My boyfriend wakes up at 5am and can’t go back to sleep. ‘It’s actually 6am,’ I say. ‘The clocks will move forward in a few weeks.’

It’s no longer dark when I leave for work or dark when I return. I cut through Victoria Park and feel slightly jealous of the people jogging around it. Cyclists take a second to look me in the eyes and judge whether I’ll jump in front of them, or not. And then they are gone.

On the train platform, I’m happy to soak up the rays.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by Rebecca Smith

It’s Saturday and I want nothing more than to relax at home and get over the cold that’s been following me all week. Pancakes, music, blogs, books, blankets, the couch – winter at bay.

In the afternoon, my boyfriend convinces me to join him for a walk outside, a bit of fresh air. We cut through Victoria Park, remembering the deers once kept on its grounds. Their old home is now a rose garden.

We drop by the Pavillion Café for a takeaway coffee. It’s £2.50 for a flat white in a babyccino cup. “What is this shit?” I complain outside.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Image by Jiri Siftar

I was in Victoria Park this afternoon to say goodbye to a friend who is returning to Brasil for good on the 17th.

We made plans to meet by the entrance gates, near the pond. While I was standing around waiting for her to arrive, two cyclists collided against each other and crashed onto the pavement. One of them was knocked unconscious.
It all happened so fast. Suddenly people were standing around them - couples with children, a woman with her dog, a gardner in a neon jacket. One of the cyclists got on the phone to ambulance services. Tears were pouring down his face, which he kept trying to wipe away as he spoke on the phone. The other guy, face down on the pavement, started twitching. A woman, holding her toddler daughter in one hand and a scooter in the other, leaned close for a good look. The woman with the dog got closer too; the dog, strangely, wanted to move away.

Staff from the café by the pond ran towards the group. A man berated the cyclist that was on the phone. A couple marching into the park spotted the commotion and decided on a detour - to walk past and also take a good look. I felt disgusted. (Was I any better, though, standing slightly apart and watching everything unfold?)

More people from the café joined the circle. I hoped one of them was a doctor. Someone went to the gates to unlock it so the ambulance could come through. Joggers went by, ignoring everything. The woman with the dog took off her jacket so they could put it underneath the cyclist's head. The man in the neon jacket rubbed the man's back, the others gently tried to turn him on his side. His legs kept kicking; I hoped he wouldn't pass away there and then.

Sirens in the distance, a rapid response ambulance car with four paramedics was about to arrive. The man was sitting up now, cradled by some of the bystanders, half of his face covered in blood. As soon as paramedics had their hands on the man, the crowd dispersed.

'Did he fall off his bike?' I heard someone ask me. It was a little old lady, in a pink crocheted hat and black parka coat, with a Jack Russell Terrier by her side.

'No, he collided against another cyclist,' I told her, going into all the details of what had just happened.

'They go so fast,' she said. 'You are meant to go 5 miles per hour but they always go much faster.'

The Jack Russell Terrier had now decided I was a friend and was jumping on my leg. I bent down to pet him and she told me he was called Milo. We watched as a proper ambulance arrived and the four paramedics cut all the clothes off the cyclist and lifted him completely naked onto a stretcher. They then covered him with a grey blanket and slid him inside the ambulance.

'Do you bring Milo to Victoria Park twice a day?' I asked.

'I've got age against me now,' she laughed. 'I take him mostly to a little square near my tower block but if the day is not wet, like today, then I bring him here for a few hours.' Milo had moved away and was now sniffing the café's garbage bins.

She told me she was born in Bethnal Green and lived all her life there and the furthest she had moved was to Bow. She had been 5 years old when the War happened; she and her sisters were evacuated to Suffolk, to live with a woman nicknamed "Nanny". Her parents stayed behind in London but were luckily not involved in the Bethnal Green tube disaster. However, she had a close call in Suffolk. The village they were staying was near the American base and one Sunday, while they were in chapel, they saw smoke rising from the area where Nanny lived. Someone came running in to tell them that one of the American planes had crashed into Nanny's home - the only thing left was a smouldering fireplace. It turned out that during a reconnaissance flight, the plane's engine malfunctioned. The pilot ejected while aiming for the plane to head into the sea but for some reason it turned itself around and crashed into the village.

We spoke of other things - of Victoria Park's old pagoda, of a rumoured murder on one of the park's bridges, of the lads who used to go around with aggressive dogs and who had suddenly disappeared. We said our goodbyes when my friend arrived; we wished each other a merry Christmas. I found out her name was Rita and that she was going to spend Christmas with her son up in Lincolnshire (and of course Milo was going too) but she was very jealous I was flying the next day to Brasil and it was a shame she couldn't be snuck inside a trunk and go with me.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Spent an evening at the Royal Festival Hall with the left's rock stars: Srecko Horvat, Slavoj Žižek, Yanis Varoufakis and a surprise guest appearance by Julian Assange. Žižek was in great form and Varoufakis is very charismatic and intelligent.

I went for a jog with my boyfriend two days after the Paris atrocities.

We did our usual circuit around Victoria Park, stopping at times to catch our breath. I imagined semi-automatics drawn and people running for cover, nowhere to hide. Parents caught by life-saving decisions, children in hand.

The following day, we attended a talk at the Royal Festival Hall where the philosopher Slavoj Žižek and former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, discussed Europe’s future. Julian Assange, white haired like a Christian God, made a surprise televised appearance.

Through the packed halls and staircases, I planned my exit routes.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Walking home South London, via Victoria Park. Autumn is here.

A gorgeous autumnal Sunday, my boyfriend and I go for a run. “Do you mind if I listen to music?” He asks. Of course not I reply, dangling my earphones.

We run past a narrow boat on the Hertford Union canal lock and people taking pictures of it.  We join the joggers pounding down Victoria Park’s paths. CHVRCHES and Erasure sing in my ears; how lovely to realise their new albums are also good for runners.

My right knee starts to ache just over 4km, by a water fountain. “Let’s walk the rest of the way.” He smiles in agreement.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
Walk home after work through Mile End Park, Regent's Canal.

Autumn in London has been beautiful so far: sunny skies and crisp days.

I walk through Bow and Peckham on my way to work, listening to recently downloaded albums: the new ones from Erasure, Ghost Culture, Disclosure, CHVRCHES and New Order – plus some old ones too (Pet Shop Boys, 1999; Yazoo, early 80s.)

I have no energy or disposition to exercise once I’m back home; I’m envious of those heading towards Victoria Park. I’ve tried a few times to get off the tube earlier and walk up Mile End Park, following Regent’s Canal. I’m invisible to incoming cyclists and joggers.


Sep. 9th, 2015 07:05 am
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)

Image by AmyFTF

Someone spat on me as I walked home from work yesterday.

It happened on Roman Road, E3. I remember it as if I were Jackie Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas. I was walking through Bow, on my way to Victoria Park, and I decided, as usual, to cut across Roman Road. When I reached it, there was hardly anybody on the road, just a blonde girl riding a bike in my direction and, to my right, an Eastern European guy standing outside a fast food joint, observing me. I let the girl ride past before crossing to the shutdown betting shop on the other side.

I was leaden down with groceries. The posters tacked on the betting shop caught my attention: bands releasing albums, playing upcoming gigs. Suddenly I felt something like a piece of rolled up paper hit my left shoulder. I turned back but there was nothing on the sidewalk, and nobody staring down from the flats above the betting shop. I looked across the street and the Eastern European guy was now looking at me with curiosity, as if he’d spotted someone in the Grassy Knoll.

I looked at my shoulder and saw a wet trail. I kept walking and turned the corner, where I stopped to have a proper look. The gob had hit my shoulder and trailed down my jacket and backpack. I put the backpack on the sidewalk and took my jacket off. I always carry a pack of tissues with me; I fished one out and wiped the mess as best as possible. Then I started to walk again, joining the smiling couples heading for the park for an evening jog. I thought of the times I’d returned home late from drinking out with friends, and how I knew which flat exactly the attack had come from, and wouldn’t it be nice if a hefty rock went through their window in the early hours as they slept.

When I got home, I put the jacket and the backpack in the bathtub. As the water ran over them, I added washing powder. I thought of the person who did this because I happen to have started a job with a mental health charity in South London. Did they happen to spit out of the window and hit me by accident? Or were they lying in wait? How abnormal does your life have to be to make you want to spit on random strangers? Was it an adult or a teenager? Would they share it with a friend, or keep it a secret? In any case, they'd only hit my jacket; they'd missed my head.

As the jacket and backpack soaked, the water turned into a rusty brown, as if blood was being washed off it. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d cleaned them. “It’s London coming out of them,” my boyfriend said looking at the water.
picosgemeos: (Montanhas)
"There's no need to be an asshole, you're not in Brooklyn anymore"
No Destruction, Foxygen

I've been thinking lately about the cost of living in London and, in particular, how long I can make it here. It seems to be a feeling shared by many in my age group (late 30s, early 40s) who don't own property and live in large metropolitan cities in western countries. Do we rent until the end, or do we try to get a property in a smaller town, with all the advantages and disadvantages that it brings?

In many ways, I've been lucky since my return to London in December 2014. Six days after my arrival I'd found temporary work at a recruitment agency and didn't have to worry anymore about my finances. Then, a few weeks later, my boyfriend and I found a small but decent flat by Victoria Park to rent (not far from where we used to live a few years ago, before I took my sabbatical in Brasil.) It's a neighbourhood I've lived in for ten years, and which I adore, so I was grateful to get a new flat there without much hassle.  But the rent price, the rent prince... We now pay nearly 30% more for a one bedroom flat in a tower block than we did ten years ago for a two-bedroom in the same area.

Changes are noticeable everywhere in London. Dropping out of London's rat race for a year in Brasil was equivalent to me to coming off a drug. I now feel more critical to what I see around me, especially in this part of London.

When we first moved to the Eastend, Victoria Park was abandoned and unused. This community was predominantly made up of working class families.  A young American artist made the news when she was stabbed one early morning while jogging because nobody saw anything. Soon, though, the park began to change. It won a fund for its redevelopment. Its café was rented out to a new owner and a popular organic café was born (one that I admittedly love.) Popular music festivals made their home in the park during the summer. The young artists and hipsters from Hackney cycled down the canal to enjoy it and, before long, the London Olympic was announced next door.

The area had regenerated; my partner and I started feeling at home.

Nowadays, you have to take a moment to check the paths in the park before you start running - there are joggers and cyclists everywhere. And they are all so busy with their iPods and conversations, you could be easily run over.  And they are not the students and artists from yesteryear - they are money people in expensive sports gear who bought up everything because, I assume, they don't want to live in Canary Wharf, which is just down the road, or in Chelsea, because they can't afford it yet or because the Eastend is just too cheap to ignore and, in their eyes, a good long term investment.

#victoriapark #london

I don't blame these rich people for wanting to live here - if I could, I'd buy a place too! But the problem is that rent has now gone up, to reflect the price these wealthy people are willing to pay.

My boyfriend recommended I check out Benjamen Walker's Theory of Everything podcast. It's a funny, thought-provoking listen. Benjamen's latest podcasts will resonate in particular with New Yorkers: the series, "New York After Rent", looks at the rapid commodification of NYC since 2008 - the year of the financial crash but also the year Rent, the musical, came off stage. His main theory is that Airbnb is all to blame and he peppers his podcasts with some funny stand up such as the one by performer Penny Arcade ("We all came to New York to escape the popular people in high school... and now they are here, and everywhere!") Penny also makes fun of all the cupcakes being sold in NYC. She calls it OCD, Obsessive Cupcake Disorder. The Big Cupcake has supplanted the Big Apple, she says, and New York is no longer the place outsiders go to reinvent themselves - it's the place where the ordinary go to replicate the places they come from. The latest podcast also has a melancolic essay by writer Tim Kreider, who talks about being exiled to one of NYC's less popular neighbourhoods and still having to share a flat with a roommate as a 40-something year old.

Meanwhile, down the street from us in London, an old estate agency has shut down. A few days ago I noticed some signs going up on its store front - coffee signs. Now I've noticed a wooden counter being added, leather sofas and a sink. Another cafe will soon join the many that recently popped up around Victoria Park. We'll never run out of cupcakes.


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