Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Harlequins and Dominatrixes in Fitzrovia and Soho

Working away from 'home', my route from Kings Cross took in Fitzrovia and Soho.

I've passed through Fitzrovia countless times over the years, but never by exactly the same route. I always know roughly where I'm going but never precisely, the Post Office Tower acting as a sort of surrogate compass when a reference point is needed.

In Fitzrovia I encountered dipictions of two figures. The first a Harlequin, painted on the exterior of a bizarre toy shop that appeared to belong to an earlier age. Pollock's Toy Museum does indeed date back to the 1960s but it felt like it had been there much longer. The strange Victorian toys in the window display made it more akin to a cabinet of curiosities than a Hamleys or Toys R Us. While in the immediate vicinity of the shop I briefly felt transported back to a different time, a slightly sinister foggy one, with a cane wielding top hatted Lon Chaney figure lurking on each corner instead of a Japanese sushi takeaway establishment. The moment passed as I left the shop's field of gravity and was thrust back into contemporary Fitzrovia. A safer, more sober and less interesting place than in my brief imaginings or it's much written about postwar heydey.

The Harlequin, a character dressed in a mulicoloured diamond costume and usually wearing a black mask, originates from the Italian comedia del'arrte. The character is associated with both foolishness (possibly contrived in order to confuse and cause chaos) and trickery. The Harlequin is also associated with dextrous physical acrobatic skills. A variation on the character arrived in England in the 1700s and a bit later was paired up with the contrasting clown figure, developed by Joseph Gramaldi (who is buried a couple of miles away in the park named after him near Angel, where you can dance on his grave and make it play a tune).  The Harlequin, along with the Jester, was used extensively in the symbolism of Marillion's record covers and song lyrics in the 80s. This association brought about a slightly unwelcome earworm. I needed something a bit more upbeat than Fish's pained wailings at this time of the morning.

The second figure I discovered in Fitzrovia was a grotesque Teresa May/Marilyn Monroe hybrid. An apparition as horrific as it was no doubt intended. The shop it was painted on had closed, the window newspapered up. A situation no doubt exacerbated by the malevolent presence of Marilyn-Teresa.

Parts of Fitzrovia are being disrupted by Cross Rail. A cynic might say a sneaky excuse for getting rid of the remaining interesting pubs, cafes and restaurants to replace them with the latest corporate number nine models.  I noticed, with alarm, that the Sam Smith's pub 'The Champion' was being refurbished. I wondered why, it was perfectly alright last time I went in. The wooden, William morris-ey darkness of Sam Smith's pubs are always welcome places of escape. I hope they don't spoil it. There is another up the road, The Blue Posts and I'm sure I've once been in a third in Fitzrovia but i've never been able to find it since.

The Harlequin, is often characterised as a trickster or devil, a bringer of chaos, the fun sort of chaos.  The Marylin-Teresa figure seemed to represent the exact opposite. An authoritarian order of brightly lit dull piped music temperate horror where you do what you are told to do or suffer the consequences. I'm siding with the Harlequin and will shout him a pint in the 'Posts.

Across the divide of Oxford Street into Soho, I found myself near the axis of Berwick Street/Great Marlborough Street. More depictions of May. In one she is in a band with the Queen and Angela Merkel called 'The Dominatrixes', all three dressed as such. A horrific and disturbing vision which I was still trying to wash from my mind some time later.

On Berwick Street market, things were no less disturbing. Since I'd last visited, the shops under Kemp House, a large tower block that rises above the market, have been hidden behind boarding pending development. On one of the boards were images of LP covers from the Reckless Records shop. Reckless was never located here and still operates down the road. It was a place I used to go to a lot 'back in the day' when Reckless Records own label released a string of LPs by The Bevis Frond, still a musical favourite and a figure intertwined with London as it exists in my head.

Under Kemp House had been Sister Ray, which moved up the road a while back, and Music and Video Exchange which has gone from not far away to where the sign above currently stands never to return. The words, next to the Reckless covers, seemed to convey a spirit of defeat and resignation to the development to come.

I left the market hoping it would still be here next time I visited. Soon after I passed The John Snow', another Sam Smith's Pub, one I've never been in. Named after a Dr who discovered cholera is caused by drinking water infected by sewage, rather than 'dirty air' as was thought at the time. Not the Channel 4 news presenter (Jon).

Soon after I'd crossed Regent Street and New Bond Street and was in the heart of Mayfair. An area I have rarely visited and one I associate with dull exclusivity. From this vantage, Fitzrovia and Soho still seemed like places that still belonged to the Harlequin.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Eyes don't lie at the Rec

A barmy morning, I took a slightly convoluted route to work. Only an extra 10 minutes added to the 'direct' route but enough time for a diversion from the norm.

This resulted in crossing the Stanley Recreation Ground. In the morning sun it looked enticing from a distance. Upon reaching its edges, I made my way across a desire path towards the main 'official' path. The rec felt quite pleasant in a rough grass slightly littery sort of way. No manicured straight line gardens or park keepers here.

I came across what looked like the base of a missing statue. I imagined a stone figure becoming animated and extracting itself from the base before wandering off across the grass in the manner of a Ray Harryhausen creation. The remaining base resembled an altar, with a few offerings of empty beer cans and fag butts placed on or around it. Not far away a group of people occupied a bench which had a far more impressive array of similar detritus strewn about it. People for whom 8 in the morning wasn't too early for a tin of brew. Disciples of the missing statue, perhaps.

Leaving the Rec I passed the 'official' notice board. Pretty much unused apart from by the City College who had stuck a few random notices behind the glass in 2016. Some unofficial additions included a black and white sticker bearing a mysterious symbol of a four pointed star or possibly a compass. Possibly navigational, but if so too cryptic to be desiphered.  

I didn't notice at first the quote from Al Pacino in Scarface graffittied across one side: 'The eyes Chica, they never lie'. Out of context, on  rec in Peterborough, this sounded more like a warning than advice on picking up women for Cuban gangsters. Similarly cryptic to the star/compass. Pondering this and the similarly baffling statue-altar I left for work. 

Saturday, 7 April 2018

The Underpass from Stanground

Friday. Last day before a week off. I decided a longer lunchtime walk was in order. I headed to Stanground. I'd seen it from the train with its bungalows resting on the waters edge. And a church spire which I decided I would try and reach.

At the end of Fletton Avenue I followed the road under a flyover. One of a confluence of several roads passing through the behemoth of concrete led me into Stanground Village. I turned left onto what I think was the Highstreet, opposite a light-industrial yard containing a tattoo parlour. The area featured a couple of MOT garages and used car places. I spotted a pub, The Golden Lion. Boarded up, permanently closed, a drink out of the question. Opposite a chip shop which was almost tempting.

Although I was only just outside of Peterborough the village could have been miles away, in the middle of nowhere. It retained some of the atmosphere of other places in the city but felt cut off, temporally and spactially. For a few minutes I forgot where I was. I could have been in one of the more crumbly and run down villages of Cornwall as easily as the bit of England which is half East Midlands, half East Anglia.

After I passed the Baptist Church, house in a brown 1930s type building that could have passed as an old workshop, the houses began to look more salubrious. Smarter terraces and old cottages.

Soon I was at the church who's spire I had seen from the train. I followed the path past it. I took an old man walking ahead of me as a barometer of safety. I wasn't sure where it would lead.

I crossed a brook, running along some bungalows similar to the ones seen from the train. A path ran alongside, I noted for a possible future wander. The houses looked pleasant. Although one was sporting a St George's flag on a large pole in the garden. Possibly too soon for the world cup..

The path continued through an underpass, splendidly tiled. As I passed through, a cyclist was appeared from the blinding light at the other end. Instead of emerging into some sort of heavenly nirvana, when I came out the other side I recognised the path back across the dual carriageway that I had walked over on a previous excursion. My route back to work.

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Development Opportunies

The first day that felt like Spring. Sunny, warmer but not too warm. Perfect day for a walk. I decided to head up Eastfield Road and keep going to see where it led.

Past the area containing the dilapidated looking pub 'The Sportsman', various shops and takeaways and the entrance to the graveyard, the houses start getting a bit bigger, first 1930s bay windowed semis, then bigger victoriana. One large house hosted a use car business and others old people's homes, a common use of larger houses in Peterborough. A petrol station with a Costcutter attached on on side and unusually a Chinese restaurant, including mock pagodas on the other. 

By this time I think I had entered the area known as ''Newark". The sign I'd seen yesterday had referred to this place, rather than the Newark near Nottingham. Now it made sense.

I passed a large house, currently in disuse but apparently acquired as a 'development opportunity'. I'd thought care homes were even bigger money-spinner a than residential developments. It seems even these establishments are not immune. The building had a slightly spooky air, somehow exacerbated by the abandoned cardboard box in the foreground. Maybe it had contained the belongings of a former resident, dropped in the struggle to leave by the eviction deadline. An absurd scene came into my mind. A struggle between the carers and elderly residents with bailiffs and representatives of the developers. Short-lived and one sided. 

I carried on. After passing the extensive low rise Regional College, I was drawn off Eastfield Road down a path alongside the college's playing fields. I could see a green space the other side and thought I could stop for lunch. It turned out to be a grass verge alongside a fairly recent housing development. The path eventually came to a sudden and unexpected dead end. I was diverted through the housing estate, and eventually onto a main road heading west (possibly).

The road was residential to begin with, possibly 1930s vintage. Further up a few shops and an MOT garage, including a large Fish and Chip shop. Noted for future reference. The road bent round into the direction of the City Centre (I hoped..I'd already extended my lunchtime and must have been a good 20 minutes from work).

I passed a pub, The Elm Tree. It seemed unsure as to whether it was open. A large function room had an advert for the Circus on the door. I couldn't tell if it was contemporary. 

Further along a flat roofed brown 30s(?) building, of the simple type used for community halls and scout headquarters. A building with potential as an excellent community facility. But currrently housing the Christadelphians, one of the many small, obsure and a bit sinister Christian sects that seem to find homes in these sorts of places. I hurried past, not wanting to risk being accosted by someone trying to talk to me about god, and headed back to work.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Blank Signpost

After a bit of a hiatus of late on the lunchtime walking front, I got back out today for a brief and slightly wet wander.

I headed down the path where I previously encountered Trainspotter Man, and had turned back. No sign of him today and I continued beyond the back of the indoor bowls club, a brown utilitarian building reminiscent of something from Prisoner Cell Block H. Being separated by a fence very similar to the sort you get near railway tracks enhanced the feeling.

Just past here I past the only person I'd seen since leaving Star Road. A young woman glued to her smartphone, causing her to wander like someone half pissed. Small child in tow. She didn't look up when I passed.

I reached the underpass I had been trying to find before.

I went through, not sure what I would encounter on the other side.

I passed a young couple looking a bit shifty as I went under. They might have thought the same about me I suppose.

Beyond was a path/cycle way following the route of the Parkway. Just beyond that houses. A signpost showed the way to Fletton and Stanground in one direction, Newark in another, and nothing in the direction I was going in to head back in the direction of work. A blank. I thought of London being erased by 'No' in the film The Nine Lives of Tomas Katz. I carried on through a street of brown flats and houses towards the non-event of the afternoon ahead at work.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Eddington: Cambridge's new Utopia?

I thought it was about time I took a wander round Eddington, a new development on the North Western edge of Cambridge. The University is the mastermind behind it, driven by the need to attract/retain 'key workers' who (like most other people) are finding it increasingly difficult to afford to live in the City in anything resembling decent accommodation.

I arrived via Madingley Road near the Park and Ride which leads into into Eddington Avenue. I followed the cycle path that hugs the road around the edge of the development. This part, some of which was still under construction, was all but deserted. The odd hi-vis workman the only sign of life. The buildings consisted mostly of large apartment blocks, albiet of a better looking quality than a lot of developments. Some obviously already occupied. I felt like I was walking through an updated version of Vera Chytilova's ''Panel Story".

A sign pointed the way to the facilities. I was intrigued by there being a Market Square and imagined there might be a space hosting a decent food market where I could get some lunch, offering an alternative to the ''Superstore" on the sign. Eddington is billed as a sustainable community, discouraging of cars, encouraging of cycling and with BREAM building technologies. So a more sustainable food outlet seemed within the realms of reason.

I left the road, which encircles the existing settlement like a moat. Heading inwards, I passed some buildings which had a large University symbol embossed on the doors. I felt like I was in the future and the past at the same time, the surroundings reminiscent of the sort of University Campuses built in the 60s and 70s, or some of the Cambridge Colleges from that era. Except this was brand new. I saw first signs of non-workman life here, a young man wandering back from somewhere with a cup of coffee.

I continued deeper into the development. Still encountering little sign of life. It was only the newness of the buildings that reminded me I was at the beginning of something rather than the end, it was that desolate.

Oddly, the manhole covers were rusty and appeared aged, add odds with everything else. Maybe they'd got them secondhand in a bid to be sustainable. Maybe they were fashionably 'distressed'. But they did feature British Standard Approved kite mark, which was reassuring.

Soon I found myself in the Market Square. No actual market to be seen. Subsequent internet research suggests there are no plans for any in the immediate future.

The current facilities consist of a largeish Sainsbury's and an Argos. As I entered the Market Square there was suddendly life. People were sitting on the benches outside Sainsbury's eating Pizza and picnicking on stuff they had bought from the shop. This seemed like it might be the only option for sustenance so I bought a sandwich and a drink and joined them.

Sitting on the bench, I noticed everybody seemed very young and middle class. Not surprising in Cambridge I suppose, but I hadn't realised the settlement was mainly populated by post-doc researchers. I'd assumed the University's key workers would be clerical and maintenance staff. The more 'town' end of staff seemed very unrepresented during my brief stay on the bench. No sign of the University's infamous painter Disco Kenny, but I don't think he would thrive in the publess environment in any case.

I saw a Sainsbury's worker come out and smoke a fag. I was half expecting a tannoy announcement reminding people that smoking was not permitted. Thankfully there wasn't one.

Just across the road from Sainsbury's is the Storeys Field Centre, a community centre.

An unusual building, I had trouble finding the entrance. I thought about going in for a coffee, as an excuse to have a look round, but it was a bit busy. Unsurprising, I suppose, it being the only option for a beverage of any sort apart from the Sainsbury's. The centre hosts various clubs and events from Woodcraft Folk and art clubs to gigs. The Wedding Present are due to play later in the year. So are The Wave Pictures, who I saw a couple of years ago after reading that Billy Childish had collaborated with them. Rather than rawkous garage rock, the gig was a quiet and particularly ernest affair, the audience more than the band. Not the rock n roll night out I was expecting. I should have done my research. But hopefully the centre will become another outlet for live music, even if it is of the more sedate variety still a welcome development in a time where the prevailing trend is to close places hosting live music. Not the same as a sweaty back room in a crumbling pub with black walls, but in (post) modern Britain we have to take what we can get.

I didn't manage to locate the 'Swing Sanctuary', which sounded fun but I'm not much of a lindyhopper.

Next to the Field Centre, the University Primary School features a world map on the gates, presumable representative of the international population of Eddington.

Opposite this some seating..

I headed away from this cultural hub, following Eddington Avenue, the only road is had seen. The settlement is aiming to discourage cars and encourage cycling and walking. Separate cycle paths are incorporated into the infrastructute. I didn't see many cars and the distance from Cambridge would make them largely redundant for anyone willing and able to cycle the 2 miles to Cambridge. It seems likely the population of Eddington will remain enterally young and fit enough to make this work. Post-docs move on and the flats (at least the affordable ones) are rented according to salary, which is reviewed regularly. This points to a very transient population. People with children will probably move on on before their kids get to secondary school age, and it seems unlikely many will stay living here into old age.

There are some market rate homes being built for sale. '21st century period homes', no less. I wondered if in 2 or 3 hundred years time a Dan Cruickshank type character would be presenting a BBC4 documentary, praising Eddington's period homes' and trying to defend them from demolition and redevelopment into ghastly 24th century mixed use development.

Maybe these homes would be lived in by a less transient element of the population. Or maybe they will be sold to Chinese investors and Russian oligarchs. Hopefully the University will have done something to prevent this. Ironically, this is the only recent development I can think of that doesn't feature student accomodation, so there is hope.

I headed out of Eddington, passing areas still in development.

I left via 'The Ridgeway', a cycle route leading to Huntington Road and beyond to Girton. I passed this fledgling tree, trussed up and emerging from a builders dumping ground. This seemed both an optimistic and depressing site. Which was sort of how if felt about Eddington. It was Utopian in many ways. Better quality and sustainability credentials than other local developments. A new arts venue. But it had many distopian elements too. All the dwellings appeared to be flats allowing continuing leasehold landlordism,  the few shops are the usual chain stores (so far) and the  area is aimed exclusively at a certain section of the population and essentially a University enclave for transients. A sort of Bar Hill for posher people. But with a more transient and international population being the zeitgeist, at least among the young middle class 'millenial' generation, this could well be the future. Where the rest of us will live I dread to think..

Saturday, 17 March 2018

No respite along the river..

16th March, 2018

I was suffering the tail end of a migraine. Half sharp and somewhat cheerless.  I thought a walk along the river would provide a calm and welcome respite, with added fresh air.

Opposite the Fletton Quays development, there were several swans on the shallow concrete steps that decend the riverbank. A park stretched alongside as far as Frank Perkins Parkway, which crossed the Ouse over a large concrete bridge. Things looked promising from this vantage.

A bit further along, a dislapidated barge, possibly occupied, faced the Fletton Quays. Not far away, a tent was pitched, the first of three I spotted on the park. A sort of tale of two cities separated by the river. Would the occupants of the tent or boat benefit from the new flats being built? It seemed unlikely. Despite the slightly spring like weather and near sunshine, the park felt bleak.

Further along, a disused looking public lavatory sat by itself, opposite a disused warehouse the other side of the river. The combination of the landscape, which usually I would find interesting if grim, and the migraine, brought a feeling of increasing gloom and disengagement.

I carried on up the path which sloped upwards onto Frank Perkins Parkway. I had assumed it would allow a left turn which would take me in the right direction back to work. But it only turned right. I decided to carry on, cross the river and double back.

The foot/cycle path across the river was separated from the dual carriageway by a waist high metal fence. Not that reassuring when enormous lorrys roared past. The path turned out to be a long one, with no choice but to either keep going or turn back, apart from an unofficial desire path down a steep slope through some trees, leading to a building site. I wasn't tempted by it.

The path eventually came out near an allotment, where a left turn alongside a cemetery offered a way back in the direction of town. Leaving behind the grim path, the heavy gloom it had brought, in combination with the left overs of the migraine, dissipated a bit.

A suburb of brown 1930s houses further along was overlooked by Peterborough United football ground, but despite this the atmosphere was not oppressive. The combination of 1930s housing and the football ground, not unlike the area around Wembley and no doubt countless other football grounds, conjured up images of Saturday afternoons in an indeterminate time. Football matches, grandstand on telly, tea round your nanna's with the football results on.  An atmosphere dregded up from somewhere in my memory..and I don't even like football.

Emerging onto the main drag of London Road was a return to a more oppressive atmosphere, coinciding with the sky turning greyer as the sun went in. The stretch back to the river consisted of a closed pub, a large hand car wash operation and a series of unpromising looking takeaways.

Back in the town centre minutes later I saw two young people dressed in the Goth style. An unusual site in Peterborough. It's as if they had been conjured up to mark the end of an unusually oppressive walk, ambassadors of a gloomy Friday lunchtime.

Friday, 16 March 2018

Orbit the Gas Holder

15th March, 2018

The sky an ominous grey, I headed out in the direction of Star Road. My aim was to get to an underpass I had spotted on my way back from Fengate the other day.

I followed Wellington Street, towards Star Road.  In between the police-station-like building of the YMCA and the fairly unremarkable Grace Tabernacle Church, was a gate. The access point to the gas holder that rises up magnificently above these buildings. The gate was locked of course.  The gas holder dominates the immediate vicinity, part of it nearly always visible from the surrounding streets. A giant liminal imposition, which cannot be ignored.

Peterborough Has Holder Psychogeography Edgelands

On Star Road I took a right turn at Mr Tyre. This business occupied the old church(?) building featuring the stones with cryptic phrases carved into them (A.C. Ashpool for Stangroud etc).  The street I turned into was non-descript, mostly residential, save a school/mosque building with an impressive green dome, and opposite it the Peterborough indoor bowls club. The street was a dead end to cars, the two side roads at the end being cul-de-sacs. I had emerged from one of these on my walk last week, but couldn't recall which. The first one I tried was the wrong one. The other looked more promising when I saw someone heading down it onto what looked like a footpath. I was about to follow when I noticed another man, talking to himself. He was carrying several plastic bags and looked like a dilapidated train spotter. He shouted something intelligible at the other man, who ignored him, before heading down the footpath himself. Not wanting to engage in any sort of situation with the possibly deranged man I headed back on myself and back onto Star Road. Here I found what looked like a connecting path heading in the direction of the underpass. I started following it. I was quickly repelled back when I saw Trainspotter Man heading my way. I don't know why I was so keen to avoid an encounter with him. Chances are he would have ignored me and walked on. But I didn't want to take the risk. The path was isolated from view and felt a bit dangerous. But it was lunchtime, broad daylight and Trainspotter Man didn't really look threatening. I was disturbed that I had fleetingly felt mild 'Daily Mail panic' about continuing down the footpath, when there was really very little to fear.

I headed back across Star Road to where the footpath carried on along the other side of the gas holder, between it and Boongate, a main road heading into town. For some reason this path seemed less ominous, I suppose because it was more open. I passed a group of men in hi-vis picking up rubbish, community payback or council contractors, I couldn't tell. They were near an inexplicably fenced off triangle of scruffy grass adjacent to a house but evidently not part of it's garden. Behind the house another small fenced off area contained graffiti and a discarded mattress.

Then the path opened out onto a slightly hillocky expanse of green in front of the gas holder. I tried not to consider what might be buried under the small mounds as I crossed one to get a better view.

There was a strange white stain down one side of the gas holder, as if a gigantic pigeon had deposited it's wears. There was nobody evident in the compound. Nobody about at all apart from the cars heading along Boongate.

Gas Holder Peterborough Psychogeography

Likewise in the Wellington Street car park, where the liminal atmosphere continued. Partly due to the presence of the gas ring, partly due to faded notices for car boot sales, like faded circus adverisiments, and partly due to the non-presence of people, just a sea of static cars.

I wrenched myself out of the gas holder's liminal field of gravity and went back to work.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

'Iluminati is Real'

11th March, 2018

Passing under a railway  bridge along the river, near  'Railway World' I see the usual sort of graffiti. Standing out amongst it, it was hard to miss the silver eye in the triangle pronouncing 'Illuminati is Real'.

Only yesterday (Sunday) I was rummaging through the books in a charity shop and had come across a copy of 'The Illuminatus Papers' by Robert Anton Wilson. I vaguely remembered reading bits of this as well as 'The Illuminatus Trilogy' when I was a student. Along with 'The Book of The Subgenius', and 'Principia Discordia' these books were, I always thought, part of an elaborate Discordian hoax.

I wondered if the grafitti artist was aware of Wilson and the Discordians, and that The Illumiatus Trilogy was made into a stage play in Liverpool in the 70s starring Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy. Probably not.

Rather, the grafitti seemed symbolic of an increasing paranoia. In an age of fake news, increasing awareness of bias and spin in mainstream media and access to infinite information on the internet it's probably not surprising. The internet is full of conspiracy nutters creating even more fake news themselves, although I guess they would accuse me of conspiring against them for saying that. Television also, as well as the evangelical preachers disturbingly found towards the end of a fruitless scroll through the channels for anything worth watching, contains channels like 'Blaze' where people in all apparent seriousness discuss ancient astronaut theory.

At the weekend I came across a bizarre TV programme from the 70s broadcast by Anglia TV called 'Science Report' (aka 'Alternative 3'). It was a spoof documentary about a scientific brain drain and people going missing to Mars or the Moon while climate change threatens life on Earth. Originally to be broadcast on April 1st it was postponed due to industrial action (time to wheel out the stock photo of The Sandy Heath Transmitter and some music). In the comments under the YouTube video, one person is convinced it is all real, and comes up with some not very convincing reasoning as to why. An apparently more rational person (possibly someone who saw the programme at the time) offers a more far more reasonable explanation, i.e. it is a hoax. This is quickly dismissed with more irrational speculative arguments, presented in a manner more akin to the blindly religious than the enquiring mind.

Meanwhile this weekend, the mainstream media were still speculating and weaving a dubious narrative around the poisoning of exiled Russian spies.

It's perhaps little wonder that confusion reigns and people are looking in ever more outlandish places for 'the answers' amongst spin, 'fake news', political discussion and conspiracy theories. Whether this is an unintended consequence of the original Discordian disinformation 'hoax', as Wilson has alluded. to to who knows?

Maybe these are the end times. Praise "Bob"! All hail Discordia!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

The Brown Tower and The Sensory Garden

9th March, 2018

I decided to head towards the large brown building I can see from my office window. Somewhat oddly situated among Victorian terraces, it towers above them ominously. It looked like the sort of building that would be occupied by a public utility, the water or electricity board.  It's always in view from my desk, out of the corner of my eye. But on a previous attempt to take a closer look I couldn't find it, despite walking in what seemed the correct direction. Momentarily I had wondered if it had been a figment of my imagination. I felt a bit like the protagonist in the short film 'The Black Tower'. At that moment the building became in my mind 'The Brown Tower'. Today I did locate the building but it was impossible to get a good view of it from the street. The surrounding buildings keeping it partially hidden. I tried to go into a sort of driveway heading towards it, but was put put off by an ominous clicking sound which I took to be a CCTV system. I felt repelled from the building and headed away from it, defeated in my efforts to discover what it was. The building remained elusive and I thought slightly malevolent.

I found myself in Central Park, and headed to the centre where there is a cluster of small buildings. In the cafe, regular Saturday morning philosophy talks take place. A notice in the window displayed the current programme. 'Consciousness: does it really exist?', 'What is reality?' and 'The Interconnectedness of everything' were some of the topics of discussion.

I was tempted to go into the Cafe but was slightly put off by the cages on the windows. A bit further along I came across a gate welcoming me to the Sensory Garden. I went through and found myself in a small enclave behind some park buildings.

Central Park, Peterborough, Psychogeography

There were a couple of odd sculptures, one in the centre of the garden made of cubes the focal point. I sat on a bench facing it. The garden, despite (or maybe due to) being slightly dilapidated, was welcoming. I enjoyed a solitary few minutes, letting the sounds wash over me:  traffic, tennis, birds and a radio in a nearby hut. I felt refreshed and had forgotten about The Brown Tower' by the time I left and headed back to work.

Friday, 9 March 2018


8th March, 2018

Separated from the main shopping area by a main road, on a small stretch heading to the river, I stumbled upon the Rivergate Arcade. Curiousity, as well as the possibility of finding lunch, drew me inside.

Central to the arcade is Rico's, a cafe/restaurant. The sort of down to earth place that used to be prevalent across the UK but is increasingly rare. Full English. Tea. Jam Roly Poly and Spotted Dick. I took lunch there, an easy decision.

Arcades Project Water Benjamin, Flaneur, Peterborough

The arcade exists in parallel to Queensgate, an alternative to the frenetic, serious, choice anxious shopping trip of the large mall. Few 'big brands', unless you count The British Heart Foundation, but instead curious smaller shops. I didn't feel I was obliged to consume and felt drawn to just potter about.

Walter Benjamin in his Arcades Project saw the Paris Arcades, particularly as they declined, became dilapidated and occupied by 'fringe' businesses, as a natural environment for the Flaneur. Alternative places away from mainstream commerce and 'spectacle'. Whilst in Rivergate Arcade there were no dandies walking with diamond encrusted tortoises on leads, just a bloke with a cord jacket and a Fulton umbrella, I felt there was a certain connection.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Destination Cambridge North

7th March, 2018

No lunchtime walk today. On the way home I needed to be somewhere in North Cambridge, so got off the train one stop early at the new Cambridge North station. From there a walk along the busway would compensatory.

This was the first time I'd alighted at Cambridge North and crossed the bridge between platforms. This and the rest of the station, built in a  bizarre patterned white material, brought to mind places recalled from 70s Sci-fi TV. Blake's 7, Space 1999, Logan's Run, Dr Who and the like. From the outside even moreso.

Liminal, Cambridge, Psychogeography, Guided Busway

The station sits in a sort of liminal zone. The immediate vicinity is about to be developed by Brookgate, the same people responsible for the surroundings of the main Cambridge Station. A hotel, coffee shops, eateries are all promised. The advertising boards featuring the usual plethora of marketing slogans. As well as a representation of a  bearded but eyeless hipster character. Maybe personifying the blind acceptance and even enthusiasm for more  gentrification and questionable development. At least that's what the marketers are hoping, presumably.

Brookgate, Guided Busway, Cambridge, Psychogeography

The lack of any development yet means you can't get anything to drink or eat at Cambridge North. The dirth of facilities only added to the feeling of being somewhere transitory and slightly other (as well as being a bit inconvenient).

I considered catching a bus but decided to walk along the Busway for a bit, which itself has something of an edgeland quality about it, a continuation or extension of the atmosphere around Cambridge North. The first stretch passes by a fairly sterile looking business park. Part of this was the building below. Bright orangy-brown in the low sun, it's grey central tower seemed to oscillate. I didn't dare look for long for fear of developing a migraine.

The other side of the Busway on this stretch is so far less developed, and featured some bizarre looking (in this light at least) plant life in front of older looking ramshackle light industrial buildings. The habitat of discarded energy drink cans and chattering magpies. For the time being anyway.

Psychogepgraphy, Cambridge, Liminal, Guided Busway

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Ghost Town...

6 March, 2018

I took a stroll round the perimeter of a block of buildings near the market. A cluster of several nightclubs, a ten pin bowling place and a world food buffet, now nearly all closed and up for sale. In the not too distant past this would presumably have been ,in the modern parlance, Peterborough's Nightlife Quarter. The only place apparently still open, Angels, which is a 'gentleman's club', has somehow managed to outlive it's neighbours Halo, New York, New York and the prophetically named 'Ghost'.

As I walked past the 'ghost' of Ghost I could hear echoing voices coming from inside. Then a fire alarm going off. Presumably down to workmen of some sort. But initially I imagined this was a spectre of some sort of disaster, a fire maybe. Or maybe a warning for potential developers (the buildings seem to have been empty for some time). Thoughts prompted, no doubt, from what I had read earlier about reports of the 'haunting' of the Queensgate Shopping Centre, where the laughter of spectral children can apparently be heard after hours.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Beyond the Bridge

5 March, 2018

Heading East, I reached the concrete bridge going under Frank Perkins Parkway, one of a series of dual carriageways encircling the City. The road is named after a local early 20th Century industrialist who was big in diesel engines. The engravings on the bridge presumably some sort of reference to Perkins, are strangely reminiscent of Eastern Bloc brutalism. I was short on time, but the urge to pass 'through' made me abandon worry of such trivialities.

Beyond the bridge the environment changed immediately. Used car lots, MOT test centres, an industrial estate or two. Further up a dog track. A grease cafe, currently closed due to family illness. Hopefully a temporary phenomenon. A blacksmiths operating out of a bungalow. A mobile home park.  I felt I'd been teleported to a place far further out of town than I actually was by passing under the concrete bridge, both physically and metaphorically.

Eventually I managed to loop back via Boongate, negotiating a busy slip road where a footpath had abruptly and inconveniently ended, then through a residential area which turned out to lead me to Star Road. I knew where I was then and made it back, only 10 minutes late.

Friday, 2 March 2018

(Don't) Rush.

Friday. 2nd March 2018.

Despite still dubious walking conditions on footpaths, I went for a more satisfying walk. It was cold but in a refreshing way. For both safety and normal reasons the last thing I wanted to do was hurry. But as ever at lunch time I was time limited, as the green telecoms box seemed insistent on reminding me. I tried to ignore it but knew the clock was ticking.

Thursday, 1 March 2018


Thurs 1 March 2018

No walk yesterday. The office Wellbeing Group usually organise 'Walk it off Wednesday' for those wanting a bit of light exercise (about a mile). I had considered going along as a way of meeting people in my new workplace, while at the same time using the walk for my usual purposes. It was cancelled due to 'suspect weather conditions'. The 'Beast from the East' had brought snow, ice and iffy walking prospects to the pavements. I decided I was going to head out as usual, but a heavy snow shower at lunchtime made me change my mind at the last minute.

With conditions on the pavements still a bit dodgy and in apparently sub-zero temperatures , I managed only a short wander today. I took semi-shelter in the market. Some traders were already packing up. Some, like a stall selling air guns, hadn't opened in the first place. Some were stoically hanging on, including Jehovahs Witnesses manning a proper market stall waiting for someone to talk to. I admired their optimism, the near frozen market was almost deserted.

I left and headed to the Cathedral and  through the Norman Arch to double back to work. Just before getting back to the market I noticed wording on an old looking stone incorporated into the  wall of a building.   At first I didn't recognise it for what it was.  The cryptic message 'London 79 by Huntington Thorney 7' first brought to mind something they might say on the shipping forecast, or an archaic sporting result. On realising it was a milestone I remembered it was two weeks to the day I'd started commuting. It felt fitting to have stumbled across the stone to mark the occasion.

Milestone, Peterborough, Psychogeography
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Tuesday, 27 February 2018

The Apex of lunchtime walking

27th Feb 2018

I decided to walk to 'The Apex'. A brown tower block, a clearly visible landmark  from the train window every morning. It looked like a regular block of flats but for the brown chimney-like edifice on the front bearing it's name. In large plastic letters in a typeface from an earlier age. From the train I'd imagined it as the headquarters of some sort of bizarre state organisation. The Avengers, The Men from UNCLE, that sort of thing.

Psychogeography, Peterbrough, Towerblock

The Apex was at the limits of the distance I could travel in a lunchtime (without resorting to running or walking too fast). On route I passed a disused/up for sale police station in a brown block building (60s?). The words 'Police' and 'Peterbrough' visible above the door in spectral form. A sign of austere times perhaps, a retreat from the beat.

By contrast, just the other side of the river, the 'Fletton Quays ' development. Featuring 'high spec' flats as well as shops and a new Council Office. The computer generated mock up on the advert almost identical to those in almost identical developments elsewhere. Showing virtual reality well dressed professional types drinking coffee outside a poorly disguised Costa. And a man dressed in a gold suit and top hat, a human statue, looking like an alien ringmaster presiding over a circus of sterility. At least the word 'luxury' wasn't evident in the marketing, which is something I suppose.

I reached the Apex, not far away the other side of the main road. It seemed opposite to the new development, not just in proximity. I learned later that the building was formerly an office occupied by Emap, the publish/publication subscription service company. I remembered the name from working in a Government Department which purchased some obscure (and undoubtedly dull) publications from them. In around 2003, according to Skyscraper News, the building was sold for residential development. So no Avengers or Men from UNCLE. Unless in a 'private' capacity. Could a 'John Steed' be dwelling within? Or at least a radio ham, broadcasting and intercepting numbers stations from the top floor? I doubt I will ever know.

I made it back to work with 1 minute to spare.

Monday, 26 February 2018


Mon 26th Feb, 2018

Needed to buy lunch having left mine at home during my somnambulant departure this morning. A combination of biting cold and hunger made me dither in deciding what to have. Feeling harassed, I ended up walking (at some pace) down various streets adjacent to the main shopping area, hoping for random inspiration. Conscious of limited time and the need to procure an emergency umbrella to keep at the office. The threat of snow had reminded me of this necessity.

A lamp post on one of these side streets has a yellow sticker depicting the Guy Fawkes mask. The one associated with V for Vendetta and later adopted by the people collectively known as 'Anonymous'.

This made me think about my own anonymity while walking around. Am I anonymous? I hoped so. I assume that nobody takes any notice of me on my lunchtime perambulations. I imagine I just look like an office worker in an overcoat. On quiet side streets, when there are people, I walk with purpose to give the impression I know where i'm going. But maybe I've already been clocked as some sort of stranger. A Nosey Parker. Someone from the council. A spy. Or just a nutter.

I walked through the Queensgate Shopping Centre, having thought about going to John Lewis for a Fulton umbrella. The shopping mall was stifling, as I should have known it would be. Having briefly joined the blank shuffling shoppers, becoming one of them momentarily, I abandoned my search for John Lewis and walked in any direction to escape the overheated piped music hell. Not thinking clearly, having to give up the mini-quest for the Fulton.

Back outside, a hastily procured lunch at a chain noodle joint before securing a cheaper but far inferior Dunlop umbrella from Sports Direct. Then heading back to work slightly late and under-refreshed. But hopefully still at least anonymous.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

On Broadway......

23rd Febuary, 2018

Friday, last day of my first full week. Short walk to the City Market. Curry and rice for lunch from the food hall (only £3). I'd planned to explore the market a bit more but was put off by Phil Collins' 'In the air tonight' being piped out of somewhere. Forced away by this unwelcome aural intrusion, I found myself on Broad Street.

Psychogeography, Peterbrough, Theatre, Window, Seaside

I was drawn to the Broadway Theatre. From the outside, more like a seaside theatre or bingo hall than something found on New York Broadway or in London's West End. Sort of  slightly dilapidated art deco. The white and blue tiny mosaic tiles have a seaside quality. They hark back to an age when public lavatories were not clad with plastic, were more prevalent and were free (but probably more dangerous).

The window above in particular brought back memories of holidays in places like Great Yarmouth in the 70s and 80s. The weird seaside architecture of swimming pools, changing rooms, amusement arcades and (again) public loos.

I noticed amongst the events scheduled for the impressively diverse forthcoming programme: 'Doomwatch'. Disspointingly not an adaptation of the 70s BBC science fiction series. The advert resembled a still from the sort of poor quality conspiracy theory TV often found at the fag end of a flick through the freeview channels. The headline 'challenging conventional wisdom, seeking answers' suitably vague.

I went back to work. Friday. Short lunch, early escape.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Look carefully for Emergency Access (Road?)

Just before an abandoned pub, Temple City, a left turn. Scanning for the name of the street, out of the corner of my eye I notice the the sign at almost ground level. It comes into focus..'Emergency Access'. An odd name for a street. Or an odd position and design for something signposting emergency access,  well disguised from approaching ambulances, police cars or fire engines.

Whether it allows access to an emergency or escape from one, or has some other meaning, it probably remains unnoticed by most, even those on foot. Time was against me, prohibiting an instinctive left turn. I carried on past the pub, one of many closed or abandoned  in recent years in the UK. Another type of emergency.

Psychogeography Peterborough

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Mr Sharpe for Crowland, A.C. Ashpool for Stanground

Day 3, 21st Feb 2018

Star Road. A seemingly disused building, a church or community hall of some sort. Two in a series of carved blocks incorporated into the brickwork. Together they bear the riddle 'Mr Sharp for Crowland, A. C. Ashpool for Stanground'.

Crowland and Stanground are places, the former somewhere between Peterborough and Spalding, the latter a residential area in the City. But what of Sharpe and Cashpool and what were they for?

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Graffiti and the Ghost Face in the window

Day 2: 20th Feb.

A wander through a residential area near the Salem Chapel. Rows of terraces, slightly dilapidated.

Under a road bridge, then enticed to a footpath/cycleway heading vaguely in the direction back to work.

Graffiti: No war, end hate, Sure. A rhyming couplet of sorts. Who Patch, Zimmer, Axe, Orez and Dink are I will never know.

Psychogeography, Peterborough, Graffiti, Hauntology

Distracted by this, I didn't notice the ghost-skull face in the window at the time. Staring out in my direction like a demonic watcher.

Salem Chapel, AD 1978

Having been forced to move offices to Peterborough I am now a commuter. I've become a bit more time poor (and no more money rich). This means less time for longer walks (and blog writing) in the rambling semi-disorganised way I normally like to do things. While I'm skeptical when people (usually senior managers and politicians) tell us how we should positively embrace change and think it's always ever so marvellous, there are strategies that can be employed to cope with the unwelcome and unavoidable sort.  One of mine will be using my truncated lunchtime to go for short walks in random directions to see what there is. This will also be a way of briefly escaping the office where the windows can't be opened for fear that fresh air and 'drafts' will interfere with the 'thermal comfort' system, as well as getting a bit of exercise.

Peterborough is somewhere I've been a few times but I've never had the chance to explore it that much so it's largely an unknown quantity and in that respect an intriguing prospect. It has connections with John Clare, and his walk from an asylum in Epping to Northborough, not far from Peterborough or his birthplace of Helpston. Iain Sinclair's book Edge of The Orison retraces these steps. So does the more recent Andrew Cotting film 'By Ourselves', including a brief scene in Peterborough on a bridge crossing the Ouse. There is the John Clare Theatre in the town centre. Other than that, I haven't come across any other psychogeographical references to the city.

Within the restricted range of a half hour (ish) lunchtime walk maybe I can do my bit to put Peterborough on the psychogeographical map. My intention is to take one photo of something I find. Then write something short about or inspired by it's subject, during the the confines of my commute. Sticking to this rule and having to be somewhat organised about it, will I suppose, mirror the stricter more time bound routine I will have to adopt as a commuter, but at the same time the walks will provide an escape and be an antidote to it.

Day 1, 19 Feb 2018. The Salem Chapel, Dickens Road.

Salem..said to be short for Jerusalem. A name most associated with the puritan City of Salem, Massachusetts and it's witch trials. Although there are countless other Salems in the world (and Salem Chapels). In pop culture , Steven Kings Salem's Lot (1975) and it's TV adaption starring David Soul from Starkey and Hutch (1979). One each side side of the establishment of this chapel. Salem the cat in Sabrina the Teenage Witch several years later. In the city of Salem the witchy element is used as a tourist draw these days. Maybe the same could be said of the original witch trials, at a more local level.

The building is unassuming and unspectacular, like most newer church buildings of an evangelical bent. More like a community centre. Made of brown brick. There was no sign of life and it was fenced off and apparently closed or under renovation. But maybe the Baptists are dormant, prepared for the next outbreak of witchcraft in Peterborough. Or they are waiting and plotting a new age of puritanism, a philosophy where life is more of a chore than a pleasure. I read that the Baptists have origins in the puritan movement. Also in Calvinism..a philosophy promoting hard work as a virtue. Fitting then that as my days had become more rigidly organised and would inevitably become more like hard work that I stumbled across a place with these connotations on my first day.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Red Lion of Cambridge

The Red Lion statue is something of a Cambridge icon. It stood on a plinth in Lion Yard, which opened in the early 1970s, and marked the spot of the Red Lion Hotel/Pub that was demolished in 1969 and gave the  shopping precinct it's name. A wikipedia article claims the statue was a prototype of the South Bank Lion, originally made for  the Lion Brewery in Lambeth in the 1800s and currently residing on Westminster Bridge. The prototype was apparently later discovered in Woburn, near Milton Keynes, and moved to Cambridge when the Lion Yard was opened. I don't know accurate this is but I can find nothing else on how the statue came into being so I'm prepared to give this tale the benefit of the doubt.

The Lion provided the focal point of the precinct. 'I'll meet you under the Red Lion' must have been one of the most used expressions in town.  Around the turn of the millennium, the precinct was re-developed and the Lion put in storage. It did not reappear. In Local legend, drunk university students had climbed up the plinth to sit on the lion before falling off and injuring themselves, rendering the statue too much of a health and safety hazard for the council to risk reinstating it. This is almost certainly an urban myth although no doubt pissed people had attempted to scale the plinth and possibly hurt themselves on more than one occasion. Others thought the council had carelessly lost the Lion due to ineptness. 

When the precinct reopened, it had become a sort of proto-public-private space. Gates were added and closed at night, removing access to what had previously been an apparently public right of way. Smoking, dogs and bikes were prohibited. Later, the council revealed it had found the Lion and had agreed to give it to the Cambridge University Rugby Union Club. A campaign appeared on Facebook demanding the statue be returned to its rightful place, but was unsuccessful. The Facebook campaign reflected the feeling that 'ordinary' people's interests had been set aside in favour of commercial development and the University. The exile of the Lion from it's 'rightful habitat' seems to symbolize a significant point in the ongoing gentrification and accelerated development in Cambridge. The larger and more upmarket Grand Arcade shopping centre was attached to the Lion Yard not long after the initial re-development. Elsewhere in the city saw the start of increasing development of luxury flats and student housing schemes as well as the ongoing pseudo-public space of the CB1 development around the station. The Cambridge Leisure Park on the old cattle market site has undoubtedly provided a place incorporating leisure activities aimed more at the Hoi Polloi. But these are cordoned these off in an edge out of town sterile pseudo-public space dominated by the usual chain restaurants, a Travelodge, Sainsbury's and Tesco Express to compliment the cinema, bowling alley and the Junction arts/music venue.
Psychogeography Cambridge

I decided to make a walk to the Lion in its current and possibly permanent abode, trapped in a perspex case doomed to watch rugby for eternity.  It would have made sense I suppose to have started at the original site but I couldn't be doing with the shoppers and tourists (it was a Saturday). I decided to take a less obvious and rambling walk starting at Cambridge's currently most maligned development, the area around the station. My starting point was the bottom of one of the more sensible constructions of recent decades, the cycle bridge in the Station car park (above).

The CB1 development, irritatingly marketed as 'See, Bee' and ' The new city quarter for Cambridge', has transformed the area immediately surrounding the station. Much has been said about it elsewhere, not a lot of it complimentary. It's been called a 'future slum' and apparently has been 'plagued by anti-social development and sex trafficking'  A recent Guardian article gave a pretty good summary. In contrast, the ominously named 'CB1 Masterplan' was shortlisted for a prestigious Royal Town Planning Institute Award for 'exceptional examples of planning.' But then, they don't have to use it.

The original station building is listed and so is (at least on the outside) unaffected. I'd never really paid too much attention to the various coats of arms decorating the front of the building. These date back to the building of the station, although others have been added as recently as 1986. Some have disappeared and reappeared in different locations on the building over the years. Most represent various Cambridge colleges.

The one above belongs to Murray Edwards College, previously known as New Hall until about 2008. The name change was not connected to the colleges disasterous University Challenge performance a decade before, with one of the lowest ever scores ever seen, against Nottingham University.

The arcaneness of the heraldry here adds a bit of mystery and intrigue to the area. Which is just as well, because it is in short supply, other than the lack of communication about the 'by laws' enforceable by the site owners, Brookgate. As in most 'private public spaces' there is little to tell you the space is privately owned with its own rules until you break them and are approached by a man in a hi-vis jacket.

This building above, which predates the main development, is opposite the station. In the foreground the new taxi rank, which didn't seem to feature in the computer generated art promoting the area before it was finished. It was depicted, rather, as a sophisticated plaza with coffee shops and people sitting around relaxing.

Cambridge Psychogeography

The sculpture below is outside the new Microsoft building, which replaced a 60s office block demolished a few years ago. I was tempted to walk through it. Maybe I would be teleported to a different dimension, Narnia or the Golden Egg restaurant in the '70s where I could drink a milshake withing feet of the Lion's podium. More likely I'd be taken to task by a high-vis jacket wearing official or one of the ridiculously attired porters outside the new posh hotel next door.

Along  station road away from the station and the plaza/taxi rank, one side is in the process of development, all office buildings. The Victorian era Wilton Terrace was fairly recently demolished, despite significant opposition and the City Council initially refusing the planning application. The City Council were overruled  by the Government Planning inspector who saw 'little architectural interest' in Wilton Terrace. A large office block will be constructed in its place and will probably mean the independent  traders operating out sheds days are numbered. Apparently it was made difficult for independent businesses to apply to take on any of the retail units in front of the station, resulting in the usual cavalcade of bland eateries and coffee shops (and Sainsburys).

The other side of the street, once beyond the Microsoft Building, is made up of Victorian buildings like the one above. Some are used for offices, others for language schools and private sixth form colleges. These are untouched by the  development so far, as is the parade of shops and flats on the corner of Station Road/Hills Road.  The latter was recently up for auction with 'development potential'. Diagonally opposite this is the giant space age glass edifice of of Botanic House, a building I had observed growing from the back yard of excellent Flying Pig next door. The Pig, unfortunately, is under threat to be knocked down at some point and replaced by more offices or flats with a new bar incorporated as an inadequate concession to the loss of a fine pub.

The Q Club is part of building on the corner of Hills Road/Station Road. This is probably the last 'alternative' nightclub in Cambridge (not that there's ever been many) and the final bastion for various club nights that used to happen in other venues around town. The metal door looks bullet proof,  as if the place is under siege. The club has had previous incarnations. Previously it was a Salsa club. Prior to that it was Zenon, I think. Back in the early 80s it was the Sound Cellar. I remember going past in my parents car seeing punks que up outside.  Punk bands played there, as well as people like Marillion, Tears For Fears, Big Country and various others who went on to greater things and many who didn't. Notable local bands who played when starting out are The Fire Department, who later had connections with Thee Headcoats and Billy Childish, and Subculture, a skinhead band who I believe are still around. It's not big inside the 'cellar' and the atmosphere must have been intimate to say the least. And sweaty.

Opposite the Q Club is a bizarre office building currently occupied by Apple. I read somewhere that they were secretly in the building when it appeared empty, for some reason not wanting to draw attention to themselves. The Apple logo is now displayed outside but is quite low key. The building has a sort of secret laboratory feel and i can imagine men in white coats conducting secret experiments inside, the sort of thing that might feature in an episode of  The Avengers or The Men From Uncle. Quite a contrast to the Microsoft building down the road.

Heading along Hills Road towards town I passed Highsett. I'd never really taken much notice of it  and assumed it was some sort of warden controlled community for retired people. It doesn't seem accessible to the public, and although I've never tried to enter, google street view won't allow you to follow the road through the back entrance on Tenisson Avenue which sort of backs this up.  The development was conceived by Architects Eric Lyons and Ivor Cunningham for Span Developments Limited. The first phase (a bit of which is shown below) dates from 1960 and the last phase finished in 1964. The development has won architectural awards and some of the buildings are grade II listed. Originally they were conceived as affordable homes for young professionals and the modernist design was radical at the time. They resemble the types of building seen on more well though out council estates in some parts of the country. Now going for about half a million, affordable is no longer a fitting description, even for young professionals. It's a pity that affordable homes can't be built like this any longer. Eric Lyons is quoted as saying 'The test of good housing is not whether it can be built easily, but whether it can be lived in easily.'  A test that rarely seems to be applied to contemporary residential development.

Span Developments Psychogeography

I took a wander down Russell Street, next to the Coop where my Dad was the manager. He retired about 20 years ago, but still recalls tales of confrontations with drunks and shoplifters, which for him were some of the highlights of the job. Other characters visiting the shop were residents of a sort of half way house for people with mental health problems. These included a man who insisted it was the law for men to grow beards (if he's still alive he must be pleased) and an enormous man called Kennedy who was kept on medication to sedate him. I thought there might be a cut through at the end of Russel Street but there wasn't. I'd never been right to the bottom of the street where  I came across the building above.  Formerly St Pauls Day and Sunday School, a National School no less according to the old engraving on the front, it is now private residencies. I'm not sure when the building ceased to be a school but my mum went there in the late 40s, maybe early 50s. The St Pauls School moved to new buildings later on the parallel Coronation Street (no, not that one!).

I headed back onto Hills Road to be faced with the 'Chosen Bun', an expensive hipster burger joint. This brought back memories of the Mumtaz Mahal Indian Restaurant which once occupied the building and must have closed in the 80s. I say memories, but only vague ones of the downstairs bar/takeaway area while I waited with my Dad occasionally for a very good curry. This was in the days where my Dad had moved on from providing a Friday night Vesta curry to something more sophisticated. Maybe he'd had a payrise. I don't recall what the Mumtaz became following it's closure but later it was a Dominos pizza place before it's current incarnation. Back in the early 20th century the building was the site of the Norfolk Temperance Hotel. Temperance hotels were, from what I can gather, pubs with no beer and many were established across the country. Later I recall visiting another Indian restaurant almost opposite, The Raj-Balesh, on my 16th birthday. The restaurant has survived til this day. Another semi-legendary institution was the Sultan's Restaurant across the road. This did fine kebabs and steaks but possibly more notably, had a sort of basement area which opened late for drinks and pool playing (this was pre-24 hour licencing). Along with Bodrums which used to be next to the Q club, this provided a mixture of mostly locals and students from the various language schools  with the opportunity for a late drink without having to face the horrors of the town centre's naff and conventional night clubs and the people who inhabited them.The area being a bit out of town made it feel a bit of a safe haven while at the same time slightly dodgy. I recall the drink of choice (the only choice) in Bodrums was sherry.

Just next door to Sultan's (now a Chinese Restaurant) is St Pauls Church.  I headed down Coronation Street, just opposite. A little way along, an intriguingly half revealed/half covered notice about contacting someone about something.

Opposite are two of Cambridge's tallest blocks of flats, Hanover Court and Princess Court, the nearest thing to high rise the City has other than the nurses quarters at Addenbrookes Hospital. They were built after slum clearance of part of the area, which is part of a district called Newtown. My mum had an aunt and uncle living in one of the streets, Queen Street she says.

My only direct experience of the flats is delivering leaflets for my dad when I was in my 20s. This took place on Sunday mornings and was an activity that came to be known in my head as 'Hangover Court'. I don't recall hearing or seeing a single person while I marched up and down stairs and corridors shoving undoubtedly unwanted bits of paper through letter boxes. On more than one occasion the communal rubbish shute became a depository for handfuls of the leaflets (sorry Dad!).

My Dad had a somewhat unpleasant experience in the 80s when he, accompanied by the police, followed a shoplifter to a flat there. The man threatened to push my dad off the balcony before he was nicked. My Dad was lucky. Less so the man who recently fell to his death from one of the blocks. Someone was arrested for attempted murder and the story brought the flats to the attention of the Mirror and The Daily Mail. The internet doesn't offer up much other information about the flats other than a community garden group and residents association exists, momentum held a meeting in the community hall recently and the flats were a favoured spot for parkour a few years ago resulting in damage to the buildings.

                                                  Psychogeography Cambridge Hanover Court

St Paul's School has its current location opposite. A notice about funding next to one advertising a car boot sale indicating the financial climate of contemporary state education. Private schools St Mary's and Perse Girls School, a stone's throw away, undoubtedly are immune from these worries.


A bit further down, a garage sporting a Dutch flag.

Below is the back window of the Panton Arms, the more upmarket of the two pubs in the area. Before the slum clearance there was at least one other, The Ship. After this disappeared a replacement Ship was built on Kings Hedges estate in Northern outskirts of Cambridge, one of very few estate/flat roofed pubs in the City.  And future destination for a walk I think.

At the bottom of Russell Court there is a sort of depression used as a yard/car park. In one of the walls a Cambridge Coat of Arms has been incorporated. The helmet was not added to the coat of arms until 1974 which might pre-date the wall but not by much. 1974 was also the year Cambridge was re-awarded City status.

The windows peering over the wall behind the coat of arms belong to The Alma, the other pub in the area. It used to be called the Alma Brewery until sometime into the 90s. Around that time it seemed a thing for pubs to drop the end bit off their names, becoming 'the something' instead of 'the something Arms' etc. It's still renowned for live music. There is a regular Sunday night open mike slot called  'Songsmith Sessions', run by Ezio, one of Cambridge's more famous local musos, who had the dubious honour of being featured in Tony Blair's desert island disc selection.

The Alma is one of those pubs I've not visited much, other than the occasional work do. I've never managed to see any music there either. My first attempted visit to the pub, and only attempt to go to a gig there, was to see a local rock band called 'Colonel Gomez' when I was about 15. The landlord at the time was a chap called Nick Wittington who later went on to stand for the Monster Raving Looney Party in Cambridge as well as running other pubs and having an impressive collection of hats. He wasn't loony enough to lose his licence for letting in underaged drinkers and told us in no uncertain terms we had to leave and wouldn't be seeing the band. Arriving on my mums shopper bike might not have helped my cause.

The compere of the Songsmith Sessions is Tom Dalpra, a musical character who has been around since my youth when he used to front the local band Nutmeg. They won the Cambridge Rock Competition the first year I went to it (1988?) and were quite a big thing locally after that for a few years. Colonel Gomez had played the rock competition probably a year or two before that (the link above is at the event I think). Both bands were staples of the local rock scene of my youth and passing the Alma dredged up memories of sweaty mosh pits, getting drunk  and mostly poor attempts at relations with the opposite sex at places like the Sea Cadet Hall, the Burleigh Arms and The Boat Race. None at the Alma though, which is the only one still there.

Across the street the Christian Science Church were soon to host a summer soiree, shamefully showing how long it's taken me to get round to writing this blog. The building has been used as a polling station for many years. It was upgraded in 2011 and is hired out for various community activities, as an exam hall and for music. One of the few things left in Cambridge that's cheap (and in many cases free) are lunchtime concerts and talks at various churches and University buildings. These are not always very well advertised and have to be sought out a bit if you're not in the know or stumbled on by accident. I went to a talk a while back at a part of the University with Iain Sinclair and Nick Papadimitriou. It was part of an opening night of an art exhibition on edgelands and space. I can't recall how I found out about it but these things go on all the time. Nick Papadimitriou said it was the first time he had arrived in Cambridge by train since doing his A-Levels at CCAT in the 70s. I think his first impressions of 'See Bee 2' were on par with mine.  Anyhow, the Christian Science Church is on the circuit of free and obscure events, although probably not many featuring psychogeographers.

By contrast, at the Cambridge Masonic Hall round the corner on Bateman Street 'very limited opportunity' for private functions and business seminars is available. This is the meeting place of the Lodge of The Three Grand Principles No.441, who acquired the building in 1968. Previously it was occupied by Cheshunt College, a Theological college which had merged the year before with Westminister College on Madingley Road. Before this, for just over 100 years, until 1962, Lodge No. 441 had met at the Red Lion Hotel, moving due to the development that would soon after see the coming of the Red Lion Statue to the same spot. If I were a conspiracy theorist I'm sure I could come up with some sinister connection between these events. But I'm not. However, there was a connection with this walk, since it was about the Red Lion and it's former site. That's good enough for me.

The building seems also to be used by the three private educational establishments listed on the sign above. The main St Mary's school is just across the street. The other two I had never heard of. Looking through the gates into the grounds made me wonder how I had not noticed this building before, while other places in the area were well known to me.

Onto Trumpington Road, one of the main routes in and out of Cambridge, I crossed Hobson's Conduit This waterway runs from the Nine Wells, beyond Addenbrokes Hospital at the edge of Cambridge, into town. Designed to bring clean water into town and named after Thomas Hobson, entrepreneur and philaphropist who provided much of the funding. He is probably best known for the expression 'Hobson's choice, coined by the poet John Milton and a reference to the way Hobson hired his horses to people. The customer could choose the next one in line by the staable door or none at all. The conduit, aka Hobsons's Brook, is a walk I'll save for another day.

I have clear memories of the wall below having 'Theatre of Hate' painted on it in large letters, probably in the early 80s. I would have gone past it on the way to the dentist in my dad's car, probably the only time I would have seen it in those days. I'm certain it was there for some time, but like an obscure childrens TV programme, it's  something nobody else  I talk to seems to remember. The same is true of the legend 'Jack the Biscuit is Skinhead OK' spray painted in a similar size on a wall across town on Perne Road around the same time. Seemingly connected to this one was a smaller bit of graffitti in Cherry Hinton that said 'Jack The Biscuit is Fred The Carpet'. I think I probably knew that Theatre Of Hate were a band, I think they had been on Top of The Pops. But Jack the Biscuit was an unknown quantity, and since it involved Skinheads, one that indicated violence in my young mind.

None of my friends knew who Jack the biscuit/Fred the Carpet were and I had never heard of the Kray Twins at the time or Jack 'The Hat' McVitie (Jack the Biscuit - get it?). Had a local skinhead assumed the moniker?  Was the graffitti artist was refering to himself? Or did Jack live only in his imagination, as he did in mine? Maybe it was a  cryptic message between groups of football hooligans. Theatre of Hate and Jack The Biscuit have been removed from both walls  for years ago now and seemingly the collective memory to.

I've never been sure of the name of the area of green which occupies the space between the footpath along the wall and that following the course of another branch of Hobson's conduit (directy behind the camera in the picture). A bit further along this branch of the brook is Sheeps Green/Lammas Land and Coe Fen. I've never been sure which is which, my parents used to refer to it all as 'Newnham', which is the name of the suburb/village just West and North of the green spaces. Helpfully, this map seems to suggest this bit is called 'New Bit' which may or may not be the proper name. I reckon 'Theatre of Hate Wall Green' would be a better one.

Along the brook there are a couple of crossings to schools and private houses, as well as the one above with an intriguing passage to somewhere in the direction of Chaucer Road, a very 'Gown' area of Cambridge. I'd never been down it and made a mental note to revisit.

Above is a bit of Coe Fen (according to the map just referred to). Cambridge is quite good at green spaces and this area is one of the better ones, particularly in winter when there are less people about. It has a bizarre marshy quality and slight otherworldlyness.

Psychogeography Cambridge Folly

From the footbridge over the River Cam (or maybe it's called Granta at this point, another thing I'm not sure of depite living here for over 40 years), I tried to get a picture (above) of Hodson's folly. Not to be confused with Hobson of the Conduit, the name refers to John Hodson, who had the small shelter built in 1887 so he could keep an eye on his daughter while she swam in the river. I'd have thought a normal bench and an umbrella would have done the job. But then, I've never inherited a large sum of money, some freehold properties and a collection of stuffed birds. If I had, maybe I'd think differently.

I carried on until I reached the Lammas Land paddling pool. It being autumn, it was closed for use and had been drained. In the grey light of the day, the blue of the bottom of the pool looked intense. I don't know what they use for lining it.

The sign explaining the seasonal closure wanted  to direct me to the website of an organisation called 'Better' so I could find out how they could help me keep active active over the winter. I wasn't aware of Better, probably because I don't use gyms and swimming pools. I've had a look since and it is the public facing 'brand' of Greenwich Leisure Limited, a social enterprise initially set up to remove the burden of providing leisure facilities, such as swimming pools and libraries, from the local authorities in Greenwich. I notice on their website displays the logo of the  'Big Society Awards 2011'. Around that time, 'The Big Society' was an idea promoted by the conservative MP Eric Pickles when he was Secretary of State for Local Government (or something like that). It was basically a way of moving the provsion of as many  public social services as possible to anyone other than local or central and Government, as cheaply as possible. Often by volunteers for free, if not by other 'third sector' organisations such as social enterprises and other charities. This is still going on, of course, even though the slogan 'Big Society' is seldom used anymore. It's just seen as 'business as usual' these days.

I'm not sure who is responsible for the ice cream art above but I'd wager it's a product of the third sector, probably unpaid primary school children.

On Lammas Land next to the paddling pool is a childrens play area. I used to come here as a kid and play on the rides. I was pleasantly surprised that some of the old ones were still here.  The roundabout and horse shown below are things I thought would long since have been replaced and would be considered old hat and probaly too dangerous these days, even without the concrete bases they used to have.

The way the horses head was painted now reminded me of a hobby horse, like those seen in the parade in The wicker Man or sometimes with Morris dancers . Before it would have been painted red all over, resembling a mutant chess piece. The playground horse is a bizarre creature in, being elongated enough to accommodate five saddles and having no legs.

It was early Saturday afternoon and the area was pretty much deserted and no children were playing there at all. Granted, it was raining a bit and late September. From a purely selfish point of view I was glad of this. It was the nearest I'd get in Cambridge to wandering around an abandoned fairground.

Nearby a couple of trees were partly pointed blue, giving off a glowing hue in the grey light of the day. Almost a reflection of the paddling pool. I don't know if this a mark of disease and impending removal by tree surgeons. It would be nice to think they were connected to the 'Blue Trees project' in America but I suspect not. There would have been a notice or something.

I followed the path to the bowling  pavillion and crossed the road before heading down a road called 'Summerfield' that I'd never been down. It lead to a sports field and tennis court, which according to google maps is Gonville and Caius College Sports Ground. When I arrived nobody was around, although an 'annual gathering' was due to take place, probably for alumi of the college (or another college). The decription of these events, which sound very formal, can be found here. I'd never heard of anyone being  'Marticulated' before reading this. A student is marticulated when they are enrolled at a college formally and a ceremony involving things like formal photographs, dinners and services. A bit like a graduation but at the beginning of University instead of the end. Students become members of colleges for life and hence are invited back for the annual gatherings, mainly I think to extract donations from them. Such are the bizarre rituals and rites that go on in the University.

Next to the tennis court I spotted an open gate and footpath , running between the sports field and the back of some houses. There were no signs to say I shouldn't, so I followed it. Having lived in Cambridge as long as I have, I'm glad there are still plenty of nooks and crannies I've never explored and don't yet know exist. The path was pointing the right way to the Lion so I was hoping to find a way there which meant I could avoid the familiar route of Barton Road (a main road to the left of here).

The path turned left after it ran out of backs of houses and was diverted by another sports field which couldn't be accessed.  I found myself in Clare Road, another place up to now unknown to me. It had large houses and the feel of a private road to begin with. I felt a bit self concious and wondered if I was 'allowed' here. It was eerily quiet and I saw no-one. There were no signs so I pressed on. I had a rucksack and could probably pass myself as a lost middle aged walker from out of town (it would only be partly untrue!).

Emerging from Clare Road, I was almost opposite the Red Bull pub. Another pub I have visited very rarely, it's a bit out of the way for me. I was tempted to go in but the road was too busy to cross easily. I took this as a sign and carried on in the opposite direction.

I little way along on the right was St Mary's Court, yet another road I'd never been down. Hoping there was a route through to Grange Road, I turned right into it. The dwellings here were considerably less grand than those in the surronding areas, they looked like they may have been council housing originally, mostly of the unsual flat roofed type as seen in the picture below. It was like walking into a completely different part of town. 

The road ended but turned into a footpath leading to another road which turned left and out onto Grange Road. Opposite was another intriguing road/path, this time leading to 'Leckhampton', a post graduate facility belonging to Corpus Christi College. There was no doubt this was private, so I carried on along Grange Road.

Grange Road is the home of various colleges, post graduate accomodation and various other University buidlings and sites. I don't think there is anything along it not connected to the University.  I didn't spot anything else of particular interest along the way, but the atmopshere is a 'university-ish' (unsurprisingly). I can't really explain what I meant by that..something to do with memories of visiting bits of the University when I was a child, probably on school trips or just wandering round with my parents. The students looked old to me then and back in the 70s I remember them being people who wore corduroy, had beards and looked similar to Bamber Gascoine who used to host University Challenge. I had no real idea what being a student was and didn't know anything about the colleges or University. It sounded complicated and important and part of something other. I had no interest in the old buildings like Kings Chapel back thenbut remember more the modernist/brutalist type architecture of colleges like Churchill College. I imagined what it must be like to inhabit such places.

In later years I got to know a few people at Cambridge University, mostly ones who were involved in the 'Gong Appreciation Society' and who mingled with locals like me. They used to hold 'GAS Discos', usually at Clare College Cellars. I was able to visit bits of collages, mainly bars but also halls of residence and dining rooms with these people. Although my perception of students had changed - they were younger and didn't look like Bamber Gasgoine anymore - the atmosphere still felt the same as it had when I was a kid- still a bit other, a bit late 70s. My brain seems to bring this to the fore when areas like Grange Road, as if it's stuck with this imaginary perception from my earliest encounters of the University of Cambridge.

I pondered this until I got to the point of my walk. The Cambridge University Rugby Union Football Club has a Red Lion as it's symbol. The club will mark it's 150th anniversary in 2021. It's website bears the slogan 'Roaring Louder, Roaring Prounder'. But like everyone else, they seem to be undergoing some financial hardship having made losses for the last three years and are eating into their reserves. They are tapping up the alumni as part of their funding and development plan.

At the moment though, they haven't resorted to extracting money from visitors to see the Lion, or even worse raffling him in a charity draw.  Nobody stopped me going in. The gate was open and a couple of people appeared to have arrived early for a rugby match but ignored me and I ignored them.

Psychogeography, Red Lion, Cambridge, Camnrodge University Rugby

It was at the sametime magical and mundane to see the Lion again. It was in a car park next to some fire escape stairs, a less than magnificent setting. I'm not sure if this is a permenant arrangement but presumably funding a plinth is not a priority in the current financial climate. But at least it is being looked after and on display for those who can be bothered to make the trek to Grange Road. I think it is on a bus route for those less enthused by walking.

I was glad I'd finally seen the Lion in it's new setting. If it had always been here it would have fitted in, I wouldn't have batted an eyelid. Afterall,  the University is inundated with heraldry and symbolism, which often incorporates lions and other animals. But it hasn't and it felt out of place, like when you see a person you know at random in a place you've never associated with them or never expected to see them in. I couldn't help but equate the 'banishment'  and 'trapping' of the Lion to this space with the ongoing gentrification and change in Cambridge. It was as if by restraining the Lion these forces have been left unchecked without any significant challenge while they push out the old and replace it with the new. The Lion looks a bit  sad and demoralised.  It would be nice to think if it was freed and put back in town the tide would turn (at least a bit). Like in the Lion, the Witch and The Wardrobe when the Lion leads the revolt against the Ice Queen and her turkish delight. If this brought about the revival of 'Golden Egg' cafes instead of Costa Coffee, so much the better.

I reflected on this admittedly whimsical analogy while I walked away. I wondered if I was wallowing too much in nostalgia (there's a fine line between that and psychogeography I think). I also considered that when I started to do walks the aim was to seek out the interesting and bizarre, and escape the everyday through the mundane. But I'd just ended up ranting on about gentrification. In many cities this is something that is both physically and mentally difficult to escape from, and in Cambridge it is rife.

As I had reached my destination, the walk was 'officially' ended. Except I still had to walk home. I carried on down Grange Road and eventually found myself at The Punter in Northampton Street, where I escaped gentrification temporarily with a pint of Turpin's Black. Here's a few more pictures from that stretch finishing with a view of the wallpaper and grafiiti in the gents at the Punter.

St Catherine's College coat of arms features the Breaking wheel (or Catherine Wheel), a device used for torture and execution in Roman Times. Catherine of Alexandria, the story goes, was ordered to been executed on such a wheel. But the wheel fell apart on touching her. She was beheaded instead. The Wheel is also the name of the colleges alumni publication. Hopefully a real one isn't brought out at the annual gatherings as a way of extracting funds.

Above a modern sculpture in front of an old building. No idea of it's significance.

Above the red brick brutalist Robinson College. A sometime venue for GAS discos I recall and a college attended by a couple of people I still know from that time. Around the same time Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat, also attended this college (not the GAS discos though, I don't think). From this angle the building looks not unlike Hanover Court.

A rear view of the Cambridge University Library and it's sinister tower. It always reminded me of the TV programme 'The Book Tower' with Tom Baker. They used to let locals go in to the library who were studying at other institutions in the summer. I spent a summer 'revising' there and found a desserted area among volumes of a publication called 'Yachting Monthly' on the sixth floor. Nobody ever came up there and it was a proper library where you had to be quiet. The place was staffed by a particularly bizarre array of people. The University had (if not anymore) a reputation for providing employment for those unemployable elsewhere (except maybe the civil service). My experience seemed to bear this out.

Good to see some real tennis still goes on, rather than all this fake tennis you keep hearing about. Maybe this for the benefit of Donald Trump should Cambridge ever have the unfortunate pleasure of a visit from him.

Near the Backs, on Queens Road, disquiet about the Cambridge City Deal from the Coton Busway Action Group. It seems that one of the plans was to close the road along the Backs and Grange Road at peak times, meaning more traffic in Coton. Theres also the proposed busway that the residents of Coton are not happy about. How this has any detriment to the Backs themselves I'm not sure.  Prior to this protest the City Deal had been rebranded the Greater Cambridge Partnership and had a new slogan 'Growing and Sharing Prosperity'. Im not sure why this was necessary. I think the residents of Coton have some good points to make about increased traffice congestion and the fallacy of another (mis) guided busway but can't help feeling there is also a large helping of nimbyism going on (said the man who's been ranting about gentrification).

At the end of Queens Road the Westminister College, mentioned earlier.

I'll leave the last word to the wall of the gents in the Punter.