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“Exit to Street Only” – A new album for a new year

On New Year’s Eve 2014, another childhood ambition got ticked off the list; Namely to publish an album for public sale – Huzzah! So I’ve taken the liberty of embedding it here and adding some details below:

This album is an electronica set made on and inspired by the sights, sounds and smells of London’s public transport systems.

I’ve been dabbling with music as a hobby for many years, and I’ve long been frustrated by the commute taking time away from home-life that I’d prefer to use for other things, music included. And then along came Nanostudio on the iPhone, and I quickly found myself able to use the commute time to actually *make* music.

I’m immensely proud to have gotten “Exit to street only” this far from my train seat – well actually, about two and a half years of commutes, some seated but many not.  Composing and sometimes recording on my iPhone and then my iPad has been an incredible learning and growing experience.  Yes, some recording and mixing of some vocal lines was done at home, as was the mixing and mastering, and during that latter process some sounds were replaced using Sunrizer on my iPad.

Like what you hear? It’s only £5 on Bandcamp, following the “Buy” link in the embed link above, or going to the album page here.

A personal note…

An unashamedly personal post, this. I’ve been feeling a lot of burden this week for my city, for my church, and for my friends.

I’m not going to pass comment or judgement on either the G8 protestors or the police trying to keep them and the rest of us safe while the former apparently seek an audience and outlet for their frustrations.

With all that to one side, it has to be said that the near-constant drone of helicopter blades and sirens over London’s W1 area, whatever their purpose, has been a very visceral reminder and signpost to a deep feeling of being utterly besieged, both at work and perhaps to life in general, when I sit back and think about it.

As a Christian I know that times of trial come and go, with the apparent aim of God refining and purifying us through them, and that during those times we ought to seek comfort from the Bible, and from our friends and family – however trite such words and wisdom can feel at the time of struggle.

And yet, as I sit back at home with the brief and comforting respite of Al Stewart’s “Time Pieces” spinning atop our inherited turntable rig, these words from “Life in Dark Water” jump out as a stark reflection on how this week so far feels to me, a mere mortal trying to make sense of the tensions I’m seeing and feeling from around me:

..:Why am I alone here with no rest…
…They’ll never know, never no never,
How strange life in dark water can be.”

From a biblical perspective, this song seems to present a very “Job”-like set of woes and words. The song itself seems to be written from the perspective of the Marie Celeste and her crew, with an imaginary crew-member apparently left behind and trying to make sense of the 500 or so years that have passed since. “What happened? Why me? Why now?”

Some comfort comes I guess in knowing deep-down that this time will pass, and lessons will hopefully be learned. While I process that deep-down thought however, I’m somewhat encouraged that even ‘secular’ music can touch a nerve and bring out understandings and reflections about myself and how I feel about the situations I find happening around me, and at the same time can still point me to memories of comforting truths long-lost in the battlefield.

So I can thank God for helping me connect some dots, and also I can indirectly thank Al Stewart for writing words and music which connect at such a deep level. I’m very grateful for both comforts this of all days.

Tempted to bang on the walls to alert your noisy neighbour to your plight?

Don’t.

Firstly and as many Londoners might naturally feel, there is of course the very practical consideration that fighting back in this way tends only to inflame an already delicate situation. Secondly, here in the UK at least, in your malice you might be creating an actionable private nuisance yourself!

Sound strange? Maybe, but look what happened when this kind of case was brought to court, many moons ago…

The case of Christie v Davey, 1893, 1 Ch 316

Seems that Christie here was a music teacher, who gave lessons in her house. Mr Davey, living in the semi-attached property next door, didn’t much like the noise. It seems he complained directly to Mrs Christie more than once. I’ve just found online a letter purporting to be penned from Mr Davey to Mrs Christie:

“During this week we have been much disturbed by what I at first thought were the howlings of your dog, and, knowing from experience that this sort of thing could not be helped, I put up with the annoyance. But, the noise recurring at a comparatively early hour this morning, I find I have been quite mistaken, and that it is the frantic effort of someone trying to sing with piano accompaniment, and during the day we are treated by way of variety of dreadful scrapings on the violin, with accompaniments. If the accompaniments are intended to drown the vocal shrieks or teased catgut vibrations, I can assure you it is a failure, for they do not. I am at last compelled to complain, for I cannot carry on my profession (the defendant was an engraver) with this constant thump, thump, scrap, scrap, and shriek, shriek, constantly in my ears. It may be a pleasure or source of profit to you, but to me and mine it is a confounded nuisance and pecuniary loss, and, if allowed to continue, it must most seriously affect our health and comfort. We cannot use the back part of our house without feeling great inconvenience through this constant playing, sometimes up to midnight and even beyond. Allow me to remind you of one fact, which must most surely have escaped you–that these houses are semi-detached, so that you yourself may see how annoying it must be to your unfortunate next door neighbour. If it is not discontinued, I shall be compelled to take very serious notice of it. It may be fine sport to you, but it is almost death to yours truly.”

Evidently the letter (which is also referenced and indeed quoted here) didn’t have much effect, and so it seems that Mr Davey took to making noise in retaliation whenever he heard anything from Mrs Christie.  Mr Davey’s noise in turn distracted Mrs Christie’s music lessons, and so Mrs Christie took Mr Davey to court to get him to stop.  According to records I’ve found cited many times online, it would seem that the court ruled in favour of Mrs Christie and granted an injunction against Mr Davey.

Surprised?

When I first heard this story, it was told as Mr Davey having brought the case to court, to get Mrs Christie to stop her teaching activities, and that the court turned the tables on him.  This would have been a much bigger surprise than what I’ve found to have been documented.

Given the presented evidence of his ongoing sufferings, if this case came to court now I might still ordinarily hope for a ruling in favour of Mr Davey. But on reflection, I think there’s an principle at work here:  one cannot justify the creation of a new nuisance, especially out of malice, in order to fix or protest against another.

A lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges since this case originally came to court in 1893.  I’m intrigued to see what others might think of this case in light of our present-day exposure to noise, and whether attitudes have changed about such confrontation.  I wonder if there are any more recent rulings that might counter this one?

Sold? Westcombe Park Police Station

I’ve been wondering for a while whether the disused Westcombe Park Police Station site was due to be sold off, and have posted before about it being boarded up.

Well, if the sign on their carpark fencing is anything to go by, it looks a lot like it’s been sold:

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Also some of the boards have been removed:

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Anyone able to tell us anything about the buyer and why they want it?

What happened to Westcombe Park Police Station?

Occupants moved out, boards moved in.

Been meaning to post this for a while, but only just found time now.  I posted earlier this year about the state of the old Westcombe Park Police Station, and from that learned that it was still being used as a neighbourhood watch outpost, among other things.

Sometime in the autumn this year (I think) some boards went up in the windows and all police-related paraphernalia has been removed or obscured.  By night we see some lights left on, but that’s about it – no other sign of life.  Still, this state is an improvement on the ongoing water leaks that were patched up earlier this summer!

Anyone know what happened?

DHL collections: A special type of customer service fail

So here’s a new customer service policy.

I had an expensive widget break down – a heavy widget.  So I sought help from the manufacturer who says “okay, we’ll repair it – and we’ll have someone collect it from you”.  Great.

So a couple of days later a DHL shipping label and a box arrive.  Dutifully, I put the widget in the box, then printed and attach shipping label to said box, waiting for courier to turn up.

Here’s where the wheels fall off the process:

Part of the process of the manufacturer booking the collection means that a weight for the package is printed on the shipping label. BUT: that data does not get transferred to the courier in the booking process.

So what happens is, the driver turns up, takes one look at the package and the weight, then says something like “too heavy. Someone will come round tomorrow”.  Except that nobody in our office remembers anyone doing that and the first I knew about it was a phone call that came in late yesterday to tell me what had happened.

So, rather than just calling me or a colleague to help with getting the heavy parcel into the van (about a 5 min job), they instead drive off to the next location, call it into base as too heavy, have someone call me to explain the situation, rebook after I get (hopefully not too) annoyed at them and insist it was picked up same-day, then someone else fails to turn up to do that job, then I end up spending most of my day trying to talk to someone about why things failed and how the heck we’re gonna get this thing outta my office today.  About 8 man-hours lost, along with lots more CO2 and a complaint made against a driver for not turning up.

Think it’s time DHL and other couriers get their act together to stop us wasting so much of our lives – and obvious flaws as crucial information not being fed through the data chain such as size and weight of the package really does need fixing. Surely this whole saga is costing DHL far more to sort out than it has me so far?

“Excessive Noise” on Central Line

With measured SPL’s regularly exceeding 100dB (A), I quite agree with the sentiment scratched into this Central Line train door:

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London Riots: Greenwich Photojournal

I took a walk through East Greenwich into Greenwich proper earlier this morning, to see for myself what (little) impact the threat of last nights’ riots had made on the local community.

There were lots of tourists doing their usual thing, though there seemed to be less than usual. Many locals were walking to work or otherwise going about their business as normal, as if nothing had ever happened. There were a lot less young people about than I’d have expected – the late-teens and early-20’s age-groups simply didn’t seem to be about. Perhaps they’re all sleeping. Maybe Greenwich just isn’t a hip and happening enough place for young people on a nice summer day. It might be that they’re keeping a low profile for, erm… whatever reason.

Here’s some pictures and comments as I found them:

Trafalgar Road

I’d heard from many Twitter posts last night that pretty much every shop along Trafalgar Road was boarded or shuttered from yesterday afternoon onwards.  I was expecting a veritable ghost-town.  What I saw this morning was pretty much business as normal.

Business as normal on Trafalgar Road
All okay here…
Not sure if the Home Guide Estate shop is normally open for business, but the boards showed it very much wasn’t today!
Mr Chung’s Restaurant – guess I won’t be eating here anytime soon.
Not riot-related, but: Really? We’re having to temporarily tarmac stretches of pavement to prevent theft of slabs? And does this signwriter have a basic grasp on spelling or grammar?
Uh-oh. Sirens. Another ambulance (out of shot) followed the convoy.
Getting closer to the high street. Looks pretty normal to me, if a little quiet.

Greenwich Market

I grabbed a coffee in Greenwich Market – best Flat White I’ve had in quite a while, I might add!

On first glance, everything looked pretty normal – tourists and traders doing their usual things.  Nobody seemed to be selling much, though.
Then I walked to the other end of the market place, and it was near-deserted. I don’t remember seeing it this quiet before even on a weekday morning. Maybe readers can let me know if this is normal or not?
These guys were nervously taking boards down from their store. Quite what horrors they were expecting to find behind them, I don’t know.
Serious military-looking helicopters. Not at all an unusual sight here, but their presence did seem more menacing than normal.

Greenwich High Street

I honestly don’t know what I expected to find here, but I was surprised by seeing so many shops open for business. Life goes on, I guess.

Some shops were still taking their boards down.
Fewer people about as expected, but looking quite unaffected, except for that one last board on the Turkish cafe. (Thanks Edith for the correction!)
Amazing to see the patchwork-quilt effect on some store fronts. Clearly much of this work was done in a hurry. It’s not like shopkeepers usually keep a few boards around in case of emergencies!
A pharmacy lurks in the boarded shadows – a sign taped just by the doorway advertised business as usual.
More boarded up windows. Clearly the worry was mainly about the high street area itself rather than the surroundings.

Journey home – and reflections

I’m glad that the riots haven’t arrived yet. Conversations with fellow locals suggested a mood of incredulousness and defiance. Some are concerned for their families and livelihoods, others despair at the loss of a generation.  Tourists perhaps seemed more cautious than I’d normally experience, but were otherwise mostly unaware of anything having been wrong.

As I walked over to the train/DLR station, I noted the Junk Shop taking its boards down, apparently the last store to do so on its rank.
The station was quieter than I’d expected given the number of people generally going about their lives nearby. A tourist with her young son happily asked for directions, and was glad I took the time to help her work out which platform she needed. She told me the signs were too confusing and there were no staff around to ask! No change here on that front at least…

As I took my train home, I saw that David Cameron had announced that the events of this last few days apparently show “that there are things badly wrong in our society”. Well thank you Sherlock, I think a good number of us had already deduced that. Still, his speeches yesterday and today have come across to me as some of the first clear-talking I’ve heard in quite a while on any political issue in recent times. And I hope it continues, supported by  appropriate action to match.

Another lady stopped me for directions after I got off my train. We got talking. She was new to the area, having apparently moved here from Nigeria, via some other London suburbs along the way. She felt that the excuses given by those involved that they were bored were simply irrelevant – that they really were just excuses to kick off. She suggested that engaging young people in society, enabling them do something useful, and to contribute to the world around them would be good starts.

As for I’m not sure what I think. But I am encouraged by what I’ve seen today. This is not a suburb living in fear. It seems to me the boarding-up of yesterday and the keeping-calm-and-carrying-on of today stand in clear defiance to whatever might come our way.

Oh and one last gambit: Apart from the car I photographed going by earlier, I didn’t see a single policeman the whole time I was out, until a vanload of officers disembarked outside Westcombe Park police station.

London Riots: God protects…

Interesting seeing how God protects us when we choose to live for, work for and serve Him rather than ourselves. A while back I lived in Walworth, just a couple of roads away from the goings-on detailed in the following quote, submitted anonymously to The Guardian earlier this evening:

I turned up at the Morrisons supermarket branch on Walworth Road, SE17, at about 6.50pm only to find the place shuttered up and one of the few members of staff remaining by the back door telling me that they had closed early as it was due to “go off” in Peckham, four miles away, at 7pm.

I left and dropped into a bar to pass on ‘the news’ only to see BBC World footage on the TV, taken from a helicopter by the look of it, of nearby Lewisham burning, and Peckham soon after. Within minutes, fives and sixes of masked blokes were running past the bar and through to the main street, a handful dumping cars outside the bar on double yellow and charging through to the nearby thoroughfare, which the police had blockaded at the north end in the vicinity of the Tankard pub, along the side road from the police station.

Buses were stopped and abandoned, I’m told, and looters were laying siege to Lynne’s Electrical, jewellery and pawn shops, the Carphone Warehouse, Foot Locker and later M&S and finally Argos, and that’s all that I heard. Others will have been done, although the Turkish supermarket was apparently left alone.The pie and mash shop in the sidestreet of Westmoreland Road was also entered and trashed

Young men, 90% of them black, and the occasional middle-to-old aged black woman, then spent the next hour or so running through the sidestreets with their pickings, the first of them with widescreen TVs, boxes that contained kettle-sized electrical goods, trainers and the like from Foot Locker, and M&S clothing. A white 20-something one with a bad limp came to the door of the bar to ask them to call him a cab. The request was declined.

Some of the looters dumped gear in nearby gardens and returned to the Walworth Road, others had filled wheelie bins with whatever and were pushing them home, while the professionals returned to the double-parked cars (BMWs and the like, tinted windows in at least two cases) before replacing their masks and returning for any pickings they may have missed.

Innocent people turned up at the bar who had been diverted around the sidestreets, one telling me he saw a gang of about 10 black youths throw a man off his motorbike at Albany Road traffic lights before another rode it on in the direction of Camberwell. then the cyclists around him at the traffic lights who tried to help were attacked with weapons by hooded and/or masked vigilantes coming from the vicinity of adjacent Burgess Park.

People in the bar who lived on the other side of the Walworth Road were ringing relatives/kids on the other side of it not to open their doors to anyone – it was anarchy in the literal sense of the word.

Two police vans finally made it up to Argos at about 8.30pm, which dispersed the people in and outside there sporadically. They had been in there for about an hour though people were still loitering in nearby streets with intent at nightfall. We can only hope that nothing is torched by late arrivals who find themselves empty handed. That, or the police regain control of the thoroughfare.

What I find most amazing, is that had I not married and moved away, then after the day I’ve had at work today I’d have walked home. To Walworth. At that time. And gotten completely caught up in it all. There are no coincidences.  God knows what He’s doing, even when I don’t know anything…

I can only hope and pray that such protection continues to be afforded while the authorities bring things under control.

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