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Occasional posts on subjects including field recording, London history and literature, other websites worth looking at, articles in the press, and news of sound-related events.

14 February 2010

From Kew Gardens to Battersea Bridge

A BELATED UPDATE on a long day’s recording Saturday before last. (Field recording is naturally verboten on Valentine’s Day weekend.) First stop was Kew Gardens dead on the 9.30am opening time, to try and get in before too many others arrived.

The main conservatory at Kew has the humid atmosphere of a rainforest, with coffee-maker shrieks as the plant misters throttle themselves down, and a constant, furtive dripping onto palm leaves all around:


A walk along the Grand Union Canal was diverted onto a small footpath which skirts the northernmost side of the Old Oak Common railway yards, close by Wormwood Scrubs. It’s an impressive expanse of puddles and tracks and locomotive sheds, made grander somehow by the small number of people that could be seen and heard working there:

A short trip to Kilburn was made after that in the hope of getting a decent betting shop ambience, but the results just didn’t come up to scratch. A few old men stared at the television screens or, frowning, filled out their betting slips, all without making a sound, not even coughing.

Night-time began with another disappointment. Newspaper reports had said that local residents were fed up with the incessant barking at the Lambeth Council dog pound near Loughborough Junction. But that evening the abandoned Staffies of south London had put been under manners, and nothing disturbed the standard nocturnal auditory scene of a residential street.

Just under a mile to the west, the stairwell into Brixton Station provided a good vantage point some forty or fifty feet above Atlantic Road from which to capture the Saturday night atmosphere:


Fans of the old-school greasy spoon can take themselves to a more rarefied, Zen-like level by contemplating the roadside tea-hut. For a long time there’s been one on Queenstown Road at the approach to Battersea Bridge, popular with bikers and other night-owls. Some years ago it was threatened by developers but efforts were made to save it. The tea-hut is now more of a snack bar, selling burgers and cans of pop, and the grumpy former owner (last seen being given a character reference by a Post Office van driver) has made way for a friendlier proprietor:

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