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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.

19 March 2015

The average of the average

A FEW WEEKS ago I went out with Paul Tourle from UCL’s Institute of Archaeology to record around Bowes ward in Enfield, north London.

This site’s slowly-evolving 12 Tones of London statistical project has identified Bowes as the most typical council ward within the least remarkable cluster of wards. If you want an unreasonably condensed answer to the journalist’s question of So, what is the sound of London? then it’s not a bad place to start.

Paul took along his film camera and I’m pleased to be able to reproduce here some of his photographs from our trip.

A typical residential street in Bowes, Enfield


Bowes is mostly comprised of residential streets of terraced and semi-detached houses. The ward boundaries plot a sausage shape with an east–west axis and it’s sliced up along its length by a railway line, the New River, and Green Lanes. There also seems to be a wealth gradient running from west to east mirroring the traditional one of London as a whole.

It’s curious to wonder if this pattern of self-similarity occurs above chance levels across council wards and even boroughs. Well-to-do people likely always preferred to live upwind of industry or have their smoke drift over poorer areas in the parishes and villages which eventually became engulfed by the city.

By the railway line is a small path called Wishaw Walk that leads past an electricity substation and some allotments. All the recordings and pictures were made on a weekday afternoon.

The electricity substation in Wishaw Walk, Enfield


Apart from the New River, the other waterway in Bowes is Pymme’s Brook. The stretch of it immediately north of the allotments off Chequers Way amounts to little more than a convenient rubbish tip for some locals. Tangles of fallen tree branches make it reminiscent of a bayou in the Florida Everglades provided you look away from all the beer cans and plastic fertiliser sacks. Further downstream Pymme’s Brook is confined to a grim concrete culvert.

Pymme's Brook of Chequers Way, Enfield


The afternoon shuffled along the mundane streets like a pensioner coming back from the post office. Tottenhall sports ground in the south-east of the ward was deserted except for gulls that lifted and settled on the football pitches in a light breeze.

Tottenahall sports ground, Enfield


These are some of the sights and sounds of the most demographically-typical part of London, the city with its edges shaved off. What’s left is someone putting the rubbish out in a wheely bin, voices from behind garden fences, distant trains and planes, a car door slamming somewhere down the street, the chirp of sparrows in a hedge, a dog barking from far off across a sports ground.

It’s not a bad world to live in. I belong to it. So do you, probably.

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