The Wandle (2020)

It was known as 'the world's hardest-working river' in Victorian times, but seeing as the epicentre of the world was the motherland, and Empress Victoria's subjects overseas were being exploited to the bone, well, I don't quite buy it. 

The 11 mile-long Wandle was hard-working however with 90+ mills producing delights such as oil, corn, copper, calico, flour, paper, textiles (most famously William Morris), tobacco, snuff and gunpowder. For an informative history about the River Wandle I recommend visiting the charming volunteer run Wandle Industrial Museum.

The first images I made from walking the Wandle during Lockdown 1 (2020), were polite and typical, as I researched my local river's history. Thankfully they soon took a surreal turn, more in sync with the times. I would walk daily, religiously and guiltily stretching the Government's allocated 1 hour for outdoor exercise per day. I saw almost no one on my walks, and I saw in a way I had not seen before. My photography up until Covid included people. But there were none, and the landscape-come-archaeological photographer within was summoned. I left home armed with a 35mm camera, a notepad to gather thoughts, and an old milk bottle to collect samples of river water, which I would later use at home to soak and develop the film.

I stopped photographing the river by summer 2020’s end, but still shuffle sequences and annotate accordingly with poems and thoughts to this day. I owe the Wandle for some kind of flow when much of the world stopped working. 

by patches of cabbages 
where soils toil with roots -
the river meets a ravenous beast
and slips inside its belly 

here, where flour was milled for bread
looms a mall for milling locals
transmitting pride and purpose -
they hunt for deals and dopamine

whilst beneath our bespoke brand
new shoes and ruffled feathers -
the river outflows the seasonal sales
as cooly as it entered 

a text about disappearing completely

Virus on radio broadcasts needs
Virus chooses which mouths feed
Virus tucked-up tight for the night
– deports homeless people on one way flights

Virus breaks laws but enforces control
Virus determines which vaccines get sold
 Virus – a bully spared by crooked settlements
– profits in the name of austere measurements

Virus spreads fear, divides and rules
Virus grown nasty in posh private schools
Virus knows no meaning of shame
– compulsively lying again, and again...


the day pulls familiar shape
a square dance to integrate, but 
the more abiding the lesser living
the lesser living lies of giving 
performance of sentiment 
ability to nod then implement 
tasks to claim the day done

the day pulls familiar shape
a square dance to integrate, but
sanity slides on and off the rails
colours life as precious grail
resting on the sweetness found
daily, dilating upon reflections   

This morning I decided to count the number of words nestled between Divinity and Division in the Dictionary: 1 it turns out. Divisible: something capable of being divided. The dictionary at hand was a physical ‘pocket’ edition, although one best suited to that of an adult kangaroo.

I was convinced this exercise would offer poetic inspiration for these pictures, selected in a gust of gutty instinct. Instead, I remain unconvinced of the world making any sense, and on track towards an abstract end to a Beautiful and Bewildering existence: 391 words between these two - a number of no immediate significance.

In conclusion, this exercise proved completely pointless, but did provide activity to accompany my porridge.

skimming the surface
of new ancient times

hibernation did naught
to hatch peace of mind

the wheel stopped spinning
the spokes screamed for meaning

the ceiling got scratched
with dreams and delirium   

a text about portals into a parallel universe

as dust settles mortality stirs -
it tracks downstream
in a courtly game of chase
reflecting on the marks made
in its absence 

say I were a bird
knowing what I do
would I migrate south in winter
or set my sights on stars
and return to Earth fallen
ready to walk with you 

our summer in limbo
mellowed with salty kisses
in the kitchen of a house
you couldn’t afford to keep
I pressed a bottle upon my brow
you cracked eggs into a pan
and sizzled in that denim dress
working-up an appetite
on your day off 

the rendered moment –
pre-owned by selective vision
sold for loving rumination
get your dust-spotted jpeg 
meticulously beguiling 
and shipping worldwide 
strictly no returns accepted