Stoke On Trent regeneration

I went up to the Westfield Centre in Stratford again this afternoon. I’m aware that I head there rather too often, but today I wanted to go somewhere where my cap wouldn’t keep flying off. I’ve mentioned here before how gobsmacked I am at the regeneration of Stratford, yet to be fair it’s happening all over London: brand new buildings are going up all over the place, and the city is about to get a glittering, new, multi-billion pound tube line. To me, though, that raises an obvious question: are other parts of the country getting the same amount of investment?

To that end, I just tapped ‘Stoke On Trent regeneration’ into Google and came across this BBC article. Stoke has – or used to have – a reputation for being a bit of a run down, neglected city. According to the article though, “Plans to turn a former industrial site into homes, bars and cafes in a £60m scheme have been approved. Construction work on the Goods Yard project in Stoke-on-Trent, near the railway station, could start this year, the city council said….The scheme has received £16m from the government’s Levelling Up Fund.” Say what you will about the Tories and their ‘levelling up’ bullshit, surely this is great news. As much as I adore London, I come originally from Cheshire and I still care about other, smaller places in the UK. I’m also aware of the giant imbalance in investment there has been between the capital and places which aren’t in the south-east. If this really is a sign that things are changing, it will be good to see places like Stoke come into their own after so much neglect.

Patronising Door-To-Door Salesmen

That is the second time that has happened in the last two or three weeks: I was just chilling at home on my computer, starting to think about lunch, when my doorbell rang. Of course I got up and answered it. A man I didn’t recognise was at the door, who started to explain that he was from some kind of alarm company. But as soon as he saw that I have CP, he started to back away and apologise for wasting my time. I tried to ask him what he wanted, but he continued to back away: he seemed to assume that I couldn’t understand what he was selling, or that I couldn’t be the person who is responsible for my own home. Not that I like door-to-door salesmen, but I find that very patronising indeed. Why do such people automatically think that someone else must be in charge of the security of my flat, or that I can’t be the person they need to speak to? As an independent man of nearly forty, such things really piss me off.

A Lack of Depth and Knowledge

I think the best thing I can do here today is flag this Owen Jones article up. In it, Jones furiously damns Boris Johnson as the privileged charlatan he unquestionably is: “If the phrase “educated beyond his intelligence” could sprout arms, legs and a contrived untidy mop, it would be [Johnson]. Oxbridge does not, unfortunately, lack his type: mediocre youngsters ensconced in privilege, whose pretentious vocabulary and unnecessary use of Latin disguises a lack of depth and knowledge.” Here we have a man who thinks political power was his birthright, and that the rules don’t apply to him just because of who he is. Today, the Met has issued twenty fines due to breaches in COVID rules at Ten Downing Street: while the rest of us were desperately trying to shelter from the pandemic, Johnson and his friends were partying as if the rest of us didn’t matter. I find that disgraceful, and if Johnson is allowed to remain in power after this, it would be nothing but an absolute insult.

The Oscars

I suppose there’s a lot for me to write about today. For one, film seems to be going through a total paradigm shift: last night at the Oscars, for the first time, a film released on an internet platform won best film. Apple TV’s Coda – a moving film about a deaf family with a hearing daughter – became the first streaming film to scoop the best picture award. This surely marks a shift away from cinemas and film’s traditional home. While of course you could put it largely down to the pandemic, I can’t help worrying that film is losing something: in the cinema, film is an all-consuming event which holds our complete attention for two hours. Watched on a computer monitor or mobile phone screen, film is rendered pausable and ignorable; it becomes far more lightweight and superficial. While I’m not saying streaming will be the end of film – if anything, it encourages people to watch more films because it’s so easy – I worry that it will start to be taken far less seriously.

More importantly though, this was the night when film about Deaf people starring Deaf actors won Best Picture. This is huge news in terms of disability representation. A small, low-budget film about people who are usually totally ignored in mainstream film has scooped the top prize. Surely this is a monumental, watershed moment.

But instead of talking about what an important night it was for the Deaf and Disabled community, everyone is talking about one guy punching another on live television for insulting his wife. It really makes me want to despair.

Charlie’s First Mother’s Day

Today is obviously Mother’s Day, so I’d first like to wish my Mum a great day. She and Dad are currently down in France with my brother Mark, Kat, and their grandchildren, having a great deal of fun playing Minecraft (among other things). More than that though, today is my friend Charlotte’s first ever Mother’s Day: the first Mother’s day since she gave birth to her daughter. I thought that was certainly worth noting. I really hope that she, little Olive and husband Alex are having a fantastic day, although, knowing them, I’m pretty sure they will be.

Exploring The Ravensbourne

The more I explore this city, the more it intrigues me and the deeper I love it. Following on from my exploration of the Leaway a week or so ago, I wanted to see what I could find of London’s other small rivers. Just west of Greenwich, on the south bank of the Thames, I had noticed another small river flowing into London’s mighty central current. I’d come across it last April, but had yet to explore it properly. Today I set out to see what I could find of it – it could well be as charming as the Lea. This morning, then, I set off down to Greenwich town via it’s mighty park, before heading west a few metres to find the mouth of the Ravensbourne. A few days ago I’d come across it again, running through a charming little park, Brookmill Park, near Lewisham. Today I wanted to see how far south you could follow it.

I soon refound Brookmill Park, and followed The Ravensbourne as it meandered south through the park. It is a much narrower river than the Lea; barely more than a stream. South of Brookmill Park, though, I was in Lewisham, and the river wasn’t so easy to trace. Saturday traffic hurtled along roads under which the river flowed through pipes. Yet, with the help of the handy maps which often spring, sapling-like, from London’s pavements, I navigated my powerchair through the maelstrom to refind the stream as it flowed down concrete channels past building sites and blocks of flats. South of Lewisham, it weaves in and out of an overground railway line: following the often-buried river wasn’t easy, yet eventually it brought me to Ladywell Fields, a wide, newly-established park through which the stream flowed in two or three channels. There, well maintained paths allowed me to follow the stream south through that peaceful place until I reached Catford.

By then, though, the afternoon was drawing on; trying to follow the river even further south may have been fun, but I didn’t want to make it too difficult to get home. I headed back to Lewisham, noting to myself how much harder the Ravensbourne had been to follow than the Lea: there was no lovely, wheelchair-friendly riverside path, and it had clearly received far less attention. You can occasionally find it running through well-maintained parks like Brookmill Park or Ladywell Fields, but between them the river is diverted through channels running alongside forgotten back streets. This was obviously one of London’s lost rivers UA Fanthorpe wrote of in Rising Damp. Yet perhaps that’s part of the fun: you only find rivers like the Ravensbourne if you look for them, but knowing they’re there and trying to trace them amid all the chaos of the metropolis is part of their charm.

“OK, fine!”

I’m not sure whether everyone has had a chance to watch the most recent episode of Picard, but I just did, and I really have to now flag up this moment of absolute gloriousness. It seems that Star Trek, as a franchise, has reached a stage where it can refer back and play with itself, nodding to previous episodes and films. Without wanting to spoil anything, this is one of those moments. As a fan of The Voyage Home, it really made my day not only to see this reference, but to see it being reread so amusingly. I love it!

Absolutely Livid

Of course they’re livid, but it’s what they duped just over half the country into voting for.

Brexit has rendered the UK a total irrelevance, and the sooner the Tories crawl out of their own arses and admit that, the better.

The Second Dome

I’m not sure how much anyone else will have heard about this, but a jaw-dropping new dome has just been given the green light to be built in Stratford. The Maddison Square Garden arena will apparently be as tall as Big Ben and contain the world’s largest screen. I find it incredible, I must say: Interested in things connected with Stratford and the Olympic Park that I am, this is a story I’ve kept an eye on for a while. The regeneration of that area of London has been phenomenal, and this massive new dome will take it up another level still. Alongside the biggest shopping centre in Europe, I think an events/music venue was a logical next step.

Yet, it must be said, this project is not without controversy.  A thousand local residents have raised concerns about possible light pollution, and the O2 Arena has objected to having a massive new rival built so close. After all, the two venues will only be four stops apart on the Jubilee Line, and vie for the same business. Then again, by the time the MSG arena is up and running, the O2 – itself quite controversial in it’s time – will be about 25 years old, so I reckon it’s due some competition. As fond of the O2 as I am, I’m quite sure it will survive. Indeed, the two venues may well complement one another, and make East London even greater than it already is by drawing even more business, culture and creativity into the area. Either way, this is a project I’ll be keeping an eye on; another excuse to visit Stratford.

Today’s Trundle

I just found something rather cool out. I’ve mentioned here before how much I like to go for walks/trundles in my powerchair. Today’s was rather a long one, and I was wondering whether there was any way to plot my route out on Google maps. Getting home, I googled it and found there was quite a simple, straightforward way. It took me a couple of attempts due to the fact I ran out of destination points, and as a result only shows my rough route, but I’d like to invite you all to check this out.