For one reason and another, we decided to take a virtual tour of Paddington last Sunday, rather than meet in real life. We connected on Zoom and then Joolz got in her virtual car, shared the Google maps street view of the Paddington area and off we went.
As we cruised around Paddington Green, down Edgware Road, and into the side streets towards Paddington Station, we discussed the architecture, signs of recent change – a whole block of brick buildings gone since we were last in the area and another metal frame and concrete building going up – and wondered about what layers of history are buried beneath these streets.
Hilaire had delved into The London Encylopedia so knew that both Edgware Road and Bayswater Road were once important Roman roads, and that there was an Anglo-Saxon settlement near the junction of these roads. The name Paddington is thought to derive from an Anglo-Saxon chieftain Padda. Can we imagine ourselves this far back in time, and write as an Anglo-Saxon woman? Time will tell.
Google street view, capturing images in 2020 and 2021, also reminded us of much more recent history. We both remember the Paddington area as a bustling, noisy, cosmopolitan place, with bumper to bumper traffic on the roads, commuters pouring out of the mainline and underground stations, and office workers, tourists, shoppers and families jostling for space on the pavements. It was a strange experience to travel along these mostly empty streets, and seeing the occasional person wearing a mask. It was also curious to jump back and forth through the seasons – with streetviews captured at different times of the year. One minute the trees were in leaf, round a corner they were bare, the next the sun came out.
Of course the most famous character associated with the area is Paddington Bear. Joolz mentioned that the first English word his Aunt Lucy’s spoke was London. She sounds like our kind of woman, though whether she ends up in a London Undercurrents poem is up for debate. Marmalade sandwiches, anyone?
Even though we’ve been meeting via Zoom to discuss collaborative writing, and our next project together, there’s nothing quite like meeting up in real life. So on Sunday, instead of meeting virtually as we have been doing every other weekend, we both made our way to the Southbank.
The Wandsworth Heritage Festival, postponed from last year, kicked off at the end of May, and on the third of June we gave an online reading from our co-authored poetry collection London Undercurrents. We’d chosen poems that related in one way or another to the Festival’s theme of Homes and Housing, and accompanied each poem with one or two images. And although we hadn’t given a live reading together for quite some time, as soon as we started it all seemed to flow and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. More importantly, so did the audience! The reading was recorded and is available to view on Vimeo, thanks to the Battersea Society who hosted our event.
We are excited to be reading at this year’s Wandsworth Heritage Festival, which has a focus on homes and housing. Most of the events, including our reading, are free and there is a mix of online talks and in person walks.
Our event is on Thursday 3rd June at 7pm on Zoom, and is kindly hosted by the Battersea Society. We’ll be reading poems from our collection and discussing some of the inspirational women behind our closely researched work. To book please email email@example.com
In true Leslie Knope spirit, London Undercurrents grew out of, and deepened, a friendship between female pals. And when Holland Park Press published our joint poetry collection, two female friends became three – with the addition of the human dynamo that is Bernadette Jansen op de Haar, HPP’s founder.
Our book celebrates women’s resilience despite many different circumstances and it makes a great gift for this year’s pandemic-tainted Galentine’s Day. Gift it to those marvellous women in your life to say thanks; thanks for being there, for telling you you’re on mute on the Zoom call, for sending you silly cat videos to cheer you up.
After all, female friendships have prevailed despite everything and anything that life can throw at them, and that is worth celebrating. You can buy a copy here and Bernadette will post it to your galentine.
We’ve Zoomed, we’ve texted, emailed and chatted on the phone. But there’s nothing quite like shooting the breeze in person – face to face, albeit at a Covid safe distance. We’ve been busy individually with other work and projects, but the idea of working together on London Undercurrents mark 2, in whatever form that may end up taking, has been niggling away at both of us.
So we carved out some time and on Tuesday morning we made our separate ways into central London and met at Piccadilly Circus, where the wide pavements were uncluttered and Eros was tourist-free. We grabbed a takeaway coffee and headed to Golden Square.
After catching up on each other’s recent activities, conversation turned to London Undercurrents and where next. It was great to realise we’re both still keen to collaborate, and to feel the buzz that comes from sharing ideas and sparking off each other. There are endless women we could write about and plenty of different ways we could approach our new research and writing. For the moment, we’ll keep those under wraps while we explore our options. For the next couple of hours we walked and talked, exploring London’s West End in its semi-depopulated lockdown edit.
After admiring the tasteful Christmas decorations in Covent Garden we decided to walk down to Parliament Square, to see Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett, which Joolz hadn’t seen in real life. It’s an imposing and inspiring statue, which also honours many other women who were involved in the struggle for women’s right to vote – their names and pictures are incorporated into the plinth. A fitting end to our day out in the West End. Then we bumped elbows and parted, Hilaire walking south and Joolz heading north, both of us buzzing with ideas.
A week of poetry kicks off on Monday 28 September, ending 2 October, online as part of Wandworth Library’s cultural events this year. We spoke to Kate Halbura, Library Manager at Wandsworth Town Library, and recorded ourselves reading some of our poems from London Undercurrents – which was great fun. Do tune in to their Facebook page from 8pm each night to hear and see some fantastic poetry. We’re up on Wednesday 30th September.