Posted on April 28th, 2016
A new short comic that I’ve done. I’ve had the idea for this one for quite some time, but I was inspired into action by the last series of Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle (side note: I saw Stew do a show where he performed all six sets from the series in one evening – it was an evening that was equal parts gruelling and hilarious).
This the the first time I’ve done a continuously vertical infinite-canvas style strip. It’s also the second short I’ve done in a row featuring a certain species of irate insect. Maybe I’ve been listening to Wu-Tang Forever too much lately?
Click here or on the picture above to go to the strip.
Posted on March 6th, 2016
A new comic that I’ve been working on for the last few months is now available to download. This is a single stand-alone issue.
Ek and his fellow inhabitants of the Island enjoy a quiet, secluded life free from misery. But when an outsider is brought into their midst by inopportune events elsewhere bringing tidings of strife and misery in far away places, the Island becomes aware that it is not as isolated as it thought it was, and the inhabitants need to make some decisions about their place in the world.
I don’t think anybody will have to look too hard to work out where the idea for this comic came from so I’m going to let it speak for itself on that front. Stylistically, it’s notable for me for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s done (mostly) in Black & White, which requires a different attitude. Secondly, this is the first time I’ve done a downloadable comic in the landscape / Private Eye style. It was actually more of a challenge to think horizontally than I would have thought. However, I suspect most of my downloadable long-form stuff will be in this format going forward, though not necessarily in these proportions (it’s done 16:9, which is about as horizontally dominant as it gets).
Posted on February 29th, 2016
Both tunnels on the canal go underneath Council Estates. That doesn’t feel like a coincidence. The canal wants to hide from the Big Bad Locals. The canal heads right under the estate, right under the Sainsburys car park that’s probably seen as a development opportunity by someone, right under the N1 Centre, Islington’s hub of mainstream commerce. I know this part of the journey all too well. I’m coming back onto my patch.
The entry back onto the canal at Colebrooke Row is hidden in the bushes, a mysterious gateway into a garden state. It leads to a precipitous drop, a downhill slope of a ramp (a safety hazard in the moist depths of autumn). It’s so green at this part of the canal right now – the opposite side acts as a mini-park with seating to enjoy the view is sprinkled with blooming trees, and the water itself is rife with duckweed, a veritable ooze, a radioactive sludge. You’d probably dissolve if you fell in, but you might develop superpowers, so swings and roundabouts. (more…)
Posted on February 10th, 2016
Pick your poison at Camden Lock. The canal path is subsumed into the local environs, and the wanderer has a choice of route. On the one hand you can turn into Camden Market, which at lunchtime is a semi-permeable mesh of people and smells, a heaving mass. On the other hand you can cross the narrow footbridge over to the recent commercial development, its Holiday Inns, Starbucks and Wetherspoons seemingly at odds with what people think Camden is about, yet judging by the footfall clearly not rejected by visitors. In wet weather, it’s no choice at all – that footbridge is a slippery deathtrap – but it’s bone-dry for now.
I go through the Market. I’m actually a little hungry at this point but too overwhelmed (both by the options available and the number of people) to make a decision. Unfortunately, lunchtime is the worst time to go to a food market. Still, the smells, various meats being cooked with various spices, are intoxicating. My nose is salivating. One stall is selling artisanal cheese toasties, which might be the dumbest fucking thing I’ve ever heard but I’m so tempted to give in to stupidity. In the end I don’t. I head upstairs with the intention of making another pit-stop but find that the Gents is currently being cleaned. You can’t even piss in Camden anymore. (more…)
Posted on February 4th, 2016
When you part ways with the canal at the Maida Tunnel, you’re dumped away from the water and back out into the city. It’s only a brief interlude back into the built-up world, and it’s incredible again how once you cross the elegant facade of Edgware Road, you’re quickly taken back into the perfunctory brick rectangles that are swept behind it.
A sickly yellow Regents Canal sign peeks through an alleyway into a council estate, indicating the way back to water. With the large metal fences and barb wire toppings, suddenly the canal feels a lot less romantic and a lot more menacing. There’s still no actual access to the canal again yet as the footpath follows up top whilst the canal itself creates a ravine through the estate. It seems notable that the estate is refused access to the canal, the prestige waterfront, although the college opposite seems to have a private garden overlooking the canal. I remember someone once talking about how poor the access points on the canal were, and how poorly thought out the access from the estate onto the main streets seemed to be here. “It’s almost as if the the Westminster Councillors who live nearby didn’t want people from the estate mixing with them”. Indeed. (more…)
Posted on January 26th, 2016
The thing that dominates the view as you make your way on to the Grand Union Canal at Willesden Junction is a block of flats in the midst of development. This will be a recurring feature during the course of this walk, so it’s appropriate for it to be there right up top. Better get used to this, the sight of scaffolding and boardings with CGI fantasy lands printed on them, visions out of reach of all but the select few.
But once you drop down from the road onto the canal and walk just a few hundred metres down the canal path away from the bridge the tower block quickly recedes into memory. There’s nothing particularly ‘urban’ about this area at all. It’s all so green, the path so wide, that you’re no longer in a London that chokes you with its density. There’s space to breathe here. (more…)
Posted on January 18th, 2016
I watched the buildings flicker past, too fast to notice anything other than vague smudges coming and going in the blink of an eye. I’m not paying attention, really. I’ve seen this all before – they offer nothing new to me, so I’ve no need to expend energy on them. I’m conserving it for a return trip that will be much more draining than the outbound journey.
I had decided that I was going to go on a long walk. I was going to get off the train at Willesden Junction and walk back down the Grand Union and Regent’s canals all the way back down home to Haggerston. It would be a nice little physical and mental project to undertake.
Why walk? Because it’s the best way to get a feel of a place, on foot. Taking time to look, being out in the open, able to absorb it all in, rather than observing from the confines of the bus, or treating the passing city as a vague distraction from within the train . Exposure is the way to get a sense of a place. Also, I could do with the exercise (because it’s one of the most natural and common things that we humans do, people forget that if consumed in vast enough quantity then walking counts as a physical activity, and this distance would definitely count).
Why down the canal? Well, as walking routes, canal towpaths are so great. No cars to worry about, and only the odd cyclist. And because it’s fascinating to see how they’ve been co-opted into the city in differing ways. The differing stagings alongside the canal changed the way I saw it, from industrial to recreational, from intimidating to aspirational. The canal is all of these things. It just depends on where you are. Plus, there’s just something soothing about the water, even if the water in the canal looks like something an ill animal would have to pass out of its system.
Why from Willesden Junction? Honestly, because the Overground stops there, and it’s the furthest stop down the Overground that also intersects with the canal, meaning that just as there’s a direct train route from Dalston to Willesden, there’s also a direct walking route back in the opposite direction. It felt neat to take the two intersecting direct paths between the two places. A natural there-and-back-again that can be read from the city’s jumble. A quick look at Google Maps Pedometer revealed that including the brief appendages at either end of the canal, the walk would cover very nearly exactly 10 miles, and I’m such a sucker for round numbers.
I use the last stretch of the planned walk, between Hackney and Angel, all the time as it’s a scenic route in an otherwise familiarly urbane environment, but I knew very little about the rest of the canal. I thought I might take this opportunity to change that a little. To see how the rest of the canal compares. To see what was different and what was the same.
As I watched the shapes of the city glide past outside in the opposite direction I stared thinking about practical matters. How long would the walk take? I mean, I’m in reasonable shape and certainly didn’t feel intimidated by the distance, but I was worried about my foot giving up on me. My body has betrayed me on many occasions, prone to little resentful acts of revenge for the years of abuse I’ve put it through. I had a bottle of water and a box of Brunch Bars in a backpack, but little else. I’d also taken a thin coat with me, in case the elements decided to make themselves known during the walk, but the weather forecast seemed to imply (for what greater certainty can one take from the Met Office than implication?) that I wouldn’t need it. The few strains of pure, undiluted sunlight that had been bursting forth when I got on the train were starting to thin out, clouds starting to patch together into a puffy protective blanket. That’s a good thing. I didn’t want to be walking on scorched earth. London is not a city that copes well with extremities of heat, and cooling breezes don’t tend to roll in off the canal.
The train pulls into Willesden Junction station, a place impressive in its ability to stay both so large and so featureless. I disembark into the labyrinthine mess of passages that make up the station and find my way over to the correct exit. It’s slightly colder than I was expecting, a light breeze delicately glazing me with a sense of regret for not bringing something long-sleeved other than the coat. Nothing to stop this expedition, mind – it would be fucking stupid to fall at the first hurdle over such a trivial matter, wouldn’t it? I had no doubt that if I was wearing a hoodie that the sun would be scorching down right now, trying to melt the cloth into my skin. Sod’s law. Can’t fight it.
I headed towards the canal, ready to get this thing started. Time to get this show on the road. Or the canal towpath, even.