Author: Jim Preen

Lockdown Eases: 4th July

Lockdown Eases: 4th July

  • It’s Super Saturday or Independence Day for drinkers. Pubs reopen at 6am.
  • Recently a major incident was declared by police following mobs of crowds going to beaches. Not sure why the government chose a Saturday to throw open the doors to the UK’s thirsty drinkers. Seems at best unwise.
  • But then again as my friend James O’Brien just tweeted: ‘No air bridges, no app, the third highest death toll *in the world* & no end in sight… No wonder they’ve opened the pubs’.
  • Took the bike through the West End and up to Regents Park this morning.
  • I’d say about 60% of shops were open but almost no customers except for barbers and hairdressers. Short line outside the Apple Store. Lots of shop workers chatting on the pavement.
London Zoo is open
  • Like everybody else I made sourdough. Friend and neighbour Richard dropped off the ‘starter’ and this is the result. Upside: tastes good. Downside: takes about a week to produce. Sourdough need to call in the time and motion consultants.
  • Zoom has taken over the world. All my business meetings and chats with friends are now Zoomers. They need to re-release the Aretha Franklin song ‘Who’s zooming who?’
Old Vic, New Vic is online
  • Last night we watched a play broadcast from the Old Vic. It came delivered by, you guessed it, Zoom.
  • The play Lungs by Duncan MacMillan stars Claire Foy (the Queen) and Matt Smith (Dr Who). An amazing, socially distanced two hander which I urge you to watch. It’s a torrent of dialogue; you are drenched in words. Claire Foy’s character is incredibly irritating, has no self-awareness, is deeply moving and hilarious all mixed up in the space of ninety minutes. Matt’s character has no emotional intelligence, but great hair. So strange to watch live theatre on a computer.
Home front

Home front

All the places I’ve lived in London

In the Autumn of 1977, I moved to London; I was 23 years old. I’ve lived here ever since except for an eight-year stint in Asia from 2007. During lockdown I’ve been roaming about on my bike taking pictures of the very different, almost empty, London that has appeared before us.

To set myself a goal I decided to visit all six addresses I’ve called home since I arrived in the capital and take a picture of myself in front of them. This is my home front, together with a little story or two.

Royal College Street, Camden N1 0RY

Full of fear and trepidation the decision was taken to move from Cropredy, a little village just outside Banbury in Oxfordshire, to London. We moved to a house share with my old friend James (well he’s old now) and various other young people kick starting their lives. The house had central heating which I’d never experienced before. James and I played bar billiards at the Old Eagle round the corner. The place wasn’t that much to look at then, but it looks in a right state now.

Broadhurst Gardens, West Hampstead NW6 3BE

After a year in Camden the first wife and I decided to rent in West Hampstead. We bought our first VHS video recorder. The night we got it, I managed to spill a glass of wine directly into the front where you loaded the tape. It had to be replaced, as indeed did the marriage.

Dukes Avenue, Muswell Hill N10 2PU

We bought this house for the princely sum of £84,000. I know this sounds like nothing now, but honestly at the time it was a king’s ransom; an unimaginable sum. We could only afford it because of generous help from the in-laws. The marriage broke down, I took to running around Alexandra Palace and ran away in 1983.

Ardleigh Road, Hackney N1 4HS

This one-bedroom flat cost me £15,000 in 1984. I had huge amounts of fun here for around ten years. It’s where I learnt to be young again. Flo did my ironing. When I went back to take this picture she was there, now 86 years old.

St Pauls Road Islington N1 2LJ

I owned a recording studio in St Pauls Road, hence the flat in Ardleigh Road. As you can see it’s now a Thai Restaurant. I didn’t live here, though there were some long nights. The studio was called the Red Shop and I ran it from 1980 to 1990 when I set out to do other things. My assistant was Robert Di Giuseppe, AKA Brains. Where is he now? I met some of my closest friends here, many of whom are my friends to this day.

Ufton Road N1 4HE

The future Mrs Preen decided that living in a one bed flat with me was more than any sane person could bear; we needed a house. I put the word out and wide-boy Barry stopped by and said words to the effect, yeah might have something. A day later he said pay £2k to this housing association and a house in highly desirable De Beauvoir can be yours for £400 a month. We didn’t ask too many questions. ABC News sent me skimming round the world and Mrs Preen worked her way around the national newspapers.

London SW8

In 2001 we bought this house from one of Mrs Preen’s colleagues on her majesty’s Daily Express. It was derelict; we did it up. We got married and our daughter was born in 2003. We moved to Thailand in 2007 and came back in 2014. We are about to do the house up again. This is home.

Last clap for carers?

Last clap for carers?

A little London lockdown 29.5.20

  • We clapped for carers last night, perhaps for the last time. Though I have a suspicion we’ll be out rattlin’ those pots and pans again before we’re done with this damn virus.
  • The picture you see was taken outside the Catholic care home at the end of the street.
  • I’m no Christian but this is a beautifully run place and we always look forward to their Christmas and summer fund raising fetes.
  • The daughter volunteered there for a while, dishing out dinners to the old and frail.
  • When I irritate the daughter, she threatens to have me incarcerated there. Who knows could happen, but not yet please.
  • Lockdown restriction are being slowly lifted, we can now meet up to six friends or family members in parks and private gardens.
  • My friend Simon will get to see his new grandson Frankie. Lovely.
  • Went to see Alfie and the boys at Convent Garden market to pick up the fruit and veg for the week.
  • The strawberries are spectacular. Mrs Preen set fair to make strawberry jam.
  • Strawberries mean Wimbledon and summer means cricket and the Chelsea Flower Show, but not this year.
  • So many activities that are part of the London summer scene are nowhere to be seen.
  • The weather continues to be spectacular. No rain, but after the UK nearly sank beneath the waves in one of the wettest ever Autumns, I’m good with that.
  • Yeah you’re right, that is Rusty. Rubbish at social distancing.
Thames path to Putney

Thames path to Putney

A Little London Lockdown 25.5.20

  • I took the bike to Putney along the Thames path.
  • Just started using the Strava app, thanks to Gyuri.
  • 23K 1 hour 50 mins
  • Lots of toddlers and families about so low speed.
  • It’s not a clear run to Putney, you have to get off at certain points and use the road, but it was a beautiful day (26c). Sun, sun, sun.
  • It felt a bit like the High Line in NY, but somehow lower.
  • Lots of little gardens along the way.
  • On the road near Albert Bridge I saw a young couple riding a Vespa
  •  And I thought…
  • It’s a beautiful sunny bank holiday, you’re young, you own a Vespa and you’ve got your bird on the back.
  • Does life get sweeter?
Strange Battersea wildlife
Mud Larks
Michael Caine owns a flat in that building. Not many people know that. Well he used to, we did and interview with him there in 1999.
Battersea Powerstation. Who’s going to buy all these flats?