Fancy a Stink Pipe Walk? Wee-wee Mon Sewer

Social interaction has been at a premium for much of this year, so a chance to join a small group walking round the backstreets of Plumstead finding stink pipes was a welcome distraction. John led the walk and began by giving a little background information. Joseph Bazalgette and Sir Goldsworthy Gurney were commissioned to design a sewer system and devise a way to vent the waste gases. You can find out more about the subject here.

In spite of their size and ubiquity around London, they are often overlooked. Most are rather neglected with peeling paint in drab colours – khaki and washed out air force blue for instance. However, there are sometimes little decorative elements. If they were painted to bring out the detail they would add a welcome touch of colour to the urban landscape. Stink pipes are located along the sewers aligned with each other. More than one can be found in some streets. Later pipes tend to be less ornate and are made of steel instead of cast iron. A few are rusting into oblivion.

Our walk nominally covered 10 pipes, but they are so easy to miss, especially on tree lined roads that a couple of ‘extra’ ones were found on the way. At one site, a later replacement stood a couple of yards away from the Victorian original, which had been truncated to a base (see header pic). There were a few other interesting sights like a bell on the side of The Church of the Ascension and a fine King George oval pillar box with a decommissioned stamp machine on the side. We briefly crossed the boundary with Bexley Borough by the horse field – it was sunnier on that side of the road! We also looked around one of the local cemeteries and admired a Cedar tree replete with splendid cones.

A Window of Opportunity

Walking for exercise is all very well, but walking for a purpose appeals more to some people. The Easter Art Walk 2 – 5th April achieved both, with walking for pleasure thrown in. Plumstead Open Studios involves quite a lot of effort for those who take part. With current restrictions precluding visitors in the house, but 6 people being allowed to meet outside, Plumstead became an ‘open air studio’ instead. 35 local artists used their windows to display a selection of their work. Tidying the front garden and cleaning the windows involves less work than preparing for Open Studios!

Based on the map made available shortly before the launch, the Art Walk seemed to split naturally into two sections – from Lower Plumstead up to the far end of Swingate Lane to include the Common, and the other section to encompass Shooters Hill. Both are substantial walks, with hills to climb. By the time everyone had bumped into everyone else and enjoyed a decent chat, a couple of hours had gone.

As a bonus, Saturday saw a series of hourly alphorn recitals by Anneke Scott. The alphorn is a magnificent beast, rarely seen or heard in the UK. You can find out more about this instrument here, and the following video is of the alphorn being played in a local park – not far from where Kate Bush grew up.

8 Paint Out in Plumstead

Although the Swap and Sell had to be cancelled, the Paint Out which was to accompany it still went ahead since there was no need to meet at the Spiral Garden itself. As everyone who came is a long-standing regular of the watercolour workshops at St Mark’s Hall behind the Community Market and at Shrewsbury House they all came fully prepared. They didn’t even need to use the tap in the garden for water.

The Nature Reserve next door was a perfect setting for a couple of hours socially distanced painting. Previously, it has been the setting for a Japanese-themed Halloween performance. 8 landscapists set off down the steps into the bosky bowl, carrying their equipment and folding chairs. There are several nooks around the space to get the creative juices flowing. It was also a welcome chance to have a bit of open air chitchat with people we hadn’t seen for months. Occasionally, someone would come past on their way to the Plumstead Pantry for sourdough bread or looking for a quiet place to smoke a joint, but they weren’t fazed by the painters.

After almost two hours painting, the artists packed up and found each other for an informal debriefing. Given how much people enjoyed themselves, a future paint out was suggested when there is another dry, clear day. It would be too much to expect it to be very warm by then, but we can always wear our thermals and fingerless gloves.

Virtually Perfect Poetry Competition

Although things have been ‘a bit quiet’ since the New Year, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been stirrings of activity within Art Plumstead. The online Improshrews sessions have continued and recently the annual poetry competition took place via Zoom. Obviously it wasn’t the same as being in the Old Mill, but speaking as a spectator, it worked. Everyone could have the drink of their choice to hand during the proceedings and the muting (and unmuting to allow applause) was centrally controlled by John who appeared as usual in a tuxedo and managed the whole evening.There were over thirty entries which were whittled down to three sets of four which were performed by a selection of readers. From these the most popular in each cohort went forward to be judged in the final round. This time, instead of collecting pieces of paper it was simply a case of each audience member privately messaging John with the letter assigned to their favourite poem to be totted up. In theory, if there had been hordes of listeners, it might have been a problem but as there was a similar number of people who would have been at the live event (34 or so) it worked like clockwork. As is often the case in the previous competitions there were a couple of very close rounds, which added to the sense of excitement. It helped that by now the format is familiar.

There were a few issues with the technology – Sparky’s Magic Piano came to mind a few times – but it was still possible to listen and react to each poem. The results were as follows

Plumstead Poet Laureate 2020 – Sarah Myers – There’s No Art
Runner-up – Graham Buchan – Noise
Third place – Jane Lawson – Christmas Day at the Foodbank

Sadly, the laurel wreath couldn’t be presented by the previous poet laureate, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, each winner was able to see the medal they had been awarded with the assurance that it would soon be winging its way to their address for gloating or modest pride depending on their temperament.

 

The Sweet Taste of Success

Under starters orders…

The sixth Plumstead Pickle Festival hosted a varied array of 15 chutneys and pickles. As it isn’t clear what the difference is between a chutney and pickle it is an established tradition that all entries are peer judged alongside each other without differentiation – after all, it all goes down the same hole. An estimated 35 locals came along to sample what was on offer.

A break from the serious job of adding up scores

By now, the voting system, adjusted last year to include the category of texture, is familiar to most, with no more than 5 points being allocated between up to 5 entries in each section. Butter, biscuits and cheese were all pre-prepared and issued to tables to accompany the various offerings. No bread though, too much was wasted last time. Voting slips and pens followed shortly afterwards. Meanwhile a food-related soundtrack played in the background to add to the atmos generated by a well-liked niche event attended by a cross-section of Plumsteadites discussing the merits and demerits of everything on their plates.

Erik in full flow

First for Appearance

Second for Appearance

Third for Appearance

First for Taste

Second for Taste

Third for Taste

First for Texture

Second for Texture

Third for Texture

Erik provided the whimsical banter while the scores were totted up and told a chutney-related gag too dire to be worth repeating here. Dee and Geoff were i/c the laptop to quickly add up the scores, and Kevin was called upon to write out the winning certificates once the results were known. Rob was on hand to take photographs and record the event for posterity. This time there were some new winners which mixed things up a bit as well as seasoned regulars being placed. Anyone determined to do better next time would be well advised to make next year’s entry now and store it in a cool dark place to mature.

All tasted and judged

Passionate about Conceptual Art

Art Plumstead take Conceptual Art very seriously, to the extent that an evening is devoted to it every Plumstravaganza in the garden of The Volunteer. This year’s entries were more in the spirit of the movement in that the artefacts were relatively simple, and had to be explained for them to make sense. As usual, Alison as curator of the exhibition was suitably attired for the occasion (see above).

Themes covered a range of social and political issues, quite serious at times but without being too po-faced. it was Monday night, after all. For instance there was a short interactive performance piece involving the audience’s consumption of passion fruit, symbolising the inadequate protection of historical buildings by outdated protocols – shown by a flimsy basket made from an old magazine – which, once they are disposed of or destroyed can never be recovered.

 

The magic piece of glass highlighted the way in which it becomes possible to place one’s bum very close to someone’s face in a public situation which wouldn’t normally be acceptable when seated on the tube or DLR. The Death in Greenwich exhibit was a comment on the environmental damage wrought by cruise ships arriving at Greenwich. Erik improvised a skit about house buying with reference to a bird box that just happened to be lying around the garden along with a brimful ashtray. There was a presentation about who should be consigned to a Wicker Man for their relentless unnecessary questions, an exposition about the meaning of the letter yaz in the Berber alphabet, and a tongue-in-cheek funding bid for a series of sculptures made from found objects in multiple locations covering the themes of loss, bereavement, separation and regret.

After all the exhibits had been explained and discussed, it was time to mingle and make plans for Halloween, before making the epic journey up the hill to The Old Mill where Dee blagged a selection of bar snacks to help us concentrate.

Dipping into The Spiral Garden again

The Spiral Garden hosted another swap/sell/donate event as part of Plumstravaganza. The early arrivals had the chance to taste a delicious German apple cake with crumble topping made by Maggie, washed down with a cup of coffee. Soon, however, there were brown turkey figs and crystal apple cucumbers (a heritage variety bred in Australia in 1933) from people’s gardens to sample as well. The home made raspberry jam was sold in a trice by those who already knew how good it was from last year.

A good selection of assorted plants to swap or to buy were brought into the garden by visitors and before long the central table was covered in a sea of foliage before gradually dwindling as purchases were made and plants were found a new home.
Numbers were up on last year and those who came stayed for longer than last year, seeking advice and exchanging information, but also enjoying the social occasion. The power of the social media helped to pull in people from different sources but the Art Plumstead mailing list played its part. There were flyers advertising Good Food in Greenwich and the Cookery Clubs offered by GCDA, held down by painted stones, such a big thing everywhere last year, and revived latterly by a public spirited soul in Plumstead

High and Dry

The foul weather of Saturday was safely over by the time Art Plumstead hosted a stall at the Shrewsbury Park‘s Lark in the Park a day later. There were plenty of other stalls in the main area and several types of food on sale along the path leading to the field where the dog show took place. Live music was provided by a number of different musicians and John and Rob went around promoting PLUnk, Plumstead’s week of International Music

Art Plumstead’s stall sold cards, small paintings and hairsticks (handmade and gender neutral, as you would expect). It was jazzed up by a length of Hungry Caterpillar bunting from The Woolwich and Plumstead Roses WI lucky dip jar raffle at Make Merry in June; this is already its second outing since then, so it was £1 well spent. When we weren’t selling our wares, we were using the time to capture the atmos. Meanwhile Martin practised calligraphy to publicise the classes he will be running from September at Shrewsbury House.

The Fair finished at 4 pm, which allowed time to go home down the hill, quaff a mug of tea, then nip over to the well-attended Plumstead Live on Winn’s Common for more mingling with familiar faces accompanied by more live music. There had also been the final concert in the Plumstead Peculiars Concert series during the afternoon but you can’t be everywhere at once. Still, we could console ourselves with a cooling pint from the beer tent.

Rain Didn’t Stop Play

Panto cast 6

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Midsummer 2019 saw a first for Art Plumstead when they presented their own pantomime Jayden and the Beanstalk. Introduced by the world weary narrator in the guise of Dick Whittington’s cat, it told the tale of the dastardly Dick Day and his plans to drive people off the Common so he could build a vast mansion there. To assist him in his plans he had ordered a dragon from the website Wickedpedia (which his friend Dirty Dee Dudwin had told him about) to terrorise the denizens of Plumstead and kill off Ron Rattail, the organiser of the Community Market. However, because he had bought it cheaply it had one fatal weakness. More of that later.

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For now, in Scene 2, life in the Community Market continued as usual, with the two long term stall holders (old friends and arch enemies) Sally and Millie selling their wares – bakery and macramé. Being unaware of Dicks fiendish plot they both had a crush on him. There was a certain amount of innuendo which naturally, none of the children understood. Quite a few adults didn’t get all the rudery but they certainly understood it when Sally and Millie raved about how much they liked Dick! The love interest came from the attraction between Dick’s nephew Robin and the new stall holder Jayden of the Uphill Gardeners on Shooters Hill. Much to the two ‘ladies’ chagrin, Ron Rattail had arranged for Robin to provide a musical interlude at the Market instead of their offering and although initially miffed, they soon appreciated the song – as did the audience. They also appreciated the – real – cakes that were distributed as Millie’s ‘new line’ to try out.

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Who can stop the dastardly Dick Day?

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Dick discusses Fire Watch with Ron

Soon, the children were besides themselves with even more glee at the water pistols that appeared in the next scene when Dick demonstrated to Ron how to use them to control fires on the Common as part of his taking over the Common Fire Watch. This scene featured a certain amount of buffoonery with both Dick and Ron squirting each other – and of course the audience, old and young. Then the duplicitous Dick sent Ron to the other side of the Common as per his plan for the dragon to pounce on Ron. Cue plenty of ‘behind you’ as the dragon sneaked up on Ron. Surely all was lost?

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The dragon is about to pounce!

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The evil Dick Day is brought on, ensnared by Sally’s macramé

Well, no. Earlier, Dick had lent his mobile phone to Jayden to film Robin performing at the Community Market before it was returned to him via Robin. It was still in Robin’s possession when a text message came through from Dirty Dee Dudwin. Encouraged by Jayden he read it and learned of Dick’s vile plot. The second text message that came through moments later gave away the one thing that could destroy the dragon. At once, they fled the scene into the woods on their mission of mercy, together with Millie who had wandered onto the scene picking flowers (much to the chagrin of one little nature boy who had earlier informed the steward that he had been looking for crickets) They emerged just in time to see the dragon preparing to swoop on the hapless Ron who had fallen to the ground. While the dragon relished the moment before falling on his prey, Ron called out ‘kick him up the bum!’ – for this was the dragon’s one fatal weakness – and with one well aimed boot up the bottom, the dragon was slain and Jayden had saved the day. The dastardly Dick was then brought on, ensnared in a piece of Sally’s macramé – so it had been useful, after all! This time, the two dames were allowed to lead the cast and audience in their song, the words for which just happened to be printed in the programme. After which, orderly bow and exeunt cast.

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Sally gives Millie a different kind of ‘flour’ from the one she was expecting. “They’re balloon flowers. Close your eyes and make a wish” said Sally – “No, on second thought, they’re Poppies!”

Now, in all the excitement at the market over Dick and encouraging the audience to admit how much they liked Dick as well, Millie and Sally had missed out a bit of entertaining nonsense which was supposed to have happened as part of their ongoing rivalry. Luckily, since the audience had enjoyed themselves so much and didn’t want to go straight home, the routine was duly performed by popular demand as a brief vignette and served as an encore, after which all the cast came on and milked the adulation with freestyle bowing and general showing off. Finally, Art Plumstead’s first ever pantomime was over. After dropping off various props and bits of costume, the cast, crew and hardcore supporters adjourned to The Old Mill for a well-earned refreshment or three.

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For those who didn’t make it on the night and wish they could have seen it, click on these links in turn. It’s sheer hokum!

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Waxing Lyrical about Watercolours

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A chance to mass-produce Christmas cards

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All similar but all different

The theme for the last watercolour session of the year at St Marks during the Plumstead Community Market was how to capture winter scenes. It was a particularly well-attended session with just enough room for everyone who came. There was a selection of suitably snowy pictures for the benefit of anyone who hadn’t brought their own to work from. Several people used candles to create a wax resist while others used masking fluid as they had been taught several workshops ago. Luckily for us, the heating was working more effectively than in the main hall with the consequence that everyone who came into the room exclaimed at how warm it was.

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Andrew showed how he had produced his Christmas card for this year by basing his composition on a standard landscape scene and then imagining it covered in snow, inventing the colours. Usually there is an air of intense concentration but as it was the last class of the year a more lighthearted atmosphere prevailed with a bit more good-natured chatter than usual. In spite of this a number of accomplished paintings were produced. Now that most regular attendees have built up a body of work, the idea of participating in the Open Studios during Plumstravaganza was mooted.

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Not a woodcut, but a watercolour, showing the source material

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Based on another picture, but with new colours imagined

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A relaxed atmosphere at the last watercolour class of 2018

With half an hour to go before the end of the market, homemade spicy apple cookies, shortbread and a selection of chocolates were produced, all washed down with a bottle of sherry and a bottle of port for the benefit of anyone who fancied a festive drink. A couple of regulars who hadn’t been able to participate this time also dropped by and socialised, before we all packed up and went home in the perishing cold and rain.

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A Maxfield Parrish moment, but not based on one of his pictures!

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Local street scene after rain, working from mobile phone