21 episodes

A podcast about falling in love with a new city in the middle of a pandemic; remaining curious and open in strange and chaotic times; and about making it work.

London by Lockdown London by Lockdown

    • Society & Culture

A podcast about falling in love with a new city in the middle of a pandemic; remaining curious and open in strange and chaotic times; and about making it work.

    Leaving London

    Leaving London

    In this episode, hear about why we left, how we left, our last two London adventures, and the toll London took on Craig’s mental health.
    If you go to England, you bound to turn mad
    — Olive Senior ‘I’m quite alright with that’ (Not Quite Right For Us)
     
    My images of London are illusions.
    My two years in London was a mess from go to whoa. I understand that moving to the UK a month before the outbreak of a global pandemic and the subsequent isolating lockdowns wasn’t in my control, but the fallout from all of that took its toll. Even with London by Lockdown in my corner — which was designed to connect me with the people and places around me — at times I floundered. I started doubting myself, my art, my sense of self. I love living in cities. I was excited to move there, but, as a migrant, I couldn’t get a lock on London. The place is never still. London’s a shyster, never commits to one thing or another, a chameleon wearing a wolf’s skin and dressed in sheep’s clothing. A nervous energy infuses it, always fidgeting, twitching, tapping a finger, jumping between random topics, foot tapping, leg shaking up and down under the table.
    London sits at the base of a bowl in a sedimentary basin, where over the years all the rivers have been turned into sewers and all the forests cut down. When you’re looking up from the bottom of this hole, it’s hard to see beyond the rim. And yet, those rivers, they haven’t been completely silenced, because parts of London are sinking. Just down from us, walking along Deptford’s streets, near the Thames, the streets inundate and flood with only the lightest of rain. When homes are literally just staying above the water, it’s hard to do more than survive.
    The difficulty in navigating London (and English culture more broadly) is that there’s a tilt to its familiarity; it was just askew enough to make everything well-known both awkward and confusing without my being able to put my finger on anything specific. Shona and I knew we were moving to live in the belly of the Colonial Beast before we even left Australia, but I didn’t realise how ingrained colonial ways of thinking are and how celebrated colonialism is — without too much self-reflection. That might seem harsh, and I understand that post-Covid London was never going to be like the pre-Covid city, but the official city that elevates only certain artefacts of culture, art, knowledge or history — that city persists through time and thrives on the facade that someone somewhere in London is having a blast, while the rest of us, who are just getting by, are somehow missing out. London’s lie is the opposite of terra nullius: the legal concept used by Colonial powers to steal ‘empty territories’ that were in fact not empty. I was caught in-between cultures and times. London’s illusion is that there’s something more than there is. London took my mental health and spat it out onto the ground where it was left to decompose.
    If this sounds like I left London hating the place, that’s not true and it wouldn’t be fair to tar all of London with the same brush. My feelings are complicated and my experiences are complex. I don’t hate it, but I don’t love the place either, and, to be honest, I’m not indifferent — there is something about London that sends some people mad, I’m sure of it. Some days I wish we were still there and that I could have made a go of it. Sometimes I check out the socials and when I see photos of the streets I used to call home I yearn to be back there. Then on other days I remember the Covid shitshow or how London made me feel empty and lesser, and I’m so glad I’m on the other

    • 57 min
    Bonus Episode: More From the Migration Museum

    Bonus Episode: More From the Migration Museum

    Hear about Shona’s da’s story; learn about the highland clearances, the 10-pound poms, and how people fashion intimate connections and meaning in countries far from their place of birth; and travel through 400 years of UK Departures and Arrivals. (Two years ago today, the UK locked down.)
     
     
    Dear Migration Museum,
    Hope you’re well.
    Just a note to let you know that I loved volunteering with you and it was really important to me. I know it might sound a little strange, saying that, given I wasn’t there too long, but you’re just such a brilliant place. (I know I don’t have to tell you that.)
    When I first visited you as a punter, it hadn’t struck me before that I was a migrant. I’d grown up with so much UK media (mostly BBC productions on the ABC), and even now, the UK is presented as ‘the same’ as Australia; that we both understand each other’s cultures perfectly. Again, I don’t have to tell you this, but that’s not true. The difficulty in navigating London is that it’s all so similar, but there’s a tilt that makes everything awkward, more confusing and difficult, and it’s just askew enough to discombobulate me without my being able to put my finger on anything specific. Shona and I both knew going in we were travelling to the belly of the Colonial Beast, but I didn’t realise how ingrained that thinking is; how colonialism is celebrated in so many contexts without any reflection; and how the idea of ‘born-to-rule’ permeates. (But of course, you give us the other perspectives and stories.)
    When I first approached you about volunteering I was suffering anxiety. I’d never had this before, and was having anxiety attacks — I didn’t know what was going on. I ended up working with a counsellor. Covid in London broke me. At the time the MM was perfect. So open and generous and caring.
    Could you please let everyone I worked with know I really valued meeting them and enjoyed my time there. One regret is that I didn’t get to be part of the MM for longer and get to know each of you better.
    Take care and stay safe.
     
    Links
    London’s Migration Museum, LewishamRachelle RomeoWe Are Lewisham (Borough of Culture, 2022)
    Music & SFX
    Opening & Closing Credits by Unregistered Master BuilderSFX and extra music from Epidemic SoundTouching Moments by Ketsa (Free Music Archive)
    Mental Health Resources
    How to Access Mental Health Services (NHS site)Mental Health AustraliaOnly Human Radio Show

    • 12 min
    NOT the British Museum

    NOT the British Museum

    A fete in a cemetery, a tiny underground mail train, and a museum in a shopping centre. Come and celebrate everything that’s NOT the British Museum.
    **************************
    Nunhead Cemetery Open Day
    Bug hunts, whittling workshops, crypt tours, a petting zoo, ice cream — a ‘typical’ open day. It’s spring and there’s still a chill to the air, but after months of lockdown we’re enjoying being outside. Before arriving if you’d asked me who’d be at the open day I’d have said three history buffs and a dog — but the place is bustling with hundreds of people: market stalls, a community choir, a ‘murder of goths’ (about 30, I’d say). The cemetery is being re-wilded, and as the forest reclaims the place, the wildlife has returned — mostly birds and squirrels, but on one walk we took here in the depths of the winter lockdown, on an overcast day with snow all around, we saw foxes darting between the gravestones and trees. Today, though, there are too many people for foxes. We finish at a pop-up cafe near the Scottish Martyrs monument, with tea and scones and jam. My nan used to make scones like that. The five Martyrs campaigned for parliamentary reform, and for their troubles were transported to Australia in 1794.
    Mail Rail (Postal Museum)
    Tunnels running east–west under London carrying narrow gauge driverless trains and delivering millions of letters a day. What more could you want? Royal Mail began as the personal mail service of one of the English kings. Some time later, if you could afford it, you could send letters where the recipient paid for them on arrival. When the Penny Black stamp was invented, the first adhesive stamp, postage was democratised and became accessible to anyone. By the 1920s millions of letters were being delivered to Londoners every day. The mail rail opened in 1927 to counter London’s congested streets and the ensuing delays. In the 1930s the GPO established a film unit. ‘Night Mail’ is its most famous production (Written by W.H. Auden). On our visit to the Museum we watched the surrealist jaunt ‘Love on the Wing’ (1939) by Norman McLaren. In theory it was an ad for the postal service, but the images plugged straight into my brain and I have no idea what it was about.
    London’s Migration Museum (MM)
    Popping into Sainsbury’s to grab some toilet paper? Why not stop at the Migration Museum? It’s Saturday morning and we bus it to Lewisham shopping centre. We sit up front of the top level of the double decker bus (for only two pounds you get a comprehensive view of the city, and every trip is like a mini tour). Founded about 20 years ago, and without a permanent home at the time, the MM was initially a series of collaborative exhibitions and events travelling all over the UK, including London, Oxford, Leicester and Edinburgh. From 2017 to 2019, it was based in Lambeth, then it moved to Lewisham. The bus delivers us to Hight Street’s bustle: market stalls selling fresh fish, fruit and vegetables, clothes, fabrics, and street food from Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. Nearby are Polish and Italian delis, Turkish and South Indian restaurants, and my favourite fish and chip shop in London: ‘Something Fishy’. The décor is straight out of the 1970s, and alongside an array of different fish (and chips) they serve pie and mash, and jellied eel. Before we head into the centre, Lewisham’s hustle calms me, makes me feel at ease with London on those days I feel anxious. It’s a human scale that feels about right; the perfect place for the Migration Museum.

    • 25 min
    NQRFU — Travel

    NQRFU — Travel

    The idea of travel brings with it the promise of exotic places filled with interesting people, and images of glittering beaches and crystal clear water, or adventure, relaxation, or even a family holiday. But that’s for those who are able to come and go as they please: one person’s exploration is another’s exploitation. For many, ‘travel’ has been ‘not quite right’ for centuries, bringing conquest and oppression, inequality and ecological disaster, prejudice, and at times walls to keep out ‘the other’.
    Celebrating ten years of Speaking Volumes, this anthology is a warning shot, an affirmation, an education ... These forty writers — new and established — speak volumes, invoking their experiences of outsiderness and their defiance against it.
    In forty short stories, poems and essays — by turns wry, gentle, furious, humorous, passionate, analytical and elliptical — these forty writers, new and established, speak volumes, invoking their experiences of outsiderness and their defiance against it.
    In this episode we’ll hear … ‘i am no less’ by Michelle Cahill; ‘We Wait’ by Rafeef Ziadah; and Prologue from ‘Abolition’ by Gabriel Gbadamosi (voiced by actors Joe Hughes, Danny Nutt, Owen Oakeshott & Rex Obano).
    Our guide is actor and author Pauline Melville.
    InformationMusic composed by Dominique Le GendreNarration by Lucy HannahExtra music & SFX by Epidemic SoundAvailable at all good bookshops, or you can order from Flipped Eye PublishingProduced in collaboration with Speaking Volumes.

    • 24 min
    NQRFU — Love

    NQRFU — Love

    Love touches us all at some point — from dependable familial bonds to the warm comfort of childhood pets, from the heady perfume of romance to the cherished appreciation of community, culture, country. The physical and emotional connections transcend barriers, cross generations and borders. And yet, love can sometimes be ‘not quite right’, taking where it should be giving, causing destruction — even as we still love.
    Celebrating ten years of Speaking Volumes, this anthology is a warning shot, an affirmation, an education ... These forty writers — new and established — speak volumes, invoking their experiences of outsiderness and their defiance against it.
    In this episode we’ll hear ‘The Pilgrimage’ by Amina Atiq; ’Knot’ by Leonie Ross; and ’The Apocrypha of O’ by Gaele Sobott. Our guide is poet, novelist and musician Dr Anthony Joseph.
    Available at all good bookshops, or you can order from Flipped Eye Publishing.
    Speaking Volumes live literature organisation.

    • 21 min
    The Scoop

    The Scoop

    A series of hard-hitting tidbits about London life, including an insight into the cultural icon that is Henry Hoover.
    **************************
    The pandemic isn’t linear or coherent. I started writing an article about my claustrophobic thoughts about an unknown lockdown. A city that once paid no attention is now all ears, in the wake of sirens marking time — as the only time stamp they move through the streets faster than anything else. The sirens cut loud, continue for longer, can be heard from farther away. Consequences: Listening to the wind I dream all sorts. I dream long and strange and weird. We still can’t see the horizon. Confusion; contradictions; dithering. Any article about the pandemic is merely a jumbled mess, because as much as we fumble for stories — my bread and butter and the things we all turn to to make sense of the world — none exist. About this time every day the family next door comes into their backyard into the sun for about 15 minutes. The kids’ shouts are pure joy and happiness. London: Pandemic Epicentre. TouchDown Feb 23, LockDown March 24. The London I stepped into is an episode of ‘Black Mirror’. Let’s hope we get through this in better shape than Charlie Brooker’s protagonists. A friend’s dog that has never barked at planes before, when they were a constant overhead, now barks at each and every isolated and intermittent plane that flies over. In April 2020 I read a piece about goats coming into the Welsh town Llandudno. The author writes: ‘The world’s metropolises ... are now silent save for the strange duet of birdsong and sirens.’ I love that sentence and wish I’d written it. I wish that sentence had never been written. Some birds of prey flush out other birds by mimicking the emergency call of the birds they’re hunting: The hunted birds flee the safety of the tree into the air where the hunter dives in. The sirens of London float above all else; like foreigners from our pasts, swathing through the city. Last month was an eternity. Meme: A woman from the 1950s holding a cell phone. In a speech bubble: ‘It’s Kurt Cobain calling, he says we’re stupid and contagious.’ I imagine the virus is knife-edged and stone-sharpened, smooth and without mitigation. That’s not true. I once conceived the virus as a 1980s boy band version of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but that’s not true either. If, when we get out of this — and I have to believe we’ll get out of this — we find we’re worse off than any one of Charlie Brooker’s protagonists, then we’re in so much trouble. The politicians say, “We’re in this together”, but only when it suits. Anxious: I avoid people, fearful; when all I want to do is smile and chat and make friends.
    Henry Hoover The Henry Hoover Rap by Zound Asleep ProductionsHappy Alley by Kevin MacLeod (Filmmusic.io Standard License); kevin@incompetech.com Henry I Love You by Mack Whitwood Henry the Hoover by The Horne Section Henry Hoover as a flame thrower
    Mental Health ResourcesHow to Access Mental Health Services (NHS site)Mental Health Australia

    • 15 min

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