Then spree

Website of Nia Davies, poet, editor, writer, performer

Tag: london

Finland from the air

Cycling on snow in Jyväskylä

March 30th, 2011

Pleated, becheckered and monochrome, it’s possible to see the managed pine and the white ground between trees, galvanised in the light. Palette lakes: smooth pulped and pressed flat. You can see the ripped, trimmed and scored woods, the growths left to bloom in rings like boreal fairy glens. Summer house are still submerged. From here it’s a stickle-backed land, seeming far more cottaged and tended than from the ground. You see the farm ponds and where black heated tarmac crosses the crispy white ski tracks.

The vanguard of sea ice hugs the far coast:  a barrage against liquid. The edges of the Baltic are still frozen – they hold a viscous edge that peels and retreats on warm days, crusts and extends on cold. In the  shallow seas around the coast snow furs over the islets that are hugged close and made part of the land only to be released into the sea again come spring. Some of the archipelagos are linked together by stringy bridges.

Over Turku the ice loosens.  There are beaches of snow in the bays, ringed islands that could almost be Greek with their white sands in bright blue. Over Sweden I watch the land start to brown, the lakes crack. There are long white scores cut out of the trees that stretch in very straight lines across miles of field, wood, frozen sea and island – presumably they are old imperial sledgeways?

Over Denmark the clouds come and I try to make out parts of the royal wedding magazine the Finnish woman next to me is reading: ‘Diana vs Kate’ – why are they so interested?

From the land of Finns to the land of Angles – we are both fished fine angles and filled lands, finished on an ask, an Ang, a Fin. The plane has taken me from winter back to spring. On the ground the foggy air smells warmly wet – long released from ice. The willows and thorns are leafing. I have gone from zero ice to liquid pools, the muds of the new year. We are quick to forget an English winter. But the Finnish winter I am fresh from will be harder to let go of. In the leech-grey wood one tree has come into green. As the train creeps into London the land warms another degree, and the sparse trees and track-side buddleia start to show it, begrudgingly.

My first guest blog on the New Welsh Review website

“Outside a West London pub, Serogo repeated my name. I’ve been asked about it many times before but I’ve never got this reaction: “Ah Wales – freedom fighters!”…”

I have been asked to write some guest posts on the New Welsh Review editor’s blog. So for the first one I took the opportunity to bang the drum for West Papua and the people resisting the brutal colonial oppression of the Indonesian government. Please visit to find it.

ALLEYCAT! ALLEYCAT! The kind of kitty it’s foolish to pat!

Dear poetry gluts and starvlings,

The Fogcutter is delighted to announce

A poetry night in Dalston

April 7th, from 7.30

At Bardens Boudoir, 44 Stoke Newington Road, Dalston
suggested donation £5 to Refuge

with streetscrapping, fog-cutting, steam-piped poets

Roddy Lumsden, Sophia Blackwell, Inua Ellams and Sarah Howe


For more on this new night step aboard the HMS Fogcutter

Reading my poetry at the Betsey Trotwood, London

Recorded by Jess Shankleman at Salt Plus, February 15th 2011:

Nia Davies at the Betsey Trotwood

Vauxhall, London. October

These streets are is heavy with berry and pod. This squatter’s paradise, Bonnington Square, is an inner-city riotous jungle of trees and plants. Tiny plots outside the Victorian housesBonnington Square are bright and green with rowan, birch, fig and the more exotic: banksias and plenty of unidentified rosey, honeying bushes and foliage I have never seen before. Huge palms spike out of the pavement. In the Harleyford Road Community Gardens roles of turf are stacked like lime and chocolate Swiss roles.

Langley LaneA gardener tells me that in this patch they planted a meadow but the nettles and other flagrant leafy bullies moved in and terrorized all the other plants out. So they are replanting. Not to make a prim and trimmed lawn; it will be sown with wild flower seeds to become a luscious little zen-ringed patch tucked in to one of London’s most secret and delightful corners.

The thick and muggy mist has cleared over the city. People sit outside Italo deli in the yellowing autumn sun. A couple try to climb the silver birch in the square. I’ve seen siskinds and goldfinches here.

Bonnington Square, on former WW2 bomb site.

Bonnington Square community Gardens, planted on the site of a WW2 bomb site.

This is my lunchtime oasis from the office: a green

hideout, tucked away behind fumey, clanking piss-streaked Vauxhallwith its screaming gyratory, the subterranean rumble of trains and the chain cafes that seem to sprout lattes and boxed salads into the rare spaces between the buses and the MI6 spy cameras.

Developers plan to build another monstrous building, a river-side glass and steel tower that will eclipse the sun and blot out the sky over Vauxhall. But Bonnington square has a long rebellious history of community activism and so they are raging

back, fighting for our refuges and wild spaces in the midst of growing cheap developments, sprung-up overnight, unlike mushrooms.

Rage! Resist! Plant!

Langley lane

Bonnington Square Gardens

Kew, April

As beech is to bluebell, we are fed and sprung in the new weather. Human eyes and ears and skin are all happy in the green. Me and a flamboyant bird hide out in the yew bushes in Kew while children walk past in pat-a-cake pink hats, right past the party pheasant.

We have a picnic of our own in this oddly human Eden and this bird of paradise is happy amongst humans. Periwinkles light up the ground. This place was seeded by Regency botanists, trod by prince and parlour maid, planted by people with a few fair pennies. Fantasists. All of them. Dealers in the exotic. Not that I’m complaining.

pear blossom

Dalston diary

It’s a Sunday afternoon. I lean out of my door. I wish I had a camera for this. There are yellow and green flags, a portrait of a moustachioed man waving above a procession heading up Kingsland road. And so out I go. In the electric air there are crackling shouts from a modest crowd, ‘Turkey! Terrorist!’. It’s a Kurdish protest against ‘Turkish atrocities’. This is Turkish Dalston and they are entering Turkish Stoke Newington. A few people look on with straight faces.

I love the atmosphere of a protest; people and passions colliding in peace. Soon everything is back to normal and the usual populations jostle around the empty market space. The familiar smells of both raw and barbequed meat pass in succession. The dragging work of TFL continues. With the new train line comes an extension of the City. We must all eventually circle the orbit of the gherkin like a game of swing-ball. For now Dalston is still raucous, scab-ended and bright with life.

Walking Diary – Hackney

Dalston to Hackney, November 23rd 2009

Wayward fig, feral weed of juicy fruits. Crawling up the wasted plot behind the old, probably squatted, Chomeley Boys club. And an old fireplace now forms part of the car park next to the Vortex Jazz club. There are graffitied sea horses swimming up the chimney breast. The wall fronts overflowing bins, a broken scooter. A river of froth snakes down off Kingsland High Street. There is a furious flapping as the bunting from a summer festival is strung out across an alleyway. Cross winds make the sound like that of the taut wire on mastheads in a stiff sea wind.

Ridley road market, where nappy rash cream is a bargain and Telapia comes with a free super malt. The sky looks set to sink into a jaundiced dusk. Cranes seem to sway in the wind, arching over our little heads, threatening to develop.

A man pulls his lips over his teeth for intent. An awning is inspired by the wind to take off and its owner groans as he tries to hold it down and fold it up. Pears for sale in bowl. Six for a pound, spike-end-up like the spires of green churches in a multi faith village. A blow-up doll’s feet are set with toes pointed down, painfully pinioned.

At the God’s First Hairdo shack Africa seems to pour forth, contained in a little off-shoot of the market.

Fake nails like neon tapestry work. Is this women’s work now that needlecraft is over? In Hackney Central there is a dusky glow over the Big Foot Dry Cleaners. It’s only 4pm. Buses are compressed like an artery ready to burst. The men of justice are on the beat, stringy bullets at the ready.

The moon bumps the clouds and the ragged end of autumn is dragging down yellows and browns – husks of the plane trees  speak with a hint of green.

Even if there’s no corner shop, café, laundrette. No barbershop, kebab house, art gallery – there’s always a Billy Hill. Reliable, dependable – always there when you need him. On every corner, even in the smallest of commercial hubs.

And it’s not just I who puts their old x-rays up against the windows to catch the light.

Tesco is selling the Twillight series for £3.86.  So that’s how cheap you can get your blood sucking thrills these days. In the Linden Children’s Centre, the condom distribution notice board is festooned in rainbow colours. A boy walks past with a yellow scarf. Instead of a football team it says – police line, do not cross.

© Nia Davies, 2009