The image above is the cover of a booklet that’s the result of an Art on the Underground project devised and led by artist Ruth Ewan, with composer Kerry Andrew and poet Evlynn Sharp, with the young people from the Laburnum Boat Club youth project in Hackney, London.

I like the title, and the way that it lends itself to multiple interpretations, from the reality of describing the function of the lock gate, to the metaphorical where the lock opens a gate to another world.

At the end of a long working week, as the rain pours down with an insistent hiss, and I stare out of my office window into the gloom that’s taken hold before 5 o’clock, I find myself seeking a kind of solace in the photos that celebrate our time on the boat.

The more I look at the images, and remember the sounds, sights, smells, mood and moment with a renewed clarity; the more I come to realise how important the concept of ‘the boat’, as much as the physical reality of the boat, has become in my world. The boat’s become my ‘gate’.

I enjoy re-imagining the conversations, interactions and connections between the five of us, as the boat passes through the landscape. They’re not rosy-tinted imaginings at all, I know full-well that much of the time we spend at the boat is not relaxed at all, but rowdy, disorderly and rambunctious, frantic, fleeting, funny, messy, yet invariably also fun, creative, rich and rewarding.

What I think about most in these daydreams is the feeling of rightness about the journey. It’s all about being outdoors with the kids, and talking and walking and boating through the landscape and, through simple attention to detail, making our universe more real and more knowable.


In my room, the world is beyond my understanding;
But when I walk I see that it consists of three or four
hills and a cloud.


From my balcony, I survey the yellow air,
Reading where I have written,
“The spring is like a belle undressing.”


The gold tree is blue,
The singer has pulled his cloak over his head.
The moon is in the folds of the cloak.

Of the Surface of Things by Wallace Stevens

Walking down to the boat on an early-October afternoon Fin becomes aware of giants!
On the same walk and with a jolt of the camera, we’re into a Monet painting!
Simply talking, day-dreaming, learning, and being together.
For me the Cut’s a simpler space, less full-on and frantic, I feel privileged to be here, and invariably content.
And the conversations as we travel are just brilliant: here the boy’s imagination are given full flight. Are they steering a boat, a plane, a train, a rocket or submarine (well, perhaps not a submarine…)???

Oh yes, and just a quick reminder, make a paper boat! (See yesterdays post.)

A couple of paper boats afloat in a sink, oddly calming to make, and rewarding to see them float – honest!

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