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 a canal lock gate, to the metaphorical where a lock is a key that opens a gate to another world.

At the end of a long working week and I stare out of my office window, I find myself seeking a kind of solace in photos that open a gate to another world.

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 ‘Eileen’ as much as her physical reality as the boat, is in my world. The boat is my ‘gate’.

I enjoy re-imagining the conversations, interactions and connections made as the boat passes through the landscape. They’re not rosy-tinted imaginings at all, I know full-well that much of the family time we’ve spent together on the boat is not relaxed at all, often it’s rowdy, disorderly and rambunctious, frantic, fleeting, funny, messy, yet invariably also memorable, fun, creative, rich and rewarding.

What I think about most when revisiting the images is the feeling of rightness about the journey. It’s all about being outdoors together, 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




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