Monday, 10 December 2007

Friday, 30 November 2007

Chicken Legs Hut

Alongside the recently appeared drawings of The Flying Hut (see earlier blog entries below) - etched into wet concrete - there is a piece of graffiti that has intrigued and puzzled me for some time. It appears to be written in the same 'hand' as the drawings, or at least at the same time, but is quite difficult to interpret. The first words are simple enough 'LONG LIVE..' But the final words were barely legible. Now, with some help, the whole graffiti has been interpreted - and sheds an interesting new light on the history and origin of The Hut. It reads 'LONG LIVE BABA YAGA'.

Baba Yaga is a common figure in Slavic and Russian folklore. She appears as a wild old woman or witch, who flies in a mortar using a pestle to steer. Crucially, in relation to The Flying Hut, BABA YAGA LIVES IN A CABIN ON DANCING CHICKEN LEGS. She flies in and out of the cabin on her mortar - entering through the chimney, as it has no windows or door. This folktale may relate to a popular construction method of Siberian peoples for the purpose of preserving supplies from animals - a cabin without windows or doors is built on the stumps of two or three trees - which look very like chicken legs. There is also evidence, discovered by the archaeologists Yefimenko and Tretyakov in 1948, that the ancient Slavs used huts of a similar construction in their funeral traditions – traces of corpse cremation has been found inside such huts. The drawing by Nicholas Roerich, c.1905, is of a ‘Hut of Death’, and clearly shows the resemblance of the tree-stump supports to chicken legs.

So, it appears that The Flying Hut is alternatively known as Baba Yaga’s cabin – and indeed there are some Flickr pages recently brought to my attention that refer to The Hut in its Baba Yaga guise

And under the pseudonym ‘House On Stilts’ there are images of the drawings in still wet concrete – perhaps we have found the originators of both the drawings and the Baba Yaga cult?

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Flying Hut Over Railway Footbridge

The Railway Footbridge AKA Shit Bridge

Flying Hut

Flying Hut

Flying Hut

Steps Down to the Arch - Smells of urine, sometimes of shit

The Boys

As we came over the railway footbridge, I could hear voices coming from round the corner, down the stairs. The voices were muffled, I couldn't make out what was being said. But there was an urgency to the sound - I thought luckily I'm not alone, it's a dodgy place. I wonder what's going on. At the end of the bridge we turned to go down the stairs, the voices louder as we turn again to go down the last few steps. We were suddenly confronted by three boys at the bottom of the stairs. Or maybe they were surprised by us. I could smell burning now, coming from below. One of the boys, in a red hoody, looked imploringly at us and pointed to his right, towards the railway arch. He said 'Those boys just made a fire. Those boys. They ran off.'
At the bottom of the stairs we turned into the railway arch, where the three boys were now, and the smouldering pile of fire in the corner. The boys looked at the fire and looked at us, convincing us, wondering what we thought. 'Those boys…' the red hoody boy said again, pointing away down the arch. I laughed and kept on walking.

*This isn't the smouldering pile mentioned above...but another Pedley Street pile.

Steps Down to the Arch

Smells bad. Be careful not to step in things.

Under the Arch

Under the Arch

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Flying Hut Drawing 3

Flying Hut Drawing 2

Flying Hut Drawing 1

Three drawings of the Flying Hut have been discovered inscribed into fresh concrete, which was recently poured partially over the cobbled surface of Bratley Street. These drawings were made after the demolition of the original Hut.


Winos' Brazier, out of action


Corner of Buxton and Shuttle Street

Flying Hut

From South of Pedley across Park to Railway Embankment

Around Pedley Area

Fleet Street Hill


East-West along Pedley Street

Ex-Joiners Yard

Obstacle 2

Obstacle 1

Under the Arch, early Summer 2007

Pedley Street, 3/5/07

Today as I am about to turn the corner from Brick Lane into Pedley Street I have a sense of anticipatory suspense. I know this pocket has been due for radical change, the days of the signal box numbered – the days of in-between-ness marked to give way to an opening up – the march of regeneration. I had heard that the slow encroachments had stepped up – from fenced off areas, tube closure, now to road closure; access denied. The chink of freedom in the overlooked Fleet Street Hill cobbled road, the bowel of the railway arch gradually backed up.

I feel the earth shuddering before I see why. The road is blocked at the Brick Lane end with a massive road-wide chunk of concrete. The Winos’ corner habitat is obliterated. The railway embankment to the left looks as if the top has been sawn off. I step past the concrete and continue along the cobbled anyway-narrow street – today even narrower, bisected by temporary orange fencing, and beyond the plastic fencing a ten-foot high wooden barrier encroaching into the park, the reverse side visible. A sign attached to the orange fencing reads ‘DIVERSION. FOOTPATH CLOSED’ – stating the very obvious.

Two workmen are hacking into the street ahead. I pause before I reach them and watch up to my left. I can see the open top of a lorry, backing at right angles towards the edge of the embankment. The lorry lifts its open top, which I see now, is filled with rubble. The tons of grey rocks are emptied down into a wide chute, as wide as a road, down the side of the bank. The rubble slides and pours with a release like long slow moaning thunder.

I continue along what’s left of Pedley Street. The cumulative hacking and pouring visibly contributing to the shuddering earth beneath my feet, but not fully explaining it – something over and beyond the mound of the railway, out of sight, must be responsible. The once isolated lonely spot is active and noisy, opened up, and at the same time sealed off. I expect as I turn the corner to the left, towards the railway arch, that here too will be mechanical busy-ness: the arch subjected to the same process, being cleaned and ordered and exposed. The wood yard to the left is scoured out; now workmen instead of salvage and wood clutter the yard. But ahead into the darkness of the railway arch I see that rather than the order and busy-ness I thought I might find, the arch is in its scummy element – perhaps having sucked in all the atmospheric degeneracy that’s been washed away around it.

The once pristine Joiners sign at the far end, for the Joiners/wood yard trolls beneath the railway, is defaced; there is no dim light shining out from the cracks in the panels of the arch. The floor of the arch has pools of something, strewn with bits of something else; unidentified stuff. I look along the sides of the arch for traces of familiar posters and graffiti. But the walls have blended into one mottled surface, like a paint palette mixed with too many colours till it becomes a murky substance. At the end of the arch, in the corner by the stairwell, the usual depository of fires and general crap, is the biggest and best ever heap of smouldering filthy unidentifiable masses – part clothes, part car, part electrical innards, part sweet wrappers. I step beyond and up the first flight of stairs to the bridge, which doesn’t let up in its hyped-up last blow out of filth. I step from side to side, holding my jeans up slightly, past condoms and turds. I turn the corner to the next flight of steps, and continue sidestepping more shit, and general sludge and slime. The bridge top is a wind tunnel of cans and packets and wrappers; a breath of fresh air from the dank urine and excrement flavour of the stairs. I descend the stairs at the other side; carefully and slowly, mindful of the slippery surface and the memory of Serena’s fall, bum and hand down into the muck. At street level, in the semi ‘courtyard’ formed between the end of the bridge, a yard door, and the windowless sides of two buildings - usually a last resting place for computer insides and outsides – the creep of the changes is visible too. The usually locked up high-gated yellow doors of the yard are flung wide open for the first time ever, to reveal an empty cleansed space. And a large clean shiny car occupies the space of the computer detritus.

Pedley Street Arch - AFTER

Pedley Street Arch - BEFORE