Monday, 8 August 2011

Ruth from Balfron Towers

A couple of weeks ago I went to look at a flat in East London that had been advertised on Gumtree. It was in the top floor of a brutalist building designed by Erno Goldfinger...yes indeed. Ian Fleming so hated his designs he used his name for one of his villains.
The flat was in the very top floor and along a sort of gangway to another, smaller, chunk of tower. Going along the gangway I felt a horrible swaying sensation. A sweet face poking out of a door said "I'm here..." and that was Ruth.
She had taken this little corner of a cement monstrosity and filled it with art, seedlings, plants, books.
The gangway is anchored in rubber apparently and sways visibly in the wind. Ruth told me I was the first visitor to detect this, which I find enormously hard to believe, but she has an honest face.

She's right above the Blackwall tunnel and so there's a constant buzz (I felt like yelling down: "rather you than me, suckers!"), and you can see for MILES around. It feels as if you can see France. City Airport glows, and off in the distance there's the Gherkin, the London Eye all tiny, and everything.
I couldn't imagine how many trips in the tiny lift my concert dresses would need, and then she has to move out in a year, poor thing, while they do Balfron up all chic and then charge City workers a mint to buy them.
But Ruth is a new friend, and a very, very talented artist. She paints abstracts, but that's like saying someone cooks food. Most abstracts in this world are processed cheese on Wonderbread.
Hers are pea and mint croquettes, roasted aubergine with sofrito and chickpeas.

We both went to the Vortex on Saturday to see Vila Verde.
The Vortex club is in a box in a public square just around the corner from Dalston Kingsland. Ruth used to go to the Vortex back when it was in Stoke Newington, years ago. A large black man with a gold Nefertiti-head pendant around his neck said to me "It's been a while since I've been to the Vortex. Stoke Newington's changed a lot." He genuinely had no idea he was in Dalston. I think he was posh. Anyway, this square had an outdoor ping-pong table which saw constant use the whole time we were there. When we left at 10-ish (I had to play the organ the next morning) two young guys with corn-row hairdos were still playing. The club is at the top of the building and all the blackout blinds were down for a clubby atmosphere when we got there at 7:30. The sun tried to stream in through the cracks. Ruth said "It's raining...there'll be a rainbow." and so we pulled up one of the blinds and there it was, huge. Vast. A full double arc. They aren't Red Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet. They're Pink Orange Yellow Green Blue Indigo Violet Aquamarine and a tiny bit of pink.
We raised a few of the blinds and saw that the ping-pong players hadn't stopped, but everyone was posing in groups on the wet cement against the rainbow while cameraphones were busy. Ruth said that from her flat she sees rainbows that describe a circle. We only see an arch because of how close we are from the ground. I'd like to see that.
Vila Verde was excellent as always. Two of them are playing with me in the Crystal Palace Overground Festival on Saturday: Simon Marsh on clarinet and Travis Finch on Bandolim. He has a tattoo he got while he was in the U.S. Navy. How cool is that?!

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