The Tower, One St George Wharf (photo)

Looming into the mist above the River Thames, this massive tower and crane captured my interest on a recent walk, but would later be the scene of a tragic helicopter accident.

The Tower, One St George Wharf seen from Westminster, with the tip of the crane shrouded in low cloud

The Tower, One St George Wharf seen from Westminster, with the tip of the crane shrouded in low cloud

The Tower, One St George Wharf under construction in November 2012

The Tower, One St George Wharf under construction in October 2012

Walking along the Thames Path from Westminster one cold and misty day in October 2012, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the sight of the massive tower under construction on the south bank of the river. Standing far taller than the surrounding skyline, the crane alongside and tethered to it served to make it look somewhat like a rocket on the launchpad, waiting to blast off with spacebound cargo, the image all the more appropriate given it’s location just streets away from the London HQ of the British Interplanetary Society.

I was compelled to photograph it, and it made a great landmark on my walk as I came towards and finally past it.

How sad today to see it at the centre of a very tragic accident involving a diverted helicopter which crashed having clipped the crane in cloudy conditions.

However much we reach skywards, however proudly our buildings and our machines rise upwards in defiance of the laws of gravity, it takes so very little in the way or circumstance, or weather, to bring us crashing down again.

But we will keep building high, keep flying, keep reaching for the stars. It’s what we do.

Steve


The Things I’ve Seen

Image

Hidden gems and forbidden ground – things I’ve seen walking in 2012

A year ago this week, I mentioned here that I had started to walk regularly as part of a pathway back to fitness.

My approach to this was to be fairly utilitarian – using walking as a means to fitness and sometimes a means of transport. My friend Chris who commented encouragingly on my efforts suggested that walking might introduce me to things I’d never seen before, but I didn’t really accept that. After all, most of my walking would be in Dublin or other places I already knew well, and what would there be to see that I’ve not already seen?

I also commented in my post, mindful of how new year efforts often peter out, that we would see at the end of the year if I managed to continue the daily walks. Well I did, barring a couple of weeks here and there when I was caught up in some pressing domestic matters.

Perhaps the best way to update you on my progress in the past 12 months, and to illustrate how wrong I was – the walks quickly became as much about discovery as utility – is to share some of the interesting things I stumbled across over the last 12 months (bearing in mind that what is interesting to me might not qualify as interesting to everyone!)

Included below are pictures of things taken only on my walks – not my day to day life – which otherwise would have been unseen by me.)

All of these pictures can be viewed in larger, high-res detail by clicking on the photo.

Abandoned army firing range in the Dublin Mountains . . with interesting artwork

Abandoned army firing range in the Dublin Mountains . . with interesting artwork

A closer look shows that under the grass, a bare-breasted woman is holding up the surface of the hillside.

A closer look shows that under the grass, a bare-breasted woman is holding up the surface of the hillside.

A Fairy Tree in Marlay Park, Dublin

A Fairy Tree in Marlay Park, Dublin

Pin your wish to the fairy tree

Pin your wish to the fairy tree

Travelling from Dublin to Cork I set off earlier so I can stop for a walk en route, and see sunrise over a frosty Curragh

Travelling from Dublin to Cork I set off earlier so I can stop for a walk en route, and see sunrise over a frosty Curragh

I'm determined not to let the weather stop my plans for a walk across Hampstead Heath, and am rewarded with a fine winter view of London

I’m determined not to let the weather stop my plans for a walk across Hampstead Heath, and am rewarded with a fine winter view of London

 . . and instead of a snow man, a snow bunny.

. . and instead of a snow man, a snow bunny.

On each of my three visits to London this year I have walked a section of the Thames Path . . here the old London Transport Lotts Road power station stands against a winter sky.

On each of my three visits to London this year I have walked a section of the Thames Path . . here the old London Transport Lotts Road power station stands against a winter sky.

Graffiti under a bridge in London

Graffiti under a bridge in London

 . . and on a hoarding in Dublin Docklands.

. . and on a hoarding in Dublin Docklands.

For nearly 50 years as I haved travelled toe Dublin to Cork road I have always looked at the steep wooded hillside outside Fermoy, with what looked like a stone cross on top. This year I stopped and climbed it . . and it's higher up, and the cross far bigger than I realised.

For nearly 50 years as I have travelled the Dublin to Cork road I have always looked up at a very steep wooded hillside outside Fermoy, with what looked like a stone cross on top. This year I stopped and climbed it . . and it’s higher up, and the cross far bigger than I realised.

 . .and from the hilltop could now look down at the Dublin to Cork road far below. No longer down there thinking "Maybe one day".

. .and from the hilltop could now look down at the Dublin to Cork road far below. No longer down there thinking “Maybe one day”.

Below ground - walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel in east London. I'd always wanted to do this walk too!

Below ground – walking through the Rotherhithe Tunnel in east London. I’d always wanted to do this walk too!

When walking the Rotherithe Tunnel, best not to hang about. I was certainly a petrol-head by the time I got out the other side . .

When walking the Rotherithe Tunnel, best not to hang about. I was certainly a petrol-head by the time I got out the other side . .

On the subject of warning notices, this one in Dublin Docklands is pretty comprehensive. Is there anything you ARE allowed to do?

On the subject of warning notices, this one in Dublin Docklands is pretty comprehensive. Is there anything you ARE allowed to do?

The Day The Earth Stood Still? It's high noon on a saturday, and the docks are deserted as I walk the long, long Alexandra Road.

The Day The Earth Stood Still? It’s high noon on a saturday, and the docks are deserted as I walk the long, long Alexandra Road.

A solitary bird stands guard at an abandoned fortress in Dublin's Phoenix Park.

A solitary bird stands guard at an abandoned fortress in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

On the Thames Path again, and I came across the old Harrodds Furniture Depository which I remember seeing in the 1980s falling into disrepair . .

On the Thames Path again, and I came across the old Harrods Furniture Depository which I remember seeing in the 1980s falling into disrepair . .

. . but which now has a new lease of life as ultra-smart apartments.

. . but which now has a new lease of life as ultra-smart apartments.

Sometimes I am walking over my own family history. This manhole cover in Dublin Docklands was cast in my grandfather's Iron-foundry at Inchicore where my uncles and father worked for many years, and where I also worked in the school holidays. Judging by the date, I might even have had a hand in making this one!. The foundry is long gone, but hundreds of Conway drains and covers remain on Irish streets, and will for many years to come.

Sometimes I am walking over my own family history. This manhole cover in Dublin Docklands was cast in my grandfather’s Iron-foundry at Inchicore where my uncles and father worked for many years, and where I also worked in the school holidays. Judging by the date, I might even have had a hand in making this one!. The foundry is long gone, but hundreds of Conway drains and covers remain on Irish streets, and will for many years to come.

Another river walk, this time The Rhine in Germany, yeilds an especially moody sky.

Another river walk, this time The Rhine in Germany, yeilds an especially moody sky.

A path in a park in Co. Kerry is blocked after a bridge is washed away in a storm. The choice of wording on the warning sign makes it seem far more interesting . .

A path in a park in Co. Kerry is blocked after a bridge is washed away in a storm. The choice of wording on the warning sign makes it seem far more interesting . .

The curling of the warning tape in the breeze makes the message seem even more sinister. Is this perhaps the Garden of Eden? Is the Tree of Knowledge just beyond?

The curling of the warning tape in the breeze makes the message seem even more sinister. Is this perhaps the Garden of Eden? Is the Tree of Knowledge just beyond?

So there we have it, a few of the the interesting sights I would not have seen if I hadn’t kept up walking throughout 2012.

Below are my stats for the year from the wonderful “Walkmeter” app.

I hope to do even better in 2013.   Steve

2012walk


Surbiton, pre Caroline (mid 80s)

Myself (left) and Charlie Wolf with the A.P. Systems van, the picture that sparked the discussion on memories of Surbiton below.

My posting of an old picture on Facebook of myself in pre-Caroline days sparked a discussion below which has revived my memories of those great years in Surbiton in the mid-80s and prompted me to search for other pictures.

First, the facebook discussion:

Mike Kerslake reminded me recently of the white van I used to drive in the years just before I went out to sea. (The van, and the company A.P. Systems are mentioned in the early pages of Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline). Here it is with myself and Charlie Wolf sometime in 1986. The occasion was the court case of a well-known landbased pirate, the owner of South East Sound, Ray Adams. John Burch had organised a lot of us to come along to provide moral (or immoral?) support.

Friday · ·

    • Mike KerslakeThat’s the van! 🙂

      Friday at 06:42 ·
    • Steve ConwayI don’t think I’ve ever looked that smart again in the 35 years since!

      Friday at 06:45 · · 1 person
    • Mike KerslakeSame here, only weddings ad funerals see me scrub up!

      Friday at 06:46 ·
    • John Burchand when it turned up at a TX site loaded with car batteries, tape machines, a TX and other equipment it looked most incongruous amongst the trees and bushes!!

      Friday at 09:30 ·
    • Mike Kerslake‎:-)

      Friday at 09:39 ·
    • Christopher EnglandLooking at the side of the van, whatever happened to ‘Apricot’ computers, eh?

      Friday at 11:22 ·
    • Warren StevensonAPS Systems: Were they at the bottom of Brghton Road Steve, close to the petrol station – before you got to the traffic lights at the Portsmouth Road ?

      Friday at 16:20 ·
    • Warren StevensonClose to the tyre repair centre I recall.

      Friday at 16:25 ·
    • Steve ConwayCorrect – I was their tech support guru for 3 years till Caroline snatched me away!

      Friday at 22:40 · · 2 people
    • Mike TerryBeing a regular Tuesday night 60s and 70s fan I’m looking forward to your show Steve. Hope you have loads of requests.

      23 hours ago ·
    • Warren StevensonIts a coincidence also Steve that the petrol garage in Brighton Road used to sell Epson computers in the late Eighties !

      21 hours ago ·
    • Steve ConwayThey were the same place. The petrol station was A.P. Garage and an office on the forecourt was given over to A.P. Systems Ltd.

      16 hours ago · · 1 person
    • Warren StevensonOur paths may well have crossed Steve before I headed for a pint in the Black Lion for a pint or two of Youngs Special 🙂

      14 hours ago ·
    • Warren StevensonI also recall in the late Eighties that in a road just off the Brighton Road in Surbiton (The Mall), there was always a black Mini parked which was adorned with Radio Nova car stickers. There was also a Triumph Dolomite that could be seen also regulalry in the town with a Caroline 319 sunstrip . OT: There was an excellent fish and chip shop just down the road, next to The Lamb pub !.

      13 hours ago · 

So, the above has prompted me to search my hard drive for a photo I know I had of A.P. Systems itself, which was based in a tiny office on the forecourt of what is now the Total Service Station on Brighton Road in Surbiton:

A.P. Systems, Brighton Road, Surbiton, in 1985

Click any picture for bigger version

A. P. Systems was a wonderful little company, it was run by a great guy called Tony Williams whose father owned the petrol filling station (A.P Garage) which sold Total fuel (and was in later years taken over fully by Total).

As well as being a kind employer, Tony was quite a genius with computers, and had written software for the early Epson portable systems, which eventually led to his running a full dealership, at first for Epson, and then expanding to sell other brands such as the Victor 9000 and ACT Sirius system, Apricot, IBM and others. Tony was a very good salesman, and despite our small size, he managed to make sales into companies all over London and much of southern England. This was before the days of Windows (though it launced while I was there) and all programmes were Dos based – MS-DOS version 1.12 when I started (and the Epson PCs used the less friendly CP/M system).

Wordstar was the main game in town for word processing, with Supercalc or Lotus-123 for spreadsheets. But we also provided custom systems written by Tony himself.

I came to work for him in 1984 as the tech support guru for the firm (I had been trained up by the Irish sole distributor for Sirius/Apricot, so my knowledge was good). In those days desktop computers were in their infancy, and in almost every case the company we would sell to would be buying their first computer, and it would be my responsibility to deliver and install the systems, and train the staff in how to use them, as well as being on call for tech support for ever afterwards.

The general public’s knowledge of computers was limited, and employees would be very wary of these new systems I was installing in their firms, a lot of my time would be spent soothing people rather than fixing computers. I well remember one customer who had bought an Epson potrable computer asking, in all seriousness, how much heavier it would be once the data was loaded onto it!

In the three years before I left to work for Radio Caroline, I travelled to every part of London in that little van, as well as most parts of the home counties and beyond.  As well as hundreds of small businesses getting their first computers, I also got to deliver and install systems in the GLC (in its dying days), Shepperton Film Studios, Gatwick Airport, and a law firm called Penningtons with offices in the City of London and in Godalming, where I encountered that most rare of beasts, the Apple Lisa – the almost unknown predecessor to the Macintosh.

I also have memories of making several trips down to the heart of Wiltshire, to install computers at a dogfood factory in Tisbury, whose owner was very forward-looking, and incredibly nice to me, putting me up overnight in his country lodge and serving me breakfast in the morning (no – not dogfood!) I think they were called Dinnodog or Dinnadog, but I can find no trace of them on the net these days.

AP Systems was a small operation, most of the time there was just myself as tech geek, Tony running the company and doing the selling, and young women called Kathy who acted as receptionist but did a lot more besides. There was also a guy called Nigel who came to us from South Africa and moved on to Australia, a bit of a programming wizard, and a wonderfully good-natured salesman called Brian Street who joined not long before I left, and I’m sad to have lost touch with these people over the years.

As well as us computer people, there were a steady stream of people working in the garage including a great woman called Ruth who I lodged with for many years, and a new recruit called Gail, who I remember as a part-time a couple of nights a week, but who turned into a mainstay of the site, so much so that now, almost 30 years later, she is still there, as manager for Total.

A 65 bus in Surbiton, summer 1984

Another photo I have dug up shows the 65 bus, which in those days was the main route through Surbiton, taken in May 1984, just days after I arrived. This route normally went along Victoria Road, but was diverted due to roadworks when I took this picture. The 65 was two-person operated with Routemasters up until February 1986, but these days does not even reach Surbiton (except night services).

Notice the wonderfully high-tech (!) top-loading video recorder being advertised on the side of the bus  – I think 1984 was an Olympic year, hence this being used to push video sales.

There were many nice places in Surbiton, it was quite self-contained, with a good variety of shops and eating places, and remains so today. It was a wonderful place to live a work, and I have many happy memories of the people and places of those three years before I headed off to sea to work for Radio Caroline.  (see: Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline).

Steve


Hammersmith Reading, Sunday 24th Aug

The Hammersmith Ram, King Street, Hammersmith


6pm, Sunday 24th August 2010, Seven Towers reading and open-mic. All welcome.

Tomorrow I will be reading at this London even alongside fellow Irish writer and poet Eamon Lynsky, poet Graham Buchan and performance poet Yetibetti.

I will be reading a new lighthearted short story (fiction) and possibly some extracts from Shiprocked – Life On The waves with Radio Caroline.

The Hammersmith Ram is really easy to access by public transport – it is 4 minutes walk from Hammersmith Tube station (on the Piccadilly, District and Hammersmith & City lines) and Hammersmith Bus Station (main routes include the 9 and 10 from central London, and west London routes including the H91 and 266)

The other readers:

Graham Buchan graduated as a Chemical Engineer. He then had a career as an editor, writer, producer and director in the UK and US film industries. Now he writes poetry, short stories and reviews, and he facilitates a Creative Writing group for people with mental health issues. The ‘the tall-lighthouse’ has published his collections ‘Airport Reading’, ‘There is Violence in these Vapours’ and ‘In Bed with Shostakovich’

Yetibetti is a 29 year old aspiring performance poet, originally from the East Midlands but has been living in the London area for about 8 years, originally coming down for university. It was only recently she tapped into the London scene through nights such as Poetry Unplugged at the Poetry Cafe and found both writing adn performing addictive. She has a full time demanding office job and so writes in the margins. She believes in ‘person first – poetry second’ and although she appreciates many contemporary and classical poets she really admires anyone who can make her think, smile and hold her attention, such as Jarvis Cocker and the Artic Monkeys.

Éamonn Lynskey has had poems published in many magazines. He was nominated for the Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Literary Award for New Irish Poetry in 2006 and one of his poems will feature on the 2009 OXFAM calendar. His first collection Dispatches and Recollections was published in 1998 and he is currently working on his second And Suddenly the Sun Again to be published in May 2010. Eamonn’s work is also featured in Census, The First Seven Towers Anthology and Census, The second Seven Towers Anthology. . Eamonn has also translated works of Italian poets Montale and Valeri and written in Italian – he holds a Diploma in Italian Lauguage and Culture from the Italian Institute, Dublin. His second collection, And Suddenly the Sun Again has just been published by Seven Towers.


On being a Radio Slut

Radio can be anywhere . . . or everywhere

Monday 12th July sees my return to Radio Caroline after an 11 year break, and so I will now be presenting regular weekly shows for three stations – Radio Seagull (on Saturdays), Phantom 105.2 (Sundays) and Radio Caroline (Mondays).

So why three stations, and how can I justify each of them as being “the best” to their listeners?

To answer that, I have to track back in time quite a bit, a quarter of a century, to my first steps into the world of radio.  This month marks 25 years since I did my first ever radio show, on South East Sound, a small landbased pirate in South London, which was campaigning for a rock music licence for the capital city which had just 2 commercial stations at that time.

Now, 25 years on, we live in a world where there is vastly more choice available, in no small part due to the efforts of the people behind  stations such as South East Sound, Caroline and Phantom over the years and I’m delighted to be regularly broadcasting on three unique and strong independent operations in European radio.

Dublin’s Phantom 105.2 is at the centre of music culture in one of the most vibrant and creative cities in these islands, and I feel very privileged to be still going strong after 10 years with the station. I learn something new, discover something fresh and exciting every time I walk into the Phantom studios, and I love that.

Joining the crew at Radio Seagull has allowed me to be really creative in mixing classic and prog rock of 5 decades with new material in an environment where nothing is off limits, and it’s great to be able to bring some of the new Irish rock bands to an audience in The Netherlands and further afield.

And Radio Caroline, still a proud independent voice after all these years, gives me access to  a huge potential audience in the UK via the Sky Digital system, and lets me indulge in my taste for a wide range of musical genres. Caroline  has always been about real people sharing their passion for music in a down to earth style, and so many of the people I admire as real radio broadcasters have passed through it’s studios – or never left!

Back in 1985 when I joined South East Sound in London we were campaigning for more radio serving more interests, and I think it’s great that we have so much more choice in 2010, and that I can now be involved in three stations which though all different in content and coverage, are all keeping the flag flying for independent, alternative music and diverse voices on the airwaves.

Steve

Programme Times:

Radio Seagull 1800-2000 (UK/Irish time) every Saturday

Phantom 105.2 1200-1500 on Sundays

Radio Caroline 1400-1600 on Mondays.


Today’s Seven Towers event at Hammersmith

The Hammersmith Ram, King Street

Today’s (Sun 28th March 2010) special reading marks my return to The Hammersmith Ram, where the London launch of Shiprocked – Life On The Waves With Radio Caroline was held last year.

This is the first Seven Towers event in London, and with free admission, easy access by tube (Hammersmith Underground and Bus Station is 1 minute walk away) plus great food and drink on offer at The Ram it promises to be a good evening. The reading at 6.30 is followed by live traditional Irish music at 8pm.

EVENT DETAILS BELOW:

Seven Towers Writers – Steve Conway, Eamonn Lynskey and Donal Moloney will be joining Liverpool artist and writer Alice Lenkiewicz at the Hammersmith Ram Pub in Hammersmith, London for a spectacular reading.

The reading will be followed by an open mic and the whole event will be followed by the Ram’s weekly Session!

A great night out

Artist and writer Alice Lenkiewicz lives and works in Liverpool.
Her books include a poetry collection, Men Hate Blondes (origional plus, 2009) and a novella, Maxine (Bluechrome Publishing, 2005).
Alice Lenkiewicz also publishes and edits Neon Highway, a poetry magazine that supports emerging and established poets.

Below, she talks about the series of events that led to Neon Highway:
http://conversationswithwriters.blogspot.com/2010/01/interview-alice-lenkiewicz.html

Further information.
Men Hate Blondes
http://www.poetryinthecity.co.uk/2009/10/alice-lenkiewicz-men-hate-blondes-poems-and-drawings/

http://www.openwidemagazine.co.uk/v2i2/bookreviews.htm

Steve Conway is a journalist, writer and radio DJ,. he is a former programme controller on the legendary Radio Caroline. Steve has written a best selling memoir – Shiprocked, Life on the Waves with Radio Caroline – about the years he spent at sea with Radio Caroline on the Ross Revenge, and the dramatic end to this time.

Eamonn Lynskey

Éamonn Lynskey has had poems published in many magazines. He was nominated for the Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Literary Award for New Irish Poetry in 2006 and one of his poems featured on the 2009 OXFAM calendar. His first collection Dispatches and Recollections was published in 1998 and 1.His second collection And Suddenly the Sun Again will be published in 2010. Éamonn, who holds a Diploma in Italian Language and Culture has also translated the works of modern Italian poets into English. He is also a long time contributor to the open mic scene in Dublin.

Dónal Moloney is a writer and translator from Waterford. The excerpt published here is a version of Chapter 4 of a novella called In The Balance, which he is currently completing. An alternate short story version of Chapter 1 of the novella received a commendation in the 2009 Seán Ó Faoláin Short Story Competition. An excerpt from his short story The Mask appeared in Census: The First Seven Towers Anthology. He is a regular featured reader at both the Chapters and Verse Reading Series and the Last Wednesday Reading and Open Mic Series.

Seven Towers Agency
is an independent, Not for profit literary agency, publishing company and eevnt organiser based in Dublin Ireland.

The Hammersmith Ram is a Youngs Pub at 81 King St in Hammersmith. Like all pubs hosting Seven Towers’ events – it has a great bar menu. it also has a great wine lists nad hosts many wonderful events fully supported by its innovative and enthusiastic manager Rory Murphy, and the great staff. it’s our favourite pub in London! more details about the Hammersmith Ram are available fon http://www.thehammersmithram.com


Radio Caroline 45th Reunion

Saturday 28th March marked the 45th anniversary of Radio Caroline’s launch back in 1964, and a reunion event held at The Grapes, Shepherds Market in London was very well attended by Caroline staffers from all eras of the station’s history.

(left to right) Peter Moore, Ronan O'Rahilly and Paul McKenna at the reunion for Caroline staff on March 28th 2009

(left to right) Peter Moore, Ronan O'Rahilly and Paul McKenna at the reunion for Caroline staff on March 28th 2009

from the 558 era: (left to right) John Tyler, Peter Philips, Johnny Lewis

from the 558 era: (left to right) John Tyler, Peter Philips, Johnny Lewis