I visit the Stables
1970. Walking over the coal smoke-grimed railway bridge, past the creaky shop on stilts by the bridge, they sold motor cycle accessories, including decals for all the old makes, from Brough Superiors, to Norton and BSA Golden Flash, I find the entrance to the Bubbles hideaway off to the right. It is an old coal-yard stables where, from memory, Scrubs Lane crosses the railway-line, with a gently sloping curved ramp for the horses to ascend to road height from the loading area in the sunken, half an oval shaped area, where Barney has a studio. Arranged in a curved row, the old stables and coal bunkers face out onto a yard about twenty five feet long.
Back awhen, afore they knocked them down,of course, this corner was notable for its high brick walls, that curved about in a cool way. Maybe they were road built on what were the old railway’s curves. The brick walls were to hinder the sparks from the tender of the shunter in the tinder of the stables below. There were gasworks here abouts one time.
At the time I was a bit in terror at what I thought were his living conditions here, babe and all, not realizing it was just his studio. Barney asks me if I’d like to work with him on projects, I look around a see straw blowing in the next room. We agree to meet up later. He asks me if I’d like to work together again, I say yeah, but on individual jobs, but not in tandem, that just leads to problems.
This visit to his stable studio is the stuff of bad dreams; also the stuff of legend: damp, open to the wind, and now demolished I see on Google. But one can still see the floor plans. Barney’s studio was in the south-west corner. It maybe be built-on by now.
I think it was at about this time that Barney was working on Gracious!. (See Barney Bubbles: Paper Engineer 1st class.) whether he worked on it in this studio is doubtful, it was too Spartan for even him, what with the blowing straw and all.
They lived up that way after Moulton kicked ’em out of Teenburger on Portobello, Kate Moon and Barney lived in a council house down the road from the studio, sometimes with Giana and son, Arten Skinner, whom he often called ‘Pogston’, and nick-named, I think, for an Evelyn Waugh character, maybe in Alfred J Prufrock?
Kathy Moon reminded me of the set up in the council-house recently, I visited once, a big central room on the second floor with three rooms off it, with cushions on the carpet, a record player and not much else, a pram maybe. There was a Canadian living there too, Kathy will fill in the details I expect. I can’t remember ever seeing Arten. I speak from 25 years experience as a father when I say that our mode of life at this time was not conducive to good parenting. Aten didn’t get to see much of his dad.
Barney’s son (hi, Aten) certainly had an effect on me though – my daughter Ann’s mother, community organizer and gallery maven Carol Zakaluk, and I birthed the adorable Ann in 1982, ten years after Aten was born. I was definitely influenced in supporting this endevour by the long reach of Barney as a parent in the need to gain points in our ongoing game of catch-up.