Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Ben Olins of Herb Lester Associates

17th December 2011

In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;

Reflecting on a year which has passed with such speed, it seems somehow unfair that events which took place a few short months ago have already receded into the distant past and now lie jumbled together with memories of far earlier times. And so as the time comes to look back at the events of 2011 and to ponder achievements and disappointments, there is a slight sense of alarm: what happened!?

The year began in a dark room in Bloomsbury, its sole window offering a view of the building’s interior well. It was cold and lonely, and despite some sense of doomy romance, really rather too Patrick Hamilton for our liking. It draws to a close in a dark room in Shoreditch, with no windows and sporadic alarming noises from the halfway house next door, but the atmosphere is convivial, and while it is not a gargantuan leap perhaps, it can certainly be called a step in the right direction.

Digging a little deeper, a whirlwind research trip to Paris bubbles to the surface of our memory banks. Hurrying towards the botanical gardens, a shop window attracted us with its display of 1950s advertising annuals, children’s books and 13th Floor Elevators posters. An independent, secondhand bookshop, run by generous, knowledgeable people, Librarie Michael Seksik was one of the year’s great finds.

Only a less happy note, we recall too another hasty continental excursion, this time to Lisbon. It was there that measles was contracted, a remarkable achievement when the entire trip was less than 24 hours.

One summer afternoon we made the three-minute journey from our office to the studio of Mr Adam Dant to discuss plans for the Map of Spitalfields Life. The sun was shining, the day’s work completed, and there we sat in Adam’s atelier, sipping Campari and nibbling on almonds. Our bank account may have been negligible but this, we said, this was the life.

Looking back, many of the moments of greatest elation were caused by things so fleeting they hardly bear mentioning: a reassuring chat with our accountant; the first order from Foyles; getting an earlier, direct flight home from Berlin after an exhausting weekend; drinking cocktails and seeing old friends on that same trip. But it’s these little things – minor triumphs and passing jubilation – which keep us going, and they’re a reminder that the setbacks, the troubles and the irritation, they too will pass.