The pages you are reading originally appeared on Kamila Zahno’s website and blog. The later entries were written when she knew that she did not have long to live. Sadly, she died of ovarian cancer on 26 March 2018, a few days short of what would have been her 66th birthday.
A few weeks later, on 1 July 2018, over 100 of her friends and family members gathered together for a celebration event, including music, poems, and rich reminiscences from a lovely life.
Her website pages and blog have been preserved here as an ongoing tribute. If you came to know her through her book, Chasing Ghosts, here is more of her writing to enjoy. Those of us who knew and loved her could add more personal recollections, but there really is no need. Her own words provide the best account of the lovely person she was.
Kamila loved the Parkland Walk in Stroud Green, the area that became her home for over 20 years. If you care to go there now, you will find some owl nesting boxes installed in her memory. This is the Parkland Walk website: https://www.parkland-walk.org.uk/access and a map showing the location of the owl boxes is attached.
I first met Alan Briggs, bughouse builder extraordinaire, at the Wild Weekend at Woodberry Wetlands this spring. My friend and I were so taken with his beautifully constructed green-roofed insect houses that she bought one for me and I bought one as a birthday present for my next-door-neighbour. The bees buzzed all summer long in our adjoining gardens. More recently I bumped into Alan again at the Quernmore Road Street Party where he had a stall full of his bughouses, as well as wreaths made of succulents all ready for the Christmas season.
He also donated a combined bird box, bug hotel and butterfly roosting box to the Quernmore Road Project. Here it is all primed and ready to be painted by Lisa of N4 Workshop.
Alan moved to Epping when young, which fuelled his interest in the natural world Moving to the Harringay Ladder he experimented with a green roof on his compost bin. He was pleased with how successfully sedums and succulents grew in gritty compost in an exposed part of the garden. Alan went on to construct garden stores, bin stores and cycle shelters for friends, family and neighbours out of found materials including pallet boards and scaffolding, as well as recycled Victorian floorboards sourced from local forums such as Harringay Online. My favourite construction has to be the shelter he built for a neighbour’s outdoor cat, fully insulated with 50 mm of foam insulation and planted with a green roof.
Moving on to smaller things, Alan builds the prettiest bughouses, filled with little pieces of bamboo, and planted with sedums and sempervivums. “I think I help the birds and the bees,” says Alan. “A block of wood can be home to 50 solitary bees.”
He’s also built larger bughouses for schools and community projects. These have the scope to include bamboo, broken pots and tiles, cut-down plastic bottles filled with corrugated cardboard. Attracting a variety of insects including lacewings, ladybirds, and bees, some insects even overwinter as pupae. He’s also built bat-houses for the Parkland Walk.
In his other life, Alan teaches wood and metal work in schools and so it’s not surprising that he thinks community involvement is vitally important, especially to nurture children’ fascination for the outside world. He can teach them about the importance of recycling materials too. “If I can get children involved they can experience the lifecycle of insects from pupae to flying insects,” says Alan.
Here’s an example of a community project in Carbuncle Passage in Tottenham where the community was involved in planting up the wooden planter.
Always inventive, Alan has now started making tardis-like police boxes and telephone boxes to sell, along with his bughouses and birdhouses, at local festivals and fairs in and around Haringey and North London.
The Street Party to end all street parties was how But First, Coffee, our local coffee shop, billed the Quernmore Road event on 29th October. The sun shone warmly on hundreds of local people celebrating the unveiling of a beautifully furnished public space made possible by The Quernmore Road Project – a small regeneration project devoted to transforming the cul-de-sac by Harringay Station. A working group of local businesses and residents worked hard to apply successfully for a £10,000 grant from the Tesco Bags of Help Fund. Hats off to all those who voted for the Project at our local Tesco. They also worked hard to organise the spending of the grant – on running children’s art workshops to produce the mural, a planter set, planting and, most wonderful of all, the lovely benches and chair with salvaged legs from an old snooker table. Some of the funding was matched with Haringey Council’s Ward Fund to organise the street party.
I was interested in the display board giving information and old photos of the original shopping parade, the Library and Rail Station.
The planting schedule is designed to create year round interest: for example we can soon enjoy sweet box with its winter perfume and the greenery of the ferns and evergreen shrubs such as yew, bay and japanese spindle. I look forward to the display of spring bulbs: alliums, tulips and narcissi.
I had another engagement that Sunday so all I could do was a quick trot around the stalls when the event opened at 12 noon. I missed the unveiling ceremony which I understand was done by Haringey’s Mayor.
I met Peter and his nephew, Matt, at the bulbstore with their jumbo Hippeastrum bulbs. My friend was sorely tempted to buy one of these.
Next up was Alan Briggs of Briggs Bughouses, whom I first met at Woodberry Wetlands Wild Weekend earlier this year. I had my eye on the loveliest winter wreath planted with succulents.
This is Suzie London with her vibrant pieces of joy – lampshades, planters, phone cases, make-up bags. You can iron one of her pretty patches onto your jeans.
Here’s Nicole and Toby with their colourful vintage store.
I lingered at the Friends of the Library stall. The Friends earned £183 from the sale of books, DVDs and CDs, sharing their takings with the Library.
It’s almost time for the 4th Stroud Green Music Festival. Organised by Clare Norburn, who is a wonderful singer with a pure, clear soprano voice, it’s running from 8-25th June. Clare first set up an early music festival in Brighton when she was involved in a music group there and wondered whether something similar might work here in Stroud Green, where she lives.
Clare used to run the fundraising team for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and while she was there she met Tamara Romanyk, who introduced her to Father Patrick of the Holy Trinity Church, Stroud Green, and his wife Irena Henderson, both keen musicians who have organised local concerts at the church.
“There were already good local music connections and a real keenness to do more concerts. All it needed was someone to pull things together,” Clare told me.
This year the programme kicked off in April with a fundraising concert for the Festival. Shakespeare’s Musick was great fun, featuring 17th and 18th century settings of Shakespeare’s poetry by composers such as Purcell, Arne and Locke, including a rare performance of songs by a little-known composer called Defesch who was drafted to write songs for a production of the Tempest, to replace Thomas Arne who had had a disagreement with the actress playing Ariel who went on to sack him. Actors Davis Timson and Patience Tomlinson read extracts from the plays and sonnets and performed a very fine version by Garrick of the final scene from Romeo and Juliet. Many of the musicians were local, including my very own neighbour Naomi Anderson, flautist.
This year’s Festival is very varied with a good community focus. There’s folk, jazz and classical. Consortium 5 will be running recorder workshops – both for the public – and also for children from St Aidan’s school, culminating in a concert on 16th June.
I’m looking forward to the bite-sized family-friendly version of Rameau’s opera Pygmalion (two shows on 18 June by the Little Baroque Company), a sort of Rom-Com 45 minute opera, complete with a dancer and an animated film where the singers interact with the animation. And Baroque with Bite sounds fun too – 18th century cantatas by John Stanley with the singers in costume, all while you’re eating tea and cake (17 June).
There are lots of local partners and sponsorship from local businesses too. As Clare says, “I like all the connections. I’m a big champion for the Small is Beautiful. In this world where chains are taking over someone has to stand up for the smaller guys.”