Neighbourhood conspiracies

Thursday, 28 February, 2019

This is a ‘colourful’ neighbourhood. There are hours of entertainment here, all free of charge and for speculation!

Curiosities are everywhere. Sometimes you have to act fast or you miss them. Take the black utility box opposite this house. Graffiti appears and disappears rapidly.  A week or so a very subtle piece appeared. It was a heartbeat trace. I thought, since it was so discreet, it might last. I didn’t move fast enough to photograph it. It was gone by noon the next day.

Near Hackney Central station, there are round bollards to stop cars trying to get into a pedestrian area. Someone or more than one someones has painted them. Last week I went to look more closely.

The usual monkeys - seeing, hearing and speaking...
The usual monkeys – seeing, hearing and speaking… (or not!)
I believe the splash at the top was added later. (To look like bird poo?).
I believe the splash at the top was added later. (To look like bird poo or is it the real thing?)
At the very end, an eight ball
At the very end, an eight ball

Hackney has an illustrious past. I wrote a bit about Hackney Central’s history here.  Despite knowing something about them now, it still surprises me to see the Hackney palm trees around the borough, even in people’s front gardens.

Looking towards Mare Street at Hackney Town Hall
Looking towards Mare Street at Hackney Town Hall

When I first moved here, it was interesting but could be grim. Rusting hulks of cars were strewn about, under railway bridges and on side streets. These got filled with rubbish. Gang fights were common and so was murder and violence. Sometimes traffic, even pedestrian, was diverted because of a body, or a crime scene. Somewhere in the middle were the London riots – one of them not too far from our window just out of sight. Windows were smashed, cars were burned. People without a voice used their fists.

Things began to change when the Crossrail (Overground) system was opened. Suddenly, Hackney was more accessible. ‘Luxury flats’ sprang up, first in Dalston, then at our own junction. The largest council estate, Pembury, was partly torn down to create this. Rents climbed, the well-heeled moved in, and the cafes, trendy restaurants, and fancy shops started to pop up. The old Burberry factory was rebuilt into an outlet and luxurious flats, and the tourists stated to arrive as this area was transformed into an actual community of high end outlet stores. What was becoming of Hackney?

Last week I took a stroll along the Narrow Way (top of Mare Street) which is now fully pedestrianised, although far from the trendy area it aspires to be so far. I believe it will get there – after I’ve been priced out, of course.

First a coffee in the girly Palm Vaults, No dairy milk served here. No cash allowed.
First a coffee in the girly Palm Vaults, No dairy milk served here. No cash allowed.
This new place has opened. It seems to be coffee ,cake., and maybe cocktails. Two doors from the established Palm Vauts
This new place has opened. It seems to be coffee ,cake., and maybe cocktails. Two doors from the established Palm Vauts
Brown Butter, also coffee and cake apparently. Opposite Palm Vaults and Palaette. Obviously no fear of competition
Brown Butter, also coffee and cake apparently. Opposite Palm Vaults and Palaette. Obviously no fear of competition despite being the third coffee venture in a very small radius
In the new Dispensary Lane, created by two new builds off the Narrow Way, is Wave vegan cafe
In the new Dispensary Lane, created by two new builds, is Wave vegan cafe
We were very curious when this sign popped up for a new store opening. Now it's open, we see it's many packages of baked goods and meat, wrapped in plastic and awaiting its so far sparse to non-existent clientele. Bets on how long it will last?
We were very curious when this sign popped up for a new store opening. Now it’s open, we see it’s many packages of baked goods and meat, wrapped in plastic and awaiting its so far sparse to non-existent clientele. Bets on how long it will last?
The number of 'afro hair' specialist suppliers, hairdressers and barbers remains the same. They're everywhere and keep long hours
While everything changes around it, the large number of ‘afro hair’ specialist suppliers, hairdressers and barbers remains the same. They’re everywhere and keep long hours

While crime has definitely subsided, there are still reminders. We see arrests from time to time, usually peaceful and usually involving Caribbean youth. The other day, on my way home from shopping, the road in front of the house was cordoned off. There were a dozen to twenty blue-gloved police officers, at least two multi-person ambulance response teams, and a few fire trucks with many firefighters. The only sign of any disturbance was a handcuffed male being lead to a police car. Was he holding hostages? We thought it might be a grow op but why the ambulances on standby? So the other thought was that it’s a meth lab, with fear of explosion – but perhaps not since no one was being evacuated. Fun.


There are also two conspiracy theories coming from not too far away. A nearby restaurant that has crowds of people, limousines parked outside or picking up packages,  the same bicycles buzzing back and forth. At first, I countered with the fact the food might be magnificent, until I tasted it and it was pretty awful. And another restaurant just two doors from the first that serves food intermittently, is closed at last half the time, and which a motorcycle regularly lingers outside for someone to let them in, before taking off with apparently no food, yet comes back as if waiting for more.  In between the two, deliveries are made to the pavement. Big boxes of something, whole skids of boxes. People show up, the labels are removed and a van picks them up again. Who knows! You can decide for yourself what might be going on and whether it’s innocent or not.

 

Mystery solved – grow op it was!

Plus ça change…Tinnitus, Spring, Pottery

Tuesday, 26 February, 2019

Mired in the blahs a bit. The wedding was a nice little oasis of colour and new stuff to do but, for the most part, February has been spent right here at home or around the neighbourhood. And it’s not as if there’s nothing going on here. It’s all in my head!

My head being a bit full of tinnitus.

If you think tinnitus is just an annoying, somewhere-in-there, ringing in your ear, you’d be only partly right. Mine is ‘recurring.’ I can go weeks, months, even years without it – or at least there’s ‘acceptable’ level noise in my ears all the time but then every now and again it gets serious. It spikes and I can’t cope. This isn’t ‘carry on regardless’ any more. It leaves me incapable of doing even the ordinary things. I’m hypersensitive to everyday noises and instinctively avoid them. Running taps, the shower, the sound of footsteps, the wind blowing leaves, traffic driving by, someone unwrapping or rustling paper… This is called hyperacusis.

My personal kind of spike is this – Sometimes there are baby crickets making some noise occasionally, sometimes there are bigger crickets being a bit more insistent, and sometimes there’s a whole meadow full of really huge crickets in full voice for hours on end, if you’re lucky with intermittent breaks.  Has anyone ever made a really loud noise too close to your ear? Yelled? Blown a whistle? If so, did you pull away immediately to avoid the noise? Imagine if you couldn’t.

One more thing about tinnitus – it isn’t actually in your ear, although it can certainly drown out other noises or upset your balance (quite a bit in my case) but it’s coming from your brain. Your brain is filling in gaps of sound or frequency with something recognisable. Sort of like phantom limb syndrome….

So back to Hackney and getting out when balance is on my side. It’s unseasonably warm. It’s T-shirt weather for some. My phone weather tells me it’s 19C. And it’s still February.

Over the course of the day, so any variations in the sky. February.
Over the course of the day, so any variations in the sky. February.

Continue reading “Plus ça change…Tinnitus, Spring, Pottery”

A wedding

Monday, 18 February, 2019

We were invited to a wedding. It was out of the blue almost. But it happened.

Krish has a friend he met online, Avi. He lives in Leicester, he’s visited us once, and he makes long phone calls to one or the other of us pretty regularly. He’s a great guy, a real pleasure to know and chat to. Genuine, polite and curious. Avi says things that surprise you – that’s because he is so honest about how he feels. This happily includes good things about you – he speaks openly about his feelings around you and what you have to say.  It’s quite refreshing.

Avi looked after his mum, who had Alzheimers, for years. His dad also had health issues. Avi’s life was completely tied up with that and he couldn’t ever do much outside the house. Then his mum died. His dad decided to take Avi on a trip of a lifetime to his own birthplace in India. Avi would call us to say how much he wanted to leave, how bad things were in India. Then when it was almost time for him to come back to the UK, his dad became ill and was put into hospital. Avi’s return was postponed while his dad went from serious to recovering, back to serious. The government stepped in and told Avi he’d overstayed his visa and sent him back to the UK to reapply. As soon as his new application was granted, back he went. While on his stopover on the way back to India, he got word his dad had just died. It broke my heart that had he been granted passage one day earlier, he would have been there.

His parents had wanted him to marry but every woman he met didn’t make the grade. With both parents now gone, Avi became more determined. Not too many months later, he called to say ‘I’m getting married.’ That’s a weird feeling. I knew our friendship would change, I knew his life would change, I wondered how it would be since it was an arranged marriage and he barely knew his fiancee.

A few months went by and I didn’t expect to be invited to the wedding but one day he called us to ask if we would be there. It felt like a great honour. Of course the day came – we had booked a hotel to take in the two days of celebration that we were invited to. The photos will tell the story!

Arriving at the wedding hall
Arriving at the wedding hall, I was startled by the glittery dresses and the gathering crowd to welcome the couple. I suddenly felt very under-dressed but excited. People passed me, all saying hello, and good morning. Very nice! Suddenly someone greeted me and it was Avi dressed in gold, walking into the hall It started to feel real.

A very grand hall with lots of sparkly dresses
A very grand hall with lots of sparkly dresses and smart suits. I realised I was the only white person in the room. A strange feeling. We sat at tables and Avi had arrived to show us over to a reserved table on ‘the boy’s side.’
First there was the civil ceremony
First there was the civil ceremony. Avi and Farrah exchanged rings and vows. The bride’s dress was red and gold.

Some narrative. I’ve never been to a Muslim wedding. There were hundreds of people. The women and children were dressed up very elaborately. Very often families dressed alike – the women in identical dresses and the men in matching colours – sometimes just a tie that matched the women’s dresses. There was heavy make up and jewellery. There was a lot of hugging.

The stage was arranged with thrones, and a sofa – white satin and gold. When the Nikah happened (the religious ceremony) the bride went up to a balcony at the far end of the hall and sat there with an attendant. The imam and Avi and close family members formed a circle of chairs down on the hall floor around them, but only the men. Chanting – not sounding too far from Hebrew – began, followed by a sermon or teaching of sorts, about marriage. When the bride came back, Avi and Farrah sat together on the stage and people came up to visit, take photos,  and deliver gifts. This was often boxes filled with clothing, shoes, jewellery… it was very showy. The whole thing was fascinating and once again I felt privileged to be there.

And of course there was food.

Menu and food
We had a printed menu. The food was delicious and plentiful. Everyone at the table was concerned it was too spicy for me. No!

People went up to the stage, while the queues formed and onlookers faced the stage, watching all the action
People went up to the stage, while the queues formed and onlookers faced the stage, watching all the action

Mendhi - all beautiful, showing off the gorgeous rings too
Mendhi – beautiful work, enhanced by jewellery and sparkly dresses
So under-dressed!
So under-dressed!
Like a king and queen at the coronation
Like a king and queen at the coronation

Continue reading “A wedding”

January and February, why are you so sluggish?

Tuesday, 22 January, 2019

You don’t hear so much about the February blahs in London. But in Toronto they were a big thing. And, yes, I know it’s not actually February yet but January seems to have the same feeling.

Grey January skies
Grey January skies and the tree is looking different than other years

Days and days of dull, leaden skies. I miss the blue skies and snowy days in Toronto sometimes. I don’t miss the cold or slush. And I definitely don’t miss the freezing rain and ice. But I do have days where I feel very sure I suffer from SAD and so I light daytime candles and have yellow or white roses to lighten my mood. Sadly, I also eat chocolate – my jeans are telling me maybe a little too much.

Actually, I also feel sad. And there it is.

There are no explorations to talk about today but perhaps the photos will show a bit of my regular life.

Spring is coming and the foxes came back
Spring is coming and the foxes came back

In February I am going to a wedding in Leicester. It’s something to look forward to. In April my sister Ruth, nieces Suzanne and Adrianna, and great whatevers Seamus and Fiona are coming to London. Am I looking forward to it? Hmm. Yes and no. It’s always nice to see familiar Toronto faces in London and I enjoy planning things and working on maps and itineraries, whether or not they are used, but family things can be chaotic. So it’s a mixed bag and I hope mostly positive.

Adrianna is also going to Budapest so there’s an added level of planning and writing up ‘sort-of-guides’ for her. It also made me think about Budapest and the things I miss about it. Most cities have things I miss but not enough to  go racing back. In the case of Budapest, there are just too many other things I need to do or be available for this year to follow my impulses to book myself a ticket. Continue reading “January and February, why are you so sluggish?”

Christmas Lights in the West End 2018 – epic part two!

Thursday, 3rd January, 2019

Today was my day to venture back to the West End to see more Christmas Lights. My plan was to start at Selfridges, go down New Bond Street to Fortnum & Mason, then along Piccadilly and end up at Chinatown again to buy some dim sum supplies and two new steamer baskets. I think I did pretty well.

I started out around 3pm by taking the bus to Bethnal Green. On the bus I thought I saw Gemma Collins but perhaps not. This version was neater, a bit trimmer, and understated but maybe the on-screen Gemma is more outrageous.  Then I took the Central line to Bond Street, Yes! I hardly ever take the tube. I really don’t like being underground but sometimes I just go for it.

I arrived at Bond Street just as it was getting dark, but not dark enough to see the lights at their best. Luckily I’d already seen Oxford Street and my only reason for being there was to see Selfridges a few minutes’ walk away. But I did take in the crowds on the street. Everyone must still be on holiday! And I took a lot of photos so sit back. As far as photos go, this will be epic, starting with a good look at Oxford Street.

Sadly, when I got to Selfridges the windows were all papered over. I’d missed them! So I walked towards the food hall anyway, to see what was going on there. That’s when I saw that a few windows at the Food Hall side were still there.  To be honest, I can’t say I was too impressed.

Selfridge’s Food Hall is always a favourite. I actually like it better than Harrods – at least I can afford some of the food there. This time was a disappointment.  I couldn’t see all the counters I was used to. Perhaps it’s a Christmas thing or maybe things have changed. Nothing stays the same but some things I just count on! I did cruise around though and see what I could see.

Coming up to the Food Hall at Selfridges
Coming up to the Food Hall at Selfridges
Selfridge's fish counter
Selfridges’ fish counter
I was pretty tempted by the middle eastern snacks
I was pretty tempted by the Middle Eastern snacks
Selfridges
Selfridges
Snowflakes projected on the pavement, Oxford Street
Snowflakes projected on the pavement, Oxford Street – confusing babies and dogs!
It isn't always junk food
It isn’t always junk food

Keep reading! There’s loads more to come.  Continue reading “Christmas Lights in the West End 2018 – epic part two!”