Beginnings, endings, we just keep on keeping on

Monday 30, April 2018

Two big events happened.

One was the tree pruning in front of our house, the second was my aunt’s birthday.

When we first moved in, we were told about the enormous tree in front of the house. It’s apparently four or five hundred years old and, as such, it’s protected – it can’t be chopped down. However, its branches covered a lot of airspace – perhaps four or five houses wide, taller than our four storey house, and some branches reaching to the middle of the busy road.

Spring time growth, as viewed from the front step
Spring time growth, as viewed from the front step
Only just starting to get leafy, the tree dominated the street
Only just starting to get leafy, the tree dominated the street

The tree is protected but so are humans and buildings, and it was clear that those branches would soon be poking someone’s eye out or creeping into the rain gutters and roofs. It’s been three years and the tree had remained as is. We grew to love watching it bud, flower, and then dwindle during that time. During the summer, the leaves were so resplendent that we couldn’t see across the road any more. This was offset by this flat never becoming too warm during hot days.

Late last week, we noticed that there were some Parking Supension notices and we wondered if our tree’s time had come. A couple of days passed. On Saturday morning, we noticed three small trucks parked outside and a police line tape at the middle of the road to stop traffic on our side. Ominous.

We expected that one to two meters of each branch would be pruned. What happened felt like slaughter. The very first branch was cut back to just a stick. Every branch and twig with leaves was gone. And so it continued. At the half way point we thought perhaps they’d leave a canopy but the men climbed higher and higher and within a few hours the tree was a ‘skellington.’

Those lovely branches and leaves gone and I have to confess I felt bereft. Friends assured me it will grow back but I’m certain that hundreds of years of growth won’t be replaced in weeks and I don’t expect to see leaves this season. Then, if I do, I shall consider them gifts. It will grow back for sure but a shadow of its former self.

My new robots' view
My new robots’ view
Tree from the other side of the road - scene of slaughter
Tree from the other side of the road – scene of slaughter

No more birds, although the butchers left two nests – thank you. And thanks (no thanks) to damaging the palm trees that have been there for more than a hundred years, thanks to Loddiges.

Here’s to new beginnings! Continue reading “Beginnings, endings, we just keep on keeping on”

Heart of Hackney Tour

Sunday, 22 April, 2018

I’ve seen Hackney tours advertised quite often but they’re on Saturdays – I can’t manage Saturday before lunch. For some reason, the last time I saw a tour advertised it was on a Sunday so I set about rearranging my day before worrying about my ability to keep up with a group and on a tour that promised we would climb St Augustine’s Tower, all 135 steps of it.

No matter. I arrived at Hackney Town Hall for 11am and hoped for the best! The group were mostly older but a few young ‘uns thrown in there. I think we were all more or less locals and wondering what we’d learn that we didn’t know.

The tour guide is Sean Gubbins and, because Hackney is a very large borough (the largest in London), every two or three weeks he tours around a different area. Today was the Heart of Hackney tour – around the town hall, the Narrow Way,  and some stops on the way over to Sutton House.

Hackney Town Hall, it turns out, is the third town hall of Hackney. The first was a little one over on the Narrow Way. It became a bank at one point and I remember going in and seeing a plaque that said that Ted Cohen, the founder of Tesco, had started his business with a loan there. Now it’s a betting shop, one of far too many around the borough. The second incarnation was where the new one is now but closer to the main road of Mare Street. This one was very imposing but I do think that the new one, being set back from the road with the square in front of it and the new library and Hackney empire flanking it, is nicely located if not beautiful.

The new Town Hall
The new Town Hall
The 'new library
The ‘new library
Hackney Town Hall with the library on one side and The Empire on the other
The side of the Hackney Empire

Ever wondered why there are palm trees at the Town Hall and around the borough?

A world-renowned Victorian nursery garden and hothouse once stood near Mare Street – where Hackney Town Hall is now. It was called Loddiges, founded by Joachim Conrad Loddiges.

Described as a ‘latter-day Eden,’ the original Loddiges was home to the world’s largest hothouse. Famed for its collection of orchids and ferns, the nursery was a pioneer in the import and cultivation of rare exotic plants into Britain and attracted visitors from all over Europe and was known as the Grand Palm House. Here palms flourished like nowhere else in the world, set amidst an array of other tropical plants.

Over time, Loddiges supplied plants to places like Kew Gardens, Woburn Abbey, Chatsworth House, St James’ Park and Kensington Gardens, as well as the Imperial Gardens of St. Petersburg and the Adelaide Botanic Garden.

Unfortunately, following the deaths of Joachim’s sons, William and George and due to the changing London landscape, Loddiges closed its gates in 1852. Two years later, Londoners witnessed the stately procession of thirty-two plumed horses as they drew a giant palm tree, the jewel in the Loddiges Nursery’s crown, to its final resting place at the Crystal Palace, Sydenham. The Loddiges tomb can be found in the former churchyard behind St Augustine’s Tower. Continue reading “Heart of Hackney Tour”

A wander in Stoke Newington, the high street, Old Church, Church Street, and Abney Park

Saturday, 21 April, 2018

My brother, John,  has been a keen genealogist for some time and keeps me honest on these pages. The amount of history my family has – on both sides – with this borough of Hackney and that of Tower Hamlets is quite astonishing. No wonder I feel completely at home on these streets. Although it’s not as prolific as the connection with Mile End, Bethnal Green, Spitalfields and Whitechapel, there is a pretty strong line in Hackney so I’ve chased some of the places up.

‘Birth cert of Kate Lees (Samuel Simmons’ – my paternal grandmother – mother) of 1865 shows she was born at 25 Wentworth St. Terrible reputation but maybe the street was not as bad at that time.
Also, her mother Hannah’s last address was 140 Imperial. The Willing great grandparents also lived on Imperial (#37), not sure if they overlapped.’

So on a walk up to Stoke Newington for bread and fabric, I looked for ‘Imperial.’ On a street called Victorian Road is a complex of flats that I immediately recognised as one of the Four Percent Industrial Dwellings that are still scattered around the east end of London.

And part way along, almost where the road becomes a much more modern housing estate, is a chained and padlocked gate. If you look through the bars, there is Imperial Avenue – like a row of mews houses – a hidden pocket of homes.

Imperial Avenue
Imperial Avenue, seen through the bars of a sturdy modern gate
A sad plaque
A sad plaque

I was interested and, as always, my own neighbourhood had surprised me with something I hadn’t seen before. And ‘victorian rd, imperial ave and coronation road. I sense a theme,’ I told John.

Stoke Newington (aka Stokey) can be a grim area along the high street. It’s somehow escaped the gentrification of neighbouring Dalston. However, its age also brings some treasures and I’m very fond of things tour guide Eleanor Blum calls ‘ghosts.’ These are remnants of past times. Still partially there but not in keeping with today.

ghost sign on Stoke Newington High Street
This ghost sign on Stoke Newington High Street was painted twice, one on top of the other

I often buy fresh burrata and newly baked ciabatta at Gallo Nero along the grubby high street. It’s not quite Italy but it’s packed with Italian goods.

Saturday, after a busy  morning, I set off again to Stoke Newington.  (The New Town in the Woods.) This time to Church Street (Stoke Newington Church Street) because I’d heard there were St George Day celebrations at the last remaining Elizabethan church in London, The Old Church. Contrary to the main high street, Church Street is charming, leafy and feels far different. Continue reading “A wander in Stoke Newington, the high street, Old Church, Church Street, and Abney Park”

A visit to Haggerston

Friday, 20 April 2018

Summer heat has hit London. Temperatures are hitting as high as 28C for several days.

The difference this has made to the tree outside in the window in just a few days is remarkable!

The tree on Monday...
The tree on Monday….
...and on Thursday
…and on Thursday

Yesterday was an eventful day for me – unintentionally. Here follows a rambling account.

First I went to the doctor only to find out that my test results (expected two weeks ago) have still not arrived. sigh. But I had other things to do. I had to complete a sleepiness study to get back into the sleep clinic at St Barts hospital. and I asked about anxiety meds. Briefly – the doctors here have been refusing to give me Clonazepam despite my very good history with it. Every now and again I restate my case to get them. so I gave it another shot. He asked me questions and then said he was convinced that I should have it but needed to bring it up at the doctor meeting they had later that day. (He called me back to say the doctors said they also agreed but he had to now run it past the psychiatric arm of their practice. progress!)

Also I asked about the shingles shot and risks and benefits and they booked me in to see the practice nurse. she was one i’d seen before and really liked. so we chatted a bit and I got my shot, which instantly hurt like crazy – normal, she said. so far so good! feel OK. Arm a bit sore, was a bit tired but that’s not unusual these days.I then had to jump on a bus to get to my appointment at the volunteer office.

Chapter of accidents follows:

  • got in the bus
  • realised I was on the wrong one when it took the ‘wrong’ turn – got about three stops into the wrong route
  • walked the half mile to the road where I could get the right bus
    knees hurt so waited ten minutes for a connecting bus
  • arrived 45 mins late!
  • told that I was in the wrong location for my appointment
  • walked with the receptionist another 1/4 mile to the right location
  • arrived an hour late!

Stupid thing is that if i’d realised where I should have been, there would have been no need for that connecting bus or the wait for it. Duh.

Anyway, Jane (the woman I had to see) told me that Shahanaz was already there. Shahanaz is the Muslim woman I’ve become friends with – one of those things where you are in a new group of people and somehow you end up becoming friends with the one you would least have expected! And the three of us had a great chat, most of which arose from Jane seeing my birth certificate and being fascinated with all the details. (it was an ID checking session). Jane mentioned that she had been to the Princelet synagogue one year and fell in love with it. Shahanaz was really intrigued by Jane’s story and asked me if I could take her. then Jane said we *must* include her. this whole thing felt really warm and inclusive – and curious in that there we were, one Jew, one Muslim, and one (Irish) Catholic – and I felt like we were a new circle of friends. that would be really nice actually. Anyway, the next open house is 10 September so I may not be in London but…

After the ID session, Shahanaz asked if we could go next door to the Waterhouse cafe – the place that catered our volunteer training sessions. This turned out to be a lovely space with a patio overlooking the canal.

Waterhouse Restaurant, Haggerston
Waterhouse Restaurant, Haggerston

I really enjoyed the brunch (poached egg with smoked salmon and asparagus) and Shahanaz asked if we could try a new coffee – she is discovering the world of coffee (sheltered!) through me. We chatted about our lives and then left to get home. When we got to Dalston Shahanaz remembered she had left her bag (with passport etc) in the cafe so she had to turn back. I came home and had a restful day.

My cheese is a week or two away from being ready to eat and my new dollies are enjoying the sun!

Hoping the blue is the left one
Hoping the blue is the left one because that’s the one I pierced to encourage the blue veins
Four new dollies basking in the sun
Four new dollies basking in the sun

Dim Sum adventures

Wednesday, 18 April, 2018

A return visit for dim sum at Shikumen was in store. We did a fair amount of walking and it was hot! Shikumen is having a four for £10 lunch. We’ll go back and try four different ones before the promotion ends.

A beautifully crafted vegetable dumpling
A beautifully crafted vegetable dumpling
The foru for £10 dim sum lunch. Missing are the chicken gyoza
The four for £10 dim sum lunch. Missing are the chicken gyoza

I wanted to check out the new bar that overlooks the city so we took the lift up to the fourteenth floor but were foiled. It goes as far as floor 13 and then you see a notice: You have to come up from the ground floor and be escorted. Are they keeping the riffraff out? I’m coming back at night when it’s open, to have a silly cocktail and take photos before the light fades.

A bit more walking in the heat followed. I wished I had on my summer clothes, which are packed away from last year.

At the south side of Bethnal Green Road time stands still
At the south side of Bethnal Green Road time stands still
Spotted off the Bethnal Green Road
Spotted off the Bethnal Green Road

Home to a nice cool shower!