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.
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.
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.
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!