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”

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 2019

Tuesday, Wednesday 25-26 December, 2018

A nice dry day for Christmas. Lots for me to do. Luckily, I’d wrapped Krish’s presents the night before.  Christmas rituals – Christmas lights, Christmas candles, Christmas music.

The crazy thing was that, along with the two wrapped presents for Krish under the tree – OK, the poinsettia – there were four wrapped presents for me. This is actually the first time this has ever happened. He really has found the Christmas spirit, at least for this year!

Presents!
Presents!

Then I made eggnog as a surprise. Krish yearns for it every year.

I belong to three Facebook pages for Canadians. Two for London, one for the UK. Eggnog is a huge topic at Christmas, how everyone misses it, where can you buy it, if only there were eggnog… In a blog I read regularly, I found a recipe and decided to give it a go. It’s made with whole creamy milk, double cream, sugar, egg yolks, and nutmeg. I nailed it! It tastes perfect. A big hit!

First try at eggnog - nailed it!
First try at eggnog – nailed it!

And I made stuffing and cranberry rolls instead of sausage rolls this year. Sounds odd but stuffing in the UK isn’t the bread affair it is in Canada. It’s mostly sausage meat, with herbs and onions.  Some ready-to-cook stuffing topped with freshly made cranberry sauce and sealed all around. I actually really liked this. Lighter and less salty than a sausage roll. New favourite!

My presents were: Three books, and two espresso cups so I can start using my moka now – have been hesitating on that! The books were typical Krish choice – To Kill a Mocking Bird, The Unfinished Palazzo, and The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici. I’ve started on the introduction to the second.

My Christmas books
My Christmas books
Espresso cups
Espresso cups

For Krish this year I wanted to focus on memories – the egg nog is part of that. Then I got him a clockwork toy from Bazar Bonino in Torino, and a large box of meccano, which I saw advertised on the local neighbourhood site. All three were a really big success but I knew the meccano would shock and delight him – he was dumbfounded. I hope he makes something with it. I’ll never be able to top this gift.

German clockwork toy
German clockwork toy
Box of meccano
Box of meccano

We watched a lot of romantic Christmas movies. Silly ones. Krish was in charge of cooking. We had pork pie, some leftover quiche, and raw veggies for lunch and for dinner, a steak with mashed potatoes and some red cabbage. Food bulletin done. No photos of the plate before we started!

Time for a rest
Time for a rest

Boxing Day has been mostly quieter. I’ve done some organising and some catching up on this and that. And now we’re making the late Christmas dinner between us.  Stay tuned.

Dinner is done and Christmas proper is over for another year.

Traditional Chrismas dinner - roasted potatoes, turkey, stuffing, brussel sprouts, with gravy, cranberry sauce and pickles
Traditional Chrismas dinner – roasted potatoes, turkey, stuffing, brussel sprouts, with gravy, cranberry sauce and pickles
Mince pie, vanilla cream, cuppa tea!
Mince pie, vanilla cream, cuppa tea!
And we're done
And we’re done

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Christmas Eve – Monday, 24 December, 2018

Even a found Christmas can be dull and gloomy and it was like that when I headed out to Brick Lane on the Saturday before Christmas – Christmas Eve Eve! I visited the hairdresser and trusted my head to her. I came away wondering just what she’d changed – there was very little hair on the floor and more time spent on diffusing and perfecting my curls than cutting – but the back did look better, I’d had a good time, and I wasn’t upset. That’s a major achievement.

I stopped at Ambala for some samosas and grabbed a chicken tikka roll for some lunch. But the view from Whitechapel was dismal.

The East London mosque
The East London mosque
The gloaming!
The gloaming!

My friend, Judy, sent me a message when I got on the bus and we switched to talking for real (yes!). The whole of Cambridge Heath Road and Mare Street was the same dismal grey as Whitechapel Road had been. And then we passed Mare Street Market and the lights caught my eye. I had to get out to look more closely.

Inside was a real Christmas grotto. I wandered around and enjoyed the atmosphere, everyone laughing and everything glistening.


Continue reading “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”