Christmas Day by the Lea (or Lee)

It’s our family custom on Christmas Day to go for a walk down by the River Lea (usually shown on maps with the addition “or Lee”, as both spellings have been used historically). Often it’s been cold and dreich and we’ve seen almost no-one. Two days ago it was a gorgeous sunny day, and there were hundreds of people out.

And some boats were moving:

Boat on the Lea 1 Christmas 2019

While others were just parked:

Boat on the Lea 2 Christmas 2019

And this is us; Frances, me, and our two young adults, who don’t normally like to be photographed, and who have never appeared here before:

Family Christmas 2019

Weekend Warblers

Hackney Weekend: the main stage

The Radio 1 Hackney Weekend festival was fabulously well organised, loads of fun, and passed off with only three arrests.1 Booking the tickets a month or two ago had turned out to be easy (we sat with multiple browsers and phones as the SeeTickets site crumpled, but in fact it was no trouble at all after we left it for a while). Being local residents helped, as half the tickets were for Hackney households.

It was a free show, so there were restrictions; most notably that you could only book for one of the two days, and only two tickets per person. We were doing it for the kids; and the kids in this family (to say nothing of most of their friends) favoured the Sunday lineup; so that’s the one we went for.

[The lineup](http://www.bbc.co.uk/music/events/e9wmxj/performances) leaned heavily to the various dance subgenres: (modern) R&B, dubstep, and so on. Not forgetting hip-hop, of course; not only did Jay-Z headline the first night, he guested with Rihanna on the second.

Hackney Weekend: Jessie J on the main stage

For me the highlight of the day was Jessie J; though I was mildly disappointed that she censored herself in my favourite of her songs, ‘Do it Like a Dude’.2

Tinie Tempah was also good, though since I’ve subsequently been listening to Enter Shikari, I’m slightly disappointed to have missed them as they clashed with Tinie.

There was great secrecy and much speculation over who the “Special Guest” was to be. They managed to keep it hidden until the day, which, while impressive in its way, had me worried. I thought that, depending on who it was, there could be a disaster. In particular, if it had been Justin Bieber, as some kids were speculating, there would have been a vast, simultaneous, two-way flow, from and to the stage (my kids would have been running away from the stage; there are no Beliebers at Devilgate Towers).

Not long before the guest’s time I heard on good authority that it was going to be Beyoncé. Believable, as her hubbie was there, and she was said to be “in the house”. But I doubted it: isn’t she a bigger name than Rihanna? And anyway, I get the sense that she’d be too much of a diva to go on second on the bill.

Anyway, in the end it was Dizzee Rascal, which with hindsight made total sense, what with him being a local boy and all.

Hackney Weekend: colourful flags

As we wandered through the stages and the day, we heard snatches of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ seven times (I started keeping count at the third) from various between-act DJs and stalls. So by the time it closed the night, I was thoroughly ready to hear it properly. And a damn fine ending it was, too (though the fireworks were a tad tame).

I was hugely impressed with the organisation of the thing. We got there nice and early, and there was hardly any queueing, despite the airport-style security. The staff were all lovely and friendly, and — get this — there was hardly ever a queue for the toilets!

I would strongly support any moves to make it a regular thing. Radio 1’s event moves around the country, so it couldn’t stay free, but I could easily see it working as a commercial festival in the future.


  1. I have it on the authority of a Hackney police officer. []
  2. Hint: “Dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty sucker” doesn’t rhyme with “D’you think I can get hurt by you, you [puts finger on lips]”. []

Exciting times

These are exciting times in Hackney. Not only has my son just started secondary school today (where did those eleven years go?) but it seems that we are getting a new bookshop near the top of our road.

This is big news indeed. Our little corner of Lower Clapton is characterised more by chicken-based fast-food joints and kebab shops. A children’s bookshop opened on nearby Chatsworth Road a year or two ago (my daughter was their first customer). There was a brief, exciting moment last year when something that looked like a bookshop opened up on Lower Clapton Road, but it turned out to be a religious booksop, specialising the the Christian field.

But today I went up to get my hair cut, and I noticed a new sign up: Pages of Hackney. A new bookshop on the Lower Clapton Road, opening on Saturday 13th September. Excellent news.

Not so good is that Saf’s Barbers is “closed until further notice”. I hope everything’s all right. I still have shaggy hair, which never looks good when it’s receding.