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


The 392 by Ashley Hickson-Lovence (Books 2019, 12)

The book 'The 392,' pictured next to a flat peach
The 392, with a flat peach

We went to WOMAD a couple of weekends ago, and in the literary tent we caught the end of a reading from, and an interview with, this young Hackney writer. It was an interesting talk and the book sounded compelling, so we bought a copy (and got it signed).

It’s set over 36 minutes on the inaugural journey of a new (nonexistent) London bus route, from Hoxton to Highbury. Told as the thoughts and conversations of various passengers (and the driver).

If you’re familiar with the area and the local slang (which may in fact be national or global slang in places), it’s particularly enjoyable. But the themes are universal, so don’t suppose it’s only for Hackney & Islington folk.

I have my problems with the ending, but it’s well worth checking out (and it’s very short, and in bite-sized pieces, if you’re looking for something easy).


The Honest Graffitologist

Graffito with the text, ‘Now that I’m here I have nothig to say’ (misspelling in original).

Nothig to say.


Atmosphere

Atmosphere

Hackney, this evening.


I Wrote to my MP

So the Supreme Court agreed that parliament is sovereign Good for them. Must’ve been a hard decision. I decided it was time to ask my MP, Diane Abbott, to do the right thing:

Dear Ms Abbott,

Now that the Supreme Court has made its decision, affirming parliament’s sovereignty, I strongly urge you to vote against triggering Article 50.

The most urgent issue facing our country at the moment is Brexit, and the only solution to Brexit is to stop it happening. As a Labour Party member, and one who voted for Jeremy Corbyn as leader twice, I’m very disappointed by the recent reports that he is planning to require MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50.

I know it would be unpopular with certain tabloid papers if parliament were to prevent Brexit. But in truth I think it would be popular in the country. It seems highly likely to me that if there were a second referendum now, the majority would vote in favour of staying in the EU.

That may be wishful thinking, but I don’t believe so: people have both realised they were lied to, and seen something of what Brexit will mean to the economy, to jobs, and to British society.

And in any case, parliament is sovereign, and the majority in the referendum was far too small to justify what is, in effect, a constitutional change. Surely an MP’s duty is to vote in the way that is best for the country, and it is clear that leaving the EU would not be in the UK’s best interests.

I urge you to resist the tyranny of the right-wing press, and go with the majority of Hackney North and Stoke Newington voters, and please: vote against triggering Article 50.

Yours sincerely,

Martin McCallion

That ought to do it, eh?


Chatsworth Road Festival, September 2014

We went to our local street festival today. Here are some pictures. [gallery ids="1887,1888,1889,1890,1891,1892,1893,1894,1895,1896,1897,1898"]

Click for a bigger view on Flickr.


Hackney's latest piece of gentrification: comics

Dreyfuss cafe and Raygun Comics, Hackney The latest in Hackney's gentrification: we have a comics shop

The latest step in Hackney’s gentrification. Dreyfus café has been open for a while, but just a few weeks ago we got a new arrival next to it: a comics shop, by the delightful name of Raygun.


Hackney Sunset

Sunset in Clapton, February 2013

This is the sky at sunset in Hackney just the other day. Kind of remarkable, don’t you think? Click on the the picture for a bigger version on Flickr.


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 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.


It doesn't matter who wins...

I found myself feeling curiously left out as my colleagues left work to watch the England match yesterday. This despite the fact that I didn’t want to watch it, I purposely avoided watching it, and I intended/hoped to take advantage of the reduced commuter traffic (not much reduced, as it happened: such is London’s diversity) to get home easily, and collect my kids from school.

Where they were watching the football, of course, courtesy of the after-school club.

Above all, if I had intended to watch it, my sympathies would have been with the other side anyway: I am Scottish, after all, and as my Dad used to say, “It doesn’t matter who wins, as long as it’s not England.” Plus I’m a sucker for an underdog (I mistyped that as “undergod”; there’s a story in there, I’m sure).

But despite all that, as my colleagues left the office for the pub or wherever, I still felt a slight echo of the thing I felt as a kid when I was left out of something that “everyone else” was doing.

We all want to be part of a tribe, I suppose.

In the end I watched he last half hour or so at the school; from just before the scary personality-cult chants of “Rooney, Rooney!” to the end. The cheers, as you might expect in a primary school, were very high and shrill. I was pleased, though, that Trinidad and Tobago’s goal (before it was disallowed) got almost as loud a cheer. This was Hackney, and of course, there are a lot of kids with Caribbean ancestry.

And maybe a lot of good sports, too. Maybe I should learn from them, and support England. But I can’t see it ever happening: there are some early-learned prejudices that die impossibly hard.

So I guess I’m still part of a tribe.


Transport against london

I take a couple of weeks off (a week at home with the kids, a week in Dorset: very nice, thanks, since you ask) and when I first get back to posting, I find I’m channelling the excellent Disgruntled Commuter. This morning’s journey into work was a vision of madness and chaos straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

I exaggerate, of course. The Waterloo and City Line is a key link in my standard route to work, when I go purely by public transport. Hackney to Wimbledon is not the simplest route between two parts of London, but it doesn’t have to be insane. That line, though, is currently closed. Until September. If we assume it won’t reopen until the end of that month at the earliest, that means it will be closed for half the year. I understand that things wear out and break down and have to be maintained: but it only goes between two stations. There’s not that much to it. How long can things take?

So for two days this week I cycled to Waterloo (I work at home on Wednesdays) which is the best way to get in anyway, for all the usual reasons why cycling is best1. But lately I’ve fallen out of the habit. To break myself back in gently (in other words, to give myself a rest from it today, or out of sheer laziness), I decided to chance public transport today.

I’m a great fan of public transport generally, of course: but there are times and services that… don’t show it in its best light, let’s say. The North London Line is one that has a bad reputation at best: indeed, the aforementioned Disgruntled one has written about it in the past. Yet gettting that line to Highbury and Islington and then the Victoria Line to Vauxhall for the last leg to Wimbledon seemed the best alternative route for me.

You’ll have guessed, since I’m writing this, that it was not.

The North London Line is characterised by infrequent, jam-packed services, and it deserves the characterisation. Don’t get the idea that this was a surprise to me: I knew perfectly well what it would be like. What do you think was the biggest prod to get me back onto my bike?

So that wasn’t really the problem (though the difficulty of seeing the station name signs when you’re jammed in standing up makes it extra hard for the infrequent user to be sure they are at the correct station). No, the problem was my old friend2 the Victoria Line.

It was, in short, fucked.

So I got on that curious bit of non-Underground underground line that also runs out of Highbury and Islington (and that I can’t remember the name of), and got a train to Moorgate. Thence by Northern Line to London Bridge and Jubilee to Waterloo. I left home at about 8:15 (significantly later than I originally intended to, admittedly) and the train from Waterloo pullled into Wimbledon at 9:35. Bah!


1. Exercise, knowing fairly exactly when you’re going to get there, and not being at the mercy of the transport network chief among them.

2. Before I lived in Hackney I lived in Walthamstow. You get on at the start of the line (and thus are almost guaranteed a seat) plonk yourself down, open your book, and don’t look up until Vauxhall.