Sunset on the Lea

I took this photo on my phone towards the end of a 7.5 mile walk home from Kentish Town after work. As I crossed the Eastway facing the carnage of the Olympic Park construction site the sun was setting directly down the course of the River Lea.

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Old Leyton to Hackney and back again

Found this photo of James Lane Leyton on the wall of The Hitchcock pub last night (it’s a photo of the photo, I didn’t nick it). In a dark recess beside the dart throw there is a large C19th map showing the School Board schools in the area. The things you find in pubs if you look beyond your pint.
I originally tried, and failed, sending this from my phone last night as I developed a habit of doing when I started this blog all of five years ago hoofing it to and from the Angel – a place still pregnant with memory for me as I was reminded gliding through at 3am on a 214 from Kentish Town heading east the other night. That bus tours the ghost locations of pleasure gardens marked by brothels boozers and tower blocks – a film I never made (super8 images of Cally Clocktower from Barnard Park, Bagnigge Wells by lamp-light, the Eagle marooned in Hoxditch), the moment now passed.
The latest edit of the Nick film was the reason for this nocturnal tour, again on my mind last night as I flicked to p.51 of Iain Sinclair’s imperious Hackney That Rose-Red Empire, and there an oblique reference to the subject of my film, “the mysterious liminal figure at the edge of the city” (that’s Iain talking in the doc not in the book – get yourself a copy of that). It all loops back and around. The meeting at St. Luke’s with Nick, I was also there that night before I’d met either man.
The loop again, a trek over to Clapton last weekend to drop some Super8 off for telecine. I’ve brought the whole tribe so I take them on a stroll through the “Rose-Red Empire” round my old stomping grounds, the estate squat where I lived and ran the local Labour Party at a time of semi-illegal Labour Council led evictions, and down to Victoria Park where the blank generation have set up a gastro colonial outpost on the old lake where war-time abortions were disposed of. We can’t leave the fugue, even the little guys with their short legs, so we perambulate (in both senses as we have a pram-bulator too) through Old Ford where I re-tell mis-learnt stories of Romans and Danes, across to the Wick and into the manor of Ruckholt where the legs give out and we board a W15.

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Iain Sinclair – Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire on Radio 4


Iain Sinclair’s Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire is this week’s Book of the Week on Radio 4 read by Neil Pearson. Brilliant reader that Pearson is, I would much preferred to have heard the man himself reading. Iain Sinclair’s performances are just that – not mere readings, he has such a rich timbre to his voice and seems to have absorbed enough from the Beats to know that a reading of literature should be an event, a happening, a visceral experience.
I had the great fortune of interviewing Iain for the documentary I’m just finishing about Nick Papadimitriou and our relationship with the edgelands of the city. Iain had included Nick in his anthology, London, City of Disappearances, the two men in many respects kindred spirits, “perambulators of the margins”.
From what Iain had to say that day about Hackney, a place where I’d squatted (in both senses) in the early nineties and had dealings in the murky world of local politics (my yellow metal-doored council flat was the postal address for the Victoria Ward of the Hackney Labour Party for over a year), the book will have a resonance far beyond that brilliantly blighted rotten borough, beyond London. It will say much about the condition of city living, the corporate take-over of not just space but our perception of space, the city as lived versus the virtual city as sold by the vulturish property developers and the Orwellian sounding quangos that rule the urban realm like medieval barons.
I think Iain Sinclair will be doing a few events and readings around London in March, I definitely recommend taking one in, make a night of it, watch his ‘Ah Sunflower’ before going out, listen to the audio book of Downriver on the way there and make a night-time pilgrimage to London Fields afterwards.
The doc should have some screenings in April – I’ll post more about it soon.

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Walking along Norlington Road I catch a snippet of conversation from the two boys walking in front. They’re aged about 12-14 years old, and the vibe I get is that one of the boys is new to the area, the other has an authoritative tone like he really knows what he’s talking about.
“If you go Hackney don’t tell them where you’re from. If they ask where you’re from say E5 or something.”
The one wearing glasses doesn’t seem to take this in, so the other one has to spell it out for him.
“If you go Hackney right, and they ask you ‘what end you from?’, and you say Leyton, they’ll stab you.”
He delivered this chilling bit of local info as casually as telling him which bus to take to get to Mare Street.
It might be that he was putting the wind up a newly arrived country bumpkin in the way that Aussies used to scare me with tales of Brown snakes in the lavvie when I lived in Sydney. But then one day I did come across a Brown snake outside my front door.
It’s difficult to comprehend how merely giving the wrong postcode could get you killed and how it is an accepted part of the world that kids inhabit.

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