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.


What’s Cookin at The North Star

The North Star, Browning Road 7.45pm Sunday night (just now) and it’s throbbing, barely space to stand, What’s Cookin has rolled in with a regular blues night. The act, Little George, sits huddled between the speakers peering out of plastic undergrowth. The mostly middle-aged audience stood around in a semi-circle heads nodding like some kind of South Pacific tribal ritual. There’s a liberal spattering of pork-pie hats and at least one yellow Stove Pony Records t-shirt stretched clingfilm-tight across a proud pot-belly. This is the E11 beat generation, greying, with enlarged prostates but still going. The possible closure (then rebirth) of this brilliant boozer because of a bureaucratic licensing difficulty gives the night a millenarian vibe – will they be kicking out the blues here on Monday night or will the stiffs at the town hall have closed it down. Nobody seems to care that much if the dancing is anything to go by.


The LGBT in school controversy – homophobic Jedis mobilise

My son brought home a letter yesterday from the headteacher of his school. It was addressed to all parents and carers, ” I am aware that a number of parents are currently engaged in signing a petition in relation to our planned work during LGBT History Month”.
The letter goes on to explain that a number of parents have contacted the school to report that they are being pressurised and in some cases intimidated into signing the petition. The issue of religion naturally looms large in the objections being raised and as a means of exerting pressure on parents to sign the petition.
My own reaction to the idea of homosexuality being taught in Primary School was to pity the poor teacher taking that class. Teaching must be hard enough, sex education in our uptight northern European culture even harder, same-sex education could descend into a snigger-fest of embarrassment – particularly amongst the boys who seem to have developed a macho culture at an alarmingly young age. I reckon they should probably get them to cross-dress for these lessons.
But it does raise a serious question that the school seems to be dealing with admirably. To what extent do we tolerate intolerance?
The school and the community at large encourages respect and tolerance for diverse lifestyles and religions. The school closes for just about every religious holiday known to man and a few that appear to have been made up (Yoda’s birthday??). But some of those religions do not of course preach nor practice such tolerance. As Matt Morgan correctly pointed out, the Jedi’s had a downright racist attitude towards the Sand People .
It is a reminder though of how little progress has been made since the days of Her Thatcher’s Clause 28 (eagerly supported by the closeted Peter Lilly and Michael Portillo who were allegedly found celebrating the Conservative victory in 1992 by guzzling down more than just champagne).
I watched the brilliant Gus Van Sant movie ‘Milk’ last week with its stirring portrayal of gay rights campaigner Harvey Milk’s successful fight against legislation banning homosexuals from working as teachers. In both cases we look back on those dark days of ignorance and congratulate ourselves on how liberal we now are. Well maybe not.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out and I imagine once parents have a look at the teaching materials, that would no doubt not appease the ghost of Harvey Milk, their objections will recede – I don’t think a day trip to Ducky is on the curriculum for Year 6.


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.


sunset walk

Set off with no aim other than to head in the general direction of Baker’s Arms – by the most indirect route practical.
Avebury Road always has a certain appeal, the romance of it and only this evening did I spot the compatibility of its conjunction with Southwest Road.
Further up off Bulwer I again clock Hawbridge Road and I play amateur etymology conjoining the prefix ‘Haw’ = the fruit of the sacred Hawthorne with ‘Bridge’ to suppose that this was a bridge over the Fillebrooke (PhillyBrook/ Phepes Broke). A rummage in W.H. Weston’s History of Leyton and Leytonstone shows a hand-drawn C18th map with the stream running southwest (road?) from Whipps Cross to Ruckholt – a course that would cut through Bulwer. This could have been the Haw Bridge. Another piece of pagan symmetry arising from the Fillebrook is where it once ran through or beside Coronation Gardens in Leyton is today a maze – a pagan symbol of springs and places of worship.

View Larger Map
google map showing the possible course of the Phillybrook – a windmill was recorded as sitting on the banks of the stream where the corner of Francis and Newport Roads is today

I pick up a track off Bulwer Road that runs between backs of houses. There are lock up garages for rent and fly-tipping so elaborate that it borders on installation art – Jeremy Deller recreating a liminal space as a site-specific piece.
The sunset breaks orange over the Lea. A large crow squawks. There’s a tyre in a shopping trolley waiting patiently outside a phonebox in front of an electricity substation.

Around the corner in Forest Road there is an absolutely majestic example of the architecture of the electricity substation. These things are like temples to the industrial age. Somebody please do a photographic project on them.

slideshow of photos from the walk

In West End Avenue (where the Fillybrooke was last seen above ground) you can see the back of a large abandoned wing of Whipps Cross Hospital with a noughts and crosses pattern of smashed windows.
It is bitingly cold and I’m a bit peckish but I push on over Lea Bridge Road and along the beguiling Shernhall Road with its amazing views across the Roding Valley and the Lord Raglan pub that encouragingly allows no caps nor hoods. I turn back at the end and head down Addison Road which delivers me to the warmth of The Village pub in time to catch the football results come rolling in.