Posts Tagged ‘East London’
My first tentative pedal pushes came back in January 2013. I’ve learnt from that experience that if you get the wrong bike, one that doesn’t quite fit, then as a new cyclist you will learn to loathe your bike and it’ll be left to gather dust or rust. Like that toasted sandwich maker.
Since collecting that first bike a nineteen months ago my determination to cycle around London has dwindled. When I moved house and I wasn’t sure the bike would fit in the removal van I mumbled that I could leave it behind if needed, it was the drivers determination that saw it come along to Haggerston from Willesden Green. I’ve picked up the odd Boris bike to cycle small distances. I took the plunge to buy a new bike a couple of weeks back and I now resent walking anywhere. Here’s what I’ve found over the past fortnight.
Having a bike frame that fits obviously makes all the difference. Having a local bike shop near me is even better. Though Better Health Bikes aren’t open yet I had the pleasure of meeting Colin when I had problems adjusting my seat. And as it turns out setting the handlebars correctly, fitting my helmet … it goes on. Keep your eye out for their grand opening by following them on Twitter. The bike shop is also a social enterprise so you’ll get your bike looked at and support a social enterprise supporting mental ill-health. And if you’re feeling particularly Parisian and have a basket on your bike you can pop next door to their bakery for la baguette.
It was Colin who stated that “you either go for Victoria Pendleton or Mary Poppins when choosing a bike. You’ve gone for Poppins.” He is spot on. Perhaps this time next year I’ll be Pendleton, but for now Colin is right (I opted for an upright style bike).
Then there was the fantastic team behind Pru Ride London. The confidence I gained cycling around London on my own, not only on the car free route but the journey I made to get to the start line and back was invaluable. From the steady realisation that actually I am not learning to cycle, that I do. To the giddy excitement I felt riding through Blackfriars underpass with a group of strangers who cheered as I shouted “I’m in the peloton.” Nothing could wipe the smile from my face that day, not even as I lay in the bath with the sorest of bums through forgetting my padded shorts as I dashed out that morning.
And finally, the London roads. That great fear I’ve had, my own personal imaginings of that final scene from One Day (the film version being set just down the road). I am aware I could be blogging in a weeks time completely retracting what I’m just about to type but I’m setting it down as it is now. Aside from one Royal Mail van who decided to drive so far up my padded bum (I remember every day now) that letters were spewing out of my mouth, I have found white van drivers, flash convertibles, our double-decker buses, rattly old motors courteous and conscientious. As long as I’ve been cycling sensibly and showing awareness they have as well. It’s sad to say fellow cyclists, especially around Shoreditch, running red lights have caused me a degree of stress on the roads. But even more than that it’s pedestrians running out into the road suddenly to cross, on the green light at crossings or scattered up and down roads. Even people with prams who appear dashing across from behind parked vans, or buses waiting at stops, that really have caused me the most anger, frustration and worry since I’ve been cycling pretty much daily. I truly don’t believe people would take these risks if it was a car so close to them and I’ve tried to reason with why they do so with bikes. The only thing I can think of is in a car you don’t necessarily see the person behind the wheel, you know you’re not harder than cars. On a bike perhaps you appear more human as you’re seen clearly, a lot of people even make direct eye contact as they jump out suddenly, their facial expression saying “sorry, but you’ll stop or swerve suddenly right?”. I know my blog isn’t going to change much about that, but if you read this and are guilty of this behaviour stop and think for your own sake, and if selfish motivation doesn’t help you see reason think of others.
In April this year I moved to East London. I thought I’d be blogging almost daily as there is always something going on. In truth I’ve been so sidetracked by addictive coffee, wandering down Spitalfields alleys to find old buildings inscribed with Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor, discovering art in unexpected places. I started an East London section in June and since then have not updated it, or this blog much in general. Like many great ideas are born from bacon so was this blog post today.
Today, after a kick up the bum from my sister, I woke with a determination to blog. I decided to kickstart my brain by walking down to Dishoom for breakfast. I fell in love with Whisky Sours in their Permit Bar over my birthday and now I have tasted the future…. the Bacon Naan. I could dream of recreating this but it would be pointless, nothing could come close. Bacon with barely a trace of fat with coriander, chilli chutney and a hint of cream cheese with a freshly baked naan enveloping it. Washed down with chai of course.
I walked off breakfast along Redchurch Street, discovering lyrics from The National in street art from My Dog Sighs. And it was that band that carried my feet all the way to Chatsworth Road Market. Not my first visit to the area but the first time I’ve visited the market (think Broadway Market before it went too middle-class). Full of families, smiles and Pearly Kings and Queens sipping tea. My main reason for walking up there was to visit Clapton Craft’s pop-up in the LBJ shop. I can’t wait until they have a permanent home as the service was exceptional and choice staggering, I went for Elderflower Mikkeller and it’s taking all my will power not to crack open a bottle as I’m typing. Craft beer is my new safe drunk, pain seems lesser in the morning. I swear by it.
I stopped off at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden before heading back indoors for the afternoon and my walk coming full circle. As beautiful in the winter as it is in full bloom. The minute I walk in there I feel my shoulders physically drop (and that was with a back pack stuffed with second-hand books and bottles of beer). I sat down after my wanderings and took stock at how lucky I am to live here. Not just East London but London itself. Come April I’d have been here a decade and truly not a day goes by when I don’t think this. It can come to me at the most ordinary of times, sharing a smile with a stranger at a bus stop. Or it comes on days like this, when I get lost in places now so familiar to me.
Shortly after moving to east London this year the book A Hoxton Childhood by A.S Jasper came my way from my cousin. At the time of reading I had moved to the area where the book is set, an area where my paternal side of the family were born and raised. I blogged back in May how the words in the post script really touched me.
“Be thankful that you were born now and not then. Go forward, but try to be tolerant of your parents along the way”. A.S Jasper.
This Wednesday my aunt and I listened to A.S Jaspers nephew, Richard Penny, read that exact sentence at the books official reissue in the Broadway Bookshop, along with A.S Jaspers son Terry. A cousin brought this book into my life, two cousins have met after researching their family tree and republished this historical document.
Living in the area, and being lucky enough to wander the streets with my Dad and hear his stories has meant the world to me this year. I walk down Crondall Street and laugh at dad telling me about the “Crondall crumpets” (it seems the girls living on this road were once quite up for it). My dad could run street tours on his life in Hoxton.
Until I persuade him to do this A Hoxton Childhood is a real east end family tale, where people still find something to laugh about when all seems hopeless and doomed, that stood by one another. Christmas is lurking fellow book worms, buy a copy for your families and heed those words I quoted above.
1. Any Shoreditch local will recognise George the Dog and John the Artist from his usual spot outside Dishoom on Shoreditch High Street. John Dolan is an amazing London artist and has often found himself homeless, I got to meet both man and dog. He has sat sketching the ever-changing surrounding area over the past couple of years and this has resulted in his first exhibition, hosted by Howard Griffin Gallery. Well known street artists have collaborated with him for the exhibition. When I visited all but one of his paintings had been sold, one that praised David Cameron on a bill board (yet look closer and you’ll see what John really thinks, don’t be fooled). The exhibition is due to end this Thursday but Bird at the gallery told me they’re hoping to extend it. Do whatever it takes to visit. My cockles are throughly warmed this evening.
2. I have just finished Falling and Laughing: The Restoration of Edwyn Collins by Grace Maxwell. Told from Grace’s, Edwyn’s wifes, point of view after he unexpectedly suffered a stroke in February 2005. An honest account of the long road to recovery, the effect it had on both Edwyn and his family, the small and significant triumphs, the precious moments of laughter and the steely determination it takes to keep taking one step at a time. A book that will make you count your blessings and help find perspective.
3. Solange has released a video to accompany her amazing track Lovers In The Parking Lot. I desperately want light up laces and acid house pants now. Stylish and sharp. Oh to have one bone as cool as her in my body.
4. I’ve been meaning to visit Kentish Towns E. Mono since Giles Coren gave it a glowing review in 2011. Slightly tipsy I stumbled in there Saturday, finally at a meaty mecca. I don’t care what zone you live in this place is worth the trek. Friendly service, the shawarma was stuffed full of sweet tasting pickled peppers, crunchy red cabbage, shredded salad, chilli and garlic sauce with chunks of partly fatty, part crisp chunks of lamb. All for £5.
5. Finally the latest video from Local Natives for Ceilings. Hummingbird has to be one of my favourite albums this year. This song wraps up the summer for me, especially seeing flashes of Glastonbury in it.
Back in January, when London was under a constant grey and weeping cloud, I trekked to Brixton and collected an old bike that I couldn’t yet ride. My blog entry on collecting my old Dutch explains all, I had decided in my mid-thirties to learn how to ride a bike. And I have. A mixture of listening to friends tips, a steely determination on a few Boris bikes when my friend Stephen and brother-in-law Adrian still hadn’t fixed mine up, a long bike ride sandwiched between my sister and Adrian which served as an unofficial cycling proficiency.
As my legs pushed up Kingsland Road in stifling city heat the other day (London has a habit of chosing between oxygen and sunshine, it’s impossible to breathe) I spotted a notice board with a quote from Albert Einstein.
“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
I instantly connected with this from the cyclists point of view as opposed to a new life mantra (Luther has been back on don’t you know? I need to sit very still for that). I think back to the many hesitations I’ve had as learner. Too slow when traffic lights change, too scared along the canal path that runs past my flat, too cautious around any movable object in general. The romantic, and slightly hipster, notion I had of peddling around care free like a scene from a French film isn’t the reality.
The point of my typing this is in The Guardian today Philip Hoare described not wearing a helmet as a case of civil liberties. How do I make my point without throwing too much weight behind the word helmet as an insult?
As someone who is effectively the Bambi of the cycling world I heavily rely on direction from responsible cyclists, courtesy and awareness from pedestrians and vehicles, unbreakable concentration and my cycling helmet. While I know that in a case of Hat Vs. Double Decker it wouldn’t act as a force field, it still helps as a reminder that I am vulnerable on two wheels. And you know, I think that’s a very good thing to have at the forefront of my mind while I practise and practise. Even after I stop ducking under the bridges along the towpath, and stop choosing to crash into concrete over the possibility of colliding with anyone or anything, I’ll never not wear one.
I suspect this will be the start of a number of fawnings I have over East London since moving a month ago. In anticipation of this I shall mark this as number one.
1. My nearest cinema is now The Aubin Cinema in Shoreditch. I got to stretch my legs, sink a beer and nerd out over Star Trek last week. This is independent cinema at its greatest. 3D capabilities, cosy sofa’s and arm chairs draped with cushions and blankets. The attention to detail is above and beyond. They were playing William Shatner’s and Leonard Nimoy’s Spaced Out album as we waited for the film to start. Genius.
2. You have to love London. Friday it was announced that Canalival was cancelled, Saturday everyone turned up and went for it anyway. To everyone I came into contact with (hipsters, the fuzz, soaked through to the skin drunks with missing shoes and wet iPhones, all the people who came out this morning to help tidy up the carnage) thank you for being hugely entertaining, happy and hysterical! If you were there you’ll be smiling through the severe hangovers today I am sure.
3. Friday nights are swiftly turning into “bunk off work as early as possible and head to Street Feast” nights. My flat mate rightly summed it up as “like having a food Glastonbury right on our doorstep”. I’ve had hot dogs and jerk chicken followed by tiny Tiramisu and stunning ice-creams. The atmosphere is always incredible. People always have huge smiles on their faces when it comes to food and drink. Real joy to feel part of the happiness at the start of a weekend.
4. Last Sunday morning I sat out on my balcony with lemon tea and toasted crumpets slathered in London Borough of Jam, made in Hackney by Lillie. I picked up the Strawberry and Verbena flavour from Leila’s shop of Cambridge Circus. It’s sweeter than any jam I’ve ever tasted. Wish I was as talented as my mum when it comes to making scones.
5. Within moments of moving I felt an overwhelming urge to cut something asymmetrical into my hair. One feels the pressure standing next to Hipster’s at the bus stop. It so happens I ended up going through with it in a place that can’t be disguised (my fringe which has been the same for twenty years) at a place of friendly brilliance. Rockalily’s on Kingsland Road is creative and not once did I hear any inane hairdresser holiday chat. It wasn’t until I watched Star Trek a few days later that I realise this new look has actually turned me Vulcan. I’m embracing it.
Live Long and Prosper.