Sweet Chestnuts and Green Parakeets

Today at last, I made it to the “Stroll around the Georgian Remnants of Wanstead” library-organised walk. What a dismal day weather-wise but we anoraks were out in a score! Coincidentally, in keeping with the essence of royalty and fiscal richness which permeates the very coffee-scented leafy air of Wanstead the news came out that Meghan of the Markle is expecting the first bi-racial heir to the British throne. Well, during Black History Month 2018 some may beg to differ about that first, knowing the documented ancestry of Queen Charlotte. All Wanstead stuff as that Queen made it to Wanstead House a couple of times in the 1600s.

I was expecting some stone blocks of ruined palaces, some obelisks and a smattering of bronze statues. No, it was all maps and linked up past glories mingling in with C20th reminiscences and facts. Good. The guide competed with noisy territory-guarding ring-necked parakeets high up in the sweet chestnut branches in Wanstead Place and booming leaf-hoovers being employed by work men in the Counties part of Wanstead Village or its Conservation Area. Those chestnuts are fit for gathering but I didn’t want to be the only scavenger in the company of reserved English walkers.
What did I learn considering just lately I have done much research about Wanstead House, and Samuel Pepys and that crowd of unwashed who had fingers in every money-making pie and especially the goings on at the East India Company? The money topping up those rich landowners came from the misery imposed by them on their subjugates.
I learnt that the grassland in Wanstead is bogged down with water and remembered the state of the grass in July. I learnt that M&S Food is tucked away by the famous The George pub and that Redbridge Museum in the Central Library has an art collection with some paintings of The Grove gardens and that the Wanstead Library is built on a plant nursery which was there in the 1930s.
And on and on after seeing massive mansions tucked away and likely turned into flats, and hearing about an observatory in the C17th and being interested in Mobs something, an area way back when which sounded a bit like Soho in the sixties.
The first time I visited Wanstead was when I was researching West African Literature at a time when Longmans was publishing everything Black. I was invited to interview an African author and wondered even then what a black man was doing in white Wanstead. He’s big in theatre now.
Was a great afternoon, folks, and then I came in to see Whitechapel Gallery inviting Up Your Street seniors to a design and architecture workshop.

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Too shy to nod

We are halfway through Black History Month, some say a kind of dinosaur, a relic and then, certainly and proved, uninteresting to many. Borough Councils who never cared for it are solidly righteous now as red and yellow Borough Councils this year planned to ignore it or spread it out a bit and call it Month of Diversity. There was on Politics Sunday last week a nod to it by bringing around the table inarticulate guests who encompassed nursing and seventy years of the NHS as reasons to be vehement and to raise the black, gold and green flag. BBC Radio 3 did its annual blast of Gershwin’s biography. Other radio shows shakily existing because of funding and borough raised eyebrows were unable to influence deck-mixes with smatterings of massive collections of Black singers and musicians. And no, there was no adulation throughout the year either. What missed opportunities.
It looks like you have to be brave to join in the sparse but deep offerings this year under the Black History umbrella. Eventbrite UK is crowded with images of black entrepeneurs under its events listing “Black History” or” Africa” and Croydon is dominating the scene. Newham is exploring the whys and wherefores of why we do do Black History Month. Up Your Street Caucasian subscribers were worried that they may be too obvious as out of place at Windrush tea parties. Three Indian Jews were not allowed entry until vacant seats were found when other non-ticketed women of colour were allowed through to the buffet. Yes, I obviously made a complaint but the apology was worthless. Black History is for all.
An exhibition at the Darnley Gallery works on the premise that schools do not introduce black women achievers ever. Not so. The Jenny Hammond Primary School was on the case and always is and I would say that schools in many London Boroughs are doing it for their students. And have done. There is a long way to go and that is perhaps why I am vexed that Black History Month is off the calendar as decided by young things in assembly halls and on the beat with officers of the law, all ticking off “reached out to the community” on their mission lists.
And so I was intrigued when the advert for Forest Gate Art Group had the word “diversity” slipped deliciously into the banner headline. Was that a nod to Black History Month when the group’s art works were leaving white Wanstead estate agents’ windows to hang in The Gate, Forest Gate’s flagship community events and library space in Woodgrange Road? Well, I had to see for myself as I was not convinced that Forest Gate Art Group’s stretches of the imagination would include disability and queerness as diverse just yet. Did it all mean that the artists were diverse in ethnicity, that the works were all in homage to Jah, that all the paintings showed some form of appropriation? I slid into the gallery area where pupils were chasing around and enjoying a cultural hub or so we are told. I searched for diversity quite prepared to ignore the blossom trees and the bowls of fruit. Ah, not for sale were some African faces. When I say some I mean three or four. Fine and then some excellent work but hardly diverse in content. I expected full-on black art with colour shouting out at me to be seen and noted, to smash the walls with images not seen in posher galleries. I wanted to know what the instructor’s brief was to encourage what transpired as an almost silent nod to BHM, that shy nod, that hope for a difference. It takes years of being and looking, and absorbing other communities to reflect anything extra in one’s art work. Ask ole Gershwin. He lived in South Carolina singing those Negro-Spirituals.

So as long as it takes ages to reflect all our communities in the London I know then we need a firm explosion of Black arts and culture merging and otherwise in at least one month of the year. We have to address other cultures as visible and as being experienced and step out of our habitual art where we copy others before us. To abolish Black History Month and to lessen it as an area of impact by calling the replacement a celebration of diversity we are doing no favours to all our school-children and to our way forward. Who decided what we celebrate?

Paddy at The Museum

Paddy of Up Your Street researched at The British Museum and at The Victoria and Albert Museum in order to take her peers on a free guided tour of Southeast Asian lacquered artefacts and research she did. She led us around the gallery on the ground floor at the V&A explaining the different types of lacquer and the trees from which the sap is collected.
She made fantastic links by joining up the dots between the Gujerati, Turkish and Chinese artistes and their expertise as lacquer designs reached out to international markets over the centuries. She didn’t labour the beauty and aestheticism of the objects but rather gave us a human story behind religious vessels and dynastic fruits.
Informal but earnest Paddy has graduated from novice guide to a confident experienced approachable tour guide.
Museum curators and funders are desperate to increase the footfsll ofseniors into their hallowed halls. looks like “Sisters are doin’ it for themselves”.

Cynthia the snake, in a playground, in a community school, in a time capsule, in old Leytonstone.

Loved it; loved every minute of the Buxton School Festival. I’d followed the history of Tom Hood School, the building of Buxton, the demolition of the old school, (in that order) and fallen in love with the name Cobbold. And then I went and bought one of his houses, outside WC an’ all. On Buxton’s site, the first thing I noticed was the space and that every gateway and nook was covered by staff in security uniforms of lilac tabards or mauve. And who doesn’t love the smell of cooking food at a fair? No vegans here.
The playgrounds were measured out into zones with the family zone cut off in a secluded part of the school’s grounds. It was likely the nursery playground. Sandra’s sewing stall and Gayna’s Pantry of chutnies made from the produce of her allotment were allocated stalls there. Bit weird as kiddies don’t have that spending power.
Rushing around were the school’s volunteer members. They were students with an air of responsibility and the ability to be customer-aware. I was confident in their manner and their training. Well done. Also walking around alone was Sally Littlejohn, the lady Mayor resplendent in her heavy chain of democratic power.
Every member of staff was alert and helpful even to the end when gates were locked and a way of escape looked increasingly difficult.

Children joined in Karate moves given by the Karate school under the Thorpe railway arches, and carried on to do mask-made with felts and glitter. It was very good and then by the construction tubs along came the Suntrap team with snakes, giant snails, centipedes, a beetle and a lizard. Children were made heroes for wrapping Cynthia the snake around their necks. What fun.
Spicy chicken and rice £6.Bit steep. Steeper were ice cream cornets at £2. Steep for those used to Tesco ice cream deliveries and we are.
Best of all was the community spirit. It was just joy. Here was a brand new spanking school, an all-through the ages school, desperate to be the community one and in front of the smaller but no more intimate Jenny Hammond Primary School. Things have to be proven. Buxton has a beautiful history, that of the most popular Tom Hood School. And a loyal following of Alma Mater in the plural.

The community outreach staff led by the militaristic Molly, aka one senior teacher, worked hard to get the Festival off the ground. Their success was evident and I as a community person applaud that achievement.

Buxton was Tom Hood was Cobbold. Cobbold was old John Chevallier Cobbold.He was an MP and a landowner, a brewer in Ipswich, a railway addict and a soundslike Richard Branson who was as wealthy as sin and had built the two ups two downs along the Lanes off Dames Road; near the new railways, see. Love that geezer.

Past Glories

After a dismal time trailing community art and wondering how the word “mediocre” morphed into “brilliant” I was pleased to get my teeth into the history of Earlham Grove’s Durning Hall in Forest Gate. Throughout my whole research my maternal grandmother appeared up in my head in her mink or pine marten stole talking about voting for the local North London Conservative candidate because she wore a mink coat and that was in 1955. Even then I sensed she was a silly-billy. Durning Hall in Forest Gate was opened in 1959 so my grandmother was around then and probably about forty looking a hundred and certainly dressed in the same way as the women in the press photos of the time.

I went to Durning Hall doing a reccie for Up Your Street members. My chums had gone to Toynbee Hall in Old Castle Street E1 for an ageing and wellness course and there is incredibly a link between the history of both halls. Argh, I nearly ran away at the state of the building and the vague welcome by the reception staff. It’s a highly secured place and is scabby-looking in and out. The toilet is okay at least. Upstairs where the House of Love sessions take place all about companionship and alleviating isolation is dreariness itself. The walls impose in their 1959 wallpaper of gloss, dirty pale lemon and swirls. There are doors everywhere and one could say it’s a rabbit warren. The shock was seeing an amazing large brown-coloured hall complete with parquee floor. My eyes would have revealed my inner thoughts termed “potential”.

A woman was in charge of boxed pre-loved board games, fresh Madeira cake, the blaring CD player and the register which was a heap of fallen away papers. What a scene.
She explained the lack of clients due to the lack of a lift. I believe her even though there was only one other woman there who would never remember that I came and that we shook hands.
What a to-do. Mend the lift Aston-Mansfield Charity people! What a place. Only Up Your Street folk could liven it up. It’s easy for Leyton and Stratford seniors to get to. 58 and 308 buses stop outside. There’s Wanstead Park and Forest Gate stations and many buses up from Stratford.
Instead of eating dinner more and more recently called lunch then I Googled for the “E7 Now and Then” reports about The History of Durning Hall. Do it. Read for yourself. Then into the spotlight came Miss Theodora Durning-Lawrence. She was a spinster so inherited her double-barrelled name from her uncle who himself had acquired Durning by Royal Licence before he became a Baronet. She inherited wealth beyond our dreams but despite getting to church in a Daimler, lived her life in a seedy hotel. Strange but true. Takes all sorts. A good name to have, eh, as it smacks of a mega- wealthy Liverpool family? Lawrence is pretty cool too: My paternal grandma’s name by marriage.

I’ve commissioned my clever sister to find out if ole Theodora were hands on with the women in the local women’s settlement or whether she was just the purse.
I doubt if she were that philanthropic but I’ll welcome a surprise.
This is another story really of the rich of Forest Gate in those days and how they were all tied up in politics and being elected mayors and how church and synagogue were prominent features in their and every citizen’s life then. There was abject poverty up to and between the world wars. Earlham Grove’s rich tenants fled during the east end bombings and their houses were converted to flats. This according to E7 Now And Then was the beginning of the demise from grandeur into scruffiness.

Beats mediocre.

Back in the game.

I never sew RAGWORKS unless my world is in order. I never paint a picture unless my area is cleared and I certainly never solve a maths problem until I’ve done the washing up. So it was over these past months that I was house-sitting and cat-minding during others’ vacations. I was in strange surroundings and there was never enough washing up to get done. I was floundering in space. I was unsteady in myself so if someone had said “And how are you in yourself?” I’d have said, “Unsettled”.

Today the labourers are in and in and out with wheelbarrows and dirt and precious earth as I have a rotten fence downed and new fences erected. One part of the boundary was enough for me to fly a red for danger flag. But the cats still walked along the rim and made a small vibration. My solicitor warned me that I’d pay thousands if that wall so much as stroked a human on its way down. My house is in order and the men are controlling the unknown outside so I feel ready to write. The word “controlling” has enough weights dragging along.

Last night in the darkness I was coming home. A man sneezed very loudly. A young woman in the dark turned and gave him a bad look. He was behind her and quickened his pace. “The next one you’ll catch!” he hollered at the poor slip of a thing. I decided to walk on the other side of the road but with a protective eye on someone young enough to be my grandchild. And yes, I would have run my hulk over the road.to protect her from any danger. The man turned his head to me and by his stumbling I knew he was drunk. He disappeared. I realised he was urinating behind a car. She was ahead and safe. I was not frightened but worried about being bothered on my doorstep.
I unlocked and put on my lights, shut the curtain and remembered similar scenes when I had been truly afraid or truly in charge.
This morning the labourers asked me if I knew the guy taking a refuse bin full of earth from the or my skip. It was the stalking drunk. Hell’s Bell’s. I dealt with him by saying how illegal it is to take from skips. I had a vision of a brick through my window but he did go away and said to the wind, “Must do what the old lady says.” His lanyard and label told me he was “out in the community” and quite harmless to boot.

I and other Up Your Street seniors have joined Waltham Forest Women Taking Back The Streets. We are a seniors’ presence. The group meets regularly. We are sick of being uncomfortable on our streets because of men on street corners, drug-dealing, spitting and making suggestions to us. Their language beats crude and we should not have to endure it. We should be able to go anywhere in the area and own the pavement too. We here really refers to young women: Old women are invisible except on pension day.

High Street Seniors is a seniors’ group walking at dusk. We’ve been around since London 2012 and so have our legs so it’s harder to walk. It’s enough for many now to do the tunnel walk at the Museums up Kensington. Our mission is the same as the intentions of the founding young women and men at the Waltham Forest organisation which features at Facebook. Our mission is to reclaim our streets.
But this drug-dealing is at every turn. Every day I see in the gutters drug paraphernalia. I suggest that in the main the men sitting at cafés are backward. The shame is when the men have schooled in the Borough and not internalised anything about sexism and equality. They must have truanted that day. The rest are just backward and have not sussed out that women in the UK in the main have come forward leaps and bounds and no longer are invisible or silent. As long as they are in inclusive sects they will never change either.

Laws and policing have done much to change the way people talk to each other and how they behave. In their own homes of course people are racist and sexist and everything else to make themselves bloated on superiority. Not all learn that there is a boundary between indoors and out.

By women and some men sharing their disgust at what goes on on street kerbs and corners then a wider public can join in and understand why women need to group together to get changes made or enforcement active.

Many seniors do not leave their houses after 7pm. That cannot be right. Many children do not enjoy their journey to and from school. I have seen a grown man leching after a girl of eight. I did not phone the police because I believed they’d do nothing. I was angry with myself. Why was the child alone on the street? Why shouldn’t she be? Erghh at myself.

About forty years ago there was an incident where a bus driver would not take on board a young woman who did not have enough fare money. She was afterwards raped as she took a short cut in a park to get home. I was always in awe of my brother saying “Why shouldn’t she feel okay to walk through a park at night?”
Having heard that, thank goodness today for Oyster cards and credit/debit cards so that the lack of cash is not a prelude to a rape.
Both my grandmothers said the word “bitch” and on Coronation Street, the women use that word thanks to the script-writer. I never use that word and never call anyone “darlin'” or any word that denotes over-familiarity. We all have to watch our p’s and q’s. It’s all about mutual respect.

We have a long way to go.
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Lovely Jubbly Jumble.

First of all St Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney is strapped for cash, big time.

Some of Up Your Streeters attend choir there and we go to workshops which decrease in number.

The bus stops are awkward.

Saturday was the seasonal jumble sale which is always a packed affair.

Yesterday was very lovely: Not just jumble but performances, and a magician and meaty burgers, a kiddies’ area, open house, tea the whole works. There was a vintage stall, and the usual piles of clothes with another ‘nearly new’ stall. Jewellery was brimming over its caskets and kitchen ware was in abundance, What a great day out.

I ended up at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden for a cool beer and a £6 wood oven-fired pizza of deliciousness.

The trees in that garden just pour out oxygen. My sculpture gargoyle is still there indestructible.

So I am going to do all I can to promote an hospice where because of lack of money the infirm and dying are shifted to other places of rest. The nuns have gone and are replaced by paid office staff. Yet yesterday there was not a hint of gloom.

Bravo St Joe’s.