So what do you think about Wapping?

“Do you know anything about it?”

There I was in The Water Works in Lea Bridge Road sitting next to Mr Brannigan*, an 84 year old disabled gentleman with clear views about everything from Murdoch to the nearness of London 2012 . He’d invited me to sit on the bench overlooking the sluice gates by Thames Water’s House while he drank his juice and took an hour to eat one Rich Tea biscuit. Mallard ducks and coots swam below us .

“Me? I was born there, wasn’t I?”

        Well, that was calling ‘Housey, housey’ to my ears. I didn’t have to ask questions, like I was practising oral history techniques  a la Hermitage Community Moorings . Ole Brannigan  just rolled on telling me all about how he used to lark about in the steps by the Water Police offices in Wapping High Street and he and his absolutely raggedy mates would fall into the water with all the dirt and the rats of Old Thames. He stressed many times about the starving poor population in the Docks in those days, about how men stole and went to prison in order to eat because there was no ‘social’ then. His mother with six kids sold clothes and shoes ‘on tick’ to her neighbours in order to feed her own  whilst her husband worked all day then spent his time in the many pubs in the area especially Cable Street and The Highway. Dock Road(?) was  dangerous for everyone. Young Brannigan  rarely went to school.

               I told him all about Wapping as it is now. He said, “You know when you’re on the bus and you’re in Wapping cos the bus jumps along on the cobbles!” True that.

          He said, “People were starving in England, in Germany, all over. All the governments knew but did nothing. There was no help. My grandparents from Poland and from Ireland worked like slaves in those days.”

           I can read all about stuff on the internet but to meet a Mr Brannigan is a thing to treasure. He had  smelt the spices in the warehouses of Wapping, said how it pervaded the air on trading days. He told me how the place was noisy all the time and packed with people. Not like now when you come out of the station and neither see, hear nor smell anyone.

             Before I’d reached the Water Works,  Leyton Marshes,  The Princess of Wales and Seymour Park in Leyton which has the Dagenham Brook stagnating through it,  I’d walked through and around  the old and scummy Leyton Industrial Village in Argall Avenue, Leyton. What a dump! I’d seen it in 1985 when it was emerging as the place for small businesses to be. Many men I knew had security jobs there . Students of photography came down to develop deep and avant-garde shots of “decay”. Nice. TRS foods was big there and Sunblest Bread had arrived. Rats swum up and down what may be part of Dagenham Brook. My car mechanic was  established in one of the units. The Water Works was just that and the conservationists hadn’t found the delight of the triangle inside Leyton Marshes, an area inhabited by all sorts of weird people who hid in the cow-parsley. Not a good place to explore alone. The triangle  was a section of railway where three lines passed. All cleaned up now.

 I told Mr Brannigan all about Madge Darby and the Hermitage Community Moorings and the History Society of Wapping. His heart ached for the place but his legs were a nuisance. He’d never heard of the word “Wappea”.

 Respect to senior seniors  who tell it like it was.

* not his real name. He wouldn’t tell me.

Walking forwards

Bravo to the High Street Seniors who ignored the rumbling clouds and went to Round Chapel in the lighning strikes. The walk was curtailed to 20 minutes  by rain dollops.

Monday May 9th we can go to Wapping Station for 5.30pm, walk the walk (along Wapping High Street from the station to Hermitage Wharf which many of us know through the Hermitage  Moorings oral history workshops). Then for  our free event and treat, reach Raine’s Hall for 7pm to see  senior Madge Darby launch her new book about pirates and Wapping, “Piety and Piracy” She’ll sign copies too. That goes on until 9 so we could do  a walk about before boarding for home to Dalston Junction. Except for the Waeppa High Street Seniors who just walk home on their own turf! Sun sets at 8.36pm so it should be a lovely evening, storm-clouds or not.

In Walthamstow lives our own fictional pirate story writer, Helen Hollick.

Courses for seniors… cos we never stop learning.

All those “How To…” courses paid off. Thanks to all of you who nominated me for  an “Adult Learners’ Week”  achievement award with commitment to learning.  There was/is Songololo-Feet, Blogging, Oral History, film-making with DFG, Journalism with Mapping The Change and loads more:  It’s all out there and advertised through Up Your Street5.

Now for the plush, celebrity- laden awards ceremony. Where? Museum of London. Yeah!

Up Your Street5 Issue 17

Tues 26 April      free   1-3pm (provide your own file, paper and pens) “Volunteering”

                             An introduction to a course for those already committed to volunteering. In conjunction
                             with CLASS of Waltham Forest and Circle 33 Housing at  Priory Court Community Centre,
                             South Countess Rd, E17 (W11 bus)
                             Poss. restricted to Waltham Forest residents. Course is 2 days a week,
                             Tuesdays and Thursdays all day until July 6th.
Wed  27 April     free   10.30-11.30 am Hackney Central Library Coffee and cake reading group. Trotsky.
                         free   11-1pm Methodist  Church Richmond Rd, Hackney.
                                   Towards a market co-operative  via  the “Still Alive and Kicking Project” with Songololo-Feet.
                                Introduction to plastic crochet
                             free   10-8pm. Exhibition by Gina Southgate, Hackney artist joined by other artists in different media
                               at Stoke Newington Library, Church St, Hackney.N16
                             with The Paint Quartet, a programme of performance and art.
                              The Paint Quartet play  30th April and May  1st. 2-4pm.
                             free  6.30-8.30pm Walthamstow Library. Workshop on social media and your business
                                                                                                              i. e. Facebook, apps etc.
                             Up Your Street5 is on Twitter for quick updates and information.
Thurs 28th April    free  7pm  John Arthur’s  gig at Tottenham Chances, by Seven Sisters Underground Station
                            free  6pm  Rich Mix free film called “Celebration”. (see issue 16)
Sat   April 30th      free  8am  Walk in Coldfall Wood,Haringey, North London (car parking on street)
                                                                      Seeking birds’ habitats. Book with Friends of Coldfall Wood.
                                       May is Pirate  month in Wapping!!
                                       May 1st                     Dawn Chorus Day.
Thurs  5th May    free  £1      11.30-1.15pm Agewell Singers at Stratford Circus resumes. New blood wanted!


                          free 5-7pm  Flyover Arts. Bromley by Bow Centre, St Leonard’s Road, E.3.

                                   Crafts and arts workshop, sale  and open evening. Music at 7.30 but you need to buy a ticket.
                          free  6.30pm  Women’s Library 60 min. Spitalfields walk around the history of Jack The Ripper.
Fri 6th May              Smith’s of Ongar new Fish restaurant opening in Wapping
                                              (not 100% confirmed but  checking with the proprietor daily)
                         free   10-noon   Stamford Hill Library Chair-based exercises.

                         free     11-6pm  “Urban Planning In Berlin, London and Paris” a visionary project at Unit B Dalston Lane South
                                                                     Labyrinth Tower E8. City Visions Exhibition. Until 14th May 
Mon 9th May      free    7-9pm Raines Hall, Wapping.  (Dalston Junction to Wapping 15mins by train!)
                                                                           Madge Darby signs
                                                                             and launches her new book “Piety And Piracy”. All welcome.
Tues   10 May    free    all day  with Stuart Low Trust. Visit to V&A Museum with lunch provided. Join and book.
Fri      13 May    free    6pm Waltham Forest Assembly Hall. We celebrate Vaisakhu.
                                                                               Tickets (max 4) in advance from WF Direct Shops.
Sun     15 May    free    2pm Coronation Avenue, Stoke Newington Road. Plaque and
                                memorial event with George Alagiah presenting.

Coldfall Wood

Known by my family as Coldfall Woods or ‘our woods’, Coldfall Woods is the back garden of the once notorious council estate Coldfall Estate which teeters on the border of Friern Barnet and  (yeah!)  Muswell Hill,  North leafy ‘knobs”ill’ Muswell Hill London. Territory well and truly marked now for this my dissertation.

 My sister and I planned to go there for a picnic today. She booked a day off work and I went along to  my local  shop “Koza Extra” for crusty rolls, yoghurt and all picnic delights. I’d often put in my diary to join BCTV volunteers on cold mornings to clear brambles and prune holly. Hmm. There’s a bird habitats’ walk there on  Saturday, 30th April …8am yep 8a.m.  You must book  with Friends of Coldfall Wood.

                        We started our jaunt in Barrenger Road and I found the alleyway leading into the coolest pleasantest green canopied, leaf-moulded secret garden but of course not secret as it’s inhabited by friendly dog-walkers. The place is the same as in the fifties according to my memory. Yes,  the BCTV  volunteers have cleared and chopped but the essence is there; the wooden bridges over tiny brown brooks, tree after tree, nettles, holly, blue bells and ‘Lovers Lawn’. Lovers Lawn is having plenty of TLC as the grass is parched in places. Lovers Lawn ,eh?

   We picnic-ed. We dined on shrimp and plenty of cheese wrapped up in a plastic foil!

 Trotting on we found the unmarked way into the vast playing fields backing Barrenger Road. Oh my! Massive lush green grounds. Only a couple of boys were kicking balls. It is Easter holiday so I expected all the estate kids out but is the estate full of youngsters? I don’t know.It is a quiet quiet place cut off from shops and main roads. Soon the terraces will be called cottages as the outward appearances of the houses are only diferent from the stock 1950s look  by double-glazed windows, and modern white doors in some cases.

 Well much of that playing field was a council dump in the fifties and marsh flowers grew in abundance with huge scary teasels, hollyhocks, and blackberries amongst burning coke slag and rubber stench. In the background we’s see the crematorium chimney chuck out its smoke as the fields back onto the huge St Pancras and Islington Cemetery. Further away across the dump in days of yore, there were remnants of apple orchards and ruins of pigsties.  Ah those days! It was a dump as in “Stig of the Dump”. It was the urban  scenery for “Kes” .

      We checked that our memories of places were correct, by noting  the grave markers through the fences, saw the bricks and rubbish brazen on the cracked dry ground where grass struggled to disguise it, saw the big dip where dad used to chop firewood from huge tree trunks from where? I used to go with him on Saturday mornings in my Gipsy flared skirt and my wellies. Another sister used to be a great runner. She’s say to me “Stay there. I’m just gonna run round the field.” Well in those days bigger siblings ruled. I’d hug her cardigan, watch her run far away, be very afraid in case the open expanse of sky fell down on me and be terrified of the giant teasels. I never let on or she’d call me a scaredy cat in public. Shame. There was another time when we ventured too near the cemetery end and a boy joined us from nowhere. He was exposed but I thought it was a pink hammer. (!) My older sister was in charge of me and directed whispered stage-asides, “Walk faster”.  When he finally left us and I was quite shaking with an unknown fear and from walking and breathing quickly, my stern sister told me the hammer was his willy and don’t say a word to mum or we’ll never be allowed to the dump again. Imagine, home from school, Popeye on telly, peanut butter sandwiches and “Mum, can we go and play over the dump?”  “Keep together and don’t stay long”. That must have been when she made more babies!

   Today my sister and I checked her old route to school, then called William Grimshaw, now the Fortismere School. There were slight changes to the path as various buildings had encroached into the Woods. We decided to check the 4 houses we lived in on the estate. Oh my! No. 107 was where we had the chimney fire: Errgh bad memory. No 35 was where Marguerite daisies flourished. No 100 was the house of nightmares with weird neighbours. The door was open. We bravely went up to the mother of the house which stank like Theatre Royal Stratford  east. Four kiddies hung around her and  the stairs just as we hung around our fat mum whenever she answered the door. We were not invited in. That would have been a bonus.   There was more to say but Corrie’s on.

O Heavenly day!

Thought I’d nip along to Brill Place. Somers Town, Camden behind Eurostar St Pancras Station tomorrow at 9 or 10.30am to go on the one hour guided tour of the big dig in Brill Place. What a lovely name! There was in the 1700s a Brill Farm there.

Found the website blog about the whole area as it was up to 2008 at I am not impressed and it is all described as I see and feel it..

I’ll decide tomorrow.I just know I’ll be going around trying to find the way in as it’s building works all over the place and no-one will hear my feeble, desperate “Hellos” with the earth mover shaking around. I’ve only been in a Time Team tv dig before. 

 I do have a picnic in the woods tomorrow .