The art centre in Stratford’s backyard.

Certificate in HE in Understanding Visual Arts.

Birkbeck Uni and Rosetta Art Centre in Stratford run an art appreciation course for non- certificated adults who have never been to University which is more along the lines of how to communicate appreciation of art works effectively by becoming confident with texts, IT, seminars and opinions. The essays are all processed and sent up to be marked using the internet. There are loans available and bursaries to help the poor and underpriveleged with their travel and child care expenses so in one way I never expected to meet other seniors.

Rosetta Art Centre is actually housed in Gainsborough Primary School, a Victorian school in a big low level council-housing estste . The 276 bus which starts its journey in Stokey goes there or there’s West Ham tube station.

I was shocked. I thought the Centre was state of the art, not up 4 flights of steps to a narrow corridor on top. Come and see the toilet sink! Old as yer like. With scalloped dips for the soap bars before pump action came into fashion!

A handful of folk turned up for the introductory session about the one year course which springs the successful achiever into the second year of the B.A Arts and Humanities degree or Arts and Media foundation course at Birkbeck. Birkbeck has a new campus coming up in Stratford,E15 otherwise it’s a trek up to Bloomsbury. Couldn’t be much more different in flavour, could it?

What’s appealing is the field trips; out to V&A, Bishopsgate Institute, Whitechapel Art Gallery and the like, not forgetting Tate Modern. Whilst I was attending the introductory session (where no tea was served by the way!) then I was missing out on my special invite to the Whitechapel Gallery for photos done by locals with a tour thrown in. Once a month one can join in a lottery application for a free tour of galleries around Spitalfields. Luck of the draw though.

Back to West Ham, there’s help on hand for the dyslexic, public computer accessibilty in Stratford (Library? Oh, that market-place!)  and UEL along Romford Road. You don’t have to be a Newham resident nor clever as to me it looks like all the encouragement and support will make sure you pass. Wonder if in your second year you meet u3A chapesses. Seems up their street.

I had entered a piece of work for a display at Rosetta Art Gallery. I heard nothing in response. Not bovvered. Now I’ve seen the place……Years ago I refused to go to The Rio Cinema in Dalston because it was a flea pit allegedly and advertised as a venue for the working class. Why would I have to go to dirt? “Me be poor, me be poor, but me no be crazy”

The Rosetta Art Centre was established because of the desire to uplift a community around it which rarely engages with the visual arts. On tap is the captive audience of primary school children who get the opportunity to appreciate all forms of art-funded art projects which is good. Somehow like playing piped Mozart as children tag-tail into assembly. So why wouldn’t the borough with all its Olympic dosh or the government build a proper art venue or we are happy to have a corridor? Not me.

I will find it difficult to promote the course to so many seniors because of the IT element and the fear of they being means-tested. The course is right up my street in its ethos. I needed to know about disability access too.

I was up Essex Road in Leyton  because it is one of the only local places which has a Post Office with free parking outside.  Not any more. Wow! Overnight the linespeople had restricted us and after May 31st it gets worse as the area comes under Olympic non-parking areas. Many will benefit from this and majorly Whipps Cross Hospital  just a walk away with its exhorbitant parking fees.

Nag’s Head in Walthamstow Village

Well, I jus’ don’t know! How do people put up with non-welcoming staff?  I said to myself, “Let me find this pub that everyone ..IN THE VILLAGE raves about”. I’d taken the W16 from Leyton up to Shernhall Street and remembered that there was that hail and ride (if you’re lucky) W12 bus that sweeps through the backyard of the Village.

The driver dropped me off just next to the afore-mentioned glorified pub. The back garden was packed. (“Nobody works then? “as Jezza would say.) The staff never even acknowledged me, a stranger to their bar. It wasn’t as if they were busy; people were hogging one glass for an hour. Maybe the sour faces from the bartenders meant they just didn’t want to be there. But I just don’t get it. A local gets bumped up. Everyone wants a piece of the action and then nothing. It happens again and again. A venue is revved up and then the front of house staff just make you wonder why you made the effort. Exceptions are notably Stratford Picture House E15 , the Hackney Empire and BSix male reception staff. Good examples of front of house disdain are Rich Mix, (no smiles there and chewing gobs), my doctor’s surgery, Sassoon in Brooke Street up West, Age UK office in Dalston Junction, Hackney Museum, Lea Bridge Library, Hackney Post Office in Narrow Way e5, ward staff in any NHS hospital..any!..aah and so many more.  Civil servants are reknowned for their lack of expression, disdain or not. Still adopted the CSA name though so who trained yer, baby?

You know, front of house employees are often labelled as CSA Customer Service Assistant. They could well be unpaid interns who long lost their passion to be part of The Big Society and/or are those who stay on in the job until something better comes along and you’d think that would be in a couple of years. So the long-termers are still there AND as miserable. It could well be that as a senior I am invisible and so they are just rude or nasty by habit  as they keep their faces to their screens, hearing my polite voice coming from the backside of their computer . But people half my age get the same treatment. Don’t worry. I haven’t started on the attitude of bus drivers up and down Lea Bridge Road.

I am used to the alarmingly frank ignorance from CSAs but cannot understand why we put up with it.  I did ask for an audience with the owner of the Hackney Post Office shop knowing I was wasting my breath. I had six months earlier complained to the Post Office big guns and they said they would look into everything from the attitude of staff to the mess on the floor. Looking and doing eh?  So the owner of the shop told me that the staff have so much abuse from the public. So what? Most folk are just wanting a little bit of human service and why should they suffer because of some other customers’ frustrations , madness or anger? William Hill Management trained me well enough to deal with rude and spitting men old enough to be my dad and at the same time I could make sure that the normal well-behaved person gave over their money  knowing that I was giving the best of my service. Never was I trained to look at anyone as less than human altho I had my diddly doubts.

I’ve seen medical reception staff talk so rudely to non-English speakers in particular. Not every immigrant lives in a caravan.Everyone needs to be on a GP list so the vulnerable and the polite know not to answer back as that will be construed as violence towards the employed hallowed ones. No witnesses will bother to come forward as the receptionist has her moment of triumph, throws beige records on the floor and stamps her stiletto-ed foot.

The Hackney shop owner didn’t impress me at all. Ebay should set up its own Post Office then many of us wouldn’t need the Post Office at all. Passports you say. How come we are European in UK but still have to carry an UK passport to travel to Tenerifé and beyond? Why is the sky blue? So many Apps and I’ll have my answers.

I know a lady who had her baby by Apps. Her waters broke so she Googled for extra information, checked the Apps from Mothercare and downloaded the breastfeeding Apps too. No need for wise old sages like me anymore.

Nuff said about Nag’s Head.

Baby Clinic Blues

Today I was at local baby clinic called Leyton Green, and was aghast at what I saw. I’d gone there with a young woman who’d had a premature birth by C Section. She was not supposed to be out and about for 6 weeks; was supposed to be resting up. She had wondered why the midwife wasn’t coming to her in her house. Sick of questioning the whys and wherefores of the NHS and in particular the Whipps Cross University Hospital maternity system she had decided that come the day she would walk to the baby clinic with her baby in the new Silver Cross pram.

Leyton Green Clinic smacks of the 1950s in its architecture, square and utilitarian, small-windowed and compact. It has been tarted up recently having won the people versus Council battle to stay open.It stands like a white elephant on the horizon as all about it massive building works kick up Leyton dust as  the old social housing estate in Leyton Green Road gets demolished.

After a frought 15 minutes with the midwife whose manner suggested that she was destined unfairly to deal with the baby-breeding unfortunates of this world, she being far above that, and who wanted to know who had complained that they’d waited half an hour to be called in, then mother and baby were discharged. Baby needed feeding. The midwife asked the mother to follow her, led her to the corner of an empty hall, told her where to sit and then pulled a plastic- curtained screen around her and said “Out of the way of the public.”

Wrong thing to say, wrong thing to do. Lucy Moore, chief executive at Whipps, will be hearing from today’s upset service user! Where would it be just about the greatest place to breast feed your baby outside your home but in a baby-clinic? From where does a new mother expect some respect except in a midwife’s office? Which other professional uses her position to belittle her patient by embarassing her for asking innocently at reception if a wait of 30 minutes is normal? Manners, eh?

What is it like? Misery, that’s what. Here is a woman- run outfit lacking in reception and manners and losing opportunities to be that hub for mother joy.

We trekked up to the hospital helped along by a Cornetto each to start the complaint ball- rolling because there was no point requesting information from a Leyton Green Clinic  3 women reception team whose members had closed ranks and could not raise their heads to say goodbye to us as we passed right under their noses. The word “biatches” resounds tinkling in my kissing teeth.

Have vagina, must knit

As I was rolling my chapattis and remembering my neighbour at a healthy eating workshop measuring her women’s worth in “I can make twenty chapattis in one hour!” I reflected on yesterday evening’s free shindig at the V&A. I’d signed up through Eventbrite a group of we women from 4Diversity: Together As One to attend a Craft Club UK workshop in how to pass on skills.Obviously the venue was a major magnet and my plan was to introduce people to the joys of networking and to get a start on the ladder to managing community groups which is the wont of 4D TAO. Now the word diversity will give away the make up of my crew. Diversity was hardly apparent in either age or colour of the attendees or the promotional slides and printed material.

“Oh! Oh! Oh!” as the fat lady says in Gavin and Stacey: There was an assumption that all women can knit. Oh! oh! oh! Pretty insulting. We listened to the talk about how to knit scarves and decorate street furniture. I avoided signing up to anything . We put out our hands to receive yarn and needles to knit a finger-sheep. In the spirit of the evening I was able to pass on skills to Mrs Africa who’d never heard of the need to knit as she worked gathering and foraging for school fees  in a former life.

4D’s plan was to take the skills of skill- sharing into a local 55 + seniors club. The joke is in the image of we showing octagenarians who had to knit because they were born with vaginae and they in our faces, sucking eggs.

The V&A was packed with Friday late night viewing patrons. There are free turn- up and drop- in tours on Fridays too. What a building!

Coming home we wondered as we climbed the thigh- aching staircase at Leyton underground station how that little place will cope during the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Especially after people had that very day been on the bridge at Westfield E20 and felt it sway. Ooer Mrs!

This afternoon is “Party On the Pitch” a great Waltham Forest family jamboree starring Alexandra Burke, hot dogs with Halal meat ( we hope), and The Saturdays.  Waltham Forest Council woke up to their 2012 London borough status last November. All the roads on the route to Stratford are getting make-overs. Traffic still abysmal.

Now to sew somethings for gentlemen to the background of clipped consonants on BBC Radio 3. Like a bit o culture, me. The inserts on Radio 3 include a breathy earnest actress-style voice promoting celebrations of that bard sexualising  “My own Shakespeare”. Enough to put you off.

so not mediocre

Found it. ..A workshop above mediocrity. Tonight I went to Ye Olde Rose and Crown Pub Theatre E17 to The Red Room to spend time with good honest folk at the Walthamstow Radical History Group workshop all about Walthamstow.  I enrolled by text because on offer was a cluster of workshops, intellectually-challenging ( change from cake decorating) and less than a fiver a time.

I learnt loads tonight , all about how Walthamstow grew because of boundaries and how to do intelligent research.

Roger was mein host and Neil the energetic workshop facilitator.

The pub is really nice. It is welcoming and warm, full of royal reds and golds, cubby holes, a massive wooden bar and lovely staff who smile! The toilets are older and shinier than me (altho’ I do flush every time) and there was a vintage dress sale on tonight.

Really good. Most stuff I go to is really useless and not up to my standard and definitely mediocre. (By the way the whole John Donne evening I attended at St Paul’s Cathedral a couple of weeks ago is online.) Tonight’s lecture and workshop was ace. Looking forward to part 2.

Yesterday  I chanced by  a cafe in Walthamstow Village. Had lukewarm mash, neither warm nor cold onions and delicious hot ye Olde English old-fashioned posh sausage from next door. That was followed by Tiramisu with alcohol. Now that was full marks: The dinner I give 6 out of 10 and the whole experience 4 because the staff never smiled or made me feel welcome. Won’t be spending my £8 there again. Crossed over to Spar. SPAR! Upmarket silly prices Walthamstow Village Spar  pulling us in with its smells of fresh bread and baking pizzas. What can you do ?…a little bit of cultural hegemony in full swing-not the first time in E17.

Issue 1… Up Your Street …….Spring 2012

Thursday  May 17th £10. Four Thursdays 7.30-9.30pm Rose and Crown,  Hoe Street.

History of Walthamstow.

Sat        May    19th 10-noon Mary Katherine Presents her show on Streetlife Radio ( internet)

 free 4pm  Leyton Orient Football Ground “Party On the Pitch”  Tickets were balloted.

 

Mon   May 21st  free ballroom dancing lessons for over 60’s 12.30-2.30pm

St James’ Church Lea Bridge Roundabout.

Wed May 23rd  free noon-2pm cook and taste course starts

                                    bookings. 28 Shore Rd, E9 7TA. Info: 020 7561 5281;

Thurs  May 24th free  10am.Book with WalkEast. Digital photography course and walkabouts in Bethnal Green

JUNE    Hackney celebrates Roma and Traveller culture. Events and shows.

Things I learnt the hard way

Over the past two years I have dealt with many community organisations. I have reviews and ratings on each to publish at a later date  when I want to fill my hours with negative vibes. What is very obvious is that while the managers of community organisations will say they welcome community participation in the running of tings, they don’t. Each manager has her own agenda governed by the fear of inspecting funders. A member of the local neighbourhood can arrive full of enthusiasm and ideas and be knocked right back to their place on earth. I will expand.  But not now.