Getting nowhere by degrees

Three weeks ago, I found a degree course I fancied at the University of east London but at the Docklands site. I emailed the tutor in charge and asked about applying as a mature student. I was checking out enrolling onto a university degree in September 2012, late in the day  and was joining in and competing with the younsters trying for places through UCAS clearing and adjustment. They had had guidance from teachers and college advisors. I was alone.

I went along to the Birkbeck open evening in Stratford Old Town Hall E15 last week Thursday. Birkbeck is actually terribly Bloomsbury but has affiliations with UEL ( University of East London) Stratford,  and Rosetta Arts which is in West Ham but under a Stratford address. In the daytime I’d checked out the ambience of UEL’s Stratford campus but hardly felt I’d fit in there and none of that site’s degree subjects appealed to me. Well, you have to feel good if you’re doing a three year stint.

At the Birkbeck evening the trickle of visitors all received  goody bags and reminders about how Birkbeck is the only evening degree university in London. Whoop. I met the arts lot and the finance staff. The student support staff had not appeared so I couldn’t ask searching questions about the application forms. Neither did the staff advising potential students with disabilities turn up. Not impressed.

I was told I could still apply via UCAS clearing to find a place and then fill in the finance forms online. All would be good. What I didn’t know and wasn’t told was that Clearing finished the next day. Live and learn.

The next day I decided to go up to Bloomsbury and see the Birkbeck sites and get a feel about the places. All I got into were converted houses. No-one checked security. I went into the University College, London and saw what I saw: Milling international students having their inductions. I went back to the Malet Street site of Birkbeck, checked out the café on the top floor, gawped at more international new students, played on the lifts and came away none the wiser but excited that I’d seen RADA from the top windows.

Indoors and desperate, I trawled the internet for a degree course to suit me. There it was , a 2 year foundation degree in art in Camden managed by Middlesex University. I will say at this point that The Telegraph or Observer league tables give me no confidence in any of the universities I chose and I chose them because they professed on their web sites to have vacant places for 2012. I double-checked this gem of a degree in a college I’d never heard of, found out the name of the senior lecturer and went along to enrol. There were many grandmothers in hijabs signing up for ESOL courses and a couple of younger people going for maths and literacy. I waited my turn until the harassed CSA called me forward. My planet stalled.”The course isn’t going ahead”. “But it’s up on the website and there, it’s on the board in front of reception.” “It’s only recently come off. There’s a similar course ” and she went on to promote a Saturday five week course clearly not a degree course. I was fuming. The website was blatently lying to me. CSA knew nothing else. I explored the café area and had a sniff around to see why the whole building had warranted inclusion in the Open House Weekend. Even the advertisement about the 1905 building having its doors open to the public for free for Open House Weekend was incorrect with stupid dates on the institute’s website.

After a Big Mac in Dalston I emailed the senior tutor and asked to be seen. The next day I met her (she was late) and  there was no apology about the rubbish website listings but a   predictable offer of a lower diploma place offered with indifference. Not me, mate.

Evening was coming down  and I decided to go to the Docklands and view the University of East London. It was an evening out and very far away by any journey from north London and expensive too. Actually the journey was enjoyable. From the Woolwich bound DLR cab I saw  West Ham Station, Rosetta Arts, Star Lane and closed UDAC. From Canning Town DLR station, I saw the cable cars and low-flying aeroplanes. The University is there right there on Cyprus Station. What a magnificent sight! Too far away. There’s a stink of flight fuel,and the roar of City Airport planes. But there’s water and sunsets.

To date I never had an answer from the lecturer to whom I’d sent an email but the CSA there is good old-fashioned helpful and assured me there were places. Too far away. Imagine getting up in the winter for the 9 am lecture and travelling 2 hours. I am mature, remember.

Not to let any ships pass in the night I emailed the lecturer in charge of a degree course at SOAS. Why not? At least she replied and sent on my personal statement to her honourable colleague.

Finally I got around to applying for finance. If I don’t eat or keep warm for three years I’ll be okay.

issue 11. Up Your Street

Mon Oct 1st     OLDER PEOPLE’S DAY

                         free Hornbeam Café E17 (Bakers Arms).  RAGWORKS wall-hangings depicting global nursery rhymes returns!

                           free  4pm     Black History Month in Newham
Talk on Kamal Chunchie and The Coloured Mens Institute at the Peoples Museum & Gallery of Newham.

Wed Oct 3rd free 10-4pm St Andrew’s Church, Colworth Rd. E11 Dementia Day with stalls,  info etc.

Fri Oct 5th free 11-2.30pm Upton Community Centre. Bring a friend day activities for seniors.

Sat Oct 6th free 12-3pm Petchey Academy Shacklewell Lane. Forest Recycling Project give or take

Mon Oct 8th free 5.30-8.30.Stratford Circus E15 Find out about Rosetta Arts in Stratford

Coming next week

in Newham and Hackney, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park residents meetings to prepare for The Legacy.

Caribbean Though a Lens
Reminiscence session in partnership with the National Archives,  as part of the “Caribbean Through a Lens” project.  Come and view a unique collection of photographs spanning over 100 years of life in the Caribbean, and share your own memories and photographs of Caribbean life. 10th October at the People’s Museum & Gallery of Newham, 2pm. Refreshments will be provided. Please RSVP to or phone 0208 553 4343.

Thurs 11th Oct £2.50  1pm “Song Of Freedom” at Hackney Picture House.


Issue 10 part 2. Up Your Street

Sat Sept 22nd £2.50  2-3.30pm HedgeHerbs workshop beginning a course of 5 sessions at the Mill E17.  £2.50 negotiated price for we seniors.

                              £1.50  11-4.30pm Vintage Fair at Bruce Castle, Tottenham.”Step Inside Love”

Sun Sept 23rd free but book on Eventbrite  “Imago Dei “. At the Queen Of Hoxton , Curtain Rd Shoreditch. Food and craft fair .

Tues Sept 25th £3.50 3.30pm  Pictures at Rich Mix  “To Rome With Love”.

                             £2.50   noon Hackney PictureHouse “Anna Karenina” and Vertigo” and more films with refreshments too. (Thursday too)

Thurs Sept 27 th free 7-8.30pm Saying goodbye with a fling to an excellent photography project for seniors called ” Glimpses” at  Oxford House Bethnal Green before Black History Month events move into the house. Be buzzed!

£1.50 2-5pm Knitting group  at Hornbeam Café, Bakers Arms E17

free 9pm “Loopers” at Hackney Picture House for members. Tickets in advance.

Fri Sept 28th free  2pm.  The People’s Museum in Stratford E15 (opp Gala Bingo almost) Thames Paddle Steamers” talk by Robert Rogers.

 free last day to get in poetry for free comp at United Press. Go to their website for rules.

 free (donations always accepted!) 10-noon. Knitting for beginners and experts at The Mill E17

£1  11.30-12. 30    Exercise, expression and dance at St Johns in Narrow Way, Mare St, Hackney with Catherine Bell.  55+ and Up Your Street recommends it.

Oct 1st start of Black History Month. Many free events. Check the Tower Hamlets  Black History Month 2012 brochure. Excellent stuff.

Mon Oct 1st free but book on Eventbrite UK events in London. 7pm . New  reading group Byte The Book at Clapton Hart. Chatting about ” Pnin” by Nabakov.

free 4pm. Geoff Bell talk at The People’s Museum, Stratford E15 “The Coloured Men’s Institute”.


Coming soon….

Tues Oct 2nd free 2-4pm walk about Colworth Road with  architectural historian Neil Houghton. Meet at St Andrews Church, Colworth Rd Leytonstone. E11. (Highly recommended by Up Your Street).

Oct 4th  free  7pm.John Arthur (The Walthamstow Bard) sings and plays accoustic guitar at Camden Head, 100 High St , Camden.

free Formans Gallery exhibition preview by invitation. Ask William at the Smokehouse Gallery, Hackney Wick.

free 6-8pm.The Nunnery at Bowarts by Bow Church .  Dennis McNulty talks about his work “Precast.” There’s a great café  too, The Carmelite Café with not expensive wine and cream cakes plus a great person behind the counter.

                         free 7pm     Hornsey Library  Crouch End N8 screening of  Shabazz’s film “The Story Of Lovers’ Rock”.


When I returned from working in Africa to my house in east London, I saw in the neighbour’s garden an Indian woman hanging out clothes on a line. Having come from a land of beaten housegirls,  I had supposed that by her small stature and she being involved in domestic chores  she was the maid whereas in fact my English neighbours had moved away whilst I was adventuring in the Equatorial Rain Forest and  had been replaced by a family fleeing from Idi Amin.

I was humbled and disgusted with my assumption. That Indian lady was the neighbour of the century: Mrs Parmar, senior,

What a love. She held my children when I went for driving lessons and until her moany husband stopped her doing me that favour. One day when the back garden fence was down and the sunflowers were as high as Jack’s beanstalk, she wended her way in a bright yellow sari  carrying carefully a typical silver tray. I was indoors with the French windows wide open. She was bringing me daal and puffy breads. Heaven in a garden.

Thirty seven years later and her legs failed her so she was carted off to live with her married son in the next parish.

Then,  the next door banging began as the 1930s house once remodelled in 1986 began a new life as a gutted and  freshly adorned dwelling. In moved the most tiresome people I’ve ever known.

On the day the family of four moved in, I greeted them and never even got back a nod.  I let them off to give them a chance and of course it was possible that they were out and out racists. Sacré bleu! Days passed and I’d hoped for some chat with the woman of the house and at least a miserable attempt at a smile of recognition from the post- teen daughters.

The family fight all day and into the early hours. The three women rarely go anywhere. The mother hangs out washing daily on Mrs Parmar’s same old line. The man of the house has regular times when he  comes in and out.

Such screeching goes on which I hear through the walls to the extent that I almost phone the social services for I imagine beatings and hair-pulling and subjugation techniques. The family on the end recently re-housed from their caravan are bad but nothing as downright unneighbourly.  I am a long-standing resident, as friendly as hell and I know that one day next door’ll need me.

I’m used to the grown daughter and father on the other side calling each other effing seeyouentees.

Definitely I am making sure my fences are sound because good fences make good neighbours. Really?

Issue 10.part 1 Up Your Street

Mon Sept 24th free 12.30-2.30pm Malcolm’s ballroom classes for seniors at Kidzmania 28 Powell Rd E5 (each Monday. This week foxtrot and jive beginners and intermediates).

                               free 12.15pm.  Bruce Castle Museum screening “Tottenham-The Wild side “(Friends of the Earth)


free 2pm at The People’s Museum, E15 opp Gala Bingo almost. East End talk.

                             £3 1.30-3.30pm Tea Dance for seniors at Old Town Hall Stratford E15. Tea and raffles

Wed Sept 26th free 10.30-11.30 am reading group at Hackney Central Library with coffee and cake courtesy of generous Lydia. Yum Yum. Enjoying  John Banville’s “the Book Of Evidence”.

free 7pm Bruce Castle Museum  Talk ” Glickmans” by Derek Lewis refreshments too. All about a Tottenham High Street store.

Thurs Sept 27th £4  1-4pm Haringey Irish Pensioners Tea dance Pretoria Rd . N17 . Contact Moira for more info on 02088046058

£3   7pm. Haringey Independent Cinema screening ” Fear Eats The Soul  ” at West Green Learning Centre, Phillip Lane N15

Fri Sept 28th free The Centre for Better Health 1 a Darnley Rd almost opp. Hackney Town Hall  Open day to taste workshops.

Sun Sept 30th free End of “Gifted” exhibition at the Mill E17

free  3-10pm  Dalston Eastern Curve Garden Open day

October 1st for one month . Up Your Street joins in Black History Month celebrations. Watch for events in HaringeyLibraries and Bruce Castle Museum in north London and Tower Hamlets.

Up Your Street Issue 9

Mon Sept 17th free  12.30-2pm  Malcolm’s Ballroom Classes, Kidzmania, 28 Powell Rd, Clapton,Hackney. E5 8DJ (each Monday , this week it’s Foxtrot and Jive)

free    6.30pm ” Over the Borders” , oral histories East End talk at People’s Museum Stratford E15 (opp Gala Bingo)

Tues Sept 18th free  11-1pm jewellery making for seniors with speakers and other events hosted by Preciouslives  at  Aspland and Marcon Estate  Community Hall ,Amhurst Rd E8 (repeats on Thursdays )(mention Up Your Street)

free 24pm Harvest and Navratri St Andrew’s Church Colworth Rd E11Tuesday, 18
free   12.30 -8pm September 2012 12.30am – 8pm 7 Broadway Market
A special taster day hosted by Fabrications and
Brother. Test drive a range of domestic sewing machines, get guidance on buying
a machine, gain inspiration, creative tips and make yourself a personalised
small sewing kit bag. 1hr making slots available. Booking Required. Materials
and refreshments provided. Fabrications, 7 Broadway Market.
Hackney, E8 4PH. Disabled access: no. Contact: Barley Massey. Email:

Wed Sept 19th free  5pm onwards in E16 area Jan hosts The Big Stitch making lavender bags etc for Children’s charity. email her for a place on Refreshments.