Today I was warmly touched by honesty. At Lea Bridge Seniors with Up Your Street today our guest speaker was nicely informal and full of knowledge. She is a Spitalfields woman by residence, born in Whitechapel, lived all over east London and runs a stall in Spitalfields Old Market as well as craft sessions from her own front room. Respect where it’s due. Her talk was entitled “My Favourite Place: Spitalfields” and she had a nice ethnically mixed audience of senior citizens all full up on free tea and coconut biscuits.
She is friendly, very aware of her listeners and can talk ten to the dozen. Who can’t?
What was poignant was her description of not feeling totally at home at home.
Our guest said how Spitalfields is divided between the super rich incomers and those “on the tap”. She has nothing in common with either. She echoed the thoughts of many seniors who feel that they have become invisible without the nuances of a common language, and the tried, tested and familiar patterns of what is life. That disappearing life includes a recognition that working is good, an acknowledgement that neighbourliness is great, and that respect for someone else’s front door step should be paramount.
My mother used to talk for hours over the back fence with her neighbours on either side on the large council estate. Right then and for twenty years after, I never knew that that was a disappearing way of life. I became sad.
When my octogenarian Yorkshire friend retired twenty years ago she hoped she’d enjoy many a bus journey chatting away to the other elderly passengers. She never had that journey where she could share words. No-one spoke her language and she never practised theirs. I quickly learnt basic Polish.
As my favourite Igbo saying goes, “No condition is permanent”.
Raffle prizes today included Tesco slatted spoons, key rings, pens, soap, notelets and chocolates. Some of the elderly men had been machinists in their working days and other ex-machinists joined in with their love of sewing machines and memories of Wood Street E17. “HEBA” came out in the conversation being an all-female enterprise in Brick Lane E1 to which both our guest and some Up Your Street-ers had been for workshops.
Twas a relaxing couple of hours in jolly good company.