Always loved Leyton. Wasn’t born here. Who was? I loved it because it was very multi-cultural and we were all in the mood to learn about each other. Even the warring mothers who were angry that their offspring, apprentice Ukippers, had to stay off school for Guru Nanak and who’s he when he’s at home and we should have a day off for St George’s Day, turned on their worn heels, refused to move away to the white fields of Chingford, and began community stuff in their ailing libraries. Powerful grans them.

Leyton was united in its awareness of other nationalities and cultures and its youth quickly began mixing up, producing the beautiful mixed race generation which is visible and usual in the parish. We all used the word ‘Halal’, watched mosques fill and churches empty, applauded the rise of Somalian, Eritrean, Bangla, Caribbean and Irish community centres, watched our languages, learnt PC and continued living together.reminisecnce quiltRAGWORKS Leyton Quilt

Leyton residents were united in their financial poverty too. There was no embarrassment as more pound shops opened and no-one objected to increased numbers of big -name supermarkets, the transformation of a bus garage into a KFC, and the proliferation of betting shops. Leyton people were used to change or were too busy making ends meet to worry about the world. The people are that nice that when the local GP had a breakdown he ran along the streets praising and loving “you working class mothers”. Child-minders smiled, pulled in black and white toddlers nearer to their Swan prams and got on.
I have seen people from Walthamstow wince in mental pain as they walked the streets of downtown (no other part is there?) Leyton and clearly they wondered if people really lived there. One person actually said to me “What? You walk down this street by yourself?” What can we do but laugh?
Leyton was called ” mattress city” by a community leader four years ago because the town has a transient community hopping onto or out altogether from the housing ladder. The temporary residents move on and all their wordly goods are left bare and inviting for the scavengers who march along the streets mainly on Monday mornings with their supermarket trollies, keen eyes, and fingerless gloves. It is like that but that’s because there are front gardens!!! Why, you can fit a whole house load into some of the front yards. There are alleyways too so they need a sprinkling of abandoned MFI.

Businesses disregard aesthetics and leave out their cartons and oil drums on road corners under the full glare of streetlights. Fly-tipping is illegal and we live in a generous borough which sends out lorries to clear street bulk rubbish because “Them foreigners don’t know how to put out their rubbish.” Rubbish. In Upper Walthamstow and lower Village you never see household rubbish unless the whole house aka cottage is being gutted: Because there are no garden spaces to deposit the mattresses and bedside cabinets, emblems of Leyton.
There are some fabulous awesome shops and cafés (?) There is forty years old and strong Paga Café on Lea Bridge Road near the Hackney boundary. There’s Doreen’s, an allegedly trannie shop in Bakers Arms with Grandma fashions in lemon and size 9 ladies’ shoes allegedly. There’s Tesco which jiggled its way to its current location as it grew and grew in little ole Bakers Arms. Of course Bakers Arms, currently a mess, is having a mysterious make-over. We don’t need to know why there are now massive pavements outside non-descript retailers and money shops. Mark you, reader, the circus will come to town. On a pristine pavement it will set up and then in will come Awesomestowers.

There isn’t a soda bakery or a vintage outlet or a pop-up theatre event nor a community kitchen. The people are round and fat, full of chips and hen and smoothies and pie. The Costa-cup carriers don’t live in Leyton: They’re passing through. The local private nurseries have not stepped up their objectives for healthy eating in the playrooms for Cheyenne and Shardonnay.

Leyton High Road not to be confused with The High Street (in E17) is grotty and not seen for the trees really. A fox can’t smell his own hole so they say or someone did. The road is a chaos of grey shutters, deliberately abandoned blue corner shop bags full of fags and empties, garages, gaps, car-cleaners, badly-lit areas, interesting names for newer shops, flying black cloaks, and flung-out mattresses. The Post office collection point is, despite being listed, maybe, part of that disgrace. During the London Olympics and Paralympics I was the one who took down the tattered and filthy England flag from the building  pole . That act is similar to Awesomestowers filling kerb edges with Latin-named plants. You can never fault a resident for wanting to improve the appearance of their front garden.

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