1st Feb 2015


Like many other Moslems and non-Moslems I am not obliged to wear an hijab. Today I donned one and it took me less than a minute to hide my hair. I felt nothing special. It was just like putting on a new bra or a scarf around my neck.  I thought about all the pashminas I could convert to hijabs. There was the slight weight that made me lower my head automatically which was neither here nor there and of course the slight restriction in sideways head turns. The hijab isn’t a religious uniform. According to young women on the World Hijab Day Facebook pages their hijabs make them feel free to be themselves and to show their inner beauty.

Sounds like a Silvikren advert.silvikrin

Women thought corsets were here to stay: thought their backs would collapse if they abandoned them. Housewives felt wrong not wearing them. They never wanted to feel immodest. Men expected their mothers and wives to wear them. It was men owning the  corset companies of course, making the rules, convincing women about what they needed, indeed should have to wear be seen as a respectable. It was enough to worry about flesh let alone the reasons behind everything. “We just wore them.”

corset 1940


(not my photos)






Cos I’m happy

Very happy that having put it out there that Up Your Street Community Group is arranging a trip to the V&A for the Black British Experience photographic exhibition that people are coming in. It’s a social event too; we take our flasks and sarnis and share our aluminium foiled parcels before we do that long trek along the tunnel back to the tube station which  always reminds me of Westray ferries and sheep being loaded past the barriers. I’m assured that South Ken is always like that.. Very happy too that my brain twerked and I was moved to invite a local expert on black history  to start conversations with us just like Pat Williams did when she guided us through the Nehru Rooms at aforementioned V&A.

Love a photographic exhibition me. At my suggestion, some social and community engagement outfits are also going up South Ken and then of course there’s the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton.

Cumberbatch was in the celeb headlines for saying “coloured” instead of “black”. In my mix it’s not the white people who say “coloured”. Senior Trinidadians will say “we people, we coloured people” and them up’ll pipe a Chinese guy going on about the coloureds. I used to beg my mum not to say “darkies” in 1990! She just said “But we always said that”. Crafty woman. She was trying to start a discussion with her big pink tongue in her cheek. I lived on a Scottish island where all the people said “darkey”. They’d say, ” The darkey’s coming. Lock your back doors”. What I imagined, eh? Off the boat came the travelling salesman Mr Ahmed Ali. He was shocked to hear my London accent. Oh days! That was only ten years ago less. On an island where still the shopkeeper clothes the new Tampax box in a brown bag and shuffles the bag surreptitiously across the counter. I know!

Not much call for periods up there. International Women’s Day got the next boat out.


Black British Experience. V and A for free.

Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s

Promotional image for Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990sM
Mon 16 February 2015 – Sun 24 May 2015
  • Where:
    Gallery 38a

DISPLAY: This display showcases a variety of photographic responses to black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s. All of the photographs are from the V&A Collection and were acquired as part of the project Staying Power: Photographs of Black British Experience 1950s-1990s, a collaboration with Black Cultural Archives funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The aim is to increase the number of black British photographers and images of black Britain in the V&A. The photographs collected, together with oral histories gathered by Black Cultural Archives, will raise awareness of the contribution of black Britons to British culture, society, and the art of photography.

Up Your Street, Issue 5

                                                            Up Your Street Issue 5

Sat 31st Jan     free 2-4pm  Mudchute Park & Farm
Address Pier Street, E14
Tel 020 7515 5901 An afternoon of crafting and socialising.
                         Bring your own stuff to do e.g knitting.
Mon 2nd Feb     free 11.30am Sign up for a free sewing course at Caramel Rock in Canning Town.
Wed 4th Feb     free (tbc) 7-8.30pm St Paul’s Church Amhurst Rd Hackney. Singing: pop-up chorus.
                         £3     noon-3pm fantastic POSH Club at St Paul’s. Book in advance 02077374043
                         £3  11 am Empire Walthamstow. e17 . Tea and a film every week. Today “What we did on Our Holiday”.
Thurs 5th Feb   free 6.30pm  Iniva (Art Gallery),1 Rivington Place EC2 The  Mauritian artist, Shiraz Bayjoo talks about his work. Book at Eventbrite
                         free  6pm Private View at Rich Mix E1 “Intergalactic Desh” Three artists and their interactive work all about what those/we from a Bangladeshi stance might save when the world ends. Workshops follow later in the month.

                   free Launch of Hackney City Farm exhibition at Hackney Museum

Fri 6th Feb  free 7-9pm William Morris Gallery Yinka Shonibare exhibition.Private view.

Sat 7th Feb       free 10-1pm British Museum educational trip with Iroko Theatre.
                         free 2-5pm   Family day at Chandos East Hub E15. RAGWORKS, Up Your Street, G’s Toys
                                will feature.
Sun 8th Feb     free 10.00am – 3.30pm. Practical conservation tasks on the second Sunday of every month in Alexandra Palace’s wonderful conservation area. A return to bramble control and some woodland management await us this month. At vehicle barrier at the junction of Bedford Road and Alexandra Palace Way, South Terrace N22 7AX
For your diary
Sat  14th Feb    free  7.30-9pm Epicentre West Street E11  Talk and supper- sharing with News From Nowhere club. No need to book. 
The Bethnal Green Tube Shelter Disaster   Speaker: Joy Puritz.

Elvis, Penguins, Russians in violins and POSH Club

posh 1       posh 2

Was overwhelmed today with the brilliant POSH Club in Hackney, for seniors. full of class and what’s right in terms of welcoming seniors, mollycoddling them, pouring out the tea  and entertaining them. Without a doubt it is the best community engagement project for kilometres. I like prompt and courteous action, being visible, and value for money . It is all there.

We had to dress posh so as I hobbled to the bus in the last spike of winter sun at three o’clock with a sore blister marking my new dance shoes I was a tad sad because Elvis never made a fuss of me. Probably because I’m his size and his generation went for little uns as partners. That impersonating Elvis we enjoyed today is the greatest of all the fakes. The ladies just adored him and Danny from Hackney Wick gyrated his hips in time to Pelvis’.

As soon as we were in the door, the table attendants swooped on us and took our coats to the hangers. We were served tea and coffee immediately at the tea table in the glory of china tea plates and silver cutlery. All our eyes were bigger than our bellies: We managed to wolf down the freshest sandwiches ever and shared the refilled cake stands of  Battenberg, scones, Bakewell tarts and madeira. Good old-fashioned madeira. We had free rafflles and a Russian Kilburn violinist,  a tap-dancing penguin and champagne.posh 3

Duckie of London runs the POSH Club extremely well and generously. You have to book and you have to pay  three quid. It’s Lottery-funded and warm-heartedly run.

POSH Club, consider yourself applauded well by Up Your Street.posh 4

Language formed.

Am halfway through “A Girl Is A Half-formed Thing”. Now the first page is enough to think you’ve bought a typo-laden rejected printer’s copy. Not so, for I am used to “Ulysses”, TS Eliot, Shakespeare, Courttia Newland, texting language and other written works in the making. So I blinked to clean my glasses as you do and carried on. Totes maze would have been accepted in 2012 when language and London changed for a while, when the Queen swung through the Stratford air, when art became anything.

I rested for a couple of hours to check some tickets at Eventbrite, some tickets for a show about loving the earth. It  was then time to check out some reviews of the book. I’d read the last pages as I do for all my literature. Some laugh. It’s like this. I’m in it for the structure and the language, the twists and the finale. Stories are astonishing to the extent that I am not going to know them all because some I just can’t bear to know. I know many to the extent that familiarity breeds a little frustration. The story of the half-formed thing is bad enough and has familiar characters such as the “holy Joes” and the chastising battering mother. However it unfolds through language that’s in a mind and not mine so unwittingly I move through the tale, concentrating on who is talking and when, bouncing on weird syntax and safe because I’m in that structure rather than in the mix with some unsavoury characters.

I’d released the book from the edge of my laptop and the line of my bust and was thinking whilst watching the “Broadchurch” trailer and remembering Joy at Words Of Colour and how strict she is regarding the use of language and clichés about all the new words and all the phrases invented by advert-makers and ourselves using old words for new meanings I’ve used comfortably post Olympics . Paralympics itself was a word to use out of respect even though its four syllables threw people and its meaning was upset by PC. Some of the words and phrases have been around a long time usually in Cyberspace or Dalston.

There’s      ” immersive theatre, barista, upcycling, lappie, tablet,  girl can, trending, cloud, streaming, Hijabi, Londonist, craftivist, You’re so money, hipster, artisan-bread, mindfulness, well-being, sustainable, interns, urbanist, food bank, ultra-local, pop-up, gone down, hub, surbunites, outage, Olympicopolis, Smithsonian, engaged,

And then totes amaze on the D&D registry, a playwright used “Hijabi” and an administrator is abandoning the concept of “immersive theatre”.

No condition is permanent.


No seriously. What is the point of women-only classes to knit or crochet your own cushion covers or throws? (More flippin’ washing for women to do.)

Another such community engagement project plea came into my inbox for me to promote. The sessions aren’t even free.

I get that handiwork is a way for women to get creative. That mantra is pumped into me every time I raise my eyebrows. I know that funders fund projects to engage imaginary communities so that we don’t get depressed by austerity and real-life.


Older women won’t be attracted because they wore their own knits for years and smothered toilet rolls in cheeky crochet hand mades. They might go to save on their own heating bills but only if the project’s free. Younger women? Maybe those self-named “creatives” looking to spend their trust funds in opening up Dalston boutiques disguised as  community tea metre square cafés. The market is already swamped with bespoke throws and cushion covers. Mind you Leyton, that up and coming parish, has yet to be baptized with all that’s on trend.


An octogenarian was being asked to join a weekly craft group amidst gushings and oozings from women with disposable incomes. She kept quiet at the craft tea table as she continued to create a splendiferous crochet shawl. Outside on the quaintly re-cobbled market street full of dimly-lit latte houses and sun-dried odourless tomato filled paninis in bars she huffed “Why would I pay a fiver to sit around with those women to do something I can do already?”  Ah, the engagement process had failed: she’d missed the point about female camaraderie, the coming together of crafters, the well-being and enhancement produced by the drug of innocent repetition and time honoured patterning and after all, what’s a fiver?

Well-being through needle-work and knitting is the subject tomorrow at Toynbee Hall. I know because a fabulous crafting women told me so.

Now, February 1st looms large and I wondered how a knitted hijab might look. The point is not to attract men’s eyes to my head. Those knitted swimming costumes back in the day must have been torture for lusty eyes.

“What women want” , eh?

Back to my reading book. “A Girl is A Half-Formed Thing”.

Local Roots and Global Routes. Hackney mais oui.

Well, on and on we go. Aren’t we there yet?

What I learnt today. I learnt that what I said years ago is confirmed by the learned. That is , that you cannot describe and share an heritage unless you touch on everything; the art, the stories, the language, the this, the that,  and that’s why all those community projects are recruiting artists and archivists to raise self-esteem in battered and abandoned communities by making those communities’ histories visible and comfortable. So you can’t teach about Black History in any month if you haven’t Kindled some black authors and got under their skins, if you haven’t boiled some grits, if you haven’t followed some threads like tie-dye techniques and batik-bashing. The once Niger-dwelling slave didn’t grow into her shackles. She had a life with her clan, a place in her hierarchal society, words of a language, and was just getting on with life like every ancient did. Her DNA travelled everywhere not just to cotton plantations. Her bone-dust blew into every continent and rested with penguins on ice.

As Black History Month’s been around for ages, then it must be that teachers were teaching only about slaves, numbers. numbers, slaves or the students this evening at Hackney Museum’s launch of their educational pack about enslavement and its connection to Hackney wouldn’t have been adamant that they’d never heard about so much of what was in the pack and that their own history was a negative one always about Africans as slaves. Or the fact is that they and their teachers needed skills in research methods. A quaint example was the fact that those kids who could write journals in the nineteenth century and ate from posh  china plates went on sugar strike to support the Abolition  of Slavery Bill.  That’s a bit like people not drinking Nescafe coffee because of the link with babies dying from cholera-saturated water in their formula milk. Global awareness is old aged.

The evening was brilliant in its welcome, its programme and in its staging. I support Hackney Museum because it has always been aware of its community a bit like Tesco being the first supermarket to sell okra in 1971. The community education officer is good down-to-earthiness. That job’s cut as from March 2015. The film was short enough. The poetry, the singing and the unscripted exposes about their classroom experiences by school and college students were ace.   “A Raisin In The Sun” is on telly as I write.

I’m going to read through the pack with an eye out for teaching outcomes and the provision of learning strategies for children with special needs.

In the seventies Gus John toured the large urban UK cities inciting teachers to force their employers, the local authorities with tremendous responsibility for education, to  recognise the black child in the classroom. He’s seventy this year and there are events to celebrate that and his tireless work to equalise our society. I have never seen him smile, never.

Updating that I’ve perused the pack and am NOT happy.I am going to challenge myself to get to grips with a critique. How to make enemies and lose friends. On it.

Down a dark hole with Alice

ragworks at rabbitPhoto copywrite to Rabbit Hole. Wall-hangings by RAGWORKS

Today I was informed that The Rabbit Hole in Maryland (yeah, I know Maryland!) in E15 is threatened with closure. Sure I can’t/won’t afford the tea and biscuits there but I’m a different generation and I don’t have disposable income in a purse under my disposable nappies and all the other young parent paraphernalia in my “The Baby Show ” unique and blessed £75. 00 at reduced offer price pram- bag. The venue is definitely in E15 and not to be judged for tax purposes or clientele -magnetizing as the posher E20 with its Westfield and pop-up Marilyn Monroe soirees and Mini draped in British flags promotions.

The Rabbit Hole is unique. It’s set amongst final last offers fridge shops, burger bars  and chip bars, next to a part-time Radio Station and opposite a revived railway station and a long long brick wall on a dangerous turn down at Stratford as we leave the borders of down and out down-town Leytonstone forever. Maryland, land of all sorts and the wonderfully named Manbey Grove. The shop, likened to a warren because of the visitor being opened up to different channels, is almost sitting on a railway siding come to think of it.

It’s upcycled, that’s what it is. It’s welcoming and has an ear for what’s pulsing around it. It’s a sanctuary for the isolated young parent who hasn’t found her or his niche in a changing neighbourhood. There are racks of new and nearly new baby outfits to peruse. There are chances of workshops and prizes and raffles at baby discos. It’s a place for the confident tea drinking, posh pizza munching passer-by, a different experience to the Brazilian coffee-house nearby and the quick latte at the Morrison’s caff up road.

To me, The Rabbit Hole represents a sound business run by a woman entrepreneur who had done her market research, seen what other boroughs were doing for and with young parents and is forging her way successfully through the paper and string bound world of sharp business in times of austere cuts and depression in many communities. Where is the support from a Borough Council that goes on and on about women, about entrepreneurs, about small business success in their community? Away with the faeries who brought the world-renowned sports days, that’s where. Long gone. So last 2012. So in the bin.

The mad hatter of Newham says “There is no room at the table”.  Alice replies quite clearly and confidently, “There’s plenty of room.”

Did she add on “Silly”?


In a month when Waltham Forest Libraries publishes its plan to interprete International Women’s Day as a month of lady-related topics and loosely related themes to women in society ( “Gone Girl”) and when I await an answer, any answer,  to my now-formalised complaint about a session for women and daughters making up together as wrong because IWD is not about the sexualisation of children then along comes National Potato Day next Monday followed by International Hijab Day on 1st Feb. In a month when the first prosecution  for FGM in the UK gets underway and controversy simmers around the “I Am Girl” women into sports advert then I am agog at all around me but not silent.

Waltham Forest Council back in the eighties was like a force getting its kicks on Route 66 forging ahead, embracing every idea and debating everything before deciding what was  workable. Women on and outwith the Council insisted that  street-lighting was raised so that dark streets became highways for women to feel safe. It worked. The Council listened to school office-workers (mainly women) and gave them three “Religious” days off and rightly so because teaching staff had them. In fact WF was “lighting up tomorrow with today”. Women congratulated themselves. Waltham Forest was a unique progressive borough.

Nowadays the Borough is coming across as muddled and unliked, neither bothered about women especially down St James’ area with the “Rooms Of Our Own” disappointment nor meeting the demands of older people compared to Islington and Hackney where there are regular activities for seniors. The school students of the nineties look from their adult hood into the Borough and wonder what happened to drag it backwards.


On the Waltham Forest mothership we are going backwards. The paternalism mounts as any newcomer to the borough with any idea is  accommodated. The replacements for the  shakers and movers of days of yore can sit back and rest on their velvet cushions in their art-deco town hall knowing that their community is taking care of itself, ticking all the impressing boxes. That’s how an enterprising entrepreneur can suggest that mothers and daughters in painting their faces together to please others is right on. It is so not any on. Those who questioned everything in the borough moved on in so many ways and became older. Those who remained, the long-time residents, volunteer in museums and galleries while new residents use public places to  infect the naïve with their own ignorance about achieving equality and self-esteem. It appears to their audiences that that we are all progressing when in fact the opposite is true.

I am assuming that soon the Borough will realise that Hijab day is a -coming.  Now where I live most of the women I pass and see wear an hijab. My friends wear hijabs. My ex-colleagues wear hijabs. On bad hair-days I wear hijabs. My mum and her friends all wore headscarves. My friends on Scottish islands still wear headscarves. The queen still ties on an headscarf. Well, she doesn’t: A maid does that, a domestic worker even. I collect vintage head scarves. I bought headscarves from the Salvation Army Shop for 20p each and sold them on to Beautiful Interiors for £1 each where they sold for £7 each. Ha ha! Gotcher. I see no reason for  a day devoted to the hijab. I don’t see why we need to acknowledge the potato, love them though I do. I do compliment a woman on her hijab style or colour which kinda takes away the vanity aspect of hijab-wearing. I compliment women all the time and found nothing silly about telling my date how fabulous he looked in his three-quarter leather coat and sparkling clean finger-nails. Credit where it’s due. I know that the Hijab day is probably supposed to be a catalyst for conversation. I’m pulsing.

An artist in East London has been commissioned to do vox-pops with the public about the status of the hijab. Here it’s assumed that only young Moslem women, gobby or not, will give some views. That’ll be interesting for all of us, their mums ‘n’ all. yellow lady“Girl with a pearl earring” by RAGWORKS

Last year there was an art exhibition at Brady Arts in Whitechapel, a photographic exhibition about the hijab. I was stunned at the topic. I’m stunned that an art exhibiton can be a display of pressed flowers but there you go. I go along to my friends’ women-only tea club which is attended mostly by senior women in hijabs. I had so wanted to discuss life with the women. It began. I found out in a minute between the curry and the cake that they had all worked in local factories in the seventies. They had been out of their houses. That was it though. They had given away too much, For a blink they used “I” then quickly said a prayer and returned to the normal “we”. They were not going to share  their experiences. I wanted to know more. I persuaded them to come along to an heritage tea party in Ilford. Three woman came. Two kept quiet whereas one had stories all about the tea, the staff, the joy of being rich in India and then the struggle in England moving down to London from the Midlands. That was it. She had given enough and declined any more invitations to be the subject of vox-popping.

Amina took her thirty tea-club women  to a beautiful grill restaurant in Green Lanes. The Sahara in Leyton is too dear. The night before she phoned to comfirm that I were coming and that she had to still dye her hair. At the restaurant I remained silent as thirty women joined in the pre-meal prayer.  I sat opposite Amina and she pointed to her covered head and gave me the information that she hadn’t had time to dye her hair. I thought nothing of it and carried on sharing the Nan bread and dipping my chicken pieces into the curry gravy. After the meal there was commotion as Amina tried desperately to get the right money out of some women for the communal bill. I offered her twenty pounds if she were short and could see a tear in her eye. Her clan disappeared outside and into the discount shops as soon as the ice-cream spoons had been licked clean. Amina  exited to the cloakroom and I waited with my latte.

When she returned she was radiant; Her hair was newly-dyed and ginger at the tips which suited her reddened lips. She was a vision in red away from the black hijab and black sleeved tunic. She pursed her lips and adjusted the glittery clasp which was supporting a mane of seventy-year old pony-tail. “Wow, Amina.What happened? You look lovely”

“Oh these women! If I don’t wear hijab, they insult me. Have they gone? “And she looked through the vast shop front.

hubba on Goa Beach 12th Nov 2011Building workers in Goa.2012.

I related the story to my daughter as we  repeated our  illuminating stories about cleavage and women in society and the ways we’re being dragged back by newcomers with backward ideas and ways. Good to talk. Je suis Charlie. Her take on the Amina story? She categorically said, “The women bully her. It’s a case of bullying. After all, Amina’s been in this country fifty years. She’s educated. She mixes with everyone.. She is being bullied otherwise she has the intelligence to decide her way in life in UK in 2014.”

So I wondered why the status of the hijab couldn’t be a conversation on March 8th, International Womens’s Day because it might affect all women and if not, a large percentage of women. The problem there is that many many women and men , those who insist plumbing and blue is for boys and agree that the important room for women in any house is the she kitchen,  see IWD as a disease pushed on by lesbians in DMs, something to be ignored except if it provides free Zumba and a free £23 worth of a pedometer.

PS Just finished “Gone Girl” and bit off my nail varnish reading “The Blackwater Lightship”.