I live in Leyton, an up and coming part of London which during London 2012 peeped out from the skirts of Stratford, had pastel colours painted on its dowdy, downtown ancient shop fronts and attracted artists to draw in locals to discover their neighbourhoods through walks, poems, I pods and other wotnots. It was so 2012. The place is packed with people from any which where, murderers, entrepreneurs, vicars’ daughters up from Cheshire, cyclists finding their way, mobile phone mummies and an almost invisible long term mixture of older residents hailing from the West Indies, Africa and the alluvial earth around old Marsh Lane. It is mixed ethnically and amazingly. It is what it is and it’s full of my kind of people. It also has many trees.
The Angel Islington is a very white English area and many of the trolley pushers resident there are very old. They frequent Chapel Market, Sainsbury’s, Boots and The Claremont Project. They get their spuds from Sainsbury’s and their birthday cards from a market stall, their balms from Boots and from Claremont, a sense of place, being, and worth.
The Claremont Project is not one iota ethnically diverse from its ever changing managerial young staff and very young European interns to its regular crowd of white-haired women sitting down to a cuppa and a sonata on a Friday afternoon. The mixed ethnicity can be ticked off only when culturally diverse Up Your Street members come in from Leyton or Asiatic ladies partner up for a jive afternoon.
This is where the Great White Flight got delayed, These are the poor mainly single people who had no opportunity to fly away. Their history is in their white British heritage full of green and pleasant lands, a Rich Tea biscuit and The Blitz. I don’t love them.
But what if The Claremont Project ceased? Already it exists through a generous benefactor passing in the money. Supposing the money dries up? The building is decrepit and needs internal re plastering. Inside are storeys, cold toilets, and stone staircases. Doors are scuffed. The automatic front door has been broken for ages. However, despite all that, octogenarians huddle together there, lapping up condescending tones from do-gooders, follow their routines and sit for hours not really talking or relating to others, strain every facial muscle in miserable down-turned faces to catch what the ‘coloured’ man’s saying or why the intern’s smiling and gesticulating. Like ducklings they follow one after the other to the tea canteen and back.
These are women who grew their families on pennies a week, men who nursed their parents, old what we used to call “spinsters” waiting for inspiration, mothers as carers for grown children, couples dependant on each other for support and widows with memories and skills in knitting snd crochet.
So I support Claremont. I shall hang in there, enjoying the hour long 56 bus up to The Angel, get over myself when things are not being challenged, go with the flow.