We’ll Never Know

We are not aware as a general public about records about women’s ailments say sixty years ago.

Adverts are now showing us women managing bladder incontinence and itchy vulvae and then, in the news, there’s the appalling mesh injuries where the vaginal mesh is meant to uplift a collapsing womb. .

Is the lichen in the water? Was the collapse and prolapse caused by lack of pelvic thrusts at the aquarobics class? Did our grans suffer? Those women sitting in front of the coal fires; did they have irritating itching and were they nursing prolapsed uteri?  It just seems that itchy bums and travelling wombs are common-place.

Ebbs and Flows.

Well, we have the ebbing of the waves about older people being visible and owning art spaces near them. It was a blast, you know, seniors being talked to as though they had never had a life-force in them, as though they never had experiences before meeting sympathetic gushy interns and being cajoled  to join in. (Mmm. Nice lemons, writer?)

A flowing in on another stream is the airing of older people in conference to learn about further or advanced education. That is white aspiring middle-class maybe as there’s a big promotion for U3A. Most seniors I know haven’t a clue what U3A is. I’ve dipped into it and quickly withdrew my toes. It has a literary bent about it and most seniors I know operate with spoken words and don’t read books. Seniors I know are mainly working class too emerging like queens from the roughest dirtiest parts of London, not interested in wall-art or community splashing as they make their way to the diabetic clinic or the pharmacist for their indoors’ people’s failing health.

The next funded interest, manufactured by the anonymous powers, will be how to change how the working class isn’t drawn into art appreciation or being artists. It starts publicly with Tate, that place where art is definitely full of class and money. Youth 18-25 are now entitled to see exhibitions for a fiver and attend workshops. Now all well and good as the aim is to get BAME and working class youth into the hallowed halls. Great stuff. Up Your Street Community Group already encourages seniors to take advantage of free tickets for major exhibitions in West End galleries and museums. After six years of this magic then it is a truth that the same seniors who can actually and do afford the exhibition tickets sign up again and again for the freebies. Those same seniors often forget to go to the exhibition. The cohort is of one ethnicity and it ain’t BAME and has an air of upwardly mobile.

I know about art galleries because back in the day I went to a posh progressive school and we were continually out and about getting doses of culture. My friends on the estate went to a different unposh school where factory fodder didn’t need culture. I was fortunate in that respect in the opinion that art is for all and so I should be getting some.

But it’s not yet for all, is it?

I was chatting to an entrepreneur only the other day and we touched on the world of art. She advised me that like every sphere there is the official and the unofficial meaning it’s a cliquey old world. Some workshops are featured at Eventbrite where the issue of working class artists being invisible on the scene is discussed and in another town a major working class artist has an amazing exhibition. See forgotten his name already.

And then I watched Getty the richest art lot in the world. J. Paul Getty even said that those who do not appreciate art are “culture barbarians”.

Illiterates and threads

Today was a great day. Up Your Street subscribers were out in force at the Liners exhibition at the V&A. Obscenely sumptuous were the articles of furniture and wall-decorations. There were beautiful wall-tiles for a boat. There were the design proofs and markings of extravagance. We were plebeains looking through a rich man’s key-hole, seeing how the other half cruised. Great was the illusion of being a passenger on a boat with creaky floors, a film of staircase glamour and bathers diving into the ship pool.

The staff at the V&A are very customer-aware. We loved it. We ate our home cooked wraps in the canteen and drank £2.60 cups of tea.

After that journey into luxury here and abroad but not into the warmer seas of Trinidad and Tobago or the cruises of Mauritian delights then some of our company went along to join Ann Davey for her Antique Embroidery Tour at £15 a time. We paid less.

What a tour guide. What a mine of information. I actually took notes so I could further research into Mediaeval up to Victorian times.

These are the lovelies we gawped at amongst others.

Head Cloths




Sheldon Tapestries

Trade routes



Mary Linwood

dates and dates and dates; the illiterate populations needing visuals. the glorification of Christianity, the warming of walls with tapestries, printing designs versus needlework, William Morris. Nuff said.

We shuffled around for 150 minutes with a ten minute break. We had the history at our fingertips about pieces of tapestry, lace, linen and canvas which likely we’d have flitted by otherwise and drawn assumptions.

A 14, a 38 and a 236 bus later and three of us made our way to Hackney Fabrications for the Daylight presentation of its proto-type sewing machine lights. There we had our supper generously given by Barley Massey, a good laugh and a gifted free light which will do well for any close up work; crafting, stamp-collecting and circuit-boarding.

Twas a good Up Your Street day and new subscribers were truly welcomed.


Don’t estate agents look like weather men?

Unravelling The Yarn

I have just done my first reading of Claire Weiss’ biography for I always skim non-fiction first then go back and appreciate better the pages I’ve marked. It’s an old student way.

I am  reviewing the work,  the book,  because I am celebrating a Leyton woman author who was intrigued by a woman born in 1896 in ye olde Leyton enough to research her and write about her in terms of feminism, strength and business aptitude.

The book is enjoyable and written informally enough for all to appreciate the delvings into birth records and baronetcies. It’s dotted with humorous asides as the writer discovers more about a particular clan of landed gentry and sides with the protangenist.

It is easily readable with many sections so that the reader can keep track of what goes where and who was doing what and when.

Zoe Hart Dyke neé Bond was stinking rich in today’s terms, lived in posh houses and had servants. She had a rebellious streak polished at a French finishing school and did what she liked under  as a child and as an emerging debutante or young rich woman and later on in her journeys into Bohemian London. She saved her family from financial ruin with the help of her adulterous husband. She lived in a castle. In her own autobiography Dyke never referred to Leyton as home. Which four year old could remember her first years? She forged silk-worm breeding as an industry in England. And that’s why she’s notable.


Claire Weiss began married life in Dyke’s Leyton home which had been a Doctor Bond’s surgery in 1896. Zoe Hart Dyke was the daughter of an eminent doctor. From the first Weiss gives warmth to a character who has all the opportunities to choose her destiny and who chooses to follow her own passions and interests rather than follow the structured path given over to rich eligible women in the early part of the twentieth century when it was rare for women to set up their own enterprises let alone work when there were servants to do all of that. Weiss celebrates Dyke’s independent streak.

She follows every hint of a fact to the end by scrupulous research accessing Government records and in her yarn, follows up each suspicion or curiousness about any small but very coincidental possibility. Nothing is left out so that we see Dyke as an incident in a huge sprawling network of family characters, all defined by status and money. We get to understand the humanness of her father and a certain coldness about her mother. Outside in the business world we see the entrepreneur who has to fight from her soapbox with a tinge of spite as she drops hints about how  businesswomen are a twentieth century reality.



locally speaking

A few years back I had on display at the Epicentre my quilt reminiscing about Leyton and you’ll see the paraffin kiosk mentioned below and the public bath.leyton memories

In the early seventies I lived in Ashville Road, next to what is now the mosque and was then a furniture factory and always walked the walk of Grove Green Road as there was no bus service. I’d walk Grove Green Road in four minutes from Ashville down to the back entrance of Leyton Tube Station.
The estate of old terraced houses neighbouring Ashville road in those day was quiet. I recently gawped at my old house and saw the run-down whole terrace. In the seventies, Leytonstone was a first time home-buyers’ destination and was described as the worst area in the borough for social and educational deprivation. Leyton by the regeneration nightmare down lea Bridge Road shares that accolade now.
I used to buy weekly baby clothes from a half shop about three shops down in the turning from Ashville into Grove Green Road.
Central heating was a luxury so people heated with a gas fire and poorer folk with paraffin heaters. There was a paraffin kiosk on Cathall Road and I used to go along with my new decimal 50p coin and buy a gallon. At Christmas I’d hoard three gallons upstairs in a cupboard over the stairs.
It was a very unhappy time as racism was rife and normal.
At one point I rented my house to diplomats from Nigeria. Far cry from Bayswater.
It’s only now that I feel  easy bringing back the memories.
I only knew about the coming of the M11 through newspaper reports as by then I’d moved to Leyton. I was shocked when I went along there years later to use Cathall Baths for swimming to see the stupid looking linear park which was weirdly shaped and uninviting.
I’d take my public bath in the seventies at Leyton Baths. That was luxurious with great big baths, and lovely women attending to us in their green utility overalls.
The gospel church was there opposite Cathall Road on Grove Green Road. We could cut through somehow from Colville to Francis Road.
On Francis Road I remember a church next door to a Sikh temple and opposite was the greengrocers where I’d go for I don’t know what, and the owners fought publicly.
Wife beating in those days.
Next door was a hairdressers where I went to get my first Greek goddess curls cut (?) and the assistant never asked much about holidays but told me how she’d seen the coloured people’s washing on the line and it was grey. I was shocked because she was my young age.
Grove Green Road towards Leyton High Road was full of showy houses attributed to Greek owners. The other end was for well-off white English folk. Well, paraffin was not an option.

Never say Never!!!

To: “Gillian at Up Your Street” <gillianamuir@aol.co.uk>

Yes – I am looking forward to the Anti-University event at Hackney Museum in June – I enjoyed it very much last year.  Floral swim hat! Wow!  Must think about this one.  This lady, in her seventies shivering in her swimsuit, can you imagine?  Perhaps I’ll knit one!  Go to the audience with a tray of tea Julie Walters’ style.  I’ll think of something.  ‘At the Swim’ is my favourite collection (those that I have seen that is).
—— Original Message ——

Around and about. Selling and buying.

I run Facebook pages and two, besides Up Your Street, Stroll London, Nattering Grans and others, are “Around Burwell Road” because I document a changing environment in urban Leyton and “Around Ramsay Road” because to me in my latter years, it’s des res.

Burwell Road Residential Estate used to be clean and tidy. Cann Hall Road area was the neglected part of Waltham Forest.  (more to follow..brunch time).

Where are they?

I swear people cover up their computers and hide away their texting machines because I felt no sharing of Easter joy and collected no emails from Up Your Street subscribers. Digital devices to seniors are still strangers even though we are at the robotic stage where implants in our foreheads will be our communicators as I predicted in 2000AD. We allowed to say A D? Flogging dead horses sometimes but remaining positive.

Many Up Your Street subscribers have stopped using their mobiles and their tablets yet expect news of events and free tickets like queens sitting waiting for manna in their laps. One of the aims of Up Your Street was to encourage seniors to go online. Big failings there but I persevere.

So on my digital island I was busy promoting authors and entrepeneurs and joining in the community art hullabaloos. I asked the silk painters amongst us to be interested in a session about a silk farmer, dead I know , but relevant to the Royal Wedding coming up.: I offered new books at less than cost price but no response.  I designed Eventbrite and promotional emails and booked tickets for those without emails and am waiting for a gush of emotion, a sign of life. I painted in the early hours fuelled by Cadbury eggs and passion for acrylic paints and huge canvases but who would be interested to see that? I declined offers of craft sale tables because the rewards don’t match the effort. I got over being invisible but still pushed on.

Up Your Street has many interesting events lined up but the energy to motivate seniors who are yes getting older and slower is immense. We seniors are no longer the flavour of the month. Only so many heritage projects can get funding. It’s LGBT and bi-gender states that interest the benefactors this season. Most of the seniors I know have not opened their minds yet and stick to what they had opinions on in 1970. International Women’s Day is still a mystery and something maybe to do with lesbians. Wearing a brooch of purple, white and green is not a sign of enlightenment so I have a huge task explaining Anti-University 2018 to seniors who in the sixties were not in the UK or who were and spat at rebels like me in our Levis and flip-flops and our neck scarves and beads in the street. Yes, I do remember you all. You were my peer group. Still seeking Susan.

So Anti-university returns in June. What a hoot it could be. It will be. I always opt for Hackney Museum because I don’t like the unwashed venues of latter day hippies and my days of floor-sitting are gone. I love Hackney Museum anyway: it’s a place where the working class folk feel welcomed and most events are free, well, all events so far. It was the first cultural place to recognise that black people are in the audience. That meant a ton of promotion to the point where equality is real in terms of what’s on offer and visible. Long may their lums reek.

Five events are submitted from me at Up Your Street.

We have on June 9th two live tableaux or performance art installations. No-one needs to be an actor. It’s all comfortable. You sit on the stage area and chat in your swimming cossie.  We refer to 1968 and to body image. Well, ain’t that something. When do spectators get a chance, nay, an education to see old people in the swimming pool changing room and to earwig what they’re talking about and how they see themselves?

After that we dress up (any excuse) to take part in a soiree, a seen cocktail party. Mine’s a Baileys. Again we mingle and chat and listen out for the director’s prompts. Fun ninety minutes max .Making seniors visible at AU2018.

On June 12th we go walkabout as High Street Seniors starting from the Hackney Museum and that’s during Ramadan for some. We go at snail’s pace.

On the 14th June we’ll experience empowerment with Hyacinth Myers, Diva of Colour. And then, as she can’t make June, in May we’ll have an audience with Claire Weiss.20180316_130156