High Street Seniors

Around Ramsay Road

Here is a walk I’m sharing, all to do with my exhibition for International Women’s Day 2018 with RAGWORKS and hung textile depictions of women many local to Up Your Street’s domain who are out there or have been out in the public arena doing remarkable things. Those women are Mrs Jenny Hammond, Dame Vera Lynn, (101 tomorrow!), Vera Maud Palmer, Dawn Butler, Hibo Wardere, Neech, Claire Weiss and Hyacinth Myers, all champions.

We’ll start at Vera Lynn Close, Dame to you, on Dames Road named after the landowner Richard Dames and feast our eyes at dusk on many notable buildings. We’ll see Uncle Tom’s Garage which was in the early C20th Gobbel’s Bakery, a German firm. In 1915 anti-German sympathisers smashed the windows.

Opposite there are listed buildings and on the same side the Church Of God, a legacy from rich Mr Rozier, a follower of the local Christian Israelites.

Pevensey Road has in it an old mission hall now developed by a Mr William Stevens to its former glory. It belonged to the church of St Margaret with Columbia off Cann Hall Road E11. Close by is the Wanstead Tap, a prize-winning beer venue under the rail arches. Much goes on under the  never-ending rail arches in the district.

Trumpington Road School and after that Lake House School existed off Ramsay and then was emptied and then was bought and a wonderful building  was built to house people with special needs. It is under threat of closure from the London Borough of Waltham Forest. I at first thought it were a retreat for Buddhist followers because it is tranquil in a road unworried by traffic and people. The area is confusing in that some is of Newham and some Waltham Forest.

Dames Road off-Licence, not salubrious but an ancient building judging by the fact that it appears in a Wanstead boating lake photo from1909 and having seen the moulded plaster decorations on its brickwork is a light on a dark night opposite the Wanstead Flats and its shrieking geese and marauding foxes and drunks.

We’ll look at the huge building on the corner of Dames Road and Cann Hall Road, What a sight. On an old ancient map, there is a label The Lodge on the same corner. I’m no historian but it could have been a hunting lodge in Henry V111’s reign. Could have being the Time Team phrase.

There’s Rookwood pub about to be developed and strange numberings of houses in Cobbold Road and the old bakery site now called Nevilles Close. All the while the sun will be setting in front of us by the MACE towers in Stratford. Cann Hall Road with increased pedestrian crossings, small pavement trees, chicken shops and a Londis. Cann Hall Road with an unobserved 20mph speed limit, changed pubs on stepped corners and two packed thriving schools.

We shall then go for our supper in a smart caff which stays open until 9pm.

What are we High Street Seniors like?20160422_143859.jpg


Our Day Out

Seniors from Leyton and Forest Gate did the journey across London to a place near Penge and New Cross and Rotherhithe, all places far away. I always saw buses going to Penge and thought they were going to the seaside: Closet woman. The journey from outwith London to the other outwith London took ninety minutes as predicted. We were still in London I was assured but in East Dulwich, not a McDonalds to be found.

We found easily the Jennie Avent Gallery where Walthamstow artist Sba Shaikh was waiting for us with a spread of goodies and a cuppa.

The gallery caught the sun and plenty of passers-by looked through the windows with a curious stance. Anna had said she was there to learn. Patricia said she was interested in the artist’s philosophy. The exhibition on for two weeks is called “The Printed Veil” and so we expected mystery as the poster indicated and by the very connotations of the title itself.

Sba Shaikh is a textile printer and runs workshops by the dozen in Waltham Forest under the tick sheets of the Borough Council. Today she was independent of that, of a council far away in a feted Borough of Culture.

She guided us around her wall-hung works and installations. She explained the specialist inking techniques. She used an huge torch to illuminate the opaque material; the material of the eastern veil. We were greedy for more information. We were immersed in circles and swirls, myths and traditions. There were breasts and nose-rings, burquas and niqabs, netting and caps, and sumptuous metres of almost gossamer fabric. The art was crowded together in a small place. The place was relaxed with cushions on the window seats. We were in old shabby arty East Dulwich by the Village without a McDonalds or a KFC. Different world.

Sba grew from the melted pot of all cultures in Hackney. She dips into all cultures and sifts away what doesn’t sit comfortably in her kurta. We heard a lot about culture today: You can’t talk about the hijab without reference to Moslem “culture”. You can’t be that person without reference to your upbringing. Your art will dig deep into your psyche and culture rises powerful, all-pervading  like the proverbial cream on milk, shaping your words and giving you identity, richness. But we weren’t there to be educated again about Moslems in the UK, the myriad of different strands of believers and culture-carriers. We were there for the art, for the pleasure of looking at work done, for the aesthetic qualities, for colour, for shape, for perfected techniques. Sba allowed us to touch the material as her work IS tactile.

It was a good day.

Anti-university 2018 about to hAPPEN. Yay!

Well, it’s that time of the year when invisible seniors (who said that?) come out of their dens and play with the topical. This year we are going a stage further and telling it like it is. We’ll be sitting at the pool in our bathing suits, swimming costumes, beach-wear and itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikinis (doubtful on that last one. They don’t go past 18 month old baby sizes in Primark). We will be modestly attired or will we? Depends if fatty thighs offend. We call them thunder thighs ourselves for they have carried generations. It’s all about joining in, being seen and body image issues. Applaud that Gogglebox Gal.

After a dry-out we’ll don ladies’ long-length evening gloves and the men will sport bow-ties and we’ll be ready to view at a soiree of sorts. Mine’s a Baileys. Whoever sees old people having cocktails? On the telly? At the Freemason’s do and that’s hard enough to see? We’ll be doin’ a happenin’ because we are from the Beat generation, the hippy times, the anti-university, anti-establishment, revolution Levi’s rule generation.

Soon come. June 9th in Hackney.at the swimmconflictsoiree


Who Do You Think You Are?

What a week it’s been following the internet research trail of a sportswoman local to my area who is never celebrated although The Independent filled a typeset hole by publishing her obituary in 1998. Mary Barnham was my leader into research about the sprinter from the turn of the last century, Vera Maud Palmer, who married Wilfred Searle in 1926 and obviously, as was the way then, took his surname and likely his “W” too . Mary goes into the most obscure avenues and always comes up with the proverbial dog’s rag.

I have a RAGWORKS wall-hanging depicting Vera as she was in her later days from a staged photo shoot where she compares herself in running position with a much heavier built athlete of a later day. All we knew was that she was born in Leytonstone, had a father who worked at Chelsea FC and that she was adamant that women should compete in the Olympics as she went on to win a silver at the Women’s Games in Sweden. Let us be aware that she won her medal in 1926 when women were advised that entering the athletics arena would render them man-like and infertile. That myth went on until the fifties in the UK at least and thrives in other places where women aren’t allowed to be human.

I now know exactly where Vera was born and where she moved with her family in 1911.

I am proud to have completed my research of a woman who had views on the state of womanhood back, way back, in the day and, now, to be able to share it with others and to school children. There should be a blue plaque commemorating her militancy and certainly Wikipaedia is informed.

Meanwhile on another vein, Mary Barnham and I followed through the insignificant life of a son of Cann born in Walthamstow. The Canns are celebrated currently in Walthamstow at The Mill E17 under the Memories exhibition . Antique postcards verify the family’s existence in a new built house on newly developed landscapes back in the 1850s. The house still stands strong and uniform in a road near The Black Path. I collect postcards and found a batch to suit the art project. The handsome guy, for Barnham found a photo on t’internet, ended up living, ninety years later, two doors away from my childminder when childminders preceded nurseries and were the norm before the words “au-pairs” and “nannies” came into working-class general parlance.


Minister for Loneliness

Eve and Adam it. You might as well have a Minister for Wishes. One wonders what were the essential criteria for the post and what successful outcomes the candidates imagined.

Someone I know burst into muffled sobs and was repeating into her friend’s breast, “I am so lonely” and I checked her on Facebook with 216 friends. Facebook is an egoist’s free platform where people like me can show off about their culinary skills or be first with shocking news. You can test who’s your friend on Facebook by the number of times they DM you to see how you are or to share a greeting about a new day. Never happens.

Is the Minister to target old people because like ads for dementia and bladder control the actors are white and ancient? I know many youngsters, thirty somethings who are lonely defined by they being bored and having no-one to share that time in their life.

Loneliness is not a pathological condition cured by smile workshops or community workshops for those remedies are fleeting. Loneliness is part of being a human being.

Many people I see are lonely because they made themselves that way with their negativity and  miserable faces. They expect to be alone and lonely and make no effort to get out of years of habit. What a challenge for an unqualified person in a ministerial post.

We shall now join in anti-loneliness workshops and acted out plays and discussion groups  and art exhibitions and be reminded of tribal societies who do things communally and have no isolated lonely older people or young men who see nothing ahead but self-destruction. We’ll watch on the news graphs about dementia decreasing after loneliness has been alleviated and a link will be constructed between obesity and loneliness.. Wait and see. We’ll see pictures of groups of eighty year old widows of the parish and their spinster sisters with white faces and whiter Twinkle perms crowding into The Claremont Project and over that image a voice will tell us in condescending  soft tones how the Government funded initiatives helps those vulnerable lonely ancients, that same government lot  who forgot it was they who imposed parking regulations so that children and parents packed into the family car couldn’t just rock along to spend a family day with gran or old auntie and the same horrors who built uninspiring boxes after condemning big housing estates where Samjid knew Ethel and where the corner shop sold milk to everyone.

Loneliness will be blamed on isolation and lack of community venues . Ha. Community venues and hubs have been around for ages, had their surge in 2012 and are struggling now to open because the user groups are happy to stay in and not bother with insincere social interaction. Telly is comfortable. Facebook is that ego-fest. Loneliness is normal.

Ask Greta. Ask the married couple living on top of each other.

I watched Arctic Murders last night. It was slow and full of full-on shots of Arctic faces. I thought we were in Iceland but the faces weren’t wide Then the star, Rebecka, drank from what I recognised as an Ikea duck blue mug. Ha ha. Sweden it was

You have just read a typical Facebook status update. See what I mean?


The People’s Liner

Just watched a Timeshift 2009 BBc programme about the holiday steamers, paddle-steamers from 1870s by Bristol and The Clyde before Thomas Cook got his oar in. Absolutely wonderful commentaries and old footage. Up our Street seniors are off to the V&A in April to see the exhibition about luxury and liners and that’s why I recorded the programme to watch from sometime last year.

I have been on paddle steamers. luxury Bahama cruises, Norfolk Broads, Shetland ferries, Mississippi steamers, Broxbourne boats, The Floating Cinema, and on and on, even trawlers at dawn with the trawler-men way back in old world St Osyth when the builders’ tea tasted of fishermen’s buttocks so am looking forward to sumptuousness in the V&A. A senior thought I was arranging a group cruise. I will do that when my lottery ticket comes up.

Much of the BBC footage was from England Wales and Scotland 1950s and so the traditional housewives’ headscarves were truly all over the place.

Last night I had Atlantic sardines done from frozen in the oven. They were Aldi’s in date by a year and reduced from £2 to £1. “I’ll have them with salad while Corrie’s on”. What a disappointment. I should have fried the critters to get that crunchy taste. I was reminded romantically of cuithes drying in the wind outside crofters’ houses in Scotland twenty years ago. When those old folk die, that tradition will go also like bannocks and clootie dumplings whether Waitrose substitutes or not on Burns week.

Brrr. Too cold to go to The Mill to see their Memories exhibition.


Why join in?

Just taken in and paid for submission my art works for Memories at The Mill E17. It’s very important for me to be part of an experience which aims to foster neighbourliness. I shun meetings but go headlong into exhibitions where my work done from the heart can sit beside other artists’ work which is created from a passion, an urge, an itch that won’t go away. I also support an artist, he being Hassan Vawda. He gives himself willingly and generously to his community preparing free workshops for any residents and then goes away and immerses himself in all things wonderful on canvas. Quietly and humbly he will rise to the top of that creamy, milk-soaked barrel of art of all kinds in the emerged artist quarter that is Blackhorse Road E17. He’s never after that because he is art personified and can be nothing higher but we want to see a local son highlighted and fan-fared. We do. He is the founder and creator at Memories. At The Mill E17 where you will find Norman, who says little and does loads.

This morning I had to fill in the submission of work form, pays my money (cheap as chips) and an additional one all about how came about the structure of my Memories art work. Mine is very much based on the language amongst working class women who are now in their seventies and better and are by historical circumstances white British: They’d just say “English”.

I had already worked on Headscarves 1950s, a project researching the memories of senior UK born women who in their young lives had worn the triangular piece of silk or nylon as a headscarf for their hair. From that sprung a workshop called Scarf Art as was done in 1968 although I know not one person who’d come across it. My art teacher never mentioned it and she was right on the button. Miss Plumb. Love that eccentric nurturer of young minds. One day she showed a purple transparency. Well, I fainted. Nowadays we’d say the colour provoked an inner spiritual experience relating to some trauma. She asked, “Are you late?” It was a girls’ school, a brilliant girls’ school. Well, I mumbled about the buses. My less naïve friend who was jealous of the relationship I had with that teacher scoffed and told me she was referring to periods. From then on I cast that teacher a different scared eye.

A couple of years ago, I listened to the words of the Scarf Art participants as we delved into memories and then I painted those words onto a back-canvas of blues and greens and reds having studied 1950 colours and put the habitual blue edge around the art to represent the rolled edge of 1950 headscarves.

Bunting is full of rags and words all to do with used sayings in the fifties where man ruled the home from his remote office or factory floor and parents watched their charges every move.

I am always fascinated by antique postcards even how the font of the writing curves and spreads across a small space or sits shyly in a 1909 corner sharing glory with a stamp and a king.  I took the identity of a grandchild belonging to 78 Markhouse Avenue which still stands and curated memories about the inhabitants of that dwelling, that pre WW1 home. Of course I was in the cloud of a memory palace and working class people in their two up two down. The grandmother at 78 morphed into mine. Remember I only began with words on postcards for this art. Powerful evocations of sad and happy in equal measure darker times, lost times.

Done for now and moving on.