Past Glories

After a dismal time trailing community art and wondering how the word “mediocre” morphed into “brilliant” I was pleased to get my teeth into the history of Earlham Grove’s Durning Hall in Forest Gate. Throughout my whole research my maternal grandmother appeared up in my head in her mink or pine marten stole talking about voting for the local North London Conservative candidate because she wore a mink coat and that was in 1955. Even then I sensed she was a silly-billy. Durning Hall in Forest Gate was opened in 1959 so my grandmother was around then and probably about forty looking a hundred and certainly dressed in the same way as the women in the press photos of the time.

I went to Durning Hall doing a reccie for Up Your Street members. My chums had gone to Toynbee Hall in Old Castle Street E1 for an ageing and wellness course and there is incredibly a link between the history of both halls. Argh, I nearly ran away at the state of the building and the vague welcome by the reception staff. It’s a highly secured place and is scabby-looking in and out. The toilet is okay at least. Upstairs where the House of Love sessions take place all about companionship and alleviating isolation is dreariness itself. The walls impose in their 1959 wallpaper of gloss, dirty pale lemon and swirls. There are doors everywhere and one could say it’s a rabbit warren. The shock was seeing an amazing large brown-coloured hall complete with parquee floor. My eyes would have revealed my inner thoughts termed “potential”.

A woman was in charge of boxed pre-loved board games, fresh Madeira cake, the blaring CD player and the register which was a heap of fallen away papers. What a scene.
She explained the lack of clients due to the lack of a lift. I believe her even though there was only one other woman there who would never remember that I came and that we shook hands.
What a to-do. Mend the lift Aston-Mansfield Charity people! What a place. Only Up Your Street folk could liven it up. It’s easy for Leyton and Stratford seniors to get to. 58 and 308 buses stop outside. There’s Wanstead Park and Forest Gate stations and many buses up from Stratford.
Instead of eating dinner more and more recently called lunch then I Googled for the “E7 Now and Then” reports about The History of Durning Hall. Do it. Read for yourself. Then into the spotlight came Miss Theodora Durning-Lawrence. She was a spinster so inherited her double-barrelled name from her uncle who himself had acquired Durning by Royal Licence before he became a Baronet. She inherited wealth beyond our dreams but despite getting to church in a Daimler, lived her life in a seedy hotel. Strange but true. Takes all sorts. A good name to have, eh, as it smacks of a mega- wealthy Liverpool family? Lawrence is pretty cool too: My paternal grandma’s name by marriage.

I’ve commissioned my clever sister to find out if ole Theodora were hands on with the women in the local women’s settlement or whether she was just the purse.
I doubt if she were that philanthropic but I’ll welcome a surprise.
This is another story really of the rich of Forest Gate in those days and how they were all tied up in politics and being elected mayors and how church and synagogue were prominent features in their and every citizen’s life then. There was abject poverty up to and between the world wars. Earlham Grove’s rich tenants fled during the east end bombings and their houses were converted to flats. This according to E7 Now And Then was the beginning of the demise from grandeur into scruffiness.

Beats mediocre.

Back in the game.

I never sew RAGWORKS unless my world is in order. I never paint a picture unless my area is cleared and I certainly never solve a maths problem until I’ve done the washing up. So it was over these past months that I was house-sitting and cat-minding during others’ vacations. I was in strange surroundings and there was never enough washing up to get done. I was floundering in space. I was unsteady in myself so if someone had said “And how are you in yourself?” I’d have said, “Unsettled”.

Today the labourers are in and in and out with wheelbarrows and dirt and precious earth as I have a rotten fence downed and new fences erected. One part of the boundary was enough for me to fly a red for danger flag. But the cats still walked along the rim and made a small vibration. My solicitor warned me that I’d pay thousands if that wall so much as stroked a human on its way down. My house is in order and the men are controlling the unknown outside so I feel ready to write. The word “controlling” has enough weights dragging along.

Last night in the darkness I was coming home. A man sneezed very loudly. A young woman in the dark turned and gave him a bad look. He was behind her and quickened his pace. “The next one you’ll catch!” he hollered at the poor slip of a thing. I decided to walk on the other side of the road but with a protective eye on someone young enough to be my grandchild. And yes, I would have run my hulk over the road.to protect her from any danger. The man turned his head to me and by his stumbling I knew he was drunk. He disappeared. I realised he was urinating behind a car. She was ahead and safe. I was not frightened but worried about being bothered on my doorstep.
I unlocked and put on my lights, shut the curtain and remembered similar scenes when I had been truly afraid or truly in charge.
This morning the labourers asked me if I knew the guy taking a refuse bin full of earth from the or my skip. It was the stalking drunk. Hell’s Bell’s. I dealt with him by saying how illegal it is to take from skips. I had a vision of a brick through my window but he did go away and said to the wind, “Must do what the old lady says.” His lanyard and label told me he was “out in the community” and quite harmless to boot.

I and other Up Your Street seniors have joined Waltham Forest Women Taking Back The Streets. We are a seniors’ presence. The group meets regularly. We are sick of being uncomfortable on our streets because of men on street corners, drug-dealing, spitting and making suggestions to us. Their language beats crude and we should not have to endure it. We should be able to go anywhere in the area and own the pavement too. We here really refers to young women: Old women are invisible except on pension day.

High Street Seniors is a seniors’ group walking at dusk. We’ve been around since London 2012 and so have our legs so it’s harder to walk. It’s enough for many now to do the tunnel walk at the Museums up Kensington. Our mission is the same as the intentions of the founding young women and men at the Waltham Forest organisation which features at Facebook. Our mission is to reclaim our streets.
But this drug-dealing is at every turn. Every day I see in the gutters drug paraphernalia. I suggest that in the main the men sitting at cafés are backward. The shame is when the men have schooled in the Borough and not internalised anything about sexism and equality. They must have truanted that day. The rest are just backward and have not sussed out that women in the UK in the main have come forward leaps and bounds and no longer are invisible or silent. As long as they are in inclusive sects they will never change either.

Laws and policing have done much to change the way people talk to each other and how they behave. In their own homes of course people are racist and sexist and everything else to make themselves bloated on superiority. Not all learn that there is a boundary between indoors and out.

By women and some men sharing their disgust at what goes on on street kerbs and corners then a wider public can join in and understand why women need to group together to get changes made or enforcement active.

Many seniors do not leave their houses after 7pm. That cannot be right. Many children do not enjoy their journey to and from school. I have seen a grown man leching after a girl of eight. I did not phone the police because I believed they’d do nothing. I was angry with myself. Why was the child alone on the street? Why shouldn’t she be? Erghh at myself.

About forty years ago there was an incident where a bus driver would not take on board a young woman who did not have enough fare money. She was afterwards raped as she took a short cut in a park to get home. I was always in awe of my brother saying “Why shouldn’t she feel okay to walk through a park at night?”
Having heard that, thank goodness today for Oyster cards and credit/debit cards so that the lack of cash is not a prelude to a rape.
Both my grandmothers said the word “bitch” and on Coronation Street, the women use that word thanks to the script-writer. I never use that word and never call anyone “darlin'” or any word that denotes over-familiarity. We all have to watch our p’s and q’s. It’s all about mutual respect.

We have a long way to go.
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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

 

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.

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.