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.

Advertisements

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.

The Pamper Shop

fb_img_1468772309318.jpg

Right, moving into 2018 with gusto and thanks to our Jan of Spitalfields for sharing that on Saturday January 20th at St Margaret’s in Old Ford Road by Bethnal Green Station there’s a whole day from 11 am of wellness and healthy living workshops for FREE. Book at Eventbrite. Even Veganism is being shown and explored.

A healthy and free walkabout in Harrow Road area E11 called at Eventbrite “HIGH STREET SENIORS Around Ramsay Road” takes place on March 22nd to join in the celebrations of International Women’s Day.

The other event shared by Jan was the volunteer your memories and ideas of protest at Mile End University site in February. More on that as it comes in. Cups of tea promised. Emptying your mind is good for you. There’s an art exhibition coming up at The Mill E17 too run by Hassan Vawda at Artkeys all about memories and their inspiration for how we view the world. I love Sherlock’s Mind Palace. Nutty.

International Women’s Day 2018

Well, March will soon arrive as already January is under way and February flits by and then I am ready crowding seniors at Up Your Street into events marking International Women’s Day which some borough council women have changed into Women’s Month and Women’s History Month. There’s always something in the news to make us keep the tradition of celebrating a women’s day. This year, it’s the everyday sexism resulting in rape which means we have to keep on keeping on and globally too. Many senior women have diarised March 8th for decades; amongst my peers I know not one . I know old hippies, old headscarf-wearers, old beatniks but I know not one woman of my age personally who knows about International Women’s Day enough to explain it to another man or woman, transgender or adamant. Keep on as long as sexism is rife and FGM is killing spirits.

RAGWORKS depictions of notable local women is set and ready to display in a primary school hall. In my bid to mix up seniors in the community and school age toddlers then March 8th has been allowed as a time for Up Your Street seniors to view for one hour my work. Schools have to be strict and secure. The toddlers will do work as they do annually around women of note such as (roll out)  The Suffragettes. RAGWORKS IWD 2018 features local champions such as Hibo Wardere and Claire Weiss, Neech and Hyacinth Myers. Alongside those stars will be nursery rhyme women characters as Jemima Puddleduck and Old Mother Hubbard for it is a primary school. Each wall-hanging will be labelled but I’m avoiding words like mutilation and aggressive, self-esteem and manufactured by men for we are before the watermark. (WHAT is the word I’m looking for?) When the seniors come to view I’ll let loose my tongue and put clearly what Neech and Hibo deal with.

On March 22nd, the day after the Equinox and Claire Weiss’ talk about a woman born in Leyton and then  owning silk worms,  High Street Seniors start a local walkabout from Vera Lynn Close in Forest Gate. It’s a chance to see the old Edwardian part of London which is now des res all by Wanstead Flats, recently cleaned up of old sofas and trollies.

On March 24th in my own gaff, artists amongst Up Your Street subscribers will sample vegan lunch as we all share what our art and poetry is all about.

All events are at Eventbrite and restricted to age and subscription to Up Your Street , and on the events pages at AlternativeArts where maybe alternative means women.

Oh! The power of words.2018-01-04 11.07.1220171220_103207uys-iwd

Hugs All Around Today

How many Christmas dinners will I get to where the seniors don’t take off their coats, come in with their trollies, and the men leave on their caps and hats? Today I had a dinner which was cold and over-cooked, where the vegetables tasted of salmon and the roasties were anaemic. Yesterday my friend went to a free Christmas dinner for old people where the pudding had such sugar over-load that you would not think we had a diabetes panic in the UK. When she , a godly person, mentioned how uglily sweet the dish was she was sounded out with lines along be grateful for what you got. I say NO. Do a job and do it properly. Don’t give cold dinner to the poor of the parish. Think about healthy living as though you were feeding your own parents or children.

So far, the Antic pub dinners have outstripped all else in the realm of freebies for the old.

It was interesting for me to reflect on the bus coming home how as children, my age group and older had school parties where we took our own teaspoon for the jelly, ate cheese and cress crusty rolls, managed chocolate cornflake crispies and had a treat of entertainment and often a projected cine-film of a cartoon where my dad was the projectionist, where the prism of floating dust beaming from the projector to the rolled white screen was fascination itself. The format for we as kiddies and we in the waiting room of life or the spurt in the second wind for the Party is the same.

Yes Antic pubs responded to my request for Up Your Street seniors to have a free Christmas dinner in their dark and warm saloons and we did well. Of course we had to stand in line behind Age Uk as they command dates to suit their minibus drivers. I patiently waited for the date changes whilst seniors waited in the wings to get the go-ahead,

For another date, we have an invitation again to a school where the young students experience working as hosts for their elders and the school can be confident that their self-description as ‘community schools’ is valid.

Many seniors do not want to partake of a freebie because in many areas seniors are comfortable. For Up Your Street I know that many seniors need the meeting up, the human warmth and the FELLOWSHIP.

The Tom Hood School

Tom Hood School arose from the old Cobbold Schools in 1925. Yesterday was a day of guided tours for ex-pupils. I went along although I never attended that school but as a newcomer to the area, was curious about an old old massive towering miserable looking building which was built up after most of Cobbold Road was demolished in the early part of the twentieth century to make way for it. I was told that by a long term resident in Cobbold Road, George, once of Neville Bakeries in Harrow Road. The railway was already there by then.

I passed the St Margaret’s with Saint Columbia Church next to a glorious Tabernacle church on Woodgrange Road and into Terling Close with the school in sight behind mesh electrically-controlled gates. A new purpose built school Buxton has just been built enabling the old Tom Hood School to be demolished necessarily in January 2018.

Our party was ten and excellently guided by a senior member of the school who had in place students on escort duties. From the old canteen we went into classrooms on the same floor with a purple and green colour scheme and then up to the first floor all decked out in glossy orange paint. The second floor built later than the original building comprising internal brick walls was blue and then the special treat was to see and explore the view from the school roof where a greenhouse had met its glassy demise and huts well past their glory stood upright in faded beach-hut colours.

What a view from the roof and on a November day what a blue sky. The experience was just amazing. We could see right across the Wanstead Flats and all over the old rooftops of many many terraced houses all built over a hundred years ago because of the incoming of the railways. A typical house along Dames Road now goes up for sale at £550,000. It’s easier to move out of the place than to move in as said by Bob the caretaker at Buxton School aka for today as Tom Hood School.

The rest of the visiting party for the 11 am scheduled one had many laughs and memories. It was an emotional visit for all of us. Our host enjoyed the outpourings too. She has managed to save one building on the grounds to be the headquarters for a community-use area and talked of community use in terms of clubs and meetings and even a Farmer’s Market.

One of our party had been one of the cohort named as the Millenium Year, the graduates of 2000 , and revealed the place where a time capsule had been buried. So let’s hope it gets secured again in January when the downing begins.

In the old playground I espied behind the safety fence on a wall the old stone plaque describing the laying of the foundation stone in 1899 to mark the Cobbold Schools inauguration as commanded by the Wanstead School Board. What a treasure.

Our host and guide took us into the new Buxton sports hall to see the difference. Yes it was absolutely magnificent. The students vacate Tom Hood at the end of the year, Demolition begins in 2018 and by May the community area will be landscaped and all the beautiful trees saved.

I’m not sure the local residents share my excitement about the changing built area in a vastly-changing area anyway with folk moving in from Hackney and Leyton. The sale of houses has quietened down. Some of the houses are 1970 film set look alikes and many need tlc. Having said that the charm is magnetic; the stairs are often steep and narrow in those Victorian/Edwardian abodes. The thing I loved too about the old school building was the non-steep and very wide steps and there were many of them reaching to the roof. The whole building was light because there was so much glass in the form of paned windows all over the place and all intact, There were painted over wooden banisters and balconies, old school photographs on the walls and possibly 1954 display cabinets of natural wonders from the forest and Flats. There were scratchings on pupil entrance brick walls; autographs from 1957 and more.

What a place! Remember when George Mitchell School was demolished overnight recently . Me? I want to see the dust rise from the downing of Tom Hood, like old chimneys falling down on ancient pre-loved stone houses in Westray. Something to look forward too.

Thank you Buxton Community staff for the magnificent opportunity to see a major physical part of history in its last stages of glory and warmth. RIP Tom Hood School.