If You Were Here

If You Were Here   Canna 2  2012

If you were here

We’d spend my lottery win

We’d drive out to Westfield

Buy specialist £4 bread

And skip the light fandango.

We’d eat hammy paninis on stone boulders

outside the show of ‘Getty Images’.

I’d buy you a velvet cushion.

You’d say “Your dad wouldn’t like this”.

I’d question, “Do you, mum?”


We’d slide to the indoor market E15

And try on real leather moccasins.                                                                           auntie Joan

No synthetic for you, shoe-laces, velcro

Just something of class to last.

You’d throw away your old blue mack.

Sit royal: Assistants can pull from the rack

Something befitting your dignity

If you were here.


There’d be money to spare

You could demolish a giant Mars Bar

And buy dvds of John Wayne.

A gas-fire would overheat you, no slot-meters again.

You’d call a cab to take you to Tesco

Or across to the London Crem’

To lay down tears and flowers

In memory of dad. Amen.

They say money isn’t everything.

You say “That was lovely. Let’s do it again!”

If you were here to share my win.

Personal Best at the Paralympics.

Is anyone monitoring the conditions under which the Olympic Park volunteers  aka Gamesmakers work? The concerned grapevine has it that breaks are rare, that they stand in all sorts of weather, and that they get only £1.50 daily food allowance, not even enough for a  Big Mac and fries.  What is true?  I did meet a volunteer  driver who uses the ORN of course who told me quite blatantly that London black -cab drivers spit at her. I’d dump the uniform and go home.

The Paralympic Games look like the poor sister to the biggies. It would help if people could say the word “Paralympic”. I was on a Personal Best programme in 2009 which was designed to motivate people back to unpaid work in the Games Park. Everyone was naive then.  I joined because I was desperate to get into The Olympics and Paralympics Games to watch or sniff. I was in love with the whole excitement about the Games coming to Stratford E15.

Ours was a poorly attended 6 days over 6 weeks local course. Women had been cajoled and enrolled from a large housing estate and their minds were filled with shivery memories of school, urgent child-care arrangements and what to get for dinner. The only regular attender was the tutor. I remember  lots of hole- punching as we collected and filed hand-outs all about the history of The Olympics and other character- exposing questionnaires to see if we would slot into the essential criteria bit on a application form. Oh dire it all was. It finished. Thousands received their certificates and all was forgotten.

I went to my Gamesmaker interview, and did a lot of Cadbury chocolate-tasting as I pretended to be in awe of the Sainsbury’s guy who’d been on an American style howdidoody presentation workshop. I ate more chocolate aware that I was being tracked on CCtv cameras. My interviewer was a slip of an Eastern European accented girl who had no idea of my involvement with or my enthusiasm for the coming Games on my doorstep. But smile I did as the camera was rolling. My mumma raised no fool.

I was taken on as Gamesmaker for The Paralympics and even then knew I was second-rate. The Paralympics is not The Olympics. And to those classmates on Personal Best, the word “Paralympics” is as foreign to them as the word “Ramadan”. Those so-called students who could never be suitable to represent British people to tourists because those stereotyped desirables only exist in “Chariots Of Fire” are nowhere to be seen through the Westfield E20 and John Lewis windows. They certainly never got free tickets to smell the flowers or the canals. There was all the time a wink wink nod suggestion that Personal Best students would get a freebie to the Games. Naive we all were, including the organisers and the tutors.

The person who gained from that course is the Eritrean tutor who learnt something about the failures of a British education system.

So, Paralympics and Personal Best: The London 2012 team is still recruiting Gamesmakers for the Channel 4’s Games. Forget interviews, security checks and just mention Personal Best like it’s a passport visa. Say that there was definitely a promise of a job on completion of the course. No-one will check that. Get your free fitted uniform  with shoes too and transport arranged to take you to your job. (As if the csa’s in Canary Wharf or wherever they flout their mauve shirts even know what Personal Best is. My interviewer dismissed my Personal Best mention because she had enough trouble writing down  my past volunteering activities.)

Now that non-selection process makes a mockery of my already degraded position.

But I am so over it. Good luck to those latecomer Gamesmakers who are joining forces with the Forces. I have been into the Park many times now and will go again yet. It was funny that I entered names into the Waltham Forest ballot to have a look about the Park. Every person got a place and a wonderful time looking at the flowers and the majesty that is Olympia. It was a ballot remember so Lady Luck was surely out there. I never got a ticket. How weird. But I’m over it. Over the Games altogether if the truth be told but hanging in there ready for the Legacy lies to morph into whatever McDonalds wants.

Sublimer spoiler. Argos  displays the Gamesmakers’ colours at the beginning of its current stoooopid advert.

Theatre Royal Stratford east

Without prejudice

Tonight I went along in the rain to join the free event for which I’d booked: This was David Bailey (where have you been for the last 50 years? Oh you were born in east London? Oh, that explains the revised interest) in conversation with the respected Tim Marlow.

At 6.30pm the queue was massive stretching up the entry hall of Stratford Theatre right into the bar and doubling up on itself. Disgraceful. Customers in the bar area had to eat their meals with us hanging over them and table attendants were harassed to the extreme. I certainly wasn’t feeling special on a special night out. The queue, made up of mostly white 50+ somethings, moved at snail pace as each ticket holder was ticked off one by one. Antiquated. What happened to pulses and bar-codes?

The Mayor of Newham , Mr Wales, welcomed us and introduced The Ideas Olympiad, a partnership between TRSE (Theatre Royal ) and Newham Council as a strategy to get youth interested and involved in the arts in Newham. Good luck with that.

On came  Bailey aka David Bailey, the most famous photographer in the world.(Really?) Tim and he sat far apart on uncomfortable looking low sofas.

From the first swear word the conversation was pointing downwards, slipping into mire. Bailey said every filthy word except cu*t tonight and here was a project to encourage youth to be part of the arts scene. It was absolutely awful. Tim Marlow held it all together despite obvious squirming. It was awful. Bailey was crude and pompous, arrogant and useless. There was nothing much about his skills and how he could show another generation the worth of filming except to say about the joys of filming porno. We heard about his erections and masturbation, fornicating and lusting , his East Ham schooldays, his love of Warhol, his disdain for Dali, his commissions and experiences with celebs. But those stories were his past glories and a missed opportunity to tell us about the thrust of 60s London.  Perhaps Tim should have manipulated the converstion more. He tried to keep a modicum of class and cultural intellectualism  but Bailey needed to be watched and contained.

If kids were on stage talking badly like Bailey the curtain would have come down. The difference is that millionaires can speak how they like without respect for themselves, their conversation partner or their life-long fans.

This should have been a rehearsed converstion so that Marlow could have a real chance to elicit information for those of us in the auditorium who realised they were intruders at someone else’s party. It could have been edited and shown with some photos on the wasted screen on the stage.

Bailey touched on his despising of “conceptual shit”. Good to make money out of it though and anyway explain what conceptual shit is!  A whole industry in photography is built on the analysing of conceptual imagery.

You know what Bailey? Your arrogance was showing like it did years ago. You exude the stuff,

TRSE you failed big time tonight. You should have done your homework on the guy. Not every son of the east is its ambassador.

I was surprised that Bailey loves change. He has views on digital cameras: However  taking snaps and getting immediate results isn’t in Bailey’s opinion  the essence of filming people and places. You have to have a connection .

Spotted Melvin Murray in the audience looking stoical I’d say.

Bid hoo ha in Westfield at 9.30pm as a thief was thrown to the ground by security. Eh, the tourists have much to photograph. All the shops are flogging off old stock ready for August Autumn stock which will be at special Olympic prices, I’ll be bound.  Still Westfield was never for the real Stratford people.

Free thoughts about Waltham Forest : “Anythin’ Can Happen”.

Big hooha in E17.  There was a plan by Waltham Forest Council to allow a big camp site over Olympics time down Low Hall Lane, E17.  Course the world objected and last night the deal fell through. W F.Council was relying on the money, the revenue from all of this , to pay Alexandra Burke on March 19th at “Party On The Pitch” allegedly. I said previously that anything can happen. The only positive thing was that businesses, you know the ones that collapse overnight in their own mire, would benefit from campers. Wrong, the campsite, like all holiday ones, would have had its own toilet- roll shop and Westfield (remember not E15 but E20) was a Dagenham Brook bus ride away! Actually I never heard any business say they were positive. Too busy keeping thieves at bay. That was another thing. I was offended that objectors said there would be more crime because of a camp- site being erected. Jeez.  Welcoming or what?!
Dvorak’s “New World Symphony” playing on BBC Radio 3 in the background as I type. Neat.
Now where will the Olympics lot go to put a massive campsite where maybe some of their out -of- town GamesMakers were supposed to lodge? Blow that for a lark! I am so over the Olympics now esp. as McDonalds has brought out its healthy eating nonsense and giving away pedometers instead of toys to kiddies. I agree we should all embark on and sustain  healthiness but Maccas! Where is our govt now? Swamped by Maccas and Cadburys.
Cadburys cleverly promoting itself by doing loads of offers in shops. Check the Co-op.
The nasty thing about the campsite was that the council signed a deal in secret allegedly to the camp organisers! The revenue was to pay for The Big 6, the series of events put on by Waltham Forest Council. We all wondered how WF suddenly woke up and began advertising major celebrity-led events.
WF only woke up last November. Before that they didn’t do anything for the people re: Olympics . Their Greeters programme fell flat. Their “It’s Happening Here in Waltham Forest” stickers faded two years ago.They are currently advertising for street cleaners to  sweep and at the same time become street guides. Bogoff.
Since Day 1 Newham was streets ahead…art music etc etc , and Hackney! Yes, Newham had the money. But didn’t Waltham Forest have its hand out? On the BBC London 2012 website dj SilverJay representing some of the youth of Waltham Forest was succinct in saying that the London Borough of Waltham Forest looks a disgrace with the London 2012 on the horizon. Since last November it looks as though every pavement has been dug up and every shop fascia done over. There are red and white barricades everywhere and abysmal traffic queues. Well, go into the side streets and see what’s what. Like any ticket-holders will come this way anyway. I’m sure their own what’s -on  websites will have fed them reports of knives and guns.
I have been in the know myself since Day 1 what with Up Your Street and my fervent interest in the coming of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Fooled I was greatly.

Marilyn Monroe at Westfield E20

Westfield Stratford City Gallery Events.

Great free evening hosted by gallery events where we enjoyed photos of Marilyn at the Getty Images Gallery, Westfield E20. We had canapes and champagne, free wine and a red carpet too. Twas an evening of gorgeousness and twinkly lights. Marilyn look-alike was there in shimmery silver and peroxide waves. Other glamour pusses posed in their glass stilettoes. It was a good good evening.

Before all of that my guests went to see RAGWORKS at Stratford PictureHouse. Nice. People just want to touch the textiles. What a busy place the PictureHouse was this evening!


The Sahara Grill

Mmmm….loved my annual visit to The Sahara Grill in Leyton High Road on route to the Olympics and Paralympics Park. This is advertised as an Islamic restaurant just to warn us all that prayers take precedence. The food is ace and reasonably priced.: A lamb sirloin steak with a gorgeous salad and fat massive chips comes at  a mere £16.95. Mind you I was dining with women who keep their cash wrapped in their hankies and count every penny. The place is always popular and attracts an affluent thirty something Asian/Pakistani looking mixed set. Plus there’s the Millais Road bus stop just outside where stops the 97 bus, which goes in and out of Westfield E20. Yep, E20.  Every grocer on the same road sells halal meat and the same ole same ole, but very fresh, fruit and veg. Makes you wonder if The Sahara Grill buyer goes wholesale or very local. Like a good feeding experience, me. (I see citrus fruits are the flavour of the month on the Hackney AgeUK Healthy Eating site.) What the Sahara doesn’t do is hot beverages. Chocolate gateau jus’ ain’t the same.

In the day, I’d been up with twenty other Up Your Streeters to the BFI on the South Bank to listen to those on the know talk about the life in film of “The Forgotten Legend”, Niranjan Pal who apparantly had a big influence on Raj Kapoor or easier to prove, “paved the way for giants such as Raj Kapoor”. Was so not impressed by the event: The documentary was done in a rush and it showed. (Thanks to DFG Dalston I can speak with confidence about that).

By all accounts, Pal was an nightmare to work with and ignorant to the point of rudeness. And we’d asked why no-one inside and outside of Mumbai knew about him! One Up Your Streeter said he reminded her of me. (To myself, “WHAT?”)  I remained calm. “Yes. He was ignorant and he reminds me of you”. Calmly,  “What is your evidence for that, Pat?” “You walked out of ‘Reasons To Be Good'”. “Oh, you mean “Reasons To Be Cheerful” at Stratford Theatre? You all hated it. I left at the interval, that’s all.” (“Who’s the ignorant one?” I smirked,  wallowing in the irony.) Water…duck’s back..

None of us bought the autobiography of Mr Pal.

Took the packed 26 bus to Hackney Wick which was jammed with pushchairs and toddlers, wellie boots and pom pom hats.

Good day followed by this morning’s excellent free Waltham Forest course all about the importance of reminiscence in Dementia when managed by informal carers usually relatives. ( Formal carers are those uncaring, gum-chewing, uneducated imposters who sprout from agencies and collect wages as carers. Shudder in unison.)

Good to learn.

lifted spirit

The different colours of leaves on the ancient trees in the grounds of The Bakers’ Almshouses at Bakers’ Arms, Leyton, are just breathtaking. In the newly-opened  gym next door,  the muscle-men eat take -away kebabs on bar stools.  I noticed a phone shop by Leslie Road, E10 has two massage chairs for public use. Could be men only: I shall investigate,

St John’s Church, Chingford Road is a nice hub of community activities. At a networking event there, I met great people, artists, jewellery-makers,craftswomen, public speakers. ironers of shirts,  alternative therapists, and all passionate about their trades. Cameron would be chuffed to see a portion of The Big Society on the border of Walthamstow and Chingford.

Hardly any churches in Waltham Forest are ugly; there are one or two. I enjoyed my walk-around to check the steeple and doors. More interesting to me was a beautiful old building in Brookscroft Road housing  BT. It was behind a truly ugly new-build on the main road. Like to know what’s there. Currently there are decisions being made by the people in Waltham Forest about which buildings should be listed as of special note etc.  Mammoth task.

It was a typical grey November, rain -threatening morning but my spirit was high and continued so into the evening when it was time for Stratford East Singers’ session with Byron Gold at Theatre Royal Stratford east. Before I went there I went up in the Stratford Picture House for a cuppa hot chocolate £2. Amazing view across Westfield E20. By 5.30pm, the evening was fully black so Westfield was in HD Technicolor. Just beautiful, another city altogether. Imagine  ole Stratford got that! And Justin Bieber was in da house too!!