9 November 2009

And now I’m back in home sweet Hackney...walking through the rubbish in the street...smile at the lunatics who rant and rave at me...

This cohabitation thing's a lark, innit? Now that my stuff has arrived from Oz I feel like I've settled in to Salette's place, and feel more at home in East London than I have anywhere else. This really is one of the livliest and most interesting parts of the City and I can't see me wanting to live anywhere else but Hackney, nar'wha'i'meen?. Sure it has it's problems like rubbish and knife crime and appalling teenage hipster fashion, but you get that to varying degrees regardless of where you go and frankly it just adds to charm. Plus,the local street punks are at least civilised enough to hold true to the old adage of "you don't shit where you eat" and are considerate enough to travel to other boroughs to do their stabbing up. Typhoid and swans, Clarice...it all comes from the same place. Like a bruise accentuating hidden beauty...like an orchid growing out of a dog turd.

We've got everything we could want practically right on our doorstep. Columbia Road flower market is an olfactory explosion on Sundays and is right next to Brick Lane with all the curry and counter culture you can shake a stick at, plus a new bowling alley opened up last year with a kick arse 50's style American diner. It's an easy bike ride to the Castle climbing centre and I can walk to work in 20 minutes and from our office you can see a swanky high-rise apartment reputed to be owned by one of the Pet Shop Boys, presumably so they can escape from inner...inner city...inner...city...pressure.

On Saturdays we walk down the canal, past the lock and over the bridge to Broadway Market which throngs with people of all cultures and creeds, perusing the multitude of stalls selling everything from cupcakes to cast-off clothes, records to risotto, fresh fish to farty fromage, veggies to Vienna sausage. The video store has a leather tree for sitting on and hand-sewn tapestries of classic cheesy foreign moofies; there's a fresh fish shop just opened called Fin and Flounder, but you better get there early 'cos the queue is out the door; our local is a truly awesome Belgian pub called the Dove which is always heaving day or night; and our perennial favourite French deli, La Bouche, which, along with their kick arse les produits alimentaires, provides endless material for hilarious gags about their bags.

At the top of the street is the spot where Salette and I had our first pash on that magical rainy August night (siiigh), which by day is home to the numerous homeless dudes who sell stolen bike parts for beer money and fight. This leads into a lovely park called London Fields, one of many such green areas around us which on rare sunny days really make you appreciate the fleeting beauty of this part of London. A little to the east you've got Victoria Park, which is massive, and south there's Haggerston Park which borders on Hackney Road, the namesake of our neighbourhood.

A walk along Hackney Road is an abject lesson in the dichotomy that is East London. It's an eclectic blend of old and new, stylish and shabby, classy and skanky, that comes together in a glorious urbane pastiche. The old abandoned children's hospital is a magnificently run down and spooky as fuck on dark windy nights. Right next door is the Hackney City Farm who host wonderful fireside dinners using only produce and livestock raised on their land. Gambling is de rigeur amongst the working class locals so you find betting shops dotted all around the place, usually in the nicest and oldest buildings. There's a huge bingo hall called Mecca which, in the most delicious irony, is directly east of the mosque on Kingsland Road, so when the Muslims go to pray they truly are facing Mecca. Right next door is a cafe and recording studio called The Premises where Unkle recorded their last album, and two doors down from there is the HQ of the UK Hell's Angels, who recently had a huge gathering and closed off the whole street for miles in either direction. Sci-fi author and culture geek Cory Doctrow lives somewhere nearby, and pretty much everyone in Iron Maiden was born and raised around here.

The climbing is progressing well. I did my first lead climb the other week (where you clip the rope in to a series of anchor points up the wall, as opposed to top roping where the rope is already anchored at the single point at the very top) which was exhilarating...makes you realise how much faith you're putting in to this thin piece of twisted cord and brings back the old fears. But it's nothing compared to outdoor climbing on an actual sandstone rock face. Phewee! that was an adrenalin trip. A completely different experience and aesthetic to indoors...I needed a serious montage to get me through some of the trickier climbs. Once you're up there there's no colour-coded handholds to show you where to go next and the sandstone is like a cheese grater on any exposed skin. The only way is up (baby), there's no woosing out and coming back down the rope...if Rocky 5 has taught us anything it's that there's neither an easy way out nor a short cut home. The new-comer to our ragtag band of misfits, little aussie Mikey, is a total natural, almost freakishly good, thereby quickly earning our respect and scorn in equal measure.

Xmas will be in London this year, our first one together, so we're having a quiet one with egg nog and matching reindeer sweaters and the Masters of the Universe xmas special. I'm planning on cooking up a feast but it will be vegetarian on account of the hippy, so we're having a New Years dinner party at our place for all the hip young things which will give me a chance to unleash the cooking fury on some truly scrumptious Yule tide fare. Once the madness has passed, Salette's taking me to New York in January for a bit of a holiday. She's attending some arts festival and I'm gonna try and fit in some sight-seeing with her mom who's flying in from Rochester to meet me. I'm so excited! New York's always held such a mystique for me so it will be interesting to see if its reputation hold up to the the cold hard light of modern America. If nothing else I hope to get a sense of whether or not I'd be able to live there.

Following on from Azza's truly inspirational efforts last year, I've convinced the guys at work to run a team for Movember in support of men's health. Of course I'm leading the charge with my awesome trucker 'tashe, which you can see for yourself when we get the first progress photos posted. Check it out at http://www.foviance.com/what-we-think/moustache-revival-takes-hold-of-foviance-men/ and follow the link to the Movember donation page and sponsor me £2 or something. It's for a good cause and if I get £50 in donations I go in to the draw for a trip to Finland to go reindeer sledding and baby seal clubbing and all that. Go on, do a brother a solid and chip in a little something. Every donation of £2 or over gets a free prostate exam for the lads, and a free moustache ride for the ladies...you know I'm good for it.

1 comment:

Mark said...

I think the best way I could conquer my continuing fear of heights is by climbing but I'd have to do it blindfolded, which might or might not add to the 'fun' element.

Regarding Hackney: it kind of sounds like inner-city Sydney with more people and knives. Still, wouldn't be a bad place to live, all things considered.