#livinginlondon3

“Half of Hackney talks to itself.”

I’m waiting for a bus at the stop outside our local Lidl. This is the considered opinion of the lady next to me in the bus shelter. We’ve both been watching the antics of a man and a woman, also waiting for a bus, but passing the time by looking for something only they can see. All the while, they are both and separately talking to whoever it is that’s responsible for nothing at all.

I’m forced to agree; “It takes all sorts,” I reply hoping not to cause offence and spark an outburst of my own.

“It’s the drugs,” she says.

Fortunately, the 388 bus arrives before I am able to talk myself into a real corner.

The halfway house I mentioned in my last post must have some kind of resident churn, because I hadn’t seen these two before. I also hadn’t encountered the couple who were having a full-on marital outside yesterday afternoon. I think the male partner must have Tourette’s Syndrome – it’s possibly the same guy who sits across the road in the morning sun and has intense conversations with someone known only to himself.

His Tourette’s is very focussed, encouraging him to say little more than fuck, accompanied by an occasional word that isn’t. What with hearing only half of it and all, it’s a hard conversation to follow;

“You fucking, fucking, fucking, fucking wanker, fuck you, fucking West Ham, fucking, fucking fucking, fuck you. Yeah, fuck you too”.

And so on.

Meanwhile, the marital dispute downstairs has entered the name calling stage, the narrative seemingly borrowed from our friend across the road. The in-between words have changed though – always a reasonable clue.

If it wasn’t so distressingly close and loud, I’d be able to look on it as a kind of alcohol-fuelled, late afternoon cabaret.

So, waiting for a bus can be a pleasant interlude, watching the traffic go by. Or a harrowing experience, especially if it is tipping down with rain and you need to share the shelter with a small mob of drunk, gesticulating, sweary buggers. Many have more than a faint whiff of eau de pee about them and will at the merest glance in their direction, or the slightest sign of interest in their problems, try to start a conversation with you.

I especially didn’t want to strike up a chat with the man standing outside the flats yesterday, with his trousers at half mast. I really, really didn’t want to see what he was up to either. I just know I shall at some point give thanks that he wasn’t queueing to get on the bus, too.

Summer is oozing by. Recently, the mercury hit 39C in London. This week it’s not very warm and has been raining on and off for the last few days. Either way, the flat gets the full force of whatever late afternoon sun there is and while that will be most welcome in the winter, right now, it’s a serious PITA.

And of course, it’s holiday time here.

They got the shapely bodies according to just about every food, travel, holiday and social media it’s possible to find. All are extolling us to eat slim, be healthy, lose weight and in the main, squeeze ourselves into clothes made for (and by) six year old Laotians.

I get it, but unless you plan to live on air, rainwater and traffic fumes, it’s nigh on impossible to find something to eat that doesn’t have bread making up at least ninety percent of its content.

As you know, I walk a lot and while strolling the streets it’s not unusual around midday for me to want to feed the beast. So, the hunt is on.

Hamburgers are everywhere. On buns. That’s bread and I know it’s possible to order without, but wandering Whitechapel, or Soho leaving a trail of cooked meat, tomato, onion, pickle and/or mayonnaise down one’s clothes and on to the pavement is hardly desirable.

A wrap? Take the bread away and see above times ten.

Doner kebab/schwarma? See above too, but even worse.

Bao buns?

Hot dog?

DIm sum? 

Sandwich?

Pizza?

And there’s the rub. No matter what you try, if you want to slide into that slim-fit outfit for your summer hols, you’d better be living on something with a powerful emetic in it, ‘cos you’re not going to get any help from the food sector.

It’s awful. In desperation, I usually try and choose the least bready (like a burger) and then eat only as much bun as is necessary to keep body and soul together.

Oscar Wilde said “I can resist anything except temptation.” He was a Brit, clearly talking about his lunch and I’m not surprised.

On the subject of food. Whatever you do, don’t let these little bastards into your home. Why? Well, when the jar is suddenly empty and you’re feeling vaguely guilty at your piggery, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The braai fire is at the ideal temperature and mine host (aided by me) is flipping burgers for the guests. A brace of teenagers are waiting, the host offers a burger to the young lady; “Ladies first.”

Seems OK to me.

“That’s a very sexist thing to say,” pipes-up male teenager.

My punching reflex almost catches me out at this extraordinary rudeness, but I manage to defer to our host, who calmly tells this young chap that’s how things ought to be.

Alas, not any more.

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that the face of London is changing. I discovered today that there is a massive hole in the ground where the Earl’s Court used to be. Home to inter alia both Motor and Boat Shows and many, many others over the years, Earl’s Court used to be an exhibition hall, a suburb and a short-term home for tens of thousands of Aussies, arriving annually in London to find fame and fortune.

Now, the redevelopment scheme will deliver trendy tree-lined malls, hundreds of homes, most likely to push the cost of even a one bedroom flat through the £1m barrier.

The old Earl’s Court was an eyesore, vaguely dangerous late at night, probably shockingly expensive to maintain, but an anchor of both pre- and post-war London. Trendy new living units don’t feel like they’re going to be fair replacement value for anyone but the investors. Still, all those people have got to live somewhere, I suppose.

The 388 bus I mentioned at the top of this post takes me to Stratford and a meeting with the Chief Mechanical Engineer of the 4709 Night Owl group, a steam locomotive (re)building project I’ve signed-up with to assist with their marketing.

Only nine Night Owls were ever built – they were developed in late Georgian times, to haul heavy food trains into London from the Midlands, the West and South West. In railway terms they were giants and though I’ve only been joined-up with the group for a short time, I am looking forward to help move this project forward and meeting their self-imposed deadline to see this monster produce its first steam sometime in 2024.

This is what one looked like in the daylight:

I mentioned the noise made by emergency vehicles and ambulances in the last post. From our lift lobby, here’s another reason:

Dickhead driving the Mini has ignored the lane lines and arrows and despite wanting to continue straight, has stopped in the RH lane which has a filter light. The filter allows traffic to turn, while the LH lane is held. Alerted to his stupidity by the sound of a million angry horn blasts from behind, DH now inches left so he can continue straight on, towards downtown Hackney. But not far enough to let the right turning traffic pass. The noise from the queue of angry motorists waiting to turn gets louder…

The photographs in this month’s post have mainly been shot from my mobile studio. Here it is:

It weighs 11kg and takes up so little space that it lives in our flat with us. Unfolded? See here.

And finally, I managed to get tickets to see the James Taylor Quartet at Ronnie Scott’s last night. It was never going to be to Di’s taste, but Julian bravely agreed to come along and keep me company, fearing several hours of meandering, hard to like jazz.

How wrong he was. The JTQ put on two hours of the best Hammond organ-led funk/jazz we’d both ever heard. The club was rammed and there were people stomping, dancing and cheering everywhere. A great night out and if you can beg, or borrow a ticket, I can’t recommend it highly enough. BTW, the picture does it no justice – photography is banned in the club and I grabbed this one shot on the way out.

1 reply
  1. JENNY STARK
    JENNY STARK says:

    Wow Paul! I really enjoy your musings and can only say that for those of us who live in the RE bubble, your life may as well be on a different planet! I admire you for your adaptability and enjoy your humorous insights. Love to you both.

    Reply

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