Friday, 27 January 2012

Brick Lane

I spent today in the East End near Brick Lane. It was a very beautiful sunny day and everyone seemed to be out on the streets. As I queued for beigels at lunchtime, it struck me what a peculiar and fabulous blend of different cultures hang out in that part of town; traditional white Eastenders, rubbing shoulders with yummy mummies pushing purple prams, Bengali lads with their diamond ear studs, media types with silly hairdos and the odd suited City Slicker venturing away from the shiny metal and bright lights of the square mile to slum it in a graffiti-covered caff. Travel much further in an Easterly direction and London becomes mono-cultural; impoverished ghettos populated by women hiding behind net-curtains and hijabs, and men with straggly beards looking shifty. Further still, and you're in the 1984 shimmering world of Canary Wharf, where there's no such thing as silence or privacy, and the only faces with colour are sitting behind the tills in the fancy Waitrose.

I was disappointed to discover that my favourite street, Sclater Street, once famous for its 200 foot-long wall of intricate graffiti, had been tidied up. The 200 foot-long wall was still there, but bizarrely, it had been painted grey. I was surprised that this act of albino carnage hadn’t proved to be an instant red rag to the graffiti fraternity’s bull, but there was nothing there but grey paint – not even a lonely tag from a 15 year-old boy with no discernable artistic ability.

Penny and I spent the day working at the BBC’s offices at Rich Mix. It’s a lonely place; a bit of a waste of BBC money. No one really works there anymore. There was a very suspicious smell hanging about as well, a sort of sweet, cheesy, poo-like aroma which I decided was the stench of dead mouse in the air-conditioning unit. It was all-pervading, so neither of us could work out where it actually came from. We wondered about, sniffing various dustbins, and I suspect it’s a smell which is only going to get worse.

350 years ago, and somewhere near Tower Hill, Pepys found a trio of sledges which were waiting to carry a number of Charles I’s regicides to the gallows and back again “with ropes about their necks.” They weren’t actually due to be hanged. These men had only been loosely involved in Charles’ death. They weren’t present at the execution and hadn’t signed the death warrant, but their involvement was enough for them to be ritually humiliated in this way. One assumes the baying crowd would pelt them with rotten fruit on their journey there and back. A pointless spectacle if you ask me...

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