Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Manor House

Manor House is a curious part of London. It’s a proper melting pot of different communities and, on the surface, many of its residents appear to be delightfully insane!

I sat on the corner of Green Lanes and Seven Sisters Road, with a cup of tea, watching the world go by. Behind me, a very noisy girl with fabulous braids was standing on a bench, filming herself singing. She suddenly started screaming and running around. When she finally calmed down she announced: “it was a bee. A giant black bee!”

A few moments later, an old Rastafarian chap, bent double with age, stopped in front of me. He suddenly straightened himself up (losing twenty years in the process) and burst into song. A more twinkly pair of eyes it would be hard to find!

This is, of course, the place in London where the Charedi Jewish community suddenly become incredibly noticeable. Women with pale faces, dark sheitels and curious berets and fascinators were scurrying around, shopping and pushing prams. Many were speaking Yiddish. Hebrew, to the very orthodox, is a language reserved for religious worship, so communication happens in other tongues. I actually find Yiddish a very pleasing language. It’s like a mystical and romantic version of German!

I had a meeting in Finsbury Park shul this afternoon in an attempt to find a few more people for my 100 Faces project. It was a deeply lovely meeting with a lady called Maytal and her father, Julian, who had one of those wonderful East End Jewish accents which you don’t get to hear nearly enough these days. Finsbury Park synagogue is insanely diverse. Jewish people from a bewildering number of countries and cultural backgrounds attend. I was looking at one of their brochures and asked Julian if he’d deliberately gone for the United Colours of Benetton vibe. “No!” He said, laughing, “these are just snaps that I took!”

I walked across a surprisingly sunny Finsbury Park on my to Wood Green. The place was full of clusters of flowers pinned to lamp posts and fences. Evidence of the death of a young person, most likely a stabbing. There has been a spike in gang-related violence in London in recent months. Obviously the Tories are supremely quick in trying to deny that this has anything to do with their obliterating the budgets for policing..

Ben Mabberley came to watch the Em films on Saturday night and said he was planning to avoid moving to the East of London after graduation for fear of getting stabbed. Of course, the likelihood of even being in the vicinity of this sort of thing is infinitesimal. And, the likelihood of being caught up in a terrorist attack is even lower. It’s air pollution in London which is going to kill you. And yet terrorism and knife crime are the two most regularly cited reasons for people avoiding the capital.

I arrived in Wood Green to find a group of undercover policemen in stab-proof vests standing at the entrance to a Costa Coffee, peering suspiciously at people trying to go in. It wasn’t exactly inviting. And it did make we wonder, contrary to my previous paragraph, whether there’s more of a problem in London than I initially thought.

I went instead to a cafe in the grotesque Shopping City, which has to be one of the most soul-destroying places in London. The cafe was filled to the brim with screaming children. I was run over by two pushchairs as I sat, nonchalantly, trying to work.

The day finished at the Mountview Foundation Student’s showcase, which was beautifully directed by Hannah Chissick and excellently MD’d by the lovely David Randall. These were the young people we were working with whilst The Beast From the East was rattling the windows of London. They’d put together a showcase based on the songs of William Finn, which worked really well. I felt like a proud Dad. They all raised their games and I got very emotional at the end.

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