Happy new year and goodbye

So I was at the pool today doing laps and because I’d forgotten my goggles I was wearing my glasses, which meant I could do a lot of people watching. A couple caught my attention – she was very pregnant and also getting a toddler ready for a swim with her husband. The lesson began and it all went well, he had a good time, the toddler was happy, the mum just sat there enjoying a bit of a rest.

Then the husband got out, handed the toddler over and stood in front of her. At this point it became obvious that he was a classic Silver Fox: a bit older, maybe mid forties, nice face and a very fit body (I’m only human). He had on some kind of white rash vest and little lime green shorts, and he stood in front of her and peeled off the shirt slowly, then stood for a while in front of her in just his shorts, hoping, I suspect for a bit of richly deserved admiration.

She was doing that awkward dressing toddler with baby bump thing where a shoe dropped on the floor necessitates much grunting and puffing to retrieve it and you get completely out of breath because it feels like your lungs are squashed up into your neck and it’s all just a bit difficult and she didn’t so much as glance up at her husband. He stood there for a few more seconds, towelling his chest, flexing a leg. Not a flicker of interest. A bit of a stretch, a light towelling off the hair. Nothing.

Eventually he just wrapped a towel around himself, sat down and started fiddling with his phone. At that point she finally turned to him and said something, and he reached into one of their fourteen bags and pulled out a packet of Tiny Teddies.

And in a round about way that is a bit how I am feeling about East London and this blog. It’s a fabulous place, there’s so much there to see and enjoy, but I’m just a bit distracted with child rearing and the most gorgeous scenery or fabulous restaurant isn’t quite as absorbing and all-encompassing as the sheer will of a toddler and the mewlings of a newborn.

I’m also not living in East London and more, and haven’t been for quite some time. So I’m going to leave it for now, until I can summon up the energy to move back again….

Thanks for reading.

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Guest post: Bored of the Ripper: East London’s other history

East London, with its docks and trading, has throughout history attracted a wide diversity of cultures from travellers and immigrants mixing with the local traditions. This has made getting deals in London a large part of the area’s character and for little cost a wander through its streets brings its vibrant history to life.

Although there are turbulent tales of murder, poverty and hardship, there are positive stories from the past and great institutions that have survived centuries.

Nursing the sick poor

Off Whitechapel Road lies the large Victorian church of St Philips surrounded by the Royal London Hospital. In the former crypt, a museum of the hospital preserves and shares its incredible history. Free entry enables visitors to immerse themselves in the past.

Founded in 1740 for the sick poor, the hospital relied on public support until the NHS started in 1948.  In 1785 William Blizard and James Maddock founded the first hospital-based medical school in England here, and by 1873 the hospital had opened its School of Nursing, based on Florence Nightingale’s at St Thomas’s, helped by Edith Cavell. In 1896 Sydney Holland, known as the “Prince of Beggars” became Chairman. His tireless campaigning encouraged benefactors to contribute millions enabling rebuilding and expansion of the Hospital.

Other famous connections included Dr Thomas Barnardo, of children’s home fame, a medical student here in 1866 and Joseph Merrick, the so-called Elephant Man, resident there until he died in 1890. The museum owns his skeleton, though not on display.

Split into 3 parts for 18th, 19th and 20th Century the museum includes displays on all the above as well as collections of medical equipment through the ages, information on social care and how the hospital improved lives in the area.

Petticoats for sale

From the museum take a wander back to Whitechapel road and head west to Middlesex Street to walk down Petticoat Lane. It was around 1605 that secondhand clothes and bric-a-brac started to change hands here. Although the Great Fire of 1665 spelt ruin for the area, the clothes trade was back in the 18th century, driven by master weavers settling in nearby Spitalfields and new clothes were sold to people from the City. From 1882 a wave of Jewish immigrants revitalised the garment trading in the market and it’s still great for browsing stalls and attempting deals with the wise-cracking traders.

Flesh, Fowl and Roots

Continuing north will take you into the district of Spitalfields and the Old Spitalfields Market. There has been a market here since 1638 when Charles 1st gave license for ‘flesh, fowl and roots’ to be traded in the Spittle Fields. The current grade II listed buildings are the Victorian creation of George Sherrin designed for Robert Horner, a former porter and the last private owner. The original market and the surrounding shops and restaurants it are a must for visitors and will take several hours to explore.

Great fun and free to visit, these institutions also illustrate that, despite poverty and crime, generous benefactors and innovators gave East London communities hope and livelihoods, the effects of which still draw thousands to the area today.

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Guest post: Finding design inspiration on East London Streets


East London, while not being an immediate tourist destination, offers a sensation of culture and colour and for those looking to be inspired when it comes to interior design you can find a huge amount of spark within the streets that home Bricklands, Excel and the impressive corporate city sensation that is Canary Wharf.

Places you simply must visit to help generate ideas to kick start your creative design impulses include:

The Geffrye Museum, Hoxton

For anyone with an interest in interior design the Geffrye Museum is a must see, the collections within the museum show how homes have been lived in and furnished over the last four hundred years.  You can walk through the ages starting in the seventeenth century and follow how fashion dictated style and how changes in society were reflected in the home. 

The Geffrye Museum leaves one wondering how tastes and styles will change over the next few decades when you see firsthand how significantly design has changed through the years. Increation, an E14 interior design based company offer their thoughts on this

‘Something we have been doing for a while but really coming into the for in Interior design is the use of organic form and shapes. This plus a return to a little glamour. Many clients are tired of the minimalist look.’

Brick Lane

Brick Lane is a massive source of inspiration; whilst is predominantly renown for good curries it is also home to a host of graffiti artists including, probably the most famous being Banksy.  One cannot fail to get motivated by the overwhelming diversity in taste and eclectic mesh of colours that you find in this corner of the capital city.

Whitechapel Gallery

This beautiful artistic haven offers gorgeous displays of contemporary art and has featured and premiered a range of artists from Pollock to Picasso. It reopened in 2009 following a major redesign and is known through London as highlighting challenging pieces of art and being an eye opening experience for those looking to get excited about art.  If you are looking to be inspired this is the place to go.

Broadway Market

For a taste of true East London head over to Broadway market for an alternative to Portobello Road.  You will find fewer stalls but a vibrancy and essence that are quintessecially East London and leaves you feeling full of the richness this side of London has to offer.

Of course the escapades of last year cannot go unnoticed and East London hosts a feeling of memorabilia following the 2012 Olympic Games, inspiration can be gleaned here as you walk the streets around Stratford living the glorious memories that were created through the summer, you can hear the whisper of the crowd in the silence of the street and see the legacy of hundreds of talented sports men and women imprinted on the pavements.

Who could fail to not be inspired by that?

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In search of decent cake

Well, another New Year’s diet begun with good intentions and abandoned shortly afterwards… I just don’t care enough to be stick-thin. And I don’t trust those who watch their weight obsessively. They seem unhinged on a basic evolutionary level, somehow. And cursed with poorly developed taste buds, to boot. Eighty per cent is perfection, in my books, when it comes to healthy eating, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being generous with your definition of 20 percent if there’s good food around.

Anyway, if I were in London I’d celebrate the ditching of my diet with a trip to Violet’s. It was just across the road from my old flat, and a couple of years ago, when I gave up chocolate [for what turned out to be about three days, I mean, really, what’s the point? It’s not like it’s crack bloody cocaine, for god’s sake] and I realised it left a rather substantial calorific hole in my diet. Which I happily filled with ginger cake from Violets. Oh, my god, it’s fabulous. Dark and sticky and kind of airy at the same time, shiny, with generously applied white icing. So good with a cup of tea, in the weak winter sunshine.

ImageViolet is a terribly English café – you can almost imagine Enid Blyton stepping through the pale green door after you – all windfall pears from the neighbour’s garden on the countertop and the ceiling is low and there are crumpled newspapers and pots of tea poured into proper china teacups. Well worth a trip if you visit this city.

And the prices! So cheap. Just as I write that, I receive an email from Jamie Oliver offering a three-course meal for 24 pounds in January at Fifteen. Do you know how much it costs to eat out here at the quiet end of Australia? Put it this way, if you did it every night you’d have a flight to London in a fortnight.

Weirdly, though, I have no desire to get on a plane to London. I think it’s because I don’t have a home there now, and I remember all too well the feeling of trudging around that city with a crappy old suitcase. Hardest pavements in the world, as my Dad always said when he used to visit. It would be like eating foie gras all day without a drop of water; too rich, too exhausting… just too much.

But here’s a tip: if you do find yourself in that situation, haul your suitcase to Violet and have a slice of ginger cake and a nice cup of tea.



47 Wilton Way, E8 3ED, London

Tuesday to Friday 8:00–6:00

Saturdays 9:30-6:00

Sundays 9:30-6:00



020 7275 8360


Broadway Market, E8, Saturdays 9:00–4:00


PS here is some info I received about a youth art project at the brilliant Chisenhale Gallery.

Propeller, Chisenhale Gallery’s Youth Forum, is currently recruiting for new members to join in 2013.Propeller is for young people aged 15-20 who have an interest in art and want to have an engagement in an arts institution, to collaborate with artists and make new friends. The next meeting is on Wednesday 13 February, 5-7pm at Chisenhale Gallery. The group usually meets on the first Wednesday of each month.

In 2013 Propeller members will work collaboratively with a local artist to produce a permanent artwork for Victoria Park. In 2012 projects that Propeller were involved with included taking a canal boat from Birmingham to London, making a collaborative exhibition, screening their film at Tate Modern and recording their own radio show on Resonance 104.4fm.

Propeller is free to join. To book a place or for info email:  laura.wilson@chisenhale.org.uk

CHISENHALE GALLERY: 64 Chisenhale Road, London E3 5QZ UK

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This looks good – at the Hackney Picture House

I just received an email about a documentary screening at the new Hackney Picture House, which I would love to go to if I were still in London…. this documentary looks fantastic… here is the blurb:

The Queen of Versailles will be screening across the UK for a one off event on Tuesday October 2nd.
The film was chosen as the Picturehouse cinema’s favourite documentary of the month and is being screened across all of their cinemas nationwide.
With 4 Star reviews from The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Times, Little White Lies, Empire, Total Film and two weeks running as Time Out’s Critic’s Choice, The Queen of Versailles is a character-driven documentary about a billionaire family and their financial challenges in the wake of the economic crisis. With epic proportions of Shakespearean tragedy, the film follows two unique characters, whose rags-to-riches success stories reveal the innate virtues and flaws of the American Dream. The film begins with the family triumphantly constructing the biggest house in America, a 90,000 sq. ft. palace. Over the next two years, their sprawling empire, fuelled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis. Major changes in lifestyle and character ensue within the cross-cultural household of family members and domestic staff.
It will be showing at 6:30pm at the Hackney Picture House on October 2nd – ie. next Tuesday. 

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