The streets are alive with bird songs and the gentle hum of vacuum cleaners. Joggers are battling their way around the parks, hoping to shed that winter padding, and crocuses are starting to appear in the parks. Soon the constant, menacing hiss of central heating will fall silent, and windows will be flung open (windows apart from ours, that is, which are open even on the darkest days – not because I like to live an icebox, but because the other member of my household believes closed windows are extremely unhygienic).
So what are the best ways to celebrate spring in East London?
Well, the festival season has started, with East from 5-10 March. Iain Sinclair will be talking about his book Hackney, that Rose Red Empire, at the Southbank, plus there are more than 300 arts, music, food and fashion events.
If you’ve got kids in tow, Hackney City Farm would make a good spring stop. Their Frizzante café does good breakfasts and snacks, the kids can go feral with no raised eyebrows and there is even an aggressive turkey to keep everyone on their toes.
Columbia Road Flower Market has plenty of tulips at this time of year, and lots of strange little shops to look at – I quite like the cupcake shop myself. From there you can continue down to Brick Lane – stop off at the Beigel Bake for a salt beef bagel and on to Spitalfields, then wander towards Whitechapel to Tayyabs. The best tandoori lamb chops (or lamp shops as my German friend Caroline calls them) in London. Get there early to beat the queues. If the weather turns, there is always Dennis Severs’ spooky house to retreat to – although retreat is perhaps not the word.
Walk along the Grand Union Canal from Victoria Park to Limehouse Basin, where you can have a pint and maybe something to eat at The Grapes, a tiny pub built in 1720 where Dickens used to drink. There’s a little deck out the back where you can sit right on the Thames, and a fish restaurant upstairs.
The London Word Festival runs from 7-25 March – it’s an alternative writing and music showcase… I quite like the sound of the Ox Tales on 24 March (tbc), which will be held at the Slaughtered Lamb pub in Clerkenwell, not far from the famous Smithfield meat market. It will feature readings of meat-inspired prose and poetry, plus an ox tongue dissection to wrap things up. Not one for vegetarians, obviously.