SO WHAT DO I DO in LONDON????

Admittedly I came here with no particular project in mind…I thought I’d find a world I didn’t know and was determined to mine it. So this is what I’ve done:
–WALKED around exploring the Boroughs–first Shoreditch, now Hoxton, my neighborhoods, then every day I push out from my bubble–today discovering ANGEL with its winding pedestrian street full of curated shops, gourmet gelato, hand-made leather bags, cozy brick buildings and of course s flower-filled park nearby–london’s amazing this way every few blocks and there’ll be a little garden nestled amidst old Georgian flats or right next to some glass and steel behemoth–there’s simply always a spot of green nearby.

Next I walked all of the “Square Mile” or the actual and original City of London where the Romans first settled after taking the native’s land, where the Lord Mayor resides and from where he or she runs the town. The City has its heraldic image on all borders–rampant griffins drooling with ferocity and holding up a coat of arms asking God’s direction. Here I went to a beautifully sung Choral Eucharist at St Stephen Walbroke, a lovely circular church designed by Sir Christopher Wren whose designs rebuilt London after its devastating fire of 1666. The church stands on the former banks of the river Walbroke that flowed through ancient London and where the cult Temple of the Persian God Mithras held his “mystery” rituals including slaughtering a bull and sharing a communal meal. Mithras was said to have been born from a rock and his cult rivaled Christianity mightily. I was privileged to share a communal meal at the church–synchronicity in action.

The City as the Square Mile is called hosts the financial world of London and any time of day you can be virtually driven to the ground by the hordes of grim faced business men in three piece suits and high polished designer shoes streaming fast and furiously around the Bank tube station right at the core of the City.

Having moved from Shoreditch to Hoxton I’ve got a new walking route –along the St Regents Canal– very lovely narrow stream with riverboats and 19th century hand operated locks along the way. It’s my daily walking site and I love it.

I’ve gone out of town too–to the Orkney islands (see a post below). And to Greenwich to put my legs on both sides of the meridian and to watch the ball of the hour drop. And to Hampstead Heath where I saw some art and rambled in fields overlooking the city.

Took a wonderful vacation from my vacation going to Paris to visit my sweet musician/actor friend Wingy and her boyfriend. I saw a brilliant Bonnard show at the D’Orsay and a fascinating Corbusier show at the Pompidou but in Paris I mainly relaxed, walked around various parts of the city and took a lot of coffees with Wingy.

I also have spent time with one of my oldest friends–Annie whom I’ve known since before my children were born!!! She still lives in the loveliest fairy tale English cottage that I’ve ever seen–rose arbored, many gardens in her large yard–lavender, poppies, calendula, stock and many beds of vegetables her daughter Jen tends to. Inside is filled with paintings, drawings sculpture set in with coral colored walls and a blue and white kitchen full of antique crockery. There’s not a cozier home on the planet and Annie doubles the pleasure by preparing food for the goddesses!!

I walked and walked and walked to the other side of London to the City of Westminster where the Queen lives, and Parliament sits, where the wealthy cavort and the West End plays are performed. Visited Westminster Cathedral and St. Paul’s as well to hear Vespers sung and, on the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, I saw Prince Charles and Camilla coming to services, after which I watched a wild-eyed thespian in period dress act out the Battle’s many events by means of a pile of vegetables–the English enacted by carrots, the French, by onions–all presented in Wellington’s actual home–the Apsley House– on the edge of Hyde Park.

Steeping myself further in history and heritage, I attended two plays about failed kings whose lives ended brutally: Shakespeare’s “Richard II” and Marlowe’s “Edward II” both presented in an 11th century Gothic church–unbelievably impressive with actors declaiming and dying just inches away from the audience! For more culture I bounced back to Ancient Greece for a modern passionate version of Aeschylus ‘ “Orestiae” and attended two glorious choral works–Mozart’s “Requiem” and Rachmaninoff’s “Vespers” presented in St John’s College Chapel in Cambridge…a lovely mythical town full of 23 colleges and a willow and flower banked river wherein I went “punting,” that is, sitting on a boat pushed downstream by a handsome young punter.

Oh of course I’ve been good and gone to the many great museums here especially loving the ancient sculptures in the British Museum and the splendid Shoe exhibit at the Victoria and Albert. I’m looking forward to a night viewing of the McQueen “Savage Beauty” and to seeing the choreographed version of “Carmen” called “The Car Men” and said to be the best show on London by the New York Times !!

Of course I’ve had to party a bit too so I’ve been dancing to house music at the East End Village Underground and at the Bangface Boat Party held on the Thames one hot clear night!! I saw Patti Smith at a Victoria Park concert and attended a fabulous Fashion Forum (see my post about it).

Have taken a class on drawing into sculpture–so inspiring and one on Screenwriting and another on Wood Carving. Next week I’ll be trying out an Abstract Painting class and I’m back to life drawing and loving it

So this is my answer…just what are you doing here, people ask, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit I’m not working, am just walking and following the scent of anything that might be interesting..and it’s worked out more than well!!

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DAZED Fashion Forum–East London

DAZED Fashion Forum–East London

Imagine a 46,000 square foot warehouse–cobblestone entry across from the gardens of the Geffrye Museum–Inside, Roman arched ceilings of brick going the cavernous length of an old factory but lightened with white construction sacks filled with cascading exotic jungle plants, gargantuan white spheres, each glowing magically from within, and white duct tape–a dance  of line zigzagging wildly up walls, around light fixtures, across the floors –Fill the space with young designers, stylists, make-up artists, photographers, fashion students from Central St Martin’s, University of the Arts, London College of Fashion…add an amazing generosity of spirit and eager enthusiasm of the staff… And you’ve arrived at Amazon Studios, host of the tres chic, tres avant-garde British fashion magazine DAZED’s first ever Fashion Forum.

A twelve hour extravaganza, the Forum had its serious space where major fashion stars presented panels and interviews all the while with huge magazine spreads projected on the screen backdrop–Diesel Art Director  Nicopanda’s  Lady Gaga shoots and self-branding logo development,  strange make up shots by Isamaya Ffrench –models with taped faces, Lego clustered eyes, childrens’ doodling a on a spread to prevent bullying, runway videos of course, all the while learning live from the masters.

Simultaneously there was a smashingly fun smorgasbord of workshops:
–Claire Barlow, luxe hand-painted leather. designer,  painted portraits on the spot, from which came a t-shirt gift for anyone who posed
–Gary Card orchestrated the construction of 7 foot high face masks and hands in cardboard
–Richard Malone led us through creating a formal dress pattern from random biomorphic shapes
–Ryan Lo brought in his opulent tule candy silk knitted and crocheted fabric then led us in a knitting bee

Best best best of all was Rankin’s photo shoots–brilliant lights, a bank of make up stylists, racks of clothes for us–the models of the day– to flaunt on camera. Everyone was welcome to prowl through the studio, to become a face on the cover of DAZED–I was thrilled; my friend was astonished at his transformation in the hands of the amazing photographer Rankin–even people like me, just attendees, were given a shot at a shoot

And then wham its 5 pm, champagne is poured and ready for us all–an endless supply just as  espresso and cocoanut water were this morning and afternoon
At last the Talk Stage became a disco–lasers, djs, open bar and digital video spots where scrambled selfies could be sent home–

It was not just the 15£ guests who benefited from so much expertise, from hands-on participation in open workshops  and free gifts; but proceeds from the entire event went to Hackney Community College–What an amazing example of fashion giving back, fashion for the people fashion for the Dazed and Confused……

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Dazed

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Dazed Fashion Forum

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MORE ENGLISH PLACE NAMES and WORDS

MORE ENGLISH PLACE NAMES and WORDS

It seems like every street, neighborhood or town has a long Wiki entry because England is all about its history in every part of its fabric.

So here are a few places I’ve been:

STOKE NEWINGTON–. New town by the wood (Saxon for woods)

TOTTENHAM HALE from a thousand plus year old name of Tota’s hamlet, Tottenham’s Hale (place of  hauling pulling ( goods ) off boats on the river Lea, 15 miles or so north of. London

WALTHAMSTOW–place of welcome/ holy place

STANSTED. MOUNTFICHET–Stony place owned in medieval times by Norman baron Mountfichet

HACKNEY–island of dry land amidst a marsh where the Viking Hakon claimed land

Here are a few wild words I’ve just encountered wandering Wikiworld

And in the process of looking up all these wild place names I came upon a whole new batch of words I’d never heard of. So I looked em up and am sharing some Medieval verbiage with you:
SOCAGE– a tenure of land pay rent yearly
serjeanty tenure as soldier
DEMESNE (pronounced dee main ) from Old French–land of manor
SUENTOEFFLED– part of the manor that’s been sublet.
SUBINFEUDATION–process of subletting a part of the manor
GLEBE–strip of land owned or used by the by the parish church in the Middle Ages
CARUCATE– noun–a  unit of land. equal to the amount  of land tillable by a team of eight eight in a season =8 oxgangs or 4 virgates
VILLEIN –peasant tenant farmer villain serf

DOOMSDAY. BOOK properly Domesday Book 1086 when William the Conqueror counted all the men and lands in his realm to assure taxation– not really doom or disaster but taxes to some certainly are a doom….

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And I thought the English spoke English!!

And I thought the English spoke English!!  I’m doing a good bit of translation to put morsels in me mouth and to find my way round London Town.

Here’s some British foods:
STEAK and DOOM PIE–one of the most potent of craft ales cooked into a beef stew-like savory pie. PIE over here of course refers to crusty covered stew if any sort from beef to gizzards

PROPER MESS– not a distinguished heap of dirty dishes or a trustifarian’s dorm room…a proper mess is a luscious scramble of whipped cream, fresh berries and crumbled bits of crispy merengue–very yum

SCOTCH EGG–hard boiled egg covered in sausage meat, battered, breadcrumbed, baked and fried…said to either be a poor shepherd’s wife’s solution to her husbands’s lunch on the heath or an 18th century chef from Fortnum and Mason’s invention based on an ancient Indian Mughwai delicacy

TOAD IN A HOLE–sausages cooked into a fluffy batch of Yorkshire Pudding which of course isn’t a pudding at all but a croissant-like pastry baked in roast beef au jus.  Said to have been the creation of a Northumberland golf course chef to celebrate the frequent arrival of Natterjack toads

In Edinburgh I had HAGGIS, NEEPS and TATTIES–“neeps” are sweet boiled turnips; “TATTIES” are mashed potatoes and “haggis” you’ve no doubt heard of.  Tasting a bit like a nutty meatball, haggis is made of sheep’s “pluck” (heart, liver and lungs), lard, onion, spices and oatmeal boiled for three hours in a sheep’s belly–sort of like a sausage but truly yummier.
Best served with whiskey gravy.

And of course “chips” are French fries; “crisps” are potato chips; “biscuits” are cookies and “jackets” are potatoes stuffed with cheese, tuna, egg salad, pulled pork, any filling you might fancy.

Meanwhile place names are filled with history:

CHEAPSIDE, a street in central London for instance, doesn’t refer to your basic K-Mart.  “Cheap” means “market” in Old English and Cheapside is right in the heart of London’s financial district.
It’s no more than a couple of blocks long with cross streets named Wood, Bread and Milk before it changes names to Poultry so obviously it was once a market site.   Cow cross Street, not surprisingly, abuts on the slaughterhouse Smithfield Market.  What leads to Cheapside is Threadneedle,  a name that always makes me chuckle, and it too is about commerce, whether it referred to the three needles  on the coat of arms of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Tailors or whether it made crude reference to the ladies of the night who used to sell their wares there. I was astonished to learn, by the way, that there’s a Threadneedle store …..you won’t believe the coincidence–in Issaquah, Washington, USA!

Church names thrill me as well:  St James Garlickhythe (from Old English “hythe= wharf); St Ethelburga; St. Botolph without Bishopsgate; All Hallows’ by the Tower; St Andrew by the Wardrobe.

Oxford Circus, Piccadilly (named for the fashionable stiff scallop-edged collars circa 1611) Circus, any circus here is a roundabout–a word no doubt originating in the Roman circus which was a long racetrack stadium wherein chariots careened madly around tight turns at each end, often with bloodcurdling crashes and heaps of dead charioteers, a spectacle that brought hilarious chuckles to the Romans of Londinium.

Somewhat less amusing is the way all wheeled vehicles here careen around circuses and down streets the width of cow paths with the seeming intent of clearing the world of all walking beings. Seriously — double decker buses are the worst, gunning around corners as if out of nowhere and aiming straight at you as you cower on the curb, the red monsters leaving no more than an inch between you and it’s shiny red paint.  Bicycles compete for right of way and are as menacing as the black beetle-like taxis.  And to encourage bike transport the city has bike lanes everywhere–today just outside the British Museum a young girl was almost killed by a cyclist going about 20 mph between cafe tables–there really is a bike lane right between outdoor chairs and tables on Bedford Avenue. And a girl on a bike ran right into me, literally knocking me flat on my back a block from home yesterday.  I bounced a bit but am fine.

But back to language…Trains “call at” a station; a given train is “for” a destination and one gets one’s problems “sorted” like the arrangement of puzzle pieces.  Only in London would a reviewer of the Chemical Brothers’ new album describe the music as “twee jangling and grungy fuzz.”

Having managed to take the milk train to Cambridge the other day I was blown away by all the towns we called at so to end this word game I’ll share a few:  Whittlesford Parkway; Audley End; Broxbourne; Tottenham Hale; Harlow Mill; Stansted Mountfichet.

Strangest of all is the way Londoners nickname their new buildings: there’s the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater; the Walkie Talkie and the Shard while at Old Street Circus near where I live there’s a couple of monstrosities I called the Twin Hand Grenades and a few glass presences that could be The Waves…but I digress and its late so I’ll post these words and stories for your listening pleasure

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Orkney Pictures

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ORKNEY Islands, SCOTLAND June 2015

I’ve just celebrated the  Solstice and ten days thereafter way up above the Scottish mainland on the gentle green hills of the Orkney islands where the North Sea meets the Atlantic at a white tide line just beyond the Fowl Craig (crag) on Papa Westray, the northern most isle.  Here in the wind and rain a young Ranger tramped me across a maritime sedge heath to where a flock of Puffins cavorted about on a black cliff face, their vermillion feet and chubby little  bodies silly and wondrous at once. They shared the granitic ledges with breeding Guillemots–big black and white sea birds –all lined up facing the cliff and dropping guano generously down the rocks, while the airspace was patrolled by big orange beaked Oystercatchers and fleet Arctic Terns. The heath  was alive with daisies, buttercups, the rare Scottish Primrose and two species of orchids–one pink, the other, a brilliant magenta and both standing about five inches high.

Here in Papa Westray (Papay)–land of the priests as it was a pilgrimage site long ago –is the oldest house in Northern Europe–the Knap of Howar–two structures made of perfectly laid flagstones with central hearths, cupboards and bed steads–and these dated at 3200 BC –before the pyramids at Giza, before Stonehenge.

On Mainland Orkney are many other stunning Neolithic sites.

I hiked for miles up the sodden heathered Wideford hilltop to a cairn hidden way above the verdant farms filled with new lambs and young calves.  The cairn, a communal tomb, had a trap door leading to finely slabbed chambers where ancient peoples left their ancestors’ jumbled bones.  The Cuween  cairn had me crawling on hands and knees through puddles and muddy rocks to discover a fine korbelled roof and several cells.Two major cairns–Maishowe and Unstan– were more accessible and filled with Viking runes.

At 3am on the Summer Solstice I joined about 40 Druids and assorted pagans honoring the gods and goddesses of the Earth at the ancient Ring of Brodgar, 346 feet in diameter with 22 of its once 60 monolithic stones still standing in a perfect circle overlooking two lochs (lakes).  The sun never appeared but we imagined its coming on the longest day of the year and celebrated its arrival by sharing cups of Mead and bites of Honey Cake.

Nearby the Ring are so many ancient stone structures that the area has been declared a World Heritage Site.  For several days and for many many miles I rode a bike past the endless Kelly green pastures, stone farmsteads and sea inlets to visit stone circles, village remnants, standing stones, and the amazing Bronze Age Gurness Broch (a tower fortress with many rooms built on a promontory overlooking an exquisite white sand and Caribbean blue water beach). The most exciting of all was the  Neolithic village of Skara Brae.  A storm uncovered some of the many elegant homes here, each with a formal layout of beds and a central altar/dresser.  Joined by covered passageways and serviced by a drainage system, these dwellings are so finely crafted in stone that I imagined Frank Lloyd Wright being inspired by the Stone Age peoples’ designs.

What was a big surprise in Orkney was that I arrived in the middle of a magnificent music festival–the St. Magnus Festival –which offered everything from jazz to grand scale choral works, lectures to folk music.  Lest I lurked too long in the Neolithic, I was fascinated by Ian Crockatt’s poetry reading of Old Norse and his own English translations of compositions by the Viking Earl Rognvald, hero of the Orkney Saga. The PhD  Crockatt looked like a hero himself –6′ 4″ at least, wild white hair and the fit bearing of a warrior come back to tell us how poetry was as important to a Viking Leader as was battlefield valor.  I am reading his “Crimsoning  the Eagle’s Claws” and his imagery is breathtaking–the title itself shows how, as it refers to what a valiant warrior does–his victims provide carrion for raptor’s repasts.

The Scottish Chamber Orchestra and the Kirkwall Chorus presented a thrilling Mozart Vespers; a Celtic cum rock band The Chair had us all up dancing; and a Finnish band of harmonicas opened my ears to this instrument’s range of rhythm and sound–no simple blues riffs from Svang!  At night at the local pub, The Reel, there was always music, the best being a band of young women–Granny Green–playing trumpets, accordion and tuba–no lie.  And out on the street the day I arrived was a full dress bagpipe and drum band marching in their kilts up and down Main Street in front of the 12th Century Cathedral that Rognavald commissioned and in which there was a Festival Sunday service that was so full of wonderful hymn singing and inspirational words that I was transported into the joy I felt as a youth in the choir of our local Methodist Church in New Rochelle, NY.  Back then I was an Anderson after all, a Scot somewhere in my lineage!

Music and Scottish folk dancing finally put a coda on my visit.  With a friend I met bicycling I danced reels and rounds to a live band at the cathedral hall Monday night Ceilidh…complete with cookies and tea.  Then early after the all night deep ultramarine sky gave way to another day of looming gray clouds, I flew back to London  on a propeller jet three seats wide, thinking I’d like to come back next summer to participate in the new excavations at the Ness of Brodgar, where they’ve already unearthed 18 new buildings–larger than any found before.  And of course there’s about eight more islands in the Orkneys left to visit……

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Pictures from London

 

 

 

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Shoreditch, East End, London, UK

Said to be the Brooklyn of London, Shoreditch does share a number of that NYC borough’s traits:

  • it was “the worst slum in Europe”
  • the dreaded East End–just 15 years ago and is now so gentrified that few natives can still afford a room here.
  • it’s full of artists and hipsters and every other person has tattoos.
  • it’s buildings are old brick and its streets, cobbled But Shoreditch writes its own story.

The walls are filled with graffiti and art–brilliantly colored joyful paintings–chickens and sci-fi characters, huge finely drawn portraits and whimsical cartoons, a half-city-block long hedgehog, an abstract fish head, a sailing ship tossed by a two story high turbulent sea…There’s already a London Walks tour of the graffiti round every bend. Actually speaking of bending lanes, the narrow streets and alleyways wind around absolutely randomly. It’s sort of charming the way sheep and cows’ meanderings seem to have laid out London.

People range from disheveled old men who were born and raised here, to Muslim mothers in black chadors; concave-bellied hipsters buttoned up to the neck and wearing pegged pants over their Converses, to the odd tribe of tourists always identifiable by their a) colorful t-shirts, b) their down vests and their c) Bermuda shorts–no Londoner would be caught dead in anything but black. But mostly Shoreditch is home to young cool casually dressed folk who have plenty of time to drink a Lager, smoke a rolled one and chill out…if it’s not raining that is. And where you can surely find East End Londoners will be on the street itself outside any bar in the district–smoking and having a pint–by 4 pm every pub has an ever burgeoning crowd surrounding its doors and spilling generously onto the street, a crowd blithely oblivious to the little black boxy taxis trying to wend their way through. These classic British taxis have looked the same for decades, the only difference being they are now made in China. People here are friendly and take time to talk–one evening at the Owl and Pussycat I met some Irish-born police investigators, an advertising girl from New Zealand and a Scottish salesman, each of whom chatted me up and treated me to either a shot of Kahlua or a half pint of Old Speckled Hen Ale. I’ve made fast friends with Dan and Adam, a couple of artists who’ve rented a corner closet with windows–a pop-up–for £650/week–to show their whimsical animal drawings and Popsicle prints–they couldn’t be nicer. And the Moroccan fellow Majid who guards the local grocery remembers me every time I come in, always ready with a smile and a chat. I have walked into the Financial District with its suits and tied men streaming rapidly past me but Shoreditch is miles and energies away from that rather uber-Wall Street world. It’s so driven over at the Bank tube station that the men are caricatures of themselves! Stiffer, swifter and more somber than judges–all but the Lord Mayor who unbelievably ambled by me at the City of London’s chamber offices, the gloriously Gothic Guildhall.

But I digress — in Shoreditch the old buildings in the neighborhood are mostly 4 and 5 story original “counsel” housing from the 1800s–well built, gable roofed and patterned brick, movie-

set ready..or quaint one room wide two story homes now with shops, bars or restaurants on the bottom floor. So what have these old buildings become? Witness Redchurch Street and Brick Lane.

REDCHURCH STREET is the posh one, with elegant “artisan” shops appearing here weekly. Nudie Jeans is walled with endless stacks of jeans and, claiming its motto of “Social Responsibility”, a sewing machine where jeans are repaired for free or recycled or resold. T2 is a tea shop with every green, black or herbal tea imaginable presented in lovely little cubes so one can enjoy the texture and aroma of each…meanwhile the boxes of tea and the collection of Victorian cups and teapots are in full intensity rainbow colors–this shop being in complete contrast with all the black white and gray clothing stores. There is a brush and tea towel shop with bins full of twine, jam jars, soaps and spatulas, even a stack of buckets invites purchase. On Redchurch there are more men’s shops than I’ve ever seen in one place, each tastefully appointed with rhythmically displayed stacks of striped jerseys, a ladder with a few leather shoes draped thereon, lovely racks of antique tools, man cave corners harboring shirts and dapper shoes–oh shoes are IT here possibly because ALL the clothes are so monochromatic. Each store is more like an art installation than a retail site– a levitating rack of black and white shirts sways above a solitary pair of wing tips on the floor; a single red chair occupies most of one wall–space around each item Is key to design here. Often too a shop selling clothes will have a surprising area of something totally irrelevant–school notebooks and stationery supplies or exactly a dozen carefully selected books laid out in precise small stacks –titles like “A Good Parcel Of English Soil,” Sourdough: Slow Bread for Busy Lives” and Volume 7 of Plant featuring thistles.

Here too are little restaurants with bushel baskets of luscious golden beetroot, baby fennel, haricot vert, heritage tomatoes at the door, fresh tarts and jams inside. All have odd and original menus–coriander dusted cauliflower with lightly sautéed courgettes; lemon-braised lamb on a bed of quinoa aubergine–and of course all are pricey…a small plate can often set one back $20/US. These bistros have tables on the sidewalk and one wants to sit outside here when the weather is nice–as it has been this first week of June–pillowy clouds in clear cobalt skies, 70 degrees, a light breeze.

Walk to the east end of Redchurch and you’ll find BrewDog known for artisan beers listed by their alcohol content–Punk IPA 5.4%; Dead Pony Club, 3.8%; Vagabond Pale; Born to Die; Alesmith-Old Numbskull and Lagunitas among them–who knew?.–and an absolutely monochromatic 20-30 something crowd of Caucasian urban hipsters.

Cross Bethnal Green to BRICK LANE where there’s another batch of beautifully decorated clothing shops and bars staffed by mixologists creating the most unique drinks–I tried a Pimm’s lemonade with mint, cucumber and strawberry one day and a Gingerella–gin, elderflower liqueur, ginger syrup, apple juice lemon and cucumber –the next and I’d love to keep sampling these masterworks, were they not a cool $17 + each!!! Brick Lane has a greater diversity of both stores and people than Redchurch. For one thing, rich and poor fill the streets; for another, there’s old and new establishments. Here are lots of real vintage shops with cheap clothes and vinyl records; there is a locksmith; here, a collective of young designers presenting one-off fashions; there, a half dozen old leather goods shops. Brick Lane is home to a pre-gentrification classic “Beigel” shop where you can get a fresh bagel, lox and cream cheese for 1£ 60 p. ($2.50), the cheapest food in London and everyone

  • the construction workers in hard hats taking a break from plastering a nearby old building
  • the scruffy old man with a muzzled hound
  • the barkeep from across the road
  • the backpacker in tight jeans
  • and me

eats these bagels daily out of raggedy bits of paper as they walk and talk their way down the street. The Fifties rules Brick Lane with girls wearing Bettye Page dresses, an orange and turquoise vinyl-boothed bowling alley, and the best coffee shop on the block with thrift shop Mid-Century tables and chairs. Interestingly coffee shops here are NOT filled with iPads and iPhones–

people come here to talk, catch up, enjoy the freshly brewed Americanos and the newly baked carrot-cocoanut bread and croissants. Outside a thin old man in white Fedora and clean lab coat polishes his ice cream cart, at the ready for the afternoon swarm of passersby. There’s an antique shop full of clutter, old dolls and lace, teacups and 78 rpm records–run but a jaunty old fellow in his mid-80s enraptured by the clear notes of a jazz standard emanating from his 1934 hand-cranked Victrola–“best they ever made” he tells me as he pats the bottom of his ancient wife.

What is amazing about Brick Lane is that mid way and abruptly it changes utterly, becoming a warren of curry shops and Indians in white turbans, women in scarves and money transfer shops–a parallel world to the hipster paradise that arrived recently–in fact this end of Brick Lane is its original cast. My Brooklyn-inflected Shoreditch is surely a Johnny Come Lately but quite a lovely one, a perfect place to spend a summer.

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