Monday, 10 August 2015

Cor Blimey!

I've been really frustrated since I went up to hospital - I wanted to be doing stuff.

Doing everything I could before it's too late. And of course, nothing really worked out for me.

So I was getting frustrated and irritated. Then on Sunday we went on a day out.

Yeah right, it's a day trip to see some bins.

We've been to Camden which I love and then we went to Hampstead which I'd visited many times but I'd never done the Tourist thing.

This time I dragged poor Robyn on a big tour of the old East End of London.

You know; foggy nights, Jack the Ripper, Cor Blimey Costermongers dancing in the streets like in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Eastenders, Gangsters. All that stuff.

Well not really.

I lived in the East End for a while. I went to University and because we'd been on holiday without a phone when the results came out I was too late to get student accommodation. Back then there was a real housing shortage  and so after a lot of running about, I ended up living in a squat on Susannah Street, just off the East India Dock Road. It was the only place I could find.

This was proper East End; 'E14' Poplar, the home of 'Poplarism' a 1920's revolt against Tory cutbacks that led to the councillors of Poplar going to prison for wanting to give their poverty stricken constituents public facilities like health centres and public baths (for washing).

At night I walked about and the East India Dock Road was full of sailors of all nationalities and all kinds of uniforms out looking for trouble.

By day, the skyline was lined with cranes at the dockside, as far as the eye could see.

There were pubs everywhere, but each one was like a little private club - at night they beat the licensing laws by locking their doors; these 'lock-ins' meant that they were effectively private parties.

It was tough - hard as nails East End.

I was living in an squat; the local council were planning to demolish the slum housing but didn't have the money to do it right away. Squaters moved in, restored the electricity and water and then came to an agreement with the council that as long as they promised to leave when the work was due to start, they could stay in the meantime - as long as they were permanently occupying the house.

We were there because they were off on their holidays and the deal was that we could stay for free but we had to be there every night so they could keep the squat....and we had to keep watering the many cannabis plants, which we were happy to do.

When I lived there, Susannah Street was a quiet road of terraced 19th century houses and only the 1960's block at the end was there. All the terraces have gone now - they finally got the hippies out!.

I'm not sure - there are clean, nice new houses with room for cars and bicycles. It's very clean and tidy but with a little money the terraces could easily have been repaired and would now be really desirable.

Nowadays there are still lots of cranes to be seen from the East India Dock Road, but they aren't from the docks any more - there's a building boom.

This is Canary Wharf; my squat was just to the left of it. Where the skyscrapers are now - that's where I saw the Dock Cranes.

I knew that was big, just like the City of London has changed beyond recognition;

You can see the 'Gherkin' at St. Mary's Axe, which I quite like. There are some very silly new towers like the 'Walky-Talky' which you can't see. On the left is the 'Cheesegrater' which I do quite like, I'm not sure why;

Probably because it's very dramatic.

But I wasn't prepared for the destruction of the old east End that I saw; new flats and offices everywhere.

Canning Town? People were scared to go out at night in Canning Town, once upon a time. Now it's all new flats.

So I suppose what I want to do is to tell the story of my East End before its all gone. Buried under brand new concrete.

After I found somewhere to live that was more permanent, I left Poplar but I was a frequent visitor back east; I took part in some of the struggles that tried to prevent things turning out the way they did.

So in some ways its all my fault - we should have fought a bit harder,

Over the next few days I'll show you the touristy things we did and some of the history stuff they don't teach you at school as well as who stole all the money from the people of the East End of London.

Robyn saw this great piece of graffiti at the start of Cable Street.

And I saw another on Limehouse Road I couldn't take a picture of; "This is $%?@ you ain't no Banksey".
I was going to start with a picture of St. Mary Le Bow, which is a church on Cheapside in The City of London, just past St. Pauls Cathedral. It's in the old children's rhyme;
Oranges and lemons,
Say the bells of St. Clement's.

You owe me five farthings.
Say the bells of St. Martin's.

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,
Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,
Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

The 'Great Bell of Bow' is 'Bow Bells' and, of course, you were only a Cockney (an Eastender) if you were born within hearing of those church bells.

Funny to think that all those born within the hearing of Bow Bells today are going to be Merchant Bankers, Commodity Traders or Insurance Brokers.

Cor Blimey, Guv'nor!

Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)


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