Friday, January 29, 2010


For some time now I've noticed that there seems to be a large number of people who travel round the borough pulling trolley suitcases. As far as I know, Hackney is not a major transit point for travellers - we don't even have a Tube station. Who are they? Where do they come from? And more importantly, where do they go?
Maybe there's a particularly big itinerant population sofa surfing and forced to spend their days walking the cold and mean streets in search of warmth.
(If so, I'd try the library).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

IT Hackney style

I'm not much of an IT guy, so whenever anything goes wrong with my kit, I'm pretty much in the same position as a maiden aunt taking her Polo to the garage. I've basically got 'Fleece me' on my forehead.
My other laptop went on the blink recently, so I decided that rather than take it to PC World, as I did last time for a very expensive mother board replacement - whatever that means! - I'd try the dodgy looking PC and Mac Doctor nearby. It was a bit of an eye opener. The guy claimed that he wasn't that busy, but for the next 20 minutes I was in there, there was a succession of picaresque characters with various queries and requests, from the hardcore IT geeks to the more naive than me.
My favourite was an East End geezer who was doing his best Ray Winston impression.
Slaps hand on counter. "I wanna buy a laptop. Cheapest one you've got."
IT guy: "Cash?"
EEG: "Don't make me open that bag." Points laughingly to a large, suspicious looking holdall and mimes holding a shotgun. "I'll 'ave to shoot ya!"
ITG: "This is the cheapest I've got at the moment."
EEG: "Thinkpad. Sweet! £299. It's not worth that. I'll give you a monkey..."
Anyway, the owner seemed alright and more straight up than other IT shops I've dealt with - as if I'd really know the difference. He also confirmed that the HP machine I have is a pile of crap. That's the last time I buy on looks. Give me functionality and the streamline appeal of a breeze block in future.
And speaking of form over function, it will be interesting to see how the world reacts to Apple latest offering, the iPad (I can't believe I went back to cap that P). I'm surely not the first person to snigger over it's vaguely sanitary towel name. Maybe they should get Clare Rayner to endorse it. It does strike me that after years of everything electrical getting smaller, clunky is now the new black. Still, at least you could wallop somebody with it if they tried to purloin it.
I wonder who will be the first person I see at our local trendy coffee shop with one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Long Goodbye

I've lived in Hackney for more than ten years, but there's a good chance that I won't be here at this time next year. My wife is expecting our second child in a couple of months time. We're just recovering from the space thief that is number one son, so the prospect of this one (son or daughter) arriving wanting to know where it will park its kit means we will be house hunting soon.
It looks likely that we won't be able to afford the kind of place that we need or want within the bounds of 'London's most happening borough'. Which is kind of ironic considering that I moved here at first because it was the only place I could afford after being cruelly dumped by my ex - I'm not bitter, even though it was only about 12 years ago.
Right from the off however, I realised that I had lucked out - which was very fortunate as I'd only ever seen the flat I'd bought, and its surrounds in the dark. Rather than hiding a multitude of sins, the dark concealed some great features. I'm within walking distance of one lovely park, which in the absence of a garden, is my green space, and there are two other large parks and innumerable smaller ones nearby. There are some great runs for my periodic attempts to get fit, and there were some fantastic boozers for the times when I couldn't be bothered. A lot of these have changed - some for the better, some less so - as Hackney has too. It has the Empire, although for how much longer, we don't know.
Without wishing to sound too corny, the thing I hadn't reckoned on was how vibrant an area it is to live in. Hardly surprising given the culture clash round here - traditional East End/Vietnamese/Caribbean/new East European arrivals/Hassidic Jews/Bangladeshi/Africans/Turks/Irish and quite a few Germans it always seems to me. Which is odd given their historical relationship with this part of the Great Wen.
Of course, it's the newest arrivals - people like me unfortunately - who have been responsible for the kind of changes that will probably now drive me out. As Hackney has become a byword for hip, arty, vibrant (sorry, I don't have my thesaurus handy) urban living, the house prices have shot up. There are a lot of people who will have made a packet in property round here. I've done alright, I reckon, but I shall miss living here, and although we could be here for another year yet, I'm missing it already.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The snow is back

They're calling it the New Ice Age round these parts. Well they might be if they weren't sliding all over the place in inappropriate footwear. That's one of the things I love about London - how unprepared everybody is for bad weather. You're more likely to see somebody with a copy of Metro over their head than a brolly when it rains. And even though it's like a ice rink out there, the high heels, open toed sandals and canvas trainers are still being sported (wo)manfully.
It doesn't stop Hackney folk from enjoying the weather though. London Fields is filling up nicely with ice sculptures that pay tribute to the aristic bent of locals. My personal favourite was a large ice squirrel smoking a pipe. Genius.
My own rather vanilla snowman paled in comparison, but J enjoyed helping me make it. He's two years old now and quite the little artistic director while yours truly did all of the work. I did have a bit of assistance from a truanting 12 year old who was looking for a somebody to have a snowball fight with. I eventually had to oblige as he had such a hangdog expression that I felt guilty. At any rate I must have been great fun as afterwards he was pestering me for details about when I was coming out to play again. He even offered to give me his mobile phone number! Don't parents have the talk with their kids any more?