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Category Archives: english literature

The Hackney Society Relaunches 2009 Publication: Modern, Restored, Forgotten, Ignored

There’s no doubt that the buildings of Hackney have long served their community throughout history. From a 1930s night out at the dogs courtesy of the Hackney Stadium, to providing a place to get clean in 1904 at the Haggerston baths, the area has seen ups and quite literally downs, in its architectural heritage.

Which is something that the Hackney Society, are highlighting in the reissue of its 40th anniversary publication, Hackney: Modern, Restored, Forgotten, Ignored.

First released in 2009, the publication features 40 Hackney based authors and the rise, fall and restoration of 40 Hackney buildings to celebrate 40 years of the heritage organisation.

The new book cover

The new book cover

The book sold out at the beginning of this year and was the winner of the 2011 Walter Bor Media award for best publication.

Editor Lisa Rigg, 42, who began fundraising for the Hackney Society, said the idea behind the book was to do what the society did best.

“I thought it was important to do something which the Society had previously been well known for – its local history books.

“The book was a celebration of Hackney’s wonderful built heritage. We hope it will raise pride as well as highlight what has been lost and how historic buildings are irreplaceable.”

The Trowbridge Estate in Hackney Wick was demolished, although contested, in 1985

The Trowbridge Estate in Hackney Wick was demolished, although contested, in 1985

Retired professor and writer, Ken Worpole, 69, a Hackney resident for over 40 years, wrote the introduction to Modern, Restored, Forgotten, Ignored along with a piece on the demolished Mother’s Hospital, where he, his children and his grandchildren were born.

The hospital, built in 1913, is just one historical site that Mr Worpole said contributes to the unique townscape of Hackney.

The Mother's Hospital, Clapton Road.  Demolished in 1986

The Mother’s Hospital, Clapton Road. Demolished in 1986

“With the canal and 16 railway stations, the borough is broken up so that it could never become a kind of uniform development.

“It will always have these nooks and crannies and back streets and with such a range of buildings, going from Tudor to contemporary, it’s such an interesting streetscape and it’s partly why people like living in Hackney so much.”

Sutton House on Homerton High Street is a grade-II listed Tudor manor house

Sutton House on Homerton High Street is a grade-II listed Tudor manor house

Since 2009, Hackney has seen many architectural changes including the new overground transport system.

Hackney Society trustee, Margaret Wilkes, 67, said: “I have lived in Hackney since the early 1980s, and this change has accelerated in the last few years, with lots of young people coming into the borough to live.

“Broadway Market has been transformed, The Arcola has moved, the Rio been refurbished but needs more support and the Hackney Empire, after a rocky few years is now expanding its activities.”

Broadway Market, 1985

Broadway Market, 1985

The decision was made to keep it as a “snapshot of Hackney in 2009”, with certain updates such as the liquidation of Free Form Arts Trust, who were based in the Hothouse on Richmond Road.

With Haggerston Baths having just been announced as one of the top ten endangered buildings in the country, Ms Willes said: “Restored is the happy story, forgotten is not such a jolly subject, and the worst of all is ignored.

“The book is not only a celebration of the rich architectural heritage of Hackney, but also a salutary reminder of how fragile that can be, and how important it is for organisations like the Hackney Society to be around.”

Event details: 6 November,
Broadway Bookshop, Broadway Market, E8 4QJ
7pm, Free Entry

For more information about The Hackney Society see here.



I met this man travelling and he made me sad.

My Uncle’s songed four versions of it.



Your Mother told you to trust a girl with curly hair,

I’ve heard different and see toddlers stop and stare.

Followed round the supermarket, inspectors don’t believe my ticket,

After swimming in the river you shouldn’t have dared.



America was your land of dreams

You said you had a thing for it when you were eighteen

At 30 you wanted Asia, you travelled alone

You said I hurt your feelings when I walked you home.



You had that thing that women sometimes fall for,

Couldn’t swim, deaf in one ear, who knows what more.

A scruffy stray in pet rescue, you needed someone to adopt you

I didn’t have the key, others would have to open the door.



America was your land of dreams

You had a thing for it when you were eighteen

At 30 you wanted Asia, you travelled alone

You said I hurt your feelings when I walked you home.



Girls in the US didn’t want your name,

In Asia and Dublin things were just the same

Smoking joints in Switzerland, playing football in Berlin,

I don’t know what your doing, but I really hope you win.



America was your land of dreams

You had a thing for it when you were eighteen

At 30 you wanted Asia, you travelled alone

You said I hurt your feelings when I walked you home.

Mother’s Day Ode to Hilda

For my Ma, Hilda


Battle axe or battle maid,

I’ve never seen you look afraid.

You taught us how to go for it,

Vaselined shoes, faces clean with spit.


So today I’d like to let you know,

You’ve set the foundations for the distance we’ll go.

So cheers, Madre, you pushy show-mom,

When I have kids, I’ll know where to come.




Valentine’s Day: Why So Fluffy?

Valentine’s day.  Another manufactured holiday designed to make us spend all our money and feel under pressure if we’re in a relationship, bitterly down wine after wine whilst shouting along to Kelly Clarkson if we’re single or try our luck at a horrendous lock and key party if we’re young and up for it.  We don’t have this with pancake day!

I’ve heard many a self-assured sistah claim that they have no time for Valentine’s day because “you-should-show-your-loved-ones-how-you-feel-about-them-each-and-everyday-and-love-and-care-and-hold-and-shower-them-with- affection- and-romantic-gestures, lad-eee!”.  Which is fair enough.  But for those of us who slowly fall into the trap of “being comfortable” with one another where you find yourself wearing stained tracky bottoms to bed (to cover hairy legs) and spend night after night being more physical in the shower (hair washing can be hard work) than in the bedroom, a day which encourages a little bit of effort is something to look forward to.  Not for the whole year mind.  It’s not Christmas.

Wayne and Waynetta:  Comfortable or complacent?

But with all that said and done, I’m hardly one to go running into Clintons buying up all the unnecessary crap that can only be out of its box for one day before it becomes embarrassing (no one wants to see fluffy nonsense about the place unless it’s a kitten).  I don’t buy those often deformed synthetic chicks at Easter to be the pride of my mantelpiece, brittle plastic skeletons for Halloween nor special addition coal for Ash Wednesday.  In fact, I don’t purchase any tacky delights for Valentine’s Day; receiving mass produced token make you feel as special as spam in your inbox.

So what for it?  Oysters?  Champagne?  Rose petals in the bath?   If you want.  Or heading out to a restaurant bursting at the seams with shmoozy  “officially in love” couples?  Maybe not so much.  Crikey, imagine table after table of saccharine sweethearts, each couple trying to out-romance each other.  I present thee a rose.  I present thee a rose on one knee.  I present thee a rose, balancing on one knee from a rare pink Indian Elephant.  Who know what could happen!

And why is it all so fluffy???  What has fluff got to do with the story?  Mr “lover lover” Valentine married couples in secret, when the evil Emperor Claudius outlawed marriage for young men, as he thought it made them pussies at war!  But when Valentine was discovered being an undercover match maker, he was put to death.

More of a romance killer then turning on the lights.

The most romantic gesture I made on V-Day was a homemade card, inspired by art attack that I sent to two boys on two separate occasions when I was six.  And the only Valentine gesture I ever received was a rose with “I lost my phone number, can I borrow yours” attached to it from a “secret admirer” who put his name at the bottom.  Maybe women are better at these things.

So Valentine’s Day.  Generally, it makes me feel like I’ve eaten too many chocolates from my metaphorical Milk Tray but I like the sentiment.  But please remember: there’s no need to perform for an audience; it doesn’t have to be a showdown.  And if all else fails, originality can only be a good thing.

Drums Through The Wall

He was born in July, like a new star in the sky,

He announced his arrival with a sharp little cry.

His brothers and sisters were all big and grown,

His dad had moved out but wasn’t far from his home.

He grew up in a street, surrounded by friends,

With flowers and wind chimes and rainbows and hens.

Spencer Street was a great place to be,

He just wished that still there lived his family.

The neighbours all loved him as their own,

Sheila next door used to come round and phone.

And like her own son, she had to sometimes scold,

But she did so gently so he understood what she told.

“You’re drumming is getting better”, she said gently one eve,

“And you very good, but sometimes people need to sleep”.

“Carry on with your drumming and you can be a star,

“But I don’t want to hear you through the wall, I want to watch you from afar.”

So he kept quiet with the drums, and soon the cat came near,

You see the cat didn’t like noise and cowered in fear.

Soon he and the cat were as close as could be,

They played on the carpet and danced on the settee.


You wouldn’t think it possible, but there was one time,

That boy and cat came together to dine.

Mum put cubes of cheese in a bowl on the floor,

And he knelt with the cat and ate with mouth but no paws.

A few years later, he wasn’t a child alone

For his siblings were having kids of their own.

Now there were lots of them toddling around,

Having picnics in the park and crawling on the ground.

So after feeling like he was born to late,

Who would have thought it but there came fate.

And his the siblings who he wanted to grow up around,

Had some babies of their own who with he could bound.

A family is not just brothers and sisters,

It can be nieces and nephews and misses and misters.

It’s whoever you want for and care for and live for,

Or those who you sit on the ground with and want nothing more.


I saw a rat die so I wrote this ode in his memory.

He came up from the sewer, you ask me what for?

To have a look around, to come and explore.

He wanted to better himself, wanted to be free,

Martin was a different rat; a maverick was he.

As the bathroom flooded, the water rose,

The drain was the route that Martin chose.

With whiskers a-dripping and tail soaking wet,

 He was like a lone wolf, no other rat met.

 Martin wanted more than this life of his,

Lonely and dark, a rat’s time is.

And all of his friends laughed at his talk,

 Of light and openness, where it isn’t wet where you walk.

As Martin went forth with his quest for the new,

He heard a loud noise and hid in a shoe.

“Uh-oh”, thought he, he’d come the wrong way,

“Did you see something there?” he heard a man say.

 Martin looked around and saw ribbons and vests

 And a rat-hating, blonde girl perching on a chest.

She screamed once and again ‘til her face turned to wood,

Then ran out of the room as fast as she could.

With the door shut, it was dark, Martin was alone,

This is ironic, he thought, I could have stayed at home.

 But he had to think quick, as the door opened a crack

And a cat was thrown in, the door closed, all went black.

Martin dashed across the room and hid behind the bin,

He wasn’t coming out, the cat wasn’t coming in.

The cat attempted to reach him, extending a feeble paw,

But Martin made him jump back with his mechanical roar!

 Now I know what you’re thinking, this cannot be true,

A rat doesn’t roar, that’s what lions do!

But I assure, you my friends, whilst mice may squeak,

A rat is quite different, they are strong not weak.

But what Martin didn’t know, was that Russell that cat,

Had no interest in catching and killing a rat.

 In fact, he resented his owners laying down the law

Saying he wasn’t a real cat if he didn’t catch rodents and eat his meat raw.

So as he didn’t want to chew Martin or scratch him on the nose,

He just made lots of noise so that all would suppose

That out of catly duty he was ridding them of a pest

 Meowing loudly, they would think him the best.

Martin knew what Russell was doing, and he played along,

Ensuring that outside the room they knew a “battle” did go on.

Thought cat and rat, “This is fun!”

More more amusing than the chase and run.

But little did they know of the incoming caretaker,

Terry, the small and bald Londoner; a nightmare maker.

 The cat went out and Terry came in

Started removing furniture, on his little face a grin.

Martin didn’t know where to hide, so he dashed for the door,

And made it out across the living room floor.

But Terry was quick, and ran right behind,

Got Martin into a corner, shoes on the lino whined.

He went at him with his metal claws

But Martin wriggled away, looking for doors.

Now, I won’t go into what happened next,

For those who are fragile may become quite vexed.

All I’ll say is Martin met his end,

As Terry’s shoe went down on him again and again.

So let us learn, next time we see a rat,

They may want to end up as more than food for a cat.

Whilst rat worlds and human’s may never collide,

Let us try to live happily, underneath and beside.


Martin the Rat

Nobody likes a Needy

A ditty penned by yours truly when I was feeling super needy and I couldn’t borrow a pet.  We’ve all been there.

You used to
look at me like I was it,

With a
capital letter, I was It, the Shit.

Not your
stars, you world or all of that,

but one who
held your interest, for a meal or a chat.

But something
has happened, I don’t know what,

that’s not the case, I don’t have a shot,

At getting
you to focus on me, notice me, have a joke with me

rather do something else, stare at my head over the TV.

How I wish
that you would stare at me, as if I were 4od,

Instead my face is tracing paper, not a window but not a tree.

My words
are not enough, it seems you’re in too far,

Instead you
shush me like my Dad did when I was noisy in the car.

It’s not
like you are deaf, you always have time for hip hop,

And isn’t
that just angry men moaning about money, guns and cops?

Surely my
words are nicer or at least easier to hear

My animal
noises are second to none and my jokes deserve a cheer.

But maybe
that’s where I’m going wrong, I don’t complain about the hood,

wasn’t a ghetto and my rappings not very good.

But music
isn’t the food of love, sorry duke Orsino,

Rather FOOD
feeds your desire, from steak to a dorrito.

I wished
you looked at me like you do your kebab,

And even
when it gets messy, you don’t scold, you dab.

Oh to be
that greasy meaty mix, the one that you adore,

You would
hold me gently in a pitta, nibble my edges and gnaw.

You’d gorge
yourself on my flesh, my very scent you’d inhale

submerge yourself in my fatty embrace and rush to tell the tale.

I never
used to be like this, I used to be carefree,

But now I
find an early life crisis has found its way to me.

I thought
this happened much later in life, 40 years down the line,

When after
being married so long, its ok to stop trying.

I ate 4
toffee crisps today

Why, you
ask, I don’t know, I say.

to do, something to mention,

It made me
feel sick but it got your attention.

Oh God,
that proves it, I’m mad as a frog,

I’ll out my
handbag in the over and start talking to the dog.

I’ll go out
in my pyjamas, like I’ve escaped the ward,

believe I’m Micheal Jackson, or the Queen or a lord.