Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tufty ate my winter salad

The winter salad leaves I've been growing in my balcony boxes have held up surprisingly well, despite being covered in drifts of snow for the best part of a fortnight.

It's not the cold that's got them, it's a daredevil squirrel who I caught chomping his/her way through the crop just before Christmas. I say daredevil, as I live in a block of flats, on one of the higher floors. When I chased the little bugger off the balcony, mid-munch, s/he simply shinned down to the ground and scampered off.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Coming soon: new for 2011 in Hackney

In case you missed these snippets, here are a few things to watch out for 2011.

Hackney's getting a cinema.

Dalston's getting a boutique hotel.

Lower Clapton's hugely successful Chatsworth Road Market should ride again (in March, I reckon).

Meanwhile, Upper Clapton, the poor relation, is still waiting the 488 bus route to be extended from Clapton to Dalston Junction.

Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Chatsworth Road Market: A New Dawn

It's almost here. See you there on Sunday?

(Report from the Hackney Gazette, yours for 50p)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

River of dreams

Have you seen Millfields lately? The hoardings by the River Lea Navigation have come down and, wow, what a difference it makes to the place. A nice bit of tarmacking (is that a verb? Answer: no), but it does the job opening up the view. And when the borders are planted with lovely hardy shrubs, bikers won't be able to churn up the beds with their tyres. Tsk, etc.

But it certainly makes cycling beneath the Lea Bridge more of a breeze than it was. No more being thrown off by that notorious cobbly slope.

Once the riverside sundecking, as per the architect's plans, gets put in, the new Chatsworth Road market gets going and the Clapton Tram Sheds get a makeover, Millfields could be the "new London Fields".

A boy can dream.

PS: for all Millfields fans, there's a new blog on the block. Do follow: http://millfieldspark.blogspot.com

Monday, 25 October 2010

B is for...

A pet hate. Duff spelling, that is, rather than cruciferous comestibles - although both are available in my local Costcutter. Or Costcuter, as it appears on receipts.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Coming up

Winter salad, ahoy! Just hope it survives the weekend frost.

Thursday, 14 October 2010


The Chatsworth Road market has been given the go-ahead by Hackney Council. The stalls will be going up along the street one Sunday in November. Read more here: http://www.chatsworthroade5.co.uk/archives/796
Well done to everyone involved.

Monday, 11 October 2010

A sunny day in Clapton town

An amazing autumn day in Hackney. The sun was out, the sky cloudless, with highs of around 20ºC. And then there was a glorious pinkish sunset finished it off, which bodes well for tomorrow. Sometimes - sometimes... - I think it's alright living in Clapton.

Millfields looked pretty and presentable in the sunlight (see top picture), the reconstruction of the Lea towpath is coming along nicely, and the Taylor Wimpey builders look in danger of finishing off the final block in the riverside Altius development. In between coffee breaks, the men in the hi-viz gilets spent the day taking down the protective fences and rolling out turf into lawns.

In yet more whimsical news, I went for an 8km run with my trainer - my farthest distance in quite some time - along the Lea Navigation, around the marshes, down into Lower Clapton and back.

I celebreated by baking carrot cake, obviously. I'm about to tuck into the first warm slice before cracking open the new Jonathan Franzen while Afrocubism plays in the background before Spooks at 9pm.

As I say, an amazing day in Clapton. More please.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


Meet Lola, the cute little puppy who greets customers at Lock 7, the cycle shop off Broadway Market - and to my knowledge the only place in Hackney that offers a drop-in service. I kept Lola in strokes and cuddles as the guys fixed my brakes this morning. Now that's what I call fair trade.

Thursday, 7 October 2010


New Clapton blog - follow, my pretties. http://claptonisgood.tumblr.com

Lord Sugar of Clapton, read all abaht 'im...

Good to see local Clapton boy-made-good Lord Sugar back on the television, growling and finger-jabbing at his loud-mouthed, big-headed would-be Apprentices. Last night's episode, in which a twonk from the Territorial Army was shown the exit for his inability to sell sausages, was a classic.

To capitalise (ho ho) on his televisular success, Lord Sugar's autobiography What You See Is What You Get is out now. If you're not getting yours from Pages of Hackney, roll up, buy your copy here, folks, etc.

In it, he details - in sometime hilariously bluff Surallan-ese - what he calls his "journey from Clapton to Clapton". (To explain - not a great starting point for an epithet - he grew up in Woolmer House on the Upper Clapton Road, and is now so grand that he has taken the title Lord Sugar of Clapton.)

Say what you like about the businessman formerly known as Sir Alan, he hasn't forgotten his roots. In this book, no east end cliche goes unturned ("I was a Cockney...", "Life was hard in the late Fifties...").

But he redeems himself. On the very first page of his memoirs, he recalls how:

"It was normal for babies to be left outside shops in their prams while the mothers went inside. That in itself gives you a picture of what times were like back then. Parents were not worried about weirdos abducting babies. One day, my mum went to Woolworths and parkedc me outside in my pram. She did her shopping, walked out, and took the 106 bus from Stoke Newington back to Clapton. Only when she was halfway home did it dawn on her: 'I've left Alan outside Woolworths!'"

I'll post more such gems to come as I plough my way through. There's are some lovely pics, too.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Ballad of Homerton Hospital

The A&E department at Homerton Hospital could be on the critical list. According to an admittedly speculative entry on the terrific Blood and Property blog, it’s a likely target for cuts as NHS London is looking “to swing the axe”, and north-east London is covered by by several emergency eepartments - Newham, Whittington and Whipps Cross are all close by. Even Murder Mile stabbings – which aren’t as frequent as you’d think – are dealt with by a team at the Royal London in Whitechapel, more than two miles away.

I have mixed feelings about earmarking Homerton’s A&E for possible closure. Six years ago, they saved my life when I collapsed at home in a coma, brought on by streptococcal meningitis picked up during a weekend in Warsaw. I wasn’t expected to survive the night, but the staff in the intensive care unit worked their magic and had me out of the coma within a fortnight, faculties mostly intactus. They didn’t even mind my friends gathering round my bed to watch Big Brother over my comatose body.

I don’t remember much from my first few morphine-soaked days in a recovery ward, except the hallucinations. At one point, I was convinced that my heart monitor was, in fact, Madonna who had come to see me.

My mum, however, recoils at the memory of the Homerton – not so much my visitors being waterbombed by the tykes in flats nearby, but by how dirty my ward was: the bloody tissues left by my bed by a previous occupant; how she and my sister brought their own disinfectant wipes to give the area a good clean. No one was entirely surprised when I contracted MRSA.

So, as I say, mixed feelings about the Homerton, then. But no reason to close the A&E department. If it hadn't been there six years ago, would I have even made it in to Whipps Cross or the Whitechapel in time?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Dangerous drivers named and shamed

The website that I've been waiting for *so* long is here. Actually, judging from the number of postings it's already received, it's been in existence for a while but I didn't look hard enough: My Bike Lane. Have a squiz yourself at My Bike Lane (london.mybikelane.com).

It's terrific. Cyclists who witness cars and motorbikes block bike lanes, inch in to the advanced stop zone (ASZ) - the green box - or park irresponsibly so that passing bikes have to veer into fast-moving traffic, post your photos of such transgressions here. There's even a top ten of repeat offenders, complete with numberplates.

The lorry picture above was posted on the My Bike Lane site by a user on Mare Street:

"This pretty much sums up the cycling experience in London. The lights were red and this lorry just rolled straight on through and came to rest beside me, not even just in the advanced stop zone but way past it. Of course, you can't tell from this picture that the vehicle is stationary. You just have to take my eyewitness account of it."

Sounds familiar? Now do something about it. Mobile phone cameras at the ready...

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Chatsworth Road is on the up...

The gentrification of Clapton continues apace. It was standing-room only at Creperie du Monde, the newest slate-grey-fronted addition to Chatsworth Road, on Monday. I wanted to try it out with my brother, who was up from the sticks for the day. But despite the yummy-looking menu - in both senses - we couldn't get in. After a peek inside the door, he declared that it did look "very me". Straight boys can be such bitches.

(I do *love* the clipboard, though...)

Instead of crepes with chistorra (Basque sausage? In Clapton? Swoon...), we had to settle (settle!) for hummous salad in Venezia's. Look at us - picky buggers. That's the trouble with being spoilt for choice. You wait 15 years for somewhere decent in Clapton - and, believe me, I have - then three places come along almost all at once.

Now with Crepes du Monde, Venezia's, that pricey deli with the grumpy euro-staff over the road, and the always excellent Chatsworth Kitchen, Claptonistas are in danger of living in a property warm-spot. Don't worry, Mr Osborne's spending review will see to that.

Now bring on the monthly market. If it's a success, I predict all these lovely new ventures will be forced out by Broadway Market-style rent hikes before the decade is quite out.

Tykes on bikes

As if it wasn’t treacherous enough to be a cyclist in Hackney – the borough’s most recent fatal accident was less than two months ago – we’re at the vanguard of a nasty new trend: cycle jacking.

Riders who cut through Haggerston and De Beauvoir have warned that balaclava-clad gangs have been violently attacking passing cyclists, beating them up before stealing their wheels. One recent victim was pulled to the ground and beaten with his D-lock. Full report here, at the brilliant Hackney Hive site.

There was no sign of trouble when I took a nosey little detour on my way home tonight. Worst luck next time, perhaps.

To prove Hackney – Clapton, this time - has something to offer cyclists, a Crouch Ender has blogged about discovering that Spring Hill E5 is a smashing slope to whizz down on two wheels.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

A wait off my mind

Q. In which lo-fi, east London cafe does it take more than 30 minutes for two flat white to arrive, even on a fairly unbusy Sunday morning?

Q. In which artily bare-bricked hipster hangout much beloved of the style press does the all-day breakfast mean exactly that – that it will take all day?

A: Ta-dah... introducing the Counter Cafe by the river in Hackney Wick. Since when did "antipodean-style" (it says here in the notes...) become a synonym for "self-regarding" AND "slack"?

For an idea of the vibe without ever having to subject yourself to visit, watch the "Being a Dickhead's Cool" clip again. Surely you've got better things to do than to time the staff and see how long they actually take to amble over with an admittedly decent coffee? Sheesh, that's a whole morning you'll never get back. Take a book or two. No, an iPad...

Love song to Walthamstow Marshes

Just found this short film on YouTube. Quite lovely.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

There's been an eruption...

Someone's gone nuclear in Walthamstow. I thought Waltham Forest was a nuclear-free borough? (Pic taken from my balcony)

Hackney coolsters

If there's a funnier YouTube clip about East London "types", I haven't seen it.

(Fedora-tip to the fabulous Urban Woo for spotting it).

Monday, 6 September 2010


Coo. The graffiti on the hoardings along the River Lea Navigation towpath on the edge of Millfields Park is coming along nicely. (Or should that be 'are'?)

Nicely menacing, non - a modern-day, monochrome Blue Meanie. Someone should give Thom Yorke a ring. It's just the kind of moody amorphous sprite that he might like for the sleeve of the forthcoming Radiohead album.

Who's the doodler behind the daubs? I ask only because he can't spell. "Under constrution"?

Fetch the Tipp-Ex, mother.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

North east Hackney - what ELSE do we want?

An independent cinema
Come on, dilapidated Legends niteclub near the Lea Bridge roundabout. It’s high time you reopened as a cinema – the purpose for which you were originally built - showing independent and foreign films, selling imported bottled beer and black pepper popcorn and attracting classier element to the hood. Where else can all the BBC producer types who live around here frequent? Sign up for the petition here.

A sculpture garden

Springfield Park has some marvellous grassy slopes used mostly by dogs needing a poop. Could they not also become a temporary sculpture garden in the summer months – just like at Chatsworth House? It’d be an eye-catching way to harness the talent beavering away in the local art workshops even the Clapton Tram Shed lot - as well as a way to showcase big pieces by world-class names: Antony Gormley, Marc Quinn, etc.

A food festival
Had enough of the glut of summer festivals with booming sound stages filled with overtly preachy performers (yes, I mean the One Festival on Hackney Downs). Instead, let’s showcase the cornucopia of world food found in the borough with an open-air Taste of Hackney event. Admittedly, it won’t be all to my taste (see previous post about the borough’s lack of a decent Turkish take-away that delivers), but I’m happy on this occasion to bite my tongue.

More allotments
Who do I have to fork around here to get an allotment? Such is the demand for a plot that Hackney’s waiting list was closed several years ago and never reopened. Rosie Boycott - she who advises Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, on food issue, notably sustainability – can you help? There’s plenty of brownfield sites around the borough and along the River Lea, and I’ve got a couple of shovels.

All suggestions that will prettify north east Hackney are welcome. Any more for any more?

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Putting north east Hackney on the map

A few things that would make Hackney (but my part of Clapton, mainly) a bit nicer

More pubs and cafes
Venetia's is nice, Biddle Bros has its charms, and I'm fond of the Princess of Wales. In fact, what I really, really want* is a music pub quiz on a Monday night somewhere cosy. (*Bzzz: "Wannabe by the Spice Girls")

A landmark restaurant
Yes, there are dozens of wonderful ethnic eateries (hate that word) around the borough – just none that I really look forward to eating in, if I’m honest. I’ve been known to hit Shanghai on Kingsland Road when I fancy overly salty dim sum (love the butchers-slab décor), and Yum Yum in Stokey is occasionally wonderful in a weird, overblown, carved-wooden-fittings-galore kind of way. But a proper, sit-down, wallet-busting place that non-local people will cross town for – where are you?
Chatsworth Kitchen is nice, in a neighbourly, home cooking kind of way. We’re not there yet. And as I think of it…

…a decent Turkish take away that delivers

I often fancy tucking into some squeaky halloumi and falafel, instead of dial-a-pizza, an Indian or Chinese. But can I find one in my manor?

A few new bus routes that go somewhere useful
I do not need to go to Walthamstow on the bus (for one, it takes for ever). Nor Whipps Cross (unless I’m in an ambulance). A bus that runs from Clapton Pond to the Tottenham Hale shopping park, or even the Ikea Edmonton would be nice.
The new 488 route, which will soon be running from Clapton to the new Dalston overground station, is a good start. But I bet it won’t be long before a driver comes to grief on Rendelsham Road – it’s packed tight with cars on both sides, and during term time school-run mums double park, van couriers use it as a rat run… Disaster, honking horns and tailbacks to Upper Clapton Road await.

Another new train line
Forget about ever getting a new Tube station. It’s ain’t ever going to come to Hackney. (Pedants note: I realise that Manor House on the Piccadilly Line is just about inside Hackney’s borders, but its postal address is in Haringey, ackcherloi).
So London Overland is the way forward. For purely selfish reasons, I would like “them”, whoever they are, to make better use of the train line that used to stop at a now disused station on the Lea Bridge Road, running south to Stratford and North Woolwich, and north to Tottenham Hale and “Palace Gates”, another long-forgotten station.
How about an extension of the East London Line from Stratford that serves those of us in Hackney’s north east? The railway from Stratford to Tottenham Hale still exists, and trains regularly run across Walthamstow Marshes – it just doesn’t have anywhere to stop in between. Rebuilding the station on the Lea Bridge Road would suit me just fine.
If that’s unlikely – and it is - a Liverpool Street train that stops at Clapton AND Tottenham Hale wouldn’t go amiss.
Read much, much more here, trainspotters.

What else could Clapton do with?

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Beat them at their own game

The noise was in full flow when I got in from work tonight. But I think I've made a breakthrough. I think tonight's racket came from a computer game, judging by the way the music starts up and stops, without musicological reason.

Might try and record the hubbub tomorrow nigh, see if anyone can tell me what game they're playing. If you can't beat them, beat them up on Xbox.

Can you tell what it is yet?

Sorry to drone on, but they’re at it again. The occupants of the flat below me. (Or should that be ‘beneath me’. Where’s Simon Heffer when you need him?)

Last night, their favourite CD by the indeterminate European balladeer (I imagine long hair, though) was started up at television-drowning-out volume around 8pm – just after I passed the perpetrator in the lift. She was wearing sunglasses (after dark, and In. The. Lift.) and seemed taken aback when I said ‘hello’, unsure how to answer.

Luckily for me, the hammer-like thuds from her bassed-up stereo were replaced after an hour or so by some heartstoppingly fast house music. Repeat until midnight.

Naturally, the entryphone was left answered. It being a Bank Holiday Monday, there was no one ‘personning’ the Hackney Noise hotline. The police were adamant that, although I couldn’t hear my television above the thuds, that reading or sleeping were both out of the question, and that my anger was rising by the bpm, it wasn’t a matter with which they could trouble themselves.

“If it was coming from a parked car, or a party in a neighbours garden, I could send someone round. If it’s coming from indoors, it’s a council matter. We can’t even ring their bell,” said the copper, clearly a fellow Anita Ward fan.

So now what? Hackney Council haven’t called me back to discuss my case (they’ve got a dicky ansamachine so I don’t hold out that they will), and my management company RMG don’t seemed too concerned either. They don’t seem concerned about much, in fact. It took them months to replace security locks that actually locked – and when they got round to it, the handles were upside down.

Will no one rid me of these troublesome neighbours?

I fear a Falling Down moment coming on.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

I know what I didn't do this summer

Now that’s autumn’s here, a list of things I had meant to do this summer but didn’t get round to.

* Go kayaking on the River Lea.

• Have a pint of Youngs with my grandad in the canalside beer garden of the Princess of Wales, E5 (which I refer to as “ver Diana”. Which annoys even me).

• Pick a useful quantity of blackberries from Leyton / Walthamstow Marshes. (I did, however, manage to make elderflower cordial from creamy blooms picked thereupon.)

• Dust off my telescope (a Christmas present, consigned to the cupboard for space reasons) and moon-gaze.

• Decorate my flat. Never seemed to have the time. Or the dustsheets. Or the paintbrushes. Etc.

Oh, well. There’s always next summer.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Cows must safely graze

It's that time of year when a herd of cows take over Leyton Marshes for a good feed.

Luckily there's enough mellow fruitfulness for the rest of us to feast on. I'll be out next weekend with my hemp bag, gathering blackberries. I'll save the acorns for those Good Lifers who keep pigs.

Noisy neighbours: now I've asked nicely...

Music: “live” recordings of party songs, each sounding like the Lambada, sung by a Julio Iglesias-lite rock balladeer. For variety, intersperse with ear-splitting nondescript Euro-house.

Food: Burst-to-a-crisp barbecue ‘fayre’?

Drink: Fosters from a bucket of ice.

Guests: drunk, sweary harridans, agressive 'machos'.

Conversation: drunken, sweary, in a foreign language.

Could this be a recipe for the worst house party in the world?

Yes. Unfortunately, judging from the thick grey smoke enveloping my balcony and the racket reverberating through my apartment, that very party is going on right now, in the flat beneath me.

Preparations for the world’s worst party (as thrown by the least considerate neighbours I’ve ever had the misfortunate to rub along with) began noisily shortly after 10am this morning. The barbecue-related fun hasn’t let up yet - but at 7.30pm, the night is still young.

The songs and conversation – if off-key singing-along and incosiderately loud, sweary chit-chat qualifies as such – is in Portuguese. But on the sound clip I recorded (click below), you can clearly make out a few choice Anglo-Saxonisms.

All in all, it’s made for a delightful day. I'm exhausted.

I was particularly thrilled when my partner went and tried to "have a word" around 4pm, and was told by one occupant of the flat that, no, she wouldn’t be turning the music down as it was her birthday.

Minutes later, another reveller, a male who was fairly... agitated, popped his head up above the floor of my balcony. A strange way to start a neighbourly conversation, especially when (a) I live four floors up, (b) you must have to stand on someone’s shoulders to reach from the balcony below (bit precarious, that), and (c) apart from a bit of cuss-strewn abuse, all you can really say is “I don’t speak English”.

I’m waiting for Hackney Noise to return either of the calls I left for them today. But I fear they may not - as their ansamachine explains that the office phone is on the blink but that they'll try and respond to messsages in ten days. Only if it’s not too much trouble.

So my only hope is that my Portuguese-speaking party people have their fill of exchanging raucous witticisms over over-cooked sausages, get tired of the nth replay of their Brazilian stadium rocker’s greatest hits album “en vivo”, turn it off and let all of the residents around Leyton Marshes have a better night than we’ve had an afternoon putting up with them.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Hot daubs

The might of Hackney’s anti-graffiti team (well, two blokes in a van) was out in force in my neck of the woods this morning.

A fortnight ago, some protective wooden boards went up along the Lea Navigation next to Millfields Park, as the waterway is being dredged. Naturally, within days, the bare wood panels had attracted a few graffiti tags - but nothing to get too het up about.

Then, this morning, as I was put through my paces on the park's parallel bars by my personal trainer, Murat, I was surprised that a couple of council workers were busy painting over the graffiti with black splodges. Well, one was grafting with the paintbrush, while the other sat in the van, fiddling with the radio. Either way, pretty quick going for Hackiney. It's taken them months to get to grips with my noisy neighbours, but that's not for here.

Once the daubings were blotted out by uneven but not entirely artless blocks of black Dulux, thus…

…the council lads retired to the van, put their feet on the dash, and had a well-earned half hour’s rest. That's good use of Hackney Council's money.

However, in just a few hours, the rather eycatching black blobs seem to have attracted more attention than the graffiti tags ever did.

After lunch, while I pedalled back from a quick pootle on the bike along Chatsworth Road, I noticed a cheeky young fellow (top off, but way too young and skinny for me) not spray-painting graffiti on the hoardings, but doing proper sketching. In charcoal. (You get a classier kind of urban artist in E5.)

He was adding leaves to a lovely tree he'd scamped out, next to the legend “Love is the answer”. A quote, presumably, from the late John Lennon’s ‘Mind Games’. As far as I know the only connection the late Beatle had with Clapton was the guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps, but that's what you get if you do research for your A-Level art project on Wikipedia.

I’ll pop along later to see what else the saucy little scamp has done. Could I have witnessed The New Banksy at work?

Get out of my bike box!

I've only just been steered towards these Guardian posts about one of my favourite bugbears: whether cars and motorbikes are allowed in the cycle boxes (Advance Stop Zones) at traffic lights.

The answer is an equivocal...no. The comments alone make the journey through more than 200 comments worthwhile.


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Another rider down

Another London cyclist was knocked off her bike today.

According to reports, a thirtysomething woman was hit by a black cab at the corner of Graham Road and Navarino Road shortly after midday. It's a relatively fast stretch of road, one that takes you from the snarl-ups in Hackney Central, a place you might reasonably want to get away from as fast as possible. Trouble is, the road is criss-crossed by bike lanes.

Cycling in London – and its safety or otherwise – has been playing on my mind lately, not least because of the launch last month of the new bike hire scheme, which is bringing thousands of under-experienced riders onto the roads. How long before the first 'Boris Bike' goes under a bus?

Soon, if the statistics are anything to go by. On average about eight cyclists per year are killed by lorries in London, accounting for about half the cyclist deaths in the capital.

But lately - in the couple of weeks since the bike-hire scheme was unwrapped, and London's ludicrous cycle superhighways were declaed open – I've noticed the roads have become ever-so slightly angrier.

Are drivers frustrated by all the attention that's been given to the cycling cause of late? Does the sight of people on two wheels merrily weaving through traffic (and, in certain cases, jumping through red lights) get their blood up? Do they, perhaps, just feel that they're missing out?

It could be the unexpected/unusually/unseasonally (delete as appropriate) warm summer that we've been having causing road users to be that little bit tetchier with each other. But on my daily ride to work, I feel more, shall we say, targetted than usual.

Now, I am one of those pious cyclists who uses lights after dark, wears a helmet and flourescent gubbins, indicates when turning, stops at lights... you know, good-practice Highway Code stuff. But in recent weeks I've had a saloon sat in traffic in a turn-left lane pull out on me as I passed along The Mall. I've had an arctic accelerate behind me on Upper Street and bib me out of the way. It's now a daily occurence for oncoming cars to swerve dangerously into my path as they go between the bumps of sleeping policemen,.

Speaking of which, today I was so incensed by a police car stopping at the lights full-square in a bikes-only Advanced Stop box in Trafalgar Square that I rode to the front, positioned myself ahead of it, and in full view of the driver, took down the registration. (I've no idea what to do with it, but I think he got the message.)

All of which is why I've bought myself a new piece of kit - a mini cycling camera. It's call the Veho Cam Muvi, costs about £75 from Cycle Surgery, and when worn on a shoulder strap of your rucksack, records your journey. Just like this guy. Might be handy in case I *do* have an accident.

Smile, idiot drivers.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Hackney Empire state of mind

The new Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs, is a bit of alright. And long. But not as earnest as their previous (which I loved on first listen), nor quite as everything-and-the-kitchen-sink, production-wise - though I do believe, in between the synths and accordion, I just heard a hurdy-gurdy. Lovely.

Shame I missed them when they played almost on my doorstep last week, at the Hackney Empire. Judging from the reviews, they turned in a fine show.

Ticket-less, I had half a mind to mill around outside after the gig, just to play spot-the-journalist-from-the-posh-national-papers. The ones looking disconcerted at being in Hackney after dark, with no hope of a black cab. I bet Biddle Bros on Lower Clapton Road ran out of brandy. Nurse!

Keep Hackney Tidy

I was cheered to read in the Hackney Gazette of a near-neighbour of mine (hi, Peter Dixon of Woodmill Road, E5!) who confronted a worker at the Olympic Park throwing a plastic bottle into the River Lea. He’s a man after my own heart – and a Hackney cyclist too - but in fronting up to a litter-bug, a braver man than I.

Mr Dixon was recently cycling along the towpath when he saw a female worker, in her hi-viz jacket (!), toss her empty into the river. When he stopped his bike and asked her what she was doing, she said: “I’m throwing it away. It’s rubbish.” She was 100m away from a litter bin.

It’s the kind of thing that makes my blood boil – but which also reminds me of how impotent I feel as an admittedly scaredy-cat individual to do anything about it.

I can count on one hand the times I’ve shouted “Oi! Pick that up” - often from a safe distance. Each time, I’ve been greeted with an earful or ignored.

Is this where the Big Society comes in? Mr Dixon reported the Olympic employee to the contractors’ depot – but I very much doubt anything will happen. And ticking off a lazy, anti-social civil servant is not the same as confronting a group of kids who drop crisp packets in a park, or the driver who pulls up behind you at the lights and tosses an empty plastic bottle into your cycle path. A filthy look gathers no litter.

So what am I doing wrong? I wonder if hamming it up and over-doing the politeness – picking up the litter and handing it back with an “Oh, I’m *so* sorry, but you just dropped this…” – would have a different effect. But, I suspect, rather than being given the usual teeth-kiss, I’d have them smacked in instead.

Given that Boris Johnson wants us to put an end to the walk-on-by society by encouraging us to become more active citizens - or "vigilantes", as they used to be called - how do you successfully shame a litterbug without it requiring a trip to casualty?

Of course, there's always this approach. But any more ideas?