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 (

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 d├ęcor), 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?