21 June 2009

father's day

I'm afraid we don't normally celebrate father's day. This year though I found a present which needed an occasion. It was at Prick Your Finger's exhibition of Meiko's knitted lizards.
John's sister always used to say he reminded her of Mr Jeremy Fisher and, thinking of that and the wonderful Laughing Marsh Frogs near Yantlet Creek, this beautiful anatomically correct frog seemed like the perfect present.

As if waking up to an exquisitely knitted frog was not enough pleasure, the rest of the day heaped one delight on another. He had a cup of tea and found a new hankie at Paradise Gardens, visited the Wall of Death (freakin' fantastic!), saw a giant robot puppet made out of recycling bins, and drew a picture of his favourite book to hang on a book tree.

Later, dear readers, I presented him with the first new potatoes of the year.

And, swoon, he then found a yucca thrown on the manure heap.

A lesser man might be intoxicated with delight, but selfless to the last, he did not forget his friend Mario Panzer. For he remembered how Mr Jeremy Fisher's friend, Alderman Ptolemy Tortoise, had brought for lunch a salad in a string bag . Unfortunately the house guest had retreated to his lodgings under the ivy by the time we got home. What a literary inspired treat he has in store for tomorrow.

19 June 2009

house guest

We have a house guest. Well, more of a garden guest as he has brought his own house with him. He's called Tank, though we are already beginning to think of him as Mario Panzer.

What exactly do you think a tortoise would like to do while he is on holiday?

18 June 2009

legacy walk home

Going back a week or so, this was the next stage of my (picture heavy) homeward journey, turning south off Whitechapel Road and into Assembly Passage. If I were describing this legacy trail by scent, I would have mentioned the time when Whitechapel smelled of malt from the local brewery - there was a line of breweries dating back hundreds of years along a spring line . I can clearly remember cycling through the malty haze on my way to work in Hackney Wick. Assembly Passage on the other hand was full of picklers, only recently disappeared.

Assembly Passage was a good short cut to drop south when my journey to work took me across the river. It runs under the old assembly rooms where, John tells me, on the authority of no less a person than the Bishop of London, political clubs used to meet in the late eighteenth century. You can even find ghost houses.

Circling back again to Stepney Green through the backroads, one end is lined with grand restored houses. Forty years ago they were rather less grand - one of them, possibly this one, was the local careers office where I went to get my first national insurance card.

I've always liked this little neck of the woods. It lives up to it's name - it is greener and quieter away from the mayhem of the main road. And it has probably the best bit of road paving in the whole borough, lovely faded blue crackled bricks

Further along is Stepping Stones farm, probably the least glam of our local city farms, constantly struggling to stay solvent or, most recently, holding off threats to take over the land as a dump for waste from the CrossRail project. One corner of the farm still has ruins from the old school and, all round the edge, shoehorned into the tiniest spaces, are little vegetable gardens, admired longingly by the young goats in the field beyond.

I decided to walk back to Mile End Park through the Ocean Estate, what would once have been called a "council estate", the oldest blocks of flats similar to the ones I was brought up as a child, but rather more romantically names after seafarers, seas and oceans - Pacific,Arabian, Ionian, Barents, Bengal, Bothnia, Bantry, Solway. Bits of it are run down and waiting improvement, even so, people have made little gardens and grown tomatoes on back balconies. And leave little signs of hope.

For the last bit of my walk, I snuck into Mile End Park and went in the sense garden, just tucked away from the main road. There are little nooks and crannies, with people taking the chance of a bit of peace and quiet, young couples and older people enjoying the rather luscious planting.

And on the pond, look closely, a moorhen nesting and her mate bringing her food.

After that, over the green bridge and home for me too.

10 June 2009


When my dad died 22 years ago, he left an envelope on top of the sideboard with the savings he put aside while he was off work sick, with instructions that some of this was to buy the pram for the baby I was expecting. He was a man who lived for the present. There was no pension, no other savings.

When I started to get little knots in the palm of my hand and wonky little fingers I realised that he had left me another legacy - Dupuytrens Contracture or "Vikings Disease". And it made me laugh and feel close to him.

On the walk back from the hospital at Whitechapel today to check out my hands- no need for surgery yet, keep doing the down dogs -I broke with habit and walked on the south side of the road. That's where I found this coade stone face. As a child, I was fascinated by the coade stone faces on the terraced houses on the walk to Whitchapel but I'd never come across this one because it was off our beat. What a jolly looking chap he is with his twinkly eyes.

I zigzagged my way home down streets I liked, and less familiar ones, and found lots of other stuff. To follow.

06 June 2009

cider and roses

I had to meet someone in Hyde Park yesterday. It's not my favourite park. It's big and I can never get my bearings. Trying to find the building I was looking for and puzzled by the criss-crossing paths, I felt like I was out on the Steppes waiting for some apocalyptic horsemen to come and find me. I'd already been waylaid by the the Rose Garden. Roses aren't a favourite either. But the enclosed space and the sheer volume of flowers harboured the most wonderful scent. I was standing there like a fool breathing it all in (did I have time to take a snap, no! too late already) and a man with a brolly came towards me. "Isn't the scent wonderful?" I said, hoping this would make me look less like a loony. "Mmm" replied Bill Nighy. Not love actually.

I eventually found my quarry. Tried to head back to Victoria, ended up at the wrong end of the park (this with a map, too). An eye test, dilated eyeballs, a taxi ride to meet a friend (extravagance the result of great tardiness and fuzzy eyesight), a sprint through Tate Britain, and then my reward.

Sheeps Nose, Yarlington Mill, Brown Snout and Foxwhelp. Cider and Poetry. Almost love, actually.