Gay go up and gay go down (that’s actually part of the rhyme, really it is)
To Ring the Bells of London Town
“Oranges and Lemons” say the Bells of St. Clements
“Bullseyes and Targets” say the Bells of St. Margaret’s
“Brickbats and Tiles” say the Bells of St. Giles
“Halfpence and Farthings” say the Bells of St. Martin’s
“Pancakes and Fritters” say the Bells of St. Peter’s
“Two Sticks and an Apple” say the Bells of Whitechapel
“Maids in White Aprons” say the Bells at St. Katherine’s
“Pokers and Tongs” say the Bells of St. John’s
“Kettles and Pans” say the Bells of St. Anne’s
“Old Father Baldpate” say the slow Bells of Aldgate
“You owe me Ten Shillings” say the Bells of St. Helen’s
“When will you Pay Me?” say the Bells of Old Bailey
“When I Grow Rich” say the Bells of Shoreditch
“Pray when will That Be?” say the Bells of Stepney
“I do not Know” says the Great Bell of Bow
Alas, no bells to be heard these days, not even Bow Bells or the very nearby Bells of Shoreditch (so no getting rich). It was said that if you were born within earshot of Bow Bells, you were a Cockney – but then the term was expanded somewhat to mean anyone in London’s East End, then to all working-class Londoners, so there’s a hell of a lot of ‘Cockneys’ around. Though these days somewhat diluted by an enormous diversity of new Londoners…well, for the time being anyway in this (almost) post Brexit era.
We’ve moved over to Shoreditch in East London and rented a rather cool loft around the corner from Old Street tube station. The place is wonderfully compact with large light-filled windows on all sides, dark wooden floors and high tech gadgets such as an impressive stainless-steel double-oven, vast gas hob, slightly complicated to operate projector tv, double wine cooling fridge etc etc – very comfortable indeed, and a steal compared with London hotel prices that seem to start at the £220 per night mark around here and head into the stratosphere.
I haven’t spent much time over this way and when growing up in the 60’s, the East End had quite the reputation for being rather rough and ready, dodgy even! Nowadays though, it’s quite the cool cat, with stylish restaurants, hipster bars and cafes serving incredibly ‘now’ food and excellent (clearly Australian) coffee, so no more awful Costa to deal with (never again will I have to endure that cup of half boiling water, half what passes for coffee) – actually, not one Costa in sight around these parts! And, as a sign of its hipster status, there are funky barbers seemingly on every Shoreditch street corner for that all-essential beard trim and facial.
There’s been a ton of development in East London and Shoreditch in particular, such as the complete transformation of the Old Truman Brewery site, the Box Park site, Spitalfields Market, countless old pubs (now star-rated Gastropubs) and, most impressively, street after street of elegantly restored houses, shops and warehouses all of course commanding dizzyingly high rents and sky-high sale prices. I tell you, the UK may appear from the outside of the country (and probably for many people outside of the capital) to be both out of reach and in turmoil (and it is politically and, for many, increasingly hard to get by), but the wealth and prosperity so evident here is mind-blowing – not just where you’d expect to see it in the West End but especially over here in the East End. Of course, how the pollies handle Brexit (or not as the case maybe) may well have lasting and profound implications on this impressive surge of prosperity, but for now there’s no sign of slowing down. On the flip side of this blatant prosperity is of course the have-nots, the down and outs, the rough sleepers and the beggars, now sadly more noticeable in numbers than ever before.
One more thing to mention that’s causing much scratching of heads here, is the endless and ongoing delay of CrossRail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, an ambitious overground and underground (Queen Elizabeth Line) stretching some 100km from Reading through Heathrow in the west through central London to Abbey Wood in the east, costing some £15.4bn to date. It’s now been delayed again by another £2.6bn budget blowout and won’t likely open until at least 2020. Kinda makes Sydney’s light-rail fiasco look minuscule in comparison… so why on earth can’t we get that one bloody done and dusted!
We’re having a chilly few days here. It was -1 this morning with a top today and tomorrow of just 3 degrees, but it’s sunny, so perfect mooching around town weather. We’re off to the TATE Modern for some ‘culture’.