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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Georgian Stepney

Which side of the street to do you choose to look at...

This is my latest outlook on life, along the lines of is the glass half full or empty. In my quest to not get sucked into the English doom and gloom machine, and living in what can be a gloomy wintery East end with horrific 60's council flats, I choose to focus on the historic Georgian terraces that many people pass by. Often facing an estate, like many interesting London buildings you could easily pass them by if you didnt take time to stop and look. Much of Stepney was unfortunately bombed quite badly, such as the street my Dad grew up on, but many fine buildings remain.

On my way to the tube from home and just round the corner I pass Stepney Green, the street after which the tube was named and the most desirable one in the area, fronted by a cobbled lane and gardens Also a Peabody Trust late Victorian housing estate building. The Peabody trust was set up in the area and there are many housing estates in London from this period that have loads of character and are lovely places to live if you are lucky enough to get on the list and get mega cheap period living. Sadly in later decades architects almost seemed to out do each other for the sheer ugliness of their mass housing projects.

On the Mile End road itself you have another couple of fantastic buildings that im sure most people walk past without giving a thought. Peering through the foliage clad gates of one to its tumble down steps, reminds one of the house in Great Expectations. Actually if you squint at some of the streets you could picture Dickensian London quite easily. Also on the Mile End / Whitechapel road you have Trinity Square - Alms houses from the late 1600's. The proposed demolition of which in the 1800's caused the start of the listed building program in England. Just next door is a memorial to William Booth, this was where the Salvation army started.

In the other direction towards Limehouse, across the park, you have Arbour Square, which could easilly have been used in period dramas, still retaining gas lamp style street lighting and build round a beautiful square. Again on one side the orginal buildings didnt make it, but in this case at least the Estate is 30's deco rather than 60's mass ugliness. Across the other side of Commercial road is yet another beautiful Georgian square.

So what do you choose to focus on when you wander around your area - the good, the bad or the ugly? Sometimes even the Ugly has a certain charm. Ive chucked in a crumbly down East end pub on the end of this slideshow. I think it has a certain character even if theres a good chance it had a Kray twin or two in it at some point!.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Brick Lane

Brick LaneBrick Lane by Monica Ali

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading the majority of reviews of this it does seem that the popular opinion is not great despite the critics praise. I think it had a particular resonance for me as I've recently moved into the area. I know these streets now and being predominantly Bangladeshi I found it an interesting fictional insight into these communities. Im generally not a fan of harsh grim gritty miserable novels. Although theres certainly no glamour in this, theres a lot of warmth of character and moments of humour in the dialogue. I loved the characters. In the movie the husband was not a sympathetic character at all really. In the book though my affection for him increased as Nanzeens did. His predictable lectures and commentary became quite endearing. Others have mentioned an unsatisactory ending. I have to say it did somehow fall a bit flat. There was so much build up of tension towards what would eventually happend that in the end it seemed like a little bit of an anticlimax tacked onto the end. I will always have a fondness for this book now as much for the novel itself as for the memories of this chapter of my London life it will stir up when i notice it on my shelves in the future.

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