I was musing the other day on the subject of migration : I have new polish neighbours, you see, and I was contemplating whether the eastern trend of Polish, Ashkenazy Jews, East Anglians, in this area of north east London can be entirely accidental : maybe no-one wants to go further west than they absolutely have to!
When I first arrived in London at eighteen, my brow was furrowed and my soul was squashed from the years of small town living under the heavy gaze of observation and disapproval that seemed to seep out of the very drains of where I lived. Imagine the feeling of lightness and joy as I walked around the streets and realised that people weren’t looking at me, and had no opinion of me, no knowledge of who I was, even no interest in what I was wearing.
For me, the divide in London is not South/North, but East / West. I have lived in many roads in all the corners of London : Lambton, Greenwood, Elderfield, Gordon, Springfield, Lutwyche, and now Richmond, but West London for me has always felt like alien land : I get lost, I feel uncomfortable, I go there if I have to, but I don’t like it. Through the Blackwall Tunnel, fine : but even heading over as far as Finchley seems wrong and unheimlich.
I only recently discovered that this slice of North East pie I inhabit is actually full of ancestral ties : my Dad grew up in Walthamstow, just the other side of the Lea Valley. My Nan was born in Sheep Lane in Hackney, her father was a market trader in (probably) Broadway Market, and married in St Michael and All Angels. He was blinded in World War 1, and took the well-worn East End path out to Essex, and so the next two generations were born in Bishop’s Stortford. My parents moved east again to the Suffolk Coast, and now I have come all the way back to where my family lived all those years ago (I also have relatives in Scunthorpe, by the way and think Tiny Tempah should shut up and go there) a bit like when you land on the snake in snakes and ladders and have to go all the way back to the start. These streets in Hackney I walk round nowadays know who I am, because I am home.