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my e17 storywalk story

January 14, 2014 Leave a comment
E17 Storywalk

E17 Storywalk

Back in November, I took part in the E17 Storywalk as part of the Words Over Walthamstow festival – which I wrote about before.

I wasn’t sure at the time whether I would post my story here or not, but I have decided to.

All six stories have been printed by the wonderful Paekakariki Press just round the corner from me – and it gave me a little frisson of pleasure to see my words in proper print.

E17 Storywalk booklet

E17 Storywalk booklet

So, here it is, my story based around Lot One Ten under the theme of change.

A time for change? 

When Jane had arrived in 1997, Walthamstow had been bustling but rough around the edges. There was a worn feel to it, like an old camel coat. It was easy to lose herself into the general busy-ness of the place, and that suited her just fine.

That was why she had originally moved from Kendal to London – she hadn’t been able to hide easily enough. The lush, vibrant greens of the hills and the dancing reflections on the lakes and waterways made her feel as if she were purposely standing out. An absence of hue on a brightly painted canvas – all the more noticeable simply for being dull. Here, among the dusty shopfronts and endless commuters, she’d been at home.

Her mousey-blonde hair and pale skin helped make her face unremarkable, certainly no one HAD ever remarked on it. She always wore neutral tones too, thus almost instantly forgettable – intentionally so. She often pondered a career in robbery – no one would ever match an efit photo or grainy CCTV image to her face.

Jane had always had no hope of being anything better than, well, blousy, beige and boring. That was her lot, she accepted it. It simplified everything – from what job she did (data historian in a corporate headquarters – there were delightful days where she didn’t see a single other person) to what dreams she had (ones about misplaced filing mainly) to what she ate for supper (ready meals in front of Coronation Street). She never dreamed or hoped of more. That was until…

One grey, drizzly afternoon Jane was walking home from Walthamstow Central, along Hoe Street. This was Jane’s favourite time to be out. Everything was muted and damp. No one took any notice of who was walking by – they were all too busy trying to get home quickly and out of the rain. She also had the added benefit of being able to hide under an umbrella. But as she walked past Lot One Ten, something caught her eye.

Looking back, she couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it had been. A movement from across the street? The reflection of a car’s headlights in the mist of the rain? She really couldn’t be sure, but she glanced into the window, her eyes quickly scanning the antique furniture on display.

A beautifully detailed tapestry stool sat in front of a dressing table that she believed was probably walnut – its dark wood shining from years of polish and beeswax.

However, Jane’s eyes were drawn up to the mirror.

It seemed rather large for the size of the dresser, a distraction from the beautiful hand-carved detail on the wood. It sat within an intricately carved frame, bracketed so that it could swivel to any angle.

Jane looked closer. Although the dresser must have been Edwardian and at least 100 years old, the mirror was clear. No black marks, cracks or that ‘foxing’ of the glass that makes it look misty. Had the mirror been replaced? If so, it must have been a very skilled replacement as the frame looked untouched.

But this wasn’t what caused Jane to draw a sharp breath. As she looked into the mirror, at what should have been her own familiar visage, Jane didn’t recognise herself at all. The mirror seemed to reflect a different Jane. A better Jane. A Jane that Jane had never hoped or believed she could be.

The dull light of Hoe Street seemed to have been enhanced somehow, as if there was a hidden sun just out of the frame, and the effect it had on Jane’s reflection was astonishing. Her lank blonde hair shone with health, her skin took on a slightly rosy tinge, like that of a young lover. Her lips looked more plump, hinting at secrets and promises, and her eyes were bright – their usual pale green seemingly deeper – confident and bewitching.

Jane was stunned and moved even closer, one hand touching the glass of the window. Her reflection followed suit, but to Jane’s eye it made her look as if she were trying to escape from the mirror – pushing out of the frame.

“I’m alive,” Jane whispered to herself.

A young lad in a hoodie ran past laughing, closely followed by a couple of mates. Jane turned to watch them go past, and the spell was broken. When she looked back into the mirror, all she saw was Jane. Forgettable Jane. Invisible Jane.

Her shoulders slumped. For the first time ever, Jane was somehow disappointed with herself. Being overlooked constantly, suddenly didn’t feel like a great way of living. If she could be mirror-Jane, what then? Mirror-Jane looked as if she could do anything she wanted.

Eventually, her fingers trailing the glass of the window, she turned away, and walked down the road, the puddles soaking through her flat shoes as she trudged on, oblivious; her head filled with images of the fun-filled life that mirror-Jane would have. Mirror Jane continued to dance and flirt and laugh hollowly in her head while she wrung out her umbrella in the hall at home.

Over the next couple of days, Jane spent a lot of time looking at herself in the only mirror she had – her bathroom one. It reflected the avocado tiles she’d never got round to replacing. They were as dull as she was, which was, she now realised, extremely dull. She studied her face at great length, tried putting on a little make-up, brushing her hair to attempt to make it shine. She even bought Optrex Eyedew eye drops that promised to make her eyes dazzle.

Nothing had any effect. Her skin refused to glow – and her inexperienced hands made the make-up appear like a clown’s. Her hair remained dull and her eyes became slightly red and irritated.

Who was she kidding ‑ Mirror-Jane didn’t exist. She couldn’t change her life with a bit of blusher and some eye drops. She couldn’t become a different person. She had the life she had and she should be grateful for it. Jane threw the eye drops in the bathroom bin, grabbed her coat and headed down to the High Street.

She loved the market – there was so much hustle and bustle it was easy for her to drift through unnoticed. But she never bought from the market as she avoided talking to people – especially the loud traders who called everyone “love”. The self-checkouts at Sainsbury’s and Asda were far better – just the occasional “Unexpected item in packaging area” puncturing her idyll.

She hurried along Hoe Street muttering, annoyed at herself, disappointed at how easily she’d been swayed by the dream of a good hair day, how willing she had been to give up everything she’d worked so hard for. She might as well have moved back to Kendal.

As she reached Lot One Ten, she glanced in the window…and stopped dead.

The autumnal sun currently bathing Walthamstow in a cool, yellow-grey looked warmer and brighter in the mirror on the walnut dresser. Jane felt her breath catch in her throat as she looked once again at her reflection.

Emerald green flashed at her from within smooth, soft skin. Mirror-Jane was back, almost sparking with energy. It was like the difference between normal TV and HD. Everything about her was richer, the life bursting forth as if it couldn’t be contained, and Jane realised that this really was the woman she wanted to be. She’d spent long enough in the shadows.

She vaguely registered the insistent bam-bam-bam of a jackhammer from one of the many building sites across the borough. Far from the dreary hidey-hole she had once sought out, even E17 was changing – little pockets of the town becoming brighter, full of life and colour. Did she need to follow suit? Did she dare?

“I can do this,” she said to the mirror. “I can be this.” She looked deep into her own eyes, which weren’t eyes she recognised. “Can you?” said the voice in her head, “Are you ready?” Jane stepped back from the window, took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

“Yes. I’m ready. It’s time.”

She let out her breath and realised that she could no longer hear anything except her own heartbeat. Startled, she opened her eyes, and whimpered softly.

Jane looked out, across Hoe Street. Where the Texaco garage had once been, she could see the big blue and yellow signs for the hand car wash place. She saw a Routemaster bus drive past, its usual rumble curiously missing.

Confused, she put a hand against the warm glass in front of her, as slowly her mind tried to make sense of what she was seeing.

On the pavement, Mirror-Jane looked into the window of Lot One Ten. Jane stared horrified at her as she looked straight into her eyes, her mouth curled into a smug smirk that had never graced that face before.

After a cheeky wave of her fingertips, Mirror-Jane tossed her head back, laughed and walked down Hoe Street and out of sight, with a sultry swing of her hips.

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what happens when you try to arrange a wedding in five weeks

November 21, 2013 1 comment
Last year I suggested we actually do it some time. I was on a beach, he was in the pub

Last year I suggested we actually do it some time. I was on a beach, he was in the pub

I have been with The Man for nearly 10 years. He has been threatening to marry me for many of those years. However, having been married three times already between us, it’s never been a priority. The fact that he has out-lasted both my previous marraiges put together has also lessened the need.

But about six weeks ago, I realised that my driving license had expired (check yours guys – I had no idea!), and it was in my previous married name. So, I was going to have to change my name on it.

I made the comment that “I wasn’t going to chnage my name on it now, just to change it again in a coouple of years time”, and with that, we went to the registry office and booked “The first Saturday available”. Which was last Saturday.

The Girl has been obsessed with us getting married eventually, and has mentioned it at least three times a week – even more so after her dad remarried. So, we obviously wanted her there, but apart from that, I’m not particularly into weddings, and I don’t like dressing up, and everything just seemed like too much fuss and bother. However, I LOVE a party!  I was in a quandry as to what to do.

So, I asked a wonderfully skilled friend if he would make our rings, to make it more personal and unique.  Him and his partner were the first outside our family to know.  Then, we finally relented and said family and closest friends could come along.  However, in ordeer to keep the amount of wedding chat to a minimum, I only told the girl 6 days beforehand when I had to take her out to get a dress!

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I booked the ‘wedding breakfast’ in the back room at the Village Kitchen – Hanna and the team couldn’t have been more accommodating, and we gave the kitchen a resounding round of applause on the day.  Do check it out some time guys if you haven’t already – we had nothing but great comments from people.

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The party had to be over the Rose & Crown, and I decided to get a karaoke and a photo booth. The wonderful people of Open Booths were amazing, and it really was a highlight of the evening – I highly recommend getting a photo booth for some brilliant memorable pics of your loved ones, and the Open Booth gives you so much more scope for merriment.

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But then the other highlight was our cake.

After seeing a Wizard of Oz cake that he’d made for his neice, I asked my lovely friend Darren if he would be interested in making me an anti-wedding cake that was Walthamstow themed. He jumped at the chance and the conspiring began.  Originally, I had asked for me & The Man sitting on top of a pile of abandoned mattri (Walthamstow is famous for its abandoned mattresses, don’t ya know?) but it became so much more than that. It features our favourite places, our cats, The Girl, Warren Sreet station where we met (even though it’s obviously not Walthamstow where we were both living at the time), panda bowl man, pigeons. It was an absolute work of art. A showstopper – made clear by the amount of time people took taking photos of it when we brought it out. I can’t thank Darren enough!

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All in all, given the amount of time I had to do it in, I think it was a bloody good day, and I am so grateful to every single person who came and shared our day. I wouldn’t have had it any other way – certainly not with months of stress and planning!

e17 storywalk

November 3, 2013 6 comments

As part of the Words Over Waltham Forest literary festival currently being held, there was an E17 Storywalk event yesterday.

Over two hours an audience visited six venues in Walthamstow and at each they heard a short story created especially to feature the place where they were standing, read out by the story’s author.  the walk was free, but voluntary donations of a suggested £5 were collected for Lloyd Park Children’s Centre.

A couple of weeks ago, one of the authors unfortunately dropped out, and I was aksed whether I’d be interested in taking their place. Rather nervously, I agreed – my reasons at the time purely being to help the group out (of which I only knew one) rather than for myself.

The venue that I was given was Lot One Ten – a curious little antique shop less than five minutes walk from my flat.  Due to current personal time constraints, I literally had about three to four hours to write my story, which I did last Saturday.  So, that was the main obstacle out of the way.

However, the thought of reading my own work out to a group of strangers absolutely terrified me. I tried it out on my lovely mate – but I know he would have said it was good even if he thought it was crap!  I didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before, and woke up a bit sniffly, which didn’t help at all.

It also didn’t help that the others reading their stories out were all ‘writers’ – unlike me!

Filled with trepidation, I wandered down to the library where the walk was due to start.

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Reading my story, with the other writers, my venue and the poster

The authors and venues were:

Each group had about 20 in the audience – and it was especially cosy on my one – but we fit everyone in.

The other five stories were fantastic, and I think we all relaxed after the morning group as the readings felt even stronger the second time round.

Poor Ken gave himself the short straw as his was the only outdoors venue. The first time round we were ambushed by a drunk piss-drenched Polish guy who demanded a tenner off the group to make him leave us alone. Luckily he was convinced to leave us alone without getting a tenner!  I’d like to think that it enhanced the colourful atmosphere of Ken’s story.  The scond time round it started raining pretty heavily and the wind really picked up – literally JUST for the time that Ken was reading.

All other readings were pretty uneventful in comparison!

I hope that anyone who did come enjoyed it – unexpectedly, once I’d resigned myself to the fact that I was actally there and just had to get on with it, I really, really enjoyed myself. And I met a great bunch of people, which helps! I’d totally be up for something like that again.

Paekakariki Press are printing a booklet featuring all six stories in the next 2-3 weeks, which some of our audience have already ordered. I’m very excited about this as I see it as my first instance of being ‘published’.

I must say, although he originally got me into this, I couldnt have done it without Simon’s help. He waded in and helped edit my brain-dump first draft and was brilliant at it!

So, despite my fears, it was a brilliant experience – what next?!!?

village kitchen, e17 (new menu launch)

April 15, 2013 2 comments

When we went to the Village Kitchen last month for our anniversary, they were advertising their new menu launch night – and we were lucky enough to get one of the last tables available!

I like the Village Kitchen.  It’s tastier than Eat17, better value for money than Trattoria Ruga, far more special than Mondragone, friendlier than The Nag’s Head and less garlicky than Orford Saloon.  I’m not saying that I don’t like all of those other places (apart from the Nag’s) but why it’s my favourite eatery in Walthamstow village.

That wasn’t always the way – a few years ago, it didn’t seem to have got into its stride, but it definitely has now!  And the service there is fantastic.

It doesn’t look like they’ve changed the menu on their website yet, but I’m sure that will happen in the next few days!  So, here is what we had!

Smoked chicken, mango and avocado salad

Smoked chicken, mango and avocado salad

Doesn’t that look beautiful.  this was a fresh zingy salad, with goorgeous, moist chicken with just the right amount of smokiness to balance with the creamy avocado and juicy mango.

Smoked salmon, beetroot and horseradish cream

Smoked salmon, beetroot and horseradish cream

The Man had this as it’s all his favourite things – a good serving of smoked salmon, tender beetroot and what I believe was a red pepper dressing.  His only cirticism (which he discussed with our waitress after) was that the horseradish cream wasn’t quite horseradishy enough!  But he IS a bit of a horseradish fiend.  It was launch night, and she said she would happily pass the comment on to the chef.

Lamp rump with spicy aubergine, mushroom & chick pea compote

Lamp rump with spicy aubergine, mushroom & chick pea compote

Lamb is my favourite meat in the world – if I could only eat one meat for the rest of my life, it would even outrank bacon!  However, I don’t like aubergine.  BUT I have been eating a lot of things lately that I don’t usually like – and I had a gorgeous lamb/aubergine dish in Caffe Theatro recently…so I went for it.

I’m so glad I chose this as it was DELISH!  The lamb was tender and lightly pink as I’d asked for it and the compote was fabulous.  This was like the richest, most flavourful Moroccan style veggie stew you can imagine.  And the jus/gravy with it was allso packed full of flavour.

Confit duck leg, crushed jersey royals with crispy pancetta and spinach

Confit duck leg, crushed jersey royals with crispy pancetta and spinach

I didn’t get a chance to eat much of this as he happily cleared it away!  The duck looked moist though – and the crispy skin was wonderfully tasty.

Oops!

Oops!

We were so excited when our desserts arrived that I forgot to take any photos!  He had a banoffee pie that him and the bloke on the next table both seemed to really enjoy (I didn’t try that as I bananas make me gag!), and after all that rich spicy stew and lamb, I had the most zingy lovely lemon and lime tart with chantilly cream and raspberry coulis!  It was zesty and the pastry was extremely short and light – wonderul!

If I hadn’t had the lamb though, I would’ve been tempted to have their chocolate bread & butter pudding, which I would recognise to anyone – it’s to die for!

We also had a small wine tasting at our table, to pair up with our main dishes, and they were great recommendations.

We also got talkign to a guy and his dad on the next table – his dad had the kangaroo steak, and I happened to mention that Timmy was probably going to be stuck down the well a lot longer this time 😉  It’s so great that Walthamstow is so friendly!

Love my town – and I love food…so Village Kitchen gets my vote!

guffaw comedy club, rose & crown, e17

March 14, 2013 Leave a comment
Guffaw Comedy Club 070313

Guffaw Comedy Club 7th  March 13

When I heard that Arthur Smith was going to be appearing at my very very local pub a couple of months ago, I bagged me and The Man a couple of tickets immediately.

I have been to a few of the gigs put on by lovely compere Susan Murray as part of the Guffaw Comedy Club at Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre Pub – and I have seen some great stuff, including Richard Herring TWICE!

Susan Murray was on especially sparkling good form (perhaps because it was her birthday and her parents were in the audience – although we never heard/saw any evidence of said parents, so perhaps they were made up!).

Next was Grainne Maguire – Irish (obviously), self-deprecating, unique, extremely likeable, and ‘not very rude’ as she kept pointing out.  She actually had the audience in the palm of her hand, expertly playing us until we were almost weeping with laughter – a class act!

It seemed like there was going to be an Irish invasion, as next up was Rory O’Hanlon. Unfortunately, as it is now a week ago, I can’t remember much about Rory, which is rather embarrassing – but I know that he was very amusing.

Canadian Ryan Cull made a rather brief appearance next, and as happens often with foreign acts, he pointed out the funny things about us Brits – which is always completely hilarious.  He had a ready smile, and was quite cute – and he was only on for about 15 minutes…he couldn’t go wrong really, could he?

Finally, it was time for the main attraction, the wonderful grumpy old man that IS Arthur Smith – the Night Mayor of Balham (luckily I’d recently had my shots, so couldn’t catch anything from this particular specimen from South of the river!)  I have a real soft spot for Mr Smith (ooer) – grumpy old man he may be, he’s never ‘nasty’, and he’s got that voice, that wonderful gravelly voice.  Not only do a listen to that voice almost every night when I go to bed (he does the continuity for the Comedy Zone on Radio 7…10 til midnight – yeah, OK they now call it 4Extra, but it will alwyas be Radio 7 to me!) but I was once fortunate enough to talk to the man himself on the phone – back in about 1994. Oh how gooey I went at the sound of that voice!

Arthur was a wonderful mix of observations and old favourites chucked in for the kitsch factor.

I have to say, every single one of them hit the spot and made for a fantastic evening where I sniggered, chuckled and indeed guffawed happily.

I believe Stuart Lee and Richard Herring are due to appear in the summer, so we’ll be looking out for those!

e17 book clubs – more needed?

February 26, 2013 9 comments

ImageYou might have noticed that I post quite a lot of book reviews.  I also post whether I have read the book as it was chosen as part of our E17 Book Club.  I think that this has provoked quite a lot of publicity for our book club as I have received many requests over the last year or so by people who would like to join.

We are obviously a rather literary lot in Walthamstow!

Turnover of members of our book club is rather low indeed – we ‘allowed’ a couple of newbies in when one member left in September, but the number of people asking to join and being turned away is growing weekly.

There are other Book Clubs that I know of in Walthamstow, one that meets at The Mill, the Reading Group that meets at Walthamstow Library and Forest Book Group who meet in Peking Chef.

I am sure that there are probably others, and if you know of them please do let me know.

However, my point for this post was to suggest that maybe someone sets up another Book Club (or two!) in Walthamstow – there are obviously enough people interested to fill them (we have found that about 10 people at any one meeting is kind of the upper limit…and about 14 on the list tends to get 8-10 each meeting).

I have quite a large number of people ‘in my archives’, so, if anyone wanted to set something up, I would be happy to get back in touch with peopel that had contacted me in the past and asked to be put on our waiting list to see if they would like to join.

So, come on, is someone going to stand up to the mark and say “YES! *I* will start organising a new book club in Walthamstow!”.

(PS – we now have no idea who ‘runs’ our book club…once you get a few meetings out the way, the members kind of look after it as one.)

***UPDATE*** Someone has kindly taken on the mantle of setting up a new book club, which will meet once a month at The Chequers.  Let me know if you would like more details.

Also, as per Jenny’s comment below, there is a book club set up that meets in The Castle once a month!

We really, really are a well-read bunch in E17!

world book night success 2013

February 24, 2013 Leave a comment
Yay! I get to give out free books again!

Yay! I get to give out free books again!

I am very excited to have received the email above from the organisers of World Book Night.  For some reason, because I was successful last year when I gave out 20 copies of Good Omens by Neil Gaiman (which was my first choice as it is one of the best books EVER!), I thought that it would be weighted against me and my application wouldn’t get through for this year.

I have to admit to not being quite as excited by the shortlist this year as I had last year, and I wondered what had happened to all the ones I had voted for, but The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is definitely a book that I voted for through the whole process, and as you can see, it was my number one choice (you can see my review of it here).

I was a little wary at first as this is the first book in a series of three AND considered a ‘young adult’ book, but then I thought that was what would make it perfect to get people reading even more that don’t necessarily read usually.

I will probably be foisting them on random people in the Rose & Crown like I did last year, but if you are in Walthamstow, and would be interested in reading this, let me know and I will reserve you one of the 20 copies!

Roll on Tuesday 23rd April!

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