London – Day 4 – July 13, 2019
We all slept through the night. It was amazing! Didn’t start the day until 10 am – breakfast at Gregg’s – no more of this neglecting breakfast business!
We headed off to Whitechapel. This was a big nostalgia day! We wandered through the market and I bought some earrings. I love to see all the different fruits, vegetables, and products from other cultures.
We took a bus back the way we had walked and went to the Whitechapel Gallery. I was a frequent visitor here when I lived in London and particularly when I was at art school. It’s one of my favourite galleries and they have expanded it significantly. There were some cool exhibits with pieces about rural life in other countries. There was also some art that we didn’t quite “get”, but it was fun.
We wandered down Brick Lane and saw heaps of street art. The boys sure were getting an education! We stopped at a park by Code Street and the boys played on the zip line and the cool obstacle course-like playground. I had a look at more of the graffiti and actually got to see people working on some of it.
The Brick Lane area was pretty rough and undeveloped when I lived there, but it is now a super trendy area with lots of restaurants, shops and galleries. One of the strangest things was walking down Hanbury Street and seeing all the shops – it was so odd. The only thing that used to be of much consequence there were the Hanbury Community Project where Becky and I worked and where we had The Cavern, and the Jack the Ripper tours that stopped across the street at one of the spots where he killed one of his victims.
We went into what was the Hanbury Community Project and is now a cafe. It’s a really beautiful space inside and if I lived in London, it would definitely be a place that I would hang out. The building has an amazing history and is a listed building. Here’s what it says on the Blue Plaque outside the building: Hanbury Hall:
Built 1719 as a French Huguenot Church. Used by La Patente Church 1740 onwards. John Wesley preached here. 1787 it became a German Lutheran Church. Used by the Baptists then the United Free Methodists. Charles Dickens gave public readings here. 1887 Christ Church bought the building as its Church Hall. 1888 Annie Besant and Eleanor Marx-Aveling held the matchstick girls strike meetings here which helped to establish the British Trade Unions. Throughout its life this hall has served Church, community and nation.
Becky and I weren’t sure why they forgot to include our time there! It’s quite cool to think that in this amazing building we taught classes, had the Cavern, and it’s also where Colin and I had our engagement party.
We decided to have a curry for lunch and were sad that Cafe Bangla didn’t exist anymore, but were thrilled when we went to the place where it was, to discover that the Princess Diana painting as well as the other creative art pieces were still on the walls. Sadly, they weren’t serving lunch, but the owner let us go in and take photos. Then we went to his other restaurant which also had cool art on the wall. It was so good! Poppadoms, amazing curry, peshwari naan. The owner kept checking in with us and we had some great conversations. When it was time to go, he called us family, gave us all hugs and wanted to take a selfie with us. It was a fabulous experience.
We carried on down Brick Lane and headed to Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium on Bethnal Green Road. Zane was so excited and then so brokenhearted when we discovered you have to be 12 to go in. He coped well though and we carried on down Bethnal Green Road and memory lane. We passed a shop where a friend used to work and it turns out she still does and was there so we got to catch up a bit with Marlene.
Once again, we ended up at a McDonald’s for a cold drink and a 99 Cent Flake Ice Cream cone – they’re still 99p at McDonald’s while being more expensive at Mr Whippy.
I wanted to get some photos of St John at Bethnal Green which is where I used to help and teach art classes with the homeless and also got to put some of my art in an exhibit. When we got there, the doors were open and there was an art exhibit happening. It is such a cool space for art and the art was amazing. The exhibit was in the sanctuary, up in the balcony and down in the Crypt which was where the classes that I taught were. It was great to see the space being used so much for the community. There are all sorts of classes being held throughout the week down in the Crypt and we saw some people making sparkly costumes for the Notting Hill Festival.
It’s hard for me to explain how meaningful it was for me to share these spaces with the boys. It’s probably not as meaningful to them, but it is amazing to see them in these places that were so important to me and such a big part of my life.
We walked back to Weaver’s Field Park and the boys played on the playground while the adults sat and chatted. Again, there was the variety of cultures in the space and I loved that the boys just jumped into and were nonplussed by it all.
We carried on to see our Cheshire Street flat. So many good times in that place. Also the cold and the rats in the garden and the endless pasta bakes.
Back to Brick Lane to the bagel shop and then toward Liverpool Street. We found a place hear Spitalfields Market to sit and eat our bagels. There was a big screen tv showing Wimbledon and lots of people watching.
We took the train back to Stratford. Back to the pub for drinks and talks while the boys played on the playground.
Lovely day on Memory Lane.