Thanks to those readers who've alerted me to their local blogs. In time I will link to them all. To begin, this sobering and sensitive account of the recent funeral of a local young man:
It was a mild morning in June and people in their thousands were dressed in black. There was a funeral going on. A young boy whose life had been cut short by the hands of a knife and by the actions of evil lay in a casket where his family and friends attended to pay their respects. The amount of people who attended the ceremony at St Johns on Lower Clapton Road was significantly large; a rough estimate would probably be around the 2,500 mark. Young, old, black, white, some walked, some took their cars, a sombre occasion for a life no longer. Looking down from above, he would have been grateful and proud.
Photographer Fran Monks saw them while they were in the Pond. One of my daughters saw them in the street nearby while on her way to school. Later that same morning my youngest and I spotted them waddling down Cornthwaite Road in the direction of Lea Bridge Road. Fran tells me of speculation that they were heading for the river. I hope they got there.
Does this poster tell you all you need to know? It probably does, though I'll add that the screenings of The Big Smoke are encompassed by Mayor Johnson's Story of London festival. Myviews about that enterprise caused Boris's culture director Munira Mirza to tell me the other week that she "has a bone to pick with me." That's no reflection on The Big Smoke, though, which I hope to be able to go and see. Click on the poster to make it bigger.
The latest issue - number 5 - of the Hackney Citizen landed on my doormat yesterday and I was really pleased to see it. Professional, sensible and refreshingly upbeat it provides just the sort of news and culture coverage the borough needs much more of. It also carries aastute editorial on that very theme:
Commenting recently on the role of local papers, Alan Rusbridger, editor of the Guardian said: “Communities need information; local politicians and officials need challenge; citizens need a voice.”
He did, too, and he's right. The Citizen adds:
A viable independent press is a crucial part of democracy.
Right again. And the same is true of independent local blogosphere. Hackney has been perhaps surprisingly slow off the mark in this regard. We lag behind the trailblazers of Greenwich and Barnet, where such as853 and Barnet Eye make valuable nuisances of themselves. Let the cry go out. More local bloggers required!
The borough and its people inspire all sorts of photographers in all sorts of ways. Yesterday I visited a retrospective of Tom Hunter's work at the University of the Arts gallery at 65 Davies Street, W1. It includes some of his many celebrated images of Hackney. (Some newer Hunter works, on the theme of London's history, are presently showing at the Museum of London). Meanwhile, at the LSE atrium in Houghton Street, an exhibition called Viewing Restricted includes photos along with text and audio by Mishka Henner on the theme of poverty in the borough. And tonight, just down the road,Pagespresents a private view of the work of Colin O'Brien. They look fab. It starts at 6.00 and ends at 9.00, and there's a 10 percent discount on books.
Why has this pillar box on Cornthwaite Road been blocked up for several weeks? Why are the ones at the bottom of Chatsworth Road opposite Millfields park and outside the former (thanks Gordon) post office by the roundabout at the top of Lower Clapton Road not blocked up? Why have I not got round to phoning either of the two numbers shown on the blocked up pillar box to ask? I can answer that last question: I haven't got round to it. Perhaps I will tomorrow. Perhaps you will before I do. If you do, please let me know what you were told (click on the pic to make the numbers more visible. Or believe me when I tell you that they are 08457 740740 and 0845 6000606).
When my family is away, as it was last week, I often sleep on the sofa downstairs. This is largely by accident but also partly by design because, in my solitude, I feel more secure at night down there, in closer proximity to my street level windows and front door. This is babyish and paranoid, but has maybe served a useful purpose too.
I was on the sofa when I woke on Saturday morning at a quarter to five. It's not unusual for me to rise that early, especially in the summer when the sun does the same thing, but I was nonetheless surprised having not closed my eyes till after midnight. Then a possible cause become apparent: a quiet but firm knocking sound from the front of the house. I listened, and there it was again. This time, it seemed to come from next door.
I speculated drowsily that someone had come in late, realised they'd forgotten their key and was trying to wake another inhabitant of the house. Then the knocking became louder. I started to feel annoyed. It became louder still. Then I heard a metallic clang: the sound of something heavy made of iron hitting the stone floor of my neighbour's porch. A low male voice said something unintelligible but urgent.
I got up. I found my keys and walked crossly down the hall. By now it had occurred to me that the sounds might not be being made by an resident of the house next door, but I'd been galvanized by irritation. I released the chain on my front door, unlocked the mortis, turned the latch and looked out. My neighbour's porch was empty and so, as far as I could see, was the street. My neighbour's door, though, was part open. Only the security chain held it mostly closed. And there were what looked like the marks of a chisel in its frame. Between us, my neighbour's chain and the noise of a grumpy me unsliding mine had foiled a burglary.
Later that morning a police officer arrived, while I was in the bath. She was extremely understanding and sat outside while I got dressed before writing down my account of what had occurred. She told me there'd been a spate of burglaries in nearby streets of late, including a couple in Newick Road. The following day I was visited by PCSO Yaye Sall-White of the Leabridge Safer Neighbourhoods Team to confirm that burglars had been active round my way and to inform me that the SNS would be stepping up local patrols.
This development should not, perhaps, come as a great surprise. At last week's full meeting of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson reported a continuing fall in reported burglaries but expressed pessimism about this downward trend continuing. Just as business crime and hate crime tends to rise during recessions - as they already have in London - opportunist crimes like burglary often do too.
The number for the Leabridge SNT is 020 8721 2836 and the email address is Leabridge.SNT@met.police.uk I was advised by PSCO Sall-White to carefully lock my doors and windows at bedtime and to be vigilant. She didn't say anything about sleeping on the sofa downstairs, and I don't exactly recommend it. I am, though, glad I did it on Friday night.