The neighbourhood hasn't been the same since Havanas closed for reburbishment all those months ago. Back in the old days, the area around the Pond had three places where a weary resident with old-fashioned tastes could order bacon, egg and chips and wash it down with a cup of workers' tea. Then, suddenly, there were none.
Residents are being encouraged to take part in a Question Time style debate about the future of the borough. It is being held to launch a major, year-long resident engagement programme during which the Council aims to talk to thousands of people about their experience of the rapid social and economic changes that have affected the borough in recent times.
All of this is true. The debate is being held at the City Academy on 18th March, and if you want to be in the audience you'd better move fast because the last time I looked there were only 58 tickets left. My particular interest in the event is that I will be chairing it in my capacity as long-term Hackney resident (I think it's 34 years), writer of the Guardian's On London column and author of this blog.
There's a long story to be told about the former tramway depot at 38-40 Upper Clapton Road, just beyond the roundabout. The short version is that the Hackney Societyhas tried to save it from redevelopment, others have expressed concerns, ownership has changed hands and we'll have to wait and see exactly what happens next. What is certain is that the varied group of artists and small businesses that once occupied the Victorian sheds has had to scatter, leaving Tilley Harris and Alex Pielak to honour and display their work.
Palm 2 barista and all-purpose legend Khan is planning to transform the shop's upstairs room into a breakfast cafe on Saturdays and Sundays, open from nine until two. Sources have disclosed that this exciting new venture will get underway very soon. You read it here some time after you already knew it, probably. But I expect you're glad anyway. I know I am. See you at the Cafe on the Corner.
Last October I described the transformation of the long-established Dunya kebab take-away into Dom's Place, a new kind of Turkish food establishment under the same family ownership. On Saturday, Dom's Place held a celebration party for its regulars, hosted by Dom himself. That's him, lit up, in the picture.
Nine months have passed since Lukasz and Miguel opened the Candela restaurant opposite the Salvation Army church on Lower Clapton Road. For me, they've represented the best of the Great Change that has come to the neighbourhood. They are full of goodwill, energy and enterprise. They've added to the variety of the area while complementing the best of its spirit. I've enjoyed every visit I've made there, whether dropping in with friends or after making a mass booking for my darling mob of a family.
It's sad that the Grade II listed Bishops Wood almshouses are to be sold to developer after standing on their site next to the pond for centuries. Just how sad will ultimately depend on what is built in their place. The Hackney Citizen reported in February that any buyer would have to confrom to strict conservation rules, but the aesthetics of a new development will only be only one consideration. Another will be the affordability of the new homes. Will many, if any, be within the price range of people on average or low incomes?
"It makes me laugh, this bus stop," said the local-born young man I was walking with. "All these normal Clapton people standing there, waiting, and right behind them is this trendy beer shop. And they're looking in the window at the customers and thinking 'Who are they? Where did they come from?'"
Gentrification convention would not be fully honoured in these parts were there no bicycle shop among the organic veg and coffee nation colonies. So congratulations to Gary and Naseer, pictured here, for filling the missing niche. Hub Velo has recently opened its doors following several weeks of painting and decorating by the enterprising gentlemen themselves assisted by family members and friends. Two wheel travel scares the daylights out of me so I won't be a customer, but I've a feeling lots of local folk will be. Hub Velo's website is here, its Facebook page is here and its twitterings are here. Ride on.