There are many warning signs you’re getting older, the first time the barber offers to cut your eye brows, the moment you see someone on X Factor and mock then for being an old fart, only for them to reveal they’re two years younger than you, and the first time you hear yourself muttering, “it wasn’t like that in my day…..” before putting the world to rights. I don’t live in Walthamstow now (priced out, oops!), but I’m still there a few times a week, and I spent most of the first 30 something years of my life growing up there. And you know what, it certainly wasn’t like this in my day.
I recall my weekly Saturday treat was a trip to Percy Ingalls in Wood Street, after being dragged by my wrist around the shops, for a ritual treat of an iced bun and strawberry milkshake, made from a red power half-heartedly stirred to ensure the drink retained it’s grit like taste (that was until an unfortunate child ailment resulted in a medicine that tasted identical, both going down and coming up again, leaving me unable to drink strawberry milkshakes to this day). Now of course it’s luxury flats, and if you want to take little Johnny out for a post shopping treat, you have a host of independent coffee shops where he can drink his skinny mocha-choca-lactose-free latte in what can only be a miniature plant pot.
The market is no longer good enough. Seems we need a market within a market. In the same space that’s sold fruit, veg, fish and meat for years we now need a periodic “farmers” market to meet our nourishment needs. Descending on the Central area from the well known agricultural communities of Highbury and Islington we are persuaded of the superiority of their “unique” and artisan products, from those who have worked here for generations. When it comes to price, it seems “farmer” is to markets, what “wedding” is to cakes.
But I guess it’s all down to the demands of the recent migration of hipsters and their beards. (A phenomenon that dates back to the mid-2000, where British Special Forces started doing long range patrols in Afghan. They would come back to camp with beards, allowed to be grown to save water on their trips, accidentally becoming a default sign of macho-ness. Finding it’s way to the UK the beard grew popular among the hipster community to show their manliness, though now spend more time grooming them on a daily basis than a 16 year old high school girl does on doing her own hair for prom. Enough, let’s get back on track……). Ironically attracted by the good commuting routes out, though quickly discovering a truly rough diamond of East London they have chosen to polish with a mixture of craft ales and vegan dishes.
Back then the gangs were different, admittedly we wore colours and carried knifes around the street, and we had our territorial patches. Ok, we even “hunted” a few people, including the odd kidnap and (temporary) imprisonment. We may have been feral, but at least we wore a uniform. That was just how scouts were back then. Now we have a different breed in, recruited by the lure of free chicken they seem more than a little lost, and although they may have the odd gun between then it doesn’t look like they’re having half the fun we used to. Valentine Road used to be my Sunday afternoon stomping ground (after a Church youth group of all things), now I’m told it’s the most dangerous street in Britain.
But of course it’s changed. We all do and so do the places we live. Walthamstow’s a great place, I think the only real difference now is we’re discovering it. I grew up playing in Epping Forest and it’s still an amazing place, easy to forget you’re in London when you’re wandering around there. I can’t think of anywhere in London where such a diverse community get on without even thinking about it. We have a village five minutes away from the longest market in Europe. It seems the old cinema’s on the way back, the pools and track, there’s even talk about the old Lido being shaken back in to life.
Walthamstow will always have the naysayers, but what do they know. Some people just want to be grumpy, it makes them happy. Of course some things can be better and we should always try to improve them. People will come and go, trends will rise and fall, but there’s an underlying fabric of Walthamstow, maybe it’s the geography, on the border of city and country, maybe it’s the history, but whatever it is and whatever changes happen, Walthamstow will remain one of the most exciting places to be in London.