Modernism in Stratford E15

01/03/2012 § 1 Comment

That is the Stratford ziggurat, which until it was demolished in 1998 housed council offices next door to my secondary school. Isn’t it amazing? I have been looking for a photo of this for years, but yesterday discovered the Newham Story website, which is full of fascinating bits and bobs of Newham history.  Here’s Stratford Bus station as it looked when I was growing up; here’s Stratford Broadway during the General Strike; and here’s a report on the 20th anniversary of the Victorian housing development I grew up on. Street names of Forest Gate! I could read random bits for hours, possibly days. There are photo archives, including one related to shipbuilding and the docks, a reminder of how recently Newham had flourishing industry right on its doorstep.

The building above was replaced by this, by the way. Isn’t that utterly depressing?


Old Year’s Night 2011

31/12/2011 § 3 Comments

Here are the things I enjoyed most in 2012:


1. My Bernina sewing machine. I used to have a cute little retro Singer given to me by a friend which I used a lot, but this year my grandma passed on to me her nearly new Bernina and it’s a wonderful, wonderful machine. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as sewing on a  really good sewing machine; I keep it permanently set up and probably three days don’t go by without my using it.

2. Wagner. I listen to the opera from the Met on Radio 3 fairly religiously on Saturday evenings, but I’ve never really been able to get my head round Wagner on the radio. This year I realised that watching it live makes all the difference: I saw Der fliegende Holländer and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at the Royal Opera House and was utterly gripped all the way through both operas. Something about the theatrical experience made it suddenly work for me. My other favourite opera experience of the year was seeing Don Giovanni in the Theatre of the Estates in Prague – the theatre in which Mozart himself first conducted that opera, which was like a gorgeous eighteenth century chocolate box, all blue and gold and dainty.

3. Union work. My UNISON branch elected me branch secretary (I was unopposed; the position is not hotly contested) earlier in the year and although it’s sometimes stressful, I’ve found it very fulfilling; I’ve been doing my job for seven years now and having something new to do has made work so much more enjoyable and satisfying. My union colleagues are all such fun and admirable people; being around them and working with them is great. It’s been an interesting year to be in a union, too.

4. Gardening. Well, sort of. I’ve been living in a house with a proper garden for a year now and last year I never really made much headway with it. But thinking about it and reading about it and working out what I wanted to do has been all-absorbing and I have great plans for next year.

5. Economics. My dad once said he learned geography – or at least, where places were –  from the news. This year I have done the same with economics. Not that I am anything like an expert, but just following the news has taught me a lot I never knew before about how economies work and why. Particularly useful: the FT and John  Lanchester’s pieces in the LRB.

6. Twitter. Such a lot of news has happened this year and Twitter has been both useful and fun as a way of keeping up with it. Some of the people on Twitter I find most interesting and funny (excluding people I actually know in real life, who are also very interesting and funny):  Chris Brooke, infamy_infamy, bat020, Agata Pyzik, Mark FisherMaud NewtonBloomsbury Fightback, and the late DSG.

7. MostlyFilm. I’ve really enjoyed reading and writing for the MostlyFilm blog this year, after it rose like a phoenix from the ashes of the Guardian Film Talkboards. What I like about it is what a collection of people’s different enthusiasms it is: I’ve read lots of pieces on things I wouldn’t have thought I’d find interesting but which I enjoyed because the interest of the writer shone through.

8. London. I ended up reading quite a few books about the history of London this year, of which the most fascinating of all was Jerry White’s London in the 19th century. I learned so much about London, it’s given me an appetite for more.

9. Ingeborg Bachmann. Of all the authors I read for the first time this year, the best and my favourite was Austrian poet and novelist Ingeborg Bachmann, who I’ve actually been managing to read in German, which is a reflection of the clarity and elegance of her style, I think. I will try and write more about her later in the year.

I could make it ten things but the last would be a push, I think. Instead, here are my resolutions for next year. I always make lots of portentous resolutions to improve myself and become a nicer, better-educated person, but this year I think I’m going to give myself a break. So my resolutions for 2012 are:

1. Don’t get so stressed out about stuff.

2. Don’t run up library fines.

3. Write more.

4. Garden more.

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