Whatever Happened To The East End Of London?

Whatever happened to the East End of London?


Where are the litter strewn streets, the pavements smeared with dog shit, the piss soaked phone boxes, the beaten up Cortinas and Jags belching unchecked emissions into pushchair strapped toddlers, the gangs of roaming racists, the queer bashers, gawd s’truth, strike a light?


I was born here in 1959, an epoch ago, moved to New York City, and after a decade have just come back.


OK, the days of Cortinas are long gone, but when I left it was a scary, miserable, grumpy, cold, grey, hateful place.


I decided to venture out and investigate, starting just the other day in Stratford east.

Now I know the 2012 Olympics generated bucket loads of cash with which to transform that part of the world, and in a hurry, but it’s beyond recognition.

The first thing one will notice upon exiting the much revamped but peculiarly painted in snot green underground station is the enormous shopping mall that has been plonked right next to it, like the result of a giant child playing with lego.


My initial thought was one of amazement, that maybe this paean to consumerism might be a good thing, especially as I was need of underwear, toiletries, a mobile phone, and fish and chips, all of which were located within spitting distance from each other.

After 30 minutes I felt like I had been scooped up by the giant child and dropped into a human ant farm.

At 3 on a Tuesday afternoon it was choc-a-bloc with folk all scurrying around on their particular missions, none of whom seemed to care a jot who or what they trampled over to fulfill.

I scampered out with bruised limbs and scrunched toes to survey the main street.


I attended school at Stratford Grammar from 1970, so this was my stomping ground.

It’s all gone.


The old shopping center across the way looked dejected, a bargain basement relic.

I remember before even it was built, before indeed the bus station was there, when Angel Lane existed in its place, full of two-up-two-down terraced houses, condemned then as slums, which now would have been absurdly high rent des reses.


As looked out at the bijou coffee shops and restaurants my mind superimposed the old place, like Bobby Moore’s pub Mooro’s, previously The Two Puddings, a notorious watering hole full of stories of violence, where my old schoolfriend Carlton Leach worked as a bouncer before becoming a gangster proper.


The clock chimes of the modern art inspired timepiece on the station forecourt brought me back with a jolt.

The good old days, they say.....


I jumped back on the tube to Bethnal Green, where I am staying, and went for a walk around Victoria Park, to clear my head.

Last time I was there the lake was brown.

Now it’s been dredged and is so clear it looks drinkable, with a brand new Chinese pagoda on the island in the middle, a cute little bridge to it.

I wonder when the lake was dredged if the bodies of all the war time aborted babies were found.


The Pavillion, once a rarely open workers caff selling mugs of PG tips and Mother’s Pride white toast, is now overrun with what appear to be trust fund couples paying ridiculous amounts of money for thin white lattes and soy cappucinos.

I mean, there’s even a bookshop!

When did Eastenders learn to read?


Well, thing is you’d be hard pressed to find an Eastender around these days.

Is that a bad thing?

Eastenders to me were work-shy, racist, homophobic bigots, with the IQ of an amoeba.

That was my family in fact, coming as I do from the East End, a cockney born and bred.

I hated the filthy dump and could not wait to get out.

But now I find myself back I’m more than happy to sit with the yummy mummies and sip a ginseng and cauliflower iced tea whilst perusing Kant.

It’s beats watching kids on a lager induced rage smashing up phone boxes any day.