As everyone in Britain knows, Hackney is the worst place to live – because a TV show said so last year. It’s mangier than Middlesbrough, Mappowder and Merthyr Tydfil. It’s grungier than Grays, Grimsby and Gravesend. It’s uglier than Ulva, Ullapool and Usk. It’s ranker than Ramsbottom, nastier than Nether Wallop and tackier than Tolpuddle. In Hackney we even need signs that tell us the street lighting is functional. It isn’t by the way, it’s just that you can’t read the signs at night and when you can read them, in the day, you don’t expect the lights to be on anyway so you believe the signs and are grateful that your council tax is being spent on something.
This is the time of year when you are most likely to see evidence of some spending as works department heads find out that, instead of not having any money at all as they have been led to believe for eleven months, there is now half a million quid to be spent in three weeks. We were lucky here in Hackney Wick as we were standing right underneath that wind when it fell and a hideous torn rag of emerald green astro-turf that local kids have been trying to play football on for the last nine years has been replaced by a state of the art grass-coloured ‘sports surface’. It was the last aspect of my immaculate and for sale flat that needed to be perfected, and now it is.
You would expect that with the magnificent weather, budding foliage and everywhere evidence of lifestyle, that potential buyers would be falling in love left, right and centre. Sadly, this is not the case. A young couple came on Saturday. They looked like they might slot right into Hackney. He had wigger dreadlocks and she was small and Mediterranean. The sun was making like it was servicing a solarium and he walked in and said ‘Wow, what a lovely place.’ She seemed happy that she could see at all. There you go my lovely, I thought - prematurely as it turns out. They stayed five minutes, said nothing to each other and couldn’t get away fast enough. I know I’m a bit whiffy but I did both wash and spray. I think they just remembered that they were in Hackney. Although it can look and feel like a fabulous place to live, it actually can’t be because it’s the worst place in Britain.
These regular episodes with baffling strangers, and the wear and tear of having to keep the flat nice for an indefinite period is almost doing me in but there is the daily jog around Hackney Marshes to look forward to. Today, on the bitumen perimeter path I came across a large deposit of horseshit. It’s much harder to get angry about horseshit than dogshit because it seems somehow less deliberate. When you see dogshit, you know that the owner has brought his or her dog outdoors for the sole purpose of shitting. You know horses are allowed to shit where they live and there’s no shortage of Camilla-inspired horsy girls lining up to muck out after them.
Horseshit in a paddock looks organic but, on bitumen it looks like one incredibly long, enormous crap that no one wants to do anything about. The only people allowed to ride horses on Hackney Marshes are the police. They’re not going to dismount and poop scoop, are they? The rangers in their little golf buggies don’t seem inclined to engage either. So we have a stalemate that’s getting staler and staler. We also have an interesting anomaly. Local police virtually wake up in the morning reciting the mantra – we must prosecute people who enable dog fouling yet I’d be very surprised if any police station in the country that supported police horses ever opened a conversation with the words, ‘should we really be depositing great big gobs of horseshit on pathways where little children are running and playing?’
But it was a beautiful day and I am making great progress with Draft 4 of my book. Having woken up yesterday with the perfect opening, I have just been cruising. I very much looked forward to the vege box delivery from the adored Abel & Cole but when it arrived, there was a curt little note with it. To wit – ‘PLEASE FLATTEN ALL BOXES AFTER USE’. So great is the esteem in which I hold Abel & Cole, that I immediately assumed I was at fault and, sure enough, when I looked at the cute little box, there is a clear instruction weaving itself along the softly curved opening which requests,
Please fold it (the box) down and return it to your driver so we can reuse it and save some trees!
Bravo dear Abel & Cole and mega mea culpa. I did think – poor driver, how dreadful it must be to have to dismantle all these boxes – until, until I looked at the box and realised it could be flattened with one deft hand movement. He could have reduced five hundred boxes to a satisfactory state of flatness in the time it takes to walk back down the two flights of stairs and out to the yellow van that can be seen from space so it’s not about the work involved. My dear, lovely Abel & Cole driver can only have assumed that I considered myself too posh to push and, after months of waiting for me to read the sodding label, he’s finally cracked. There is only one thing for it and that’s for me to leave a sweet little card on my resolutely flattened box next week apologising profusely for just not getting it. It’s the very least I can do.
Perhaps my potential buyers are put off by the dichotomy of workhouse conditions and big house expectations. Hackney is an enigma and quite possibly a converse of the traditional model of vacuity in that, in Hackney the lights are off but everyone’s at home…