The Long Delays of Justice (36/80)

Friday 10 May – Hackney Central (Square B7 on the Tube map), Hackney Wick (B7), Haggerston (C7), Hainault (A9), Hammersmith (D3)

The Inner Curmudgeon is throwing his toys out of the pram. Not again, he yells. We can’t go out on a TubeforLOLs day without a proper breakfast first. We did that Tuesday. It was an unmitigated disaster. (See last post, Being and Nothingness.)

I sip my single cup of coffee. The Wee Professor says nothing. He’s checked the Tube map and the stations we’re visiting today. He’s scanned his capacious hard disk, retrieved the appropriate comforting memories and packed W.E.V. Quine’s masterpiece in preparation for the day. No, not Van’s philosophical tour-de-force, Word and Object, with its indeterminancy of translation thesis, but his epic Cheese and the Fundamentals of Pleasure where the Quine-Craig indispensability of cheese thesis was first developed.  

It’s a grey blustery day. We’re back to early spring, late March for a guess. I’m at Forest Hill for ten o’clock and take the Overground north to Canonbury.

The Metro’s headline is: I learnt of my son’s death on school web page

I’m reading Roland Muldoon’s rambunctious Taking on the Empire about CAST (Cartoon Archetypical Slogan Theatre) – a left-wing theatrical minnow – taking over Frank Matcham’s matchless variety theatre, the Hackney Empire, turning it into London’s epicentre of New Variety and the ensuing and unending hostilities with Hackney Council and the arts funding bureaucracy. Until, inevitably, success turned out to be a poisoned chalice and CAST were ousted.

I change at Canonbury for the Overground branch towards Stratford. I arrive at Hackney Central station (B7) at 10.50 am. It’s trying to rain.

I decide I’ll blag my way into the auditorium of the Empire. The Inner Curmudgeon hoots. You’ve got about as much chance of doing that, Craig, as a lemming has of avoiding the cliff.

Hackney Empire complete with statuette of Mrs TubeforLOLs in her heyday. Someone should do something about that facial shrubbery below her.

Hackney Empire complete with statuette of Mrs TubeforLOLs in her heyday. Someone should do something about that facial shrubbery below her.

One of the truly grating things about The IC is that he’s so often right. The Empire is shut to stray old codgers. The BBC are in there setting up. The BBC are important. Old codgers are not.

I walk on and note that Christo and Jeanne-Claude have been at their wrapping game with the Town Hall. I have to say it looks better wrapped.

Hackney Town Hall: all wrapped up and nowhere to go.

Hackney Town Hall: all wrapped up and nowhere to go.

In the mid-eighties I helped to set up the Hackney Museum. Originally, it and the library, were housed opposite the Town Hall in the old Methodist Central Hall. Now the Library and Museum share new premises. The last time I was there, some ten years ago, I was pleased with the museum, it had come on such a long way. Today I’m hoping it hasn’t got middle age sag.

Inside there are ranks of buggies. Mums and toddlers are tootling around. The IC is appalled. Toddlers in a museum, he cries. Whatever are they thinking of? Next, they’ll be letting Jeremy Clarkson in.

The museum bowls me over. By the end I’m like a proud happy parent. It’s got a great visiting exhibition by Core Arts, a 1,000 year old Saxon log boat, excellent photos by Martin Usborne of 85 ½ year old and long-time resident Joseph Markovich and lots more. I’m most taken by ‘The Hackney Hoard’. This traces the story of a Jewish refugee, Martin Sulzbacher, who with his family fled Nazi Germany and stayed in Hackney before, as an enemy alien, being sent to the Isle of Man. His family placed their savings, 160 ‘Double-Eagle’ $20 dollar pieces, in two jars and hid them in the garden. Later the house was bombed and the jars’ secret resting places lost. Mr Sulzbacher meanwhile was suffering tribulations that would have made Job blench. After the war, the family were reunited and, in 1952, the first jar was found. The second jar wasn’t found until 2007. This story, the jar, one of the Double Eagles and other materials (donated by Mr Sulzbacher’s son) are now displayed. I find it deeply gratifying that justice – even if long delayed – at least sometimes wins the day.

My next stop is Hackney Wick station (B7). It’s two stops away from Hackney Central on the Stratford branch of the Overground. I get there at quarter to twelve, five minutes after leaving Hackney Central. Five minutes later I’m at the Hackney Pearl, a wonderful café in a surprising location.

Hackney Wick skyline. The artists have arrived. Next, the developers.

Hackney Wick skyline. The artists have arrived. Next, the developers.

Hackney Wick is an extraordinary post-industrial landscape: warehouses, depots, bomb-plots, workshops, artist-outcrops, social housing cut off to the north and east by The Lea River and the Hackney Marshes (where the Olympic site is busily being ‘upcycled’), cut off to the west by the A12 dual carriageway. It’s scruffy and dodgy but the artists are already there, so the developers will soon be snuffling around.

I settle back to a fine coffee and, a few minutes later, gnocchi with broad beans, peas and wineham grange cheese. The gnocchi is home made and melting, the broad beans and peas have some contrasting crunch, the wineham grange provides a cheesey bite.

Wineham grange, The Wee Professor informs, somewhat muffled by gnocchi, is a vegetarian parmesan-type cheese. Needless to say, the Inner Curmudgeon finds something to grouse about. Long delayed and there’s not enough of it, he declaims.

As I’m leaving I stumble across Mr Bagel’s industrial bagel-making plant. After a moment’s hesitation I ask a smoker at a side door whether they sell bagels. He refers me to reception where I repeat my question. Mr Bagel shakes his head dolefully. I press him. Another head shake accompanied by a lugubrious downturning of the corners of his mouth. No, we do not sell our bagels here. He takes the top off a large circular bin that looks a little like a laundry basket. But can we give you a bagel? He gives me two packets of bagels. I realise that I’m in the presence of an ironist of the stature of Mr TubeforLOLs.

Who said there was no such thing as a free bagel?

I’m on the Overground (back to Canonbury, change for the Surrey Quays branch) and at Haggerston station  (C7) in a surprisingly quick ten minutes. It’s still not quite one o’clock. It’s the first time I’ve got off at the station though I know the area pretty well. No, cross out ‘know’ and insert ‘knew thirty years ago.’

Haggerston Station: they're even advertising the flats on the floor.

Haggerston Station: they’re even advertising the flats on the floor.

The relentless flatification of London is taking its toll though the old Council estates are putting up stout resistance. I walk south poking around the alleys and the arches under the railway. One of them has been gutted and is being fitted out with … with what? I go in.

Ah dear! I think. Five years ago this would have been a perfectly acceptable monkey-wrench garage full of grease and fumes, signifying nothing. Now – horrors – it’s being turned into a fitness gym! I talk to a pleasant, optimistic Antipodean called Stretch. (They’re all bloody optimistic, complains The I.C. Makes me sick.) He and two mates have flown the Bearded Wonder’s nest (aka Virgin Active) to set up on their own. The gym, called Momentum, will be open before this visit is posted.

Time to leave Haggerston, time for the unknown: for Hainault on the Roding Valley loop of the Central line. Time to go underground.

Lady luck is with me and I’m at Hainault station (A9) in forty minutes. Even the weather has improved: it’s a pleasant early-April afternoon with a shy sun flitting between clouds.

I look right and left along the road outside the station. There’s a small shopping parade and a petrol station to the right. There’s nothing but houses to the left. I walk right passed the shopping parade which is notable only in having a Motor Spares shop and a Hobby shop.

Hainault's bustling shopping parade.

Hainault’s bustling shopping parade.

I wonder if I’m missing something. There was nothing at all at Fairlop (the station before Hainault) and precious little at Grange Hill (the next station). Surely there must be more than this? I stop one of the few pedestrians. No, she says, this is it.

I’m back at Hainault station at twenty past two. Later I change on to the Hammersmith & City line at Mile End and sail the rooftops of Ladbroke Grove and Shepherds Bush. 31 stations and fifty pages of Roland Muldoon later, I’m at Hammersmith station (D3). It’s not quite a quarter to four.

Hammersmith is bustling. I decide to walk to the Hammersmith Bridge. Forty years ago I stayed in a flat off Brook Green near here writing the Great British Novel. This involved mooching around Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith and environs. Sometimes I’d walk down to the river, to Hammersmith Bridge. I’d admire the notice telling troops to break their step and I’d bounce up and down with the bridge as the traffic passed over.

The Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. Alligators just visible at southern bank.

The Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. Alligators just visible by southern bank.

Alas! So much of the past has simply vanished in this modern world. There is no notice. Unless you’re in deep vibration-detection mode you won’t notice a single quiver or throb, far less a bounce, on the bridge. I decide I’ll have a walk along the river. I’ll take the Thames Path westwards.

That’s right, sonnie, yodels The Inner Curmudgeon. Blow a few cobwebs from what remains of the grey matter.

I walk through a plush, comforting, bourgeois world, a world that knows no disasters or police corruption, a world where graceful Asian women walk chihuahas in matching coats (the dogs that is, not the women), a world where the alligators on the south bank of the Thames make hearty but considerate snacks of architects and their Brompton bikes, a world where there are already large clusters of drinkers outside the riverside pubs, a world that seems to me almost unreal even before I come across a TV crew filming.

Half an hour later I’m in The Blue Anchor having a pint (if you can’t beat them, join them). I mention my disappointment about not finding the notice about breaking step on the bridge to a fellow imbiber. He tells me that the bridge has recently been repaired: they’ve put padstones under it so that it doesn’t wobble. I find out that the TV crew are regulars, they’re filming an episode of New Tricks, a fictional TV series about righting past injustices.

Later I go on Twitter to admire my tweets (someone has to). I find that the government has caved in and there will be a proper judge-led enquiry into the brutal murder twenty five years ago of Daniel Morgan, a south London private detective, just as Morgan was about to go public with his investigation of high-level corruption at the Met Police (regular readers will recognise a theme here: them again, corruption again). It’s doubtful whether the enquiry will actually find out who killed Daniel Morgan but it’s a mammoth step forward and a triumph for his brother, Alistair, and family. I talk to my fellow imbiber (and his wife, just arrived) about the Daniel Morgan case. They’ve never heard of Daniel Morgan, they are askance but skeptical about police corruption. Then they remember that, of course, wasn’t the whole News of the World rumpus about police corruption? Besides, hasn’t his brother been wonderful! I think, by the end, I’ve convinced them that justice, long delayed, has been done – even if only in part. And yes, justice doesn’t always just happen or fall into your lap – it has to be fought for.

I think back to New Tricks, which I’d never heard of before. I think: truth is definitely stranger than fiction.

I get back to Forest Hill, having taken the Piccadilly to Green Park and the Jubilee to Canada Water, a little after six o’clock.

8 thoughts on “The Long Delays of Justice (36/80)

  1. Nick Hayes

    Lovely blog – did you notice the William Morris House by the river in Hammersmith. With the late spring the wisteria may not yet be out. All those pubs favoured by the BBC types who inhabited the now erased Lime Grove Studios – ie me. If you had walked west along the river across the ex-wobbly bridge,as I did with my ex-wife and sons on a Sunday afternoon, you might have espied the wetlands centre – a true and rare treasure of the Capital -recalling Tennyson: I come from haunts of coot and hern. I make a sudden sally,. And sparkle out among the fern,. To bicker down a valley.
    Thanks too for Daniel Morgan – retweets done.

  2. sandycraig2013 Post author

    Gracious me! Tennyson in London, whatever next! The place seems to be positively swarming with poets. They’ll be upto no good, I can tell you. As Josef Stalin, late of this parish, once said: Show me a poet, and I’ll show you a dissident.

  3. Maurice Mandale

    The Hackneys – why are they separated by Homerton? Yet another geo-toponymical mystery. There’s a Ph.D. dissertation on tube-naming practices there somewhere.

  4. sandycraig2013 Post author

    The Wee Professor answers: there’s a relatively simple answer to this, Maurice. Homerton came before Hackney. The first record of Homerton dates from 1343. The first record of Hackney comes much later. However, after the dissolution of the monasteries and what is known as the English reformation, the area that is now Hackney central, including Homerton, was named the Parish of Hackney. Homerton, though it had grown in size, became incorporated into the Parish of Hackney. Only much later did it become a separate parish. I hope that helps. Though please do not enquire about how Hackney Wick came into being and came into being where it is.

    1. Maurice Mandale

      Hah! A piece of local administrative ecclesiastical history which definitely appeals to people like myself, of a certain (undefined) curiosity. Is Homerton balanced in some parallel universe by a Simpsonville?
      These are the sorts of things and thoughts your posts stir up, Sandy, which is why your devoted followers like them so much. Another – the Hackney Hoard – sent me scurrying to Wikipedia or some such. What you omitted from your account of Martin Sulzbacher’s involuntary trip to the Isle of Man was that he got there, from London, via Canada and Australia. Quite a long cut. There’s a book there somewhere.
      A grey evening in Cape Breton with an orchestra of Spring peepers outside. Not a tube station within 1000 kms (Montreal or Boston, since you ask).

  5. sandycraig2013 Post author

    I omitted many things from the Hackney Hoard history. Another omission was a mention of the person who found the second jar of Double Eagles. They were found by Terence Castle and three companions who were digging a frog pond in a back garden in Stamford Hill. ‘I unwrapped the greaseproof paper the coins were wrapped in and saw the statues of liberty marching into my face in gold relief … I knew it was something special.’ He took the coins to his office, contacted the British Museum and insisted they collect the coins at once because ‘otherwise I might have just run off to Rio with them.’ Instead, under the laws of the land, they were repatriated to Mr Sulzbacher’s family. I understand that his son made a voluntary ex-gratia payment to Mr Castle. And, of course, Mr Sulzbacher junior, also donated the find and a Double Eagle to the Hackney Museum. So, at the very end, the tragedy of the Sulzbachers’ is saved by the goodness of individuals.

    1. sandycraig2013 Post author

      Thank you, Instrumentation. As usual, the more I do this, the more I start to learn. At present, I’m making a conscious effort to try and improve the photos – so I take more to get more selection and I try and pay attention to the basics of getting them in focus and framing them. Next up I’ll try and improve the overall look of the blog.


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