When I was young I never imagined I'd be able to see the London places we sang about in Oranges and Lemons; to me they were as exotic and remote as Bechuanaland and Orange Free State (I don't know why our teacher had such a thing about maps of South Africa). In my mind, these parts of London - Stepney, Bow, Whitechapel, Aldgate, not to mention all the churches which I still think of as all being built by Wren - only existed in a past where it's forever 1666, and I wasn't even quite sure whether they were real or not.
So getting on a 243 bus from Waterloo to Shoreditch makes me think how far I have come from that crowded 11+ classroom with 39 children all colouring in those maps of South Africa and not caring a jot about the exact location of Rhodesia, and how much I now enjoy being able to map the old rhymes and songs of London for real.
Lat week I had some time to spare in Shoreditch, and decided I would buy some bagels then have a look at Columbia Road on a weekday, but I never got there. Instead my walk to buy bagels took a huge number of mini detours to see the incredible range of street art that has appeared in this part of London.
What a brilliant free gallery. What vibrancy, energy, inventiveness, and humour. What colour and beauty and wit and passion. What strangeness, aggression, and darkness. What a great way to spend ninety minutes on a warm sunny day when the pavements are full of people, the coffee smells good, and you can listen in on a graffiti tour - because, yes, that's what you can do in Shoreditch nowadays. Forget the bells of St Clement's, at Didsbury Road Junior School we were never told that London could be this exciting. Instead they just wasted our time with turquoise and magenta Banda-copied maps.
[front half of a creature]
[The best places for street art are Sclater St, Cheshire St, Ebor St, Camlet St, Whitby St, Club Row, Brick Lane]
[detail of enormous painting]