Thursday, October 24, 2013


I love working in Stratford.
Docklands could be beautiful, especially in the early morning when the docks were swathed in fog, and dim silhouettes of cormorants stretching their wings to dry would materialise out of the woolly grey dawn.
And the planes- taking off left to right, then right to left.
Who decided when they should swop over? Why didn't they collide?
But Stratford!
A huge old steam engine sits on the pavement, splendid in dark red and black livery and stranded far away from rails and grime: looking a bit silly really, but charming nonetheless.
I went into Westfield yesterday- and won't go again. It's horrible, cheap and nasty and too big and greedy.
My fave bit of Stratford is the Stratford Centre- white cotton old-man vests for two pounds each or three for a fiver- a whole stall of them!
African vegetables- plantain and breadfuit; a reggae stall and a seafood stall.
A branch of Tiger: hooray! Cheap and cheerful!
Sports Direct, Fabric Direct.
People bustling around all shapes, ages and sizes, with those plain mid-blue plastic carrier bags that have slithered under the branding radar of the big supermarkets, and that declare 'We bought cheap stuff that is just as good as the branded stuff and we're Going Home to Eat it Now!'
You can't glide though the Stratford Centre: you have to waddle at a snail's pace to avoid bumping into people using walking frames, or with people pushchairs and swarms of children. There are people from so many different cultures, all with different life paths and different destinations.
I bought some lilac canvas shoes there last summer for four pounds and I wore them every day; they were perfect.
Do I need an African kaftan? Probably not, but you never know. It's handy to know where to get one from should a situation arise. Bright red nylon net curtains... or black? No thanks: but I'll have a coffee while gazing at the punters riffling through the slithery nighties on the slithery nightie stall.
Oh nylon, nylon, pyrex, plastic! Here you are in all your splendour. I love your artificial authenticity; stuff cotton, linen silk and wool, just for once! Let's hear it for acrylic: honest, cheap, harsh and temporary, free from Good Taste Rules and Designer-ness.
Stratford Centre, a million miles from focus group concepts and global corporations; it's an urban microcosm of unselfconscious co-operation, unmeddled-with and unforced.
Three cheers for cheap!

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