We have moved from Clerkenwell and now live in Plaistow, in the not-yet-fashionable East End of London.
Somewhere in Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time – I can’t tell you where as the volumes are in storage, but presumably somewhere in The Kindly Ones – Nick Jenkins tells Hugh Moreland that it is impossible to write with the outbreak of the Second World War imminent. Moreland agrees that creative activity is suspended. It is the same with blogging and moving house. This is not because the inventive spirit is depressed by living among packing cases so much as that we no longer have broadband, and in the London Borough of Newham the ox-drawn Wi-Fi cart, which enables (as attentive readers will recall) blogging in Montenegro and the stans further east, has been more or less eliminated on the grounds of maintaining traffic flow around Stratford at a modest but constant speed. BT have promised to install all their goodies, including Wi-Fi, and have sent a series of excitable messages to my mobile phone in anticipation of the visit of their engineer: we shall see.
It is surprising how much one has come to rely on broadband, given that it has been with us for a mere blink of the eye in the great scheme of things. One of the pleasures of life on which I have come to rely is the automatic arrival on my Kindle of the electronic version of The Spectator. This happens between midnight and one o’clock, usually, on Wednesday nights. I have got into the habit of having a lie-in on Thursdays and finishing it before breakfast. Last week I was reduced to going to the Westfield centre in Stratford and attempting to use the free Wi-Fi facility of which it boasts to download my Spectator. This is indeed free of charge but it likes in exchange to capture, as they say, all sorts in information about me. My Kindle is very good at reproducing books but it doesn’t go in for all that online banter and the Westfield Wi-Fi facility finally gave up in disgust. ‘Server error’, it said morosely and could not be tempted further.
Searching for the Westfield W-Fi facility, which was available to me in theory, I discovered all the transient ones that weren’t. Presumably a fair proportion of my fellow shoppers were also beaming away and could, had I identified them and asked nicely, have delivered my Spectator to me if I promised to forget their passwords afterwards. Some of the Wi-Fi accounts have pet names, like Petenleanne or The Patelster.
The Westfield centre is surprisingly good, in spite of the surliness of its Wi-Fi facility. It has a range of funky food stalls for example, which I think that you would not find in the rather bland original Westfield in Shepherds Bush. The Shepherds Bush version is frequented by the better class of drug-dealer, who buy their soft furnishings there and make life in the underground car park a challenge because of their difficulty seeing where they are going through the darkened windows of their 4x4s. We do of course have drug-dealers in Plaistow. The better half overheard one of them standing outside his front door with a pal (this was before the cold weather returned) shooting the breeze about the problems and rewards of being a drug dealer in E13. Later I noticed a degree of tentativeness on his part in putting his BMW (saloon, not 4×4; regular windows) in the street outside his house through a three-point turn; maybe it is a recently-acquired BMW. But they seem to be less in evidence at our Westfield.
The move was surprisingly stress-free. I am sure that in the old days you had to organise moving your gas, electricity and phone supplies well in advance if you were not to be cut off, but these days the companies seem quite relaxed. And gas companies are about the only organisations that don’t demand to see a gas bill before they will talk to you. I suppose that if you see them every day, as they must, they lose their magic.
We were moved by Aussie Man & Van. There were two Aussie Men and they arrived with their Van brashly yellow, bearing images of kangaroos and festooned with Australian slang: ‘hard wakka’ for example, helpfully translated as ‘hard work’.
‘I am Laszlo and this is Laszlo,’ said the boss, alighting from his cab. ‘We are from Hungary.’
They were very good.
When I saw our old house at the end, our home for ten years, dusty, the walls covered with abandoned picture hooks and the carpets liberally decorated by the dog in the final weeks of his disability and the stains no longer tactfully disguised by rugs, I guessed that I would not feel nostalgic and I haven’t. When we arrived at our new house three neighbours came up to say welcome and one of them gave me a very nice hug. We look out onto immense plane trees and in the distance that funicular thing, built at the time of the Olympics, for which Transport for London claims credit but for which I suspect that there is no free travel for pensioners or the disabled. Turn ninety degrees and there is the Shard: just as there always was except that, since we are in the east, we can now see the sunset glinting through the artfully incomplete panes at the top.
The streets are emptier than in central London and, thanks to the Luftwaffe, the sky is bigger. When we had the three or four days of summer last week it was unnervingly like being at the seaside.