'A farther part of Shoreditch'
My first time in Shoreditch Town Hall - a pleasantly peeling piece of municipal baroque. It was built in 1866, and extensively rebuilt about forty years later. It still has a spacious hall on the first floor with glorious balcony, and a gents loo on the ground floor bigger than some studio flats nearby. A stone's throw away is the wonderful St Leonard's and adjoining it the even more joyous Clerk's House, now a shop selling up market, expensive kitsch.
Once Shoreditch was a proud London borough, and its town hall - just like those in Finsbury and Holborn - would have been a building of importance, and not simply an elegant municipal relic. The 1965 reorganisation of London local government which consigned both Shoreditch and Stoke Newington to become part of a greater Hackney also deprived such redolent areas as Finsbury, Holborn, Hampstead and St Pancras of borough status.
A work event took me to Shoreditch Town Hall, but I was able to slip away briefly during the afternoon down Brick Lane to the Freedom Bookshop on Angel Alley, by the side of the newly expanded Whitechapel Gallery. At Freedom a fuse had blown and the bookshop was in darkness. A political metaphor if ever there was one.
On my way there, I wandered down Shoreditch High Street and through Boundary Passage. This was immortalised as 'the Posties' in Arthur Morrison's 1896 slum novel, A Child of the Jago. It was the passage through which the young Dicky Perrott, the title character, scarpered with stuff he had nicked from the high street stalls.
The Passage was in 'a farther part of Shoredicth' - the opening page of the novel records - 'off Shoreditch High Street, a narrow passage, set across with posts, [which] gave menacing entrance' onto the notorious slum of the Jago. It's almost a miracle that the Passage still stands. Still a conduit between contrasting London street cultures.
In the 1890s, the high street side was the wider world, commerce, and at least a measure of wealth - while the Jago was fetid, debauched and crime-laden. And today? Well, on the high street end of the Passage there's the Rainbow Sports Bar, with a blackboard boasting 'NEW GIRLS'. On what was the Jago side, a pub with gaudy fudge and slime green ceramic tiles has been newly converted into a creative agency, while opposite is a pricyh clothes boutique. A modern day Dicky Perrott wouldn't know which way to run.
Charlie Gillett died this morning - the author of The Sound of the City, signatory of the 1967 New Left May Day Manifesto, discoverer of Dire Straits, manager of Ian Dury, principal definer and champion of world music, and one of the most distinctive voices on the BBC World Service. A really nice guy too. There's a good obituary on the Guardian site. He was always keen to surprise in his musical tastes and choices, and I've quite a few CDs which are down to Charlie.
Any old vinyl?
Sorting the loft - one of those cleansing rituals which looms larger as you get older - I came across my old LPs. It's half-a-lifetime since I last bought vinyl. Much of my best - including all my marvellous singles - has gone God knows where. But it was good to dust down old album covers, and connect to my younger self.
Good, but sort of unsettling. Did I really once listen to Stackridge and The Strawbs? Why did I spend scarce money buying expensive imports of Tom Rapp and the Quicksilver Messenger Service? Was this really me, or some self-parody, or a '70s cartoon character?
Also in the loft I discovered an old but still serviceable record deck. I've managed to plug it in to the audio sockets of the TV, and now I can play my crackly, warped, 33rpm discs through the TV stereo: Macdonald and Giles, the Grateful Dead, Melanie, Atomic Rooster.
But it's a bit like finding my old mandolin a few years ago. I was very excited, as was all the family. Until I started to play. It didn't live up to the billing. The mandolin is back in the loft. How long before I consign the LPs back to that black void where you put the bits of your past that you don't know what to do with?
The Pedro Boxing Club
A ride on the 242 into the unknown. Or in this case, Clapton Park. A tough estate in north-east London not far from the Olympics site. It's the estate that features in Nina Robinson's radio series, Great Expectations. And at the Pedro Boxing and Youth Club, World Have Your Say is putting out a programme on whether the people of Clapton Park feel any benefit from the Olympics enterprise on their doorstep. The very young kids are quiestly excited - a few of the older residents are determinedly optimistic - but most of those on the estate are disappointed - and quite a few, seeing how little has been done to life the blight facing the area, are determined to be disappointed.
Clapton Park is about as diverse as you can get - with sizeable Turkish, Horn of Africa and Afro-Caribbean communities. But one of the themes to emerge from the discussion is resentment that Olympics jobs have gone disproportionately, it's said, to East Europeans. This isn't anti-immigrant sentiment, several people explain - most themselves no more than a generation or two distant from the migrant experience. It's 'pro-localism'.
The programme ends with a burst of singing from VwS ('Voices with Soul') three young women who went down to the last six in the 2004 X-Factor. I ask Corene whether being X-factor finalists changed things for them. 'It did at first', she says a touch ruefully, 'but not any longer'. Darrell, a livewire, jumps in: 'That's just like the Olympics!'
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!