London 4: William Morris and a Wander Through Walthamstow

walthamstow 1A WIND to slice ears off whips across the entrance to Walthamstow Central tube station. The temperature is below zero degrees Centigrade and snow settles behind chimney stacks on bleak roofs. This is London at Easter. There are no bunnies . . .

In a corner shop, people are discussing the latest twist in the mysterious death of Boris Berezovsky. No one refers to him as a Russian oligarch, which pleases me no end. In this dog-legged world where buzz-words are replacing language, all rich Russians have become oligarchs, while Murdoch and Trump are just Murdoch and Trump. That’s Murdoch the media oligarch I’m referring to, not the nice guy from the A Team. And Trump the oligarch. Let’s move on.

William Morris. He was a humanitarian with strong political principles and connections with the wallpaper industry. This description could also be applied to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer with the omission of one word. And it’s not wallpaper.

That’s set me off . . .

Is it just me or has the world been turned inside out by a band of Old Etonian oligarchs with a penchant for wrecking restaurants then blaming the hungry? The last time I looked, it was the super-rich and their schemes for getting richer who had driven the economy onto the rocks. But now, it’s become widely accepted that the poor and disabled should pay the price and be blamed, insulted, kicked and demonised into the bargain.

It takes one vile product to recognise another one. I think William Morris said that

It takes one vile product to recognise another one. I think William Morris said that

As we shuffle along Hoe Street, it would be timely if Wednesday’s Daily Mail front page fluttered limply past in the gutter – the one with the unbelievably despicable “Vile product of welfare UK” headline referring to child-killer Mick Philpott – but it doesn’t. Shame. I would have taken a photograph. Because that front page is emblematic of the nasty, twisted, embittered place this country has become. And the gutter is where it belongs.

Instead, let us take the opportunity to remember that the Daily Mail was a fanatical supporter of Franco, Mussolini and Hitler right through the 1930s, then changed its allegiance only when its proprietor realised the rest of the country was going to war against his heroes. And let us also not forget that George Gideon Oliver Osborne is the heir apparent to the Baronetcy of Ballintaylor and Ballylemon. You don’t inherit titles like that when you’re trying to survive on £53 a week in a country where the Government has thrown tens of thousands of civil servants, public employees and soldiers on the dole. You have to be an oligarch. Moving on again . . .

walthamstow 3 walthamstow 4 walthamstow 5We’re walking through Walthamstow in search of the house where Morris spent his childhood, but last night my wife pulled a muscle behind her left knee outside the Zetland Arms in South Kensington and progress is slow, painful and extremely cold. Too much port and lemon, if you ask me.

Walthamstow’s one of those places that everyone’s heard of and probably formed their own mental impression. I imagined tower blocks and grey houses fading into an indistinct horizon. The reality is hilly streets like the streets of any other town, forecourt gardens with snowdrops and daffodils, splendid pubs and an inordinately high number of barbers shops. There’s even a place where you can get your boots cleaned. Must call in there on the way back.

walthamstow 2 walthamstow 6 walthamstow 7 walthamstow 8 walthamstow 9 walthamstow 10Morris was an artist, designer of wallpaper, writer and publisher of books, champion of the poor and underprivileged, fighter of causes and dedicated socialist. The house of his childhood is now the William Morris Gallery in Lloyd Park, and it’s an oasis of warmth and enlightenment on a freezing day at Easter.

walthamstow 11walthamstow 12 walthamstow 13Entrance is free, the chilli and rice is excellent, the staff are ever so helpful, and at present there’s an exhibition of David Bailey’s photographs from the 1960s called East End Faces, my favourite being two women standing against a juke box in an establishment called the Rio Club. There is also an interesting picture of the Kray twins playing with snakes. Whatever turns you on. I prefer matchbox rugby.

walthamstow 14 walthamstow 18 walthamstow 17 walthamstow 16 walthamstow 15Outside the wind is still gusting through freezing streets. I haven’t been this cold since I was on Blencathra about three years ago. At least on the fells you can wrap up in winter gear, but here in Walthamstow there are women tripping past with bits of body bared to the elements. Which reminds me of a line from a Hilda Baker film – but there’s no time for that.

We wander through Lloyd Park and take a circuitous route back along streets where front doors are battened against an endless winter, bay windows are filled with books and flowers, there are cats on walls, bin-bags on pavements, smiling pedestrians, cars with baby-on-board stickers, shops with dim lights and majestic pubs. I’ve decided I like Walthamstow. It’s just like anywhere else. I don’t know why I assumed it wouldn’t be.

walthamstow 19Here’s a tip if you’re visiting London and searching for a cheap drink. A round for two people (pint and whatever) costs about £8 in the centre. Just outside Walthamstow Central tube station there’s a pub called The Goose. A pint of Green King IPA is £2.50. A round comes to £4 something. William Morris might not have approved. I certainly do. The wife isn’t complaining either – not about the drink anyway. The leg’s another story.

walthamstow 20

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About McEff

Alen McFadzean. Journalist. Recently made redundant from The Northern Echo when my job was transferred to Wales to be done by people on lower wages. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climb mountains and run long distances to make life harder. Gravitate to the left in politics just to make life harder still.
This entry was posted in Beer, History, Life, Pigeons, Politics, Ranting, Walking, William Morris, Writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to London 4: William Morris and a Wander Through Walthamstow

    • McEff says:

      Thank you. I don’t agree with much of this, especially since it’s written by a bloke whose poor judgement led the Daily Mirror to publish a bundle of fabrications concerning the NUM and Arthur Scargill. If I remember correctly, he issued an apology for his stories long after the damage had been done.
      I’m of the opinion that if a newspaper such as the Daily Mail, which wields such power and influence, can generalise and judge over Mick Philpott and draw a link between his actions and the welfare state, then I can certainly generalise and judge the Daily Mail and link it to its fascist-supporting past.
      Alen
      PS. And I can stand up and be counted and not hide behind a faceless leader column or front page headline.

  1. This area is very familiar to me…my boyfriend lives there. I had just been in February & may be there to live in the near future :) I really enjoy Hollow Ponds Park (took a lot of great pics there). Can’t wait to be back :)

  2. Jo Woolf says:

    Excellent post – I wouldn’t have known what to expect in Walthamstow but it sounds like a pleasant surprise. I love William Morris’s quote about rich men’s houses! And I can’t remember when I last saw a red-and-white striped barber’s sign like those you photographed.

    • McEff says:

      Hi Jo. Thanks for that. Walthamstow is barber shop city. They are everywhere – stripy poles as well. I’ve never seen so many well-groomed blokes. I really should have had my mop tidied up, but it was so cold I didn’t want to risk it.
      I bought a book about William Morris when I was there, so I’m looking forward to a few more quotes. He’s one of those people I’ve been meaning to learn more about for years and years.
      Cheers, Alen

  3. Hanna says:

    It was interesting reading, Alen.
    I had studied the concept of oligarchs, not to be confused with Olifanter :-)
    After a look in the dictionary, I found out that vile excels as invective.
    And last but not least, I found out that you can also get a bad knee in London. However, I would prefer the pub than be bogged down by my friend on a bicycle. It is fortunately over a year ago and the knee is improving, squats :-)

    At the very end, press ethics are and becomes very important. It can not be discussed in my opinion.

    Send my best wishes to your wife for fast recovering, and for your chickens which you probably had to dig out of the ice blocks when you came home from London.

    All the best,
    Hanna

    • McEff says:

      Ha ha. Oligarchs and olifanters – perhaps there is a similarity, Hanna. I’m glad to hear the knee is improving. A bad knee is no good to anyone.
      I shall pass on your best wishes to my wife, and the chickens, which are in very good spirits at the moment.
      Cheers, Alen

  4. David says:

    Interesting post Alen. I saw that headline myself and thought it was the sort of typical uneducated drivel you would see in some extremist rag. I did not even know the DM’s background so thanks for that Alen. Interestingly this is a newspaper that used images of mine in an article dating back to 2010 and did not pay for them until they were caught last month. Prices have dropped considerably since then and they only paid the 2013 rate. This is the second time I have caught them doing this. How they can preach about anything relating to morals I don’t know.

    I have not been to London for years, although for some reason I would rather read about the place than visit it at the moment.

    • McEff says:

      David, and here’s me thinking you’d be making preparations to visit London for the huge state funeral that is about to take place (just kidding).
      That’s interesting about the Mail using photos and not paying for them. Morals appear to go out of the window for some people if they think they can get something for nothing. I’m glad you got something out of them anyway, even if it wasn’t the proper rate.
      Cheers, Alen

  5. The running narrative of cold wind sends a shiver. It has been several years now since I’ve had to bundle up with layers of clothes and your description does not entice me to try it any time soon (if I can help it).

    • McEff says:

      Ha ha. You stay where it’s warm and sunny, Dohn. The temperature at my back door this morning is 16C (61F), and apparently this is the warmest day we’ve had since last September.
      Cheers, Alen

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