Essex was represented as some sort of Eldorado in the BBC's controversial documentary on the borough of Newham, The Last Whites of The East End. Tony, who has a Jamaican father and is married to a Romanian, is moving to Hornchurch, while Leanne is heading to Raleigh (which her family regard as something akin to emigrating to Mars), Peter from the East Ham Working Men's Club has moved to Hornchurch and boxer Darren has moved to Rainham. What came across is that the old white community are basically decent people but appear very conservative and too easily assume that non-white faces represent a problem, though it's worth noting that Usmaan, a fifth-generation East Ender with Bangladeshi roots, also feels threatened.
London changes all the time. Perhaps the change has been too quick, but the old East End was never going to remain the same after the docks and industry disappeared. People's kids don't live next door anymore. My dad's family moved out of the East End to Essex in the 1930s. So-called 'white flight' was through aspiration as much as anything. Essex has always been more attractive than Newham because of the space and countryside and proximity of the sea. Can we really blame Asian families for buying up the cheap houses vacated in the East End?
Race isn't the problem in Newham, but poverty, jobs and housing are. It's sad, but the old East Enders are mourning a lost way of life that won't return (and it was as much the Krays and rigid conformity as unlocked doors). They'd be better celebrating bringing their East End values to Essex rather than mourning Newham. The borough has problems, but it's also an exciting place full of great curries, a vibrant market, a great bookshop, the Who Shop, Nathan's pie and mash shop and still some proper old cockneys. We need to accept that Newham's now multicultural and that the people growing up there are British — while Estuary Essex is now the home of the children of the old white East Enders.
Wednesday, 25 May 2016
Tuesday, 24 May 2016
Norsey Wood in Billericay last weekend. We also saw first world war training trenches and lots of ant nests amid decaying tree trunks. The 165-acre wood has a bit of everything, a Bronze Age burial mound, a prehistoric track, a medieval deer bank and somewhere underneath it all lie the remains of lots of revolting peasants who were slaughtered by the King's forces at the end of the Peasant's Revolt in 1381. Finds include a Mesolithic axehead, an Iron Age glass bead, Celtic burial urns and Roman pottery and burials. It's an enticing, leafy place to get lost in and we topped it off with some excellent takeaway falafel from Menad restaurant near the station.