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  • Writer's picturePaul Kilgour

A Nice Day Out - London #4 {Abandon all hope, ye who enter here}

Dark forces are at work. First I oversleep. Then the telly won’t work. The shower was cold. I forgot to fill my water bottle before I left for the day. I stubbed my toe on the chair leg. Then Bayswater tube station is closed because of a signal failure.

What kind of sorcery is at play here?

I walk the few hundred metres to Queensway Station. It starts to rain. I briefly consider going back to bed. I also briefly consider going to the pub, but it’s only 8:30am. A little early. Bearing all this in mind, I make the strange decision to go east. I may live to regret this.

Princelet Street, Shoreditch

Commercial Road, Limehouse

As the train approaches Bethnal Green darkness descends, a chill fills the air, and I notice an uneasiness spreading among the passengers like a virus. For this is the former home territory of the Kray Twins, those lovely boys that would cut up your Granny if you looked at their reflection in your shoes. And Jack 'The Hat' McVitie', a Kray twins enforcer not exactly known for his sunny personality and friendly demeanor. Then there's Mad Frankie Fraser, who spent a total of 42 years at Her Majesty's pleasure for various crimes including armed robbery, torture, and murder. He was first certified insane in 1946. They all loved their old Mum though.

We are, of course, in CockneyWorld. As I exit to street level I expect to be confronted with hordes of ‘cheeky chappies’ with dirty, but bright smiling faces calling out: “gor blimey guv, luv a duck, alright me old china, up the apples and pears, knees up mother brown, eh!” etc. And children in short trousers, wearing scuffed shoes, and with grazed knees. Except there don't seem to be many 'cheeky chappies' about. Not a Pearly King and Queen in sight. And Bow Bells is two miles away! It is a great disappointment. Maybe Disney should take over CockneyWorld. They couldn't make a worse job of it.

Mile End Road, Stepney

Great Eastern Street, Shoreditch

Moving on (swiftly) to Shoreditch. Frankly not much of an improvement, adorned in colourful 'street art' to hide the fact that it's just the same shithole as the rest of East London. Trendy bars and eateries cannot mask the decay and poverty that still exists. But that's ok when you can get artisan coffee from the barista's that populate every second shop. Me, I went to 7 Eleven. It is as I finish my coffee and turn the corner into Princelet Street that I discover a very old and dilapidated house, festooned with a flaky pink paint job. Mick the roadsweep tells me that it is the location of the first 'Jack The Ripper' murder, and that the owners are paid £40,000 a year by the council to keep it that way. He's wrong, of course, but it was a nice little story. Mary Ann Nichols was butchered a mile away in Whitechapel. Annie Chapman however, was done in just around the corner in Hanbury Street. Nice place. I hear the train to Mile End calling!

Mile End Road, Stepney

And so we reach the end, at Mile End, so named because it lies one mile from the City of London boundary. It is, it has to be said, not the loveliest of places. It has the unenviable distinction of being the area hit by the first German V1 Flying Bomb to hit London. Just as in the street where I was brought up, it made a bit of a mess, and 200 people were made homeless. At least we have something in common. But there's a bright yellow bridge across Mile End Road, so that's alright. Pretty's up the area, and diverts your attention from the crumbling houses and dirty shop fronts.

Mile End of course, was immortalised by the wonderful Pulp in the song rather inventively titled 'Mile End'.

And now we're living in the sky

I'd never thought I'd live so high, just like heaven

If it didn't look like hell

The lift is always full of piss

The fifth floor landing smells of fish

Not just on Friday, every single other day

Below the kids come out tonight

They kick a ball and have a fight

And maybe shoot somebody

If they lose at pool

Oh, it's a mess alright

Yes, it's Mile End

© Banks / Doyle / Senior / Webber / Cocker / Mackey

I'm sure the road to the east-end was paved with good intentions. Would you Adam and Eve it?

The New Globe, Mile End Road, Stepney

St Benet's Chaplaincy, Mile End Road, Stepney

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