Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hackney Here We Come

They're selling our rented flat in Whitechapel for a massively unrealistic sum. It is huge, and it's 'live/work' or whatever it's called with big industrial windows, but I've had enough of the backstreets behind the hospital. While I adore the East End broadly speaking, this particular segment is changing fast. There is a strange atmosphere to the streets (and I'm not talking psychogeography). Boy gangs are marauding in a way they weren't four years ago and muggings are on the up. I should know it happened to me last year. OK so i was plastered but I still think i should have the right to stumble down my own street without being set upon by feral teenagers and having all my belongings nicked (or worse).

So we've been househunting, Crazy G and I, careering all over 'South Hackney' (in Estate Agent speak), in and out of the Kingsland Road and up and down Mare Street. We even ventured to Clapham, just to check we were still content with the East End. G could probably happily live more or less anywhere providing there's easy access to a Waitrose and a farmer's market, but it has to be East for me. Limehouse is my spiritual home, the centre of my interest, and became the focal point for my work throughout the 1990's. So much so that in order to make a half decent attempt at my current childhood obsessed nostalgia project I had to move out to Whitechapel, to escape the pull of the place, and the distraction of Hawksmoor's 'St Annes'. Well, I am a romantic with a strong sense of place (I once told Dan Farson who was interviewing me for Art Review that I was so obsessed with the Thames I was occasionally tempted to throw myself in - he rolled his eyes and called me 'an hysterical youth').

We spent the Easter break tramping East London streets, making notes of what looked affordable/habitable and peering in Estate Agent windows. Viewing endless flats that looked like penthouses but were actually rabbit hutches and 'live/work spaces' in converted pubs that were either in damp basements or attics so small even I was in danger of banging my head (and I'm 5'7"). We've also seen enough laminate flooring to last a lifetime (isn't it horrid? Give me knackered old slats any day of the week). But thankfully the Des Res has been found, in Victoria Park. A converted school in Bramshaw Road by Well Street Common.

The irony is that our estate agent showed us two flats in the other converted school just by the villagey bit which were a bit small but we liked them, and decided not to view the one we went for as it felt too far away. Thankfully he sensed we were making a mistake and insisted we take a look.

Walking into the flat I felt a strange fluttering in my stomach, and couldn't stop grinning. It's a similarly large space (has to be for artistic purposes), but with the addition of a mezzanine main living space, a glass ceiling (with electronic blinds), ladders everywhere, an industrial curly wurly staircase, a roof terrace and a kitchen so cool Gerald was mentally rustling up quiches soon as look at it.

I always had a hunch that I would live there at some stage, and have known the area on and off for a few years. I used to have a part time job doing admin at a propmakers in King Edwards Road, so I know the Broadway Market/Well Street/Mare Street area well, and a mate of mine lived above the kebab shop in Victoria Park Road by the roundabout so I was always about. I really hate moving (but then doesn't everyone) but I can't wait to get in there next week. This weekend is 'Operation Pack' and we move on Tuesday. Fizz will be served in the roof garden once we're settled (invites in due course). We've always been quite quiet when it comes to entertaining: the Whitechapel pad never felt conducive to large numbers of guests because it felt featureless and sort of empty and cold but as far as the Hackney abode goes I don't think the flat could scream LETS HAVE A PARTY!!!! any louder if it tried. The kitchen even has an ice machine! (no comments saying 'well so does simply everyone darling' please). Expect a domestic update next week and potentially some enviable pics pour moi relaxing with a large gin sur la terrasse. Horrah!