Travel Writing




Havering Well Garden – ‘‘I want to be forgotten/I don’t want to be reminded,’’ is inscribed on a very old grey looking wall that has a stepping stone structure at either end of it. Built in 1952 apparently, although it looks older with all the algae around it. Four mounds of dirt for each rounded flower bed with no flowers. Never noticed the three algae ridden benches within. One’s missing.

There’s a flashy modern red brick wall behind the grey one that separates the garden from B&Q, numerous car parks and Neopost – suppliers of franking machines, folder inserters, digital postal scales, addressing, and software systems. The latter is situated down Romford’s infamous South Street (or ‘Costa Del South Street’ as some people supposedly call it, although I’ve never heard it referred to as this).

A South Street sign is on a grass patch by the River Rom. Never thought of it as being part of South Street. Hmm. To me it was simply known as a deserted piece of land with some dodgy looking toilets that were closed for as long as I’d seen them. There are now some flats being built onto the land hence the large purple hoardings around it.

No, 360, The Crown – has the things that pubs should have: jukebox, live music, a piano, dart boards, pool tables and sofas that look like they have been victim to a chainsaw massacre.[21] Mickey’s Quality Seafood stall is outside. It looks like such a lonely existence for the woman inside. She used to be outside The Harrow pub further up the road.

No. no number, B&Q Warehouse – features the burger van lookalike The Lunch Box in its car park. Not ANY old lunch box, THE lunch box. It’s about the same size as the one that Eric Pickles (Conservative MP for Brentwood and Ongar) takes with him each time he ventures outside (he’ll end up like Mr. Cresote in Monty Python’s ‘The Meaning Of Life’ if he’s not careful. BE careful of any wafer thin mints, Mr. Pickles).

No, 300, Tesco – ‘‘Every little helps.’’ Or in their case, a store every three hundred yards HELPS fuck up other businesses.

[21] The seating has since been replaced.

No, 272, Burger King – (where are these address numbers going?) more filling than McDonald’s, NEXT!

No.270, HSL…the chair specialists – sell lots of chairs with four legs so they’re entitled to call themselves ‘specialists’. I couldn’t build a chair – as my C.D.T. teacher, Mr. Caldecott-Coldcock would testify.

We interrupt this piece of shit to report that the famed Jim Carrey lookalike – who’s always running with a hunched back and rucksack in his hand – has just been seen walking on the opposite side. We will bring you further updates on this extraordinary event once they develop. Back to you, Ricky.

Thank you.

No, 270, Blockbuster – this used to be much larger as it used to also take up the space that HSL now occupies. It was here where I would often throw away my rainy days by hiring videos and computer games with some hide and seek thrown in between. Films hired here when I was a mere 9/10 years old include ‘Dolls’ and ‘Haunted Honeymoon’ (twice). I was with people older than me so they went up to the counter. They were also younger than 18, though, so if any police officers are reading this, I suggest you put up ‘WANTED’ posters around the area featuring everyone who worked there in the late 1990s/early 2000s. [22]

No. 260, Holy Cross Church – see St. Mary Mother Of God on the ‘HORNCHURCH ROAD (RIGHT-HAND SIDE TOWARDS UPMINSTER)’ section for further reference. White concrete slope that leads to the car park with the hall on the left. Scene of a few Harvester festivals my school had to attend where we each brought in a tin of food. Well, I and most people I saw did. Dunno if anyone ever brought in cakes, but knowing the crap that’s in tins, the people they were supposedly going to help might have been better off with the dirty water and dysentery. I earned my first detention on the day of my first festival for being caught cheating in a Maths test by my teacher, Miss Prouse. Oh, how I pissed myself (not laughing).

[22] Well, it wasn’t going to be the 1890s was it? Or 1790s for that matter.


A photo taken through a fence at Roneo Corner before work began on the flats. South Street sign on its lonesome by the fence with YMCA in the background. River Rom is unseen on the right.


Havering Well Garden: ‘‘I want to be forgotten/I don’t want to be reminded… ‘‘That I’m turning into an algae cesspit’’ could be the next line.

No, 230-236, Olympian Loans & Mortgages – Ooh, loans and mortgages, ooooooooh!

No, 228, Essex Auto Spares – Always something going on when I walk past, men in pigment blue overalls (could be – I’m colour blind) or jeans shooting the shit.[24]

No, 226, Lotus Nails – Bright pink sign with blue lettering (again, I’m colour blind). Was a place called Vintage before this, and an angling shop before that (if there was something in between then I missed it). As a child I wondered whether you could buy a gun from there. Months before it became Lotus Nails I assumed it was closed as it had half its sign missing. Then again, so did the SES Mini Market down Billet Lane, and that was open.[24]

No, 222-224, Tasty Tucker – a café with metal chairs. Not my cup of tea, although I’ve never been in for a tea or otherwise.

No, 220, Taste of Spice – Indian take away.

No, 218, Delaney’s. Yet another estate agent – used to be Headstrong. Have a guess what type of business that was.

[23] Metaphorically (or at least not literally).

[24] Not now it’s not hence ‘was’.

No, 216, Tracey’s Sandwich Hut – er, seems to have disappeared.

No, 214, Hurley’s Beauty and Tanning – A beauty salon. As we will see there are many; which means there must be a lot of people with low self-esteem in this town. Or ANY town for that matter. That’s a given for anyone, unless you’re Zlatan Ibrahimovic (look him up).

No, 212, Vanity Paws – Dog grooming place. Was something called Tappy Feet Dancewear before that. It’s a name that would suit a canine focused place.

No, 210, Black Moth Barbers – do ‘alternative’ haircuts and the like. Just as a black person would be refused entry to a hairdresser in a racist white neighbourhood in 1950s’ America; so the same applies here to anyone who has no tattoos to speak of. I have no tattoos, but the body art I would choose to speak of at the door would be Cheryl Cole’s[25] rosy arse (just to ask ‘why?’). I believe I’m right in thinking that Shimmer was at this address for a bit until moving into 204.

No, 208, Top Inn – Chinese takeaway.

No, 206, Britsea Domestic Appliances – was left unused (except by dust and mice) for years.

No, 204, Shimmer Hair Studio – Glimmer With Shimmer©.[26]

No, 202, Press Inn – a dry cleaners that parked themselves here despite there already being one about 13 doors away. I doubt there’s THAT many people needing their suit cleaned after a night out in the Iona (unless some IDIOT throws a half-eaten apple into its premises).

No, 200-196 – houses.

[25] Changing your surname must cost a LOT. Well, of COURSE she’s not doing it for marketing purposes!

[26] If it hasn’t been used already then I’m copyrighting that daddy fucker.


One of Hornchurch’s prettiest sights.

No, 194, Victory Off Licence – reminds me of Hubba Bubba.

No,192, The Hair Sanctuary – a unisex salon where no man has ever been seen.

No.190, Catering Equipment Hire – not sure if they cater for anything but weddings. It backs onto a wide alley that is now cordoned off.

No, 188, Hornchurch & Essex Funeral Service – formerly a betting shop, which was a second home to a person named Arnold (not his real name); a man with slick white hair who wore glasses and many cardigans. He died a few years ago around the time the funeral directors came in. In fact, I don’t see any of the old men that used to go in there. The new tenants must have known they were onto something. Maybe they took them all away! Of course they didn’t. But maybe, just maybe they had a look around the area, saw that there were many old people walking around like zombies and came to the conclusion that they would have a lot of business on their hands before long.

No, 186, the ‘lost’ shop – a premise that can never get going for whatever reason(s). The aforementioned funeral directors’ came in, replaced the betting shop and have been there ever since. That’s probably because everyone dies, so with that in mind, they shouldn’t struggle for customers. The ‘lost’ shop has been a milkshake café and a shop called Health & Fitness Superstore in the time the undertakers have been there. ‘Superstore’ was a bit of an exaggeration considering that it was about the same size as the slimmer version of Rik Waller. Yes, everyone dies, but unfortunately for the ‘lost’ shop, not everyone bets, drinks milkshakes and does weightlifting.

No, 184, East Coast Music – has only just recently changed its name to this. Used to be called East Coast Woodwind & Brass Specialists – also ukulele specialists – with a striking blue and yellow copperplate-like font for a vintage feel. The letters of the current name are of a straight-up white font persuasion with a black background. Whether they thought this was more striking to passers-by is open to debate. In fact, let’s HAVE a debate about it next Monday shall we? Does 1pm outside Havering Town Hall suit you? It could be that they didn’t want to put off musicians who aren’t woodwind and/or brass specialists in case said musician(s) thought that was ALL they dealt with; whereas if a didgeridoo player sees East Coast Music he or she may be tempted to at least have a look inside. Good thinking Mr. man-with-glasses-who’s-always-working-in-there-and-who-I’m-assuming-has-a-lot-to-do-if-not-EVERYTHING-to-do-with-this-change.

No, 184B, Essex Unique Windows – the only thing that is ‘unique’ about them is that they haven’t got a roof.

No, 182, The Sofabed Shop – exquisite name, but exists no longer – not in a working sense anyway.

No, 180, er, a house or flat I’m guessing.

No, 176 – 178, Hornchurch Beds – used to be Hornchurch Interiors. Interesting sheet I think you’ll find.

No, 174, Tropical Dry Cleaners & Launderers – took what I didn’t know at the time was a waxed jacket into here to see if they could get rid of its smell. Very helpful and the woman tried to wash it for free, which was good of her. I’ve since been into shops where they sell these garments new, and they’re made TO stink.  

No, 172, Clayhall Motors – scene of an attempted mugging on me at around 2am on a Sunday. He was white, a bit shorter than me and was wearing a dark blue hooded jumper and trousers. He asked to borrow my phone and put, what appeared to be his hand, up his jumper and said, ‘‘what’s this? What’s this?’’ It could have been a knife (that was the impression he wanted), so I slipped past him and ran off. Fuck pride. Pride is arguably the biggest killer to the human race.


Catering Equipment Hire, Hornchurch & Essex Funeral Service, the ‘lost’ shop and East Coast Woodwind & Brass Specialists how it USED to be (half of it anyway).

No, 164 – 166, Pharmacare Chemist – a helpful store with green lettering.

No, 160 – 162, Spacemaker – with its mock bedrooms this always looked like a good place in which to play hide and seek. It still does, but it always looks closed as there’s never any sign of movement inside.

No, 158, Premier Antarctica Fish Bar – they have the cheapest haddock & chips in town: £1.99. People are always shocked when I tell them this.

No, 156, Stella – a discount store selling the finest in croc shoes and St. George’s flags.

No, 154, Hyland Post Office – this didn’t entirely survive the cull of post offices initiated by the government as many people have to make a trip into the high street for most of their dealings; which means that the people of Hornchurch congregate in ONE Post Office, cue queues outside the door. You can still get a stamp from there, which is absolutely fantastic news.

No, 152, Cherry’s Tattoos: Custom Tattoos, Piecing & Laser Removal – here to fulfil the short term want of looking like a reptile.

No, 150, Beddy Buys – lovely pun.

No, 146-148, R.W. Edwards – a place to find plumbers. I always thought it was for electricians, but there you go.

No, 144, Automatic Transmissions – car parts an’ all that.

No, 142, Havering Beauty Academy – formerly a place that sold fireplaces; which was more useful than having ANOTHER place where one can switch to orange. I see a connection between the two. With a rather large population of old people living around here (I’d say there’s as many kids, but there’s more of them here than in a ‘hip’ area like Shoreditch for example) the fireplace place was a more practical business to have – it was more needed – as many oldens NEED to keep warm. There will be some who want to iron out their wrinkles and, because of their declining looks, want to gain all that ‘beauty’ entails, but it’s not a necessity. In the winter in particular, would they rather be pale and frail looking while sitting comfortably watching re-runs of ‘The Last of the Summer Wine’? Or have a tan and painted nails, but be crouched up shivering on a sofa holding a blanket tightly to their body including their mouth? Food for thought.

No, 140, Chainlink – Bobby Charlton and a nice collection of bikes.

No, 138, Candy Box – this is the usual conversation I have with one of the workers when I go in here[27] (often to top-up my Oyster card):

Worker (Sri Lankan accent): Hey, guitar man, you got girlfriend?

Me: Na, na.

WORKER: Shag anyone at the weekend?

ME: Nope.

WORKER: Boy your age should have girlfriends all over the place.

ME: Well, not really. How about you?

WORKER: Yeah, I’m seeing three girls.

ME (not really believing him): Really?

No answer.

[27] One of my answers depends. I’ll put in the most common one.

It varies after that, but THAT is how it starts without fail (unless there’s another customer ready and waiting to pay). Other than that, he usually asks, ‘‘you still playing guitar?’’

No, 136, Audio Logic Car entertainments & Security They sell car radios and things.

No, 134, China City – Chinese takeaway.

No, 132, BP Garage – stopped drawing out money from their cash machines when it was found out there was a scam going on from inside (those people are apparently gone now). My granddad had over £500 taken out of his bank account from Jakarta in Indonesia despite having never been there. He got it back and it turned out that it was only people who had bought petrol there that were at risk. So I’m not totally averse to doing so any more.

No, 130, The Harrow – a pub that is the centre of the universe for many Hornchurchians. And attracts visitors from as far away as Romford and Dagenham. Has won many awards, although I take it the voters and/or the people who decided never checked out the toilets.

No, 128-100 houses

No, 98, Stephen Farra Associates Ltd. – accountants. A place I don’t really notice.

No, 96-78 houses

No, 76, Boys to Men Gentlemen’s Hairdressers – carrying on from where the houses left off in being situated on a mini hill. Theirs is concrete though. Only just replaced the sign outside. For around 10 years it was just a pole with four thin chains hanging down.

No, 74, Grosvenor Stores – some sort of grocers. Changed its old green and white sign a couple of years ago to red and black. Dunno if they still do, but they used to sell bird seeds and other pet goodies. Stunk an’ all.


Opposite Grosvenor Stores is a bus stop with a cricket pitch and pavilion directly behind it, both of which are part of Harrow Lodge Park. It is extremely downhill from here for 200 yards. It only rises having gone past the allotment on the left. The hill is then very steep as one approaches Hornchurch High Street.




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