Travel Writing




Dagenham. Famous for Ford Motors, desertion[64] and high crime rates, it was also the birth place and breeding ground for 1960s’ luminaries such as Dudley Moore, Terry Venables and The Tremeloes – the band The Beatles could have been and who Decca subsequently chose to sign instead of those hopeless one-hit Scouse wonders.

Just think: no Dagenham – less great comedy; no Dagenham – probably no great Euro’ ’96 memories; no Dagenham – no Alisha’s Attic, for it was two daughters of the lead singer of The Tremoloes, Brian Poole, that made up the group. A perilous bunch of thoughts if ever there were ones, particularly when it comes to the latter.


On my way to Dagenham from the big bad ganglands of Hornchurch and Romford with my mummy in tow, I head to Argos in Romford Market[65] (the shop that will be the Harrods of the space generation – whatever that last term means) to sort out my camera[66] in order to document my quite brilliant adventure in image form. As usual there’s a simple explanation to why it wasn’t working (something about I had to put a card within a memory card or something).

One of the market stalls selling music is playing Elvis[67] again in the form of ‘Marie’s the Name (His Latest Flame)’ – one of my favourites from his vast cannon of other people’s songs. As I make my way to a bus stop the Pakistani woman from the off-licence at the end of my (old)[68] road comes out of the Co-operative bank on the corner of South Street where the market begins; just as my mum goes in the other side. She doesn’t see either of us as me and my mother go our separate ways.

It’s a rainy day as I hop[69] onto the 175 bus outside Essex Fish & Best Kebab. This area is where most of the trouble happens on the weekend and where people stand nonchalantly around a bin that’s on fire as if it’s the most normal thing in the world – creating scenes that look like a combination of Wild West and Mad Max as


[64] Not in Army terms.

[65] Well old it is.

[66] For it wasn’t working i.e. not capturing still images of a moment or, in Layman’s terms, the lens refused to focus the scene’s visible wavelengths of light into a reproduction of what the human eye would see.

[67] Presley not Costello.

[68] I have since moved.

[69] Pretty much literally, although I cannot be sure.


violence, blood, takeaway wraps, gold polystyrene boxes and its contents such as pitta bread, red onions, lettuce, slices of lamb and chips fill the pavements. No bell is needed to start proceedings: just a simple ‘‘I was in front of you, you cunt!’’ is enough to get the fight(s) underway. One of my first alcohol induced experiences of Romford was of seeing someone getting run out of South Street in the middle of the road past the train station towards Fitness First.[70] And it’s stayed with me ever since.


bin on fire in romford

Hell fire of Romford. Welcome.


An old Irish guy, bald on top with white hair around the sides and thick black eyebrows asks the driver if the bus goes to Queen’s Hospital and immediately makes me think of the evening’s football match between England and Republic of Ireland who will be competing against each other (in football terms at least) for the first time since February 15th 1995 when some English hooligans decided to riot, leading to the ‘friendly’ being abandoned with just over 20 odd minutes gone on the clock.

We, the happy-go-lucky mob of day trippers go past Queen’s Hospital where I am surprised to notice that the people who pop on are under the age of 70: a young blonde mother and a 20 something man fitted with a half white, half navy blue tracksuit, gelled-down fringe and who looks like a heavy user of recreational drugs. At the next stop, a boy in a vest trying to convince himself it’s summertime gets on. He was walking from the YMCA, so he could’ve been gymming it to be fair. Still…

From there our magical[71] journey takes us past Dagenham Road which brings back memories of my PCCSD (Pre-Credit Crunch Sandwich Days) when I was a bricklaying student at Barking College; lunchtimes that were spent either at Andy’s Fish Bar or Favourite Chicken (the former wasn’t great, but again, it was before my PCCSD; the latter was good, but it was by no means my favourite chicken – a very assuming title in my book).[72] There was and still is a flower shop called Oasis that used to catch my eye a lot. In my mind it was because I’m a massive fan of the band, Oasis, but maybe every flower shop attracts our attentions what with all the colours and what have you.


We’re headed down Wood Lane/Rush Green Road (not sure which), going past The Rush Green Stadium,[73] the old ground of Grays Athletic FC where they have the West Ham United crest plastered across one of the entrance walls – an indication that The Hammers now own it as a training ground facility for their academy side.

As Grays Athletic’s ‘The Ball is Square’ WordPress blog stated in October 2012, ‘‘There are few grounds in England that can boast they are also home to a dog training academy, but Rush Green is one.’’ Now, that is something to shout about and be proud of. ‘The Ball is Square’ blog certainly is, so if you’re interested in local football and local history around this area, you can find it here:

The former Kids Kingdom is to the right and is now a massive dirt patch. From the multitude of colours that used to occupy that space in the form of plastic balls, slides and air flow things to the colourless[74] pit it is today, a sense of depression and nostalgia enters me.


Breezing past Dagenham Civic Centre you would be forgiven for thinking you were in the company of Belvedere Gardens where Mozart and his crew would hang out in Vienna surrounded by groupies at after-parties following a typically riotous gig, not to mention Franz Ferdinand[75] years later. Only the Lego-like flats to the north-west of its being, and the bus station opposite just over the roundabout would possibly give it away.


[70] Or maybe he was just eager to get to the gym after all that eating and boozing.

[71] Lest I withstand temptation to describe it as our Magical Mystery Tour like 99 per cent of the population does.

[72] Maybe literally if this turns into a book!!!! lol! rofl!!

[73] The Argentina national football side – Lionel Messi et al –  trained and played a practice match here against West Ham’s academy youngsters.

[74] Not quite colourless. Grey and brown are colours, Einstein.

[75] Not the band you uneducated buffoon.


With Morrison’s, McDonald’s and the boarded up The Ship & Anchor pub in view, a woman with crutches rushes across traffic lights that are green to the vehicle’s advantage; while a man in a fork lift truck picks up a pile of pallets in the confines of the bus station. It’s all very exciting.

A mousey blonde mother in a grey jogging suit orders two children – which I’m assuming have emanated from her fanny[76] at some point – to keep the noise down and not stand while the bus is moving as we halt at a bus stop advertising KFC and L’Oréal featuring Cheryl Cole.[77] An old lady wearing a light blue coat (the type of coats you normally see old women wear) hunches over a crutch ready for the oncoming bus.


[76] And I’m not talking about her mother.

[77] She has since changed her name to Cheryl Fernandez-Versini due to marrying a bloke with that surname.


To be continued…

Next time: Dagenham Heathway, Goresbrook and Dagenham Dock



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