A RAMBLE AND RAMBLING ACCOUNT OF ESSEX EAST LONDON TOWNS: WITHOUT THE STICK BUT WITH THE MOUTH
I hop OFF of the bus at Dagenham Heathway station (home to part of the District Line no less – it’s something that the people of Dagenham are very proud of). There’s the usual Iceland, Cash Converters, Specsavers, Halifax, Natwest, Lloyds, Coral, 99p Store, Lidl…
Ah, Lidl… Lidl, Lidl, Lidl. Hornchurch should not feel aggrieved at not having a Lidl. It might seem like a big deal for a town not to have one, but who cares about Lidl? People who believe the myth that Lidl is, along with Aldi, cheaper than everywhere else, THAT’S who. Do you think you could pay 75p or less for a one kilogram bag of 100 per cent oats i.e. porridge at these two chains? GIVE O-VER! You can somewhere else, though. I’m not telling you where. ‘T’, ‘e’, ‘s’ are its first three letters, but that’s ALL I’m saying. You’ll have to find out for yourself. In and around Heathway Shopping Centre there’s Red Rooster, Cherry Tree Butcher, Steve’s Bakery, Mr Doolah’s Sandwich Bar (images of liquidised sandwich-based cocktails fill my mind), Yours Choice (a pound shop – don’t ask why it’s ‘YourS’), Dagenham Job Shop, Seafood Centre, Trit – which is a hairdressers – and many estate agents.
 To be said in a strong Mancunian accent. Think Coronation Street.
 To be said in whatever accent you like.
‘‘Stop comparing it to Hornchurch!’’
OK, Voice In My Head. ‘‘Once a thriving high street with a Sainsbury’s,’’ (woah, ho, HO – NOW we’re talking!) according to a BBC article http://www.bbc.co.uk/london/content/articles/2007/08/17/barking_piemash_video_feature.shtml  ‘‘people would travel from surrounding areas to shop there.’’ (Including Hornchurch I believe.)
‘‘STOP GOING ON ABOUT HORNCHURCH YOU FUCK, FUCK!’’
‘‘ALRIGHT, CALM DOWN!’’ I reply.
‘‘ALL YOU DO IS COMPARE THINGS, WHETHER IT’S BANDS, FOOTBALL TEAMS, TOWNS…’’ Voice In My Head says.
‘‘No, I don’t’’ I reply. I couldn’t give a shit about elastic bands. They’re pretty handy, granted, but I don’t compare them to each other or have a go at new ones that have fallen into my hands and failed to live up to previous standards. They’re all been good as it goes. They’re all the same to me.’’
‘‘NO, NO, NO. I WAS TALKING ABOUT BANDS AS IN MUSIC, DICK HEAD! ANYWAY, THAT’S BULLSHIT WHAT YOU’VE SAID JUST THERE. THEY’RE NOT ‘ALL THE SAME’ – YOU GET THIN ONES, FATTER ONES, ONES THAT CAN BE PULLED FURTHER APART…
‘‘Aw, WHO’S doing the comparing NOW, VOICE In My HEAD?!’’ I say to Voice In My Head.
‘‘I’M JUST POINTING OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF ELASTIC BANDS. IT WAS YOU WHO GOT THE WRONG END OF THE STICK IN THE FIRST PLACE. WHAT A BORING LIFE YOU MUST LEAD IF THE FIRST THING YOU THINK OF, WHEN SOMEONE SAYS ‘BANDS’, IS THE ELASTIC KIND. PFFT.’’
Voice In My Head tilts his head and rolls his eyes immediately after that last utterance.
‘‘OH, YOU’RE GETTING ON MY NERVES NOW,’’ Voice In My Head says lethargically. ‘‘GET ON WITH TYPING YOUR TOWN SHIT YOU PONCE.
‘‘Thank you,’’ I reply, ‘‘I will.’’
The article continues thus ‘‘But shopkeepers say since the superstore closed, niche businesses such as butchers, and greengrocers have had to close because shoppers just weren’t coming into the area in the same numbers. In their place pound shops, pawn brokers and off licenses now stand.’’
Fags & Mags (one has to admire the punch and brute honesty of that name) is an off licence, but not one SUCH off licence. The shops I mentioned – before I was rudely interrupted by Voice in My Head – and the retail park up the road exemplifies why this has happened.
 Oh dear. They’re missing an apostrophe SOMEWHERE around here.
 The BBC didn’t say ‘‘Woah, Ho, HO…’’ I believe. EVER. At least they didn’t insert it into the article.
 There’s your bloody reference. Ooh, don’t I feel SMART.
DAGENHAM HEATHWAY LIBRARY
I make my long awaited trip to Dagenham Heathway library just down the slope from the train station (turn right from there in case you’re thinking of visiting). I go in, survey my surroundings and feel the best thing to do is to go up the round staircase. I’m in awe. All those times I would be in Hornchurch and Romford library searching for books on the online catalogue only to find that they were in exotic faraway locations such as Homerton, Bow and, of course, Dagenham Heathway.
They seemed so distant, so untouchable, so magical sounding – and now here I was standing in one of them. It was like a British teenager in the 1950s listening to rock ‘n’ roll, hearing references in songs to places such as Memphis, New Orleans and New York then visiting the birth places of those songs.
It was humbling for a boy from Hornchurch. I’d come a long way (mainly metaphorically as the distance between Hornchurch library and Dagenham Heathway library is about 4.2 miles. Romford to where I am now is around 3.6 miles, so not that long. Although you wanna try WALKING it, pal.
Funny how book shelves are lower now that the average height of humans is higher. Could be health and safety that dictates that it is far too dangerous for a librarian to use a ladder in times of need – so best to uniform all libraries so they look like nursery schools, JUST to be on the SAFE side.
After looking for books on psychogeography I go to empty my bowels in one of the toilets. The walls and doors are the usual grey, bluey colour with white ceramic toilets. As I sit down and prepare for business I read the graffiti to my right-hand side.
Racists ARE FILTH!
White people/  WE ARE
Black people/ THE SAME
There was also an unreadable piece which ended with ‘is Gay!!’ (There was only one other word.) The dot at the top of the ‘i’ was shaped like a heart (how the hell do I recreate that on a computer?) and the dots at the bottom of the two exclamation marks at the end of ‘Gay’ were like ‘o’.
 In blue letters.
 This has one big slash so ‘White people’ and ‘Black people’ are together as opposed to my two separate slashes (there’s no footnote number there either). Dunno how to do one big slash on a computer. The only big slash I can do is in a toilet/urinal. Or car park or alleyway depending on circumstances, although I don’t do this willy nilly. I’ll try and find a toilet until I’m desperate and hurting a bit. It’s unhealthy to hold it in for long. One could say it’s unhealthy to piss in a public place, albeit a part where no one will go, save for maybe one homeless person a year, but it should and can be cleaned. Doubt we can apply that to a damaged bladder.
 Again, this is not exactly how it appeared on the wall/frame, but I’m pretty much illiterate on ye olde computer.
All good things come to an end eventually, even a visit to Dagenham Heathway library. And so it is that I start to make my way out. To the sound of murmuring, buzzing computers and shuffling papers I stand by the top of the stairs, raise my hand and say thank you and goodbye to everyone for having me and making my trip that little bit more special. Many carry on with what they’re doing, while others look at me emotionless, pretending not to be affected by my moving gesture (both figuratively and literally).
The ones who carry on with what they are doing pretending not to hear me are obviously the most affected – for just one look at me would have brought them to hysterical tears. The only way for them to cope is to COMPLETELY ignore me (but obviously not LITERALLY because they’re CONSCIOUSLY doing it).
I do exactly the same thing as I approach the exit and get the same response. Sums up the stereotype of English people not showing their emotions. If the truth be told, the emotions that are actually being felt would create a scene of crying people on the floor holding onto my leg begging me not to leave and thus put a halt to this fabulous day we are all sharing together.
Obviously, it’s not because of me specifically that they feel this way; they would do it to anyone who has contributed so much to the day’s events then leaves IF they showed their true emotions. But they don’t. And that’s a shame.
At the corner of Church Elm Lane just past the library is where one of many war memorials lie in Dagenham. Exactly a week after the senseless murder of British Army Fusilier Lee Rigby, messages and flowers are amongst the usual tributes to our military personnel of years gone by. MAKE LOVE NOT WAR it urges on the top left-hand corner of a St. George’s flag. SUPPORT OUR SOLDIERS it says on the bottom one. R.I.P LEE it reads on the top and bottom right-hand squares with part of the red cross separating the scrawls. Three days after this visit of mine that I am pretending to write in the present tense, a few members of the English Defence League reportedly march through Heathway. Whether they are actually members of that organisation is another thing. But if you’re someone who judges a book by its cover then they certainly will be to you. The only things that make me doubt that they are is the fact that they are all wearing clothing on the top half of their bodies, plus the dog one of them is walking looks like a Labrador and not a Staffordshire bull-terrier. Or at least PART-Labrador, part-Staff’. I can’t decide. See for yourself here: http://www.london24.com/news/crime/video_small_turnout_for_dagenham_edl_march_to_lay_flowers_in_memory_of_drummer_lee_rigby_1_2218959
FORD DAGENHAM, CHEQUERS CORNER, GORESBROOK ROAD and GORESBROOK LEISURE CENTRE
The headquarters for Unite, Britain’s biggest union for workers is here and its building looks in relatively good condition, so they should still be going. Whether they are or not, it unfortunately matters little with the way they are portrayed in the media. The gullible public will believe anything.
Along this trail I was taken back to years gone by in the form of seeing dog shit with sneaker marks on it. It’s been a while. I’m still waiting to be confronted by white, rock-‘ard excrement, but it shows that the country – or at least the areas I have roamed around in – are cleaner than the 1990s at least.
Up the road to my left is McDonald’s – a place visited many times on the way back from pissing about in Goresbrook’s swimming pool. I have a little wander towards it and am greeted by the smell of cannabis and kebabs. I am sure to get comments from what some would term ‘hoodlums’ outside the place where the smell is inevitably coming from, but I don’t. That MUST be because of the Mountain of Fire and Miracles Ministries centre nearby.
All along I thought these kinds of places were a con, but this incident – or lack of – has convinced me that the practices they preach, and the results that they are certain they produce, are worthwhile. The building it now occupies has been a cinema and a bowling alley in its time, but who wants enjoyment, entertainment and a possible venue to take a date in the hope of gaining MORE enjoyment afterwards when we can have people paying to get throttled in the name of Jesus Christ – a man who would most likely not approve of this.
 I must add that I did not LITERALLY piss about. I was a bit old for that kind of carry-on.
I inexplicably go back again towards Goresbrook Leisure Centre, but make a detour down to Goresbrook Road, which catches my eye. Along with faraway children sounding like seagulls, the desertion of it, including the boarded up buildings on the right, I thought I had walked into Silent Hill. That said, there was life on the left side as I looked down it, with shops and businesses open and a few people milling about outside; just the images to my right were akin to ones in the middle or just before the middle of horror films when happy-go-lucky college kids stumble upon an eerie place that is sure to be the last one they see – two different worlds a mere 30 yards away.
If I had not bothered to take a right turn into Silent Hill then I would have walked straight on and bumped into this retail park on the other side of the road – which I did eventually.
 Not literally. I was aware of my surroundings even when I was looking at my phone, camera and notepad. I would love to have a footnote for that last point in order to let the reader know that I didn’t do all this at once, however talented I seem, so I’ll just put it here (back there – look above or wherever it will end up depending on where this PIECE will occupy).
 Yes, I have copyrighted this photo and others (you may not see it on others, but it’s THERE), so don’t go chopping and-a cropping all over them. I didn’t mean to insert two of the buggers, but they’re there now, so let’s move on.
 An inspiring piece of art, mainly for the fact that it should inspire anyone to think that they could do something better.
DAGENHAM LEISURE PARKFirst and only time I made use of the facilities was when the Vue cinema was of the Warner Brothers variety; and it was to see ‘Fly Away Home’ in February 1997. Went past here years later in a cab from either the Feeling Gloomy night they used to hold at the Islington Academy or The Venue in New Cross, and there was a massive scuffle going on outside the nightclub, Flex, that is situated here. Where you gonna run should you be started on for looking in A direction towards a wrong un’? Silent Hill up the road? I would probably rather spend a night in Silent Hill than attend Flex to be fair.
 I wanted to copyright this photo in particular because I doubt anyone else could have captured the feeling – evil OR beautiful – evoked from looking at this image.
 I apologise profusely for not remembering the exact date. It was more than likely during the week off from school that we would get in February. So what’s that, late Feb’? I know I should use italics when mentioning a film, but you will have to go back to my introduction many posts ago to see my reasoning for not doing so; and why do on shops and things.
From SILENT HILL to RESIDENT EVIL It has since become a school.
Dagenham Dock railway station – where no man, woman, dog, ant or fly have ever alighted. Kind of lied there as about 15 people get off when I do (maybe I’m a modern day Pied Piper). One by one they leave me to my own devices as I walk down a lovely stretch of road with scrap yards to my left and a factory (well, a building at least) to my right. And by George I’m back at Chequers Corner. It’s time to go home and continue this journey another day. No, I cannot stay the night in Dagenham and go from there – I’m not MADE of money.
Anyway, I have a prior engagement with my friends Sir Richard Hobart and Eleanor Wood (soon to be Hobart also) at their lovely woody flat in Upminster, with many cushions featuring owls and foxes on them – just to add to the cabin atmosphere. Eleanor cooks the three of us a lovely home-made Shepherd’s pie. It was (going to past tense now) just the tonic we needed to watch that night’s match between England and Republic of Ireland, which as usual, turns out to be a damp squib. Eleanor goes to bed, but being the bloody lads that we are, me and Richard sit back and KICK back with a couple of cans (one or two of them were bottles, but cool people don’t say that, so…).
 Nothing to do with the fact Eleanor’s surname was Wood at the time. She’s now a Hobart. I’ve said it already, but in the unlikelihood that she and Sir Richard are reading this, congratulations.
Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to Barking I go…AFTER tonight at least.
See you there?