Combat Boots, and a Three-day Beard


Out the doors, and onto the streets. It was two Am, and I had successively escaped the trappings of some gay club near Bethnal Green. I had no clue where I was, other than the tinges of information displayed on shop signs, and bus stops. My memory had been shot, amnesia brought on from dips of somebody else’s gear.

I was questioning if I had I come here on my own volition, or, if I was mercilessly enticed by the enterprise of drugs, and alcohol. Nevertheless, a route home must be uncovered, and so I wandered on, asking passing night travellers if they knew where I was, and how I could get to a bus route I was familiar with.

This is the kind of self-assured courage which you can expect to count on, after you have spent a few too many early mornings in the streets of Fortitude Valley – with your frontal lobe safely nestled in your back pocket. This over bearing self confidence in your decision-making ability, and reaction time is inflated when you are at the bottom end of your evening, despite your unhinged jaw. Sure enough, it was this induced bravado which led me to my bus stop to catch the 277 home, to face an ugly morning.

One of the things I like about East London, is no matter what time it is – to some respect – the energy barely changes. Sure, if you are wandering around Hackney on a nice sunny day, that fairy tale feeling hangs about in the springtime air. And, the decorative set becomes the catalyst of the energy in the air, rather than, the assortment of people about on the street. But, generally, from Stoke Newington, to Shoreditch, to Aldgate the scenery may change drastically, but the character never does. This is probably embedded in the fact: that although you can watch a thirty-year-old, exit his Victorian townhouse flat, in a three-piece Armani suit. You know, just one block down there is a degraded housing estate, and the homeless on his street will pester him, and call him by his name all along the way.

The duality which exists in East London is powerful, and honest. It carries a wickedly charmed comical value. You could be in a nice bar in Shoreditch, buying ten pound double whiskies, and outside trading cigarettes for weed with the local homeless artist – the same bloke always drinking from a bottle on the street corner. It is sometimes so fantastically obscure, you become overwhelmed and detached from the madness. You bow your head, and hide from the disastrous script at play.

That jaunted charm has become the very embodiment of this city to me. Although, it does not extend right the way through. There is a world over in the west, where the rich have private gardens with locked gates, and exotic flowers. Porsches, Benzes, and BMW’s, private guards, doormen, and gold-digging house wives. The disparity becomes sparse, and the Victorian houses are surrounded by 1.5 million-pound mansion apartments – rather than intergenerational government houses. Your voyeuristic materialism sets in, and you crave to see the insides of these people’s livings.

It is something else over there, a different level of exclusivity. It feels a little heavier than the residential gates of Sanctuary Cove, or even, the barracks-styled beachfront mansions, on Hedges Avenue. It is here you spot a glimpse of those playing near the one percent. It is here where the blatant duality comes to an end, and you must seek out to find where it still lingers.

I walked the streets of Paddington, and submitted to the role of a mobile version, of Rear Window’s L.B. Jefferies. Aiming to catch a glimpse of their mystical lives, camera in hand. I watched as a middle-aged overweight woman, desperately jogged around her private garden just days before Easter. In a synchronised, stringent rhythm she lapped the small forty metre garden. At the completion of each lap, she would slow to a walking pace for five metres, before returning to a jog. As she circled repeatedly around the oval shaped dirt pavement, she passed a sleeping homeless man who had set up camp upon her private garden bench.

Youthful Sanity