I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me to see me looking back at you.

Grounded. I guess you can say this is my status at the moment.
A new job with no duty travel means not many occasions to fly the nest. All there is left to do, then, is to polish up your pitch to see if any literary agent is stupid forward-thinking enough to represent that travel book you’ve been writing for a while and, of course, going to work.
My new place of employment has some interesting qualities. One of those – rather unexpectedly – is its location. You see, I always worked in those charmless industrial wastelands that always see to clung around major airports, littering their surroundings in an unkempt clot of hangars, warehouses, half-arsed business parks. The sort of place where restaurants are few, mostly located in hotels and where runway views are considered a notesworthy plus. Not now, though. My new job’s in East London, in that part of the city where Vietnamese pho is ubiquitous. And delicious.
Every day I commute to what the Evening Standard defines, much to my chagrin, “Silicon Roundabout”. Apparently you can throw an avocado, there, and hit a software developer; yet it’s a nickname denoting a degree of provincialism unworthy of a self-respecting city like London.
I used to scoff at the idea of East London. I poured scorn at the lattes, the vegan doughnuts, the squats and the hordes of fixies. Despite my penchant for checquered shirts – I’m my father’s son after all – you will never see me donning a flannel (unless I pick up a job in forestry in Kelowna, BC). And I’m the first to say that having vomit flowing like iceberg on the Grand Union canal and sidewalks so sticky that even rats can’t scurry around isn’t “edgy”: it’s asking for cholera.
Yet, I can’t avoid admitting that I’m liking East London. I like my morning walk from Hoxton to the Silicon Old Street roundabout enormously, regardless of the weather. It might be just a couple of city blocks as I hurry to work, ready to start whichever meeting is on the agenda for the day, fishing my blue badge (cue in The God Themselves as suggested by Uncle Tony, may he rest in peace), but it’s always a refreshing experience.
Click or tap on any of the photos to start the slideshow.
The ladies in niqab on their Wacky Races school run, piloting those Toyota Estimas like they stole them. The cyclist brigade, barrelling down Pitfield street like the Grand Boucle. The geeks, the off duty drag queens, the Cockney window cleaners and the brickies from Wroclaw, the chaps in gym gear and the fashionistas pushing the envelope way beyond my limited understanding. They’re all there, different every day.
Click or tap on any of the photos to start the slideshow.
I suppose the reason for my sudden appreciation for this corner of East London lies in the fact that it’s unlike anywhere else in town. No Sweaty Betty, no Foxton’s real estate agents, no Pret-a-Manger, no McDonald’s. I guess the reason why I like it so much is because this corner of East London isn’t afraid of being itself. Multi-faceted, chaotic, unkempt, perhaps even grubby and a tad preposterous. But this is the way its people want it to be, and I’m really glad to be able to dip my toe in it on a daily basis. Allow me to show you around: click on the photos and start the slideshow. Check out those guys looking back at me to see me looking back at (them). I’m sure you know the song.
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28 Responses to I was looking back to see if you were looking back at me to see me looking back at you.

  1. pam@ichoosethis says:

    I think East London is one of the best parts of the city! Great shots.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lexklein says:

    This reminds me so much of a place in Chicago I chronicled in a similar fashion (Lawrence Avenue) that was near my workplace. I also noted that it was my way of traveling in my own city without actually getting on a plane. Like your new work neighborhood, it was a ratty, comfortable old section of the city, totally at home with itself and its motley inhabitants.

    Always exciting to be starting a new job; I hope the change brings lots of new energy. And at least (I hope) you still have the better half’s airline perks to fall back on when you need to lift off!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. varasc says:

    Great shots and vivid reading!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hehe, this is a great post to start the day with, music and all. There’s a app for that! 😀

    While you’re busy teching and not being afraid of being yourself (great description), I wish to wish you luck – not you (because you have it already just by being you) as much as the agent and then the publisher who is going to snatch you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love how you’ve captured the feel of East London in both words and photos.
    Good luck with the book and finding an agent!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. J.D. Riso says:

    These are exactly the street scenes I’ve imagined when I’ve listened that Massive Attack song over the years. I understand the disdain for trendy grunge, but have to admit that I often enjoy the places that they take over. Congrats on the new job, Fabrizio!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave Ply says:

    I think sections of town like that is what country folk think of when they think “city”, and it scares the bejezus out of them. Too eclectic, too foreign, too pretentious, too chaotic, too unfathomable. But I suspect if many had your new experience they too, in time, might decide it’s not so bad, assuming a reasonably open mind.

    I’m not sure the reverse would be true.

    Congrats on the new job, and good luck with the book.

    Liked by 1 person

    • awtytravels says:

      Hey Dave, your comment reminds me of a friend of mine who took his UKIP-voting grandpa, on a visit from Lincolnshire (UKIP is a Euroscepting, anti-immigrant party in case it’s not known overseas) to Southall. Southall has historically been the epicentre of Indian and Asian immigration, so much so that street signs are in Hindi too. Well you know how it ended… whilst a colleague of mine – a middle aged white British guy from a working class background, typical UKIP material – absolutely loves the place. But he was born there!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Bama says:

    East London is a part of the city I didn’t have time to explore when I went to the UK in 2007. But from your photos, and from my memory of London, I can understand why you’re liking your new office’s neighborhood. It’s always refreshing to see cities taking up their own identity and shine with it, as opposed to imitating others which in the end will make the former uninspiring.

    Good luck with the book and the new job!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. equinoxio21 says:

    A great post. Hmm. The thought of Pho made my mouth water. (Why travel to Vietnam when you can have it coming out of the Tube?
    Ciao, ciao

    Liked by 1 person

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  11. Wonderful post. We have not been to the UK….YET! I love all your photos and especially street art!


    Liked by 1 person

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