A couple of weekends ago I decided, purely in the name of research for the novel, to research the area where Kim lives — what has been to me for many years the infamous borough of Hackney.
I organised a modest pub crawl (five pubs — a proper one for me goes into double figures) and was joined by my old drinking chums Andy, Jon and Simon (and later Antony) and Guy from the City course also joined in impromptu.
In my experience Hackney isn’t part of the ‘maggot-ridden cess pit that is London’s East End’ (as Alan Patridge described the land of jellied eels and rhyming slang). It seems less threatening than many areas of south-west London that I lived in or near in the late 80s and 90s (I had two Crimewatch murders within a couple of hundred yards of where I lived in Hounslow).
We started off at the Pembury Tavern — a cavernous beer hall of a place just outside the centre near Hackney Downs station. We then walked through the town itself to the Globe at Mornington Lane — a modern boozer opposite Tesco’s about whose staff the phrase ‘salt of the earth’ could have been invented. We went on to a couple more pubs before ending up in the marvellous Charles Lamb in Islington — something of a post-workshop regular now for Guy and myself.
Crossing the road towards the pub we got a glimpse of the Hackney that will have attracted Kim. An old bike had been painted and adorned with flowers and was apparently attached to a lamppost just over the pelican crossing. Guy was very taken with this piece of improvised street art — exactly the sort of object the artists in his novel would have created. Not a utilitarian street bike of the sort promoted by Boris Johnson but one that has no practical value whatsoever — it’s just mysteriously ‘there’ to make a statement.
And so it seemed to confirm to me that this is Kim’s domain in London — shuttling between Hackney and Shoreditch on the 55 bus — the one Guy and I took there from Mike B’s place after the Saturday morning workshop.
Having been thwarted twice by the incompetence of the Olympic ticketing system and having failed to buy any tickets for events at the nearby Olympic Park for 2012, I may go back to the area and have a look around at the changes associated with the games. Fish Island looks well worth a look.