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Tuesday, 7 October 2014

As I was saying to my friend the other day.....: Tilting at Windmills: Mini Holland – a finger in t...

As I was saying to my friend the other day.....: Tilting at Windmills: Mini Holland – a finger in t...: I should say straight away that I have nothing against cyclists. No, most seem to be well-adjusted, friendly sort of chaps and cha...

Tilting at Windmills: Mini Holland – a finger in the dyke





I should say straight away that I have nothing against cyclists. No, most seem to be well-adjusted, friendly sort of chaps and chapettes with an inexplicable death wish. I mean sharing a crowded road with boy racers, frantic mums with kids on board, taxi drivers with tunnel vision and sundry high-speed blocks of steel and plastic doesn’t, to me, appear to be a strategy for longevity.

I don’t cycle: can’t would be nearer the truth. I did experiment with a bike when we first moved to Walthamstow. Gentle rides over Walthamstow Marshes were cut short when I found myself asking strangers I ran into for directions to St James’s Street.

Shopping trips to Tesco’s at Bakers Arms were more productive.  Armed with a rucksack the weekly shop was a great adventure. I was instantly recognizable: a French loaf sticking out above my head as I pedaled manfully up Hoe Street. This, however, did not last long. Punctures, slipped chains, greased up and torn trousers soon dampened my enthusiasm. Oh, and my inability to stay vertical for any length of time.

No, my admiration for cyclists knows no bounds. So when I heard of Waltham Forest’s success in securing monies for the Mini – Holland project I was intrigued. Although I had to admit I was unclear why our Council was going into the bulb growing business.

Having been put right on that matter by a very knowledgeable resident, I attended the many Council briefings on the scheme. It did look impressive: lovely town planners’ drawings with clear streets and happy people gamboling in roads with masses of newly planted trees. Cyclists waving to passing pedestrians as they sped on their way unimpeded by dangerous, noisy, polluting, demonic internal combustion engines. Happy motorists at expansive road junctions smiling contentedly as they wait patiently for the lights to change knowing they won’t have to scrape another cyclist off the tarmac.

No wonder the Council officials who’d put together Waltham Forest’s successful bid were evangelistic about Mini Holland. We were all swept along by their enthusiasm.

A pilot. Absolutely. A toe in the water to see how the scheme works out. Great way to find out the strengths and weaknesses of what’s proposed. A mini “Mini Holland” so to speak.

The Village was an obvious choice. Orford Road, the King’s Road of north east London would be transformed. Diners would nosh their Ottolenghi styled pulled mutton without the addition of carbon particulates. Mums with 4x4 baby buggies could block the pavement without unduly inconveniencing old people with Zimmer frames. Estates 17’s frontage would no longer vibrate as large delivery lorries churned up the road giving prospective house hunters an undistorted view of the “silly prices” being paid for property in the area.

Quite simply, a pilot scheme, for a couple of weeks, centred on Orford Road and the village, was the ideal approach.

It came as some surprise therefore to discover, via Twitter, that “Stow’s chattering classes did not unanimously welcome this “toe in the water”. It would appear, according to the many complainants on Twitter, that the Village’s quietude and car free idyll was bought at the cost of gridlock in the surrounding streets. Roads previously blissfully unaware of Walthamstow’s reputation as a testing ground for aspirant FI drivers found themselves on the rat run from Hell.

Some have unkindly suggested that the Council were hoodwinked by the Mayor of London into running a trail for London’s bid for a FI circuit thinly disguised a traffic calming, cycle friendly measure. Such has been the clamour that our delightful MP Ms. Creasy has written to the Council seeking clarification on a number of issues surrounding the construction of Walthamstow’s challenge to Silverstone.


I make no comment on the trial, other than to observe that our road is eerily traffic free. I’m told that it’s because all the cars that once used our street as a go cart track are now to be found stuck in some never ending traffic jam a stone’s throw from the delightfully peaceful village square.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Silent Running

There are but two matters of concern that weigh on the minds of the chattering classes in Walthamstow. Rising property prices and crime statistics.

Enough has been written about the exploding house prices in E17 and it environs, less about crime and its number.

It is, therefore, with some pleasure I am able to recount two tales where the criminal, after some while, has been bested.

The first relates to an elderly couple in our street. They've been in their house some 40 odd years - moved in when they first married. But life has not been kind to them. The wife has extreme difficulty in walking, her husband, after falling into a diabetic coma, suffering from congestive lung disease and a recent heart attack is currently house bound.

A few years back they "befriended" a young beggar - he has/had a pitch outside the local rundown  cinema. He's into drugs, squatting, fighting and generally having fun.

He'd regularly visit the couple, and although the wife seemed to have a soft spot for him, the husband couldn't stand the boy and made that clear. For a number of years people would comment about this strange relationship but it wasn't our business was it.

Things changed dramatically when the husband was taken seriously ill and admitted into hospital. With him out of the way the beggar's visits became more frequent. He'd turn up at all hours, intimidated the wife to give him the front door key, invited his equally druggy friends in. He was heard claiming that when the husband died he'd get the house - at one point  it seemed that the husband had mere days left.

A number of us were so concerned that we contacted social services, the police and our local councillors. Social services visited as did the police - all assured by the wife that she was coping and the young man was no trouble.

Much to our surprise the husband recovered to the extent that he was moved back home. Shortly afterwards one of his neighbours took him to a cash point to draw out some money. His account was light by some £3,500. All drawn during the summer and at the same time 10 pm.

It turned out that the wife had given the beggar her husband's cash card - why, we don't know. 

Subsequently, when the wife received a final demand for the TV licence we learnt that she'd given the young man the money to renew the licence - which of course he didn't.

Since this discovery, the police have been on the case and social services are drawing up a plan to improve the lives of these two pensioners. The young beggar has been arrested but is out on bail. However, he doesn't now trouble the old couple.

The second tale is more prosaic. Over the years we've been losing produce from our allotment site. People have gone down to find their tomato vines stripped, all their peppers gone, or their fruit trees denuded.

Our allotment site is surrounded by two public car parks, the back gardens of houses and a large park. It's impossible to secure all the boundaries and in the past we've had powered lawn mowers stolen. Other sites have had all their stock removed from secure Sea Containers. But....there was the suspicion that the theft of produce on our site was not by outsiders but by someone on the site. Crucially the produce stolen was always ripe or near ripe.

We had our suspicions but no proof. After much debating we installed a couple of cameras. I frankly didn't think they'd be much use. Our site is large - where do you put them. We'd had them for over a year and the most we'd caught on camera was the back of heads of the allotment holders, cats, foxes and a few curious magpies.

Until this week. I and other committee members received two stills from one of the cameras. It clearly showed one of our allotment holders stealing from an allotment plot. There was no question who it was - the one who'd been suspected all along.

Today he was confronted, shown the pictures, asked to surrender his key and marched off the site. If he tries to get back- it'll be the police he'll be answerable to.

I'd been worried for a while that my Hubbard and Spaghetti  squashes were likely to be innocent victims. Now I can sleep soundly.