Petticoat lane in east London and an immigrant's memory-building
|Photo by Deborah Jaffe
More than being overheard, we writers hope that our
readers will eavesdrop on our conversations. Even when there’s no other
interlocutor but our reflection on the mirror. We don’t want to be read by
accident, but with intention. So, yes, please, come closer and place that glass
on the wall.
Memory-building works in different ways. Years
after I visited Spitalfields Market and Petticoat Lane, I ended up cycling down
the latter in my first shift for the Felix Project as a volunteer. By them I’d
been in London for twenty-one years.
For almost a decade I was a volunteers’ manager,
amongst other roles. First, at Enfield Arts Partnership, in Edmonton, and after
that, at the Field Federation of Churchfield and Houndsfield Primary Schools,
also in Edmonton. Along the way, I learnt the value of volunteers’ selfless contribution
to society. Long before Eton-educated, twenty-five-grand-shed-owner David Cameron’s
ill-conceived, opportunistic “big society” idea, I had already seen evidence of
communities coming together for no other interest than to improve the lives of
Eventually it was my turn to become a volunteer. It
all started in 2012 with a local group, Bountagu (a portmanteau of Bounces Road
and Montagu Road in Edmonton, Enfield), a Big Local-funded project that sought
to tackle various pressing issues. It, then, continued behind the mike at East
London Radio, co-presenting different shows and leading one, “The Marathon
Man”. Since 2018 I have been volunteering for the aforementioned Felix
Project, hoisting a heavy, Deliveroo-style bag onto my back and cycling from
café to café, restaurant to restaurant, or supermarket to supermarket,
collecting unwanted food in good condition in order to re-direct it to where
it’s needed most.
That’s how Petticoat Lane (or “The Lane”, as it’s
known by locals) and I reconnected. The market on Wentworth Street runs six
days a week and the one on Middlesex Street (word has it that the street
changed its name from Petticoat Lane to Middlesex Street in the 1800s to spare
the blushes of virtuous Victorians who couldn’t deal with the thought of
underwear) operates only on Sundays. In regards to the latter, it is said that
one of the reasons for its presence is the influence of the Jewish community.
Since Saturday is their Sabbath, it makes sense for them to shop on a Sunday.
That’s how we build our memories. That’s how we
take pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard. That’s how one day we catch
ourselves talking to ourselves.
And you reader, yes, you, you are more than welcome to place that glass on the wall and eavesdrop on our conversation.