9.45am Upton Park. It’s striking how few people there are on Green Street on this cold bright Saturday morning. The silver shutters are still down on most of the shops as I walk north from the station. Slowly Green Street starts to wake up. One by one silver shutters get raised on shop after shop like eyelids. The street is quiet, calm and relatively empty. A shop keeper advises me if I want a cup of tea I should turn around and head back to the station.
At 10.30am the quiet is shattered by the wail of sirens as four police cars with flashing blue lights
speed past followed by a police van. The street is awake now and by 11.00am it is full if people
Saturday shopping. Above the Halal Meat Market there is a large flashing red sign. “You buy we
deliver… Marinated tandoori… Jerk Peri Peri… Smokey Barbeque… 100% non-stunned”. On theopposite side of the street The Queens pub has a sign on the door “Toilets for customers use
Sitting in Percy Ingle’s Bakery making notes and drinking warm tea to combat an hour spent in
the cold. The three young women working behind the counter are comparing London styles of
driving. “In my country (Nigeria) people drive on the right hand side. They drive like crazy” she
tells her eastern European colleague. Another police siren sounds in the background.
Looking up from cabinet of illuminated pasties and sausage rolls there is a sign describing the
various kinds of bread on sale. One is dedicated to “Cholla – Traditional Jewish bread made with
added sugar and eggs, hand moulded and topped with sesame seeds.” East End cockney voices
hang in the air with the sound of Polish words. The radio announces today is Grand National Day.
Tea is getting cold. On the pages of the annotated A-Z is a quotation from Italo Calvino: “The city
does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets,
the gratings of the windows.” I suddenly realise that for the first hour of today’s fieldwork on
Green Street I have been using the back of my hand like a page from a notebook.