Two days after moving to Walthamstow I got happy slapped. I was walking along Blackhorse Road and two kids were cycling towards me on the footpath. As they passed by, one of them stuck out his hand and whacked me square in the face. As I sat at a bus stop nursing a bleeding nose, I remember thinking to my self “Oh god, where the hell have I moved to”. If you have read any of my posts on this blog, you will no doubt realise that my relationship with Walthamstow has improved dramatically since then. Over the 15 plus years I’ve lived here, the place has taken hold of me. The best way to describe it is to say I feel rooted, I feel like part of the place and the place feels like part of me. But as I often discover, not everyone is happy with Walthamstow.
Not so long ago I was stood near the bus station waiting for my other half. There was a pretty impressive sunset, so I reached for my phone, took a photo and put it on instagram. I wasn’t the only one to have the same idea, instagram is the natural home for sunset photos, as I scrolled through my feed I could see sunsets galore. My instagram browsing was interrupted when an email popped in to my inbox. I could see from the subject line that someone had used the contact me button on my blog. I get a mix of emails coming in from the site, some positive and some not so much. It’s safe to say that this one definitely fell in to the not so much category. The opening line of the email read “Walthamstow was much better when it was shit” The author even provided a bullet point list of things he didn’t like.
- People thinking this is Hackney (It isn’t!!)
- Mini Holland
- Estate agents
- Idiots who think Walthamstow is brilliant (It isn’t!!)
- Coffee shops
- Idiots in pubs w***ing in to real ale
- Nonsense about community (you people have no idea what that means!!!)
His main point was that the old Walthamstow was dead, it had no character any more and the idiots were to blame for its downfall. There was a jokey tone to his email, but he was very serious about one thing, he didn’t like what Walthamstow had become. I’m not singling him out, in fact he gave permission for me to use his bullet point list in this post. I’m just using this as example, because he isn’t on his own in feeling that the change that has come to Walthamstow, has not been a change for the better. A quick gander at some of the local facebook groups, or a read of my inbox shows that there are lots of people who think that E17 has been ruined, or that it has simply disappeared up its own backside.
It’s true that change has come, and in recent years change has been rapid. There are of course side effects and challenges that E17 has to face. Property prices and rents are high and out of reach of many. There have also been some unfortunate planning decisions made, the loss of the dog track and the development by central station being just a couple of examples. Change has also bought good things, a new cinema, the William Morris Gallery redevelopment, a range of new local businesses, and thriving pubs are just few that spring to mind. I loved the Walthamstow I first moved to, happy slapping incident aside, and I love the Walthamstow I live in now.
I absolutely don’t have a problem with people who don’t like E17, I clearly don’t agree with them, but not liking E17 is as valid an opinion as liking it. But I do struggle with the opinion that in order to remain true, Walthamstow needs to be shit. Why is that the case? why shouldn’t Walthamstow be good? and why shouldn’t it change and evolve and be different. The implication that it needs to be shit in order to be true Walthamstow implies that it was shit to begin with, which is another opinion I don’t agree with. This is my home, and I like it for what it has been, what it is, and what it has the potential to become.