Kicking Off in Clapton
My mum was worried when I said I wanted to move to Clapton – to a road just off Lower Clapton Road. “But that’s murder mile!” she squealed, panicked; an estate agent had shared the ‘murder mile’ nickname with her.
But we moved here a few months ago and the sense of community by far outweighs any sense of unease. There’s the little Italian coffee shop that sells coffees (not lattes, cappuccinos, flat whites – just coffees) for £1. And they’re good. Builders, road sweepers, business people all queue here in the morning, laughing and chatting.
Round the corner the Jamaican mechanics, whose wide smiles never falter, fix up cars and then pop to Grannies for jerk chicken. There’s Palm 2 on the main road selling organic fruit and veg, wines, freshly baked bread and Climpsons coffee from a stall out the front, sister-shop to the Organic Cafe (and health food store) further up towards the Lea Bridge Roundabout.
The Turkish-owned convenience store is well-stocked and the men behind the counter greet everyone with a friendly “hello darlin”. The benches lining the Clapton Pond are used by mums with buggies, six-formers from the Bsix College – whilst they eat their greasy chicken shop lunch, and elderly people.
The Clapton Hart has taken over what was once Chimes nightclub – and the reason Lower Clapton Road was named Murder Mile – and is bringing people from all over London to this part of Hackney.
So Clapton is mostly amazing. But then there are moments like the one I just had. I left the flat, walking up my road towards the postbox. Two hooded boys were walking fast and shouting – but that’s not unusual: it was 4 o’clock so there’s always lots of six-formers leaving college. But then they shouted something like ‘let’s get them!’ and ran towards a group of boys ahead of them, with lit fireworks in their hands – aiming them at the boys’ heads. They let them off and a green flame flew into the air with a scream. I swiftly turned on my heel and decided to walk the long way round.
Groups of young men were gathered, passing things to each other and whispering – but, again, not uncommon when college finishes and there are girls they fancy about. I walked to the postbox then turned back down my road and an uncover police car sped past with the siren blaring. The car mechanics were looking up and down the road – trying to work out what was going on. Two girls walked past me, discussing the fact that someone had been stabbed earlier in the day.
Up ahead, four boys were walking away from me, one in what looked like a citizen’s arrest, a riot van met them at the corner, two more police cars with sirens sped past me.
My phone started vibrating in my pocket as Rich rang to see if I was alright: he’d seen an undercover cop run past the flat.
I got back in and decided that the only way to overcome the ordeal was to eat the delicious (massive) slice of orange and chocolate polenta cake that I’d bought from the Organic Cafe when trying to determine if trouble was bubbling up or I was just being paranoid:
It’s strange how an area can go so quickly from feeling safe and friendly to dark and dangerous… maybe it’s a full moon.
But I maintain that Clapton is *mostly* wonderful.