diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Random borough (17): Redbridge (part 3)

Somewhere famous: Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill statue, Woodford GreenI really struggled to find somewhere famous in Redbridge. Somewhere celebrated, notable and world-renowned. Erm, no, I couldn't think of one either. So in the end I gave up on a location and settled on a person instead. And Britons don't come much more famous than Sir Winston Churchill. He never lived here, but he did represent the constituency of Woodford (and Wanstead) for nearly 35 years. It wasn't his first choice of constituency either. Winston started out in Oldham (elected 1900), then moved rapidly on to Manchester (elected 1906) and Dundee (elected 1908). In 1924, after three successive defeats elsewhere, he ended up as the "Independent Constitutionalist anti-Socialist" MP for Epping. And it was from this constituency base that he became Chancellor, and Prime Minister, and indeed Much Loved Saviour Of The Island Race. In the post-war election of 1945 the constituency was split in two, so Churchill plumped for Woodford and stayed on almost until his death. During this period the lucky Premier was bestowed with the Freedom of Wanstead and Woodford - a rare honour indeed - and often popped into the Eagle at Snaresbrook for a pint with the locals. Probably not as often as they'd have liked, though. In 1959 a grateful constituency paid £5000 to erect a larger than life bronze statue on Woodford Green. It was unveiled by Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery, and initially required a 24 hour police guard as a precaution against practical jokers. And Churchill's still there, up by the bus stop on the High Road, at the tip of the village green. A splendid avenue of mighty trees stretches up Salway Hill behind him as, with bronze hand resting on bronze coattails, he surveys the constituency that still reveres his name.
by tube: Woodford  by bus: 20, 179, 275, W13

Somewhere retail: Barkingside High Street
Barkingside High StreetOn the edge of London, with rolling Green Belt beyond, is a wonderfully ordinary British High Street. No Starbucks has yet infiltrated, and no out-of-town mall has sucked the independent retailers dry. It's Barkingside High Street - half a mile of proper shopping from Geezer's barbershop in the north down to Chequers Fruit and Veg in the south. And, perhaps of greatest interest, "many of the buildings along the high street are owned by entrepreneur Alan Sugar". So it says on Wikipedia anyway, although with a niggling "citation needed" added as a pedantic superscript, so it may not actually be true. I took a Saturday stroll amongst the Redbridge shoppers to see if I could determine which classy independent retail outlets might be Suralan's. Danny's Pie and Mash, surely, offering all day breakfasts and Great British Dinners at knockdown prices. Styles Ahead, obviously, a beauty parlour from which near-Essex ladies emerge shampooed, re-clawed and browned off. Rossi Bros ice cream parlour, possibly, its frozen produce utterly enticing for those not adhering to restrictive diets. The Mayfair stationers, perchance, given that most of Sir Alan's property portfolio lurks in W1, not IG6. Yosi's Gourmet Bagels, maybe, its chocolate coloured doors long since locked and shuttered down. Panache ladies outfitters, potentially, now under new management and selling blouses for a tenner or less. The Chubby Panda Chinese restaurant, perhaps, offering 10% discount on takeaways but now closed on Mondays. The Barnardo's charity shop, conceivably, because this charity's UK HQ is based in the heritage village at the bottom of the road. Or my very favourite, The Cheesecake Shop, from which guilty feeders emerged grinning onto the pavement stuffed with torte, gateau, mudcake, pavlova or meringue. This is how shopping ought to be. I await with anticipation the first episode of The Apprentice to be filmed here.
by tube: Barkingside  by bus: 150, 167, 169, 247, 275, 462

Somewhere sporty: Cricklefield Athletic Ground
Cricklefield StadiumNow you might think I'm scraping the barrel with a visit to the home ground of Ilford FC, currently scraping the bottom of Ryman League Division One. But ah no, I know a major sporting venue when I see one, and this athletics stadium east of Ilford is just that. It may look little more than a six-lane track behind the pay and display at Ilford Swimming Pool, with a couple of goalposts and an empty grandstand, hemmed in by houses and a cemetery. But ah no, this unassuming backwater is in fact an international Olympic arena. Or at least it was, briefly, at the last London Games in 1948. The England team played a couple of first round matches here in deepest Ilford, the first a glorious two-one victory over Luxembourg and the second a pitiful two-nil loss against France. Not a great year for English football medals, 1948. And best not to mention the only other international football match to take place here at Cricklefield - a friendly against West Germany in 1957 which we lost drei-zwei. Last Saturday's league fixture against Wingate & Finchley was a rather more mundane affair. I arrived in time for the early preparations, with the commemorative iron gates unlocked to admit the eager and the tracksuited. The team gathered slowly on the terraces, noisily warming up for the afternoon's travails. In the spartan clubhouse kitchen six packets of white baps were piled up on a plastic table, awaiting transformation into £3.20 egg and bacon burgers. And what do you know, the league's bottom club managed a home win that afternoon, easing themselves almost (but not quite) out of the relegation zone. Never let anyone tell you that Olympic sporting facilities won't be well used by the local community during the legacy phase.
by train: Seven Kings  by bus: 86


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