diamond geezer

 Sunday, October 18, 2020

London has one Autumn Drive, two Autumn Closes and just one Autumn Street.

Conveniently it's in my postcode, on the very edge of Bow between Wick Lane and the River Lea. It's one of a seasonal trio which once included Spring Street and Summer Street until those were wiped away by the A12 fifty years ago. Nobody ever bothered building Winter Street, presumably because the name was too downbeat, so today only Autumn Street lingers.

It doesn't linger well. Originally this was a residential street with twenty terraced houses on either side leading down to a wharf on the river. These houses survived the war but not the subsequent developmental free-for-all, so the northern flank is now a warehouse for the building trade and the southern flank is used for storing trucks and minibuses. Meanwhile the wharf has long been built over with industrial units, which means 21st century Autumn Street is a 100m dead end with a broadly unwelcoming feel.

Howdens Joinery is the kind of place whitevanmen drive to for flooring, doors and kitchen units, and presents an unyielding wall of brick and corrugated metal to the street. Howdens see themselves as the John Lewis of joinery, guaranteeing* not to be beaten on price (* but only for any 'like for like written quotation'). I have a fairly desperate need for cupboard doors at the moment, but as a non-tradesperson I'll not be getting inside.

Likewise I am unlikely to be welcomed opposite at Falcon Print Transport, Fox Transport or B&B Self-Drive Van Hire, their respective fleets jammed in behind railings topped by swirly metal barbs. Shifting freight and people remains a thriving business at this difficult time, so a smattering of '70' registrations can be found in amongst the older vehicles. The only other yard along Autumn Street contains overflowing bins and an abandoned van belonging to streetfood wannabes BBQ Lab, whose execrable slogan used to be "Making American Barbecues Awesomer". They've since moved on to open a chain of chicken shops, which I guess is why they no longer need their converted ambulance.

At the far end of Autumn Street are unmarked gates into a larger yard where the wharf used to be, now packed with assorted motley warehouses. Think grubby brickwork, think lorry-sized shutters, think metal staircases climbing to dubious doorways. One of the blocks has been divided into small units to give creative mini-industries somewhere to create, while another has been taken over by the Bloc nightclub. Hardly anybody lives within earshot, but a complaint from a vexed neighbour in 2014 was enough to get the club's license scaled back to two nights a week. They must be loving the peace and quiet in 2020.

I've never walked down Autumn Street before, deterred by its low-commercial dead-end ambience, but on Saturday it was empty and I was able to roam unperturbed. The only two vehicles parked in the street looked unloved and abandoned - a Peugeot van with both numberplates missing and a BMW with one numberplate stashed on top of the dashboard. But there was evidence that plenty of people park up here at other times on the unregulated side of the street, courtesy of a hedonistic selection of litter scattered across the tarmac.
» one Durex 'extra safe' condom packet; two used tissues
» one black mask; one white mask
» one receipt from McDonalds in Canning Town for a balanced meal comprising a medium Coke, medium fries and three cheeseburgers
» a brown McDonalds paper bag; the red box the fries came in; three abandoned cheeseburger wrappers
» an empty family-meal-sized KFC box
» three generic oat bar wrappers
» one Sainsbury's so-called 'bag for life'
» two squashed soft drink bottles; one flattened can of Red Bull
» a Costa cup (probably from the garage round the corner)
» a pink Little Miss Princess mug (still filled with green tea leaves but also now stagnant rainwater)

I should also mention Autumn Street's pair of bus stops, located at the top of the road in Wick Lane. Litter is a problem here too, despite the presence of a black bin, perhaps because the 339s don't come past often enough. One local resident has been sufficiently enraged to have stuck a passive aggressive sign inside the shelter reading 'So now everyone knows how to wash hands, can we teach them how to use a dustbin'. A special hello to you sir, a regular reader of this blog, although I'm sorry to say the eyebrow threading price list I spotted on the pavement suggests not everybody's taken heed.

Evidence of autumn itself is hard to find. The street's sole tree, a yellowing sycamore, has yet to deposit more than a few shrivelled leaves across the tarmac. Any seeds which eventually helicopter down have no chance of taking root. Nobody's wearing the latest seasonal fashions either, especially not now the nightclub's closed. But this is definitely a street that's past its peak, a street awaiting chillier conditions to come, so perhaps Autumn Street is well named after all.

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