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Vitamin Q: the book!

~ Saturday, December 18, 2004


18 things you need to know about where I live:

1 Stoke Newington began to grow in the 17th Century when dissenters, who were banned from the city of London, began to congregate there. It has been home to non-conformists ever since, from religious reformers to anarchists and punks.

2 The orphaned Edgar Poe was sent here to be schooled by his guardian John Allan (whose surname he later took as a middle name), back in the days when an English education wasn't rated 121st in the world, just between Chad and Tuvalu.

3 The Judaeo-Celtic Sex Pistols supremo Malcolm McLaren was sent by his grandmother to the local primary. He was horrified, lasted one day and never went back to school.

4 A recently closed take-away served fried chicken wings which were so addictively good, it was rumoured that the coating contained crack cocaine.

5 Stoke Newington is said to contain more writers than any other area of London. And it has one of the city's largest lesbian populations. Other over-represented social groups here include minor indie musicians, social workers and teachers.

6 The High Street is actually part of the old Roman road Ermine Street, which runs almost straight for many miles from the City to Hertfordshire.

7 One way to make locals grimace is to use the trendy incomers' gittish name for the place – 'Stokey'.

8 Local showbiz celebrities include Professionals actor Martin Shaw, Tjinder Singh of the band Cornershop and, erm, it's not that sort of place really.

9 Daniel Defoe (originally Foe, the 'de' was just a posey add-on) wrote Robinson Crusoe (and other books) on the corner of Church Street and what is now Defoe Road. Having dabbled in hosiery, the tile trade, politics and espionage, he came to writing late in life, having left London for Bristol where things went drastically wrong (ouch, sounds familiar) and returned, after a spell in prison, with an idea for a sea yarn.

10 Another local of note was Salvation Army founder William Booth. He is buried in Abney Park cemetery opposite the pub which, with no apparent irony, now bears his name.

11 This is a good candidate for the world's most multicultural area – predominant groups include Turks, Cypriots and Hasidic Jews, but the area is home to many, many nationalities and ethnic groups, including an increasing amount of Poles.

12 The library's prize possession is local boy Marc Bolan's top hat.

13 Reggae trombonist Rico Rodriguez (who later played with The Specials) cut a record called 'Stoke Newington Hop' on the Penguin label.

14 Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh and Hibby of note lived for here for many years (well, on the Stoke Newington / Shacklewell border) and has a story called 'Stoke Newington Blues'. When Irvine moved, I became the area's most noted Scottish writer, which was, likesay, barry. Parts of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity are also set here.

15 In 1972, members of the Angry Brigade, a local revolutionary group described by the press as 'dropouts with brains' were charged with conspiring to carry out 25 bombings. Two male and two female members received lengthy sentences.

16 The Kray Twins did some business round here. Jack the Hat McVitie, a gangster who was increasingly reckless due to drug use was killed by Reggie Kray at a party at a flat in Evering Road belonging to 'Blonde Carole' in 1967.

17 Our two local parks both have some notoriety. The common was formerly known as Cockhanger Lane, some say from a local brothel with unusual practices. In Clissold Park, the notorious Anglo-American (probable) murderer Dr HH Crippen was said to have secretly met his mistress, Ethel le Neve.

18 You want to find a kebab? Come here. You want to find a doctor? Are you kidding?

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