I have no interest in sport in general, the Olympics in particular. Other than to complain about the traffic/daily disruption/patheticness of our organisational skills etc. of course. However, I had been alerted to The Counter Café at Stour Space, a gallery out in Hackney Wick serving delicious food, which afforded fine views of the Olympic Stadium. As I wanted to go see David Bailey’s East End, a photography exhibition at Compressor House in the Docklands, I thought I might combine the two and have my own little Cultural Olympiad. The sun was out, my friend was in town, it seemed like an excellent way to spend the day. I planned ahead, printed Google maps, booked tickets for the Bailey show and we were off.
View from the train
First, we took the shiny new London Overground to Hackney Wick for Sunday brunch. It was hot and sunny as we made our way through the warehouses filled with artists’ studios. A casual market had been set up by some enterprising folk selling clothes, books, jewellery and bits of random tat; they played music, drank beer and danced in the street. It was reminiscent of a bit of Brooklyn I once knew. We walked along the towpath by the canal, Lilliputian statues lurked in the long grass by the water as we weaved past the cyclists and dog-walkers.
View from the towpathThe café-gallery was at the end of the road, perched on the banks of the canal, set over two floors in the shadow of the Olympic Stadium.
We ordered at the counter and sat outside on the pontoon which rocked gently every time the police speed boat cruised past. We ate potato pancakes, smoked salmon and orange-yoked, poached eggs with extra bacon on the side. And vodka tonics. All was excellent. My friend thought she saw a frog-man in the reeds.
View from the reeds
Then we took the Overground to Stratford and caught the DLR out to Royal Albert Dock, hurtling through London’s hinterland past Canary Warf and the O2. Finally we alighted in the middle of nowhere. Not sure which way to go and clutching our printed map, we made our way across a vast wasteland surrounded by a chain link fence. Two cruise ships….yes cruise ships …..were docked in the docks. Grey and white haired men and women in summer separates and comfortable shoes milled about smoking. Planes buzzed low overhead taking off from City Airport. Two large marquees were pitched in a sort of tarmacked bus terminal, young people were trundling towards a check point in the fence where a lot of men with foreign accents and high-vis jackets barred our way. Waving our map we stood our ground.
“David Bailey,” we shouted, “we’ve got tickets….we need to get over there…..”
They refused to let us pass. We seemed to have hit on some Guantanamo style, Olympic steward training ground. We returned to the station, confused. It was then we realised the exhibition was behind us; a large banner flapped in the breeze proclaiming: David Bailey. Hot and a little bothered we finally tumbled, like Edina and Patsy, through the doors of Compressor House, and were rewarded with a collection of exquisite photographs of London’s East End.
Top tip: sit at the front of the DLR train for a great view and pretend to be the driver…….