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Here are some things that I like about Whitechapel:

The skyline outside my window, the jumble of flat roofs and tilts, and gleaming glass Gherkin.

The families who live opposite me – last Sunday I sat out on my roof with a cup of tea and the paper and turned my face to the sun. Across the road there was a birthday party and for hours there was a stream of visitors – birthday presents, and bright paper, saris, balloons and a huge iced cake. Bursts of music from the open windows.

The garage three doors down – where stacks of tyres form the walls to make a thin passageway between the two sides. At the back you can just see a little light over a desk and the father – the company owner – is hunched over a table. At the front, the young guys stand with oily faces and they always have a smile and a hello for me.

The smell that makes me think of Africa – the scent of burning, of cooking, frying oil. A smell of neutral soap that reminds me of washing the pots on the hot cement outside. There is always a part of the street that is blue with thin smoke I remember Mnarani.

Whitechapel Road with the market stalls selling phone cards to India, bowls of vegetables, cotton dresses that flap in the breeze on their jangling wire hangers. Green and white striped tarpaulin. The stacks of Bollywood DVDs and mannequins in headscarves glittering with diamantes on the turquoise and fuchsia fabric. The smell of fish laid out, packed with hopeful ice. A blue plastic bag with oranges inside. Stands with flicks of square plastic that hold pairs of earrings; I bought some a few weeks ago for two pounds, and I like the way they are cheap gold, almost too bright against my skin. They are shaped like chandeliers, intricate, with a series of criss-crossing lines and tiny pieces of metal that flutter around the base.  They look different in the two pierced holes and I like them.

The way that the curry houses have jugs of water on the tables. There will always be someone eating in there, whether it is nine in the morning or midnight with a circle of dishes on the wiped surface. I am intrigued by the sweet treats in the fridges – bright pink and green with layers of cream fillings, marzipan and coconut. Sometimes I want to walk in and ask what they are, but I am too shy.

And the fact that I am here, part of it.

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One thought on “Whitechapel

  1. Pingback: leaving « birdwingwords

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