Spurred on by a need to stretch the legs and the news that High Street North is developing into somewhat of a ‘curry mile’, L and I decided to head off on a walk from the Boleyn ward end of Barking Road down Central Park road and up the High Street. Our nominal destination was Chan’s, a long-established Chinese restaurant that has been in the vicinity since the 1940s. There is also apparently a framed menu from then up on the wall. Initial enthusiasm was dampened by the rain but we slung on some winterwear and off we went. We first trod down the Barking Road parallel: the B167, Central Park Road, a gentle swoosh of Georgian red-brick terraces, some with park views. The nicer stuff is on Rancliffe, but who’s counting (some are, that’s for sure).
Swing south through the Park, across the semi-formal gardens and a left before the Elizabethan Formal. We wind up crossing the Barking Road and heading through the maze of the East Ham Covered Market, all £5 watches and cut price threads, some bootleg perfumes, Mama’s Kitchen, meat being ground down, sawdust, mothballs, dust.
I say that we should stop at Seahorse, who for the longest time did the best chips in East Ham. Always fresh, cut small and fried in groundnut oil. Served open in a cone and splashed with as much onion vinegar as we could feasibly get away with, which then runs through the paper, onto your hands, and that faint, onion, acidic smell lingers all day through the handwashes. But L likes the Ercan chips better and deep down, so do I. It’s mainly drizzle now and we head North up the High Street, past the shops I know and the shops I knew and the shops I don’t want to know and the shops I wish I knew better before they went. I still miss Our Price, Woolworths, but Blue Inc and Smiths cling on, vastly altered. There’s a new CeX games shop. A huge Primark where Marks and Sparks used to hold court.
Further North, past East Ham Station, begins the dotted procession of curry houses big and small, some pure veg, some South Indian, some just sweet shops filled full of baisan and barfi, jalebi and gulab jamun. Some a mix of the entire sub-continent, the worlds colliding of the old Overdraft Tavern with its South Indian restaurant annexe. On the way back from our waypoint I grab a kashmiri tea and ask for a lid (on account of the rain). The chawallah tells me to take the lid off, before I drink, because otherwise, I won’t be able to sip the almonds and pistachio fragments. I feel oddly grateful, chastened, and I take his advice and we continue, to Sainsbury’s, right through, all the way to the cereal aisle.