Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Rough Guide to Hoxton

So, Hoxton has something of a reputation, not all of it good and I feel I should address this since it lends its name to my blog.

For those needing a geographical update, Hoxton is a (tiny) area of East London, lying just outside the square mile of the City, with Jack the Ripper's Whitechapel to the south-east and Hackney to the north. The adjacent neighbourhood is Shoreditch and the two pretty much go hand in hand.

Once the domain of cloth merchants, artists and those needing a cheap place to live in central London, it’s always been one of those rough, slightly dodgy but undeniably vibrant places you find in all major cities, with great street markets, independent shops, quirky restaurants, trendy bars and (I kid you not) a circus school. But with its proximity to all that City cash and the new Olympic site, it’s been on the radar of developers for several years and will no doubt eventually become as generic as most other London neighbourhoods, alas. In the meantime, it’s almost too cool for its own good.

The Shoreditch Twat has become a well-known label for a certain type and I can’t pretend there aren’t plenty of them where I live. Fortunately my general acquaintance unanimously agrees that, despite my address, I am not one of them. One of the best descriptions I’ve heard of the crowd you often find in Hoxton is ‘people with difficult haircuts’. You know exactly what they mean. All those ironically coiffured, asymmetric fringes, who can barely deign to acknowledge the existence of us mere mortals. But they are undeniably entertaining and you have to credit them with bringing a lot of the interesting stuff to the area with them, whether it’s a new club, an art exhibition, or a market stall.

(NB The other variant of the ST is the city slicker who thinks that by walking down the road from the skyscrapers of Liverpool St to the bars of the ‘Ditch, drinking a lot of cocktails and talking about his new and massively overpriced ‘loft apartment’ in the East End, he can escape the fact that he is another banker’s drone serving the evils of global capitalism and leading a soulless existence. Not that I’m judging or anything;).

One of the things that people coming over for a night out don’t often realise is that, of those who live round here, a large number of them are families and there are children all over the place – a fact I enjoy since it’s not often you can be in the centre of a city and hear children on their bikes and playing football and the tinkle of an ice-cream van coming round the corner.

I’m also excited at the prospect of a new knitting group from Ravelry starting up round Hoxton Square, where we can people-watch, drink and knit to our heart’s content.

So I love living here, strolling over to Brick Lane on a Saturday, roaming through the stalls of Spitalfields Market, trying to get up early enough on a Sunday to catch the best flowers and plants on Columbia Road. I just have to be careful when I go to get my hair cut.

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