Often I’ll be going along and I’ll find myself thinking about Leytonstone. Leytonstone is an area on the northern edge of London. As far as I’m concerned it is unprepossessing. I pass through it now and again when I drive out of London to the north. In mid 1972 I saw Roxy Music play live in a room above a Leytonstone pub. This was a seminal occasion but it’s not why I think about Leytonstone. My friend Andy lived up there for several years and despite the fact that his company was inspirational, I always regarded it as tedious that I had to trek up the Central Line for an hour to get to his house. It’s a nothing place, as far as I’m concerned. It’s good for the M11 motorway if you want to get to Cambridge, my home town, by the non-scenic route. But I always took the A1(M) anyway. More to look at.
I often find myself thinking about a particular part of Leytonstone, a particular road, near the entrance to the M11. This road is fairly yellow, it has a coach and horses trotting along it and it runs alongside Blackheath, the actual heath part. Blackheath, however, is actually in south London, maybe thirty miles south of Leytonstone.
I’ve just looked in the A to Z (those were the days, Ed.) to see if I can find the road and put a name to it, but H7 on page 33, covering most of Leytonstone, is entirely confusing, an intimidating meeting of eight major roads while my road, the one that comes so often to mind, well I know it’s off one of these and it’s between two roundabouts, it links them, but it just can’t be found.
It’s not a long road, about three quarters of a mile long, maybe. I must have been on it sometime or else why would it come to mind like it does?
Next time I’m up that way I’ll try to remember to look out for the name of it. It’s conceivable that pinning it down like this would make the road lose its yellowness and its coach and horses but somehow I think not.
Perhaps Leytonstone comes up because it is a portal to Away. But I doubt this. There are better portals, such as the Hogarth Roundabout, leading to the west, where good things are, on 6A page 74. It might be because of its proximity to Blackheath, running alongside that parkland of unexpected elegance and the olden days. If this is the case then it’s to do with the adjoinment of city and country, that promise of easy access to either while residing in either, jumping in spritely fashion across the line whenever you please, depending on mood.
The problem with that, though, is that actually the countryside, with respect to this particular road, is on the city side and the city is on the side where the countryside should be. This is an anomaly insofar as it must be obvious that, on the north side of London, the countryside will be on the outside, the north side. So things are a bit upside down here.
I have worked, more than once, the last time several years ago, near Leytonstone, in Loughton, near Epping. The East 15 Drama School is out there and I often think of that, but not in the same way. Leytonstone comes to mind whereas Loughton I will often conjure, just for pleasure or simply because of its being provoked as a routine association in a routine manner. Loughton, with the Drama School and its pleasant converted barn theatre and the memory of several pleasant projects conducted therein back then, is six miles further out of town.
Leytonstone comes to mind. It just pops up. And ever since I met my wife Deborah or, to be precise, her sister Jessica when she, in turn, had met her enduring partner Mark, Jessica and Mark come to mind as well, unconjured. This is not unusual. I will, of course, also conjure them frequently but that’s to be expected.
What I find strange is that Jess and Mark often come to mind in Leytonstone – as if they live there. I say ‘in Leytonstone’ but that’s not what I mean. Jess and Mark don’t live in Leytonstone, they never have. I have never been there with them. They may have been there but who cares? Jess and Mark, since I’ve known them, which is at least 15 years, have lived in Crouch End and then, quite recently, Walthamstow. Walthamstow is a red herring – it can be regarded as en route to Leytonstone but Jess and Mark have been coming to mind in Leytonstone well before they moved to Walthamstow.
I’ll be going along and then, without warning, not that I need a warning, and without any provocation, I’m thinking of Jess and Mark and I’m thinking of Leytonstone. It happens regularly. Jess and Mark aren’t doing anything in particular, they’re just there. I can’t stop it happening and I don’t want to. It just pops up. What can I do? No need to do anything really.