I love living in the ‘uncool’ part of Hackney
It’s cheap and occasionally cheerful
When I tell people where I live, they assume it’s cool. Hackney is the land where the streets are paved with empty silver NOS canisters, craft beer and bindi dreams. Obviously I can go along with this. Sure: there are dealers right outside my door, I can walk right out onto Kingsland Road or Brick Lane and I’m easy walking distance from Dance Tunnel, Shapes, The Nest and those warehouses in Hackney Wick.
I’m happy to let you think this, but I don’t. And I think that living in the uncool bit is better.
I live close to Manor House station. ‘Manor House’ sounds grand but it isn’t – it’s just sort of nowhere. If you dissect Hackney piece by piece then Kingsland Road is the main artery: it’s the cool part. Dalston, Hoxton, Hackney Wick. Haggerston and Shoreditch all sound exotic to an outsider, and they’re full of options for playtime. Then there’s the nice part: London Fields, the grand mansions around Hackney Central. The places where you can see yourself living when you get to thirty and plan to have a garden and a French Bulldog. On the other hand, I live in a bit which hasn’t really been granted a good name. Close to (actually a little way from) Stoke Newington if I want to sound posh.
But it’s close to practically the only proper tube stop in Hackney (Overground doesn’t count). This means I can be in Central London within 20 minutes, Brixton in 40 and everywhere else in between. I’m not one of those unlucky people who has to get from a bus to another bus to a tube stop every time they want to get somewhere. Nightbuses snake past my house after hours, shooting from Dalston and Shoreditch back to my Manor.
Fine – transport isn’t that emotive, but food is. Green Lanes is paved with Turkish restaurants that stay open later than everywhere else and officially have the best cheap-to-genuinely-brilliant ratio anywhere in London. Antepliler, Gokyuzu, Hala, Vadi: the houmous is nutty and thick, the falafel weighty, the vegetables fresh. It’s relaxed and relaxing.
After a full meal, I sleep soundly every night because my neighbours aren’t vibesy party people but families (though admittedly we only speak when they get my parcels). I don’t hear the sound of people coming back from a night out – but I do get the gentle hum or revving engines from the type of guys customise their Corsas and basic Hyundais – which is actually, quite a comforting city sound.
I live in Hackney, I work in Hackney – I can sit on a bus to Old Street and be there in 40 minutes on a good day. It’s not really on anyone’s radar, and gently muddles through without much transformation – which means it doesn’t cost £700 a month to live here like some of the other ex-council flats in Haggerston. It’s still cheap, like the best bit of Hackney used to be. You can see the same thing happening in Tower Hamlets now two twins with beards moved in to sell bowls of cereal. I can pay the kind of money that would usually only rent you a place in Seven Sisters or Bow (and no one wants to live THERE). Obviously it still beats south London, as even Hackney’s offcuts are better than that. A lot changes, but Hackney as a whole remains the coolest Borough. Even if you live in the uncool bit.