I spent some of the weekend in a local Scandinavian pop-up café and bookshop All You Read Is Love that has views of the half-built cinema complex. As I nibbled on the local Scandi delicacy salted liquorice (in two minds there) I leafed through the Sunday Times, which, for the second week in a row, referred to Walthamstow in their Money pages as an example of a fast-moving property market.
I’ve lived in Walthamstow, East London for 13 years. When I first moved here, friends offered me sympathy. “Poor you”, they’d say pityingly. “It’s such a dump and so far out of London”.
Over the years I’ve had level-headed people compare it to the Bronx; refuse point blank to visit after dark; ask why on Earth I lived here, and one (associate not friend: lives in Highbury) retched when I gave him my postcode. My dad once referred to my old flat as being “in the middle of Beirut.” Granted it was next to a disused industrial estate at the time.
But that was then. Now Walthamstow is cool and that industrial estate has had luxury flats built on it. Last week’s Sunday Times featured E17 under the headline: "Move in Before the Hipsters Do.” But it’s too late. They’re here.
To anyone who lives here, this is nothing new. We’ve been talking about the changing face of E17 (on Twitter, naturally) for a couple of years now. But this weekend it hit me like never before.
Friends from nearby Stoke Newington who had never considered E17 in their lives, are moving in. Most Saturdays I’ll stumble over a group of people – many bearded and wearing capes – viewing a house at one of the open days that are all the rage now. Of course house prices have gone (even more) bonkers and rents are criminal. They’re rising all the time. It’s not so much about value. It’s more about what people are prepared to pay.
It got me thinking about what has changed the most: the area or people’s perception of the area?
Yes, we’ve had a handful of pubs refurbished and some lovely little cafes have opened (see above) over the past couple of years. But suddenly there is this perception that Walthamstow is cool. It’s everywhere. In the papers, in Time Out, on the telly (Location Location Location, Homes Under the Hammer and Panorama in the past few weeks).
It’s like when you’re young and you fancy someone but they’re a bit weird and you’re worried what your mates will think. Then someone else goes out with them and suddenly they become attractive. That weird-looking person? That’s Walthamstow that is.
After I left the pop-up café, we wandered round some charity shops and into the shopping mall. Their loos still stink like unnatural death but it’s the little local touches like that that help keep my feet on the ground. They certainly never mentioned them in the Sunday Times.
SEO: Journalist, teacher, author. I don’t know if this stuff works but I’ve started receiving spam email so I guess it does.