30 December 2014

Shadwell: Barbershops, Kebab Houses & Halal Couture

Shadwell looked good to me, there's too many people talking down Tower Hamlets so I wanted to visit one part of that London borough. I'm tired of people telling me that I shouldn't visit communities that supposedly have bad reputation's because I'm all about finding realness! Shadwell showed me that London's East End deserves a little respect! What's good E1?

There's no doubt in my mind that London is a city that's rich with cultural diversity that's infused with a strong sense knowing itself. Shadwell caught my eyes for many reasons, it's Bangladeshi and Pakistani community took me to the heart of the East End of London. I had previously been to E2 but wanted to trust the London Borough of Tower Hamlets to prove the haters wrong! Watney Market served Halal Couture for certain as the majority of the women in the streets donned their Hijabs or Burkhas. The market stalls were simple, selling fruit and vegetables and textiles only an Arabian fashion house would approve of. London for me isn't about the Queen or the Houses of Parliament because that's too predictable for me. Shadwell showed nothing but honesty with its council estate high rise developments that painted my desired expectation! Ditch your tourist maps and take a chance on E1?

The produce that was on sale at Watney Market looked just fine, it was a typical East London hangout for the people of E1 who went about their business. If truth be told I didn't see an awful lot of Chrismas decorations around the streets of Shadwell and at Watney Market so my inner Scrooge was very pleased about the Islamic presence. Just over the road the bordering neighbourhood of Wapping stood with its developed Tobacco Dock and warehouse apartments but I didn't want to partake in that business because I was all up in Shadwell's Halal realness. Put that in your pipe Wapping and smoke that!? I'm learning to respect London because she might not be a predictable city, she's sure got some interesting quirks that set this English capital aside from the rest. You could say that Shadwell mirrors the likes of Leicester or Bradford? I've not been to those Muslim infused areas so that's not up for discussion! Watney Market deserves the respect that it's entitled to! Go E1!

I needed a touch up on my latest hair do, but I wasn't going to spend my pennies in Bilston! Shadwell being a Islamic area of London meant that it had an abundance of authentic barbershops on each street corner. I made my way from Watney Market to Shadwell's vibrant town centre where it meets with Cable Street. Choosing Shadwell Gent's Hair Stylist because I know these types of Barbers always make the right cut! I waited patiently for my turn in the chair watching some dodgy Bollywood music videos so I was very grateful for my turn in the chair. My side style was sorted and I even made some small talk with the barber who cut my hair. Amazingly I paid £7.00 for my hair cut, for London prices that's a super cheap cut! It had clicked that the men in the community take a pride in their appearance for all the Barbershops were strictly for guys, so move over ladies! You've got to make the chop!

Staying connected in London is no laughing matter, so its handy that Shadwell has both a Docklands Light Railway station and a London Overground station connecting with the City and the former Olympic Park. I ditched the public transport that freezing December day, walking over Tower Bridge and bearing a right at Tower Hill it didn't take me too long to reach the Halal end of London's East. Back to the street! I know that the Islamic faith forbids the consumption of Alcohol so I was confused when I saw two pub like buildings, both fooling me for a split second to think that they were functioning pubs! Those suspicious pubs ended up to be a fried chicken shop and the other a convenience store. I recognised that those Muslim ladies take their devotion to Halal Couture like no other! I don't think Shadwell could be gentrified, its current community will keep it Halal for a while longer. Regeneration seems to be the potion for Shadwell, just don't go overdosing!

I was hungry! The Lahore Kebab House looked like the right place to have a late lunch. Taking my seat I could hear the busy chatter of several London office types, they all sounded in good spirits seen as a it would be Christmas in the following days. My table sat next to the kitchen, I peered through the glass to see a busy kitchen that looked scorching hot! I didn't know what to order so I took a leap of faith by trusting the waiters recommendation of the Karachi Chicken. My Karachi Chicken looked just like a Chicken Tikka Masala but had more of a fiery kick! The blend between sweet and spicy made my taste buds conflict with each bite of my curry, it was fulfilling for sure! My meal consisted of my curry, pilau rice and a garlic naan bread. Honestly, for Kebabs and Curry's I was simply spoiled for choice in Shadwell! Do I really have the knack for finding nice places to eat? You can be the judge of that! OK B?

Shadwell allowed me to pursue a new side of London, well new from my point of view. London might be a rich man's game but I found a corner of East London that's just getting by in the best way they know. Watney Market serves realness, its simple intent to serve the community of Shadwell was conveyed to me effortlessly. I'm learning to get my camera out in areas that aren't so Halal, I believe I got some good snaps for this East London blog. Shadwell isn't the most flashiest part of London, that's why I was intrigued to visit to see how a normal part of the city operates. I got my side style cropped at a simple and cheaply priced Barbershop, by that experience the only way to go is East! Going hungry in Shadwell is a damn crime so get your Kebab or Curry game on! I'm understanding that East London has a difference vibe within each of its postcodes. Shadwell surprised me good that December day, I saw all I wanted and that's the end of that! Shukran Shadwell!

Serving Halal Realness!

Joseph Harrison 

17 December 2014

Wolverhampton: The Next Chapter!

Can Wolverhampton rewrite its book? Has this West Midlands city really been dealt a bad card? Whatever the case may be I took the liberty to see what new businesses are being championed and to see where it all went wrong. Talk may be cheap but money talks louder than any joker, let's rewrite that book to see Wolverhampton return to a better day! Come on WV1!

Kabanos Polish Delicatessen sure had my attention! The resurgence of independent businesses opening in Wolverhampton's city centre allowed Kabanos to make its stamp on Cleveland Street. After seeing the store in the Express & Star I wanted to see what all the fuss has been about! Wolverhampton's newest Polish food store sells a range of freshly baked treats, cold cuts of Polish sausage and hams and extensive range of Polish supermarket favourites. Time is money so it was great to see Kabanos busy with chattering customers supporting a independent Wolverhampton  business. Making my purchases, I bought gingerbread chocolate cakes, a bottle of minty apple juice and two sachets of Barszcz soup. After visiting Krakow, Poland I've been intrigued about Polish food and with stores like Kabanos its easy to source such items! So, Barszcz also known as Borscht translates as beetroot in English. Tak!

It's no secret that Wolverhampton's city centre has seen numerous outlets close and businesses cease trading completely. I learnt that Wolverhampton campaigned for the Portas Pilot bid to help breathe some new retail life back into our city, evidently winning I'm aware of Kabanos Polish Delicatessen and the Hungry Bistro so with that knowledge and my blog I wanted to investigate and give something back to my home city. The recession hit Wolves bad but like a phoenix I know that this West Midland city will prosper! Thanks Mary Portas for helping the city of Wolverhampton get back its dignity through your retail project! Back to Kabanos, I noticed a lot of different Polish products stocked such as Polish medicine, gossip magazines and other products made the small store feel authentic for the European market. I'm partial to Polish vodka so I may well be back to get myself a bottle, that reminded me I need more minty apple juice. Keep going Kabanos! Dziekuje K! 

Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre is rising, only looking better with age after 120 years in the business this theatrical powerhouse keeps on! I got the chance to review Eternal Love from the English Touring Theatre in February 2014. In 2015 the Grand Theatre will be welcoming the Bodyguard Musical National Tour starring Alexandra Burke as Rachel Marron. After its latest renovations Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre dazzled the afternoon I spent in Wolverhampton for this blog. 2014's pantomime reportedly sold £1m worth of tickets the weekend before the shows first performance. Throughout the years I have been to countless shows at Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre to see Blood Brothers, Hairspray The Musical and several pantomimes when I was a boy. Have you supported your local theatre? We all know that Wolverhampton wouldn't be anything without its theatre! Oh, yes WV1!

It's been a tough few years for Wolverhampton if we're honest about things. Having somewhere to see a show to leave your problems at the door, take your seats and enjoy the show! I think the shows that Wolverhampton's Grand Theatre are pulling in of recent are getting bigger and better! It's no secret that Birmingham is our biggest competitor whilst being a close neighbour, but we shouldn't let the Hippodrome snap up all the top musicals?! No! The arts have been good to me in Wolverhampton as I was a member of a Youth Theatre Company that was known as Kuumba Arts Movement, my final show was at the Grand Theatre for one night only so I've experienced a show from both sides of the curtain! Away from the Grand I witnessed Wolves Pride put on a great event in September 2014 for the LGBT community to raise awareness and to celebrate our city. I have every faith in that rainbow focused event, four years in the making I know 2015 will see a bigger celebration!

An eyesore or a piece of retro architecture? Wolverhampton's high level railway station has had shade thrown from every avenue, its grey and quite frankly belongs back in another decade. Wolves was finally given a new bus station in 2011 so talk of a new railway station is rife! I'm a firm believer that if our gateways are fresh, modern and inviting the passengers perception of their destination improves, its true Wolves is in dire need of a new high level railway station. One different mode of transport the Midland Metro has prospered with extensions being built from a new Wolverhampton transport hub to the all new Birmingham New Street Station. It sure looks like the much anticipated second stage of the Wolverhampton Interchange project that's set to be completed throughout 2015. I want to see the Metro linked with a new railway station to increase Wolverhampton's connectivity! Let's do this Wolves!

Let's rewind the clock back to 1854 with the advent of Wolverhampton's low level railway station transforming rail travel from our city to London and beyond. A few years down the line or so longer the high level station pushed the orginal station to one side, eventually closing in 1981 with only services to Birmingham Snow Hill. Grand Station, once part of the low level station now serves as a wedding, conference and function venue breathing new life into Wolverhampton's Eastside. Adding to the low level station site there's a Premier Inn hotel, Bluebrick restaurant and modern apartment developments. Good! To cut a long story short its great to see some good come out of the dismal state Wolverhampton has been left in by the recent economical mess, there's more to be regenerated and identified. When all is said and done, we can say that with improved and modern transport links Wolverhampton's image will improve sooner. Do keep moving Wolverhampton forwards!

Heath Town, Wolverhampton usually makes the papers for all the wrong reasons but I was approached to publish a blog to raise the profile of this colourful estate, I only endorse something that I can believe will work so with an air of caution I made my way down to the Heath Town estate to see what's changing. I noticed a new development site that was cordoned off beside the Chervil Rise housing project, judging by the building site it looks very positive for the neighbourhood. Heath Town has an edge about it that's for certain, giving the close proximity from Wolverhampton's city centre and Bentley Bridge it looks to be a promising situation. Who knows? I learnt that West Midlands Police are based in one of the flats at Chervil Rise and actively take control of any suspicious activity, bolstering the changing positive way of the Heath Town housing projects. Keep the fire way from this town for the future!

Throughout the process of this blog I have seen places in Wolverhampton that I hadn't before, well I wouldn't exactly go out of my way to see Heath Town as close as I have done but I've learnt not to judge the situations of others. I know that Wolverhampton's next chapter will be prosperous and the changes that this West Midland city will see even better days compared to the last few years. From my Polish purchases at Kabanos Polish Delicatessen to understanding more about the Portas Pilot Bid that is helping Wolverhampton's retail sector getting back on its feet. Wolverhampton will experience the glory days that it once did before the economic downturn changed things. Transport is improving in Wolverhampton each year but more needs to be done because we can't move forward without what I've expressed! If the arts has anything to do with Wolves's next chapter we're in for a laugh! Are you ready for Wolverhampton's next chapter?! On to pastures new WV1!

Onwards and Upwards WV1!

Joseph Harrison 

12 December 2014

People Like Us: Bilston

People like who? I don't care who you are or where you are from because there are places that rise above the struggles of today without serving you any attention! Bilston has been my hometown for over eighteen years, I went around Bilston to see what was going on. Bilston serves no attitude, we're all about the truth! Who wants a pork and stuffing sandwich? I do!

Bilston was once a industrial powerhouse, full of industry supplied by the steelworks but those times have passed, now its a whole other story for some of us. I finished university and moved back to Bilston with a plan but like most things in life it didn't work like I had visualised it. Waiting on my papers I had six weeks until my graduation so I got myself down to the Job Centre to make a claim. It wasn't my finest moment and I put my hands I to say I didn't do it by choice. I couldn't push my graduation forwards to get my degree so I played the game and got through the week to receive my bi-weekly giro payment. I saw some scenes every Tuesday as I waited for my appointment for my claim to be reviewed. I knew I wouldn't be there for long but the system is getting a harder game to play with tougher sanctions and penalties for tardiness. There were some characters so each week I sat back to watch the show!

Many of the vulnerable don't choose benefits, its created a culture in its own right with new documentaries that try to show the truth about life on the dole, I used my time on benefits to listen and appreciate that my next step would hopefully to a new continent. Giro day usually falls on a Friday so the pubs would be packed to the rafters, let's face it if I was on benefits for a lot longer I would be living in the pub! Unemployment in Bilston is another story because other nearby areas aren't overflowing with job vacancies. I believe if used correctly claiming benefits for a time acts in the same we would use the NHS if we have ill-health. My advisor called the shots but boo don't ever tell me to 'get my life!' After painting a facade I was like a firecracker, that jumped up trick wasn't getting away for throwing shade at me! Hell no! I sincerely hope I don't return to that place but for the people who rely on that service I wish them well in life. Remember that respect is due in any case! 

Who's hungry? Bilston might be small market town with an honest crowd but we have some authentic food gems to be proud of! People like us know how to appreciate the simple things in life, obviously the good things like a hot pork and stuffing sandwich from Dixon's Butchers. Those hipsters would kill for a cut price Black Country sandwich that would cost around £4.50 from London's Borough Market or anything other hipster food hangout. Bilston serves a sandwich of that kind for only £1.80 so think about that LDN! I usually harp on about Major's fish and chips but why always sound like a broken record? Pork Scrathings define Bilston food for me, teamed with an ice cold pint of cider its a winner! Cut the snobbery fool because its the best way to enjoy a hearty snack on a budget! So, remember Dixon's Butchers on Bilston High Street for that delicious pork and stuffing sandwich! That's one less problem Bilo! 

Bilston gave me a life even though I'm less than complimentary about it sometimes. It might not change your life but I will always remember where I've come from, I finally respect the hustle people do to get by in life. These observational documentaries make me laugh oh they really do, bring your cameras to Bilston for that good good! We must be doing right because both Bilston's Outdoor and Indoor Markets are still thriving throughout this so called recession, endorse the small time businesses to help them prosper big time! I've wrote several blogs about Bilston but this will be the last for a long while, my life is going to be on another hype soon so I wanted to make the most of my West Midlands town. I'm hoping to see some difference the next time I visit Bilston in the future, the long awaited development of the High Street has finally broke soil! Get those hipsters to sample our food because we know we've got something be endorse! Serve onwards Bilston! 

After much deliberation I bit the bullet to see have a drink in one of Bilston's town centre pubs, first choosing the Horse & Jockey on a rainy Friday afternoon I used the weather as my chance. I couldn't judge the pub from that afternoon refreshment so I went back on Saturday afternoon to the Market Tavern, I had saved some giro from September so I wanted to be a part of Bilston's pub scene. It was quiet at first but as time moved on I continued observing the local drinkers who made me laugh with their explicit conversations that served Bilston realness. It was like a scene from 'Shameless' reminding me of the 'Jockey' pub but the drinkers caused no stress whatsoever. Looking back I didn't know what took me so long!? OK! Drink up Bilston!

Not feeling content with my afternoons worth of drinking I grabbed some food and more money to revisit the Horse & Jockey. The locals paid no attention to me, a fish swimming out of water but I thought to myself I have as much right to be in this pub as anyone else had. Enjoying a few more ciders I relaxed into the general vibe of the pub, there was a uncomplicated vibe about the place that didn't omit any attitude! I don't usually go to pubs because I love to get crazy in a nightclub but I appreciated the change of scenery that I experienced in Bilston that Saturday night. I will now put my judging ways to the side, take everyone's journey as a new experience to realise we all have our own lives. Bilston has showed me that people like us must keeping hustling our grind and stay true!

Chill Your Drama! Bilston Served! 

Joseph Harrison 

11 December 2014

Christmas - Past, Present & Future...

Play on, another year has almost finished so its time to get excited for the Christmas period. I have to admit I'm quite stressed at the moment with job rejections and shady broken job offers so the holidays haven't been my priority. Looking back on Christmas's past and present I can't grumble! I know the real workings of Christmas now! Has the magic changed?

Turning back the hands of time to Christmas 2012 I feel its only natural that I flashback to my New York City experience. I embraced a Filipino take on Thanksgiving, dined on some Peruvian food with my girls and welcomed another Virgin Atlantic flight into Newark Liberty! I was quite frankly dreading the festive season because I had never experienced the festive season away from home, but I learnt being away can be just as good during Christmas time. October showed me Thanksgiving, my friend Leah took me under her wing by inviting me to her food fueled celebration. I met her extended family, ate some lovely food and had a great time! Through my fear I knew that my Christmas in NJ would be far from miserable!

Marrying the night I, Fiorella, Valerie and Leah reunited for a pre-Christmas meal to remember! Choosing Pio Pio in Hell's Kitchen, we blagged a lovely quiet booth in the middle of that bustling restaurant. Our food was beautiful, but the company was truly priceless so I'll keep that memory close. Christmas Eve served Chinatown overness with a healthy serving of Asian food and Bubble Tea to complement my visit to the world famous Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center! Valerie shared her Christmas Day with me, we enjoyed a cosy Christmas afternoon with her friends family. Closing our big day we welcomed the VS17 Virgin Atlantic flight into Newark Liberty, I never got paid double! I won't say nothing but I hope to spend another Christmas in New Jersey and New York City!

I know the festive period is all about being merry but I took that the next level last Christmas in 2013! Family sure comes first so I travelled back from university to enjoy the Christmas holiday because final year was taking the Michael! I didn't ask for a lot that Christmas but as per usual my Nan and Granddad's living room was bursting with presents that Christmas morning! Having missed the previous Christmas I was very excited to see my new cousins enjoy their day, I dare say they had a great time. I had asked for a few bits and bobs, including Icona Pop's new album and a book about the hermit kingdom of North Korea. I thanked everyone for their kind gifts but appreciated one thing a little bit too much that Christmas Day! Filling my cup from dinnertime I indulged in two litres of Gin mixed with Tonic! Eating my Christmas dinner was a winner but I couldn't a word together! I was very merry B!

With age I have realised that Christmas isn't about the lights or the presents its a stressful day and the build up to the day is crazy for those who trudge around the town looking for the perfect gifts. Having  my Christmas of independence I appreciated the calm that I experienced, fast-forwarding one year I was surrounded by a sea of stress and wrapping paper so I hit the bottle big time! I can understand why Christmas is dubbed one of the most 'stressful' holidays of them all! Kids in general go mental with the excitement of the day and the build up isn't that calm anyway! I loved my Christmas's when I was a boy so I know I'm partial to some alcoholic beverages to dumb the crazy! Christmas 2013 taught me nothing new, I'm a sucker for a drink because you know I love my liquor! I still need to watch my Cabaret DVD! My younger cousins enjoyed their presents last year and I know through the crazy I'll be waiting for the hangover for the next one. I do love Christmas lights!

Needing something to take me away I'm looking to London for Christmas 2014! I shall be hitting the capital city up from the 22nd of December for the holidays, as per usual I'm seeking a new corner of London to discover for myself. Once I'm settled I reckon I'll hit up Shadwell and Tower Hamlets because I'm all about the London people don't care to visit during their stay, once I've got a fresh haircut and refueled with a Halal Kebab I am going to trust E17. Walthamstow looks good to me because its been re-branded as 'Awesomestow!' Those darn Hipsters have been making some changes so I have a duty to be nosy! I shall look at Christmas with new eyes this year, focusing on what I have not what I want. Let's keep walking onto something new!

I honestly thought I wouldn't be in the country for this coming holiday season because boo I had plans! Life can be a real pain in the behind so I embraced I would be opening presents and drinking with family on December the 25th, I'm quite looking forward to my London town festivities when I think about the stress this job seeking business has thrown. I won't be blogging about this Christmas in the conventional way but I'll be serving some gems during my time in London. I'm gagging for some Chinese Mooncakes! Oh I forgot to say! How are you spending your Christmas? Do you love it?! Please don't break the dawn because I'm all about that booze and juice! Let's break from tradition, forget that Turkey and open a bottle of fizz because life is a celebration! Oh yes!

Chinese Christmas in 2015?!

Joseph Harrison