Dagenham Diary

Eastbrookend   Eastbrookend Feb09

This page isn't about Dagenham as such, but about some of the daft/funny/maddening aspects of living here from my point of view - although the photos of the parks and wildlife are here because they are beautiful. I've lived in Dagenham most of my life (escape attempts having  failed), and I truly don't think it's a bad place at all, though you won't necessarily believe it from some of the articles I'll be posting here. My husband, Stephen (a teacher) is an import from Southampton, and we've been married since 1981. We have two children: Rhiannon and Callum ― and I'm now a very happy nanna as of March 2010 to Haydn. We live in a three-bedroom council house with a 100ft garden. Fortunately, gardening is one of my passions. Dagenham is in Essex, on the border of East London in England, and is the home of what was once (maybe it still is) the largest council housing estate in the world, although much of it is now in the hands of the private sector. Built between 1921 and 1932, the estate was designed as "homes for heroes", the heroes being the soldiers returning from the First World War. How could you not be proud of such a heritage?

English Teacher

English Teacher

Donnie the Pepper Grinder

Donnie Darko the pepper grinder A quick Google reveals that I am not the first to recognise this, but a pepper grinder clearly similar to mine inspired Donnie Darko. Given that I live on a flight path, shall I sleep well again? Do I ever?

Urban Fox

Urban FoxUrban foxes get a bad press just about everywhere, but not in the Sparrow household.

Catherine Tate's Nan

Incident in the Holmesdale Tunnel

Eavesdropping (or seen and heard)

September 2009: A woman talking to a man outside shop in Bennett's Castle Lane: Woman: "Oh, he's amazing! He still does all his own cooking and gardening, crosswords, everything - and he's nearly 93. I only wish I had his genes." Puzzled man: "But, you're his daughter, aren't you".

Primark, Summer 2009, a young woman, her basking brimming with putative purchases, casting a disapproving eye on a fellow shopper: "That's exactly why I never buy anything in Primark!"

Waiting room at local vet surgery: "We're driving down to Torquay at the weekend and 'e doesn't travel very well at all, so I've come to get some tarantulisers for 'im."

You've never got a camera when you need one!

and thus entirely unsubstantiated, but truly...


Cat burglar: A cool Spring afternoon in 2009, I was walking with the hound along Bennett's Castle Lane and, leaping over a fence between two gardens was a Birman. A Birman, if you didn't know, is a very expensive and beautiful pedigree cat (imagine a cross between a long-hair and a Siamese). The likelihood of seeing such a creature in the street, and particularly a Dagenham street, must be exceedingly remote - and this one was wearing a blue and white banded crop top (though no swag bag).

...UPDATE... April 2010: seen again ― same cat in same street, still sporting a funky crop top. General opinion among friends and family that cat must have some upper torso related fur dispersing ailment. Must ask vet on next visit if this is a client.


A street-side memorial by traffic lights, A12, somewhere in Havering: We actually did have a camera with us on this occasion (indeed, not one camera but several, as we were driving back from photographing the Imps),  but the sight was so jaw-droppingly outrageous that we just sat slack-jawed in disbelief. Presumably, the deceased had, with the involvement of some amount of alcohol, met his end over the bonnet of a car, as the memorial, set out along the frontage of a large house, included a rather badly damaged car bonnet, several large cacti, pyramids of lager tins, and rather a lot of helium balloons, two of which were of the type usually used when someone is retiring or leaving a company for pastures new as they both said "Sorry You Are Leaving".

I understand, thanks to the delightfully irreverent podcast Sick and Wrong, that such roadside memorials are known as Mylar chav trees (or maybe Mylar Chav frontage or cacti in this instance).


In the 1990s, as my daughter went to school in the area, I frequently passed a sign-writer's shop in Rainham, Essex which offered their outstanding services in Vinyal Lettering.

The shop was just after the street sign in Rainham, Essex pointing the way to the local cementary. Ronnie and Reg would have been well chuffed, which led me to believe that Havering Council employed the aforementioned to produce their local signage as...

... the park next to the Romford YMCA sported a large sign announcing itself as being the property of Havering Department of the Enviroment.

...but sometimes you do have a camera!

Hewett Road Wine StashThe bay window of a house just a minute's walk from mine. I first noticed this display of wine bottles in the window about a year ago (and I'm writing this in March 2010). Incidentally, it hasn't changed.

The most fallen of winos would not store their collection in a sunny window, so we can assume that these are not full bottles in storage awaiting the right time for delectation. The only other reason would be a display of wealth or taste - but not one of the labels on these bottles depicts a wine costing more than £5.

I have heard that a wine bottle filled with water will deter cats from peeing on your flower bed, but I'm fairly sure the bottle needs to be in the flower bed to be effective.

I suppose I could just knock on the door and ask, but sometimes you need a little mystery in life.


Hewett RosesThis was taken in 2009, more or less opposite the house depicted above. The green plaque says: “The trees and lawns on this estate are planted for your enjoyment. Do not spoil them.”

I feel quite guilty here as I first uploaded this picture to my website just after I took the photo and I think someone from the Council must have seen it (I do tend to shove my head above the parapet so my name flags up). The actual rose shrubs were beautiful and, when well-tended, were a highlight of the street. I wish I'd just taken my clippers, hoe and mower and tidied it up, because the Council's reaction was to dig the whole lot up  - roses, weeds - and replace it all with hebes! Low-growing and ugly for most of the year with a late summer boring flowering. Even the weeds do better than that! Oh, mea culpa. Or maybe it's not my fault; just Council policy to make the green areas ugly too.

I know I'm a bit of a gardening fanatic, but if this green was within my immediate environs, I'd have kept it gorgeous - and not just left rude signs strapped to my gate about the dogs that poo around there! You clearly don't give a hoot how lovely it could look, so why whine about the dog poo? Get the mower and hoe! I've got a dog and cats and my front and back gardens are larger and look much better than yours - and I grow edible veggies too - and most of you have much smaller front and back gardens than I have!

Small Town Girl

Rhiannon was wholly impressed that so many students actually travelled all the way from Billericay to attend Palmer’s College in Grays. After all, she only travelled there every day from Dagenham. After several months, she asked whether they all flew home at weekends. Uncomprehending faces all around. Apparently, she’d thought Billericay was somewhere in the Mediterranean.

Rotten Rotter

12 November 2010:Last evening, after my brother left my mum’s house after bringing her dog back from ‘walkies’, my mum answered a knock at the door. A well-dressed, well-spoken young man dressed in dark clothes flashed a badge at her, said he was a policeman and asked her if she was alone. He told her there had been a report of a dodgy chap in the area and could he look in her garden to see if he was there. He checked her front room and bedroom (she lives in a bungalow) and while he was trying to open her back door she said, ‘you’re not a policeman, are you?’ and tussled with him (she’s 81, 5’ 4”, weighs +/- six stone depending on the time of day, and her lungs are knackered). The thug pushed her back, grabbed her handbag and ran off.  She was so angry she even left the front door open while she called the police – who were as helpful as they can be.  This morning, she is the same feisty girl she was at ten-years’ old - and jolly cross at being suckered by this punk.  My mum lives in a sheltered bungalow estate, so this predator is targeting people like her.  The local police are aware that this man is operating, but don’t want to make his behaviour known in the local press for fear of creating a copycat or two. Fair enough – but surely the known elderly should know…

Well Qualified

1 September 2010: I went to the pharmacy and croaked to the assistant 'oral anaesthetic spray, please' and mimed spraying my mouth. She handed me a tube of Daktarin cream, a treatment for topical thrush (not even oral thrush). I whispered, 'no, throat spray' again miming spraying my mouth, and she asked me what it was for. 'My throat,' I answered. 'Is it sore?' she asked.