DD’s 50th Woodford Diary

Some South Woodford scribbles from DD, our resident diarist, commentator and observer of all things local

My partner, David, reported yesterday morning that he had been riding around New York on a bicycle trying to track down the hall where a friend was giving a lecture. He did find it, but was late. Worse than that: he didn’t recognise the speaker at all. He hadn’t a clue who he was. It seems we can’t have much influence over our dreams!

I couldn’t compete with David’s risky Stateside escapade, but I did also have a dream to recount. A more modest adventure, but quirky all the same: I was being driven around Ilford town centre in a horse-drawn carriage; more of a cart really, like Steptoe and Son’s. Definitely not anything on the Downton Abbey scale.

I browsed the web. Evidently, “dreams are an enduring source of mystery for scientists and psychological doctors”. I’m not surprised. On a much lighter note, someone had offered this captivating comment:”Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.”

Is South Woodford full of dreamers? Has Covid affected our dreams? I joined a couple outside the Tipi Coffee Company. Posed that question. “Yes indeed,” said the husband. “I’ve dreamt recently about school and college days I hadn’t thought about for years. The good old days, I suppose you might call them.” His wife joined the chat: “I keep dreaming about what were once the familiar situations in my life. The daily routine of going to work. Travelling on the bus. I’m back in a place where I feel I have control over things. Unlike now!”

A friend of mine from Manor Court Lodge was trundling her trolley back from Waitrose when I met her. “Yes,” she said, “I’ve been dreaming much more than usual and always about friends long dead. Is it because death dominates the news these days?” Caroline, strolling with her mum: “I have surreal dreams every night. Full of extreme emotions. Almost as if they were part of my training to be a counsellor, when I will be helping people deal with powerful feelings.” Amira, outside M&S Food, chatting while her toddler slept, surprised me by explaining that often her dreams predicted something that was soon to happen. But she didn’t claim to be in the same league as Joseph in his technicolour dreamcoat. Further down the road, Elaine was enjoying a coffee in the warm autumn sunshine. Her dreams were often a sort of problem-solving session, with her brain trying to sort out thoughts and ideas from the day before.

I soon found that the contents of night dreams and daydreams can sometimes overlap. Sehmi, behind the till in The Children’s Society charity shop, didn’t hesitate to describe his vivid dreams of travelling, with Kenya and India topping the list of destinations he visited in the night. I suspected (and I was right) that he didn’t actually have to be asleep to transport himself into these exotic places! They inhabited his daydreams as well.

The residents of our friendly suburb may not see themselves as being in the same league as Martin Luther King, who dared to shout his hopes aloud: “I have a dream!” But I found no shortage of thinkers and philosophers on George Lane, “dreaming dreams”, pondering hopes and aspirations during this unique phase in our lives. “Live each day to the full, when the future can’t be taken for granted,” was Pam’s advice from her position in the queue at Woods Fish Bar. Bernard, outside Boots, introduced himself as a lifelong champion of natural healing. Promoting ways of monitoring our stress levels. “Breathe in optimism and enthusiasm. Breathe out negativity.”

Four gorgeous girls, sixth formers from Woodbridge High School, were enjoying their lunch break together. What were their dreams? Out they poured: “A long healthy life! To be successful. For my parents to be proud of me. To become financially independent. To travel the world. I’ll be a fashion journalist. A teacher. Something in senior management. No more racism. No more prejudice. No more homophobia. No more Islamophobia.”

It’s true, isn’t it? Some dreams have helped to shape our town. John James Sainsbury and his wife Mary Ann began with a small rented store in Drury Lane in 1869. Michael Marks and Tom Spencer started out in 1894 with a market stall in Leeds. “Everything a penny.” But what about our attractive local independent businesses?

Sue is the founder of Sid & Evie’s. What a feast for the eyes is the interior of her little shop, named after her children. “I’ve always been in retail, but when I had the children, I knew I wanted to go in for children’s clothes and shoes and crafts and wooden toys. I wanted to source from smaller companies, making things that were different and lovely but affordable.”

Tim designed his Creative Biscuit Ceramic Café. We could have talked all day: “I was making corporate videos. Horrifically boring. I was despondent. I saw this place. I dreamt of something more community and family-based. More fun and still creative. Work I can really enjoy. Out of the rat race. We’re serving several schools. Training the kids in pottery-making. We’re at Haven House working with the children there. Such genuinely important stuff.”

I encountered the same sort of passion and dedication from sisters Sez and Dila, who have quickly established themselves at the Luna café after only five months. “We’re outgoing girls. We put a lot of thought into everything. We want people to feel at home. Happy vibes. Our top priority is quality of service. Customers used not to come over the bridge. Now, a new customer comes every day.” Why South Woodford? “There is everything here: the shopping, the cinema, beauty parlours, cosmetics, a variety of restaurants. We love it.”

I can tell you there is something I have never dreamt! That I would be writing this diary for the 50th time. Thank you for reading it.