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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

The London Logs: I’ve Been “Tweened” in East London!

The Author By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | August 19th, 2012 | Comments No Comments

Today I built my day around a book signing and free walking tour conducted by Alan Gilbey, a original East Londoner who wrote East End Backpassages: An Explorer’s Guide ( 100_0379.jpgHe and Ray, his “visual aid,” conducted an amusing, informative and personal tour of London’s former outpost.

I added on a visit to Columbia Street’s Flower Market (, Sundays til 2:00. The block-long series of stalls not only packed in all things green, but a series of burly busking men. “Dozen roses for a fiver!” called one muscled, shirtless man sporting more tattoos than Brick Lane does graffiti. 100_0372.jpg

The quaint street caters to gardeners and home living with boutique shops. Sundays draw top-notch street bands and a vibrant outdoor dining scene. I splurged for a full Spanish breakfast complete with succulent chorizo sausage. I won’t eat again for a week!100_0363.jpg

The day started clear and hot, but when the downpour happened, I crowded under a flower stall’s tent where 4 vendors put on a show for their captive umbrellaless audience.
After the walking tour, which included a climb on the artfully graffitied “staircase to nowhere” that has apparently appeared in many movies and music videos, we ended on Cheshire Street at St. Matthew’s Church, which had been partially bombed during WWII and “reconstituted” in 1961, 9 days before I was born. The iconic ‘50s church décor reminded Des, who had met me at the Brick Lane Book Store for the tour, of “The Graduate.” I turned around, half expecting to see Dustin Hoffman pounding on the doors.100_0377.jpg

Schvitzing in the humidity in this formerly Jewish area, we headed to a wine bar and eventually struck up a conversation with 3 other people who had been on the tour. David, Elaine and Cess had taught primary school together, but now Elaine is a published author (whoo hoo!) and David is starting a side career as what I originally heard as a “tweener.” I thought it had something to do with kids caught between middle school and high school, but it’s actually “TuiNa,” a Chinese form of massage, pronounced “tweena.”

David gave me a café-side test, and my shoulders felt like wintergreen explosions. I could suddenly breath deeply (which I hadn’t been able to do since I arrived in England and contracted a chest cough). ( Elaine’s book is about mid-life reinvention (coincidence???): The Mace Approach: Inspiring You To Believe In Yourself (

We all hung out for several hours (love these Londoners who allow languishing lunches!) and vowed to get together again the Sunday before I leave. In spite of my declaration to fast for a week following my banquet of a breakfast, I treated myself to a bagel, lox and cream cheese at a Bagel House built in 1855!

As much as I’ve loved traveling on my own, I’ve missed being with people. Connections. Today wasn’t about what I did, but who I met, and it was so fulfilling!
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Category: London
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