A ""testament to the true East Ender disposition
PUBLISHED: 16:47 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 14:15 05 October 2010
THE story of a summer tradition for hundreds of thousands of East Enders is told in a new book. Hopping: the Hidden Lives of an East End Hop Picking Family by Melanie McGrath is the sequel to the bestselling Silvertown and tells the tale of old East Ender
THE story of a summer tradition for hundreds of thousands of East Enders is told in a new book.
Hopping: the Hidden Lives of an East End Hop Picking Family by Melanie McGrath is the sequel to the bestselling Silvertown and tells the tale of old East Ender Aunt Daisy who spent her summers hopping, away from the Poplar streets where she lived.
For more than a century, hopping was the main event in the East End calendar - an annual expedition of more than 200,000 East Enders out to the Kentish countryside to look for casual work picking hops and stripping bines.
For Aunt Daisy, the train ride from London Bridge to Faversham was a kind of magic that she always passed in a rush of sensation, McGrath describes in her book, which is part novel, part historical biography.
To be away from the tight hustle of the city and lose herself in the open spaces and pollen mists of the Kentish summer provided her with a succour that would last her through the long winters back in London.
Married young and yet not unhappily to Harold Baker, a closet homosexual who would never consummate their union, at some point Daisy wrote an escape clause into her life that shielded her from difficult realities.
It is this resolve, a kind of armour born out by her dreamy nature, that McGrath says marks her protagonist out as an East Ender.
Hopping aims to capture the essence of the ordinary family lives often obscured from history during an extraordinary period in east London's past.
It charts the shift of the East End from a hive of poverty whose population toiled daily at the docks, to a Blitzed-out community that defiantly rose to confront the brutalities of World War II, through to the gamble and risk emanating from behind the glass and steel towers of today's Canary Wharf.
Critics say Hopping stands as testament to the true East Ender disposition - an agility of spirit to endure your lot and get by.
Hopping is out now, published by Fourth Estate Publishers and costs £15.99.