Hall to Hall

Georgina AtkinsonGeorgina Atkinson

Spratt Hall Road resident Georgina Atkinson will be heading off to Hughes Hall, Cambridge this month to begin her history degree. Here, Georgina offers a millennial's view of growing up in Wanstead.

A flurry of green, like a flock of starlings being suddenly released, is the only way I can describe the end of school at St Joseph's. Starting off my millennial life at St Joseph's Convent School For Girls saw me make the arduous journey from Spratt Hall Road: 200 yards to the school gate. Accompanied by copious bags, it probably seemed I was more prepared for a camping trip with Bear Grylls than a day at prep school.

Perhaps one of the defining features of going to St Joseph's was, and still is, the hats. Any past pupil and parent will understand the hat situation. A compulsory feature of school life in both summer and winter, with their stretched elastic, which always felt like it was digging in, and which had the unfortunate property of being overstretched at the slightest pull. The summer ones were noticeably itchy rather than actually protecting the head from the sun. Despite their disadvantages, I did secretly like wearing them; as my mother says: "If you want to get ahead, get a hat!"

Weekends were filled with breakfasts of croissants from the eponymous Nice Croissant and trips to the beloved Woolworths, which has ceased to exist in the intervening years.

As I grew up, my journeys to secondary school involved taking the bus from the High Street. Quite commonly, you would find me running in order to catch the illustrious W13, which would wing its way towards Woodford. The journey home would see the same journey in reverse, although I became as flat as a pancake, squashed between my peers, relieved when the bus made its final stop as I could topple back onto the High Street, with the familiar setting welcoming me home.

Listening to Harry Potter audiobooks became replaced by trying to revise for exams, both GCSEs and A-levels. Naturally, the local library became my study companion, as well as the local haunts of Starbucks and Costa, which saw me through the longest of hours trying to revise for these seminal exams. Thankfully, revising for exams is over and I'm now onto the daunting task of university.

Owning a dog in Wanstead doesn't come without its challenges, but luckily for our dog, and for me, Christchurch Green can be an oasis of calm. The park seems to have its own ecosystem whereby you can immediately tell which season is about to spring into action. As well as this lustrous pasture for him to roam, there is also Wanstead Park, where hours can be spent idly wandering, taking in the delights that the park has to offer. Not to mention the pet shop in the High Street, which has been a steadfast venue, despite the recent years of wider economic distress.

Sadly, I can no longer buy my obligatory stationery from Woolworths but I can now delight in other developments in the area, such as Gail's and the glorious Ginger Pig. These developments have all been part of growing up in the millennial age. Another transition is the population of Wanstead. There used to be more of the older generations here, but now it has become a place for generations of young families, emphasising that people of all ages actively want to live in this village.

Traditions in Wanstead make it what it is, a real community, from the farmers' market every month to the annual Art Trail Wanstead, as well as seeing the same faces along the High Street every weekend. All of these features combine to make Wanstead the community that so many people – of all generations – love to call home.

Working in the city has seen me make the commute from Wanstead, the glow of the station acting as a beacon, shepherding the city workers to their subterranean adventure. To turn right or left along the platform is an important decision, nodding awkwardly to those familiar faces you see every morning. Acknowledge that you are once again about to metamorphose into a sardine, bound along with the other workers for a rather squashed journey.

One significant millennial feature that I have noticed over the past 21 years is the use of smartphones. Today, it is not uncommon for everyone on the Tube to be plugged into their device, whereas in my early life this wasn't the case, a sign that it is not just Wanstead developing but the whole of society as well.

That is the thing about Wanstead. It feels completely familiar, the people, the places, and yet there is a real sense of development and growth. Perhaps Wanstead mimics the cycle of life. While things may change, and as I grow older I will appreciate that, in essence and at its core, Wanstead will remain the same.

The Wanstead Village Directory wishes Georgina and all students moving away to university this month the very best of luck.

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