Readers of my book The Joy of Essex might recall my mention of Romford's dodgy alleyway by the railway, The Battis. My friend Katie Dawson, a former Green Party councillor and Romford resident turned Islingtonian, revealed that the Battis was the stuff of childhood nightmares, a sort of Lord of the Rings netherworld that was terrorised by Romford Orcs.
She told me: “My mum and dad were quite relaxed and easy going but when I was a teenager the one thing they said to me was ‘we don’t care where you go, but whatever you do, don’t go up the Battis!’” Well now it seems the Battis has had a makeover. On a recent visit to Romford I discovered it had gone technicolour, in some strange attempt by the London borough of Havering to make it more touchy-feely and less like something from A Clockwork Orange. Is there no end to gentrification?