Two faces of London

These two faces of London are both trying their best to make the city and the people therein more grounded, more aware and more connected with each other – for which I salute both Christopher West and Emeka Egbuonu.

1. Christopher West brings London’ s history back to life in the persona of Charles Dickens – or perhaps it’s the great man’s ghost. I’ve seen this ghost in action and he’s a lively recreation. And topical given that it would have been Charles Dickens’s 200th birthday today (7th February). The Charles Dickens London blog is here. You can invite him to give a talk – in character and Dickensian outfit – at your gathering. For a sample – check out his appearance in this Voice of America news report by correspondent Dominic Laurie.

My favourite Dickens character? The villain Pecksniff from Martin Chuzzlewit. From Pecksniff we derive Pecksniffian – sanctimonious, hypocritical. (Do you have a favourite – good-hearted or malign?)

And what’s your Dickensian name? To find out take a first name from a great grandparent and add on the name or street name of your primary school (but leave out the “Saint” part to allow variety). Which makes me something along the lines of Charlie Derryvolgie – which has a good ring to it, I think.

Emeka Egbuonu

2. Emeka Egbuonu arrived in east London from Nigeria aged seven, and survived the blows and temptations of teenage violence, to become an anti-gang intervention worker. He runs a scheme called  Consequences – Breaking the Negative Cycle which aims to awaken young people to the alternative possibilities their lives can offer once they take responsibility for their actions.

It’s not happy clappy chatting in an ivory tower. Emeka is based at the Crib Youth Project in Hackney and has lost friends – innocent victims to gun crime in London. He was out during the London riots talking people out of looting shops or fighting with the police.  He’s one of the London Mayor’s mentors (though that project seems to be collapsing through poor organisation – come on, sort it out Boris!) and has written an interesting book (I’ve read it) to help other responsible adults in education, the police or youth work intereact constructively with young people at risk of joining gangs.

Emeka was nominated for a couple of London peace prizes. You can read his blog Breaking the Negative Cycle here. There’s a good post about young people and police swapping roles – “trading places” – sometimes uneasy, sometimes with animosity – but worth the effort.

I count myself lucky to have met both Christopher and Emeka – and London lucky to have had them both adopt the city as home.



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36 responses to “Two faces of London

  1. I remember Pip and Mrs. Haversham

  2. Very interesting…I am going to take a look at that book!!

  3. Wow, great stuff…I am not familiar with the term “Pecksniffian”, though I can certainly see where the characters personality would apply respectively to many, or a few people I know.

    I would, probably, had I resorted to Charles Dickens characters to attach a less than reverent name personifying a few of those people, called them something like;”Peckersniffs”. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I have used that one a time or two.

    Amazing how Dickens coined names that nailed the persons characteristics, enough so that 150 years later…everyone knows an evil flint-miser as a scrooge…

    So, anyway…let’s see what would my Dickensian name be…hmmm
    Grandpa Highway 87 south? Grandpa was the only name I knew him by, as I barely knew him at all…and my school was located on…highway 87 south…Oh, you said I could use the school name…Okay
    Papa Whiteoak
    Not much better…great post, enjoyed it.

    • blackwatertown

      Peckersniffian – good comeback.

      Papa Whiteoak – the venerable American in Martin Chuzzlewit.

      But Grandpa Highway 87 South – he belongs in a Douglas Coupland story.

  4. Refreshing post, Paul.

    Poor Christopher: I pity him now since there will come a time when I’ll search him out (in person). Favourite Dickens character, Paul? There are so many, impossible to name them all. To a young girl’s heart David Copperfield obviously appeals. My my my was I jealous of the attention he poured on Dora. Mr Micawber. Good old Micawber. Dear to my heart. Drifting off now … dreamily. Miss Havisham. I love Miss Havisham. If I weren’t me I’d love to be her. Being dressed so most becomingly, cob webs for company. And then there is that escaped prisoner who frightened the what’s it out of me. Top billing and one who caught my imagination in more ways than one, and to this day: Uriah Heep. OH MY GOD. Uriah Heep. The name alone makes me go all goose pimply. Slime ball contortionist.

    I am so very happy you mentioned Emeka.

    And thank you for providing me with a most ridiculous, yet useful, pseudonym.


    • I earnestly hope that xxxxxonthe blog has now succeeded in getting the ‘whatsit’ back into her- PLEASE, she should be refrained from reading any more about Uriah Heap- if his name produces goose pimples, us fainthearted should not dwell on what else could happen and the consequences thereafter. No, she can’t get me. Why? Because I can leg it back to Poet’s Corner at the drop of a hat (though not mine, it’s too valuable).

      • Yeah, well, Charles. You sure know how to charm me. Since I don’t live in London (though not far away) I shall not spring on you this afternoon. Don’t worry: I will not embarrass you (in front of everyone). Hot tip of the day: Never ever “leg it” to a CORNER. Few poets are likely to get you out of it.

        What the Dickens: For all I know you are a straight descendant of Uriah. AND – let’s start how I mean to go on: Whilst Uriah Heep maybe a pile of heap his name is NOT spelled/spelt that way.

        Cordially yours,

    • blackwatertown

      And here I am left wondering about that nom de blog…

      But happy that you let no heep remained heaped – a slight on the memory of CD.

  5. Yours etc.

    Christopher Seafield


  6. Rudy Noriega

    For the cheap laughs his name brought to English lessons at school, my favourite Dickens character is The Old Curiosity Shop’s Dick Swiveller.

    • blackwatertown

      I thought this might belong with the apocryphal characters from Captain Pugwash – but no – this villain really does exist.

  7. Great to read about the two facets of London life and the people involved. I decided to play along with your name game and spent a few minutes looking through the family tree. Thanks for the jog, it allowed me to add my 2 day old grandnephew to the eight generations. This young man now bares my fathers name and ensures the family name will carry through for another generation.

    I went back to a great, great grandmother – Honora (mother of Abraham) – she was born in 1810, close enough in age to Charlie D! Moving to the paternal side of my family I chose the town-land of Gortnafrehane, I bet you never heard of it!

    Honora Gortnafrehane will do me nicely! 😀

  8. Emeka Egbuonu you are a wonderful young man, strong of character and mind; your mama must be so proud…

    Blessings to you, Emeka – Maxi

  9. 29

    Charlie Derryvolgie, I like it. This opens a veritable cornucopia of name selection, the publishers of ‘Baby Name’ can now go out of business. I think that Patrick Cloonkeelane seems rather tame, let’s spread the geographic area further, I’m Geronimo Vladivostock, I’m on a roll here so make that Prince Geronimo Vladivostock!!
    Incidentally I like Maxi’s addiction, it is shared by, I hope, the majority of people, perhaps many are in the closet.
    Re the Dickens characters, which do I prefer? Which Quality Street chocolates do I prefer? There are so many that I empathize with: Barkiss, who was willing, Uriah who was grovelly willing etc.

    • blackwatertown

      Geronimo and Vladivostock go together well – as I recall that St Petersburg was plagued by street gangs of so-called “apaches” in the time of the last Tsar Nicholas. I can’t make up my mind whether Prince Geronimo Vladivostock is a dashing cavalier Prince Rupert or a Flashman mountebank.

      Whereas Charlie Derryvolgie is an open honest chap.

  10. What a fine blogger you are Paul- praise indeed from a rising literary star such as yourself. In all seriousness, hats off to Emeka Egbuonu and your remarks about him- he deserves all the encouragement he can get, because his work is incredibly important, so is he!- Yes Boris, please pull your finger out. Do enjoy the 200 years celebrations- I certainly am.

    • blackwatertown

      Your taste is – as ever – impeccable.

      I suppose you can’t play this game. Or can you? Does anyone know the names of Dickens’s grandparents and his first school?

  11. Anyone who can turn youngsters away from gangs, violence, drug-dealing and all that is doing a valuable job. Good for him turning his back on the easy temptations and taking a more challenging route through life.

    As for Dickens, I think he’d be depressed at how rapidly the country is returning to the inequality and poverty he wrote about so many years ago.

  12. We need a million Emekas in India.

  13. Uriah Heap…wow.,. haven’t heard of him since ‘King Crimson” ruled the Court of the Crimson King…must blow the Heap of dust off the LP and see how she sounds…But, I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express Last night…and heard the “Dark Knight” is making his final appearance this summer…@ least in the U.S. it’s this summer…

    • blackwatertown

      Always good to see My name is Michael Caine popping up.

      • I met Michael Caine. I slept in his bed.

        Wait now, you are talking about the other fella. Like your friend, ‘my’ Michael Caine has many beds and I paid for the privilege of sleeping in one. It was a B&B in Carlingford!

  14. Kick Out The Jams

    Great post Paul and Emeka is an inspiration.

    Alexander Tivoli

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