The pavements are of dubious repair, patched and made over, and dotted with old gum; the roads themselves, most with speed-bumps, are double-parked. Many houses have ugly satellite dishes strapped to their fronts; all have rooftop aerials pointing towards the mast at Crystal Palace. A few (fewer these days) are scaffolded for loft extensions, or have yellow skips full of building waste and litter outside. It's a workaday, urban environment, unremarkable in every way, and very beautiful indeed.
Up and down the streets the cherries and magnolias are in glorious, heavy bloom, their petals a soft confetti on the pavements. The acacias and kerrias are out, too, blazing yellow against the blue sky. And there are weeds, of course, pushing energetically up through the tarmac, colonising the street drains and starring every available verge. It's a riot.
People are starting to think about their gardens, and up and down my street windowboxes and hanging baskets are appearing. Soon – around the time the lilac begins to flower – we'll see the growbags and tomato canes appear, the pots of herbs and chilli plants shepherded to the front windowsills and porches to catch the best of the sun, and cheerful summer bedding will blaze out from pots and troughs.