Lawdy, lawdy! Costa comes to Tufnell Park. It opened on December 18th - and although it feels a touch antiseptic, the store seems to be doing good business.
When we came to this area (alright, it is fifteen years ago), TP was a bit of a wasteland. No mini-supermarket, no cashpoint, no decent coffee ... It did even then have some pluses: Lalibela, the Ethiopian restaurant, was already there; Rustique, the rather curious self-styled 'literary cafe' opened about that time; and the Spaghetti House has been around for ages, though it took us ages to discover it (and to try out the very good Chinese takeaway).
Now there's a small Sainsbury's, with cashpoint ... a Sardinian restaurant ... a homemade ice cream store ... a letterpress printers ... the Junction has become a rather good gastro pub ... there's a shop that gives away books (honest! - though it's generosity is constrained by its very limited opening hours) ... and as chocolate sprinkles on top of all that, there's now Costa.
So dear old TP, for so many years the backside of Kentish Town, which is in turn the backside of Camden Town, which is in turn ... TP, which doesn't even have a postcode to call its own ... TP is slowly, slowly, getting there.
Not that I've yet been in the Boston Arms which I've walked past several thousand times. But if anyone dares me, I'll do it!
What a great way of spending a sunny Sunday morning - walking around my own backyard in the company of people with a real passion for and commitment to the area.
The Kentish Town Neighbourhood Forum - who are seizing on this government's "localism" initiative to develop a neighbourhood plan for much of NW5 - organised this gentle stroll. It took in planning and conservation issues, local history, and - real treats - a quick pop in (entirely impromptu) to a local Ethiopian bakery and (with advance warning) to our star local tailor.
College Lane, parallel to Highgate Road, is the longest row of houses I've come across in London fronting a walkway rather than a road.
The houses, though small, are now sought after. They were built for railway workers. And - a detail I'd never noticed before - along the row there's a tiny memorial, now barely legible, to railway men who lost their lives in the First World War.
The area opposite the houses, which are all on the west side of College Lane, used to be a rail workers' social club. It's due for development with a price tag, we were told, of £7 million for the land alone - but getting access to the site could well devastate about the last Georgian corner of Camden, the wonderful Little Green Street, with is bow-windowed former shops. If anything in this life is worth fighting for, it's the future of spots like Little Green Street.
And another NW5 detail that was new to me - at the eastern end of Little Green Street there used to be a gate leading to a farm. One of the sturdy wooden gateposts is still there. You can see it at the bottom left of the photo below.
Little Green Street
Through the Ingestre estate, we walked up to the double bridge across the rail lines at the back of Acland Burghley School. I knew the Fleet river ran near here, but hadn't appreciated that it too is carried over the rail tracks in a hugh, rusting pipe. So much of the lay-out of the streets around here was shaped by the river - and it still runs, rising on Hampstead Heath, constrained by pipes and sewers, until it spills into the Thames near Blackfriars bridge.
On Fortess Road, we popped into the back room at the Ethiopian-run Engocha grocery - just next to the excellent Lalibela restaurant - to see them making injera, the flat, sour, rather spongy bread. If you're tempted, it's a very modest 70p for a piece the size of a large pizza.
Then it was back down towards Kentish Town station, lamenting the demolition of the old Methodist chruch, and in to Chris Ruocco's renowned tailoring shop.
The man himself was there, to tell us stories of all the stars he has dressed. Madness and Westlife are among his recent clients; he has spangled and sequinned Diana Ross; Ed Miliband and 'pleb' Andrew Mitchell both sport his made-to-measure suits.
The back room workshop displays dozens of framed photos of stars who he counts among his customers.
In the front shop, amid all the suits awaiting fitting or collection, there's a small electric keyboard, for anyone tempted to belt out a tune.
On the way home I drop in to Ruby Violet
for a cone of homemade salted caramel ice cream - recommended by a fellow walkabouter. What a lot NW5 has to offer!
The life affirming poetry corner at Tufnell Park tube station has turned to Kashmir. Here's today's offering on the white board, much better than the customary, non rhyming, non scanning: 'There is a good service on the Northern line'.This rather intense poem, 'Kashmiri Song', is by Laurence Hope,
the pseudonym of Adela Florence Nicolson
. She was married to a British army officer in India - and after his death, committed suicide in 1904 aged 39.
This is perhaps her best known poem which also was - with slightly modified lyrics - a popular Edwardian drawing room song ... indeed I remember my father sometimes singing 'beside the Shalimar' (the name of Mughal gardens by Dal Lake in Srinagar).
Will Paula Milne's TV drama 'White Heat' do for Tufnell Park what the televising of White Teeth
did for Cricklewood and Willesden? Not so much make it chic and fashionable, but at least give it a toehold on the rim of modern British culture.Milne's story about a group of sixties students who share a house in Tufnell Park, their young lives interlaced with the present day as they gather to mourn one of their number, is a wonderful piece of mythmaking about the '60s - the sex, politics, music and sense of opportunity. (Has White Heat Got the 1960s Right?, the Guardian asked). It's also about the first time Tufnell Park has made its mark in popular culture since ... no, it's simply the first time.
Tufnell Park's absence from public consciousness is all the more remarkable given the number of media types who live on the streets either side of Tufnell Park Road (the main drag is more resistant to gentrification, and still largely bedsit land). The wiki article on Tufnell Park
has a list of luvvies and the like which puts the area almost on a par with Primrose Hill and Maida Vale.
But the entry is also reduced to commenting that 'the shabby genteel reputation of Tufnell Park made it a standard comic reference in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries'. Thanks a lot! And its claims for Tufnell Park's cultural footprint are wildly exaggerated - there is certainly no hard evidence to place Mr "Nobody" Pooter on the TP side of north London's railway tracks.So, where in Tufnell Park is the 'White Heat' house? And where were the exterior scenes shot? Asking this morning at the Tufnell Park farmers' market (another sign that the area is making it - there's even 'Tufnell Park honey' ice cream on sale, a bit like Tupelo honey minus van Morrison),
I was told that some filming was done by the side of the Tufnell Park playing fields ... and that the location manager lives locally and had been buying baguettes and broccoli and stuff a few moments earlier.Anyone able to supply more details?And while we're at it, can someone explain the denouement? The phone rang just as Orla's safe was being unlocked, and when next I turned to the TV the gang were all swearing to meet again soon, and - moist eyes, firm handsakes, and feline hugs -
heading off in the direction of Tufnell Park tube, or Flavours deli or wherever.LATER: a browser comments - Exterior shots are of a house in Avenue Park Road, Tulse Hill. Yours for 1.6 million: http://www.foxtons.co.uk/property-for-sale-in-west-norwood/chpk0654891. Can it be true? Even in its fifteen seconds of fame, Tufnell Park is eclipsed by, of all places, Tulse Hill!
Not quite what you might expect at Tufnell Park tube. But somewhere lurking at the barrier, or in the ticket office, there's a real poetry enthusiast.
And rather than 'good service on the northern line', we get something much more lyrical.
Today's verse is by Jehane Markham
- and not her best known poem at that. The previous offering was Rupert Brooke. You know the: 'If I should die, think only this of me ...' one.So there's a wonderful range of material. And at greater length
than those ultra short Poems on the Underground
which sometimes appear in ad spaces in the tube carriages. (Though I like those too!)
And there's some lovely bits of whimsy too. So last week I spotted this touch of Christian propaganda - 'Ten Ways to Love' based on extracts from the Bible. For more on this, here's a link
And while I'm not keen on Scripture, as aphorisms most of these are on the 'upbeat' side of unexceptional. Indeed, I think I'll encourage my kids to look, read and inwardly digest. "Answer without Arguing" - indeed!Whoever is behind Tufnell Park's 'Poetry Korner' is a public benefactor.
God knows, the area needs a few. And, to cite Philippians, I do trust the authorities will "Enjoy without Complaint".
There is something quite bewitching when a shop renovation disinters a decades old signboard. This one has just come to light on Junction Road - and by the time you read this, it will probably be covered up again, for many decades to come.'S.E. Devenish - Tobacconist, Confectioner'.
Neatly done - perhaps a store with some style. It seems - from this website reference - that the business survived into the 1960s, and among other things printed historic postcards.
It may have moved at about this time to nearby Tavistock Terrace, off Holloway Road. I would hazard a guess that this signboard dates back a fair bit earlier. There's more about this and the Kentish Town 'E. Mono' shop signboard here, on History Workshop Online.
A rebirth. Just by Tufnell Park tube station. Just over a year ago, the newspaper stall outside Tufnell Park station closed abruptly. And with it went part of the routine of my - and many others - weekday mornings. I still miss it, and the cheery old guy who used to call me 'young man' (I'm in my 50s).This week, the kiosk has come back to life. As a flower stall. 'Violet and Frederick', it's called. Open from lunchtime to mid-evening.
It adds a little life and colour to what is a fairly drab five-way junction. I'll be doing my best to keep the business afloat.And it's a good excuse to post again the picture which has generated far more interest than anything else I've put on this blog - Fermin Rocker's wonderfully evocative painting of the old newspaper kiosk. Enjoy!
Fermin Rocker, 'Newspaper Kiosk, Tufnell Park'
So you think you know north London? Ok, tell me where the building is which features this foundation stone. It's on a main road and hasn't been a baths for an awful long time - but no further clues on offer ...
... beyond the photo below of the entire building (you can see the foundation stone at shoulder height to the right of the centre set of ground floor windows).
Answers please as comments to this blog post - the winner gets a free drink at the Irish pub next door, if they dare.
Yes, it is what's now the Boston Arms music rooms on Junction Road, close to Tufnell Park tube. There's a handill on the excellent Acland Burghley school history site of a distribution of prizes there, by the Hon. E Lyulph Stanley, in 1897. It must have been a big number - the event was held over two days.Otherwise, I have found out remarkably little about this building. A stray web search came across the suggestion that in the inter-war years the building was a home to dance bands and became known, unlikely as it may seem, as the Tufnell Park Palais.More recently, a band - the London Dirthole Co, - released an album entitled 'The Stanley Hall Sessions' recorded here.If you know more, do share.
This site achieved a milestone yesterday - more than 500 page hits on a day. And all thanks to Twitter!Yesterday morning, someone I have never met, Alex Smith - though
I am now following him on Twitter and he's in pursuit of me too - tweeted about a blog entry I wrote
five months ago. It was a lament about the abrupt closure of the newspaper stall at Tufnell Park tube station - more than that, it was illustrated by a very fine painting of that stall by Fermin Rocker
. I am posting that again below.Anyway, Alex (part of the Ed Miliband posse, which has adopted Tufnell Park - see here)
has a large social media footprint, he was quickly retweeted, and by the end of the day the blog post had, almost, gone viral.Alex wants to know when Fermin painted this city scape, and whether any prints are available. And I'll be putting that about on Twitter too!STOP PRESS: Fermin's son Philip believes this painting was much later than one might imagine, and was sold at the Stephen Bartley gallery in Kensington in the 1980s or '90s. 'As everyone says - it looks more like the 1950's - but then my dad's work froze at about 1960 and if anything went slightly backwards in his last years.' And the amount of interest sent traffic to thie site soaring on Saturday to not far off 1,000 page impressions in a day! But then it is a terrific piece of art.
Fermin Rocker - 'Newspaper Kiosk, Tufnell Park'
Fermin Rocker 'Newspaper Kiosk, Tufnell Park'
Not many newspaper kiosks feature in works of fine art. The painting by my old friend Fermin Rocker
- who died in 2004 - captures the wonderful paper stall outside Tufnell Park tube station. A stall I patronised every weekday on my way to work. Until the end of last week.The stall is now closed - 'until further notice', says the forbidding notice. The staff at the tube station say it has gone for good. Every morning, I handed over my pound coin for a copy of the 'Daily Telegraph'. "There you are, young man", the older assistant would say when on duty. No one else calls me young these days. And indeed, his tune had changed of late to "there you go, old mate", which is a touch more intimate but less motivating.You can make out the stall in its modern incarnation in the photo below. They never said it was about to close. It's a sudden death. Part of my routine lost. A much larger part of the stall holder and his colleagues' lives gone. I grieve its passing.
Photo: Sunil 060902 CreativeCommons