The new coffee shop at Crick's Corner - here's the back story - it still in its first week. And I reckon it's cracked it. We went along for a snack lunch today - good coffee, nice sandwich (a pulled pork cabanos, if you want to know), great cake (my son went for the strawberry sponge cake), friendly service and - helped by the streaming sunshine - a really nice place to chill.
And where is Crick's Corner? It's on Dartmouth Park Hill at the corner of Bickerton Street, so just to the north of the covered reservoir (aka Dartmouth Park), about five minutes walk from the Whittington hospital.
The cafe is much more spacious than I expected. The main cafe area is small but sufficient - with some nice snacks and brownies, and bread you can take home. What used to be the Patels' back room with sofa and TV set is now a light, bright additional room of seating. The decor is stylish - my my, N19 is starting to go places - and early this afternoon there was a steady stream of customers.
And in a very nice touch, certainly for this blogger, there was a copy of Curious Kentish Town for the curious to consult. Good on yer!
DANNY TOMMY JOE GIBBONS INTERNATIONAL BRIGADERS 1936-1938
PAT DOOLEY SPEAKER AT PARLIAMENT HILL EDITOR 1901-1958
THEIR FAMILY PROUDLY REMEMBERS APRIL 1980
That's the inscription on a bench on Hampstead Heath - just a five-minute stroll from Kite Hill, bordering a copse of pine trees, and looking out east to Highgate. My friend Martin Plaut came across this rather out-of-the-way bench while doing his morning sit-ups. It's in some disrepair. He's trying to contact the family to see if they would be on board for a bit of fund-raising to spruce up this rather touching memorial.
The International Brigaders were those left-wingers who went to fight against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. More than 2,000 headed out from Britain - 500 or so never returned. I had the privilege to meet and interview a few of them towards the end of their lives. The International Brigade Memorial Trust keeps their memory and spirit alive - though this modest memorial seems to have escaped the otherwise comprehensive list on their website.
Danny Gibbons, a Scotsman who moved to Camden, was a communist and for a while the political commissar of the British contingent of the Brigades - there's a brief biographical note about him here. He was wounded at Jarama in February 1937 and was sent home to recuperate. He insisted on going back to Spain, was arrested by Franco's troops, and was eventually released in a prisoner exchange involving German and Italian officers. His younger brother Tommy died in Spain, in the battle for Brunete in July 1937.
Joe (his real name was Patrick) volunteered with the American battalion in Spain - there's some details on this site. And there was a fourth brother, John Gibbons, who was apparently refused permission to join the International Brigades - according to some accounts, the CPGB leader Harry Pollitt, said with three brothers risking their lives, it would be wrong to have a fourth Gibson fighting in Spain. He was, all the same, a very loyal member of the Communist Party and spent many years in Moscow.
Kathleen Gibbons was Danny's second wife, and her maiden name was Dooley. That may be the link with Pat Dooley - about whom I have been able to find out little. (Can anyone help?) A biography of the bohemian inter-war poet Anna Wickham mentions Pat (his real name was Lawrence) Dooley as an activist who made rousing left-wing speech at the top of Parliament Hill in the 1930s and '40s. Strange to think of this as a pitch for outdoor speakers!
I have a feeling that this blog will be returning to the story of the Gibbons brothers ...
Crick's Corner is making a comeback - the shop on Dartmouth Park Hill (on the junction with Bickerton Road) is reopening on Monday as a coffee and cake place. Hallelujah!
The Patels - who ran a newsagent and small corner store - moved out well over two years ago. And ever since, except for one brief spell, it's been empty. I walked past this morning, and Simon (he'll be running the cafe with Kelly) had his paintbrush out getting the signage sorted.
"I've never done anything like this before", Simon said - I think he was talking about running a cafe, but perhaps painting a shop sign too.
One really heartening aspect of the new business is that they have latched on to the old name.
I've blogged about Crick's Corner and its history before - between the wars, it was a newsagent's and cheap subscription library. And an old ghost sign reading "Crick's Corner" is still visible on the Bickerton Road side - I played a modest role in saving it a couple of years back when some workers seemed intent on painting it over.
It's not going to be easy to make a go of the business - there are no other shops immediately adjoining, and not a lot of people walk past. But it deserves support, and I'll be there next week trying it out. I'll let you know what I make of the place.
Just back from a week in the Algarve - staying in the delightful town of Tavira with its abundance of historic churches, great restaurants, convivial squares and majestic river - but never mind the seafood and the sun ... this is what I will remember most keenly.
A white stork on the riverbank (I was in a boat) - its nest was on top of a chimney a couple of hundred yards away. They are such elegant birds and so mesmerising to see at close quarters.
I didn't get quite so near the flamingos who feed at one of the salt pans - but I'm content enough with the photo below (complete with hardy cyclist).
And two of the more noteworthy local industries - the salt pans, which produce what I am told is 'tip-top' table salt, and the oyster beds. Take a look!
But let me close as this blog began with another shot of that wonderfully distinguished white stork.
William Hone's furiously angry The Political House that Jack Built - enlivened by George Cruikshank's caricatures - appeared at the close of 1819, about four months after the Peterloo massacre. You can see a copy of it here. The pamphlet sold tens of thousands of copies, and spawned many copycat titles.
This is one of those 'in the style of' tracts - a rare pamphlet looking at agricultural distress. The woodcuts are nothing like of Cruikshank's standard, but they are wonderfully hand-coloured which gives the pamphlet (this copy was once part of the Renier collection - I bought it in the past week from a specialist dealer) its charm.
See what you think:
Andrew Whitehead's blog
Welcome - read - comment - throw stones - pick up threads - and tell me how to do this better!