A wet, cold, miserable morning - about the worst imaginable to go on a walk almost the entire length of London's Caledonian Road. But that's what I've just done - in the company of the oral historian Alan Dein abd about twenty others.
The organised walk is linked to the entirely wonderful sound map that Alan and The Guardian's Francesca Panetta have recently posted on The Guardian's site: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/interactive/2010/apr/26/caledonian-road-sound-map
It's a fantastic piece of audio - strong voices, specially commissioned music and magical production. (And the images and web design are also impressive). Alan took along a ghetto blaster so we could hear some local voices and stories as we walked.
We started close to what was once the Caledonian market (the clock tower and the railings are almost all that survives) - a live meat market from the mid-nineteenth century which turned in to London's largest flea market but came to an end with the Second World War. On through the Caldeonian Estate to Pentonville jail - there's a road just to the north side, a public throughfare leading to blocks of warders' housing, which doesn't appear in the A-to-Z, I suppose in a nod towards security.
Then under the Ferodo bridge (I didn't know that Ferodo had a deal once with a big building concern to feature on all their bridges) into the Cally Road proper. It's a haven of family-run shops and small businesses. Hardly any chains. Prosperous Barnsbury to the east - slightly run down social housing to the west. Towards the canal, we walk past a recycling bin for kinives - an attempt to tackle gang-related street crime.
Then on towards what used to be the Geberal Picton - a local turned gastropub, The Drivers, with a vertical garden on its exterior walls. A sign of the gentrification that is increasingly evident at the southern extremity of the road. I just hope Housman's bookshop survives.
The boundless intellect and radical curiosity of the historian Raph Samuel , the founder of the History Workshop movement, turned towards the end of his life to issues of patriotism, Britishness and the heritage industry. He was affectionate, even commending, of aspects - aspects, mind you - of all these seams in our national life and culture. Raph died in 1996, but David Edgar has written a wise and considerable article for the Guardian on Raph's engagement with patriotism and national identity.
I had missed the article, but it's been brought to my attention - and now I hope yours - by Felix Driver, a fellow editor of History Workshop Journal. A 'surprising and heartwarming piece to find even in the Guardian', Felix comments, 'when memories have become so short.'
Andrew Whitehead's blog
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