Squeezed between Hampstead and Hendon, Golders Green is still regarded as north London's middle class Jewish enclave. It has in large measure outgrown that reputation. The high street is as much Turkish as kosher, and Bloom's - the Jewish restaurant which used to be a byword for stroppy service - has long since closed. Alan Dein - who showed me round his manor a few weeks back and is writing Curious Golders Green - tells me his uncle was the last Jewish waiter at Bloom's. In its latter years, almost all the staff were Greek Cypriots.
But let's start at the beginning - or at least where I started walking, heading from Jack Straw's Castle, no longer a pub but top end flats, down the hill towards Golders Green tube and bus station. This curious periphery to Hampstead Heath has, in places, a distinctly rustic feel. Indeed the cluster of houses on and around Sandys Road, opposite the 'Old Bull and Bush' (rebuilt, alas, in the 1920s), has a village-like feel to it.
In Golders Green proper, the grander of the two landmarks, the Hippodrome, was originally a music hall, then home of the BBC Concert Orchestra. It's now a Christian centre with a largely African congregation. A little less imposing, but architecturally more pleasing, is the clocktower at the centre of a small roundabout, built after the First World War as a war memorial. The blue face of the clock (alas, not displaying the correct time) brings a particular charm and a burst of colour to what would otherwise be an excessively solid and sturdy structure.
Directly opposite the Hippodrome is one of the very few businesses close at hand which is identifiably Jewish - a kosher patisserie which feels as if its time is past, and certainly wasn't deluged by customers on this admittedly damp Sunday morning, but which does a tasty apple strudel. (They are baked not here, I was told, but on the premises of the main store at Finchley).
As you walk through Golders Green. the shops and businesses become more kosher as you approach the railway bridge - and from there to the North Circular, the area is emphatically Jewish, with a synagogue, Jewish schools and a fair amount of Hebrew/Yiddish signage.
It's on the final stretch of the walk, approaching the North Circular, that I came across a wonderful ghost sign for an old launderette, boasting a double wash in twenty-eight minutes. Alan Dein had pointed it out on an earlier walk.
And need I say - it's on the gable wall of what is now a kosher supermarket.
I lived in Golders Green from 1940 for the first 18 yrs. of my life, until I left home. It looks so different from your pics. I lived in Asia for sometime but was back there in 1969, staying at the family home just up from the Hippodrome. I spent a bit of time there in the 1970s. there were many Indian and Japonese people living there. I found it interesting as I had spent much time in India and was married to a Japanese man by then. Oh nostalgia. I have lived in Canada for over half my life now.
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