We ate at Carluccio's in Covent Garden last weekend - the building on the left with the blue awnings - to celebrate my daughter's 16th birthday. The building beyond, the cream coloured HSBC branch (now without any bank tellers at all), was for many decades the headquarters of a national political party.
Anyone want to hazard a guess which once?
'Quality Trim' in Kensal Rise
A real gem of a sign - and building - in the perhaps unlikely setting of a back street near Kensal Rise station. There aren't many signs with an '01' phone number still around. I saw this one some years ago when taking my daughter to a party - and when I popped back last weekend (this isn't my normal stamping ground) I was delighted to see it still there, and not defaced or painted over.
The Mews Coachworks is on Mortimer Road, NW10 - and as far as I can tell is still providing trim to classic cars. These small yards in the middle of residential streets were once common, and quite a few remain.
This one in particular puts me in mind of Steptoe and Son - a sit com staple of my childhood. The rag and bone men were based not all that far away - and you could imagine their old nag Hercules having his stables in just such a spot.
A walk round 'Cemetery View'
As house names go, 'Cemetery View' doesn't do a lot for the market value. It's accurate, no two ways about that, but even for those who like poking round Victorian valhallas, a house which celebrates overlooking a graveyard feels a touch, well, spooky.
The cemetery in question is Kensal Green, established in 1833 and still going. It's squeezed between Harrow Road and the Grand Union Canal, and although it's quite spacious - 72 acres - it feels hemmed in by its surroundings.
'Cemetery View' is on the Harrow Road, from which - through a gap in the fencing - I took the photo on the right.
If you look at the photo below, taken from inside the cemetery, you can guess which house bears the name. Yes, the tall white building is 'Cemetery View'.
OK, so this was taken yesterday within four miles of Charing Cross, and from a main road of the sort that double decker buses trundle along. Can you work out the vantage point and the church that features?
A crystal cold January sun
A piercing January sun in a crystal clear sky - a beautiful day with wonderful winter light, but bitterly cold. I set out in the afternoon to Primrose Hill - the view of the vantage point, against the setting sun, was at least as dramatic as the city panorama those above were admiring. In the terraces below, the waning sunlight was caught in reflections of ground floor windows.
And on the way back from Primrose Hill towards Chalk Farm and on to Camden, there's an eye-catching mural.
What a remarkable film clip! This is Max Bacon - a radio and music hall comedian - performing 'Cohen the Crooner, the Crosby from Mile End' in a 1936 movie: 'Soft Lights and Sweet Music'. Part of it was filmed on location at Mile End market.
I owe this to Alan Dein. He's just bought a 78 rpm copy of this number at his local charity shop. And scouring around the internet to find out more, he came across the wonderful YouTube clip posted above.
As you can see, the sleeve of the disc Alan bought (thanks Alan for screening it and sending the image on) shows that it originally came from a shop in - yes - Mile End!
_There's a brief biography of Max Bacon here. He was a drummer with the renowned Ambrose orchestra, and did occasional comedy songs, before later going into variety and making radio appearances.
He is on the left on the accompanying photo of two Jewish comedians - an image I came across on a site I warmly recommend, run by Phil Walker and devoted to the Jewish East End http://www.jewisheastend.com/london.html
_Doing my own digging about the song and the singer, I found another YouTube clip - which said it was Adele performing 'Cohen the Crooner'. Really?!!! Well, yes and no - not that Adele, but worth watching all the same:
And the lyrics of the song, courtesy of mudcat ... all together now!
As I push my barrow along
You'll hear me sing the latest song
I'm Cohen the crooner
The Crosby from Mile End.
I sell peanuts penny a bag
To the tune of Tiger Rag
I'm Cohen the crooner
The Crosby from Mile End.
I sing jazz or [h]opera
My customers to suit,
But I don't give a hoot
So long I sell my fruit.
Radio singers may be swell
But they can't sell you fruits as well
Like Cohen the crooner
The Crosby from Mile End.
Away from my usual north London beat ... where is there an inscription in the paving which marks the finishing line of the athletics track used in the 1908 Olympics?
I've posted the beginning and end of the inscription - but not the crucial words which name the stadium.
If you think you know the answer, post a comment. And strictly no Googling!
A short distance away, on the exterior wall of an office building, is a replica of the medals table from those Olympics.
As you can see, nobody but the host country got much of a look in. Great Britain took more than half of all gold medals. As curiously, Sweden ended in third place. Belgium was ahead of Russia. Bohemia had its own team. And only nineteen competing countries went home with any medals at all.
And I think it's safe to assume there was no synchronised swimming.
Nag's Head, Holloway Road
It wasn't intended as a New Year wander. If the No. 4 had been running a regular service, I wouldn't have walked anything like as far. But today - part flaneur, part keep fit resolution - I hiked the whole distance from Dartmouth Park in north London to Dalston Junction. Do come with me!
The light was wonderful - a bright winter sun. I'd never seen the Nag's Head looking quite so bright. It hasn't been a pub for the past seven years, and hasn't been the 'Nag's Head' for a great deal longer - but it still appears on bus routes, and gives its name to the neighbourhood.
A little further down Holloway Road I passed a solitary, sad reminder of the wonderful Jones Brothers department store - Waitrose now stands on most of the site. Jones Brothers was much loved across north London. John Lewis stubbornly refused to listen to a lively local campaign demanding that the store be saved.
It closed in 1990. Holloway Road has never been the same since it went.
This is Arsenal territory, and in case anyone should forget, there on Holloway Road is a pub named after the club's greatest manager, at least until Arsene Wenger came along. 'The Herbert Chapman'.
Earlier Chapman had managed Huddersfield Town (my boyhood team) during their golden spell in the 1920s. He is regarded as one of the greatest team managers, and a great moderniser of the game of football.
The notice in the pub window saying 'Home Fans Only' seems a touch unnecessary. But I suppose any Spurs or Chelsea fans intruding into this Gunners' pub can't say they hadn't been warned.
A few yards further down, a left turn, and there it is - the Emirates stadium. The home of a club which knows, and values, its history - as you can tell from the museum, the statues, the billboards.
From there, cutting across Highbury, along Clissold Park, to Stoke Newington. And as perhaps befits the old stamping ground of the Angry Brigade, one of the first things I spot is the skull and crossbones flying high. Can anyone explain why?
On the far side of the park, the crenellated old pumping station, now a climbing centre, stands out. I seem to remember that the IRA once hid a cache of weapons in the filter beds which fed the water pumps. The site was long ago cleared and is now a housing estate.
Clissold House, in Clissold Park
The park has many delights, the greatest being the colonnaded Clissold House - built in the 1790s for a Quaker merchant and anti-slavery campaigner (this is Hackney after all). A little further along Stoke Newington Church Street is the old church, in part mid-16th century and hugely more elegant than the other St Mary's across the road.
I had planned to treat myself to lunch at one of the trendy Church Street cafes, but hundreds of others had the same idea. So I ploughed on to the Victorian valhalla at the eastern end of the street - Abney Park cemetery. It's best known for the grave of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. But another tomb demands at least as much attention.
The two photos on the left show the last resting place of the Chartist leader and thinker, James Bronterre O'Brien. His remarkable followers, the O'Brienites, were key figures in London radicalism for a full quarter century after their leader's death in 1864. The inscription, spruced up in the 1980s but faithful to the original, reads rather sombrely: 'His life was grand, his death was sad and drear'.
On to Stoke Newington High Street - heading south, past the excellent bookshop, and now amid an array of Turkish kebab shops. Above one is the most enticing shadow sign I've seen in a long while. Enough to prompt me to pop into the cafe, and have a chicken with honey and mustard ('no kebabs', I was told, 'haven't had a chance to marinate the meat because of the holidays'!)
Stoke Newington Road
By the time I had eaten, the light was beginning to fade. I hurried on south, past Alexander Baron's Foulden Road, stopping to admire the strange juxtaposition of places of worship just across the road. A small, homely old Baptist church, probably with a largely Caribbean congregation - overshadowed by the mosque and halal grocery next door, a converted cinema decked out with eye catching blue tiles.
As Stoke Newington shades into Dalston, and Stoke Newington Road becomes Kingsland High Street, African shops, stalls and bookstores become more evident. Ridley Road market, once one of Oswald Mosley's rallying points, is part African, part Caribbean, part Pakistani. I had never seen Punjabi run fish stalls before (traditional Punjabi cuisine is not in the least piscatorial) - but Ridley Road has quite a few.
Just a little further south to Dalston Junction, on to Balls Pond Road - and my walk's over. I hop on to a 38 to the Angel, and then take the Northern line back home. Close to three hours of wandering, I reckon. Thanks for your company.
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