Open and shut cases

The British Raj, the blue-plastic clad replacement for Zara’s Kitchen, has closed down ‘for refurbishment’ — the same refurbishment that many other places have closed down for, never to open again.

Further down Camberwell Church Street, just past the Castle, there’s some building work going on, it looks like a a complete refit of a shop unit (formerly a solicitor’s, I think). What will it be? Who knows. But please god, not another takeaway.

On the subject of takeaways, Subway are opening a branch near Nando’s on Denmark Hill. Soon we denizens of Camberwell will be able to glut ourselves on every sodium mono glutamate and hydrogenated fat product known to man.

Many thanks to my faithful commenters for bringing these to my attention.

Yesterday, I met my favourite blagger outside the Somerfield petrol station on Peckham Road. He always has an inventive, if flimsy, excuse for making me part with my money.

The first time I met him he told me he’d run out of petrol, pointing to a stationary vehicle and holding up what was very obviously a house key. This time he was trying to sell me a painting which had been dumped outside a nearby house, a standard reproduction of a classic British landscape. He told me he’d painted it himself. I informed him regretfully that I didn’t have any cash, so he changed tack and pointed to a distant car, saying his daughter was inside and he’d promised her a can of coke, but he didn’t even have money for petrol so could I please buy her a coke with my card.

I agreed, bought him a bottle of coke and handed it to him as I left. He thanked me, then decided to back up his original story in case I hadn’t believed it.

He: “How long do you think it took me to paint that?”
Me: “A year?”
He: “Two weeks.”
Me: “You’re very talented.”

I meant talented at inventing cover stories, obviously. I don’t mind parting with a quid for someone who makes a bit of an effort with their story.

Author: Peter

Long-time resident of Camberwell, author of this blog since July 2004.

37 thoughts on “Open and shut cases”

  1. I wonder if that is the same one that blagged a quid off me the other day? It was at the bottom of Shenley Road and he told me he needed the money for petrol for the stationery (red) car at the bottom of the road. He needed so he could get to work as he was good hardworking South London boy. He got his quid…

  2. That tall black chap is a pain. His usual pitch was the BP petrol station nearer Peckham, but he may have been moved on. The staff at the Somerfield petrol station try to move him on, too, because he harrasses their customers, especially women.

    There was a smallish white chap who used to cling onto people in the same way around the Grove. I think he carried a knife. He had the same desperate, scrawny air of someone who needs cash, now, for drugs.

    A woman is Graces Road today told me her friend’s golden retriever had just been savaged by two small, white pitbull dogs in Lucas Gardens. She was trying to trace the owner who she thought should pay the vet’s bills — she said the dog was “mullahed”. The police were not interested.

    It is hard to feel well disposed towards such beasts as all these. Thank God a robin appeared in our garden again today, that cheered me up.

  3. There’s a well-dressed, polite black guy who pops up around Camberwell every now and again. He does the “Have you got two pound coins for a £2 coin?” routine. He then switches the £2 coin for a 50p as he hands it over. It’s a silly ruse, but most people let it go because it’s hardly worth arguing about. I think he targets people who have just come out of pubs, pissed.

    The white guy around the Grove was the most obvious-looking smackhead I have ever seen. Haven’t seen him in a while.

    Birch the blighters, I say.

  4. Yes, he was really bedevilled, Lord Henry. He disappears for a while then reappears and is at it again.

  5. I’m a relatively new member(?) of this site. Wanted to say hello to all the regular contributors and to express my appreciation to those that set it up. Some of the contributions are really hilarious and the site is also a really great place to pick up information on the area. I’ve lived here 20 years in Nov, and until I found this site, my only source of local information was the Hermits Cave.
    I love Camberwell and I’m picking up that most of you do too. It has it’s downsides, but what an amazing place to live. Give me some leeway, please — I grew up in Tooting!

  6. Talking of Jimmy White — I was once told that he owned the snooker club on Camberwell New Road — it’s could do with a lick of paint though, it’s looking very shabby — if only my idea of extending Camberwell Green westwards came to fruition — the snooker club and Greek Orthodox Church would be the noble survivors in the enlarged green space — The Job Centre,Dismal row of shops opposite Redstar,Tool Warehouse — could all be relocated — wouldn’t that be great?

  7. Does anyone know what’s happening with the St George Development down Grove Lane? Have they changed their planning application, or just given up?

  8. It should be converted back into a school — After all the years of decline Southwark and Lambeth could do with a new site for a secondary school for their pupils — why not use one that was perfectly fine for the purpose in the first place?

  9. eusebiovic — I’m pretty sure Jimmy White doesn’t own Jono’s. I think it’s owned by an Irish guy called Aidan. At least, he seemed in charge of it whenever I was in there, years back. If being in charge means storming from the bar into the snooker area and smacking a bloke in the face who was being out of order.

    As I have stated before, you can get a pint in Jono’s at 4 in the morning.

  10. LH — I haven’t ventured there for a few years now, but remember it as a place where you kept your head down and some of the unhinged who frequented the place very much on-side…never ever had any problems though, because that’s the kind of person I am…

  11. A question open to everyone on here — Does anybody know a good locksmith in our area who can provide me with a Latch Lock? — There used to be a good place in Kennington called Trafalgar Locks but the man who used to run it retired and left the business to his son — who is a complete and utter bad-mannered ignoramus, so I don’t really feel confident about returning there…

  12. I have a Jono’s membership card languishing at the bottom of a drawer somewhere. I used to love going there, despite (or even because of) it’s dinginess and ‘localness’. I’m pretty crap at snooker though.

  13. A group of friends and I once piled into Jonos at 2am (one of us was a member). We got a really warm welcome and it seemed nicer on the inside than from the outside.

  14. Never been to Jono’s; I have a strong aversion to drinking establishments which don’t have windows.

    And welcome, Mushtimushta; feel free to join in the fun(?).

  15. I didn’t know Jimmy White, Dagmar, no. Sorry. It says something for Tooting that it is known for Jimmy White and Woolfie Smith. “Power To The People” meant (to me) that I got out of there as soon as I could walk!

  16. I was in the Battle of Lewisham with the Camberwell Popular Front. The section of comrades I was with were charged by a great phalanx of BNP youth — they were the youth wing of the National Front in those days, all very homoerotic, if only they knew. I looked round at the comrades, preparing to be pulverised, as I am no pugilist and prefer wild flowers and that kind of thing, saw the gaggle of hangdog faces above their red nylon shirts, anoraks and parkas, and I thought, Comrade Dagmar, prepare to die like a true revolutionary-progressive-existentialist. A flying wedge of police intervened. Then I got on my bike and went home.

  17. The British Raj’s premises have been repossessed by agents for the landlord — there’s a notice on the door.

    On the bright side (?) it looks as though the restaurant that used to be 4 Real, and before that Calabar Kitchen, will be reopening soon.

  18. The Planning Inspectorate’s decision on St George’s appeal has been published, according to the Camberwell Society’s website: follow “news” link from home page. However, my PC crashes when I try to follow the link to the report itself, so I can’t tell you what the decision was.

  19. 4 Real and Calabar

    I heard that someone there hasn’t paid any rent for rather a long time, and sublet it to someone else who has been refurbishing it without consent, so don’t get your hopes up about it.

    I probably shouldn’t have said that. I’m an honest chap.

    Please, if you haven’t already, sign up to and change the place we love.

  20. The chap in question was back at Peckham BP yesterday avo, he was pulling the ol run out of petrol gag and scoring charitable donations until the 5–0 turned up to refuel, and as if by magic *poof* he vanished

  21. I’ve got an ambition to open a cafe that does homemade food and a deli too, but the going rate for renting premises is an absolute fortune these days (Southwark/Lambeth have got extortionate in recent years) — maybe i’ll have to go by the sea…

  22. If only I had access to those ovens at BRB…the things I could do — and all they use them for is Pizza!

  23. The rents around Camberwell reflect the Landlord’s imaginary healthy shopping centre scenario — streets thronged with cash laden people who want nothing more than to drop ackers into the coffers of whatever little shoppette there might be — if only to lighten the load on their tootsies and prevent the friction of loose change making irritating holes in deep pockets.

  24. Most of my childhood was spent in Camberwell … at 11 Graces Rd. In 1947 when I was ten my mother took me to live in Ottawa, Canada. Later, I moved to the USA, earned degrees through the doctorate, married, raised five children and earned my living as a university professor. My first trip back to England was in 2000. Although there were many changes it was amazing how much had remained the same. The houses on Graces Rd. appeared much smaller to my adult eyes than I had remembered them. The five houses east of 11 Graces Rd. which had been destroyed by a Nazi bomb had been replaced by nondescript residential structures … far less attractive than the Victorian architecture of the earlier buildings. The grim concrete of the bomb shelters near the corner of Vestry and Peckham Roads was gone and the greenery of adjacent Lucas Gardens was pleasant. A walk up Vestry road to Lyndhurst Grove revealed that my old Lyndhurst Grove Grade School was no more. I felt betrayed. Inasmuch as I had received my earliest education there I was certain the English would have placed the structure on a national preservation list and cared for it in perpetuity. Domage, domage!
    I no longer speak “Camberwell English” but can still “interpret” it for my American wife.
    Cheers, Don Clements, Edwardsville, Illinois

  25. Can anyone please tell me what would have been the local school to Graces Road in the 1920’s to 1935-ish? My Nan lived there and I’d love to find out more. Thank you

  26. my grandmother Alice Alea Beart was born at 12 Graces Road, Camberwell. She married Frank Alfred Shiers in 1917 and they lived with her parents George and Mary Sophia Beart and they had 6 children.
    I believe the Beart family stayed in/around Graces Road until the 30’s as my uncle remembers visiting family there as a child. Wonder if anyone knows anything about them?

  27. I am at 3 Graces Road if anyone has history of that address. Apparently some of the first Windrush passengers lived here.

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