On the radar

Does anyone know what was the occasion for the big firework display last week, somewhere in the region of Burgess Park? None of your cheap rubbish, this, but a big professional display. I caught the end of it from my window, after ignoring the beginning because I thought it was a gunfight.

I tried to get a good look at the banner on the former Marbella (soon to be Church Street) Hotel at the weekend, but I was distracted by a man claiming to be a refugee from Zimbabwe asking for money. My cursory examination (good teeth, not anxious or dislocated from reality) led me to believe he was the genuine article and I was parted from coins (damn this White Liberal guilt). Was I right, or has anyone else been approached with this story?

The Somerfield petrol station on Peckham Road has closed, and will open as a Total this weekend.

This blog came under attack today for its “clear political slant”. Don’t laugh; you were described as “sometimes mean”.

Author: Peter

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

47 thoughts on “On the radar”

  1. Hi P

    So he’s back — was the money to help out paying for his appeal against deportation? If it’s the same chap who ‘works’ the Myatt’s area occasionally I can only say I have been impressed by his apparent veracity in the past. But not to the point of coughing up — i’m skint too.

    Isn’t the odd thing about con artists that if they are that talented why not work in car sales, or acting, or personal confidence training? God only knows how many people I have annoyed now.

    But in answer to your question — I think you’ve been had. Can’t help with the fireworks I’m afraid — although it seems quite difficult to avoid some kind of festival at the moment, Diwali, Hallowe’en, Ramadan, Rosh Hasanah etc.

    Chin chin

    Drew Mishmash

  2. It does seen to me there are many people looking to be offended…if everyone was pc and no one ever offended anyone then it would be boring — or maybe like being Japanese. Not the song by the Vapours, which is about w*nking, that is never boring.

    As for politics: Let’s kick all the poor people out of Camberwell, they make a dreadfully unsightly mess.

    The scaffold is off the Church St Hotel. It looks amazing except the ground floor which doesn’t look done yet. By comparison, it makes the rest of church st look like sh*t.

  3. Oh I don’t get out enough. The scaffolding down and nothing done to the ground floor. alas alack. May they not leave as is.

    Politics, we’re so diverse here you can’t say anything wothout being accused of something. I’m kind of dismayed though that I missed any clear political slant other than Camberwell deserves a better deal that will serve us all better than now. In fact I often wonder why we’re all so tolerant of it. If it were my child it would have a red backside irrespective of the consequences.

  4. On that serious note, we could get more organised about lobbying for improvements in Camberwell. Southwark is too big to really be able to focus on Camberwell and with no respect at all to the councillors who represent us, they are all thick as sh*t, risk averse, hand ringing, couldn’t find a brewery never mind organise a piss up, and did I say small minded and lacking any vision for this neighbourhood.

    So it is not beyond the wit of man to do better than that…

  5. The Church Street Hotel.. didn’t they just.. paint it grey?

    And yes, the horrible arches persist. If you were trying to create a hotel inspired by the lower east side of Manhattan (as the wrap on the building suggested they were), they should be the first thing to go.

    I remain distinctly unmoved thus far..

  6. What a nice day. Overcast, maybe, but mild and with exhilarating bursts of rain. The mushrooms in Lucas gardens have once again appeared overnight. They don’t care! They are unserious beings, OK, bobbing up like that without a by-your-leave, but seriousness is the cirrhosis of the soul.

    Mark, Peter, Hannah — the mushrooms in Lucas Gardens salute you! North and South Camberwell Unite! Let the mushrooms’ chubby cheeriness outshine the dark clouds of doubt! We will carry out such naturally upbeat, underground mushroom tests again! Boo! Venceremos! No pasaran!

  7. El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!

    Quick, while the spirit of revolution is in the air: let’s storm Southwark council and tell them we want a decent public toilet on Camberwell Green, and better shopping facilities than Butterfly Walk!

  8. Re. pubs/Camberwell/East Dulwich (admittedly the previous post ), you lot protest too much. You LOVE East Dulwich and you’re not fooling anyone. That is all.

    I live in Camberwell by the way!

  9. Hi new to this site, but enjoy the banter. Think this group needs to be more pr active instead of moaning all the time. Do something when are these meetings and what goes on there apart from moaning and negativity about the area. Examples Funky Monkey why moan about that and god knows it provides a bit of warmness to the area. God and what is the moan about a boutique hotel whoever these people are be it corparation or private they seem to be trying to transform the area for the best, property prices should rise.
    Crime wise do something about it, what?
    not moan though productivity and positivity

    My thoughts


  10. Hello and welcome, JJ.

    I know that quite a few of the regulars here (commenters as well as lurkers) are involved with the SE5Forum, which is a new organisation but with big plans. So when we want to be constructive, we go there; when we want to compare curries, moan about how much we wish we lived in East Dulwich, or dream of a coup and the subsequent Socialist state*, we stay here.

    There’s no conflict.

    * Note to potential complainers: it’s a joke. A joke! Well, perhaps not to Eusebiovic.

  11. Hi P

    Oh dear — have I been spoiling SE5 Forum by adopting the same casually flippant tone as I do here?

    I will look further into this alleged constructivist/comedy schism; so have at you sirrah!

    Best gewunsch

    Drew Mishmash


  12. Peter — Too right it’s not a joke…Benevolent Dictatorship is the future after we’re all done and burnt out with Capitalist Dictatorship of course…

  13. A couple of weeks ago a nice lady knocked on our door asking for money to feed her electricity meter at no.42, as her daughter had just been released from hospital and the kidney dialysis machine she now needs was going to switch off if she didn’t get some money. She was very good. I gave her the change from my pocket.

    A few days later I was talking to one of our neighbours and they said that they had given £10 to a nice lady who had run out of petrol, she needed to visit her daughter in hospital.

    I hope she’s keeping notes on which houses in our street she’s been to.

  14. I also noted this woman, under the MEAN STREETS post, 24th Aug. Her name is “Claire Jones”.

    I know you’re all better men and women than I am, Gunga Din, but did it not occur to anyone that someone who lets the electricity run out on her meter, when her daughter is supposedly on dialysis, is either INSANE or LYING?

    I set the dogs on her, but they obviously didn’t do a good enough job.

    Another thing I don’t understand — why do you have to give someone money because they’re a refugee?

  15. I decided several years ago NEVER to give money to anyone who asks me for it, unless I know them, and even then not necessarily to expect it back.

    Now I just say “no I haven’t got any money / cigarettes / light / food / drink / or whatever they are asking for — even if the item they want is in full view about my person, such as a fag behind my ear. If they ask again I just say ‘No You can’t’ or ‘I’m not giving you any’ or ‘I said I don’t smoke’. Next one is ‘Go Away; leave me alone… Now’. ‘I told you to leave me alone’. Nearly always works. If it doesn’t a: ‘What’s your problem? I’m minding my own business; You start hassling me and now YOU’RE the one who thinks I’VE got a problem. Can’t you understand? Leave me alone!’ so far has always done the trick.

    On Coldharbour Lane they do start asking you complicated questions when you’re using a mobile ‘phone. I tell them ‘I’m on the ‘phone’ They ask again. ‘I said I’m on the ‘phone now Go Away and leave me alone’. Never fails. In fact if you have your wits about you, barking orders is quite interesting: ‘Go Away. Not In That Direction. The Other Way.’

    If they get you on the doorstep when your guard is down, REMEMBER (and it’s worth taking five or ten minutes a few times a day for a couple of days just to prepare your mindset for the possibility of being caught off guard at home — a rehearsal so to speak — so you’re not caught out when it does happen; and make a rule: WHEN there’s a knock at your door that your not expecting, take a few seconds in the hallway just before answering to collect your thoughts); the more elaborate their story / their problem / situation the more believable it is — it’s just a sign of how good they are at scamming. A guy from Manchester tried it on yesterday outside my house “Can you help me out mate, you’re not going to believe this, I’ve just driven 200 miles…” ‘No I can’t I’m in a really bad mood and you’re interrupting me, leave me alone’ “it won’t take long” ‘I’ve got no time at all I’m really pissed off. Are you from Manchester?’ “yes” he says. I *stomp off in fury*. That shut him up.

    If you have the misfortune to be where you’re being sucked so far into some scammer’s parallel, believable universe that you’re thinking about pulling quids out of your trousers; STOP. This is your sign to yourself to offer to make a ‘phone call to the emergency services — or a friend. Normally they give up.

    Otherwise call the Police and have them carted off to Carter Street.

    Or slam the door in their face.

  16. Remember: You make the ‘phone call. You Do NOT, EVER give them your phone, or invite them in to use your ‘phone — YOU make the call — get the number off them. You control the situation. And they give up.

  17. @Lord Henry — obviously you’re not obliged to give someone money because they are a refugee, but sometimes the humanitarian instinct overrides the common sense one. A throwback to the days when beneficence was genetic.

  18. Personally I’ve always found a mute stare works quite well… eventually they give up and wander off convinced they’ve come up against someone as insane as them… (unlesss they are genuinely needy, in which case the liberal guilt kicks in)

  19. The infamous Claire knocked on our door in Brunswick Park about a month ago and gave the same sob story about her dying daughter and a dialysis machine. Since it was 6am and I did not have my wits about me, I stupidly gave her £6 – though if she was utterly shameless enough to wake me and my boyfriend at that hour, on a Saturday, and ask for money, then she can have it. Also, on the off chance that this well spoken woman – who was incongruously dressed quite dowdily – was telling the truth (yes, I was very gullible that day), I could go back to sleep in peace.

  20. Unfortunately, the nature of a confidence trick is that it makes you feel bad for being taken in. One should bear in mind that, at the end of the day, they’re the scumbag, not you. One should also bear in mind that for “Claire Jones” to be knocking on people’s doors at 6am, for the sake of on average £5, she must have a pretty miserable life.

    Are refugees not allowed to work? I’m not being sarcastic here. Are they denied employment or something?

  21. Giving money (alleviating your conscience) is a selfish act.

    * You may feel better but you are out of pocket.
    * You perpetuate the problem. If no-one EVER gave money no-one would ever ask. I.e. I blame the givers more than the askers.
    * last and most important in giving you are more than likely a sucker OR (unlikely) you are just supporting peoples sorry and desperate way of life meaning they can just survive so dont do anything about their position.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE never give money in the street. give it to charity and they can give it out

  22. Peter: Ah yes, missed that. Though I would have given her the (meagre) change from my pocket anyway. Sorry NickW.

    Someone else in my street had heard about her before she came knocking on his door. So he said he was a doctor and he could look after her daughter while she went for money. She left quickly.

  23. Lulu: it’s work but it should be directed more reliably and have NI and PAYE attached to it.

    Other Rich: Mute stare; excellent tactic.

    You as to av your wits about you. Acting mad or dangerous is good. But not necessarily accessible to most unencumbered people.

    LH: Exactly on the mark. And without knowing detail, I think refugees are in a difficult dichotomy, something like they can’t work or get benefits until they are acccepted as refugees. Fair ’nuff. But it can take years to be accepted. Something like that.

    NickW, so true.

  24. Peter — I never used the toilet on the Green as idle spectators could easily debate the oneness or twoness of that tiny-cubicle activity, exposed to the four winds.

    For those with less of a sense of mystery, why not go the whole hog, with a cubicle made of one-way (inwardly) transparent, toughened glass, and place it in the middle of Camberwell Green junction? It would attract tourists and satisfy the requirements of the Disabilities Act, being accessible directly from the road.

    Ben — my response to beggars is to explain that the money I have is already borrowed from someone — or something — else…

  25. Thanks Kate. The Swiss are way ahead. This is not just an artpiece, but it could encourage us to change the way we view our crap, with the environment in plain view, encouraging us to change our diets and flush more sensibly.

    I can also imagine certain Camberwell denizens reading a volume of Ginsberg to pass the time whilst — passing, and contemplating humanity.

  26. “O, to be in England, Now that April’s there” (cue-automatic flush, loud). Followed by Mendelsohn’s “Camberwell Green”, then more Browning: “God’s in his heaven, all’s right with the world” (sound of bombs falling); “… we will nevah, give in” (Churchill).

    It could be good. Come on Camberwell, we could all contribute to the new Camberwell Green, Camberwell-themed public convenience.

    I have often wanted to say to people demanding money in our streets, “No, YOU give ME money.” The same principle applies to the at first grimey-seeming, but if you look at it right, most appealing concept of a professionally run, properly costed public convenience.

  27. I usually just go into a pub, order a pint, leave my hat, cane and gloves on my seat, then toddle off to the WC to take a slash. Far more civlised.

    I see they’re re-classifying crystal meth. Lady H will not be pleased.

  28. I do that “pint for a pee” thing too, Lord H, then need to go even more. I see crystal meth, gone up in the league tables, “changes the volume of the brain”.

  29. I usually just walk around pretending I’m looking for somebody, then duck into the toilet when the staff are otherwise engaged.

  30. You can get away with that in the Grove (because of the two entrances), possibly in the Castle and Funky Munky if they’re busy, but I reckon if you try that in the Hermit’s Cave they’ll rugby tackle you on the way out then give you a slap. I’ve actually seen them intercept someone on their way to the loo. The conversation went something like this –

    Bartender — Oi! Toilets are for customers only.
    Sneaky Bloke — What?
    Bartender — Customers only.
    Sneaky Bloke — I am a customer.
    Bartender — Order a drink, then.
    Sneaky Bloke — What?
    Bartender — Order a drink, then, if you’re a customer.
    Sneaky Bloke — I was going to.
    Bartender — Good. What can I get ya?
    Sneaky Bloke — Uh…I’ll have a Diet Coke.
    Bartender — Coming right up!

    Sneaky Bloke then saunters off to the loo with as much dignity as he can still muster, which isn’t a lot.

  31. Ha! I love that about the Hermit’s. And one knows there would be a chorus of jeers from the locals in the corner. Brilliant.

  32. We usually stop people just walking in to use the loos (men and women, unless they ask nicely in which case we never refuse, because, round here mate, the ones who sneak in are generally trying to jack up or smoke a bit of crack. Often look quit respectable.

    On a post re begging I made the other day I recounted an experience with a mand from Manchester. I told him I was in a really bad mood. WELL, sitting outside Chav Do Douro yesterday enjoying a bit of autumn glow with Nicky, my business partner, the man walked by.

    We spotted each other at the same time, both said hello, shook hands and had a laughing chat about bad moods. He said ‘the other day was a nightmare’ — he’d driven from Manchester, his car had overheated and he was trying to find someone else with a car who might have some radweld to put in his radiator.

    He’s called Manny. He lives in Chorlton cum Hardy. I lived there for four years.

    I forgot to tell him that he could have taken a stroll down station road for the radweld.

  33. i had an interesting ‘being hassled for money’ a couple of months ago. i’d just come out of the coscutter at the bottom of denmark hill and was struggling with bag (yes, of wine and beer) and my bike lock.
    this fella aproaches and asks for £3 so he can get home etc. I felt pretty vulnerable, so i gave him a quid fifty in change hoping he’d just piss off.
    bad move.
    he got a bit more persuasive, and started saying i was going to give him “a fiver yeah”. the situation was rapidly moving from “being hassled for change” to “being mugged”.

    So i told him that i didn’t have any more money on me but if he came into the shop with me i’d get a cashback and he could ‘borrow’ a tenner…

    Into the shop we go, and suddenly the dynamic of the situation is all different. bright lights, bemused staff who’d heard it all going on outside. In a loud voice i asked him what he wanted again… he was pretty confused by this, so i took the opportunity and shouted “YOU’RE ON CRACK AND YOU’RE TRYING TO MUG ME AREN’T YOU!” at which point he said “yeh, safe guy” and legged it!

  34. i also remember that blog user bukowski333 was once sitting outside the Hermits Cave enjoying a pint when a guy ran up, grabbed the glass off the table, chugged half of it down, slammed the glass back down and legged it!!

    even our pints aren’t safe!

  35. I was with a friend outside a pub on Charing Cross Road once, when a old itinerant asked us for a half pint of beer. When we looked doubful, he offered to gurn for us; we agreed and, true to his word, he removed his false teeth and gave us five minutes of classic gurning. He earned that drink.

  36. I was perusing Sebastian Faulks’ THE FATAL ENGLISHMAN this afternoon when I discovered that one of the subjects of his triple biography, Jeremy Wolfenden –


    – used to work at Cambridge House on Camberwell Road. That reminded me of an old pal who attended an AA meeting at Cambridge House. The meeting was in the basement. Beside him was a chap he vaguely recognised. The chap said, “Hello, Johnny. This place brings back memories.” Johnny asked him why. The chap said, “Well this is where Charlie and the rest of the boys used to bring people to give them a little reducer, as it were.” He was of course referring to the Richardson gang, of which he was a low-level member.

    Ah, Camberwell! Such a rich cultural heritage!

  37. I’ve observed the comment about clear political bias on the SE5 FORUM — Could K Washington possibly be an imposter who lives in Dulwich Village trying to mix it with the Class and Sophistication of the Camberwell Crew? Either that or we’ll have to send him for re-education and re-programming…(guffaw,guffaw)

  38. Yeah, that’s right Squidder. I was trying to enjoy a pint after riding home from work on a nice balmy summer evening. He was hassling me when I was on my phone to my girlfriend so I said ‘I’M ON THE PHONE’ to him, hoping he’d get the message. He made out I was the one being rude and then came back a few minutes later and necked my pint whilst my back was turned.

    My favourite blagger ever, who had me weeping tears of joy, was the guy who was trying to sell phone calls on his mobile after Bonkersfest because he had a ‘special contract’ which meant if he didn’t use up all of his free minutes he would get charged extra by Orange. He said he had one girl who called Sierra Leone for him and how that was a great help, but she’d only used up ten bloody minutes and did we want to call abroad for 75p?

    On the subject of Camberwell’s , anyone know the old woman who walks with her body tilted as far back as is humanly possible without falling backwards? Or the woman who wears clown wigs and boozes at the bus stop outside Somerfield in the wee hours?

  39. About pubs. And shops, come to that..
    First — pubs in Camberwell.
    I’m glad you’ve brought this up.
    Over the last 3 years (I’ve been doing a BA at the art college), I’ve noticed that the Cube looks different, the Old Dispensary has closed, and the Castle has had a lick of paint.
    The Old Dispensary was doomed from the start. A Gastropub in Camberwell? Do me a favour! They must’ve been watching those TV news clips about how Peckham and the surrounding area is up and coming. Guess they never saw the reality!
    I’m sorry but you cant rely on a handful of white middle class students for your profit, we’re not THAT rich!!
    The House Gallery has turned into a coffee shop. Again, no surprise. What were they thinking?
    The shops that I’ve noticed have closed/changed in 3 short years are actually mostly in Vauxhall, but they do have a significance:
    Bird Of Paradise florist — too posh to exist
    Organic Butchers shop becomes covenience store — inevitable
    and there are others which I cant actually recall as I am sitting in Surrey far far away..

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