Life through a lens

I’m back from my holiday in Mega City One. Many thanks to Mumu for holding the fort in my absence and thanks, as ever, to everyone who reads and everyone who comments.

Back to find that little has changed, then. As my taxi swept down the New Road I noticed the banners hung outside the now-defunct Old Dispensary; once a vibrant, regal purple with gold detail, they are now weather-beaten and dull, almost-brown and raggedly fluttering.

Next came the building which stands at the very epicentre of our area, at the junction of the four principal roads and at the corner of the Green for which we are most known: the public toilet. Shit-smeared and derelict, it no longer works even for its secondary purpose, a shooting gallery for heroin. So disgusting that even the addicts don’t want it.

Further along to the Church Street Hotel, for which many hold high hopes; still not open, three months past target. One small spark of hope still exists to be kindled, however, as there was a man there painting the front door.

Further still and across the road, the repainted Cube, changed from its original burnt ember to a kind of septic green, with bruise-green detail and door and window frames still in burnt ember. Is that finished? One would hope not, yet certainty eludes us.

Everywhere we look are visual metaphors.

Author: Peter

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

63 thoughts on “Life through a lens”

  1. Hello Peter.

    Did you know that if you scroll the screen down so you can only see the bottom seven lines of bricks in the Camberwellonline horse mural it looks like two men with massive members attempting to bang a pair of ostriches.

    Did you buy any souvenirs?

  2. The ostrich banging is one of the visual metaphors I was referring to.

    No, no souvenirs. It’s not really a souvenir kind of town.

  3. Welcome back Peter — as you can see we have been able to keep the blog ticking over just fine over the course of the past two and a half weeks or so. Camberwell-wise nothing major to report just more of the same…

  4. I don’t see an ostrich, I see the bottom half someone doing a kind of Michael Jackson moon walk. It is obvioulsy a very provocative dance.

    If you cover up the legs incidently, it doesn’t look like anything at all.

  5. I’ve also noticed that the owners of the Church St Hotel have had the foresight of installing an extra pane of glass in front of the new stained-glass windows.
    Why don’t they remove those horrible public toilets altogether. They are such a blight on the landscape and probably one of the first things visitors to Camberwell see.

  6. squidder — subsequent to my earlier post, here’s more info on the happiness dabate:

    the upcoming debate entitled “You can’t build me happiness” aims to challenge the diverging perspectives on what contributes towards happiness. Research has shown that an individual’s well-being is affected by the visual quality of his or her environment, as well as other objective variables such as cost, reliability, and fitness for purpose. Happiness is also a consequence of exposure to daylight, colour, views, and access to other people.

    The motion under discussion will be “this house believes you can’t build me happiness”. The debate will feature four participants and will be chaired by Philippa Stockley of the Evening Standard. Architect Alex Lifshutz will be speaking for the motion with artist Peter Fink. Pooran Desai, co-developer of BedZed at BioRegional development group, will also be speaking from the floor on behalf of the motion, “You can’t build me happiness” and Rab Bennet, of Bennetts Associates Architects, will speak for the opposition.

    For further information contact tamsie.​thomson@​inst.​riba.​org

    Camberwell certainly makes me happy (sometimes), buit i’m not sure i could exactly tell you why.

  7. Squidder — perhaps we should lobby for the preservation of the Green Toilet as a modern art sculpture, all the ‘chin strokers’ would be in raptures over it.
    Emin meets Duchamp meets Docherty.

  8. Welcome back Peter — you’ve been missed although Mumu’s done a stirling job though… Hope you had a great time.

    This evening there’s the first meeting at the Town Hall of the Camberwell Leisure Centre Working Party. A group of people who represent voluntary groups in Camberwell alongside people who set up Friends of the Leisure centre and Campaign for Camberwell Baths, with Camberwell Society, Groundwork Southwark and Southwark Living Streets meeting with LBS senior officers and councillors to brainstorm ways of raising many millions of pounds to regenerate Camberwell’s biggest asset — it’s swimming pool and associated health attachments.

    The Working PArty’s life is to be less than six months so watch this space for what’s going on. There will be a point at which THE PEOPLE will be asked what should happen to this grand old building that means so much to so many people.

  9. I saw Michael Jackson playing tennis today. I held the baby up and shook it at him in greeting. He was surly. “Are you OK, mate?” I asked him — he was moonwalking and looking extremely pale. “Has your dad forced you into this?” But all he said was “Beat it!”

  10. Possessive apostrophe’s really annoy many people. My apologies if you wre one of them.

    The meeting mentioned above went really well. Incredibly encouraging.

  11. Very glad to hear about the Leisure Centre Working Party. The late night swimming was brilliant and the baby gymnastics sessions sensational.

    The Dagmar People will now put their weight behind the centre’s regeneration. The Dagmar People look like the Dagenham Idol — have a look on Google. They are old-skool flying pickets.

    Southwark may have to find funding from a serious source. There has never been a greater need for a multi-use leisure centre in an area which is a beacon (in the breathy neo-fascist parlance of the time) of how diversity works racially, classily, privately and publicly.

    I say to you now. Nevah. In the history of Camberwell. Has a leisure centre depended.

    So much.

    On the support.

    In the final last push.

    Of its active.


  12. Yes, I noticed the toilet had gone when I cycled past last night. Obviously my words hold a great deal of weight with the council.

    Now instead of a biohazard and eyesore we have a paved area. How long until someone shits on it?

  13. I will go into a seagull.

    I will send my spirit into a seagull.

    This way I can dive bomb the paved area with high-ammonia faeces thus dissolving the slabs.

    Squatting and pooing is a valid cultural comment with an ancient pedigree worldwide, and whilst not to be sniffed at, would require an imaginative defence in the Magistrates Court.

    I am naturally inspired by the German Stuka dive bombers of World War 2.

    You may have thought that a “stuka” was some kind of bird of prey, but no, it is an abbreviation for “Sturzkamfflugzeug”, literally “plunging combat aircraft” i.e. dive bomber.

    At anything up to 90 degrees from horizontal and at 350 mph, these remarkable aicraft — borne out of the will for mastery which we should surely admire — would dive vertically on the unfortunate Tommies. A Blitz. From Fritz!

    On the wheels were air-operated wailing sirens to terrify the enemy and civilians. Junkers, the manufactuers, called these the “Trumpets of Jericho”.

    The Stukas were so lethal they included an automatic pull-up system — once the bombs had dropped the plane climbed automatically in case the pilot had blacked out with the g forces and sheer exhilaration of bombing excellence.

    The Stuka developed into the Ju87G, the “cannon-bird” whose high-explosive tungsten shells gave me the idea for the ammonia droppings. This plane was later replaced by the Focke-Wulf FW 190 “butcher-bird”.

    The Focke-Wulf must not be confused with the Fokker biplanes of World War 1. These latter had the innovative synchronisation gear that allowed machine guns to be fired through the propeller, giving rise to the expression the “Fokker Scourge”.

    Me dander’s up!

  14. Transport in Camberwell.

    Southwark CC informed me last year that Camberwell Grove would reopen to cars in March. Perhaps the team of Network Rail engineers are still snowed under with their study of the crack under the bridge. It’s just that at this rate, they are going to have to factor continental drift into their calculations. Maybe, instead of using 15 engineers (I counted) to stand around fixing the CCTV in Denmark Hill, a few could’ve taken their skills to the bridge. Where, I dunno, they could’ve made use of some cement and a trowel.

    Does anyone know the advantage of losing bus lanes on Walworth road?

    Does anyone know why they aren’t building cycle lanes along it?

    Does anyone know the advantage in creating 18 meter wide pavements? (I mean, how much stuff can one man carry from Pound Stretcher and Baron Jon?)

    Perhaps the further strangulation of Walworth and Camberwell is part of a strategic plan to open a Camberwell tube station by 2058.

    Before I go for a shit on the green, any Council readers out there willing to shed a little light?

  15. Traffic has got better along the Walworth Road, but that may just be because it got so bad that they all went elsewhere. When the road is fully opened, it will probably fill up again.

    When the works are finished Walworth Road will be transformed into a magnificent Parisian boulevard, where we will go to drink small coffees and smoke Gauloises, while discussing the latest work by Bernard Henri Levy. I’ve heard that Southwark are to offer subsidies to anyone willing to grow a small, pointed goatee. The sounds of the traffic will be dulled by the constant playing of Gary Moore’s Parisienne Walkways to get us all in the mood.

  16. Butterball, I am concerned that the Camberwell Society are lobbying to have the Grove closed full-time. Other routes, Lyndhurst Grove in particuluar, are very busy. Also, it’s a long way round to drive to E. Dulwich.

    Peter, it is great to have you back, though it may all look a bit drab here for you. (Ruskin Park is full of blosson and flowers.) However, you have brought back with you the calmness of your zen abacus. We count on it.

  17. I met Gary Moore- he used to go out with my mate Danny Booth’s sister when their dad Dave Booth was manager of Grimsby Town. I think he married her.

  18. I see Grimbsy banged 5 past Barnet on Saturday. I have been to Barnet, it’s very easy from the Oval, a daylight journey on the Northern Line past allotments. The mock Tudor of Barnet is a world away from here.

  19. Is there no mock Tudor in Camberwell? The George at London Bridge is a huge Mock Tudor pub- anyone been there? I think it dates back to the mid seventies.

  20. I have been to Barnet’s stadium many times, but never seen Barnet play. I used to go up and watch Arsenal’s reserves and youths, beginning their trade on that famously sloping pitch.

    As for mock Tudor, I can think only of two nearby pubs, both of which are outside our borders; the Beehive and a pub (the name of which escapes me now) on the Walworth Rd. Can’t think of any within the SE5 boundaries.

  21. When Arsenal are away their clockwork orange types go to Barnet looking for action. I used to sit outside the Beehive a lot on the way back from work, trying to think of what to do next. Ruskin Park is flanked by mock Tudor at the top.

  22. Hi Alan

    I think in fact the George is exactly what it appears to be, a tudor coaching inn around a courtyard. If it were modern the toilets would be easier to get to.It’s pretty good for sitting getting beery with mates — there’s no background music. The restaurant upstaairs is a bit freeze and fry for me, steak and chips kind of thing. it has a very good informal bunco magicial who works the tables for a couple of quid at a time. On the downside, it is owned by the National trust [more evidence for authenticity] but this does mean they never go outside standard pub hours.

    Best Wishes

    Drew Mishmash

  23. Off subject, I know, but some of you may remember that a few months back I left some of the acid whiticisms(?) of the American author/socialite on here. I just heard another one.….
    When attending a society party in Manhattan, someone asked her for her immediate impression of the party and she replied:
    “If all of the women at this party were laid, head to toe.….….….……I shouldn’t be surprised”

  24. Jesmond Pool – A Brief History
    The George is as original as it can be given that it disn’t burn down or just rot into the ground.

    I’m from Newcastle Upon Tyne. Apparently Jesmond Baths are now run as a Community Trust. Does any of the follwing resonate? (I know all the locales mentioned in the article so it does resonate for me but this also really reminds me of Camberwell. Er, now)

    Does Jesmond need Baths?

    The Newcastle Council Minutes of November 1930 record a lively debate. Four new public baths, amongst them the swimming baths for both Jesmond and Fenham, had been put forward as part of a package of Works for the Relief of Unemployment. But some Councillors doubted the need for baths in Jesmond.

    A Mr Wallace argued that “a number of Councillors lived in Jesmond, and they could testify that Jesmond did not need baths.” (Laughter, records the minutes; a Member shouted “They need them.”) Mr Lax said he had lived in Jesmond for a long time, and when he went from Jesmond into Scotswood, part of which he represented, he thought he was going from Heaven to Hell. (Laughter.)

    Mr Appleby said that he had found that nobody took any trouble about Jesmond. They could not even get the roads in Jesmond attended to – (Laughter) — and they could not get policemen. But (referring to the proposed baths in Jesmond) “this was one of the very few questions which had roused the people of Jesmond to enthusiasm. “

    Alderman Sir Arthur Lambert finally tipped the balance: “Swimming is much more than a luxury,” he said, it is “the finest thing for keeping a person fit, it is health giving, and it is useful in saving life also.” Confirmation of the report was agreed to, and the construction of Jesmond Pool was confirmed, at an estimated cost of £18,000. (By the time the tender was accepted, in 1936, the price had gone up to £20,391.) The pool opened in 1938.


    We are on the cusp of something.

  25. From

    The George Inn is the city’s only surviving galleried coaching inn (rebuilt in 1676). The galleried section, which contained the accommodation for travelers, is now the restaurant. The former Waiting Room for coachmen and passengers is now The Old Bar. The Coffee Room, frequented by Charles Dickens, is now The Middle Bar. On the wall to the right of The Middle Bar, Dickens’ life insurance policy is displayed. Dickens mentions The George in Little Dorrit: “..if he (Tip Dorrit) goes into the George and writes a letter…”

    Not posted for a while because I’ve been stuck on a bus on Walworth Road. Totally agree with Butterball (#20). The “transformation” that’s happening there with the narrowing of the road will have a strangling effect since there’s no plan to do a Rye Lane and ban cars. Tram going around Camberwell, one of the main roads into it being narrowed… I’m now waiting for someone to apply glue to the floor of Denmark Hill ticket office. Me? Paranoid!

    Just remember to set off on the bus at midday to catch last orders at the George.

  26. There is a meeting of the Save Camberwell Baths Campaign at 44 Grove Lane this evening at 7.30pm. “All are welcome” says the sign outside 44.

  27. @ Dagmar Re comment 22: where did you hear that rubbish from? I am chair of travel for the Camberwell Society and I can assure you we are campaigning for no such thing.

  28. How embrarrassing! NickW, I heard it from a significant source which I will now question rigorously. The source gives many council and rail phone numbers to ring and badger people.

  29. On another note I see that Network Rail have published their business plan for 2007 in which they talk about possibly opening up a station at Camberwell Green (see page 31 of the business plan at which they say is under consideration by Southwark. However they propose closing Loughborough Junction at the same time which would be a loss to the area and I’m sure Lambeth will fight. I thought Ken and TfL were set to get control over London’s overground railways?

  30. “Area is poorly served by public transport.”

    You can say that again.

    Let’s just hope that Southwark Council does more than simply “consider it”, and actually does something to improve things for us Camberwellians.

  31. NickW, I have traced the Comment 22 idea, that the Camberwell Society are lobbying for the Grove to be closed permanently, to an A4 piece of paper displayed in a local nursery:

    “If you are fed up with the amount of traffic thundering down Lyndhurst Grove, then read this leaflet.”

    Good start. The piece of paper goes on to say:

    “There is a campaign afoot from the residents at the top of Camberwell Grove to keep the road closed. They have enlisted the support of the Camberwell Society.”

    The phrase “enlisted the support” is ambiguous. It could mean “asked for” or “got”. I think the piece of paper may be many months old, too.

    I’m glad the Camberwell Society wants the Grove to reopen. Still, I’d prefer all the streets round here were equally, eerily, dreamily quiet.

  32. the ‘Sleeping Policemen’ or comatose coppers on our street — Benhill Rd seem to stop the worst excesses of urban drivers. There’s a very satisfying noise as the lowered & hotted motors hit the bumps with their expensive exhaust systems. Of course Dagmar you could set the DS’s suspension so high as to avoid this problem.

  33. Oh, if only, Bunbohue. There is a fantastic white Citroen CX estate on Bushey Hill Road that is so long that you could get in the back, walk through and you’d reach your destination. Also on that road, a dark blue Lancia Flavia with a long, long gear stick.

  34. @39, I think that leaflet’s the best part of a year old. There have been noises over the last year from the Camberwell Grove area about keeping the road shut, but none as far as I am aware from the Camberwell Society

  35. Walking past Somerfield last night I saw there is a poster up in the window indicating that the store is to get a make over (it was an apologies for the disruption kind of sign) does this mean that it is to be improved?

  36. I’m given to believe that a cinema is going to be built there somewhere, perhaps it’s part of that.

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