Highs and lows

On Saturday we had the privilege of seeing Camberwell (and the rest of London) from above, as we took advantage of the Open House day at the William Booth Memorial College to climb the pigeon-shit-encrusted spiral stairs of the tower and take a look at the fantastic vista it overlooks. I have some nice pictures, which I’ll post shortly. At the top of the tower I met Merrick, of this blog’s comments fame. Not sure if anyone else was around at the time I was; I was there at about 3pm. I was the one with the scruffy beard and the sun-kissed look.

On the way down to the Chinese supermarket to get some fish, I noticed that Willow has closed down. Restaurants just don’t seem able to hold their own in this area.

I didn’t attend the march to save Camberwell Baths; call me cynical, but I think marches have to be backed up with something a little more substantial. We live in a society where facilities are judged not by their usefulness, but by their ability to turn a profit; in order to show that the Baths are of use to the community, they need to be used more — however, in order to be used more, they need to be cleaned up and reformed. Catch 22. Instead of a march, there should have been a swim-in; everyone pays their money and fills the pool. The sight of all that money crossing the counters would have the owners far more interested.

Finally, here’s possibly my favourite bit of Camberwell history I’ve ever read:

Army and Navy pensioners held a cricket match between one-armed and one-legged veterans in Camberwell, London, in August 1841. The Army lost by 19 runs to 176, allegedly because they had more one-legged players.

Author: Peter

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

128 thoughts on “Highs and lows”

  1. Went to the Grove Merrick. Thanks for asking — good Bombadier.

    The red squirrels were complacent. I’m a great admirer of grey squirrels- fantastic entrepeneurs.

  2. Myatt’s Fields do today was good — many anarchists with rings in noses, thundering Ghanaian drummers (Kakasitsi — tight band, excellent, patient with pallid vegan audience), garlanded Wiccan girls full of fecund promise — fabulous nu-circus girl on stilts, longest legs you’ve seen in your life, mind-boggling.

    Jazz trio in Prince of Wales nearby afterwards very good — genuine guitarist, old jazz style.

    Odd area — fab park highly manicured with funding money, nice streets, London Irish Rifles TA HQ at Connaught House (interesting possibilities for coup — hijack old Land Rover plus couple of WWII Enfield rifles, maybe 1960s FNs), peaceful village ambience, bad reputation.

  3. London Freewheel was good — 10s of thousands of cyclists on the streets of London

    Myatts Field Harvest festival also good — a gathering of all the ‘nice’ people in the area in contrast to recent stabbing and shootings nearby.

    Afterwards we went to the Bear for the first time yesterday and I think I may have seen you Peter — were you sitting outside on the Station Road side with your wife at around 4:15ish? I thought it was a good pub with a good range of beers although I think the food was slightly overpriced. Then after the Bear on to the Castle for dinner and finally the S&D which was surprisingly empty.

  4. Kent’s a bit extreme isn’t it? What’s wrong with East Dulwich?

    I was a spectator on London Bridge for the cycling. Brillian stuff. Big traffic jam from the Bridge all the way back to Elephant though.

    I will definitely cycle next year. What a great way to se the city…

  5. Yes, that was me & the wife outside The Bear at about 4.15, on our way back from the London Freewheel, which was excellent. Where were you, Mumu? And why didn’t you say hello?

  6. Hear it was fantastic, but could not join in the Freewheel due to a snapped frame (I was warned aforehand about aly), and my cadre became a cadavre — abracadavre, you are suddenly on the pavement.

    Some other European cities did a full week, I think. Worth making it an issue for the mayoral campaign? Our urban car owning class needs shock therapy.

  7. When we walked into the pub I thought I recognised you based on the photo of you with the horse which featured on the site earlier this year but wasnt sure so thought it best not to say anything.

    As I said, my partner and I came in at about 4:15 and sat at a table inside near the door. I’m sure our descriptions ‑early 30s, white, dressed in ‘normal’ clothing- were not sufficently striking for you to have remembered us.

    I was intrigued by the wedding that was going on at the Greek Cathedral across the road — very grand carriage with the two horses.

  8. “the photo of you with the horse” — all perfectly innocent, I hasten to add.

    I can’t say I remember you, unfortunately; did you sit in the main bar at the front? We were outside for a little while, then went in the saloon bar at the back.

  9. You’re too shy Mumu — I’m always going up to people in pubs and asking them how the wife and kids are, then realising they are not who I thought.

    it was worse when I had my bookshop — my sleb recognition and friends recognition often got crossed, and I would find myself hugging some MP or journalist like, well, an old friend.

  10. I have a feeling that I may have seen you as well Drew in Myatts Fields at the Harvest thing yesterday but again I’m not in the habit of going up to people unless I’m very sure who they are.

    Not to worry — we should have another blog meet up again soon?

  11. I saw Drew at Myatt’s fields. Tried to get my youngest and his and Tanera’s talking but they would have nothing of it. Got dragged off to be hit in the head with a conker thrown by some sub teenagers who told me to ‘fuck off bro’ when I said it’s not a good idea to throw things around in a crowd. I shouted. No. Bellowed loudly ‘I’m going to get you’ and ran after them and they all got away. Nothing changes since my days at primary.

  12. Good for you, Dodds. The daft kids of all kinds have it coming. You gave ’em the “Dove Love” like tough love.


    Who on earth do you think has chucked a whole library of books into the recycling bins on Lyndhurst Grove by the railway?

    Many have second-hand bookshop, maybe charity shop pencilled prices in.

    This has been going on for a week.

  13. The Southwark Plan decrees that all second-hand bookshops are counter-revolutionary and seditious.

    So my best guess is Oxfam Pimlico, who must have run out of space on Warwick Way, where they usually book-dump.

    They overprice so regularly that they don’t shift enough goods to accept new donations.

    Oxfam forgets about its moral obligation to effectively recycle goods locally, and instead concentrates its donative resources on far-off climes, where they are often appropriated by unelected military leaders.

    They do make some nice t‑shirts.

  14. Hi Guru

    Here’s odd — at the moment you were typing I was in the very Oxfam you cite; it is indeed overpriced. In that locale I much prefer trinity hospice who have just opened up their basement to form a big cheap paperback souk; and crusaid who charge prices like oxfam but pick their stock much more literaraliraly, if you know what I mean.

    I’m sorry to tell you Dagmar that getting rid of volumes of second hand books is a trial, especially genre fiction; the culprit [and the crime is really just not thinking enough, isn’t it?] is more likely a private individual who’s moving out, or a carbootsaler who has realised they would rather have their sundays in bed.

    My discount book business model involves recycling all book donations either through sales or pulping for art material; junking them is somehow morally wrong.

    BTW Mark it’s a brave man indeed who chases some of the kids round here; don’t let you anger get the better of you.

    Drew Mishmash

    PS I met the head gardener in Myatts Fields this morning and he assured me the Harvest It crew cleaned the park to perfection after ‘striking their set’; so well done both for the party and for leaving it so tidy. could we do it once a month, maybe?

  15. Reg, is that your car currently parked at Madouse Tyres on Albany Road, silver Mazda, Reg. No. R6GNR with all the letters and numbers run together?

    The Pimlico Crusaid is a brilliant shop, it’s like being in a musical there. I used to work in a grey old company nearby and would go there at lunchtime just for the crack.

  16. Drew — stranger than the fiction which will soon feature as part of our landfill landscape.

    Dagmar — I cannot accept your witty offer to take refuge in someone else’s identity. They might feel defamed as hypocrites who pontificate about urban drivers and then are seen motoring about town.

    However, I think it is an excellent idea for us all to get personalised number plates — if indeed we do drive cars…

  17. Went to the Bear last Friday night. Nice pub, friendly bloke with goatie who seems to run it, good range of beer, big wine list, reasonable mix of people and well worth going to again hence meal there tomorrow night.

    London Pride a bit pricey in the Hermits the other day £3.00 seems a lot but perhaps I’m behind the times or just tight!

  18. guys and girls, hope you don’t mind me piping up but have been a regular voyeur of this blog / forum and have become a real fan. although i have a bit of a split personality (being betwixt peckham / dulwich and camberwell) my heart is with Camberwell where Foxtons dare not to tread and McLaren buggies steer clear — despite the brilliant but imperfect vibe in the area. have seen this thread on EDF which resolutely made my mind up that I am not a dulwich-ite (they seem to think we’re on their borders and that the Sun orbits the earth) — shame on them and their organic frappy rasperry machiatos


  19. @Talfourdite: Welcome to the heady world of leaving comments! Very interesting link, thanks; I’ll try to refrain from starting a flame war with our self-satisfied neighbours, but I have to say it’s a pretty far out idea, thinking that by renaming Camberwell it will suddenly improve.

    @Norman: I have it on good authority that, owing to overwhelming public demand, it will reopen as a multi-storey off-licence.

  20. Red* looks pretty good so far. I think they should revert to the original name as it is mentioned on the new memorial plaque on the green.

    Down blame the ED crowd. It’s a Camberwell Grove Resident who is expressing his allegiance to 22 over 5.

    He’s called Maurice and he’s a bit of an old school Tory. They don’t seem to want him either…

  21. I am just off to walk the dog (crossbreed and vicious) in Ruskin Park which I am sure is in Camberwell although some think it is Herne Hill.
    The park has plenty of 3 wheel buggies and braying mothers, much like east Dulwich on a Saturday morning. There is also an assortment of resident drinkers who have moved on of late hopefully to East Dulwich. Camberwell sounds much nicer than Dull Witch any day.

  22. thanks for the welcome. without being too contrary I do find it a tad amusing that although the ED guys harp on about the ‘edgy’ nature of their enclave — it’s pretty much turning into a Clapham clone before their eyes — if they bothered giving Camberwell Grove / Church St. etc a chance they’d realise how exciting it is an area, moreover how it’s probably got a lot more in common with the L Lane of 5 yrs ago they originally loved than the LL of today. dont get me wrong I think ED is pretty fantastic but — I think Camberwell will be much cooler in a few yrs.

    unless you longterms think im way off the pace?

  23. Your punctuation is totally to cock. Never mind, Camberwell is accepting, intelligent, liberal and tolerant, as befits an ancient settlement.

    Alan Dale is surely right that we should celebrate commonality. We like visiting East Dulwich.

    Yes, Camberwell is much more varied and East Dulwich feels a lot more landlocked.

    Also, listen, this is maybe a little tangential, but I heard that great Radio 4 programme repeated again today, about the song “Flowers in the Rain” by The Move in the 1960s — they are the only pop group to be sued by a Prime Minister.

    The Mendelsohn piano piece Spring Song is sampled at the end of it.

    “Camberwell Green” is the original title of that delightful Victorian piano favourite, as anyone with a hole in their bum knows, to celebrate commonality, as we do here, public convenience on the Green or no.

  24. “Flowers in the Rain”…remember listening to it on my parents’ ‘Radiogram’ being ‘spun’ by Stevie Merrick (no relation) on Radio Caroline back in the ’60s

  25. Smell the coffee.

    I’ve never known what that means.

    Camberwell is not working properly. It’s massively dysfunctional.

    There is no doubt that, while demographics have improved steadily over the last two decades, the quality and variety of shopping and services in the SE5 area have declined significantly. Camberwell has not experienced regeneration, it’s all been about degeneration on a slow slide.

    And NOTHING is being done about it other than this blog and the SE5 Forum. Local people who care. And SE5 Forum’s not got enough support to make it be the forve it could be — either from members or from the Authority.

  26. Well actually the Neighbourhood Renewal has been doing a lot about it, collating and gathering information about SE5. Doomed to be only a record of its demise, as NR funding is likely to dry up next year…

    Any how. How many of you know there is a Camberwell Neighbourhood Renewal Team? Where is the office? What do they do? They do do a lot by the way but it all gets swallowed up in the Camberwell black hole. That’s no one knows anything about them. And has no appreciation that Southwark does, actually, care about Camberwell but only on the grounds that it doesn’t know how to deal with Camberwell and has thrown out an intellectual lifeline backed up with cash potential which says ‘We don’t know how to deal with Camberwell. If you, the people who know it, have a vision, can see a possible way out of this eternal bind that constricts SE5, if you galvanise yourselves, if you are creative as a community in your aspirations for the area, we will support you all the way’.

    That’s too subtle and challenging a possible way forward for the many people who live here who could actually do something good for the area if they could be arsed for a moment to apply some rational thought to what’s been going on and what’s being offered to them by Southwark.

    Instead they get on high horses and March For No Practical Purpose. But that feels good, even if it doesn’t work.

  27. Dagmar,

    Poor punctuation is the most fitting tribute I can make to my vicious English teacher of years gone by. In those dark years grammatical infractions were swiftly punished by the offender being forced to graze outside the class room; much to the constant mirth of passers-by. He died a number of years ago, but as a constant offender forced to spend much of my childhood pretending to chew the cud, I send him occasional taunts for sweet revenge.

    Mark, do you think that the Elephant and Castle revamp and Walworth regeneration will spill over into Camberwell, naturally restoring it to its former glory? Or will it simply be one monstrous local govt planned solution replaced with another white elephant?

  28. Talfourdite- I share all the optimism you demonstrate in your earlier post.

    I walk to Monument from Allendale Close every day. That sort of proximity to the City gives Camberwell the edge over areas further out.

    We have fantastic bus services and as the new ED crowd have now realised the bus is a great way to get around. THe no 40 is a middle class bus. The 35 will follow.

    We have two good train stations and in time we will get at least one tube.

    The question is not whether Camberwell will fulfill its potential but when.

    The pace is not as slow as people here imply.

    I have lived in Camberwell for nearly 5 years in that time the amenities on Church St have almost all been reborn and the number of pub makeovers is staggering.

    All we need now is the continuing and inevitable influx of middle class professionals as other central areas fill up and the remiaing outstanding shops and services will follow.

    House prices in Camberwell have grown astronomically and however fragile the beta element may seem I believe that growth in Camberwell is pure alpha.

    Tell your mates.

  29. Glad to see optimism abounding. Perhaps I should apologize for my earlier dread and gloom. But reservations remain…

    RUGBY this weekend: the all weather screen is finally installed. But the all weather awning is not useable — the manufactureres are trying to fix it. Gah!

    BUT we are showing the whole Home Teams overage indoors on the large screen, now in glorious colour and 21st Century quality:


  30. I agree, Mark, the rugby coverage is a bit ‘overage’.

    I was in East Dulwich on Tuesday night. I couldn’t believe the Foxtons office. The size of it, and that pink neon! I find the way Foxtons try to sell lifestyle rather than just homes obscene. Have you seen their adverts for staff — people jumping out of planes etc. Aarrchch.

    I had four letters from Foxtons telling me they could sell my flat for me. And another four letters saying that they could rent it out for me. I live on Peckham Road. Don’t think that they haven’t got designs on re-designating Camberwell as East Dulwich.

    I also got a letter asking me for my thoughts on the development of Dulwich Leisure Centre. Apparently it is my leisure centre, and I can vote for the five things that I would like to see prioritised there. My personal priority would be a refurbished pool and badminton courts within walking distance at Camberwell but that wasn’t one of the choices. Can anyone give me a link to what is planned / has been suggested for Camberwell? I’ve not kept up with this one. From what Mark says it sounds like it’s not just a case of closure, there have been ideas muted?

  31. Mel R — so this is the new localism they’ve been making speeches about.

    I suggest writing back to Southwark asking them to seriously reconsider their concepts of locality. Neither Peckham, Elephant nor Dulwich is local to Camberwell. And neither Elephant nor Oval is our local tube. Even Denmark Hill can’t be considered a local rail station for many Camberwellians.

    I’d rather go to the equally proximate local Queen Mother sports centre in Pimlico, where the Contemporary Butcher is just about my nearest local decent supplier of meat.

  32. Come on, Camberwell Baths is good for central Camberwell. It may not be a blue riband health club, but it’s handy for locals to walk to for yoga, swimming, small children’s play, all kinds of things. It is valuable way beyond what people quantify just for the moment.

    We don’t need any more pubs and restaurants, we need Camberwell Baths.

    Every house in Dulwich may soon have its own pool, true, and Camberwell Baths closed down. Only in this way can this nation be great again, it is argued by every bright spark on the way up.

    Soon the 99p shop can become a 49p shop, which means we can halve the minimum wage. We can bus in more keyworkers and then throw away the key.

    Let us peer through the mist of local nostalgia and sentiment about the value of the less well off. What do we see?

    The rich will get Dulricher and the poor less well, but awful berks and low pay make Jake a Dull boy.


    There is a rueful look these days amongst the “every man is an island” crew.

    The huge rainbow over Camberwell only this evening — where shall the children play, here underneath its arch, or in some idyllic place elsewhere in the UK, eh?

    We shall soon enough see what James Baldwin saw in the United States.

    “God gave Noah the rainbow sign — no more water, it’s the fire next time.”

  33. Good news vis-à-vis our naming conundrum. Upon returning home last night I was pleased to find some swanky lifestyle oriented literature from Foxtons and it seems they are ushing in a new era for Camberwell, including a thorough re-branding of our tired image and excessively long name with a house on Ivanhoe Rd (SE5)Camden for sale for £525,000. Surely a suitable premium for all of the benefits of urbane north London living supplanted south of the river?

  34. Dagmar — I should clarify that I meant “than to Dulwich Leisure Centre”.

    Of course the Baths are important. But their decline is a symptom of a diseased organism, and rather than polish a wart we need to change Camberwell’s diet — municipal pun intended.

    That means a media and lobbying campaign highlighting Southwark’s mistaken concepts of locality and deprivation, and TfL’s strategic designation of us as a pass-through, not destination.

    Anything that focuses solely on the Baths is doomed to fail, even in its sole task.

  35. You mean you fear you will catch athlete’s foot there?

    Talfourdite, “grammatical infractions”, wonderful. Who needs those dots and little tadpoles when you can come up with phrases like that.

    Mark Dodds, les Deesses are being polished as we blog. The 99p shop now has some Matchbox size white Ford Transit vans — last Transit model of the dynasty — also in red and yellow.

    These would be very good for Camberwell town planning models. Miniature Southwark councillors could canvas the views of the tiny white vans drivers.

    “It used to be nice round ‘ere, now the Duke of Marlboro is an African church.”

    “Camberwell Baths? We used to dive bomb each other in there. Now it’s a wine bar for the yuppies who live in the old Mary Datchelor school.”

    “I used to deliver to Save the Children there. Now I’m thinking of working for Ocado.”

    And so on — it would be good.

  36. This sounds good. We could have some matchstick police to chat about the weather to the white van drivers whilst they occupy the cycle-only patch at the lights, spilling into the yellow criss-cross area of junctions.

  37. Whenever people mention the baths or the leisure centre I am unsure as to which they really mean. Do they both need saving?

    I never use either so I’ll stay ot of it.
    Peckham Pulse has an excellent pool so we go there.

    I saw that Talfourdite — I also saw a 2 bed flat on Talfourd Road for £250k in the same literature. What do you think? Good investment opportunity? What’s it like down there?

  38. Alan,

    Not really that sure as to whether it is good value for money or a decent flat, but I love the road / area, it’s very quiet, a friendly street and pretty nr Bellenden Rd etc. I would say that those flats do seem to have a very high turnover rate judging from the constant ‘for sale’ signs outside. You should be aware that that side of the road is in Peckham though!

    I haven’t ventured to the Pulse yet, is it actually half decent?

  39. Mark — Southwark has cleaner, greener safer money that anyone can bid for. The little row of shops at the top of Herne Hill are getting the front of the shops access sorted out free as part of this programme. As long as you meet the criteria The SE5 forum can put in a bid if they want. Camberwell has under bid so far with Dulwich Village doing very well in the past. So maybe our own inaction is the fault.

  40. Gnomee — first we need basic planning enforcement in Camberwell first, and close cooperation between police, traffic wardens, and local business, to ensure freedom of access for visitors, and full sovereignty of access and window display rights for local shops, including veto control over new street furniture. That’s the cake.

    You can’t ice a sh@t.

    Dulwich, with its amalgam of Executive councillors Lib and Con, doesn’t have these basic problems, and is engaged in the kind of refinement exercises to which the cleaner greener money is suited.

    Ironically, the basic services were taken away from Camberwell in order to provide the bells and whistles for Peckham and Dulwich which were the pledges of those regeneration programmes, whose budgets have now run out.

    I agree on the inaction part, although ask not what the Forum can do for you.

  41. I like Peckham.

    The Pulse is great. There is a very warm baby pool that my daughter loves.

    And there are changing rooms big enough to accommodate the buggy so it makes for an easy change.

    There are also inflatables and the like at the ‘Rafts and Rasclaats’ session.

    I haven’t been in the adult pool but it looks good.

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