The Good Life

Let me begin with an apology; on Saturday I went for my thrice-annual haircut at Cube and I saw someone who I’ve met at one of the few meet-ups we’ve had, but whose name escapes me. I was embarrassed by my poor memory and on the brink of having my hair washed by a sullen teenager, so I apologise for not saying hello to you.

I received an email from Katharine Pitt at Southwark Council today, letting me know that she’s updated the Camberwell pages on the Southwark website (the whole website needs updating, IMHO). This blog gets a mention as a place where ‘local residents exchange views’, which I suppose is a very nice way of putting it. In a blow to the very souls of all who live here, Butterfly Walk is listed as a key feature. Ouch.

This story in the Telegraph tells of a local couple who came to the astonishing conclusion that life in a small market town in Oxfordshire is more peaceful than life on the Walworth Road. In other news, cotton is softer than granite. Ooh! Get her!

Finally, just because I think it’s great, here’s a plug for the Peckham Farmers’ Market.

Author: Peter

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

56 thoughts on “The Good Life”

  1. I love that article in the Telegraph. It feels like it was ghostwritten, literally, by either Evelyn Waugh or P.G. Wodehouse. But at least they were being satirical.

    I also love the cleverly-coded racism. I’ve been wondering lately, why can’t the middle classes of England just come out and say it. Just say it. Just say, “I hate black people.” I’m sure it would make them all feel so much better.

    This is my favourite line –

    “The rent from Camberwell just about covers the cost of their new home.”

    Oh, isn’t that soooo sweeeet!

  2. The urban people are great. I want to sink my teeth into their necks and thighs. And that’s me a middle-aged Danish woman.

  3. I think it’s a good idea.

    Camberwell is clearly not great for teenage boys but they have kept their house on so they can come back to their luvvie mates once the lads are in sixth form.

    Not sure about the cleverly coded racism. Just because you don’t want your son to act like he’s a G doesn’t mean you’re racist. Stopping the hip hop inspired gibberish and the pimp roll is also something black parents try to do.

    It’s just a shame that we can’t all rent out our Urban palaces in order to cover the rent of country cottages for out children’s teenage years.

    They did lose my sympathy with the cats and dogs though.. And they’re clearly so loaded that their problems are completely insignificant.

    Overall I think it was quite positive about Camberwell. Central location full of ‘interesting’ media types.

  4. @5 on the previous thread, LoveBorough Junction says “Might be useful if others contacted their representatives”.

    Lambeth Councillors and officers are notoriously difficult to get responses out of when if comes to areas of responsibility for parts of Camberwell and its borders. Val Shawross is remarkable in her attention to all areas of her remit as Lambeth and Southwark GLA representative: but Val, no matter how hard working and influential, is one person spread thin.

    A main reason behind setting up SE5 Forum was this vacuum all along the Lambeth Southwark border where Camberwell’s concerned. Val and people like her need a bigger coordinated voice from the community to help get change going in SE5.

    The SE5 Forum agm is coming up:,718.msg3486.html#msg3486

    Why not get on and make it happen?

  5. I can understand not wanting your children to become involved with gang culture, but what I found strange was them not letting their 10-year-old son out of the house because they didn’t want him to cross the road on his own.

    Also, the ‘kids around here kick puppies’ angle was a bit odd.

  6. “He started getting into rap music…”

    Dear God no!

    “…which is fine because Adam and I are into rap music”


    Myself and MsStandingby will be at the Forum meeting on the 23rd as we quite enjoyed ourselves at the last one.

    I’m hoping that Tadim will be providing some of the refreshments again and one of their snack boxes last time provided packed lunches for the rest of the week.

  7. I wouldn’t let my kids out unsupervised at ten but you’re right it’s got nothing to do with traffic.

    I’d love to kick the dog whose turd I stepped in this morning.

  8. Rap music is definitely a guilty pleasure.

    I’m not sure what to do about it when the kids are older.

    I think I’ll just let the little motherf*ckers listen to what they want. Didn’t do me any harm.

  9. Yeah, and I wish my biggest worry in life was what to do with my four-storey victorian pile [eighty foot garden too!] when i move out to the rural idyll.

    Come the Glorious Day, brother…

  10. My thoughts entirely — the struggle carries on.

    When their children reach 13/14+ they will begin to resent living in the middle of nowhere and the parents will begin to resent having to drive them everywhere due to the lack of public transport, still I suppose it will give the children the drive to leave home and move to London (even poor Billy who is not that academic)

  11. I absolutely love this story for its curious details.

    “Their house had been burgled twice, their Vauxhall Cavalier stolen four times, and its windows smashed seven times.”

    Maybe I’m sheltered — or just tempting fate — but hell, that’s a run of bad luck. Did they somehow piss off all their neighbours?

    And who nicks Cavaliers, let alone four times? Retro car thieves?


    “The daughter of a policeman, Kim grew up in rural Gloucestershire. ‘I’d knock on my friend’s door and we would go and sit in someone’s barn.’ ”

    Sit in someone’s barn? Sounds like fun. At this rate Billy and Louis will be missing the Walworth Rd puppy kickers in no time.

    And then:

    A few years ago, they had rented a weekend cottage in Somerset for six months. ‘We knew it was too far, but we wanted to see if we liked the country life,’ Kim says. The boys never wanted to go. ‘It was probably the four-and-a-half-hour car journey each way.”

    No shit, Kim. Nine hours of driving each weekend? Even a sales rep would baulk at that.

    “We’d get there and say, ‘Look, there’s a field, go and run.’ ”

    What?? I’m with Norman Maine — this is carefully crafted parody, surely.

  12. Walworth Road north is a rough place to cross the road, with some of the most aggressive driving in South London. The family’s exodus was entirely rational, as they had the choice.

    Road traffic accidents lose the economy £8 billion a year (I know, hardly Northern Rock), and as Mumu points out the threat of accidents motivates people to lead less efficient lives, heavily reliant on private transport in rural areas.

    As recognised by the WHO, road traffic injuries, overrepresented in inner cities, are the third most preventable sources of death in the world today:

    Let us hope that this message filters through to those in charge of London’s transport and we can see more 20mph zones on red routes and main bus routes, so less people choose to flee those areas and we have less divided, more diverse communities, with better quality of life.

    Join me in prayer (I’ve already tried lobbying).

  13. As I’ve mentioned before, if I’d managed to find a place which really was perfect, I’d keep my mouth shut about it; the more you talk it up, the more people try it, and the more crowded it gets. Soon, all the problems you’ve left behind arrive on your doorstep again.

    BTW, as someone who grew up in a small village in the countryside, I can attest that I found it stultifying boring and couldn’t wait to escape to the city. To Camberwell, in fact. Oh, and they do have drugs and violence and rap music in the country; and not just the kind that mum and dad like too.

  14. I also grew up in the country. I was not bored. I played a lot of football and shot things with my Black Widow catapult. I also used to carry a knife with my parents consent. I used it to cut up wood to make arrows and bivverwacks and the like.

    My parents did not approve when I listened to Body Count or watched Roy Chubby Brown videos at my mate’s house though.

    I now prefer Camberwell but my hobbies are much less diverse and my focus is now around providing for and entertaining my children and stealing a pint with the piano seller whenever possible.

    At some stage, I may find that life in SE5 is better for me than the kids and I might do the right thing.

    Rent a house for them in the country and only see them at weekends that is…

  15. I know what you mean — I grew up in a remote Wiltshire village which was idyllic but where there there was no transport and no shops and services so I was dependent on parents driving me around/ cycling which made going out/ doing anything that bit harder.

  16. I’ve also found London, Camberwell included, a far less violent place than the various small towns I grew up in.

    As a teenager in leafy, suburban Cheshire I was regularly threatened/menaced by small town apes at pub chucking out time, the usual, ‘Did you look at my pint?’ random nonsense. Soon as I moved to London this stopped.

    Christ, I’ve really tempted fate now. Cue inevitable spate of muggings and pub attacks.

  17. O B the Telegraph article.

    I’ve been reading this with interest and it just dawned on me. I know these people. Slightly freaky that.

    I come from Newcastle Upon Tyne first and rural Northumberland second. Frequent terrorisation and senseless unprovoked beatings by muppet thugs was routine throughout my childhood and teens (it started with Teddy Boys. Believe it or not one or two local T.B’s in their late teens seemed to enjoy threatening eight year olds. Boredom out of the home was not an option in Newcastle because staying clear of the violent mad boys was a full time distraction. Northumberland was gentler and forced long cycling and walking expeditions which probably helped get me into physical shape and relatively fit even until now but random violence was horribly common particularly at night in villages across mid county. Lots of farm and estate boy testosterone around with nothing for them to do. My home town had three large mental health institutions on its outskirts and outpatients eccentric behaviour was much in evidence at the local bus station. The village pubs always had a lot of cheery alcoholics hanging around after hours.

    That’s why Camberwell’s always felt like home to me.

  18. lots of good points about the relative safety of inner city Camberwell compared to violent provincial towns.

    I defintitely feel safer in the Silver Buckle than in the Pier, Cleethorpes.

  19. inner citySoGreen Camberwell may be a cushioned existence for many compared to Wimpey/Barratt towns built in the ’70s and ’80s with no amenities, often causing anarchy in the frustrated citizenry.

    But not NEW Camberwell, as those who live, work and trade can attest.

    Interesting to see everyone dwelling on the gangsta-chic biped on biped violence, which forms a tiny fraction of the deaths and serious injuries caused by aggressive, not careless, driving, in the inner city. Cha indeed.

    “There is no elephant in this room” (Repeat multiple times to convince self).

  20. I’m with regeneguru… traffic is the biggest worry for kids (well, their parents) in this part of town. I’d make it a 20 zone between 7:00 am and 8:00 pm.

    I also grew up mostly in the country and loved it… I always thought we’d move out when we had kids, so they could enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.

    In a weird parallel, 30 years ago my parents moved us out of a tower block in John Ruskin street ‘cos of all the grime.

    But, now we have kids I’m seeing they have a great time right here. My partner grew up in Peckham and is attached to the area.

    Taking a selfish angle, the big thing for me in a few years will be the secondary schools… I can relate to the people that article.

  21. Up yours Reg. Don’t tell me I don’t live in the Inner City.

    I live in Camberwell. Not soft Camberwell. My daily walk to work takesd me right across Camberwell and right through the estates of Walworth. I drink in the Buckle and the Hermit’s Cave not on Lordship Lane. Just ’cause my house is the right side of 8 Mile Road doesn’t mean I live in a safe rural idyll.

    And until you’ve been out in Grimsby Town Centre on a Saturday night then you haven’t lived the sort of low level violence and constant threat that I grew up thinking was normal.

    So there’s a bit of pavement parking. Ever been hit round the head with a snooker queue?

    SoGreen my cock.

  22. Unless you’re religious, or can afford or have the inclination to go private, the performance of Southwark’s secondaries announced today suggests you’re right to be concerned. The Telegraph article implies “Billy” would need to be academic to get into the good state secondaries around here. How so? As I understand it, even the best local(ish) secondary (Aske’s) doesn’t select academically, other than to ensure its intake is across the academic spectrum. Charter neither — although its results look pretty mediocre.

  23. Alan — well, pool balls in a sock, maybe. Perhaps it explains the occasional dizzy spell. I’ll concede that was in Reading, although I’ve had my share of physical encounters in NEW Camberwell. I don’t want to get into a dick waving contest, however.

    Friends used to compare childhoods to see who went to the worst school, the roughest area — but this should always be done good-naturedly.

    There’s more than one Camberwell — you recognised that yourself, even if the exact boundaries of the division are subjective. One Camberwell is cushier than the other, and I’m not in it. I don’t say who is in it, though. That will be revealed in their own posts.

    My main point was the hypocrisy of the majority of posters in pontificating about gansta violence as if far more were not killed or maimed in preventable motor vehicle accidents locally.

    But that’s less cinema. By all means glory in the gangsta sh1t yall, but don’t dress it up as humane concern for your fellow man.

    The End (hopefully).

  24. If you don’t want a waving contest then don’t get your dick out.

    There is more than one Camberwell but there aren’t just two and poncy shops on Camberwell New Road are at the softer end of the spectrum.

    But that’s just where you sleep. I live all over Camberwell and I refuse to accept any no go areas. The idea that I seek shelter in Selborne Village is offensive.

    Similarly trying to wrap Oval up with the North Peckham estate is nonsense.

    I never realised before that your SoGreen vs NEW distinction was just so you could make out you’re a hard case. Very disappointing.

  25. Hi Florian: secondary schools are a tough one. There doesn’t seem to be an easy answer.

    It’s shame because such low expectation levels perhaps account for how (relatively) poor lots of people are around here, when they live only 2–3 mile from the world’s largest financial center. I find that an incredible missed opportunity.

    Err… obviously there are some middle class types around as well, but you get my point.

  26. Hi — I am off to see local Councillor Jim Dickson tomorrow. I have lived in and around Loughborough Junction for 10 years now and have finally had enough. It’s a total mess and needs help. When I first moved in to the area all the shops were occupied and it was a fairly vibrant (if a bit criminal)area. Any thoughts? I’ll gladly add them to my list of grievances tomorrow.

    Love this site.


  27. To Norman Maine.

    Blaming a race of people for all the ills is as bad as excusing a group of people for anything they do because they belong to said race.

    My family hasn’t been shot or mamed in the streets but we suffer the fear and intimidation of gangsta culture and sheer direspect — mainly by the African/Carribean community (only because of the demos on income levels here). I should be able to speak out against it without being labelled a racist.

  28. Hear! hear! They’re monkeys, those racists, in fact they’re chimps.

    I thought your point, D‑MAN, that we’re 2–3 miles from the world’s biggest financial centre was beautifully clear, almost William Blake clear.

    There is a lot of distance most plainly between the fund managers in the City & Docklands and the bendy-bussed, minimum-waged workers who prop up the whole bleedin’ economy by wiping their arses, so to speak, but yes, they are very close.

    The gangsta thing — this is to do with marketing. Gangsta are nasty and hurtful but they are also slaves to style, they have to do the robot thing, robot = robotnik, slave (Czech word).

    On the other hand, urban is ultra-modernism, the culture of people with no boring roots in fox huntin’ and lager drinkin’. I wrote this all down in me pub PhD, in biro, on the back of a bus ticket, then lost it after closing time, in about February 1987.


  29. @30 Gemma please tell Jim that it would be marvellous if the councillors in Lambeth whose patch includes Camberwell could get more involved with SE5 issues — and help bridge the border gap Loughborough’s problems are a microcosm of Camberwell’s. The owners of Butterfly Walk said less than a year ago that Shoe Fayre were excited with the success of their shop. It’s closing down now.

    It would be good if he could come to the Forum agm on 23 January.

    Dagmar — are you a creative writer professionally by any chance?

  30. How does one get to engage in this free and spirited exchange etc? I can see a ‘login’, but nothing like a ‘register’. Is this a PC/Mac issue?

  31. @30 Gemma. Well done on getting an audience with Cllr JD. He never responds to any of my correspondence! I think it’s important to focus on things that Lambeth Council has power over (in partnership with Southwark if necessary). Here’s my of-the-top-of-my-head list: campaign to have a LJ stop on the ELL extension, invest in the public realm removing all out of date and malfunctioning street furniture and replacing and repairing all surfaces, if council is freeholder of shops, let them out to new small businesses. Let us know how you get on.

  32. @30 Gemma.
    Excellent news!
    Can you ask the counciller if they can sort out the pavements around the station, if I were unsteady on my feet or in a wheelchair the shabby state of the pavements would amost prevent me from getting around. And could you ask what’s going on with the redeveloped pubs and the bricked up one on the corner of Cambria Road (I think).

  33. Gemma -

    Corncerning Loughborough Junction, it would be great if you could ask Jim Dickson

    1) Is there any chance of offering incentives to businesses that are not Off Licenses?

    2) There used to be 5 pubs in Loughborough Junction, now there is only one (The Cambria on Cambria Road) Is there any chance of a bar/cafe/restaurant renting out the old Green Man,Warrior or Mucky Duck premises?

    3) Is there any chance of the East London Line extension opening a station at Loughborough Junction? — It would be inexpensive and may involve building a small section of viaduct — The industrial estate would have to relocate, but there is plenty of brownfield sites in surrounding areas. This is the key to regenerating the Junction and would help solve points 1 & 2 — even if this also means building some apartments on a couple of sites directly adjacent to the station…

  34. @34 — Robert, this is it. I make the occasional update about things I read in the newspaper, or apologies for not writing more frequently, or eating a pie at the George Canning, then everyone in the comments either a) tells me I’m an ignorant yuppie/commie/honky or b) ignores me completely and creates their own conversations (house prices, restaurants, traffic).

    Welcome! Come on in!

    BTW, I’m always open to the idea of allowing other people to make blog posts here — just let me know. But if you want more control over the type of debate that’s raised, you probably want to try the forums on

  35. Gemma and Love-borough Junction, you have the right ideas. Well done for actually doing something, rather than just carping from the sidelines, like some.

    Vibrant local shopping communities do indeed define satellite areas such as LBJ, which are not officially recognised by councils as shopping areas and so strategically not planned for.

    Councils should not allow landlords to ascribe a residential value to a commercial property in a deprived area as this will price out entrepreneurs. Commercial prices can be higher, or lower, but are rarely the same as neighbouring housing; they occupy a different market, as the estate agents who post here occasionally will know.

    I would add that the London Plan needs to prescribe that every shop in London should have its own free short stay parking space within 60 metres of it, and to force local authorities to consult within line of sight before installing additional street furniture. Each successive “clean-up” is made irrelevant as the forest of street furniture periodically regrows. Then get it cleared.

  36. @38 Peter — I mentioned the possibility orf building a station on the viaduct in a previous post.

    The arguments against a station on the high level north/south lines are;
    1. Expensive to build a station,
    2. Difficult to access a station through industrial estate.

    I countered these arguments in a letter to Lambeth (including my ward Councillor, Jim Dickinson) with the inexpensive station structure designed for Deptford and that fact that the section of the industrial estate that would be lost contains churches rather than businesses providing jobs.

    What can the Council actually do?
    1. Lobby the Mayor for a stop in LJ (as they already are in Brixton)
    2. Revisit the planning policies in the Lambeth UDP specifically to address the regeneration of LJ — including allowing residential or live/work developments in the current industrial estate.

    Re; the paving. TfL is responsible only for the first two meters away from one of their routes (which Coldharbour Lanie is)then it becomes council responsibility — hence the mess around the station of different and unmaintained paving, useless advertising hoardings that obstruct the pavement and old signposts, lighting stands, etc.

    My longest post evah! Sorry to rant but it’s a subject close to my heart.…

  37. Eh, where are we? Up the junction. Camelford railway station in north Cornwall is now a bicycle museum which I urge all bloggers to visit hotfoot-carbon-footprint style. Housing a magnificent collection — an 18th Century hobby horse, a late 19th-century shaft-driven Parisian bike, a 1940s elliptical-frame folding bike as used by the paras to defeat the racist bonkers Nazis- all manner of bikes — it is a private museum with a surreal Duchamp bent to it. £3 gains entrance and you can buy some of the exhibits e.g. 1980s Raleigh decal stickers. The museum stays open just, the entrance moneys just covers their costs. It is run by a great couple from Lincoln. I cannot recommend this museum enough.

  38. What’s happening in Camberwell tonight? Camberwell New Rd. sealed off by Plod near The Bear at about 22:00 Rumours of an ‘armed response’…

  39. Merrick no idea but I saw four youths (at least one a girl) being apprehended by the rozzers — van in waiting — at about 7.10pm on Denmark Road tonight. Unconnected I should think. I hope Olly and co at The Bear didn’t have business interruptus. S&D has been cordoned off twice in my tenure because of incidents on Coldharbour Lane that had nothing to do with the pub — two days’ trade lost. Insurance for loss of trade only cuts in after 8 hours’ disruption. Funny ha ha.

    The last time I bumped into Jim Dickson on the street was years ago. He was campaign leafleting on Denmark Road — stuffing envelopes through letterboxes — in Southwark I seem to recall — and looking really nervous. Know your patch and get the vote.

  40. “A healthy social life is found only, when in the mirror of each soul the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community the virtue of each one is living”

    - Rudolf Steiner

  41. People believe in hedgehogs or hedge funds.

    How about this at the Horniman aquarium:

    “The moon jellyfish stings are mild. As it drifts along, it traps tiny animals to eat in the slime coating its bell-shaped body.”

    Much food for thought, here.

  42. I’m worried about those jellyfish! Last summer the tank was full, maybe 100 or more of ’em. Last week, no more than 15. Never seen jelly fish in any other aquarium and I suspect they are not easy to keep in ‘captivity’. Any marine biologists out there?

  43. Merrick, I’m more puzzled by the Seahorses in there and their unstoppable growth. I’ve heard that unless predated, they just keep on getting bigger, is this true? I’ve heard the same about well-fed spiders too.

  44. Of water creatures that just grow and grow…

    When I was a kid, I must have been about thirteen, I had a black catfish which was kept in a tank, that had a flat plastic lid on it, with a few goldfish. A bottom feeder, I think, it was to help keep algal growth in check. In time, all the goldfish died and I was left with this catfish. From two inches or so long when I got it, it about doubled in size and seemed to stay at that until after the goldfish died and it began to grow again. I put this down to it having more living space and no competition for food until one morning it wasn’t there…

    It literally had vanished from the tank. Lid still in place, no catfish — and the house cat nowhere near and not looking guilty when I accused it of mischief. No visible means of escape and I looked all round the upstairs of the house (it was kept on the landing) in a daze thinking why am I looking for a fish in a house, because it seemed so surreal. Had to accept that it had gone and eventually forgot about it.

    A couple of months later, my dad and I moved a huge chest of drawers — one of those that’s kept full of spare bedding and eiderdowns (remember them?), weighs a ton and is never moved except on special occasions — from the landing into a guest bedroom.

    Underneath it, tucked into the corner of the skirting board along with dust and hair and fluff and stuff was a dark grey cone shaped matted, felted, um, it looked like a long hair ball a cat had coughed up, fairly disgusting thing. I couldn’t figure out what it was, picked it up and took a close look and a sniff, thinking it might be a cat turd. It was the catfish, covered in hair and dust and dried out. Amazed that it had turned up finally and, in a sense, reduced the mystery of its vanishing to ‘how on earth did it get out of the tank?’ I put it in the bathroom sink with the idea of cleaning it and giving it a decent burial.

    Within a few moments of water touching it, it moved. This freaked me out of course so I filled the sink and after some time, it began to show signs of proper life. Like it began to move around, sluggishly, but wriggling like a fish in water.

    The fish tank was long gone by then so I put it in our garden pond and watched it swim off quite happily. With a sense of disbelief I kept going back to it day after day to check out this miracle of survival in our back garden. It just kept getting bigger and bigger till it seemed like one of those catfish you see being hunted by brown bears in documentaries about the Canadian Rockies. It survived two winters being frozen under ice and finally vanished for good late one spring when it was about eighteen inches long.

    Drew, I hope this helps though I have no any experience of seahorses.

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