North is pretty, Green is vile

I’ve changed my route to work in the morning, now cutting across Burgess Park and down Portland Street. I’d never realised how nice it is down there; behind the Aylesbury Estate there is a mass of social housing built, if I’m not mistaken, at the beginning of last century, and all beautifully cared for. Also lots of little parks and gardens. It’s a really pleasant street to cycle down, much better than the Walworth Road route I’m used to.

In stark contrast, however, is the bottom of Denmark Hill and around the Green. On the bus back from Brixton last weekend* I noticed that the whole area’s getting scruffier; a few more of those open-fronted yam shops and a few more stalls selling cheap tat starting to spring up, plus the ugly metal grill on the front of the former Kennedy’s and the empty units scattered about. Really, it’s dying on its arse. It’s quite sad to see. Every month sees a decline in variety and (perhaps) quality; anyone who thinks high street chains are going to open here is likely to be disappointed. It’s becoming fragmented. I’m sure this is a subject that deserves more analysis, so please feel free.

But all is not lost! Away from the centre we still have lots of social diversity, and pretty soon we have Camberwell Arts Festival 2008. You should have received some lovely leaflets and guides through your door recently which explain all the events, but if not you can visit the Camberwell Arts website and decide for yourself what you’d like to attend. It all kicks off on the 14th June, which is next Saturday, and goes on until the following Sunday. I will most likely not be attending anything which could loosely be described as performance art, as it makes me grind my teeth.

On an admin note: first, I’ve just updated the software that powers the site, so if anything behaves weirdly please let me know. Second, I haven’t had the time to keep the site updated as frequently as I’d like, owing to work and some potentially interesting developments therein. If anyone would like to help me out for a little while (or even permanently) by writing here, you’d be very welcome. No salary is involved, but you will have the opportunity to take a load of personal abuse from tossers who think they know all about you, despite having never met you. Sound attractive?

* I went to the Ritzy to watch Indiana Jones; it was… um…

Author: Peter

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

273 thoughts on “North is pretty, Green is vile”

  1. Dulwich Ukulele Club were great last night at the Castle. They are a sort of miniature Alabama 3. They are incredibly well drilled, very tight and together for an 11-piece. They ought to include some more mellow numbers — it’s not all about thrash and anger, especially if you are (well) over the age of 30 and imbued with East Dulwich well meaning. Perhaps they should do some Beach Boys numbers, for instance. They’d have the audience at their feet for Kokomo. The trains to Newquay will soon be packed with ukulele surf types, so this would be a very current tack to take. They finished on “Can’t Go Back to Camberwell”. We ought to have our version of their band.

  2. On Indiana Jones. The bit at the end is a little pedestrian isn’t it? Couldn’t George Lucas have come up with something less, err, believable? Played out by a Ukulele band maybe.

    Camberwell College Breakfast this morning.

  3. Fell asleep watching the Maggie thing on Saturday. Seemed like just another excuse for the miners strike and the tank footage.

    She definitely did turn the country around and we are now in a stronger econonmic position as a result. The question is whether it needed to be quite so painful and with such drastic social implications.

    Read Rumours of a Hurricane by Tim Lott. It won’t change your mind but might give you an insight into the lives some of Thatcher’s victims.

    Where’s the tolerance gone Mark? JohnnyM makes some interesting points from his ‘vile’ Camberwell debt trap. He’s going to need his £8.5k per month to buy his way out of this one. Have a heart.

    On the yam front I have to confess that I’ve only had it from 4T4 Lip Smacking African Cuisine and never prepared it myself..

  4. Dagmar — I went to “It’s your Round” the art show upstairs at the Bear, where I laughed more than I have in a while, and then on to the second sitting of Yara El Sherbini’s hilarious orientalist pub quiz at the Sun and Doves, which over-ran a bit so by the time I got to the Castle, the Ukes were leaving. But I did see them last week at Brockwell House and jolly good they were too. Then on to Lottie Leedham’s installation at the Dark Horse, which despite being the Festivals Chair I wasn’t allowed in to see; but I am given to understand that secrecy and brotherhood was the whole point. I was too tired to make it to Duckie, but have to say the opening night of the festival was packed out, buzzy, and artistically innovative.

    Suits me, Sir!

  5. Good stuff Dagmar. Afraid I had to go for dinner to friends’ for various reasons and couldn’t make the first night of the festival.

    Alan. JohnnyM can squat in his virulent mind set forever. My tolerance is evaporating as I come out of the shell I was in as a result of over a decade of commercial abuse at the hands of a big company and the toll that took on me.

    I’m going to have a think about Maggie and report back rather than give a knee jerk reaction.

  6. Margaret Thatcher “There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families.”

    I watched the the programme on BBC4 last week it did try and show her as a driven woman who had some warmth. And oddly as feminist paving the way for other sisters

    Phooey me and my sisters have already planned to have a big party when that old witch finally dies.

  7. History my be kinder to Maggie but still have a hard time being equally kind. It was a difficult time to live through.

    Mark, I like the S&D’s. And we’ve all lived through your struggles and always wished you well. But I must admit you are very quick to judge (sometimes harshly) other similar business ventures in the area. Perhaps it’s competition and fair. Let’s give The Dispensery a chance before we write it off. I suspect they may struggle too, if I’m honest.

  8. Alan, art college nite is tonite. The girls look great, the youths look sylphy, there’s something there for everybody, artistically speaking. The Cave will be the place to be!

  9. Thanks Newroad. It must be my writing style that makes people think I’m quick to judge new competition but, actually, I want good stuff to happen in Camberwell. After my first visit to The Bear I recommended going there and said the food is easily the best in Camberwell. On Caravaggio I was disappointed because it promises so much more than it delivers, Amarylis, unfortunately, is disastrously weak, The New Dispensary I enjoyed and thought was pretty good — This is what I put on flickr next to the link (http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdodds/2576650090/) I used above:

    secretlondon123 Pro User says:

    “This is back as a pub again?

    Is it affordable this time?”

    a shadow of my future self (me) Pro User says:

    “Can’t remember how much it was. I didn’t pay for the drinks. Not remarkably expensive I think.

    I prefer it to the old Old Dispensary — the layout is much more comfortable and space is much better used. What they’ve done with the front door has greatly improved access, quite simple but clever really. It feels like a bar in Ireland. Problem is, it’s not in Ireland.”

    NOW THAT SEEMS PRETTY POSITIVE. I had a drink, I enjoyed it, I said so. I hope they do really well, I really do — it’s certainly one of the most competent openings in a long time locally and the people behind it clearly know what they’re doing. I just wonder seriously whether there is demand for this kind of bar here. If I had the opportunity of taking on this site (and I would be very reluctant to take it on because of where it is) I would have done it as a speakeasy and concentrated on spirits, cocktails and bottled beers. What the new owners have done is almost along those lines but with a reasonably authentic Irish slant which, because of O’Neill’s Filthy McNasty’s and the other chains has become way overplayed. Individuals do it better than chains but whos’ to know this when they walk into the Old Dispensary now?

    Camberwell needs a lot better at every level of catering. This would be good for my business. And I concede that S&D needs to be better too. Now that I have a certain amount of mental and literal freedom as a result of my Appeal Court win, I will be concentrating on helping improve standards all round.

  10. @ Comment 56 — Gnomee
    If I bring a coffin to dance on, can I come to your party too? Please?

  11. Gnomee thanks for being direct about your take on Thatcher. After thought, and reflection, I have nothing good to say about the woman or her legacy. Much needed to change in the UK but it didn’t have to change in the way this dogmatic tunnel visioned monetarist chose to do it. In my view EVERYTHING that is ailing in the uk bears the echoes of that time and the particular way in which she chose to dismantle a state. And just look at Regan’s and her legacy over Russia. They gloated over the fall of communism, stood back to watch the USSR’s death throes with glee. They should have got in quick and helped put a competent capitalist democracy in place.

    I’d pay for the Ukulele Band to play at the dance.

  12. Them Dulwich Ukulele Club were good. They remind me in many ways of the Balham Alligators, a superb Cajun band from Balham. Their singer was so swayed by the music he went a bit nutty. I was in Balham today, quite a pleasant place with a large Co-op funeral parlour that is open for business 24 hours a day — no hanging about. Hari Krishna have premises in Balham, too. There is also a Waitrose.

    Camberwell Arts Festival Week gathers pace. My own turn in the graveyard this afternoon singing “Jesus blood never failed me yet” on stilts went unnoticed except by some crows, magpies and pigeons peering up my frayed denim miniskirt.

  13. I lived in Balham when the main supermarket was called Presco. Then it became Kwiksave and then Safeway. Now the supermarket on the same site is Waitrose.

    Need more be said innit.

    Dagmar the birds really appreciate your denim.

    The Northerner.

  14. I have a balham
    alligators album somewhere and saw them a few times. one of the top uk cajun combos for sure. Are they still going? I think thatcher’s hair was impressive. Liberating the falklands too. She was grim for the north though. Less so for the south (big bang and all that)?

  15. Dag — when you sing Jesus Blood Never Failed Me Yet, do you follow the part written for Tom Waits, or the part Bryars recorded the tramp singing? It’s artifice vs authenticity time!

  16. Mushtimushta course you can come, hey there will be lots of us. Though if there are more than 4 does that constitute an illegal rave?
    I can forgive many people being misguided even Regenguru who automatically assumed that the car was at fault when Florian had an accident. As yet we do not know Florian did not say! Florian glad you are OK. Forgiveness could never go as far as Thatcher though!

    and I lurve Waitrose but could we ever possible have Somerfield become one? I would be skint as I always spend far too much in the one in Balham on the rare occasion that I go there, thank god it is too far away.

  17. I sing the Waits whilst me rear end plays the trombone. Art for art’s sake, I say. Last night the Hermits Cave was packed with talent and Grove Lane was blocked. Across the road I noticed that sign saying “Taste of London, Lesbian Cuisine”. There are paintings dotted everywhere round Camberwell — in the Hermits, some comedian has slashed the Phokela.

    Tony Blair looked and talked like the younger Margaret Thatcher. Both have their merits but war is always hell. The Falklands was a nightmare, any war is. They wouldn’t let the wheelchair men sit at the back of the Falklands Westminster victory service — gave the wrong impression.

  18. My generation grew up on Thatcher and can never support conservatives.

    The generation that’s just come up with Bliar at the controls can never support Labour.

    I’d guess it just goes around in circles like that.

  19. Fault is a social construct. But I was static at a junction and royally reared. So draw your own conclusions. Back on the road now. And did the Elephant this morning, with no flashbacks.

  20. I’m told that keen cyclist GW Bush always fits in a bike ride on every leg of foreign trips. I’d like to think that when he was in town this week he eschewed the delights of the grounds of Windsor Castle for a quick spin round the E&C roundabout and up the Walworth Road. Did anyone spot him?

  21. Funnily enough, I did watch W’s full press conferences here and in France and was somewhat impressed. Put aside his horrible delivery, I thought he held his own and actually made sense on some subjects. I was testing myself to see if I could take filters off and judge for myself. Odd.

  22. Miles End Road Pope. Labour could hardly have been called upon to deregulate unions and the post-war set-up. It is a real irony that the miners were doing such stupid un-needed work. Blokes died or were injured year after year in mines. It was a sort of chauvininism that kept it going. Aberfan, you name it, it were a bad do, coal.

    Men being men is a bad do. It is iron-lady-onic that it took a woman to dismantle the old daftness. It was incredibly ironic that (a) the Falklands War saved her popularity bacon and (b) brought down a literally fascist regime.

    However, Harold Wilson’s great achievement was to not to take Britain into Vietnam. Thatcher and Blair legitimised violence. War is just the pits.

    Still.

    Camberwell Arts Week brings its own anarchic psychic energy to our bosom.

  23. Interesting point Dagmar. Perhaps Maggie did what needed to be done, but surely there was a softer way. It would be fantastic if George Bush will be proven to have done the same: democracy breaks out all of the Middle East, etc. etc. But I won’t hold my breath. Afghansitan could use a boost, far too many deaths at present. God bless ’em.

  24. Three less mature trees on “Camberwell New Road.

    There aren’t enough lifetimes in the household concerned to recoup this assasination of carbon sequestration, even through the most austerely green asceticism and street level campaigning to save the planet. But with two motor vehicles to the bad already, it’s not a good start.

  25. I’m not a member so can’t reply on the se5 site. So car owners are now also tree killers? Terrorists?

    At least now you can argue to lock ’em all up for 42 days without too much effort.

  26. Isn’t Waitrose the very definition of a middle class area? There are *plenty* of people with money to spend around here, so maybe it’s not that far-fetched.

    Not sure I’d use it much myself… I try to avoid the big supermarket chains on principle. Apparently Waitrose isn’t so bad as Tesco on ethics, so that’d be good too.

  27. Terrorists, New Road? — I don’t have any information on that but I’d be interested to hear your sources, and how this relates to Camberwell, as the loss of mature trees clearly does. Clearly some of my posts are hyperbolic, but I do feel there is an overlap between the mentality shared between certain motorists — not all — and tree killers, in terms of obliviousness to the environment.

    Please join — it’s easy and takes less than a minute. You get the right to initiate threads, vote in polls and create polls to vote in. You just need an email address and a joke name, like you do here. Obviously, it doesn’t have to be the same name.

  28. I had to cut down a tree in my garden. My next door neighbour reported some kind of subsidence and her insurance company instructed neighbours on both sides to chop down a total of 6 trees. I tried to fight it, even paying for an independent tree surgeon to report (findings: zero chance that my tree was contributing to the neighbours subsidence) but to no avail.

    I think most tree chopping-downs are due to this kind of knee-jerk reaction to subsidence from insurance companies rather than clearence to make way for driveways. Could be wrong though: no data available on tree-deaths you see.

  29. Richard Reynolds’ new book “On Guerilla Gardening” is just great. The blog is brilliant: http://www.guerillagardening.org. What do you think, Reg? Is not not excellently executed — the concept, the book, the website, the photographs of beautiful plants burgeoning in the concrete desert of the Elephant, the whole thing?

  30. Waitrose ain’t gonna come to Camberwell. Dulwich, maybe. Waterloo/West E&C, maybe. Kennington, maybe. But not Camberwell.

  31. Dagmar, I like it — people who think about the quality of public space. Wyndham and Comber need their attention. Who is this ethereal Ajax that surlily refuses us amendments?

    More greenery on the flat rooves of garages is needed, and owners who have built without permission should be forced to coat their rootfops with soil half a foot deep, and maintain a wild garden there. Council tax concessions for all gardens are needed — people are paving over their collective garden hectares, as if they had no space inside for wellies.

    Come the flash floods they’ll be wringing their hands, and any absorbent household items.

  32. Oh, good, if you like it, Reg, then it must be relevant, intelligent and have some roots in reality. I thought well, it’s one of those kinda fluffy weird hug-me notions, but the book, the blog, the idea and the results are just stunning.

  33. Waitrose in Camberwell? Don’t be daft.
    Camberwell is going down, not up. It’s a Netto next for us.
    Have to say that generic yam shop is more useful than the sports shop was, though I mourned the latter’s disappearance.
    Let’s just hope that more yam shops don’t appear. Don’t want the place looking like Peckham.

  34. Thanks for the I Love Peckham link. May I just say that in the projects list the use of a toilet in relation to Peckham is particularly apt.

  35. peckham or cambwerwell, same thing really. brixton, new cross, kennington, walworth, nunhead… all the same vibe, right down to the yam shops and pound stores.

    I thought the toilet was quite funny. If you got to go…

    many times i’ve sat on that bench in warwick gardens though, so I can apopreciate that

  36. I’d add Lewisham but not Blackheath, and subtract Kennington, which is more like Blackheath, but definitely a swath of similarity. I like it personally.

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