Waiting, walking, looking

Had to go to see the doctor this morning, at St Giles Surgery. It’s two practices in one building, so you have to make sure you go to the right window in order to be seen. The same receptionists work for both practices, so one of them will tell you to go to the other window, then come over and serve you there; a staple of many comedy sketches about bureaucracy.

However, after seeing me, they forgot me. I was sat there like a lemon for two hours, before I went up and asked if I was still being seen. I should have seen the nurse first; they forgot. Still, I saw the doctor two and a half hours after getting there. Patients must have patience.

After I left I dropped in at Tadim to have one of their ‘Turkish pizzas’; every time I go there, I ask what is the correct name, and every time, they tell me. And every time, I forget.

Tadim’s motto is “love all and serve all”. We should extend that to the whole of Camberwell, but I get the feeling we would have to add a number of exceptions and clarifications to it to please everyone.

I walked past the Church Street Hotel, struggling to emerge from its chrysalis. The big Marbella sign is gone. I’m curious to see what the tapas restaurant will look like; in its former incarnation too many tables were hidden from view, so even when half-full it could seem empty. I hope they will rectify this.

I bought a copy of the Camberwell Quarterly (which I will pick apart shortly) and walked up to Denmark Hill station. The Dark Horse was empty, but it was only mid-day so I wouldn’t expect it to be otherwise.

I felt quite positive.

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”.

Mmmm… chorizo…

A news flash from the comments: the Marbella Hotel is to be refurbished and opened as the The Church St Hotel, with Viva Espana to reopen as ‘Angels and Gypsies’, serving “the best tapas in London and a deli thats serves Breakfast and Lunch. All the food being sourced from the best places and organic.”

Read the comment from one of the owners. Sounds like it could be great!

How do we want Camberwell to develop?

This post is to address some issues raised in the comments of the last one, and to raise a few new ones, hopefully.

There’s an attachment to this area that I haven’t seen in a lot of other London areas; the mix of different cultures that gives it an edge, the large numbers of students that keep it lively, the small independent shops that make you feel like it has a personality, the variety of bars that mean there’s always one to suit your mood.

But yes, it needs investment. The communal areas are poor, for the most part; the leisure centre is in pieces, the Green is unkempt and attracts drinkers, the range of shopping is poor, there is no cinema, arts centre or equivalent social space.

But how do we want it to develop? Do we want it to become the archetypal modern high street, indistinguishable from its neighbour? Or do we want it to keep the character that keeps us all talking on here?

OK, I framed that question negatively, so I’m sure you can see which side I fall on. But I don’t want to have the choice between Subway or Benjy’s when I want a sandwich; I want the choice between Seymour Bros. and Tadim. When I go to a bar, I don’t want to go to All Bar One or a Wetherspoons; I want to go to the Sun & Doves or the Castle. I want to have an area where I can go out for a meal at night; an area where my range of choice doesn’t come down to a pub or an Indian.

I’m not an idealist; I want to see the Mary Datchelor school site redeveloped — I just don’t want to see it redeveloped by someone who tries to cram in as many flats as possible and bugger the consequences. I know that fast food joints are popular — but if that’s all we have, no-one will ever want to try opening a deli because they won’t be able to compete on price. And I like the Phoenix and looking forward to the food at the Dark Horse, even though they’re chain-owned.

Camberwell will never be like East Dulwich (thank god, some might say), but there’s also no reason it has to become like Kilburn (if you don’t know it, you don’t know how lucky you are). We can have development without dropping our trousers and bending over for whoever offers us the cash.

What it comes down to in the end, though, is us. If we have a Tapas bar that serves healthy food at decent prices, we have to eat there; if we have a bookstore that doesn’t just sell to the community but also encourages the community to read, we have to buy our books there even though Amazon can sell them for a few quid cheaper; and if we don’t want to see the main street become a bazaar of fried food shops (with the attendant litter they bring), we have to start getting involved in providing an alternative.

OK, comments are open; do your worst.