Saturday Night

Two more friends came over to see the flat (one of them making a return journey — only the second of our friends to do so, making us think that perhaps they don’t like it), so after a quick chicken pie (fast becoming my speciality) we went out for a few drinks in some of Camberwell’s hotspots.

First was a return to The Sun And Doves to enjoy the last few minutes of sunshine. I was a little worried that if we left it too late we wouldn’t find a table, as it always used to get packed on a Saturday night and as it has a great beer garden I thought everyone would be there. I needn’t have bothered, as the garden had a few people in it but was by no means full. We had a couple of beers there (including a wheat beer called Brug’s, which I advise you give a miss) then walked over to the Funky Munky.

After The Sun And Doves, Funky Munky was Camberwell’s second decent pub to open, sometime around 1998, I think. It has the bare wooden floor and tables which are de rigeur for any self-respecting bar nowadays, and a decent selection of beers. The bar used to run along the long east wall, but at some point in the last few years been moved to the north. There is a second bar upstairs which also has space to dance, but was closed when we were there (at about 10.30pm).

Again we easily found a table. The music was turned up and the lights down low, but there was still a lack of animation in the place. The wife and I went there a few times when we were in the area looking for a flat, and it seems to be pretty calm and comfortable. Still, we were looking for a little more life and so moved on.

I figured the BRB would be more lively as they have a DJ there on weekends. I was wrong. As we walked in there were about ten people there, excluding staff. We tried to play a game of table football (too dark, couldn’t see the ball — that’s why I lost) then tried to have a conversation, but despite the bar being 80% empty the music was up to 180% volume. It was absurdly noisy.

We could have tried Cube or Red Star, but instead went home. Saturday night was cancelled due to lack of interest.

Saturday Afternoon

The first really decent sunny day for months, so I persuaded the wife we should get out and explore Camberwell.

First we took a walk down to Burgess Park, with a quick detour to point out my very first home in London and the shop that used to sell marijuana.

Burgess Park is mostly a flat, featureless expanse of grass. It used to be wharves, factories and a canal, and some of those features are still perceptible: the long, straight path where the canal used to be, and the now-pointless bridge over it. There was also a burned-out car which had been smashed into a wall, a feature which is probably not original but excited the wife more than the old lime kiln.

At the end of the park nearest the Walworth Road are some new tennis courts, just opened with Sports Council money. Camberwell doesn’t do badly for tennis courts; there are these, the Butterfly courts on Grove Lane and also in Myatt’s Fields. Strange how it hasn’t produced a champion by now.

Anyway, back to Burgess Park. It’s two best features are surely it’s pond — if you like fishing, which an astonishing number of people seem to — and Chumleigh Gardens. Former almshouses, they’ve been converted into a kind of tropical garden in the heart of the park. It’s quite disconcerting; you step out of a plain of brown grass into a neatly-kept lawn, then turn into a still, balmy paradise with butterflies and flitting over swaying palm fronds. I found these pictures on OnionBagBlog. We sat for a few minutes there in the mid-day sun. It was very, very calming, and the cafe gave us the idea to go out for breakfast there one sunny morning.

After leaving Burgess Park we headed up the Walworth Road and on to the previously-mentioned Myatt’s Fields. Beautifully tended and furiously middle class (there was an impressively healthy-looking family eating the most perfect picnic ever), it’s not a big park but it’s pretty impressive. Lots of flowers, large childrens play area, the seemingly obligatory tennis courts, and right in the heart of Camberwell’s most affluent streets. In fact, I think the residents say they live in Myatt’s Fields, rather than Camberwell.

We took a walk back via Coldharbour Lane and stopped for a drink in the beautiful beer garden of The Sun And Doves. The S&D opened in 1995, shortly after I moved to London; it was by far the best pub in Camberwell at the time, and nine years down the line it still is. It’s also probably the most spacious, with a forecourt, wide bar area and lovely back garden.

There’s lots of art on show and it seems they have regular exhibitions and events there, but as I’m an utter philistine I’m more interested in the service and quality. Both were fine. We didn’t eat there, but we did have a pint and soaked up some more of the fantastic London sun before making a move towards home.

Friday Night

I finally managed to get out and see a little more of the area this weekend — starting with the Cadeleigh Arms which is, geographically, my local — owing to it’s location on the corner of my street.

From outside it looks quite pleasant; fresh green and white paint job, blinds on the windows. Inside it’s a little different. It’s… strange. Not bad, just obviously a pub with a very habitual clientele. There’s a pool table in the small front bar and a large-screen TV and dartboard in the back room. The landlady, whose name I heard was Mary, was kind enough to switch on the big TV even though I was the only one who wanted to watch the Arsenal match.

I had a couple of pints of Guiness there — it was nicely poured and well chilled. Mary was very kind and even, when I went back there on Sunday night to watch the other Arsenal match, remembered what I was drinking.

This isn’t the type of pub I’d take my mates out to, but it’s likely to be my base for watching football next season. It’s pretty cheap, unthreatening, and ridiculously close to my home.

The wife came in to meet me for the second half and after the game we walked across the street to our flat and got changed to go out and celebrate our first six months of marriage. We got a little sidetracked and left slightly later than we wanted, so ended up going back to Blake House.

The upstairs restaurant was closed so we ate downstairs. The pub seemed a lot busier than the previous times we’d been there, but it still seems like it could be in financial trouble as the portions we were served were disappointingly small. Even with the complimentary bread and a dessert I was far from full. It was nice food, but not value for money. Walking past the next night, the restaurant was closed again. They’re stuck in a Catch 22; they don’t want to serve big portions so they can keep their costs down, but people won’t go there if they don’t start giving more value.

Coming like a ghost town?

Is Sunday in Camberwell always so quiet? Having shaken off the last vestiges of my cold, the wife and I received more visitors (I make it 10 in the six weeks that we’ve been moved in) — two on Saturday night, two on Sunday. As Sunday was sunny, we went out for pints.

First of all, to the Grove/BRB — almost empty. Even the tables outside in the sun were deserted. When me, the wife and Tom walked in, we doubled the clientele. We were outnumbered by the staff. I think you get the point.

One pint later, off we went to Blake House. Again, empty. Maybe three other people in there when we arrived, and soon they left us to it. Mind you, that could have been because of the lack of beer; only one lager on tap, only two brands in the fridge. Sold out of Stella — not bothered, because I don’t drink it, but having the top-selling lager off is a bit of a slip-up.

I have a feeling that Blake House is going through lean times; first there’s the lack of beer, second the lack of customers. I think it’s really nice, but opinions vary. It would be a shame if it were to go under.

But back to my point; two pubs, one sunny afternoon, no customers. Did everyone go to the park for the day? Was there a big party that no-one invited me to? Does no-one drink on Sundays? Did I just choose the wrong places?

Back in Queen’s Park the local pub, The Salusbusy, was constantly busy. Was this Sunday just a one-off, or is Camberwell teetotal?

All quiet in my part of SE5

I would have more to report about Camberwell were it not for the fact that I’ve been ill for a couple of days and have barely left the house. Still, at least it seems that nobody’s been murdered.

Update: I’ve skinned the blog with a design from AlexKing.org. Looks much better now. More changes coming.