Category Archives: Muswell Hill

Friday, 8th September, 2017

Business of the day:

From Crouch End to Greenwich.

Stage 1: to Muswell Hill on W7, to find the Muswell Hill roundabout is now a major excavation.

Stage 2: from Muswell Hill to Bank on a 43 bus, to discover that whole stretch through Islington is now re-routed via Caledonian Road. Even more major excavations. Retreat into the Phoenix, Throgmorton Street, where I was joined first by Pert Young Piece, then by the Lady in my Life.

Stage 3: DLR from Bank to Greenwich, Cutty Sark. I used to be supercilious about the DLR, but it is truly a marvellous piece of kit, somewhere between a toy train and a proper grown-up railway — yet something more substantial than a tram. The weave through the towers of Canary Wharf is an experience worth the journey in itself.

At Greenwich, the task is to inspect the ceiling on a Painted Hall Ceiling Tour:

Up close, and personal, this is astonishing. I hope to live long enough to see the finished result.

And so, back the way we came,

Stage 4: DLR back to Bank. This time in the front seat, to play train-driver — and London has no greater thrill-ride for this Bill Hoole manqué.

Stage 5: from Bank, the 43 to Muswell Hill.

Stage 6, post-prandially, the W7 back down to the Maynard.

Carte du jour:

Something of an experiment: the “Miller and Carter” steakhouse, housed in what was once the cavernous “The Church” (a.k.a. O’Neill’s) in Muswell Hill Broadway.

For all of the pretensions, this is yet another branch of yet another tentacle of the Mitchell and Butlers octopus. Which makes it also a subsidiary in the Molson Coors megalo-brewing brand.

I felt obliged to see the place, having known it through various incarnations. For many years the former non-conformist tabernacle (all florid red brick and flint work) was being left-to-decay. It had been leased for a while as local council offices, but was then in a state of limbo and pigeon-crap. It was on the point of being demolished for a supermarket (the supermarket chains have eyed various properties — notably the Odeon cinema — but in each case have met the rising tide of middle-class N10MBYism). Eventually the teetotalist covenant was broken, and for a brief but happy moment it was “The Church” with a brew-house. That didn’t last long, and it went to being O’Neill’s, a barn of a sportsbar — a good place to watch the Rugby only available to Sky subscribers, but not a place to linger for the non-fizzy beer crowd. The arrival of Wetherspoons, taking over what was originally the old Express dairy on Muswell Hill roundabout (then, unhappily, as the teenies’ drink-and-drugs mart of choice), at what is now the Mossy Well changed the whole boozing culture of N10 — and for the better. Even if it also meant the loss of the Wetherspoons houses in Crouch End and at Highgate’s Gatehouse.

I’d have to presume that the Mossy Well, along with wider availability of international Rugby, drained the life out of what had been O’Neill’s — and so M&B are having another go.

I’ve now tried it once. It’s OK-ish; but I doubt we shall return.

Beers of the day:

A pint of Camden Pale Ale at the Phoenix. Err, well … if one must.

A pint of London Pride at the Gypsy Moth in Greenwich: definitely a step up in the world. If I can’t get ESB “lunatic broth” or — yet better — HSB (originally Gale’s Horndean Special Bitter from Hampshire) then London Pride is as good as Fuller’s gets. I’d have preferred a Young’s Special, when it was a London brew, but … horses-for-courses.

Finishing the evening: a taste more of that rather-toothsome East London Brewery’s Jamboree, on draught, at the Maynard.

Quote of the day:

Banner on Pentonville goal: “Serving the community for 175 years”. The “service” of 120 prisoners was abbreviated by the hangman,

Readings of the day:

The New Statesman and the New European.

Then A Great and Noble Design, the catalogue of Sir James Thornhill’s sketches for the Painted Hall at Greenwich. This really needs a complementary volume for the finished work: that will presumably follow from the conservation work. Oh, and a little pamphlet — just a dozen printed pages (English and French on opposites) of Thornhill’s own Explanation of the Painting. The bit of that which caught the Pert Young Piece’s eye went:

In the Middle of the Gallery next the upper Hall, is the Stern of a Britiſh Man of War, with a Figure of VICTORY filling her with Spoils and Trophies taken from the Enemy.

Under the Man of War is a Figure that represents the CITY of LONDON fitting on THAME, and ISIS, with the ſmaller Rivers bringing Treaſures unto her. The River TINE is there pouring forth his Plenty of Coals.

Her attention was that of an avid student of Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers of London series, and re-reading (and audio-booking) the lot before we get volume seven.

My interest there was as much in the typography of 1726. What exactly were the rules of initial capitalisation (presumably for all nouns — easy), of ENTIRE CAPITALS (was this for Proper Nouns?) and for italicising (which seems just weird)?

 

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One last 1970/2016 thing … Lola!

Four New Years since I was in the Bald Faced Stag in East Finchley. The boozer was crowded: a ticket-only affair.

It wasn’t going too well. The DJ had tried several rabble-rousers; but the rabble remained unroused. So he went therm0-nuclear: played The Kinks’ Lola.

The joint was suddenly jumping. It helped that the Davies brothers sprang from half-a-mile back up Fortis Green.

The clip above is from the Jools Holland Hootenanny a couple of years back. It’s Ray Davies solo — but, if you’re so dumb not to have numerous versions already saved (and I’ve half-a-dozen at least on just one iPod), YouTube will oblige.

So: I’m back to Norf Bleeding’ Lunnun for this New Year (though not at the Stag); and confidently expect Lola to show up.

One last mystery: how the heck can a narrative of not the wold’s most physical guy being picked up in a clip-joint by a tranny sell so well, everywhere?

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There are times …

… when the excesses of the Murdoch press are so grotesque, they defy imagination.

Today’s very-shady Sun has this, from the Honourable Toby Young [1]:

If the new Prime Minister is serious about taking us out of the EU, we need a Foreign ­Secretary who’s upbeat about Britain’s post-Brexit future, not another doom-monger. [2]

It will be the job of Britain’s 150 ambassadors to sell this new vision of the UK to the rest of the world, so it makes sense they should be led by someone who believes in it. [3]

Boris is a pretty good salesman in his own right. As Mayor of London, his main job was to attract business and investment to our capital — and the transformation of the city’s skyline [4] is testament to how effective he was. If he can do the same for UK PLC, Britain’s depressed northern cities will be lit up like Las Vegas. [5]

[1] Toby Daniel Moorsom Young is the son of Baron Young of Darlington, major contributor to the 1945 Labour Manifesto, and a distinguished sociologist. The Moorsom is for his mother, Sasha, who kept the BBC Third Programme and elsewhere culturally sound, and wrote a couple of decent books herself. As such, the offspring is entitled to be an “Hon”.

This fruit has fallen far, far from the Muswell Hill tree.

[2] Up to a distant point, Lord Copper.

It obviously hasn’t dawned on the Honourable Toby that Theresa May, in her wisdom, has made quite sure BoJo will have little to contribute on #Brexit. Were he even considering so doing, he would collide forcibly with the adamantine David Davis, Secretary of State for #Brexit. That would be an event where it would be would be worth having the popcorn franchise. Essential differences are that Davis does his homework, knows his stuff and is licensed to kill.

[3] Even further from the point, Lord Tinplate.

Theresa May has delegated International Trade to Liam Fox, the one Tory outstanding for being more devious, more self-seeking, more duplicitous, more venomous than BoJo. If Davis leaves a bloody BoJo corpse at the Cabinet table, Fox can be guaranteed to boot it on the way out.

[4] Ah, yes.

Generations yet unborn will hail BoJo for his architectural significance. He did more for the London skyline than the Luftwaffe. His greatest hit [sic] ought to be the car-killing 20 Fenchurch Street, a.k.a. the Walkie-Talkie.

[5] Either the Honourable Toby has smuggled an irony past the Sun sub-editors, or this has to be further proof of the man’s excellence in crassness.

The architect of Carbuncle-of-the-Year is Rafael Viñoly. A previous “commission” (read that as you please) was the Vdara Hotel and Spa in Las Vegas. This was Viñoly‘s previous attempt to build a death-ray. The curved frontage, as at Fenchurch Street, focuses the sun, with the result that sun-bathers can have their hair scorched and their loungers melted.

 

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A fluid correction

Anyone from the era when we had to bash typewriters will have had a small bottle to hand. If you were as bad a typist as I am, you needed it in industrial quantities.

Tippex

That’s the brand I remember, because that was the product my college bought (and I could thieve from the cupboard). And — strewth! — didn’t over-indulgence (i.e. mine) clog up any typewriter.

So, one Friday evening, recovering from a hard week at the chalk face, I was into my second, or even third pint of Courage Directors (not yet a Charlie Wells brew). My location was the John Baird, Muswell Hill. Now, three pints at 4.6% ABV ought to have some effect, especially when imbibed against the clock (the Lady in my Life would be doing Sainsbury’s shop down the road). If you like, this was my six-o’clock swill.

Suddenly the side door from Prince’s Avenue opens to admit a bevy of very buxom belles (doubtless chosen for the parts). The white tee-shirts all boost the slogan: Sno-pake covers all your boobs.

Somehow that sticks in my mind.

Then this happens:

Correcting fluid

Apologies to all concerned. But forty years on —

Girls, you still warm an old man’s cockles.

 

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City(e)scape 2

Still with the Times Literary Supplement, Malcolm recognised many locations in J . Mordaunt Crook’s review:

InteriorsLondon: Hidden Interiors — sponsored by English Heritage, in all the glory of digital polychrome … With 1,700 images of some 180 buildings, it guides the reader from Central London to the suburbs; spiralling out from Westminster, the West End and Mayfair to Soho, Covent Garden, Fitzrovia and Clerkenwell; then on to the City and its eastern fringes, winding clockwise around the capital’s southern suburbs, before moving westwards and terminating in the north. The text by Philip Davies is crisp and informative; the photographs by Derek Kendall are a revelation.

In short, a glossy coffee-table book, but none the worse for that. £40 on the label, but Amazon are knocking it out for £28. Malcolm is severely tempted.

Industrial majesty and might

What got to Malcolm wasn’t necessarily those grandiose palaces (which he has, in many cases, passed through) but the lesser, more unapproachable, even more domestic places. There is, for example, the alternative splendour of Battersea Power Station (which Christopher Fowler featured when he reviewed, briefly, this book):

Battersea-Power-Station-L-008-450x182

Of this Crook says:

Battersea Power Station is only too well known. Outside, it is the biggest brick building in Europe. Inside, its mighty Control Room — all switches, buttons and flickering dials — seems like an Art Deco vision from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Yet, in a way, its electronic marvels are eclipsed in memory by engineering of quite a different sort. Crossness Engine House SE2 — the greatest achievement of the Metropolitan Board of Works — survives today as a cathedral or iron. It was opened in1865, and its throbbing machinery is guarded by sinuous polychrome grills and powered by the largest rotative beam engine in the world. It was designed to pump thousands of gallons of sewage into the ebbing tide of the Thames. This is function carried to the level of sublimity.

One thing is sure: millions of tourists visit London. How many will see such temples of industry? Indeed, how many Londoners have ventured to Crossness? They should. They really should:

A sense of déjà vu all over again?

When we see these images, even those who have never, ever, been in London, feel there is something familiar. There’s the Midland Bank vault on Poultry, just opposite the Bank of England:

DP133535

Now, err … where do we see that? Ah! Goldfinger!

And again:

Masonic Temple, Liverpool Street

That’s the Masonic Temple, hidden in the depths of what used to be the Great Eastern Hotel at Liverpool Street (now the Andaz). Cit gents could nip in for a quick roll-up of the trouser leg before heading back to the sticks of East Anglia. You are told, when you penetrate this holy-of-holies that it was rediscovered by accident by the renovation works in 1997. Now it hired for weddings, hoolies, fashion shows and film shoots.

The 134 bus route to Redfellow Hovel

There’s a couple of these interiors, far less grand but worth the visit, on Malcolm’s road home:

In Muswell Hill Broadway [Davies] drops in on Martyn’s family grocers: its barrels of biscuits, its sacks of coffee, all marshalled with military precision.

If Martyn’s don’t have it, it’s not worth the tasting. When coffee is being roasted, the whole neighbourhood knows about it.

And:

In Kentish Town Road, he even marvels at the droopy garments in Bluston’s window: “frocks and gowns for the older woman” (also listed Grade II).

That’s the shop-front, one trusts. Not the “older woman”. The star “frock”, laid out now for some long time, has been a red-spotted outfit, which always reminds Malcolm of Minnie Mouse.

An afterthought

By a strange symbiosis, there’s another attraction on the 134 bus route in this week’s TLS. It’s the very last item on the back page, from that NB Londoners page noted previously:

61eC-Wd-mnL._SL500_AA300_We know that people say weird things to people who work in bookshops, which is the premiss of More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops

All are related by Jen Campbell, who works at Ripping Yarns, a secondhand bookshop in London …

Now, let’s be precise here. Ripping Yarns is on the corner where Southwood Lane becomes Muswell Hill Road, and intersects with the fag end of the Archway Road. Right opposite Highgate tube station and the Woodman pub.

Malcolm knows it well. Once there, pubs not intervening, he’s nearly home.

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Malcolm wonders …

41V4FMK6AAL._SL500_AA300_… about lots of things:

  • Does he feel up to giving the Redfellow Hovel lawn a touch of the mower?
  • What is that strange low ache in his left side? Is it terminal or just a strained musclette?
  • Who is the arse who drives a lorry, sans le pot d’échappement, past at 3 a.m. each morning, during the second sleep? If it’s News International, can it be legitimately bombed?
  • Is there really an estate agency with a balanced number of complaints and plaudits?
  • Is Eric Pickles really necessary? Or — the nightmare alternative — is he Jabba the Hut in drag?

… and so on.

This Monday morning two particular considerations perplexed Malcolm:

Let him deliberate further on that last one.

That’s one reading of the seminal text, including the glitch which wikipedia explains as:

The original song recorded in stereo had the word “Coca-Cola” in the lyrics, but because of BBC Radio’s policy against product placement, Ray was forced to make a six thousand mile round-trip flight from New York to London—interrupting the band’s American tour—to change those words to the generic “cherry cola” for the single release.

Referring to the iTunes library on the Big Bastard back-up hard drive, Malcolm reckons there there may be three, at least, very different versions. At TCD the undergraduate Malcolm would now pencil a note in the margin of the Homer, Horace or Herodotus text: variae lectiones (“variant readings”, i.e. the editors still haven’t sussed what the original could have been, but some medieval monken copyist clearly got it wrong).

The three locations for the club seem to be Muswell Hill, Notting Hill and — of course — Old Soho.

Why this matters

Lola is the anthem for Muswell Hill and its Hill-billy population. No New Years Eve party (or similar booze-up) really takes off until, suitably slaked, the gathering can reclaim its own inner Davies and join raggedly in the chorus.

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The pointless grump of a downtrodden man

There is, none too far from Redfellow Hovel, a parked car. It is big, long, black, sporty, Mercedes and a recent model. To Malcolm’s untutored, and definitely non-petrolheaded eye, it looks distinctly expensive — the kind of hardware that costs as much as a three-bed home in many parts of this fragmenting kingdom.

The Merc-monster has been there, unattended, a couple of days now.

Quite a bit transpired, yesterday, when an anonymous white van also arrived. The van contained the the heavy mob from the collections agency. They had come to chain up said Merc-monster because a string of parking tickets were outstanding.

Seeing Malcolm hard a-blog, the more elephantine of the heavy mob rang the door-bell of Redfellow Hovel. Did Malcolm know anything about Merc-monster?This Malcolm decoded as, “Is it yours? We have a tidy account for you to settle. Then we can head off to the pub.”

Most definitely no, never seen the thing before. Shouldn’t be there. etc.

While his mate was dealing with the chain on the Denver Boot, Mr Pachyderm explained why this was under way (hence the information three paragraphs previously) and then fished out one of those telephones that contain major computing power. He was then able to display in Malcolm’s face a name and address. Again Malcolm decoded, “Does this name and address chime with you?”

Well, actually, in a dim recess of the less-visited parts of Malcolm’s cortex, it did, but the synapse didn’t instantly connect.

Only later did Malcolm recognise the connection. The name waved electronically before him seemed to lack a title. Not “Mr” or “Dr”, but “Sir”. It is — perhaps by coincidence, the name of a prominent and publicly-honoured architect, of the modernist tendency, who has scattered the landscape with some exotic structures.

The gravy train

Well, Malcolm has no envy that such talent has earned so well to afford the Merc-monster, and to pay so promptly the inflated fines (by the evening, Mr Pachyderm and his mate had returned and doffed the chains).

On the contrary, such a show of wealth is part of modern Britain.

As is the lack of opportunity for others, and the failure for wealth to percolate downwards.

Consider the story by Patrick Wintour in today’s Guardian, Labour to use US research to shape election campaignIn the print edition that comes with a nice little line-graph. On-line we have to settle for:

UnknownLabour is drawing on research by the New Democrat Network (NDN) central to the Obama re-election campaign to shape its own election thinking.

The research was described by the Obama campaign as its North Star. It tracked three trends in the US economy between 1992 and 2009, showing how two – higher growth and higher productivity – had not been matched by a rise in living standards for the majority.

The Resolution Foundation thinktank, the leading voice on UK living standards, will next week produce its own State of the Nation report showing how long it will take to return to rising living standards in the UK even if growth returns. Labour will also launch its own exercise – “the condition of Britain” – next week, its policy review chief, Jon Cruddas, has revealed.

Padded out with some choice quotation, there’s also this:

It also indicates that the crisis of living standards predates the City-induced recession of 2008.

“The reason this is happening is because of rising global competition, the defining new economic challenge of our time,” Simon Rosenberg, the head of the New Democrat Network, said in a recent interview.

“In the actual experience of the American economy, there has become an enormous gap between the upper one-third and everyone else.”

The chart hung in the Obama campaign office, along with a caption derived from a focus group participant: “I’m working harder and falling behind.” That same line was repeated by the president in a campaign stump speech.

So some have Merc-monsters, and can ignore parking fines, on the assumption that it’s only money (and expenses can be set against taxes). The rest of us have to obey the rules and muddle along as best as we can afford.

There are two ways of looking at this.

imagesOn one refined level we can take the research and graphics of — say — the Financial Times, to show just how dismally the ConDem government have perpetuated the Great Depression of 2008-2018 (as in the graph — Malcolm likes simple graphs — right).

Along with that, we can take the wit-and-wisdom of the Office for National Statistics, who tell us the same, with numbers attached:

Incomes squeezed more than in previous recessions

Real national and household incomes have been falling due to a combination of the recession and high inflation. That is the analysis published today by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) as part of the Measuring National Well-being Programme.

The data describes an economy that has been stagnating:

  • In the second quarter of 2012 net national income (NNI) per head in real terms was 13.2 per cent below its pre-recession level in the first quarter of 2008; a sharper fall in economic well-being than the 7.0 per cent fall that GDP per head data indicate.
  • In the second quarter of 2012, real household actual income per head was 2.9 per cent below its peak in the third quarter of 2009.
  • Household incomes have generally been eroded by price inflation, for example in September 2011 inflation peaked at 5.2 per cent whereas the annual rise in household actual income per head was 1.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2011.
  • At the end of 2011 national debt was in excess of one trillion pounds, the first time on record, and equivalent to 65.7 per cent of GDP.

Or we can simply look, it is hoped with compassion, at the plight of millions of Britons, trapped in falling incomes, rising costs, lower wages, poorer expectations and increasing misery.

At the start of the ConDem government, David Cameron was buoyant that we could, and should measure “well-being”. And so, at a cost of £2 million and two years later, we were treated to guff like:

Responses by 165,000 people in the annual population survey reveal the average rating of “life satisfaction” in Britain is 7.4 out of 10 and 80% of people gave a rating of seven or more when asked whether the things they did in their lives were “worthwhile”.

Any bets we’ll not be hearing comparisons this year? Even that the ONS be told, quietly, to forget the whole thing?

Or, of course, the ConDems could scatter Merc-monsters across the land, warbling up-lifting ditties (and not the kind of uplifting that Mr Pachyderm & co involve themselves in):

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no,
These pretty country folks would lie
In springtime, the only pretty ring time,
When birds do sing, Hey ding a ding, ding.
Sweet lovers love the spring.
This carol they began that hour,
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey hey-nonny-no.

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