Wednesday, 31 December 2014

On looking up at Bathhurst Mansions and finding Orson Welles

Bathhurst Mansions on 458 Holloway Road is an uncommonly pretty building. The ground floor's been turned into drab tat, but look up and (thanks to @RonnieCruwys of there's all this: 

There's also a story about Irish theatre, queer history and Orson Welles. Here goes:

Hilton Edwards was born in Bathhurst Mansions on 2 February 1903. He'd grow up to direct Welles in his first and last role on stage and (with Micheál Mac Liammóir born Alfred Willmore in Kilburn - see his one-man 'Wilde' here) to live something damn close to an openly gay life in Ireland, 

From  THE TRINITY NEWS (a Dublin University Weekly)  March 10, 1960
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT -- Gaiety Theatre
Few men of the present day theatre have sought so consistently to throw off the shackles of conventional drama as Hilton Edwards and Orson Welles have done. The combination of their talents promised an exciting evening's theatre--a promise which was richly fulfilled. In Chimes at Midnight, each part of Shakespeare's Henry IV has been cut to about a third of its length, and the two have then been skilfully welded into a coherent narrative by the introducton of a spoken commentary taken from Holinshed's Chronicles.
In the original, Falstaff's part in the action is almost incidental, but in this adaptation it is his relationship with young Hal, and the latter's relationship with his father, which are the main themes. The martial and political events of Shakespeare's two plays are very lightly passed over in this adaptation; Hotspur, for example, is given no time to develop as a character. A great deal of expendable Shakespearian material has been cut; the aim is to give a stirring impression of swift-moving events. The one weakness in the play lies in the ending, where Prince Hal's contemptuous  dismissal of Falstaff seems to point too narrow a moral. Kingly duty, for all its sanctity, seems to be a hollow thing when pitted against Falstaff's lovable vitality. It is true that the defect is present in Shakespeare's original, but it was intensified in the adaptation by the fact that the martial and patriotic aspects of the story received so little emphasis.
With this malleable material at his disposal, Hilton Edwards had ample scope for the demonstration of his fluid conception of the drama. The stage, which had several levels was left bare, although occasional use was made of representational pieces of scenery which served merely to suggest the setting. An army in progress was represented by a roll of drums and a man in armour carrying a banner. The deliberate avoidance of naturalistic effect had the result of vividly stimulating the imagination of the audience, and of imparting an extraordinary pace and panache to the production.
The acting varies from the mediocre to the brilliant. Orson Welles fills the stage with his immense bulk and his hugely whiskered face, and the theatre with his resonant vice and powerful dramatic presence. he captured the boastfulness, the mock hyprocrisy, the lovableness and the cowardice of the Fat Knight. yet there seemed to be something lacking. Perhaps the actor was tired after after the afternoon matinee, but Welles failed to put across the immense vigor of Falstaff. This lethargy extended even to his verse-speaking; his throwaway technique was engaging, but one quickly felt a lack of variation.
Keith Baxter as young Hal gave a performance of great dash and energy which was slightly marred by a lack of smoothness in his diction Reginald Jarman was superb as the King; he gave just the right impression of tortured strength, and he spoke the verse with noble authority. In smaller roles Patrick Bedford was a lively Poins, and Shirley Cameron conveyed admirably the earthy pathos in the character of Doll Tearsheet.
This is a memorable production, in which one partcular moment and one scene stand out. The moment is the sudden, shattering pathos which Welles brings to Falstaff's simple statement to Doll: "I'm old," and the scene, that in which whcih we see the dying King, alone and helpless, with only his crown beside him, in the huge emptiness of the stage.
B. R. R. A.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Bridging the gap to 1914

There were people standing outside the W. Plumb butcher's shop the other week, the first queue it's seen for years, maybe decades.

This was why:

14 young actors from the Brit School (the Adele & Amy Winehouse one) were playing the Plumb family in 1914, with the boys eager to go to war and the girls saying goodbye.

Here they are:

It worked. The space is atmospheric/spooky enough that everything feels distanced from the world outside, and the actors used their youth to be vulnerable and lost, then somehow switched it off (how, I have no idea) to act the adult parts. There was a girl with a very beautiful voice, a boy who turned first into Henry V and then into a butcher and another boy who went from child to corpse to meat. 

More things like this would be good.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Effeminate and Obstinate

This story makes sad and strange reading.

In 1875 William Stafford, an attorney and solicitor living at 49 Hanley Road, was taken to court on the charge of having unlawfully assaulted his illegitimate child, William Stafford, on the 24 of May.

[Bastard, but with his father's name - how did that work?]

On Friday 11 June the  Morning Post reported that 'the complainant, a boy about 14 years of age, stated that his father had twice beaten him so badly that he was compelled to leave his home and go to the Islington Workhouse. 

On the day mentioned in the summons the defendant beat him with a whip which he made him fetch and subsequently when the defendant had had his bath he ordered him to have one and when he was undressed the defendant beat him most unmercifully with a broom. 

The boy acknowledged that he had worried his father, but not until he had made him do so by threatening him. The defendant turned him out of the house, having previously beaten him with a whip on the legs and back. 

There were marks on him where the defendant had beaten and knocked him, and there were also marks of violence on his legs.

Mr Sustins, the master of Islington Workhouse, said the defendant had told him that the complainant was illegitimate, as were his six other children. 

[6 other children?]

On the 6th of May when he examined the complainant at the workhouse he was bruised from head to foot and there was not a place on his body as large on his hand that was free from bruises. 

There were marks on his body and back as if caused by a whip and his flesh was much discoloured. There were marks on his side, stomach, back, body and hips.

Mr Philip Cowne, surgeon of the workhouse, having deposed to the bruises on the boy, said that from his general observation of the boy he had come to the conclusion that he was effeminate and obstinate.

[I'm not sure what 'effeminate' means here. It seems to be put forward as a justification for the father's actions. Perhaps the idea behind it is that a milksop of a boy needs toughening up? Perhaps 'effeminate' is code for homosexual and therefore corrupt and deserving of punishment?]

The defendant said he should reserve his defence and his witnesses for the sessions. He hoped that the magistrate would take his own recognaisance for his appearance. Mr Cooke said he could not do that. He must have some surety in the sum of £25.'

On Tuesday 15 June they are back in the Morning Post. This time the assistant judge is addressing the Grand Jury. 

He says that every father has a right to correct his child, that the boy did not appear to have suffered in health and was by his own admission mischevious and disobedient. 

He also says that 'corporal chastsement [...] should be administered with moderation and not with a vindictive spirit or a cruel indifference.  

He does not, I think, much like the father.

The father was fined £10 plus costs and ordered to keep the peace towards the boy for 12 months. The 20 June Reynolds's Newspaper reported the sentence under the heading 'Cruelty to a Child'.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Aladdin's Cave

If you go to Aladdin's Cave today, you won't find any of this:

Or this:

These will have gone too: 

As will this:

The photographs are over a year old, and, yes, the blog has been quiet for a while. Anyway, I'm out of my aestivation now and have many many things to write about.

Aladdin's Cave, meanwhile, has carried on. It is a pleasant shop and has good things. 

1 Hazelville Road, across from the Shaftesbury and on a bit.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

1842 to 1891 at the Shaftesbury, omnibuses, strikes and disorderly mobs.

The other day @jennitpk (who you should follow if you don't already) found an 1842 watercolour of the Hornsey Road on the Museum of London website. You can see it here.*

The artist's a Robert Blemmer Schnebbelie, who specialized in likeable views of London backstreets and poor neighbourhoods. There's a building to the left that looks like a smaller precursor of the Shaftesbury and around it there's an omnibus queue.

There was still an omnibus station outside the Shaftesbury in 1891, when the employees of the London Omnibus Company went on strike. The London Daily News' and the law were, well, unsympathetic.

'Herbert Clarke, carman, was indicted yesterday at the London County Sessions, before Sir P.H. Edlin, QC, sitting at Clerkenwell, for having intimidated William James Perring, with intent to prevent him from doing that which he had a legal right to do, and also with having followed him in company with other persons in a disorderly mob with like intent.

Mr Geoghegan prosecuted on behalf of a London General Omnibus Company; Mr Besley appeared for the defendant. This was a case arising out of the recent strike by the employees of the London General Omnibus Company and the London Road Car Company.

The prosecutor was a driver in the employ of the former company, and did not join the strike. On the morning of the 7th of June, which was Sunday, he left the Holloway yard with his omnibus at a few minutes before ten o'clock for the Shaftesbury Arms, Hornsey road, where he usually began his journey to Victoria. On leaving the yard, he encountered a crowd of some 400 or 500 persons, who followed him down to the Shaftesbury Arms, shouting, hooting, hissing and using violent language. He tried to leave the Shaftesbury Arms on the way to Victoria, but was prevented from doing so, though he had the protection of ten policemen and an inspector.' [From the London Daily News dated Friday 26 June 1891]

* The Museum of London charges £229 plus VAT for one year's non-commercial internet use of the picture. The copyright on the painting expired decades ago but the UK is, as far as I know, the only country in the world where taking a photograph of an old painting creates a new copyright.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Transforming Seven Sisters

Seven Sisters has a name that belongs to a fairy tale, but it's a newcomer compared to the Hornsey Road. It was started in the 19th century and soon it sprawled for miles with no monuments, no squares I can think of, and precious little written about it

Now the traffic rushes by all going in the same direction, and the good things about the road (and there are many - Ocean Wave Fishmonger's at No. 60 for one) don't get to flourish as they should. It is a mess, so when I first heard that TfL had plans to scrap the one way system I was delighted and curious and looked for more. Then I didn't find anything. At all. I suppose I could have tried harder, but almost no-one seems to be talking about this even though it could be as important as the plans to scrap the Archway gyratory

Nick Kocharhook

Enter Nick Kocharook from San Francisco, who's lived in a few places around London, and became interested in TfL's plans when he bought a flat here. He's a democrat and a Democrat, 'because I'm not insane' and is trying to figure out what people would actually want and how to give them a voice, especially those who aren't in the habit of answering consultations/writing letters to MPs/generally sharpening their middle-class elbows.

We had dinner at Ajani's (update review: it's still great, Patrick's still lovely, I recommend the mushroom/halloumi burger) and talked about how cyclists, cars and pedestrians could fit together. Could cycle lanes with proper barriers help people in motorised scooters? If the north side of Seven Sisters becomes a one-way bus lane, what happens to traffic coming down Sussex Way?

He's on twitter as @K9 and as @t7sisters  for the Seven Sisters campaign. Go say hi.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Usually Quiet Hornsey Rise

'The usually quiet locality of Hornsey-rise was, for a short time on Sunday morning, in a state of great alarm. Between four and five o'clock, the police-constable on duty discovered that the shop of Mrs Soans, No 5, Sylvanus-row, was on fire. 

The stock consisted of light fancy goods and the fire spread with great rapidity. The Holloway Volunteer Fire Brigade were the first to arrive, and a plentiful supply of water being at hand, two powerful jets were soon playing on the burning building, but the fire was not subdued until the back part of the premises was totally destroyed, and the front shop damaged. 

Mrs Soanes is insured in the Scottish Union and the building in the Law Life Offices. The engines and men of the Met Fire Brigade, and also a fire escape, attended, but their services were fortunately not required. The police, under the command of Mr Superintended Manson and Mr Inspector Gale, rendered great service. The Holloway Brigade were led by Mr. Superintendent Badeely and Mr. Hollyman. The cause of the fire is reported unknown.'

From the Islington Gazette on 29 November 1870. There were a lot of fire reports back then and they always tell you whether there was insurance and who provided it. I wonder why. 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Pooles Park's Secret Garden

This is Open Squares weekend, Open City's younger, greener and less famous sibling (Billy to its Alec in Baldwin terms) and a chance to go look at hidden things

Today I made the excellent decision to go visit the Pooles Park primary school garden. It was like time travel to a 70s commune before the infighting and the cult leaders. Long grass, chickens, willow sculptures, general sense of not being in London any more. Hurried and people-less (because I didn't want to break the spell by asking people if they minded going on the internet) photographs follow.

The bad news is that it's not open tomorrow. The good news (or what could become good news) is that they're planning to be open more often at weekends if they can find volunteers.

Oh, and there'll be a Spanish sing-a-long for babies starting in September. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Nation of flat-keepers

Shops keep on turning into flats. I tried to keep count, but I lost track. Some are discreet. This one you could walk past and not realise that there was once a shop there. 

Others are more blatant. This place has been a flat for so long that no-one can remember what 'The Cabin' was, but it still looks like someone's camping there and has just chucked curtains up. 

The one below's in front a bus station. It was advertised as being very convenient for public transport. I suppose it is.

This last may be my favourite. It looks like a shop turned into a flat,

but actually there never was a flat there. 

Do you live in one of the ex-shops? Do you know someone who does? 

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Red Rum and what happened when Arsenal came.

Red Rum in Bristol, from Wikipedia

Thanks to @rowanarts I spent Saturday morning in Kinloch gardens talking to Jim Pennington, who was born in South America and came to London from Brighton in 1967. He runs Lithosphere the printers. They're on Seven Sisters Road, but for a long time they were  based where the Hornsey Road narrows and turns round to join the Holloway Road. Their building had been the Avery blinds factory and still had a corrugated concrete asbestos roof. 'Last place you'd want to run a printer's, really. It was called Sunblind House and, despite the corrugated concrete asbestos roof, had not a little 60's style to it. At the back, where it overlooked gardens, it was terraced and all the windows had electric blinds and canopies.'

Then Arsenal came and they had to go, together with Baldwin's skips, the Favourite Pub and the council tip. The story of industry being pushed out of Islington starts with the brick kiln that Constable painted being shut down and won't end until the last shop becomes a flat, but nothing's as stark as the Arsenal spaceship landing and obliterating everything under it.

The Favourite is where Red Rum comes in. The horse had a celebrity retirement, turning on the Blackpool illuminations and such like. One day the landlord 'had a relaunch of some sort and brought Red Rum down for it. They're huge racehorses. You don't realise until you stand right next to them. That suffragette didn't stand a chance.'

Thursday, 29 May 2014

A river runs under it

This is where the Hackney Brook ran. Sort of. Probably. 

There certainly was a Hackney Brook and it certainly ran from west of Holloway Road to east of Stoke Newington. It must have crossed Hornsey Road somewhere and just north of the Emirates is plausible enough.

I shouldn't have used the past tense. The brook's still there somewhere, babbling away underground. Like other London rivers it became an open sewer and was covered up. 

Much more here.

Friday, 28 March 2014


For the full effect read this with 'Poses' by Rufus Wainwright playing in the background.

This is the new Dennis Bergkamp statue outside the Emirates: 

Fifty yards away there's a giant photograph of him in the same pose:

That photograph was taken by Andrew Budd during a 2003 game against Newcastle (one all draw. Thierry Henry scored). He works for Action Images, the sports photography branch of Reuters.

It took me five minutes to find out his name, even though the Reuters schtick is not to draw attention to the individual photographer or journalist. It must have been in Arsenal's PR pack for the papers. However, I can't find the name of the sculptor anywhere. It might be that Arsenal were miffed because someone leaked pictures of the statue being put together and this was their way of taking revenge, but I doubt it. It's more likely that no-one thought it worth mentioning. 

There's something terribly old-fashioned about that. It's a complete writing out of the maker and the artist. 

The composition's taken from a newswire and the sculptor might as well not exist.

Curious that. 

Monday, 17 March 2014


“Marcus couldn't believe it. Dead. A dead duck. OK, he'd been trying to hit it on the head with a piece of sandwich, but he tried to do all sorts of things, and none of them had ever happened before. 

Star Gazer - Pinball Backglass Image
Image thanks to the International Arcade Museum
He'd tried to get the highest score on the Stargazer machine in the kabab shop on Hornsey road - nothing. He'd tried to read Nicky's thoughts by staring at the back of his head every maths lesson for a week - nothing. It really annoyed him that the only thing he'd ever achieved through trying was something he hadn't really wanted to do that much in the first place. And anyway, since when did hitting a bird with a sandwich ever kill it? People spend half their lives throwing things at the ducks in Regent's Park. How come he managed to pick a duck that pathetic?” 

― Nick HornbyAbout a Boy

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

we put all the beds in one room, so that if we died we’d all go together

Irene Ellis' story:

My mother lived with me and she was stone deaf. We had heavy wooden tables in the kitchen. My husband worked on the aircrafts. So we would get under these heavy tables, and I thought this was so funny. My mother couldn’t hear a thing. My children couldn’t understand a thing, my mother would say to them ‘be quiet children, there are neighbours next door’.

They built places by the road where you could shelter at night. My husband made ours comfortable, he built bunkbeds and we put down carpet. My friend had a public house across from where we were, so we used to go there to enjoy ourselves, then when the sirens went we spent the night in the bunkers.

I worked at a factory nearby, making materials for the planes, there were bomb threats against this factory from the Germans every night. So we put all the beds in one room, so that if we died we’d all go together.

My mother used to queue up for hours for the food. The butcher’s in Hornsey Road, he used to get rabbits twice per month. So we bought some and made a stew of them with scraps of bacon. The things we made out of our rations was unbelievable. Maybe that’s why the older people are such good cooks.'

From the BBC's WW2 People's War archive:

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Elegant residences that have come down in the world.

This is from Thomas Burke's 'The Outer Circle: Rambles in Remote London', published in 1921

'If you start from Holloway and pursue Seven Sisters Road to its end you will come to Tottenham. You may exclaim: " Who on earth wants to come to Tottenham ? " Well, quite a number of people live at Tottenham, and thousands of strangers go regularly to Tottenham, not to see the parish church, or the room where Queen Elizabeth slept, but to see the game of football played at the ground of the Tottenham Hotspurs. 

I first went to Tottenham one fine Saturday, when I had nothing better to do. I had not meant to go to Tottenham. A tramcar, labelled Waltham Cross, attracted me at Tottenham Court Road by its bright colour and firm lines. I boarded it. Until then my journeys along Seven Sisters Road had ceased at Finsbury Park. There seemed no just cause for going farther. 

At Finsbury Park was The Manor House, and at The Manor House was a large concert-room, with tables and chairs negligently scattered about it ; and there family parties would gather and order refreshment of alert waiters and listen to a string band, which afforded  fluent music. So here one rested and speculated in security on what lay beyond of peril and mis- chance, and possible benightment. But that day there was no such lure. The Manor House music-room was closed, and I suffered the car to bear me away. 

I took the hazards of the road. From Holloway to Finsbury Park Station, Seven Sisters Road is a long line of poor shops that have not quite made up their minds what produce they shall stock, and elegant residences that have come down in the world and are now addresses for little mail-order businesses. The very road is vacillating in character, and seems not to know whether it should be reticent and grave, or rude and matey.
 It seems to have relaxed all effort, and to have yielded to any external influence that may beat upon it. 

It seems almost too tired to go anywhere; and I was astonished when I discovered how far this wounded snake had dragged its slow length along, shedding, on the way, some half-hundred desultory by-streets. It has suffered two terrible gashes ; one in the tail and one near the head. The length between is bright and whole. 

You are shocked when this meagre street changes to solid prosperity, as it does between Finsbury Park and Amhurst Park Road; and shocked again when the opulence crumbles to decay in its final section ; and shocked yet again when you escape from these squalors at Seven Sisters Corner into High Road, Tottenham; Tottenham, which, according to Domesday Book, a Countess Judith held of the King for five hides. Here are the seven beautiful sister-trees that commemorate the original seven.'

Friday, 7 March 2014

This is not paradise

I've written before about number 382, the Pool and Amusements building that's been rotting for decades. The door was open today (there was work going on) and this is what it looks like inside: 

There were builders in. I hope this means there is hope.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

On the Atchison, Topeka and the Hornsey Road*

Philip Aris
Holloway Life image

This is Philip Aris (@ArisPhilip on twitter). He wants to resurrect the Station that Vanished and bring the Goblin line back to Hornsey Road. 

Embedded image permalink
Philip's image of the station site

He can tell the story better than I can, so here it is in his words: 

Q: How long has this been on your mind?

A:  For ages, but I only recently decided to do something about it. The more I've looked at blogs, such as yours, and social media, the clearer it's become to me that today with the internet almost anything is possible. Until a few years ago I might simply have written a letter to the Ham and High suggesting that re opening Hornsey Road Station would be a useful addition to the local area. With luck they would have published it. A couple of readers might have sent in their good wishes, and that most likely would have been the end of the matter.

Now things are different.

In today's tweeting, facebooking, blogging world,  I believe it really IS possible to discover if there  is the will among local people to improve public transport. If we discover that there is, then I am hoping that this can be translated into action and that politicians and officials can be persuaded to back the project. And then it might actually happen. It must be worth a try. With the electrification of this long-neglected line actually officially agreed to, what better time to have a go?

Q: Where would you put the station?

A: That's easy. right where it was before. On the west side of Hornsey Road, at its junction with Fairbridge Road. The old platforms are still there, though hardly visible through the undergrowth. Opposite the station site on Fairbridge Road was until recently Elson's the Builders Merchants. They have moved their main yard to St Albans and on the land now is Landsdowne Court, a huge and quite attractive block of flats. Family Mosaic are even now building more homes behind this. It is buildings such as these that are changing Hornsey Road. Far more people now live nearby. And more people need better public transport.

Q: I like your Hornsey Rise Village idea. Where would the boundaries be?

A: I don't think it matters very much. Hornsey Road Post Office, a few meters from the Fairbridge Road corner, would make a natural centre to the "village". The council has recently spent a lot on improving the street furniture and laying much better paving. Andrew has recently opened a smart barber's and is hoping to bring in a women's hairdresser as well. There is a fine looking day nursery right opposite the Station site. 
The Thai massage shop has closed and generally every week the place looks better!

Q: Hornsey Road is scruffy. Some might say blighted. Why do you think that is?

A: To me it feels like a real place. Obviously it was a centre for builders tradesmen, like Elson's. And many still remain. I hope they always will be there. But why shouldn't people and businesses exist side by side? As the Hornsey Road blogger, you seem to have a true passion for the road and its people. And so do I. I was born about four miles away seventy years ago and I love everything about the area. Yes it's mixed. Good. Yes it's not all a pretty picture postcard. Good again. Hornsey Road has changed before. It certainly won't be the same twenty years from nowOr even in five years or next month. How much better it would all be with a station of its own!

Out there is a huge pool of talent and enthusiasm and experience. It would be terrific if that could be harnessed to help to get one. I'm anyway up for trying.

If anyone thinks they can help, or advise, or dream up an idea or two, it would be great to hear from you.

*Re: title, see below. Any excuse for a Judy reference. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

The day I didn't see Dennis Bergkamp

As we walked along Gillespie Road a smartly dressed woman trotted past the stalls selling 'my dad and I both hate Spurs' babygros.

'Twitter said they'd be unveiling Berkgkamp's statue today so I'm hoping...'

We followed, as did a few hundred others.

So many that all we could see was fans who couldn't see lifting up their phones.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Marathon for Wray Crescent

Tulips planted by the Friends of Wray Crescent, 2012

Dan Curtis, who will be running the London marathon to raise money for Wray Crescent (donate here), told me about his plans and memories.

Q: If you hit your target, what will that mean for Wray Crescent? Do you have a definite plan to do X, or is it more of a extra cash always useful thing?

A: I really have no idea what I'm going to raise. I know that slides etc are ludicrously expensive (you need the padded floor underneath) so in my dreams I'll raise £5k which Islington council will match (they have promised to match fund), and then we'll be able to buy something big and fun for kids to play on.

I've been around most of the local estate agents - I guessed they have a vested interest in making the local park nicer) and they've all promised they'll donate. But so far, none of them have actually turned words into actual pledges on my website. If they do, I'll give them a good namecheck...

This is my 5th marathon so most of my friends have sponsored me before for other charities, so that reduces the amount I can expect from them. But, I'm planning to do a bit of door knocking over the next few weeks and I'm trying to get the Islington Gazette interested...hopefully this will raise a bit of awareness.

All the money I raise will go to The Friends of Wray Crescent, and as I mentioned above, Islington Council will match everything I raise. I'm also hoping my efforts might encourage those who are good at fund raising and tapping into the various pots of cash that are out there to get involved too.

Wray Crescent is lovely: I grew up playing cricket there as a kid. So it breaks my heart when I see kids get bored of the playground. But it is poorly stocked, so I want to do something that makes a actual change.

Q: Suppose you made far more than your target - what would you do with £100k or £500k?

A: If I raised 500k I'd start a new career as a fundraiser.

I've always said if I win the lottery, I'd put aside a huge amount for Wray Crescent, and build a playground like Stationers park, and rebuild the pavilion, and open a cricket club for local kids there.

I played cricket in the late 1980s in Wray Crescent and that's when learned to love the game. We had a fabulous team who would go up and beat all the posh kids in the Crouch End ... there was so much local talent then, kids from all backgrounds. I'm sure it would be the same now.

Q: I'm guessing you're running a lot to train - any good routes near Hornsey Road?

A: I've made a secret pact to myself that all my runs have to go through or round Wray Crescent. It's a good way of adding an extra kilometre to whatever route I'm doing. My favourite routes include some or all of: Wray Crescent, Finsbury Park, Clissold Park, Parkland Walk (upper and lower), Kenwood House, Hampstead Heath, and Primrose Hill.

Q: Are you the kind of permanently sporty person who runs 10ks for fun, or has this been a shock to you?

A: Neither really. This is my fifth marathon in the past 10 years, but in between times I'm a typical 42 year old father of two with a sedentary lifestyle and a pot belly. Having said that, I cycle to work in central London most days and play football badly once a week ...even so I've been surprised at how easily my body has adjusted to running stupidly long distances. I only found out I had a place in the marathon in January, so only started training around then. I'm up to 16 miles in training, I reckon I need to get to 19-20 miles by I'm on course.

All I need now is some sponsorship.

Anyone reading this, please pop in whatever few pennies you can afford, it all gets matched by the council, and hopefully it will help make a great local facility a place kids and parents can really go and enjoy.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

In which I promise that this will not become an interior design blog

Nor will I start writing about 'pops of colour'. All the same, City Printing (opposite Platform, next to Hadron) fixed my empty space above mantelpiece problem and I am pleased.

I've owned a postcard of William Fox Talbot's 'Oak Tree in Winter' since 2009, when the British Library (which does good exhibitions) had one on 19th century photography. Last week I thought I'd see if I could buy a print of it and discovered that the Getty will let you download a high resolution PDF for free, through their Open Content Programme.

Then I sent the file to City Printing and they printed it on A2. For £12 pounds. That, plus Ikea frame, is it.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Medieval Hornsey Road

The inner North London suburbs are all 19th century-ish, built just in time for Charles Pooter to move in. The roads though, that's a different story.

Hornsey Road peaked during the reign of Edward I when it was part of the Great North Road out of London. By 1300 it was so crowded that a relief road was built up Highgate Hill. By 1494 the Hornsey Road/Holloway Road corner was called Ring Cross. It was an execution site and the cross may have been a boundary marker of the Knights of Saint John.

Edward I via wikimedia commons

[This is a very lazy post. I've drawn almost all of it from British History Online. In my defence, research libraries tend not to welcome nine month olds. I can't think why. Doubt he'd chew up more than a dozen books per afternoon.]