Writing hotspots in Highbury and Stoke Newington

1. The writing tree in Clissold Park – an ancient horse chestnut on a little mound in the south west corner of the park
2. Genesis Cafe on Blackstock Road (fast wireless internet and good coffee)
3. The no. 29 bus between Finsbury Park and Camden Town (but only if you get a seat)
4. The table near the window in that little cafe whose name I can’t remember on the corner of Lordship Road and Stoke Newington Church Street
5. The cafe of the Clissold Leisure Centre. Though not the tables near the counter.
6. The front seats of the 141 bus between Clissold Park and Old Street.

Bike chains and feng shui

On Riversdale Road today, on the same part of the road that was the other day covered in rubbish, one of my neighbours was trying to put the chain on her bike.

“Her chain’s bust,” shouted the tall Irish bloke from across the road, out tending his front garden on the other side of the road.

I stopped to help. The bike wasn’t in good nick and I couldn’t get the chain to work. The Irish bloke came over and we started discussing how this part of the road might be haunted, as my hands got more and more covered in oil.

“It’s bad feng shui” said the tall Irish bloke. “All the chi is flowing off down Wyatt Road. That’s why I’m poor,” he laughed, pointing at his jumper full of holes. I told them about the New River which used to flow under their houses and we started discussing plans to reinstate a stretch of it on Riversdale Road.

“Did you know there was a battle between the Danes and the Saxons round here,” said the Irish bloke. I said I did, though I can’t remember how I found it out – perhaps on a rainy afternoon in Guildhall Library from an obscure book whose title I wrote down in a now lost notebook. The area was once known as Dane Bottom, a reminder of a group of Scandinavian lads who came over for a European away tie and never went home. We discussed the possibility that the road might be haunted by the ghost of a Viking, then the tall Irish bloke realised he hadn’t done any front yard tidying for at least 15 minutes, and scooted off home.

Dirty foxes

Walking home along Riversdale Road I see the tall Irish bloke who’s always cleaning and painting his front yard. He’s standing in the road looking forlorn. As I get closer I can see rubbish – papers, bags, crap, clothers – strewn all over the place.
“How are you?” I say.
“Foxes.” he replies. “They can smell the dogshit. What a mess.”
I decide to help him clear up the rubbish. It’s in front of his house and he’s very proud of his place, I know. As if reading my mind he says “I like tidiness. I hate mess like this.”
I find a brown shoe. “It was a stylish one legged fox,” I say. He laughs. I find a copy of Marie Claire. “It was a stylish one legged fox who is into fashion and make up tips.” He laughs again.
I see him later in the day and he waves. He is once more cleaning his front yard.

Goodbye Football Tree

TreeA while ago (I can’t remember – was it three years or six months?) a wicker sculpture was placed on top of the remains of one of the old trees that had died after the 2003 drought. It seemed to be saying that the tree could continue to have a life after it had died.

Every day my two year old son and I walk through Clissold Park and go up to touch the Football Tree.

“Football Tree!” my son will say. We’ll then both have a quiet think about how great football and trees are, and walk on.

But the Football Tree is no more. The other morning as we approached it as part of our daily pilgrimage, we saw the wicker sphere lying smashed on the ground. Next to it was an iron pole, part of a nearby fairground display. Still fresh in the air was the sense that someone had decided that good stuff was rubbish and had to be ruined. Was this part of the artist’s planned trajectory for the sculpture – to hire a gang of bored and drunk idiots to destroy it?

My son said he wanted to fix the football tree. I told him that it couldn’t be fixed because it was a metaphor for the world’s problems. Or the problems of bored and drunk idiots hanging around in parks at night. Or the England football team’s problems. Or the problems of sentimentalising outdoor installation sculpture

The Tufnell Park Tavern, Tufnell Park Road, London N19

I’ve had some good nights in the Tufnell Park Tavern over the years. And a few really crap ones as well. However, this review is really to register my displeasure at the name change. The pub is now called Tufnell’s and it’s up there in bright shiny metallic clubbiness. What kind of brand manager modern celeb-fixated small brained philistine was let loose on this pub? It’s in Tufnell Park. It’s called the Tufnell Park Tavern. It should be so simple. Is it because Phil Tufnell is now a minor celebrity? Ha ha, nice one.
Ha ha ha ha ha.
I didn’t actually go into the pub on this occasion. I was on the top deck of the No. 4 bus with my two young sons.
“Why are you growling Daddy?” asked my 5 year old. Then I started to moan.
What hope is there for us as a society, as a civilisation, as a species,when people make crazy decisions like this? How can we claim the idea of constant human progress when we change the names of pubs from something old and good to something modern and useless. Another culprit is the Arsenal Tavern, now called the @ Club (reviewed here last year).
When is the Government going to sort out a proper Pub Czar* to get all these pubs to change their names back to the originals?

* Though the whole concept of Czar might need looking at. I mean, the Czars didnt exactly cover themselves in glory did they and ended up as a sad pile of bones in a piece of rough ground. Maybe there should be a Czar Czar to rebrand the whole concept.