Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Merry Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Holidays, and Happy New Year

I'm going to a land beyond North London* and The Hornsey Road is going on a break until the New Year.

If you're around for New Year's Eve you could go to the stompin' and swingin' dinner dance at Ajani's, or to the prayer party at St. Mark's.

They're both in the new scrolling calendar on the top right hand side of the homepage, which also includes a breastfeeding drop-in and a rock and roll bingo night.

If you want to advertise an event on or around the Hornsey Road then tell me in comments and I'll add it to the calendar unless it's illegal or I take against it.

Thank you all for reading,


* I've now got this going round my head. It's the opposite of seasonal but it's also a magnificent song to sing while cycling.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Being alone at Christmas.

Loneliness (as distinct from the bliss of solitude) is wretched and Christmas makes it worse.

This short notice ran in the Tuesday 25 December 1894 edition of the Morning Post.

'Suicide in a Bath

Last evening Dr. G. Danford Thomas held an inquest at the Islington Coroner's court on the body of Frank Cornish, aged 31, a grocer's assistant, lately living at 33 Regina Road, Tollington-park, who committed suicide in the public baths at Hornsey-road on Friday afternoon last.

Evidence was given that Cornish for some weeks had been out of employment and gave way to drink. On Friday afternoon last he asked for a warm bath and was subsequently found by the attendant undressed and dead in the water.

A large wound was in the throat, and when the water was drained a razor was discovered at the bottom. Letters found upon his clothing showed that he had sought for several situations but failed.

The Jury returned a verdict of suicide while of unsound mind.

Frank Cornish is beyond help, but the NHS advice is that the best thing you can do if you think someone may be feeling suicidal is probably to encourage them to talk about their feelings and to listen to what they say.

If you are having suicidal thoughts please contact the Samaritans by:

Telephone: 08457909090
Post: Chris, PO Box 9090, Stirling FK8 2SA

And if you're lucky enough that neither apply and you can afford to then please donate to Mind (the mental health charity) here.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Emma Morley

Last Sunday I overcame my ex-indie kid horror of reading a book that many many many Other People* like and bought One Day.

I am, of course, an idiot. It's not One Day's fault that it's been weighed down with soul-deadening adjectives like 'heartwarming' and 'page-turning'. It's sweet and it works.

It's also blog-relevant because it does the London thing of showing emotions though place names. A character who lives In Earls Court must be unhappy, moving to Clapton means misery, while owning a house in Richmond condemns you to comfortable despair.

The lead character is happy around the Hornsey Road. Happy in a way that catches the scruffiness of the road, the way it is out of sync with the energetic gentrifying forces across London, the sense (in short) of its existing in a slightly different parallel universe.

'They lapse into silence again as the radio burbles on and Emma closes her eyes once more and tries to imagine herself unpacking cardboard boxes, finding space for her clothes, her books. In truth she prefers the atmosphere of her current flat, a pleasant, vaguely bohemian attic off the Hornsey Road. Belsize Park is just too neat and chichi.'


'Two miles away, just off the Hornsey Road, Emma climbs the flights of stairs, unlocks the front door and feels the cool, stale air of a flat that has been unoccupied for four days. She makes tea, sits at her desk, turns on her computer, and stares at it for the best part of an hour.'

*People who go to book groups,** read authors' biographies because they want to know what their novels are really about, identify with characters, never read short stories or poetry or things written in other languages or before they were born, and don't feel at home in second hand bookshops. The literary equivalent of the fans of Coldplay*** or We Will Rock You. You know, those people.

** Okay, so I go to a book group. But it's different. No, I can't explain why.

*** Okay, so I'll forgive them for this.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Dr Tibbles' Vi-Cocoa

Today's edition of the blog is brought to you by Quackery Through the Ages (TM).

"Mr. F. H. Demper, 94, Hornsey Road, London, N., writes: 'I am a busy journalist and at times have suffered severely from 'brain fag' and general lassitude.

 I have tried many remedies and have found the after effects worse than the original weakness. Thanks to the advice of a friend, I was induced to experiment with Dr. Tibbles' Vi-Cocoa some months ago, and am very glad I did so.

After a day of the hardest work I find a cup of it will banish the fiend insomnia.

Since I have taken it habitually, I find that I sleep soundly, and on waking the next morning I am as fresh as a lark. I wish I had heard of Dr. Tibbles' Vi-Cocoa years ago.'"

This credible testimonial is from the Friday 31 October 1902 issue of the Northampton Mercury, thanks again to the British Newspaper Archive.

One day my world-conquering range of Hornsey Road themed products will include this:

It will sell in the millions.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Lucena House

Lucena House are (or were, t'interweb isn't clear) a band.

It's also the block of 1950s flats on the Hornsey Road opposite Yale Terrace where they met.

Listen to them here.


Libertea is on Marlborough Road near Hornsey Road rather than on the echt Hornsey Road, but I like it enough to forgive it for that and for having a name I'm not sure how to pronounce. Liberty? Or Liber-teh-ah?

It's where I'd go if I were trying to write a short story. They do proper Moroccan mint tea and croissants for breakfast. There are books (on that shelf you can just see above and on another small bookshelf) I could read to distract myself and trick writers' block. It's quiet enough on a weekday afternoon that I could commandeer a table in peace and I could watch people come and go.

I should try and write a short story.


Or I could drink carrot, apple and ginger smoothies or white orchard tea and pretend I did sun salutations every day and never overslept.  And then think sod it and have croque monsieur and apple tart instead. 


 It's across the road from this:

I must find out more.

Where: 159-163 Marlborough Road N19 4NF
When: Mon-Fri 7.30am to 7.00pm; Sat-Sun 8:30am to 6:30pm
Telephone: 020 7272 5627
Wheelchair access and high chairs

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Acer campestre

Trees, as all wise people know, are better than flowers.

They are more beautiful, more lasting, and they have better names: Common ash, Bird cherry, Cedar of Lebanon, Douglas fir, Elder, Field maple, Grey willow, Holly, Irish yew, Juniper, London plane, Monkey Puzzle, Norway spruce, Common oak, Purging buckthorn, Rowan, Sycamore, Tulip tree, Variegated sycamore, Western Hemlock.

Paul Wood at the Street Tree has kindly let me share his photograph of a Field maple (Acer campestre) 'a plucky, messy and often overlooked tree' dealing insouciantly with the Hornsey Road.


Go look at his blog. He does orchids and the countryside too, which is all very well if you like that kind of thing, but it's his London tree postings that are a revelation. He's discovered perry trees off the Holloway road, a Persian silk tree (see what I mean about names?) in Southwark and Robinias in Bedford row.

This is why London is infinite. The streets and houses run out eventually, but there is no end to the different ways of seeing it. You can name its trees or model its bus routes or remember streets because a friend you lost touch with lived there decades ago or hold an internal map of all the places where you lost umbrellas.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Fearful Scene at a Fire

To counterbalance Dickens' melancholy here's another 19th century Hornsey Road story, but this time one with danger and a happy ending.

It starts off badly, on a cold December morning:

'On Saturday morning, about five o'clock, a fire, nearly attended with the loss of six or seven persons, was discovered by a police-officer of the N division, in the premises belonging to Mr Chalton, a linen draper and silk mercer, carrying on business in Andover-terrace, Hornsey road.'

Then it gets worse:

'At the time of the outbreak the whole of the inmantes were in their beds fast asleep, and it was a work of no little difficulty to make them aware of their danger.'

And worse still, until it seems there's no hope:

'That was, however, at length accomplished; but the flames by this time had not only taken possession of the front shop and warehouses, but also the staircase, and were approaching the doors of the three other rooms, in which Mr Chalton, his children and his servants were.'

Then, almost at the last moment, everything turns out fine:

'To descend by the staircase was, therefore, an impossibility, and the affrighted persons made for the front windows and there being a sun blind over the shop windows, it was pulled out, two of the children were thrown out of the window on to the blind, and they rolled down and were caught by the people below. The servants, with the proprietor and his wife, next scrambled down in the same manner, and, fortunately, not one of them received the least injury. '

I love the image of the crowd gathered around ready to catch the children, the servants and Mr and Mrs Chalton. I wonder how many times they told the story and how many of them claimed to have been the one who thought of pulling out the sun blind.

From the 7 December 1868 edition of Morning Post, thanks again to the British Newspaper Archive.

And apologies to anyone reading this through RSS - I promise there will be no more accidental multiple posting

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Charles Dickens 'God knows how small the world looks to one who comes out of such a sick-room on a bright summer day'

On Tuesday 5 September 1848, the London Standard ran this death notice:

'On the 25 inst, at the house of her brother in law, Henry Austin, Esq., in the Hanley Road, Hornsey Road, Frances Elizabeth, wife of Henry Burnett, Esq. of Higher Ardwick Manchester, daughter of John and elder sister of Charles Dickens, Esqrs, aged 38.'

Her younger brother visited Frances Elizabeth (Fanny) shortly before she died of consumption and wrote this to his friend and future biographer John Foster:

'A change took place in poor Fanny about the middle of the day yesterday, which took me out there last night. Her cough suddenly ceased almost, and, strange to say, she immediately became aware of her hopeless state; to which she resigned herself, after an hour's unrest and struggle, with extraordinary sweetness and constancy. The irritability passed, and all hope faded away; though only two nights before, she had been planning for 'after Christmas.'

She is greatly changed. I had a long interview with her to-day, alone; and when she had expressed some wishes about the funeral, and her being buried in unconsecrated ground"
[Mr. Burnett's family were dissenters], "I asked her whether she had any care or anxiety in the world. She said No, none. It was hard to die at such a time of life, but she had no alarm whatever in the prospect of the change; felt sure we should meet again in a better world; and although they had said she might rally for a time, did not really wish it.

She said she was quite calm and happy, relied upon the mediation of Christ, and had no terror at all. She had worked very hard, even when ill; but believed that was in her nature, and neither regretted nor complained of it. Burnett had been always very good to her; they had never quarrelled; she was sorry to think of his going back to such a lonely home; and was distressed about her children, but not painfully so.

She showed me how thin and worn she was; spoke about an invention she had heard of that she would like to have tried, for the deformed child's back; called to my remembrance all our sister Letitia's patience and steadiness; and, though she shed tears sometimes, clearly impressed upon me that her mind was made up, and at rest.

I asked her very often, if she could ever recall anything that she could leave to my doing, to put it down, or mention it to somebody if I was not there; and she said she would, but she firmly believed that there was nothing -- nothing. Her husband being young, she said, and her children infants, she could not help thinking sometimes, that it would be very long in the course of nature before they were reunited; but she knew that was a mere human fancy, and could have no reality after she was dead.

Such an affecting exhibition of strength and tenderness, in all that early decay, is quite indescribable. I need not tell you how it moved me. I cannot look round upon the dear children here, without some misgiving that this sad disease will not perish out of our blood with her; but I am sure I have no selfishness in the thought, and God knows how small the world looks to one who comes out of such a sick-room on a bright summer day. I don't know why I write this before going to bed. I only know that in the very pity and grief of my heart, I feel as if it were doing something.

Source here.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Calvin Harris & Clothing

From this interview on Popjustice:

Popjustice: 'Hello Calvin. Where are you?'
Calvin Harris: 'I'm in my studio on [London cultural hotspot] Hornsey Road.'

I want a t-shirt with 'The Hornsey Road: London Cultural Hotspot' printed on it.


Or, alternatively and as suggested by Hugh:


See here for more on Hornsey Road studios.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Meta blogging (Mizhenka)

Smoky, ghostly, Hornsey Road as opening scene for M.R. James story, picture here.

Also, many pictures of bears.

Also, a blunt appraisal of the road's merits.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

In praise of ziggurats

The heart of the Andover Estate is beautiful and unusual.

Giant redbrick ziggurats face onto shared gardens.

There are no cars. It feels (for good and for ill) like a different world from the Victorian streets around it. 

I'll hand this over to Pevsner: 'The strikingly massed Andover Estate (by the GLC, from 1972) was a late phase of this development [The Campbell Bunk slum clearance]. It builds up from two storey terraces and four-storey deck access maisonettes, to a towering group of ten-storey ziggurats on giant pilotis. Angular forms somewhat softened by universal use of brindled russet brick, brown pantiles and blue balcony planters.'
Take a look around if you're passing by.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

The underground swimming pool

Between the Lee Garden Chinese takeaway and the defunct Hornsey Halal Grocery, in a shabby block of converted Victorian houses, there's a door. There's no sign on the door, or any indication that anything out of the ordinary is behind it,  but if you opened it this is what you'd see:

And if you walked down those stairs, past the stained glass window with its image of a woman swimming or diving, you'd reach the underground swimming pool: 


Yours for 300 a week


People always have reasons for doing things. I can't quite figure out what the reason was here. 

Perhaps the incongruity is the point, perhaps whoever wanted it wanted to be able to walk out of one world and into another. 


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Sylvan Cottage in 2011?

On the west side of the Hornsey Road, a few yards south of the Hanley Road corner there's a run-down house, so run down that it looks like it might fall over. 

I was thinking about it late yesterday afternoon and realised that it might be the 1850s 'cottage adjoining' of the previous post

These pictures were taken in a hurry because it feels awkward and ill-mannered to photograph someone's home, even when you go no closer than Google does. 

All the more so when the home is in this bad a state. For a long time I'd assumed that the house was abandoned, but the cars parked out front come and go and  someone switches the lights on when it goes dark.

I hope whoever lives there is okay. There's no straight correlation between neatness of house and happiness of mind, but this looks uncomfortable to live in.

But look at it.  The 'cottage adjoining' had a stable, greenhouse and garden. Those wooden doors on the bottom left could have been a stable.

And if you look at the satellite picture (below) you can see that there's still a big garden and even what could be a greenhouse.