Saturday, 31 March 2012

The British Snook Machine

This elegant thing (now in the Hunterian Museum) is a 1920s gas filled or cold cathode medical X-ray tube with a colimator extension of the anticathodeode.*

It was made by Newton and Wright in 471-3 Hornsey Road, where the Town Crier mural is.

Newton & Wright made tilting tables too:

They're invaluable in Pyelography, which, I discover, is a 'form of imaging of the renal pelvis and ureter'. 

Most of all they made Snook Machines:

I have no idea what a Snook Machine was, or how a British Snook Machine differs from a Foreign Snook Machine.  Or indeed whether one snooks with a snook machine or is snooked by a snook machine.

But now we know that there was considerable difference of opinion as to the respective merits of Valve versus Mechanical Rectification in Snook Machines.

And I know that  G.W.C. Kaye said on page 245 of Issue 2587, Volume 103, 1919 of Nature that 'MESSRS. NEWTON AND WRIGHT deserve great credit for their pertinacity in endeavouring to convince the British medical world of the particular merits of the Snook transformer'.

Newton and Wright were in the Hornsey road from at the latest 1905 until 1937. The company was then amalgamated and amalgamated until it became part of AEI.

There are many more images over at the Tumblr

* Proof that sentences don't have to be literary to be beautiful. Listen to the singing line in 'a colimator extension of the anticathodeode'. Pure poetry that is, lad. 

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

North London Model cat

The wonderful Mizhenka has captured the elusive North London Model cat here:

Cat on patrol
Cat at rest
 C'mon, you don't get that at Westfield. 

Sunday, 25 March 2012

North London Spiritualist church, AKA Electric Music.

This is the North London Spiritualist Church:

Mizhenka photograph, taken with cat camera. 

This is 'North London Spiritualist Church' the 2000 album by Electric Music AKA:

North London Spiritual Church

The NME called it one of the 'peripheral, unorthodox musical pleasures of Y2K' and the Scottish Herald said it was one 'of the year's most understated but rewarding albums'.

I am as tongue-tied and uncomfortable talking about music as I am happy talking about books and pictures, but I am listening to it on Spotify as I write this post and it is good. It's on iTunes too.

It was also unlucky, caught by the Hornsey Road singularity where nothing goes as planned.

Electric Music had signed to the Beastie Boys' Grand Royal label. It went bust.

Then Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk, whose side project was called 'Electric Music' made them change their name. Have to say, 'Electric Music AKA' is a better answer to that problem than 'London Suede' was.

Then they were thrown out of their North London studio Scabby Rd. This is how they told the story to the Herald:

'It was effectively an old shed with lots of power points up an alley, and during the whole time we were there we never paid for electricity, it had been set up in the past to run off one of the meters upstairs, and I guess they used a lot of electricity and had never noticed. We, of course, were completely skint, and dreading someone finding out, but one day we came back and the guy upstairs had installed one of these sensor lights that go off when someone breaks the beam. ''Unfortunately, he must have used one of our fuses, because when we went into the studio, none of the lights worked any more. The actual studio gear did, so recording continued for a while by candlelight, before we had to give the studio up because we ran out of money.'

They're called Boo Hooray now and in 2010 released 'Haunted'. I wonder if they're still local?

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


I use the blog as a pretext to do new things and so I went to Luxuria the other day and had my nails done

Before: meh nails that could audition for The Crucible. Look at them, all modest and virtuous and about to tell on a witch:

After: space nails for the atomic age

I do like the way my hand is looming menacingly in that photograph. It's like the start of a low budget horror movie: 'THE HAND: Will You Escape Its Grasp?'

And I liked having my nails done, especially the hand massage. It turns out that something that millions of people do because they find it pleasant is indeed pleasant.  

This isn't always true. See, for example, bowling. 

Where: 390 Hornsey Road
When: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday 10am to 7pm, Thursday 10am to 9pm. Call to see if they're open Sunday.
Tel: 02072632050 / 07582 937 468
They're on Facebook and on Twitter.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Why there isn't a church between Kingsland Road and Stanley Terrace.

David Draper was a child round here in the 1940s and told the BBC this story:

'After the war, the bombed areas(we as kids called them debris)became our playgrounds. On them we attended concerts organised by the local "talents", built barricades and engaged in territorial gang wars, climbed into the attics and out onto the roofs of derelict rows of condemned houses, took the lead out of the windows of the burned out church and melted it down, etc.etc.

The burnt out church in question was Saint Paul's and once stood at the corner of Kingsdown Rd. and Stanley Terrace. It must have been a beautiful structure before the blitz but had been reduced by incendiaries, to a shell whose walls and internal pillars only remained. Its pulpit was filled with a small mountain of rubble which extended from wall to wall at each side.

St Paul's after the bombs.
Image thanks to Churchcrawler on Flickr.

The door of the church had gone and the brickwork so patiently and continuously erected by workmen to seal it off was constantly being removed, just as patiently, by us kids, so we could get in and play. The floor was usually covered by about eight inches of water from end to end and made an excellent obstacle course for traversing across on old milk bottle crates and other junk.

One day whilst playing there, I and my mates, for some inexplicable reason decided to dig away at the rubble near the pulpit. We started at the left side and before long to our wonder and awe, we realised we had uncovered an arched opening over a large concrete shelf, beyond which we could see what appeared to be a small room. We clambered over the shelf,into the room one by one and as I stood there, my eyes becoming accustomed to the dark, feeling like an explorer,as I imagine pyramid explorers might have felt, entering a mummies tomb, another, strange,familiar feeling came over me.

I was looking at the walls: They were patterned in gold diamond lattice over a purple background that I had seen somewhere before. I forgot about it and I and my mates continued on with our usual activities of getting thoroughly dirty and wet.Weeks, maybe months later, I was talking with my Nan and out of the blue I said to her: "Nan, have I ever been in the old church, before it was burned?" My Nan looked at me incredulously and said: "How did you remember that?" I said to her: "It was the pattern on the wall in a room we discovered next to the pulpit". My Nan was amazed, she said: "You were only a baby then, we went into that room in the church to get a food parcel".

This is what St Paul's had looked like before the Blitz:

St Paul's before the war
Image thanks to Churchcrawler on Flickr. 

And this is what that corner looks like now:


The flats seem nice enough, and places to live are important. I wish, though, that there were at least a plaque to record what was there before. 

Many thanks to Churchcrawler and the BBC People's War project for making this post possible. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Tollington Initiative: Hornsey Road Baths 1998

Hornsey Road Baths, 1998, thanks to Daniel Lobo

Daniel Lobo, who goes by the name of Daquella Manera on flickr, took this photograph from the top of Montem Primary School around 1998. 

I'd have posted it anyway, even if this had been the only photograph of the Hornsey Road he'd taken and even if there hadn't been a story behind it because I like the way it makes it seem like derelict London is swirling around you.

But the web is serendipity country and the best things turn up by accident. This photograph is part of the Tollington Initiative, a regeneration project run by London Met (then University of North London) with the Council and the neighbourhood. A book came out of it, as did many other photographs of the Six Acres and Andover Estates.

More later.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Civics class. Or, 'Would you like a neighbourhood forum?'

Have patience with me for this one. It's not going to be the snappiest post, but it might matter.

So, there's this thing called the Localism Act. 

It says that if twenty-one or more local people gather they can become a 'neighbourhood forum' and devise a 'neighbourhood plan' that says where they think new houses, businesses and shops should go  and what they should look like.

The Government's crib sheet to the Act says:

'Provided a neighbourhood development plan is in line with national planning policy, with the strategic vision for the wider area set by the local authority, and with other legal requirements, local people will be able to vote on it in a referendum.  If the plan is approved by a majority, then the local authority will bring it into force.'

The maps below shows the North London forums that are being set up:

There's a bigger and clearer picture here thanks to Arkady.

Yeah, I can't see a Hornsey Road forum either. That may be bad. Whatever you think of the Act it is likely to work out better for areas with forums than for areas without them. 

I have a thousand and one reasons why I'm not going to volunteer to start this, but if you're interested in setting up a Shaftesbury to Seven Sisters Road 'Hornsey Road: Tollington' forum or a Seven Sisters to the Emirates 'Hornsey Road: Ashburton Grove' one then tell me. 

If you ask nicely I'll even give you a free post. 

Lots more here and here and here.

What are you crying about?

If you look up next time you're outside 471 Hornsey Road you'll see this man above the carpet shop:

Look closer. He's wearing a red frock coat and black hat, has a bell in one hand and scroll in the other. 

He looks kind of like this lady: 

Shirley Ballard, the Isle of Wight's official town crier
Thanks to jonno259 on flickr
The carpet shop has been there seventeen years. The Town Crier picture was there when they arrived, and must have been there a long time before that because it was a mystery to them too.

It's signed MS. The shape of the building and its being on a corner near what was once a railway station made me wonder if it had been a pub, but there's no sign of it on

I'm stumped. Any ideas?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Park Kitchen @Wray Crescent.

The Park Kitchen opened in Wray Crescent this Saturday. I meant to review the opening because I take my responsibilities as one of the Hornsey Road's leading bloggers seriously. It's a vocation. A calling. A quest.

The thing is, I got there too late and it was closed. There was wailing, gnashing of teeth and peckishness. All the more so as the trailer/cafe looked promising. 

My laziness was rewarded though, because the owner (who I think is called Paul) was still around closing up, as was  his mother and a friend. 

Paul's mother had a tupperware box with her, and the box had cakes that he had baked and she was proud and surprised at how good they were and, well, somehow I got a free cake. 

It was an excellent cake, crumbly and moist and all the things cakes should be. And I know cakes. 

This bodes well. Wray Crescent is a sweet little park (and the Friends of are doing good things) but it couldn't be perfect while it didn't have a cafe. And now it has a cafe that does sterling cakes.

Did you go when it was open? What did you think?

Follow @TheParkKitchen on Twitter for more information.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Exciting Flavours: Any Occasional Parties Are Welcome.

So, this sign appeared outside the Hornsey Pool and Amusements building a few weeks ago:

There isn't a place called Al Fakher on the Hornsey Road. As far as I can tell, there's never been a place called Al Fakher on the Hornsey Road. 

The sign falls over sometimes, and then someone picks it up and props it against the wall again.

There is only one logical solution. This sign is a portal. Or perhaps a portkey. The question now is where it takes you.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Hornsey Road's Myspace page

is long dormant, but it does have this description:

'Hornsey Road, in the London Borough of Islington, is the epitome of urban chic. Snaking its way through the middle of a series of recently rejuvenated and "up and coming" areas (Finsbury Park, Holloway, Stroud Green, Archway, Crouch End) without being part of any of them, Hornsey Road has managed to retain a special kind of street charm that is tragically becoming rare in modern London. 

None of these nouveau riche areas wants Hornsey Road, and Hornsey Road doesn't want any of them. Hornsey Road exists in its own time and space, like that alternate 1985 in Back to the Future II where Biff's in charge and there's tanks on the street and prostitutes everywhere.

Whoever wrote that should write more. 

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets.

Eliza Gilbert spent the summer of 1842 at Almond House, Hornsey Road. 

She was in trouble. She'd already done a Lydia Bennet (married a flashy lieutenant when she was sixteen) and a Becky Sharp (run off with a better-connected lieutenant when she was nineteen) and she didn't have many options left. 

Her husband wanted to sue her for adultery, her reputation was shot and as well brought up young lady she didn't actually know how to do anything.

She should have caved, but she didn't. Instead, she reinvented herself as Lola Montez, the great Spanish dancer:

Joseph Karl Stieler 'Lola Montez' 1847
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

She didn't speak Spanish, she'd never even been to Spain, she couldn't dance, and she'd never been on stage. Somehow, though, she got herself onto a gala performance at His Majesty's Theatre to do her 'Spider Dance' where she pretended that a spider had climbed up her skirts. The audience and the papers loved it, but her husband's friends ratted her out and she had to leave town.

She spent the next two decades sweeping into places with a flurry of letters to the editor and sold out performances and sweeping out as people turned on her. 

Through it, she had affairs with Liszt and Petipa, appalled Wagner who called her a 'heartless, demonic being',  persuaded the King of Bavaria (who had a thing for her feet) to name her Countess Landsfeld and nearly lost him his throne.

When she grew too stiff for dancing she took to lecturing, and charged more that Dickens could for his readings. 

1955 Lola Montes movie poster, thanks to Wikipedia
The movie tanked.

She was heroic in a way, but for all the shine and drama of her life she was also horrid. She hit people who couldn't hit back, lied extravagantly and continually, campaigned against women's rights and for slavery. She might not be the worst person to have lived on the Hornsey Road, but she'd take some beating.

This post's title is from an Adler and Ross song for Damn Yankees, whose lyrics capture her willful awfulness better than I can: 'I always get what I aim for/ And your heart and soul are what I came for/ Whatever Lola wants/Lola gets [...] I'm irresistible you fool/Give in.'

For much more, and a more sympathetic take, see Bruce Seymour's 'Lola Montez', Yale University Press, 1996. Oh, and Madonna used 'Lola Montez' as a pseudonym.