Sunday, 24 February 2013

Hamlet, finally

I love the Hamlet Cafe. It's a safe space, a business that flourishes when so many others close. It's a refuge on long cold days when you're tired and want cheering up; and it works just as well when you're happy already and want to share it. It's a Hornsey Road version of Peter Jones, because nothing bad could happen in either.*

It's also tricky to photograph. They keep the lights low, which is wise and good and helps with the atmosphere, but makes pictures come out blurry. So you'll have to trust me when I say that there's a painting of Shakespeare sitting in the cafe, watching over you:

Notice the lights
And that there's an Arsenal poster next to a copy of Delacroix's Gravedigger Scene:

(Photograph turned into fake painting to anonymise faces.)

Delacroix's Gravedigger Scene, original version

The food's decent and cheap (not an easy trick to pull off) but the real flabbergasting miracle is that  they get rich and poor to share a space. I've just been to a free NHS antenatal class where I'd bet on my not-yet-firstborn that the midwife was the worst paid person in the room, and even the hopeful adolescents at Platform know the split between life on the estates and life in the Victorian houses. Hamlet, God bless them, welcomes all. 

Hot chocolate
Go, if you haven't been already. Go again if you have.

*This applies to the cafe, not to the play. Many bad things happen in the play. Standing behind a curtain, for example, is quite unsafe.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

I don't think duct tape has legal value.

I want to write a wholesome post about the Hamlet Cafe, but the Aqua Sauna keeps dragging me back. Recap for new readers: The Aqua Sauna is a brothel near the Emirates. It's in trouble for being, well, a brothel, but on the arrest-Al-Capone-for-tax-evasion principle it's likely to be closed for not having a sauna licence.

Okay. Suppose you owned the Aqua Sauna. Would you turn to duct tape to fix things? Because, well, look:

Aqua Sauna, February 2013
Aqua Sauna, February 2013
Cunning, isn't it? 

Friday, 8 February 2013

Richard III the cabinet maker, or Hornsey Road on film

This post is thanks to Miss Annie, founder of the Stroud Green WI and regular on, who spotted the Hornsey Road cameo in that Richard III in the car park documentary.

If you're reading this before March 6 2013, then go here and fast-forward to 53:14.  If you're too late the story is that Richard's closest living descendant is a Canadian cabinet maker called Michael who works in the Belgravia Workshops (the same building as the picture framer) between Libertea and Hamlet's.

'It's funny history isnt it? I mean given a different set of circumstances I'd be looking for Michael in a some palace somewhere or a castle. But such is the strange course, we're here in North London. I mean, it's nice, but, you know what I mean.'

Channel 4 has a Hornsey Road habit. See here and here for proof.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

I made my excuses and left.

There's a notice pinned to the door of the Aqua Sauna. It gives you until Valentine's day to oppose a renewal of its 'special treatment licence' by writing to the Licensing Team, Public Protection Division, 222 Upper Street, London N1 1XR 'giving in detail the grounds for objection'.

I wonder what they'd do if anyone wrote in to support the application for renewal?

 Anyway, I had this conversation with my friend in Ireland last week:

'How can you tell if a massage parlour isn't really a massage parlour. I mean, apart from going on Punternet?'
'Is it open at night? Are the windows blocked so no-one can see in? Does it radiate seediness?'
'Hmmm. Yes, that would do it.'

We were avoiding arguing about whether Britain has a constitution (long story) and so went on to talk about words.

Here's the thing. The Aqua Sauna's pretence of selling saunas and massages is as transparent as that News of the Screws line I stole for the title of this post, and yet Islington Council's 'community safety update' doesn't say 'we raided a brothel and closed it down', it says 'Aqua Sauna, at 42 Hornsey Road, had no licensed staff on duty [and]  will now face prosecution.'

The Islington Tribune didn't run a 'police close down whorehouse' story; they wrote: 'On Friday, Aqua Sauna in Hornsey Road, Holloway, was found to have no licensed masseuses on duty – although it did have a special treatment licence – and was also temporarily closed.'

The Islington Gazette article says 'Aqua Sauna in Hornsey Road, Holloway, was found to have no licensed masseuses on duty – although it did have a special treatment licence – and was also temporarily closed' and then quotes Cllr Paul Convery:  'We are not turning a blind eye to this any more. This sort of thing should be removed from the neighbourhoods of decent law-abiding people.'

It's as though urologists wrote papers about down below and divorce lawyers accused their clients' spouses of having special friends. It's a funny fit with the Aqua Sauna's brazenness. I get that local papers and councillors would not want to talk about pimps, johns and whores*,  but I don't get why 'brothel' or 'prostitution' are off limits.

Non-brothel blogging will resume shortly.

*Side-note: Those slang words are losing their primary meaning too. I doubt 'ladies is pimps too, go and brush your shoulders off' is actually about prostitution, and I'm pretty sure the President doesn't think so either.