Friday, 23 August 2013

Hope as illustrated by tomatoes.

Somedays you wake up and wonder what the point of things is: would the world be any worse if you stopped trying to be kind, or learn, or work?

 Short of getting a George Bailey/Ebenezer Scrooge revelation (huh, I only just realised that 'It's a Wonderful Life' is 'A Christmas Carol' in reverse) may I recommend a walk down Hanley Road?

The front of St Saviour's used to be so dreary that some parishioners thought the church had closed down. Then some blessed person has the idea of making it into allotments and now the tomatoes are as high as an elefant's eye:

So, you see, it is worth being alive after all. 

Saturday, 17 August 2013

In which I find proper arancini and thank the gods.

The other day someone accused me of not caring about locals priced out by gentrification. That's unfair, but I'll admit that the blog has veered towards the shinier end of things because, well, because shiny things are easy to notice. I must do better; the Hornsey Road hides its treasures. 

Case in point: after the Arsenal roundabout the road narrows and scoots right to join Holloway Road. Walk down that tributary branch and on the left is 'Mamma Mia'.

Look, as a rule places called 'Mamma Mia' are best avoided. Places called 'Mamma Mia' with the strapline 'Breakfast, Sandwich Bar, Coffee' might rise to an eatable fry-up but that's it. They're usually as Italian as ketchup and nowhere near as nice.

This 'Mamma Mia' though is a dream. It actually is a proper family-run (note the bicycle) Italian trattoria.

It's run by a Sicilian Milanista, who has a framed photograph of himself with Franco Baresi (if you don't know who Baresi is you should be ashamed)

and who cooks perfect arancini. 

Go eat them. Really. 

Monday, 12 August 2013

360 degrees turn

No. 360 has been fed through the infinite improbability drive and come out as an accountants' office. 

Four years ago it was 'Gunner's Play' an Arsenal social club. Except it wasn't. It was a front for the 'Tottenham Boys' gang and their drug stash.

It was a pretty convincing front: a man working at Mr Cee's Caribbean Cafe' next door told the Islington Tribune: 'I thought it was a pool club. I was thinking of joining. The guys used to come in here. They seemed fine.'

Next, the landlords tried to get permission to make into a flat, arguing that its criminal past made it unlettable (which makes it sound like a Fallen Woman Who Had Lost That Which Is Most Precious).

So, yay for the brave accountants for taking it on.

I know less about gangs than I do about porcelain, but I desperately want to know why a Tottenham gang chose to pretend they were an Arsenal social club. Misdirection? Elaborate joke? Self-loathing? Hope that somehow Wenger would get the blame? 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Trip the Light Fantastic

Islington Gazette again, 1867 this time, and a story that's so patronising it'd drive a high church Anglican to fury:

'The usual Christmas entertainment provided for the inmates of this establishment took place in the dining hall of the institution [Hornsey Road infant poor house], on the evening of Thurs last.

The amusements commenced, as on previous occasions, with an exhibition of the laughter-provoking 'Punch' and a clever performance with marionnettes.

This part of the entertainment was followed by one equally as gratifying to the young recipients of the Trustees' liberality, and this was the distribution of an abundant supply of cakes, oranges, toys, etc.

Then came the performance of instrumental music by the school band, under the conduct of their indefatigable instructor, Mr Pheminster.

This was succed by recitations and singing by the children, who appeard
to acquit themselves to the satisfaction of the numerous audience assembled. The conclusion of this part of the evening's proceedings was the signal for the removal of tables and seats to enable the young ones to 'trip on the light fantastic' etc... which healthful exercise they enjoyed to their heart's content; when the performance by the band of the national anthem brought to a termination another pleasant anniversary of the children's Christmas treat.

Several of the trustees and their friends were present, and appeared heartily to participate in the feeling of happiness which pervaded the whole of the proceedings.

On Friday afternoon last the Mr and Mrs Gunnery and a party of ladies and gentlemen attended by appointment to distribute a large quantity of oranges, buns and toys, provided by the Rev. gentleman, amongst the inmates of this establishment.

The benevolent donor and party, after spending considerable time with the little ones, left evidently well-pleased with having been the means of promoting the happiness of those who had been the recipients of their bounty.'

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The riot at 38 Mitford Road

Mitford Road is tree-lined, too narrow to drive down quickly, and a three-bed terrace costs £595,000.

Number 38 (below) is run down, 

but smartened up it would look as villagey (incidentally what is it with the London fixation with make-believing that we live in St Mary Bloody Mead instead of in a great city?) as its next door neighbour: 

In 1866 the landlord of Number 38, backed by rioting railway labourers and coster-mongers, sheltered a man from the police.

It's an odd story, with an odd ending. Here it is in the 30 January 1866 edition of the Islington Gazette:

'On Thursday three navvies named William Stevens Charles Starr and Henry Watson were brought up for final examination before Mr Bodkin and Col. Jeakes the sitting magistrates at the Highgate  petty sesssions, the two former charged with feloniously assaulting and injuring Police Sgt Foster Police Constable Dalton and Police Constable Barnes while in the exectuion of their duty.

Barnes was so seriously injured that his life is despaired of. He has appeard
once before the bench, but in so prostrate a condition that great difficulty was experienced in obtaining his deposition and signature.

The assaults were committed on the 9th of December last, after a fight at the 'volunteer' beer shop in the Hornsey Road. Stevens was one of the combatants.

The police were called upon by the landlord to quell the disturbance, but he refused to give the men into custody.

The three constables endeavoured to 
persuade the men to go away quietly, one of the fighters accepting the good advice given him. 

Stevens, however, refused, and on being taken into custody by Sgt Foster he kicked the officer about the legs with his heavy boots and struck him repeatedly in the face with his fists and bit his litttle finger, taking off a portion of the nail. He had previously stripped to fight the Sgt.  

Starr was lower down the road, creating a disturbance and was also requested to leave quietly. He became very uproarious and struck and kicked the constable Dalton.

Both Stevens and Starr were secured, with the assistance of Barnes, a fellow-constable, when Stevens called on the mob to assist and prevent them from being taken to the station house.

About 200 men, apparently railway labourers and costermongers, hemmed in the officials with their prisoners and hooted and yelled frightfully. 

The prisoner Watson urged on the mob to a rescue, and called out, ' Get the ___ into a dark street and then we'll give it to 'em.' The mob obeyed; and forced the police, with their prisoners, into Hooper-street (a dark street) when showers of brickbats were hurled at the constables, Sgt Foster being struck on the head with a brickbat, and Dalton's cheek being laid open. 

A desperate struggle with the prisoners then took place, Sgt Foster, Constable Barnes and the prisoner Starr falling to the ground. Watson, seeing this advantage, called out, 'don't let our mates be taken'. 

In the confusion Starr got up first and kicked Barnes about the head and body, and then jumped on his chest. Starr was rescued by Watson and others, and escaped but was subsequently apprehended at 38 Mitford Road, Holloway, where the landlord denied the police admission. 

The riot was put a stop to by the arrival of several constables. Barnes, after the violence inflicted upon him by Starr, was unable to rise, and was conveyed in a state of insensibility to the Royal Free hospital, wehre it was ascertained that he had sustained a fracture of three of the lower ribs on the right side, with injuries to the head, chest and back. 

He remained in the hospital a month, out of which he was three weeks in bed. Although it was as believed that Barnes was injured for life and disabled from again doing duty, the poor man, anxious to get out of the hospital, left on his own accord, and during that absence from the hospital made his deposition, but two or three days afterwards he had to return, where he still remains in a very precarious condition. The right lung was injured by the broken ribs.

Mr John Hackney, house surgeon at the Royal Free Hospital, said [...] Barnes had had a fit, rendering it necessary to shave his head. He had lost his sight and hearing on one side of the head. He was in a most dangerous condition.

The prisoners having nothing to say, the Bench said they would be committed for trial at the next Old Bailey Sessions.'

The  odd ending is that Stevens and Watson were acquitted, Starr only got four years and no-one else was even prosecuted. 

If the Gazette's story is true (and for what it's worth it matches up okay with the record of the trail) then rioting, threatening police officers and blocking an arrest weren't taken very seriously.

I am very out if my depth here. Anyone know about Victorian criminal justice? 



Thursday, 1 August 2013

In memory of Martin Dinnegan

At the corner of Axminster Road and Tollington Way there's a memorial, unplanned and unshowy but all the more affecting for that. 

One side of what was the Devonshire Arms is covered with tributes to Martin Dinnegan who was killed for no reason when he was fourteen. 

The CitySafe Havens campaign, backed by Martin's mother Lorraine, asks businesses to give refuge to young people fleeing street violence. There's more at