Saturday, January 26th 2013
When we looked out of the window this morning, we saw that the snow had almost entirely disappeared and the sun was shining. It also seemed warmer. Encouraged by this, we set out, first to have breakfast, then perhaps to take a bus ride somewhere interesting.
For breakfast we went, as we often do, to Pret in St John Street. As you can see in the photo, the scene was illuminated by a low winter sun, casting long shadows.
We saw that the building on the corner of Pentonville Road and Islington High Street was all wrapped up. This is my favourite among the local buildings and I have no idea what is being done to it. I shall be keeping a close eye on it, looking forward to seeing it restored to its original glory.
After breakfast we caught a number 43 bus and travelled to Muswell Hill. The above view shows Muswell Hill Broadway, looking towards the early Victorian (1842) Church of St James. As you can also see, the street, and the whole area, was very busy with both pedestrians and vehicles. This sometimes made it a little difficult to get photos.
Our first visit was to W. Martyn’s, a speciality food outlet crammed full of rare and wonderful foodstuffs. The 1930s exterior hides an interior that dates from when the shop opened in 1897. Originally, a grocer’s, Martyn’s has survived by moving with the times and finding its own niche in the market, while remaining a purveyor of quality goods. Both the exterior and the interior of the shop have received a Grade II listing from English Heritage for their historical importance.
We asked if we might take photos inside and permission was kindly granted. The shelves hold a seemingly endless range of tempting products and we duly bought samples to enjoy later, including – yes”! – a packet of the house Russian Caravan tea!
In the supermarket age when most foods come pre-packed, you might think that the scales were only for show, an obsolete instrument left over from an earlier age, but these scales are still used to weigh out goods for the customer.
Even out in the street, the shop attracts your attention by the aroma of roasting coffee. Coffee roasters have all but disappeared from the high street these days, so it is a pleasure to see this one, still going strong and still preparing the coffee beans in the traditional way.
Today, there is a till on the counter but in times past, payment would have been made at the separate cash desk, which I take this window to be. All in all, standing in this shop you feel as if past and present flow together and harmonize to produce the shop’s unique atmosphere. Multi-generation family-run businesses are becoming a rarity and it is a pleasure to find one still going and apparently in good health. A charming history of the shop and the family can be found on the shop’s Website.
We went across the road to the Crocodile Cafe which has a yard or garden as well as indoor accommodation, and a shop selling novelties and gift items. Understandably in view of the weather, there were not many people in the garden. I am not sure to what extent I am still supposed to “go easy on the caffeine” but I am being cautious and we ordered fresh mint tea.
We next paid a visit to the neat and compact Muswell Hill Library. To me, a sometime library worker, a library feels like a home away from home and I am always interested to look around and spot the similarities and differences from the libraries I have worked in. Muswell Hill library is small but seems well run. The building is dated 1931 and the lettering reads “BOROUGH OF HORNSEY” to which this area once belonged. Today it is in the London Borough of Haringey and Hornsey, as a borough, no longer exists. It was done away with in 1965 when the London boroughs were reorganized.
The orange bicycle, by the way, does not belong to a visitor to the library. It is an advertisement for a shop in the narrow road that runs beside the library.
The library has two floors but there is no lift. If you cannot manage the stairs, you are confined to the ground floor. The banister is an elaborate affair in iron with a brass or bronze handrail. This is quite low, compared with modern handrails, typical of the time when it was built.
Just opposite the library is a fine example of a cattle trough and drinking fountain, originally set up by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough Association. It is undated but was no doubt installed in the late Victorian period. It comprises a cattle trough, a drinking fountain for humans and a lower trough for dogs. It is one of several troughs in the borough and all are Grade II listed. Beneath the drinking fountain, an inscription reads
IN MEMORY OF THE
LATE DAVID KIDD
Unfortunately, I have no idea who David Leyton was or why he was so favoured. There is no clue as to who dedicated the trough to his memory, either, whether it was his wife or friends or admiring colleagues. His name endures but his deeds have faded into the background of history. Such is the fragility of life and reputation.
By the time we started prospecting for lunch it was quite late. We chose a Turkish restaurant called Dalyan. The decor was modern but there were plenty of knick-knacks to create a Turkish atmosphere.
A set of colourful lamps added charm to the interior. Several of them are traditional Turkish gourd lamps, with translucent patterns made from beads of coloured glass.
If you are wondering what exotic dish I chose, the answer is omelette and chips. Not very Turkish, I know, but I just had a hankering for omelette and chips.
When we emerged from the restaurant, we found an atmosphere of excitement and curiosity. The fire brigade was present and a crowd had gathered to watch. The road was partially blocked and the traffic was being held up. Later the police closed the road in one direction to make things easier.
It took me a few moments to work out what was happening but in the end I realized that some masonry had fallen from one of the buildings, probably as a result of frost damage, and the pavement below had been cordoned off. The firefighters had been called in to go up and inspect the façade to see if there were any more loose pieces. As I watched, they levered off a few more lumps.
We next took a bus back down the road to Highgate where there was a shop that Tigger had often seen in passing and wanted to visit.
As we walked down Archway Road, we saw a few objects of interest and will perhaps return another time to take a better look. One of the objects was this building, obviously once a church. Built in the late 19th or early 20th century, it was known as the Jacksons Lane Methodist Church and Manse. It is no longer used for religious purposes and today accommodates a multi-arts venue called Jacksons Lane. It is a listed building and therefore protected, at least in its external appearance.
Another object of interest was The Boogaloo. This turned out difficult to photograph because the road is very busy and there are traffic lights causing tailbacks. The urban photographer needs quick reflexes in order to catch that rare “blink and you’ll miss it” moment when there is a split-second clear view of the subject. But what is The Boogaloo? It seems once to have been a pub, built in the Victorian or Edwardian period, and something of that purpose still seems to linger. I am tempted to call it a music bar – a music bar that has a market on Saturdays – but it’s probably more complicated than that. Take a look at The Boogaloo Website and see what you think.
The shop we had come to see, at Tigger’s behest, was the furniture emporium, Richardsons of Highgate, a large and imposing furniture store. Though we had no intention of buying or even of pretending interest in buying, the two gentlemen within kindly allowed us to take photos and gave us the run of the place.
So what was the attraction? Richardsons, whether by accident or design, is not your usual furniture shop. While the window displays show some sign of being organized, the rest of the shop is not oppressed by order. The effect is of a large amount of stock that has newly arrived and hasn’t been arranged yet but I suspect this is the permanent arrangement. It is casual and homely and you are tempted to wander hither and thither looking at the furniture and knick-knacks on display.
Are the goods on sale new or secondhand? Both, I think, as some items show definite signs of being “preloved”, to use the current euphemism. Or is that because they have already spent a lifetime here without being bought…? Items of different styles and epochs sit together in perfect amity.
I rather liked this writing desk, or perhaps I should call it an escritoire as a name more befitting its style and dignity. The mirror, of course, is a separate item and nothing to do with the desk, which simply provides a convenient perch for it.
As I was photographing the writing desk, Tigger was covertly photographing me. We thought you might like to see this impromptu portrait.
By now we had presumed long enough upon our hosts’ kindness and we took our leave with appropriate expressions of gratitude. When I finally cop the big prize in the Lotto, I will perhaps return for the writing desk but until then, memories – and photos – will have to suffice.