Archive for the 'Crystal Palace' Category

Northern Rock nationalised…

… blimey my tiny two bed flat in Crystal Palace is now owned by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.  Maybe now I should have open days and guided tours for you, the UK tax payer now owner. I could convert the study into a gift shop and tea rooms. Of course I’ve already had some recent ‘visitors‘. Wonder what this means for Newcastle United?  

A Stranger’s Childhood in Pictures

About 18 months ago, mooching round a charity shop in Crystal Palace I came across a box of 35mm colour slides. They seemed to depict roughly a year or two in someone’s life. There were summer holidays, Bank holidays, donkey rides, church services, day trips to a zoo and an ornamental garden, family gatherings and finally Christmas dinner. The woman in the shop didn’t know where they’d come from, ‘perhaps a house clearance’ she said.

They’re amazing. This is what photography used to be like for most people. You took the camera out when there was an ‘occasion’ as getting film processed was a bit of a luxury. It’s the sort of photography I grew up with, what is jokingly referred to as ‘Christmas on each end of the film, summer holiday in the middle’. If you grew up in the late 60s/early 70s, you’re childhood probably looked like this too. When you like at images like these, you can squint and almost imagine your family members in the picture.

As this statistic from the National Media Museum says.

‘In 1979 amateurs took an estimated 750 million photographs. By then there were 10 million snap shooters …. Most used between one and three rolls of film a year’

Last November the number of uploaded Flickr images passed the 2 billion mark (in just four years). That’s progress after all, to quote Mat Locke talking about his own kids’ use of technology: ‘What we carved out of rock they take as landscape

We photograph everything these days; we’ve made our whole lives one long ‘occasion’. But when you look at these found images, you see not only the rapid change in how we used photography, but how rapidly we’ve changed as a society and as a Nation too.

Anyway, I was planning to do something clever and creative with them, but I (well actually Lee!) never got round to it. So instead, here they are, released under CC (Attribution-NonCommercial) for what ever you’d like to do with them.

Below are some of my favourites. (Full set here) If you recognise a place (or a face!) in any of them, please at a note/geo-tag in Flickr.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 130People made their own music

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 125Spain had just become affordable as a holiday destination

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 114

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 112People still went to Church

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 105Christmas Dinner was still a free for all.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 058 Most people holidayed in the UK

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 096HMS Victory ( I think)

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 083 Twister was the new crazed

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 061The Bugle in Hamble (Still there) and super weirdly I went there the week before I bought these slides.

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 138The average family gathering, with tea

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 034Anyone recognise the make of car?

A Stranger's Childhood in Picture - 011Look at the dresses, the decor, the hair!

The Crystal Palace college of very high education*

If I’m in of a Monday evening, I am rather partial to playing along with University challenge. So much so that I’ve been keeping score.
The rules are:
You have to say the answer out loud before any on screen contestant.
If you shout out a wrong answer to a starter question you have to loose five points, just like they do.

University Score University Score CP College (me)
Christchurch – Oxford 245 Homerton – Cambridge 65 55
Birmingham 200 Magdalen – Oxford 210 60
Birmingham 145 St Andrews 200 110
Worcester – Oxford no record Pembroke – Cambridge No record 115
Edinburgh 130 Bangor 105 85
Uni central Lanc 90 Sheffield 265 135
Durham 120 St Edmonds Hall – Oxford 255 155
Exeter 215 Jesus College 140 110
Manchester 260 Newcastle 105 85
Nottingham 180 Christchurch 305 135

As you can see I’ve come second twice, and not done too shabby on other occasions, and there’s one of me and four of them. What’s more my Alma Mater was St Martins college of Art where I did sculpture! Pah, kids today. I wonder if you could make a red button or online version of Uni challenge? At the moment there isn’t even a holding page for it on the BBC.

*As in it’s the highest point in London.. not high as in a 60skind of a way – man. Though this blurb say thatWesterham heights is the highest point, but look at the map, that’s not really in London is it, that’s Kent!

Goodbye guitars

saying goodbye to my guitars saying goodbye to my guitars

Back in late September when I had a bit of a life crisis and subsequent life laundry, I amazingly managed to convince myself that, after 16 years, I didn’t need two guitars and that perhaps the band wasn’t ever going to get back together.

I worked all the summer of ’91 in a chip shop in Lyme Regis to buy that electric guitar and amp. Grunge was around at the time and everyone seemed to be forming bands, arguing about names and having musical differences, normally all in the same afternoon. I only ever played one gig in front of a paying audience. It was at Munroe’s, a shitty nightclub behind the market in Stockport and I think my mum actually dropped me off in her mini metro – ROCK! We were on a stage 6″ high, but when you’re ‘up there’ facing 30 or so faces it feels like you’re standing on the white cliffs of Dover. We were the support act to the support act, The main act was a band called MrMeaner, (you can read about the gig here). The guy who printed the flyers didn’t know what we were called, and so as he knew the drummer’s name he christened us ‘The Steve Chapman Experience’. Our set list consisted of L7‘s Pretend We’re Dead I think, and some Nirvana covers.

Anyway, that was all a long time ago and it’s time to move on. So I took my two guitars to The Doghouse, which is a small guitar and skateboard shop attached to Antenna Studio’s here in Crystal Palace, where I said a very emotional goodbye. Johnny, a really nice guy who also makes custom Dickinson Amps offered a part exchange for a single new acoustic. It has a much better sound, but being brand new and made in China the fret board smelt of fish (the glue I think) for the first couple of weeks until, um, dirt, finger skin and sweat ‘seasoned’ the board.

And so to today, like a divorced Dad with visiting rights, I went back to Antenna to check up on them. Johnny’s done a great job cleaning them up and restringing them. I’m hoping some 16 year old kid looking to buy his first guitar comes in to the shop clutching some hard earned savings and a dream of being in a band and buys it, or it could be yours for £150.

custody visiting rights on my guitar loses it’s edge?

There was a post on (wholly owned and operated by James Slattery-Kavanagh) the other day entitled ‘has the forum lost its edge?’. Well I think it has, and here’s why. First off, the reason I’m posting this here and not there is…

1. I’ve reached 200 posts and now have to pay £10 to continue – err, no thanks – you know your content, I helped created that. James gives the reason of costs, and how he barely breaks even – yes I’m sure it’s tough – But we’re talking text here. TEXT! It’s 2007! Jeez, his bandwidth can’t be that much can it? ALso by making people pay you’re naturally going to kill off a percentage of ‘elders’ in the group, people who have contributed the most. Mobile phone companies call this ‘churn’.

2. Over moderation/admin is another charge levelled at James. Natural flow of conversations is cut off with ‘no off topic’ remarks. James and the Mods fuss and fawn over every topic/issue post. Hypocrisy seems rife with some topics being allowed to drift and not others. You know what you’d never see on VN nowadays? Someone announcing something about their life… ‘I just passed my driving test’ or ‘I’ve had a baby boy’. All posts have to be about ‘community’ issues specifically to do with the Upper Norwood environment. People feel scared to post life trivia and it’s this that’s the oil in the community machine.

3. During Sainsbury’s take over in 2006 VN was the place to get all the latest gossip, the conversation flowed at breakneck speed and I for one logged in a couple of times a day. Now its people posting about the colour of paint of the shop next to Paddy Power – yawn – or its people moaning or complaining about things, it’s become very negative, curtain twitching and off putting.

4. Dilution of the Brand. By banning talk on crime on VN and moving it elsewhere, as well as trying to get his wiki project off the ground James is sending too many people to different places. It’s hard to get people to interact and contribute to things. People don’t want to help him build a New Jerusalem; they just want to chat about lots of stuff in one place, which leads us to…

5. The rise of Facebook et al. Does everything VN does but it’s free and integrates with the rest of your life, and these days we’re all lazy as hell right?! It may be the internet data Black hole. It also uses REAL NAMES and user photos so less libelling and fighting and a sense that you know who’s talking. You can also swear, go off topic, rant, rave and no one cares. People can vote with their feet, don’t like the way the group is going? Set your own up! And you can add images, video, apps in a second

I used to really like VN, and the people on it, but the people I liked don’t post anymore. Consequently I feel it’s just become stale. It feels like a family party that’s gone on too long, like the plot of EastEnders it’s lost its way… So I’ll not be paying a tenner; I’ll also not be creating a new account under a different user name and email, as that’s just rude. So some of us have moved on to an un-moderated Facebook groups, here, here and here to get our shits and giggles.

James and VNers, if you’re reading this, I hope you can see that the above are intended as constructive comments about VN and not a personal attack on any one person.


The reality of shopping local…

…or The day Crystal Palace ran out of flat leaf parsley.

Any food pundit worth their hand drawn Maldon sea salt will bang on about shopping local these days, local this, local that, have your fishmonger do this, any good butcher will do that. But just how practical is it on a day to day basis? Are there even any local shops left? What follows is how shopping local can so easily turn into something resembling the final drugs run-around scene from Goodfellas. Tell me if your life is anything like this…?

It’s a Monday evening and I get in the door at 6:50pm from work having left work at 6:10pm, (that’s a better commute that most Londoners I’ll wager) There’s some leftovers in the fridge but tonight I really fancy linguini with clams. Mmmm.

Now the way I make linguini with clams there’s only a eight ingredients. Clams, linguini, handful of cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, parsley, white wine, bit of lemon zest and juice. I’ve got the tomatoes, onion, garlic and lemon, and I thought I had some parsley, but can’t find it. So I need clams, parsley, some more linguini (I didn’t really have enough for a nice large portion) and some white wine. I also want to go for a quick run round the park because as any fitness pundit worth their hand washed jock strap will tell you, regular exercise is good for you.

I live in Crystal Palace, South East London. It’s the Hampstead of the south apparently (shudder). It’s no Ludlow, but we’ve have a nice balance of local shops that I try to support as well as one medium sized supermarket that I also frequent.

So, first off, I need the clams. Being vaguely exotic (ie not sausage) the local Sainsbury’s doesn’t sell them – obviously. But no drama, there’s Chave do Douro, a Portuguese café shop about a mile up Church road that does. It’s nearly 7pm now, I could get my running gear on and jog up there, buy the clams and pasta, and then pop in to the offy on the way back for the wine.

But what if I run up there and they’re closed? No clams, no dish. Sod it, clams are the most important thing, I’ll drive up there and get them. Bad and lazy and don’t tell the Mayor, but needs must. So up I race, park up, they’re still open so I nip in and bag me a bag of frozen white Vietnamese white clams that looked like this, they don’t sell linguini though. There’s an off license near there, but the selection is poor and the cost rather high. Besides, it’s now 7:15 and I’m in a hurry to get back to the flat, get changed and go for a run.

I figure I can get the linguini and parsley from either Sergio’s, CP’s independent deli which is open late, or the Budgens, or at a push the Sainsbury’s. The wine I can pick up from Thresher on the way back home too. I take a small ruck sack with me on my jog round CP’s park and by the time I finish it’s 7:45, and bloody Sergio’s is closed! Ah well, I’ll go to Budgens I think, but alas no fresh parsley only gunk in tubes and six types of spaghetti, which I think is a poor choice compared to the fat tasty ribbon that is linguini. In a vain last effort I head into the Indian food and wine shop, which might just might have some parsley, but they just have dying corriander.

All local options exhusted I’m left with Sainsbury’s, to which I forlornly walk. And guess what? No parsley. Sighing with defeat I opt for curly and bag me a bottle of Pino Grigio and some linguini. It’s now 8pm and I’ve been in six different shops, still when I get home I find the flat leaf at the back of the fridge!

Are your evenings anything like that? I really try and support local businesses in CP as they’re the heart of the town. But it’s hard balancing it around everything else, and I get home in a fairly reasonable time. If I were getting home after 8pm my only option would be Sainsbury’s, Budgen’s or Costcutter. And there’s not a lot of fresh choice in the later.

I think a lot of businesses could benefit from slightly later opening hours, or even a late night once a week. Thursday used to be the traditional late night shopping day. In the big cities and the districts that surround them there’s more of a late night culture. We’re eating later, because we’re commuting more and working longer. Perhaps we’re very slowly (and maybe this is because it’s summer) moving towards a continental attitude? Even the Haywood Gallery is open till 10pm. Shops that open 9-6 are excluding customers who work, and because they work they often have high cash levels and low ‘doing’ thresholds, which is why they’ll probably either east rubbish, eat out or get a takeaway.

Anyway, here’s my recipe for Linguini with clams.

i love clams - 7

Get your ingredients ready. Wash toms, parsley and lemon and boil the kettle for the pasta water – this saves time. Finely chop the onion and garlic. Get your clams out of the bag and rinse as well.

fry onion, garlic in glug of oil and small knob of butter. I just squash flat the cherry toms and squeeze out most of the seeds, they’ll mush down during cooking anyway, but if you want you can cut them in half and scoop out the seas with a tea spoon (bit more effort mind) Add them to the pan.

i love clams - 6

It’s worth talking a little about pans here. You want something that will hold all the clams and that has a lid, so a shallow frying pan might not be the best. I’ve a deep sided sauté pan which is great for this job.

i love clams - 5

Open the wine (slurp) and chop your parsley into as near as a chiffonade as you can be bothered to do. Zest the lemon then halve it.

Pasta on. Should take about 10 mins to cook, plus 30 seconds to cool. I’m a right arse about how I like my pasta done. This is a good guide on how to cook it properly.

By now the onion and garlic should have cooked. Lob in the clams in one quick go. Let them sizzle a second or two with the lid off to boil off any of the washing water, then add a good glug – say a large glass – of the white wine and a squeeze of the lemon halves and put the lid on. Leave for 5 or 6 minutes, then shake the pan (with the lid still on)

i love clams - 4

Drain pasta. Put the clams in the large pan the pasta was cooked in as it’s bigger, add a little of the pasta to the now empty frying pan to ensure you collect every last drop of clamey goodness, before putting all the linguini in the large pan with the clams and moving around with tongs to ensure it’s all mixed up.

i love clams - 2

Serve and eat.

i love clams - 1

Most (Mainly US) recipes call for removing the clam meat from the shells, or using cans of clams. I should think they’ll be even harder to find than fresh-frozen ones. personally I love sucking the shells clean!


Let there be light…The end of an era.

Lambeth council finally finished installing new street lights along the length of Gipsy Hill this week. A job they started in November 2006! Well done Lambeth, only took you eight months! I wonder what will happen to the old 60s concrete ones? The replacements are design to look Victorian as Gipsy Hill is a conservation area.

There’s a lot in the news at the moment looking at Britain’s recent architectural past and what should be saved or flattened. The 60s and 70s now seem a very long way away, coupled with the change in Prime Minister maybe we’re mentally and physically spring cleaning our society ready for – shudder – a new era? Look at the Millennium Dome, at last seeming to find a true purpose as proper music venue. Mr Brown constantly sells the image of Modern Britain, not a city of Europe but of the World, it’s what won us the Olympics.

A few months ago I read a guide to the South Bank when it was first opened as the Festival of Britain in a second hand bookshop. It described what was coming as ‘A New Elizabethan Age’, as the current Queen had recently come to the throne, strange how that term didn’t really catch on. We don’t seem to measure ‘ages’ in Royal reigns anymore but in other things…. like lampposts.

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These are my personal views and not those of Channel 4 or the BBC
February 2020
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