Archive for June, 2007

Stockwell Street Development.

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

Thought I’d share a conversation I’ve been having with Suzana about the plans for Stockwell St Market. Most annoyingly I can’t for the life of me remember where I saw the plans for this recently – all I can remember is that I wasn’t able to see them very well but that I was staggered by the size of the footprint they intend to take over, erase then redevelop.

Wherever I saw them (and sorry, scratching the head just doesn’t seem to work) I am still trying to work out whether and if so just how much I hate them. I so love our scruffy, bitty, funny little market, that to see it all covered over like any other town in Britain hurts me. The plans aren’t horrid in themselves – uninspired, maybe, unexciting, definitely. I guess it’s what’s called progress and since sundry locally influential groups seem to think it’s ok, it will be happening. I just think they could have been a bit more – well – interesting.

It’s weird, isn’t it, that while I would love to see nice, clean streets and excellent shops and services, I would also be truly sad to see what is, if I’m honest, probably the tattiest bit of Greenwich cleaned up. I’m actually rather fond of those grubby old warehouses, that bloomin’ awful ex-petrol station and the higgledy-piggledy layout that has evolved over the years. Actually, no – that’s not really it. What I will miss is the individuality of the area – the make-do-and-mend feel to the shops, the bizarre mix of stalls, the true one-off feel that even somewhere like Camden can’t quite get any more now it’s been cleaned up for the weekend goths.

But here’s what Suzana thinks:

Im in two minds. When I first came to Greenwich I loved it for the type of people that lived in Greenwich – wanna be actors / singers / mediators / sculptors etc… I met them all (at the Time bar then) and it was one big happy family… And if it had stayed that way – I wouldn’t change it for the world. Now – Its lost loads of that.

So, I agree – I will cry when the dirty market gets closed down… but if it closes down and Greenwich changes for ‘ever, then lets do it all the way and make Greenwich into a real hot spot – Get more trees on the one way system (and not olive trees – they just wont grow!) and get the Thursday night student spew off the pavements. Lets make it classy but cool – Have you been to the Gypsy Moth?? That is what it should be like (food is great) – or dare I say what they are doing with the Admiral Hardy? (I know Its Inc – but it works well with Greenwich) – more so than Inc itself!…I love Olivers and even the Spread Eagle looks like what the rest of Greenwich should look like… Classy but still Greenwich

To answer your question on the development – I have been promised that the buildings will be in keeping (I have my fingers crossed) and when the shops go it – I hope they are truly first class quirky and high street shops alike – I will protest against any further cheap takeaway – I truly hate them!. I want a mini Richmond in Greenwich (Is that a bad thing?) I think it has all the potential but not sure it has the full backing from Greenwich Council… and unfortunately not the clientele (yet).

Finally, I hope they spend the money needed on the design of the whole Cutty Sark area – It doesn’t look good from what I ve seen! But let me know!… and its this sort of stuff that I want to poke my head in and have a say… wish me luck :)

We have to move with the times, but my greatest fear is that they ( the developers; council and all the freeholders ) will get it wrong…….

Phantom Replies:

Hmm. The buildings ‘in keeping?’ That’s a very subjective statement…

I agree with much of what you have to say – not sure about the ‘mini Richmond bit’ – what I love about Greenwich is that it’s not up its own backside, that the people are just that bit more down to earth and diverse than in South West London – but I hear what you’re saying. Good luck with joining the fray…

I’m not sure that the Cutty Sark area will directly benefit from the development at Stockwell St (unless it’s some kind of Section 106 thingy) but I agree we need something to cheer that concrete nonentity up – maybe they could relocate the Stockwell Street market stalls there ;-)

So anyway – Suzana and I are already chatting – but what do other people think? Is it about time we swept those scruffy market stalls off the face of Greenwich and replaced it with something cool? Or are we doing ok as we are?

Late-night licensing at Bar and Grill

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Suzana also asks:

Did you know that the residents surrounding the Greenwich Bar and Grill are opposing the late 1am license scheme. The Appeal was yesterday and today. I would love to know the outcome, as I live near by and have to deal with the drunk and disorderly in front of my home on warm Friday / Sat nights. Let me know if you know… otherwise, I will just knock on a neighbours door and find out.

The Phantom Replies:

I’m assuming you mean Greenwich Inc’s Greenwich Park Bar and Grill? Once again at the risk of looking like an ignorant phantom, I didn’t know about this, but maybe someone here was at the appeal?

Nevada St Rumours

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Suzana asks:

Do you have any idea if the rumour is true that 9 Nevada St -ex book store / antique store, will become a bakery in the near future? It has a To let sign – then changed to Let By. Now its back to ‘To-Let’ – but not sure if its the shop or the property above?

The Phantom Replies:

No one more than I would like this rumour to be true. That sad little dusty street, given what’s on it, its beautiful buildings and its location, should be one of the jewels of Greenwich – instead it’s a forgotten backstreet with an almost Dickensian feel, especially at night. Oooh – a proper baker’s – lovely. A shop in the centre of Greenwich aimed at local people…

Sadly I haven’t heard anything about it – I do hope it’s not wishful thinking – someone saying “you know what would be really lovely here…” and the next thing that happens, someone else is reporting it as fact. Anyone else heard this – who can corroborate – or smash – a dream?

Mrs Caudle’s Curtain Lectures

Friday, June 29th, 2007

Job Caudle, the poor sod, was the ultimate hen-pecked husband; the man who launched a thousand sitcom characters and not a few saucy picture postcards. Born in 1845 to proud parents writer Douglas Jerrold and Mr Punch, he lived for 365 rantings by his terrifying wife, Mrs Caudle, in the world’s longest-running satirical magazine.

Every edition of Punch, for many years, had a touching bedroom scene between the happy couple, where she ticked him off for what he had (or hadn’t) done that day. It didn’t matter whether he had lent his umbrella to a friend, spent an evening playing billiards or joined a club, Job Caudle was on the receiving end of an earful from his wife which had Victorian gents rolling in the aisles.

I found a modern edition of some of Mrs Caudle’s Curtain Lectures in a charity shop and although it’s not really that funny any more, what can be seen is the seed of a stereotype that endured right up until the birth of feminism and to some extent still exists today. It’s also a great social document of what really happened in Victorian London – not the big things – the grand events and the antics of the rich and influential, but the ordinary working and lower-middle class people – the mass.

And why am I including it here? Because one of Mr Caudle’s worst transgressions was a visit to the notorious Greenwich Fair. “…and you call yourself a respectable man, and the father of a family!”

Mrs Caudle, fully aware that “all sorts of people” go to Greenwich on Easter and May Bank Holiday, can’t decide whether she’s more cross that Mr Caudle has gone to this appalling place “at your time of life” or that Mr Caudle didn’t take her with him. She knows all about the gross indecencies committed there “…and of course you went up and down the hill, running and racing with nobody knows who,” and “I suppose you had your fortune told by the gypsies…and you didn’t go riding upon the donkeys?” One by one, Mrs Caudle lists the unique iniquities that went on at Greenwich – which I’ll go into on another day – and expounds her opinion “Pah! It’s disgusting!”

And that’s when you suddenly realise that Mrs Caudle isn’t just a bog-standard comedy ‘overbearing spouse’ – she represents what Victorian Britain was becoming – prudish, domineering and disapproving of anything that smacked of fun. It’s also interesting to note that there is also more than a hint of envy in her voice – a subconscious desire to break the chains of 19th Century womanhood, unlace those corsets and tumble down the hill at Greenwich Park with everyone else…

Highland Store

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

Greenwich covered Market SE10

Has the march of the chains begun? I can’t actually tell with this one. The shop that has taken over from the old Tartan Cupboard in the market has a vigorous and very professional website, but it’s not Edinburgh Woollen Mill, thank God. The only other branches appear to be in Great Russell St and Portobello Road, so I think we’re safe enough for now.

It looks bright enough – white-painted ‘driftwood’ walls and simple shelves, displaying everything from tartan blankets to baby shoes, bagpipers’ hats to books on whisky. I was particularly taken with one of those classic black beret-hats with the red & white check band and the jaunty pom-pom, though I’d probably feel a bit daft wearing it around town. There are lots of the usual jumpers and scarves, some of which are in very sweet pastel shades, and the place does manage to avoid the usual Celtic kitsch that seems to creep into any shop selling Scottish goods south of the border, but I suspect that it’s still largely aimed at those tourists that won’t make it north of the river, let alone Britain.

I like the scarves that button down them so that you can wear them like a waistcoat for £ 24.99 and I may well be back for a woolly when the weather turns chillier (maybe galoshes would be more suitable at the moment.) And let’s face it, it is good to see a new shop (even a miniature chain) in the centre of Greenwich, where the number of dead shops with those ‘tasteful’ plastic blinds with pictures of the Observatory on is beginning to depress me. But until the sword of Damocles lifts from the future of the market, my guess is that we’ll be seeing more closures than openings in Greenwich.

John Roan School Meeting

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

OK Folks, indoor language, please…

M asks:

I know that the campaign against the John Roan move recently had a meeting. I’ve checked their website, and there’s no update. Do you have any idea what happened at the meeting and what stage things are at?

The Phantom Replies:

This is one I have deliberately left myself out of, but I bet someone here was there and can help you out. Let’s keep this party polite, though, eh…

Favourite Phantom Front Gardens (2)

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

Maze Hill, SE10

This is about half way down Maze Hill (I couldn’t see a number for all the greenery…)

Whoever lives here must spend half their life out the front – the garden is tiny – a few square feet at best -but this hasn’t prevented the owners from treating it like some kind of stately home.

On the adjoining side of the semi, well-managed trees create a frame – I’m sure there’s a eucalyptus in there, but it’s kept under tight control and adds a wispy curtain in front of a maple(?) that’s also been heavily-clipped. A date palm and cyprus give it a lush depth which only a serious plantsman would know how to create. At the centre, topiary pom-poms shoot up like a sort of mad green fountain and by the drive there are more well-clipped shrubs. The whole thing is softened by a cascade of annuals and a background of climbing roses and I love it.

It’s worth walking past this house for no other reason than its sheer exuberance. These people have not let the fact that they only have a garden the size of a (ladies) handkerchief in which to express themselves get in the way of putting on a display for passers-by that puts the owners of far bigger places to shame. Not a blade of grass is left to chance, not a leaf is out of place, not a rose left un-deadheaded. The colours are restrained, but exquisite and the whole is a country house garden in miniature. It’s a complete opposite to the fabulous cottage garden up at St Johns, Favourite Front Gardens (1) but nevertheless a brilliant gem to stumble upon.

I can only guess what the back garden is like, but in the meanwhile, how generous of the owners to give the rest of us a free show…

Old Hospital Site

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Anyone got any news about this? I keep getting questions – but frankly, everything seems to have gone a bit quiet in the last few months.

The most recent stuff I heard was in a leaflet I picked up in Vanbrugh Group Practice waiting room, entitled “Heart of East Greenwich” which just tells us all the stuff we already know – that the project by English Partnerships
Click here

had been given over to

First Base and would be the bog-standard collection of “affordable” and unaffordable housing, leisure facilities, library, health centre etc – but the websites have not been updated for some time.

Anyone got any up to date info?

The First Act To Play The Dome

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

Charlton Average asks:

I’m trying to find out who were the first band to play at the O2.
The Greenwich Times makes it sound like it was that choir of school
children and the Sun’s trying to say that it was Tom Jones and/or the
Kaiser Chiefs.

The full details are here:

Do you have any idea who that first band were? If not could you try
and find out? I suspect they were a local band and I really think that they deserve
the credit for doing it.

The Phantom Replies:

Hi CA,

Sadly for some reason I can’t log onto your blog at the moment – I’ll try again later.

I suspect that it depends on what your point of view is as to who actually played first. According to the delivery guy I met last week who was telling me about his new security job at the Dome, there was a private party hosted by one of the banks the Sunday before the public opening (I think it was a Sunday) and presumably that was when these big acts were playing, for the Z-list celebrities and pissed bank employees (my delivery guy reckons he “saw some sights” – whatever that means…) The first PUBLIC outing would have been, I assume, the kiddies on Wednesday.

That would be my guess, anyway. Anyone else got an imput here who has more than the word of a delivery guy to go on?

Trafalgar Rd/Eastney St Bus Stop

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

I remember when they first created this little area. Presumably it was created with Section 106 regeneration money (correct me if I’m wrong) and for corporate decor, it wasn’t bad. A little paving and landscaping, with low walls and simple shrubs, a couple of not-badly-at-all designed benches, which actually managed to combine vandal-proofing with a modicum of comfort and a row of rather odd concrete balls. It was finished off with little blue lights set in the pavement, which made this simple, once-neglected area look a little more loved.

But, just a few years later, it seems to have reverted to type. The benches are still pretty good and nothing’s going to happen to a row of concrete balls. But the shrubs are choked with brambles and not one of those pretty blue lights glows any more – in fact if you look at them they seem to be full of condensation.

I don’t get why, when money is put aside for these projects, a little isn’t earmarked for their upkeep. This happens time and time again – something nice is created, but once the bigwigs have had their pictures taken opening the things, these little features might as well go whistle.

At worst it’s millions of wasted cash (a friend of mine was in charge of a young people’s music centre – in another borough, admittedly, but while millions was spent of building a state-of-the-art venue and equipping it with grand pianos, studio and recording equipment, not a penny was kept for actually running the place – after it was officially opened, it NEVER properly opened its doors to the public) at best its a few grand – if only they’d set aside a few quid to look after the Rathmore Benches once they were done, we wouldn’t have a modern monument at risk – and in the case of this unassuming little area all it would have taken was an hour or so of the borough gardeners’ time and a few light bulbs.

Maybe these 106 arrangements need to be amended to set up ‘trust funds’ to run the projects created – to finish what they start. After all nothing looks more neglected than something that was once a statement…

What do you think, folks?