Old Friends

Yup – they are demolishing it.

I shed no tears for it when it closed – the just-shy-of-outright-offensive slogans outside (who can forget England – Love it or Leave) the regulars who used to hang around outside with an intimidating air about them, and the ever-more shabby feel the place had – but I’m not convinced the actual building deserved to die.

I always harboured hopes that someone would make a go of it when the New Heart for East Greenwich happened (I had my hopes pinned on Meantime doing a Union Two – well – a Phantom can dream…) but presumably the Hatcliffe charity which owns it just got fed up with paying people to live in it rather than let it turn into a crack den. They don’t need planning consent to demolish – it’s an old building but it’s not listed. I understand there aren’t any plans to build anything in its stead.

As I understand it (and I’m sure I’ll be told if I’ve got this wrong…) there are two local Hatcliffe charities – the Hatcliffe and Misses Smith, which owns the almshouses in Tuskar Street (most of the trustees are council and local church nominees) and the estate charity which owns the Old Friends, most of the shops in that parade and houses in Woodlands Park Road. The trustees of the second charity are people from the Greenwich and Lewisham churches, and there’s no one from the council on the board. Once a year it gives money to a charity in Greenwich and two charities in Lewisham. Maybe it will give the charities the money it saves from paying Camelot to house-sit for them instead.

The Old Friends wasn’t the most beautiful building on earth but what we will have there now is a lump of dead land – to go with the dead hospital site, the dead shops and the dead DHSS building (I think it was still the DHSS when it was open) with just a couple of tedious equipment hire stores to break the gloom.

East Greenwich is looking pretty sad these days. Almost makes me yearn for the halcyon days of Roger Romantic crooning his songs of lurve of a Saturday night. Almost.

The Old Friends in happier times – when the buffets were free and Gallic picnic tables roamed the streets of East Greenwich …

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