Archive for November, 2011

Advent

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Well, folks, tomorrow marks the start of another great set of Advent Windows courtesy of the parishioners of St Alfege Church. For those of you who are new around here, it’s a great idea that started in Greenwich a few years ago, but which has now spread to other places across the land, where every day of advent a resident, business or community group ‘opens’ a special decorated window to celebrate another day of Advent.

As usual I’ll be putting a little reminder on this blog every day to tell you where to find that day’s window. There are often ‘unveiling’ events that you can go to too, which usually involve mulled wine and mince pies, so it’s worth trolling along.  All windows stay decorated until Christmas and many people have started a new tradition of walking round all the windows as part of the post Christmas lunch exercise regime.

But before we start all the fun here, I’d like to show you something. Something that isn’t – heavens – actually in Greenwich.

This rather wonderful Christmas cornucopia is that of a dear friend of mine who lives near Brighton. There was a paper addition to last year’s display that caught my eye. Let’s look at it a little more closely:

That’s right. It’s an advent calendar created out of photos of the Advent Beach Huts, which are, in turn, inspired by Greenwich’s Advent Windows.

It’s a very fine calendar – and it makes me think – St Alfeges must have a wonderful collection of photos of previous years’ windows. I’d like to see a Greenwich Advent Windows Advent Calendar for next year – sold in aid of the church restoration fund, perhaps.

Well. I’d buy one.

In the meanwhile, two things you might like to see – the turning on of the Christmas lights in Greenwich market this afternoon – still going ahead, despite any strikes. The children’s procession starts at 4.00pm in the Old Royal Naval College, and arrives at the market at 4.30pm, where jolly characters from the panto and the mayor will lead celebrations. 

There’s also the start of a special Greenwich Market in the grounds of St Alfege Church running throughout December - Saturdays – 10-530pm, Sundays – 11-530pm

And, of course, Advent wouldn’t be Advent without the obligatory Meridian School Christmas Cards desgined by Banx.

Happy Advent all!

Wet Day Witches

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Celia Berridge is clearly a successful illustrator and artist. If she is the same one I keep finding on the internet she illustrated the Postman Pat series and the Rosie and Jim books, and there are dozens of children’s volumes she’s illustrated listed on the internet, but I can find very little out about her.

In fact the most I can find out about her is inside the jacket-flap of her Greenwich-based 1976 story Wet Day Witches (Andre Deutsch) which, it would seem, she wrote very early on in her career, as there are only two other books listed as by her on the cover itself.

She was definitely living in Greenwich, with her husband and two young children, at the time she wrote Wet Day Witches and before becoming an illustrator, taught in primary schools in Deptford and Bermondsey. And that’s pretty much where I run out of information. But I’m guessing there will be local residents who either know her – or local illustrators who know her work. I’d be curious to learn more about her – not least that I’m willing to bet she was a regular at the Greenwich Book Boat.

But onto the story. It’s a simple picture book about a Greenwich brother and sister stuck indoors because it’s raining. Spying a big box of dressing up clothes, they decide to play at witches. Sally becomes the Green Witch of Greenwich:

while Ben goes for the Black witch of Blackheath:

I suppose at this point I’d better issue a SPOILER ALERT (well, you never know…)

In their imaginations they take it in turns to do terrible things to the people up on Blackheath, turning it into a jungle, so the people and the A2 traffic all gets stuck in the greenery, set magical fire to it so it’s all black and burnt, cover it with plagues of flies and bugs, turn the flies into slugs and toads, cover the people in green slime, and finally give them a coating of black treacle.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the good burghers of Greenwich and Blackheath get a bit fed up of being the butt of the witches’ feud and chase them across the heath. The naughty witches only just manage to scramble over the wall into Greenwich Park, at which point a rather annoyed Dad comes in and finds the house turned upside down.

What I like most about this simple tale is the very Greenwich-ness of it. Of course it works for children anywhere – it’s not so very specific that it’s exclusive to South East London – but if you know what you’re reading there are all sorts of little visual gags that only someone who actually lived here could create. The grim-old traffic on the A2. The silhouette of Blackheath church. The little corner of Greenwich Park wall.

For some reason it’s incredibly hard to find second hand (obviously it’s been out of print for yonks). I guess people don’t tend to keep children’s books and even if they do, they’ve often seen a fair amount of wear. Amazon’s cheapest copy is £62 and all Abebboks can offer is a $40 version from the States. I suspect the best hope of finding a copy is in local charity shops. Presumably more copies were sold around here than other places; you might be lucky…

In the meanwhile, I’d love to know more about Celia Berridge.

The Obedient Wives Club

Monday, November 28th, 2011

Jacky asks:

Do you know which “Greenwich restaurant” is the HQ for this organisation? I’d hate to give them my custom by mistake!

In case you’re in the dark about the Obedient Wives Club, read this article on the BBC Website. It’s pretty radical stuff and, yes, Greenwich does have the dubious pleasure of housing the movement’s HQ. It’s called Nur Mohamed and it’s in the old Kerala Zone restaurant in Trafalgar Road. The cult’s raison d’etre is to convince Muslim women to act like high-class prostitutes so that their husbands won’t go to real ones. It’s also known as the Global Polygamy Club and I’ve been having quite a conversation with Sebastian, who’s actually been there, about it.

Seeing a new restaurant in East Greenwich, Sebastian and a few Malaysian pals went along to test it out – and let’s face it – wouldn’t any of us? I’d certainly been past it a few times and was most intrigued – especially when I went past in the mornings and the awning was pulled down over the window like a blind. I know that the old Kerala Zone used to have people sleeping in it – I went past one day when a particularly disgusting, multi-stained-with-heaven-knows-what secretions mattress was being removed from the kitchen (I don’t want to even think about who was sleeping on that – and in the kitchen – eeek!) Of course these owners are new – and I haven’t had the gall to lift the awning and take a peek myself (but oh, am I tempted…)

The first thing ‘a bit odd’ Sebastian noticed on entering was a large birthday cake. He was curious to know who the lucky recipient was and was told it was Global Ikhwan’s founder, of whom a large portrait can be seen on the wall. Nothing too strange about that – except that he died last year.

Sebastian says:

There was a plasma TV screening Muslim pop videos interspersed with interviews with Malaysian women followers talking how they’ve come to accept the polygamous marriages the cult’s committees arranged for them. An amusing diversion while waiting for your food…Except you might end up waiting for your food longer than you expect.

Granted I went with a group of 15 and we ordered a few dishes but my main failed to arrive despite my numerous reminders. I left 2 hours later without getting my food! (Maybe it was a ploy to get the wives in our group to see the joys of polygamy!)

Sebastian’s pals all being Malaysian, they were bound to have pretty high standards. He says it was ‘acceptable, given the price,’ but it sounds pretty iffy to me.

Our satay was undercooked (parts of it were red raw) though the peanut sauce was good. My curry puff was tasty. My friends who got the “paprik” rice/laksa dishes they ordered were not ecstatic but unoffended, though undercooked chicken appeared in some of their dishes.

Sebastian reckons that as long as you lower your expectations on the food front the visit could be quite entertaining, especially the dodgy videos. For my part, and admittedly I can’t speak from experience, I am less inclined to be so indulgent. The food may be just about acceptable, but I’m not sure I can say the same for the beliefs of the restaurant owners. There’s a point where lifestyle choice becomes coercion and I’d want to know that people, especially women, joined this cult from an absolutely personal decision.

London’s Saddest Statue Gets Even Sadder

Friday, November 25th, 2011

It was the only statue in London that actually had me shed a little tear whenever I passed it.

I had been meaning to talk about Doctor Alfred Salter for just about ever. His memorial might have been in Bermondsey but his red-plaque is (still, as far as I know – hope the tea-leaves haven’t got that too) above a building in South Street that commemorates his birth in 1873.

I was just waiting for a time I wasn’t passing on the 180 and I had a camera. Ditto, if I have photos of the sculpture that some low-life scum stole for scrap yesterday they are lost in the Phantom photo collection. Happily Joe has come to the rescue with an unusual view of the sculpture – so I can finally add a photo…

Doctor Alfred Salter was one of life’s ordinary heroes. The Roan-schoolboy-turned-local doctor could have just lived a nice, comfy life with his wife and daughter Joyce, but instead he chose to go and work with the  inner-city poor, living with them – and their myriad diseases.

Being a quaker and a socialist, he literally practised what he preached, treating people who couldn’t pay for free in pre-NHS Victorian Britain, in full knowledge that he – and his family – were as vulnerable to the germs he treated as anyone else. He lost little Joyce to scarlet fever.

His loss merely strengthened his resolve and he went into politics to try to improve the life of the working classes in a less direct, but hopefully more generally effective way. The fact that there is a school, garden and a bridge dedicated to the Salters’ in addition to the plaque and the statue is testament to how the people of Bermondsey felt about their doctor.

Which brings me to the sculpture. Doctor Salter’s Daydream was cast in bronze by Diane Gorvin ten years ago as a centrepiece to the Dr. Alfred Salter Conservation Area around Wilson Grove. It depicted a life-size Dr Salter himself in mature years, sitting on a bench at Cherry Garden Pier, looking out across the Thames. What disgusts me so much about this particular scrap metal theft is the sheer damn ignorance of the individuals concerned. If they had bothered to learn anything at all about the statue – or the man himself, they would have known they could have pinched even more.

For Doctor Salter’s Daydream wasn’t just the cast of the old man. It depicted his fantasy – his young daughter, healthy again in death, playing with her pet cat on the river wall. I don’t think I ever passed it without a tear pricking my sentimental Phantom eye. The thieves missed both Joyce and her cat, though they too are now gone from the area, being kept safe from any return visit by the thieves.

I daresay Dr Salter himself is a big block of solid bronze by now. It’s my wager we have no chance of seeing him in that particular form again. But I do wonder – this was only cast back in 1991. Diane Gorvin is, as far as I know, still around. I wonder whether the £1000 reward for the sculpture’s safe return would be better spent on the start of a fund to recast the entire piece in some low-value base metal with a bronze-effect finish so that we can at least get the impression of what this deeply moving sculpture was like. Perhaps Joyce and her cat can find a home in the Pumphouse Museum but I’m willing to bet most people who ever saw them in situ would agree – it won’t be the same without them.

See the BBC story here

Carol Kenna’s Woolwich

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

I first came across multi-disciplinary artist Carol Kenna when trying to work out who was responsible for the extraordinary Rathmore Benches and discovered the answer to several other questions about local street art at the same time. Greenwich Mural Workshop is responsible for many of the slightly-fading-now-and-in-places-painted-over giant murals and intricate mosaics all over South London. I didn’t know she was a photographer too.

Her work is largely locally-based – she’s responsible for the exciting (and ongoing) Charlton Reminiscence Project and that means that she herself is also based around here. Hell – she grew up in Woolwich, going to the Granada with the giant Wurlitzer that rose up and down from the orchestra pit and having afternoon tea at the Co-Op’s restaurant or the Lyons Corner House, the longest, narrowest restaurant in London, apparently. I don’t remember Lyons Corner Houses, but I wish someone would bring them back. Just for a flavour here’s a picture of the frontage that’s been saved in the Museum of London. Many of them were even posher.

Carol’s been taking pictures of Woolwich for the past forty years – that’s a lot of pictures – and a lot of change. And of course, we’re still right in the middle of change – even before the riots this summer, there was all manner of stuff going on – a new DLR makes the place just a little less cut off, though the Crossrail project doesn’t look any closer. Beautiful old buildings are gone,  ugly old buildings are gone; even modern buildings like Peggy Middleton House are no more, we still await the completed results of the development. General Gordon Square is a skateboard park and the Arsenal has become rather posh. There’s a rather odd giant TV screen and new pavements, but the market just about clings on and my favourite Chinese, appropriately named the Favourite Inn, still peeps shyly from behind the station.

Carol loves the town with a passion – from Southern Electricity’s display window to the brass pistons that drove the Woolwich Ferry, from the working-class grandeur of the Co-Op Society’s several buildings to the garrison-feel of the town. She’s  been capturing this change and there’s an exhibition of her photographs just beginning at the Heritage Centre, documenting the change the town has seen over nearly half a century.

May I recommend, to go with it,  A Tree In the Quad, by Iris Bryce, which you can almost certainly also find at the Heritage Centre. A slim pamphlet of a volume, it’s the sequel to her utterly wonderful Remember Greenwich. The young Iris moves from Greenwich to Woolwich where she discovers, almost impossibly to believe now, the place is a hub for the late 50s/early 60s Trad Jazz revival and the radio and television shop she starts with her musician-husband becomes a magnet for duffle-coated beatniks and beardy hipsters from all over London. Her account of the various music clubs they ran together becoming meccas for jazz afficionados lends a very different slant to the Woolwich we think of now…

Carols’s exhibition Woolwich – A Town in Flux is at the Heritage Centre until Saturday 28th January.
2012.

Fishers Alley

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

I’m reading the quintessential novel of Victorian Greenwich, Poor Jack, by Captain Marryat, better known for Mr Midshipman Easy and The Children of the New Forest, but popular enough at the time.

I’m going to talk about the novel itself when I’m finished; I’m only half way through it, but it paints a fascinating picture of Greenwich in the late 18th Century, with a cast of varyingly low-life Greenwich characters from mudlarks hanging about under the windows of Thames taverns waiting for well-heeled patrons to toss pennies into the river and watch them dive, to peg-leg pensioners telling tales of whaling derring-do, ex-pirates posing as Nile veterans to miserly marine storekeepers who turn out to be ex-fences. Marryat’s novel is one of the only descriptions of the actual town I have found. Most accounts centre on the big buildings, the royal history.

Writing in 1840, Marryat has his narrator live through some of the biggest alterations the town ever saw. Old Jack himself says

“Such a change has taken place since I can first recollect Greenwich that it will be somewhat difficult for me to make the reader aware of my localities. Narrow Streets have been pulled down, handsome buildings erected – new hotels in lieu of small inns – gay shops have now usurped those which were furnished only with articles necessary for the outfit of the seamen. Formerly, long stages with a basket to hold six behind, and dillies which plied at the Elephant & Castle, were the usual land conveyances – now they have made place for railroads and omnibuses. Formerly, the wherry conveyed the mariner and his wife with his sea chest down to the landing place – now steam boats pour out their hundreds at a trip.

Even the view from Greenwich is much changed, here and there broken in on by the high towers for shot and other manufactories, or some large building which rises boldly in the distance…

I got my first-edition leather-bound copy cheap off Greenwich market because it’s missing half its illustrations – a victim, presumably, of evil characters who vandalise books and sell their ill-gotten results as ‘original prints’ – but don’t get me started on those particular individuals. In this case, I did actually manage to get a cheap book; others that don’t look so quaintly archaic just get tossed once their pictures have been stripped.

But there are a few illustrations left, and the ones that interest me most are, of course, of Greenwich. And the bit that I’m most curious about is the alley where Jack lives for much of his childhood.

Fisher’s Alley (sometimes called Fisher’s Lane) was part of the old medieval street plan that was swept away as part of the 1830s redevelopment of Greenwich Town centre, where the market and posh streets like Nelson Road were built. The only bit that is anything like the old system used to be is Turnpin Lane, which, for some odd reason remained when everything else bit the dust.

The lane full of grotty fishermen’s tenenments ran, as far as I can tell, along the river front round about where the Pepys Building (visitor centre) is now, though a little further north.

I’ve enlarged this map from the excellent Ideal Homes site, and I’ve put an arrow where I think it would have been, based on the illustration in Poor Jack and Marryat’s descriptions of the place. I am ready to stand corrected as, to be honest, I’m not really sure.

I find the line-drawing at the top of the post particularly interesting because it shows the ‘real’ bit of working-class Greenwich with the incongruous grandeur of Greenwich Hospital right bang next door to it. No wonder the lives of ordinary people were so bound up with those of the pensioners.

Fisher’s Alley was just up the way from Billingsgate (nothing to do with the City Billingsate market) and Ship Dock. Fishermen worked up and down the area, and the alley would have housed at least some of them. I can’t tell whether the houses would have backed onto the water, like the buildings on present day Crane Street or whether the Five Foot Walk would have been between them – the map could go either way.

However it was, it would have been grubby, crowded and tumbledown. Jack describes it as

“a very narrow street and what was said in a room on one side of it can be heard on the other’.  His terrifying mother puts a board up by the door to prevent her toddler from crawling out (he’s at the front left of the drawing), and he says ‘I used to hang over the baord and listen: there were drunken men and drunken women, and occasionally scolding and fighting.

To earn money to live, his mother (who got her own husband press-ganged into the navy, so don’t feel too sorry for her…) tries to rent out rooms in their filthy hovel, hanging around by the door like curry vendors on Brick Lane, trying to entice sailors to take a bed for the night: ‘Walk in Gentlemen; I’ve a nice clean room and boiling hot water.” She doesn’t get many takers, and if she does, they don’t last long because she’s so rude to them.

And that’s pretty much all I can find about the old lane. I guess it was one of dozens, some of which look fabulously dodgy. Who writes about single streets? Who keeps descriptions of ‘normal life’? ‘Everybody’ knows about it, what’s the point? But 150 years later not a trace of Fishers Alley remains.

The lane didn’t go in the 1830s when the rest of Greenwich was prettified, but it lasted only a very short time after Marryat’s book came out. If Poor Jack had returned even ten years later, he’d have found Monument Gardens instead.

The Sorrows of Satan

Monday, November 21st, 2011

I am still hugely enjoying the Greenwich Theatre Book which is currently on loan to me. Rather than go into the theatre’s history or an account of the rebuild today, though, my eye was drawn to an illustration in the back pages. I have no idea where it’s from – whether it’s a playbill in a private collection, whether it’s one of the framed bills from the stairs at the theatre itself (if memory serves, they were recovered during the building work in the 60s and make fascinating reading) or from somewhere like the Heritage Centre. I’m probably hugely offending someone by reproducing it here – but it is a wonderful document and I just can’t resist it this morning.

It opens a world almost totally lost to us now.  What did Alf Davis, the descriptive vocalist, actually do? Who lost their trousers in the ‘screaming farce’ Checkmated? What did Carl Minto, the ‘eccentric musician’, play? And whatever happened to Maude Distin, ‘the only female baritone extant?’

Even the year of this old playbill, which promises four hours of amusement for a thru’penny bit, is uncertain. We know it’s for the week beginning Monday Jan 5th but which year? We know the theatre was called Barnard’s Palace at that time – which narrows it down a bit – it underwent a spruce-up in 1895 and from then, for a few years at least it was known first as Barnard’s Palace (after the promoter, Sam Barnard), then the Greenwich Hippodrome. If I was particularly nerdy and had more time that I do on a Monday morning I’d find some website dedicated to telling us which years in the late 1890s had the 5th January on a Monday. But although I’m definitely nerdy enough, time presses.

I am, of course, delighted to see that even well over a hundred years ago, they were still doing Aladdin – this year’s panto – which gives it all a wonderful symmetry, though despite the fact that we’re promised some pretty fab special effects over the coming weeks, I’m willing to bet that there won’t be any scenes containing ‘an entirely fresh series of animated subjects’ on the amazing EraScope (about which I can find nothing other than it might have been invented by a chap named Lacey, presumably a rival of Greenwich’s own Incredible Noakesoscope ).

But the entry that really caught my eye was the finale – the fabulously-titled Sorrows of Satan. What on earth could it be about, I wondered. Of course my images of Lucifer wracked in existential guilt were way off mark. This was the naughty nineties, not the angst-ridden twenty-first century.

It was actually a dramatisation of the novel by the Dan Brown of her day, Maria Corelli. Corelli, apparently, despite being snubbed by critics across the land, outsold H.G.Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling whenever she released her latest blockbuster. I somehow suspect none of the three chaps would be troubled by the relative sales figures today.

She sounds brilliant though. I mean – who couldn’t love a woman who was born into poverty (as the slightly more prosaic Mary Mackay)  but, when her novels sold by the shedload, spent the cash on a real Venetian gondola and attendant gondolier to punt her up and down the river Avon – and on campaigns trying to save the 17th Century buildings in Stratford? My kind of woman…

She wrote the smash-hit Sorrows of Satan in 1895 and, far short of the devil himself being upset, it’s a straight-ahead faustian-pact of a story.

The critics hated it but it had its admirers – not least of whom was Oscar Wilde (though he may have felt a kindred spirit in Corelli who was openly living with a woman at the time) and it was one of the first bestsellers (some churls reckon that was due to a change in the way libraries logged and bought books).

Basically, a penniless author called Geoffrey Tempest one day receives three letters. One is from a friend in Australia, inviting him to join him and start a new life, one telling him a relative has died and left him a fortune, and one a letter of introduction from mysterious fellow called Lucio…

I don’t really need to go into much more of the plot. I’m sure you can work it out. But it was a sure-solid hit with the public and it was not only made into a play but, in the 1920s, a film – by D W Griffith.

The only other thing worth mentioning about the story, BTW, is that the name Mavis was invented for the novel and was, I suspect, rather more glamorous at the time.

I have no idea what would have gone on in the theatrical version, but I’m guessing lots of saucy scenes of wretched excess followed by some lurid punishment (looks like there might have been a particularly juicy shipwreck scene) ending with a moralistic coda – but who can tell. It was bottom of the bill at Greenwich, which makes me think that it’s later rather than earlier – that it had probably already done the rounds once or twice. Maybe that can help date the bill itself.

More fun from The Greenwich Theatre Book another day…

UPDATE:

Okay – so the Monday 5th-thing was like red rag to a bull for The Phantom Webmaster P.I..

TPW writes:

1895: 5th Jan was a Saturday
1896: 5th Jan was a Sunday
1897: 5th Jan was a Tuesday
1898: 5th Jan was a Wednesday
1899: 5th Jan was a Thursday
1900: 5th Jan was a Friday
1901: 5th Jan was a Saturday (1900 not being a leap year)
1902: 5th Jan was a Sunday
1903: 5th Jan was a Monday

So – given that 1903 is the first year since The Sorrows of Satan was written, and that it wasn’t longe before Barnard’s Palace turned into the Hippodrome, I’m guessing that’s the year this bill’s from…

Another case closed for The Phantom Webmaster…

Bianco Take Away

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Methers tells me he’s seen what looks suspiciously like a second branch of the fabulous Bianco Pizzaria -  in Lassell Street, though just as a takeaway/delivery service rather than eat-in. I am delighted. Too long have there been seriously substandard takeaways in East Greenwich – from those abysmal fried chicken stores through to the stuffed-crust acky-ness of Dominoes.

A few months ago the Moghul takeaway took over after the death of the frankly overpriced and under-serviced Bombay Bicycle Club (though being seriously in danger of becoming a spherical Phantom I haven’t actually tried it yet) then we got the delightful little l’Artisan, joining the re-vamped La Salumeria, both now doing rather nice coffee, and now with Bianco opening up – and I am absolutely sure they wouldn’t dream of using anything other than a wood-fired oven – perhaps having a few pals round and deciding to order some pizzas will actually be a pleasure rather than the choice between tomato ketchup on cardboard or burnt pepperoni on plastic cheese-filled sponge it currently is.

I can’t wait.

Something Happening at the Old Hospital Site?

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

On the top floor of the 180 today I noticed – shock-horror – something going on at the old District Hospital site. Non-specific yellow vans with non-specific blokes doing non-specific ‘stuff’.

What’s going on? Who knows. Still – it beats anything that’s gone on there in – what – six years?

Bed of Roses

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Jeremy asks:

“I wanted ask if you’ve heard about the person who seems to have set up home in the park’s rose garden?

Taking a picture is a bit insensitive, so here’s a wonky generic pic of Chesterfield House- I know you like a photo! (Oh, I do, I do – and don’t worry, I’ve squared it up for you Jeremy – cheers – TGP)

Has anyone else asked? I’ve seen the same pile of belongings and Coca-Cola parasol in the same spot for weeks. Winter will soon be here and I’m getting a tad worried.

The Phantom replies:

Rangers House rose garden does attract some curious, secret things – not least the mysterious bouquet tree which puzzled us in 2008 and continues to do so (it was certainly refreshed last time I saw it.)

I confess I haven’t been up that way for several weeks – since my bout of lurgy I’ve been catching up on Real Work and strolls around the park are a distant memory. No one else has mentioned this (to me, anyway) but I’d be quite impressed if this person is managing to sidestep the park staff and actually staying overnight.

To my shame I know nothing about provision for the homeless around here (and worse still, I hadn’t actually even thought about it until you asked; I tend to think of it as being an inner-London issue, which, naturally, is crazy), but if I were staying in a hostel, local or otherwise, I wouldn’t want to leave my chattels in there, even if I was allowed to, so perhaps the rose garden is just a good place to take personal stuff and hang out during the day – though I agree – things are getting nippier now, the days are getting shorter and the rose garden somewhat less of a vision of loveliness.

I’ll be surprised if this person has gone totally unnoticed by the park staff and I’d hope that they are keeping an eye on them, though of course probably more to move them on than for any other reason.

But it has got me thinking about Crisis, a charity I find myself thinking about this time of year, though of course, like dogs, is not just for Christmas. I can’t see they do specific projects locally, but it’s always worth knocking them a tenner anyway and, if you don’t mind (shudder) going west for an evening I notice there’s an evening with celebs like Paul Weller, Tim Minchin, Ross Noble, Jo Brand etc on 20th December at the Hammersmith Apollo to raise funds too.