Monday, November 14, 2011

1981: No one knows I'm here for sure

It was meant to be one of those days the world ended. But of course it wasn't, and I never thought it would be. Who in their right mind would?

I was far more preoccupied about a daytrip to London to see my cousin who'd recently moved there. Back then, London did seem awfully far away. Strange, exotic, exciting and scary all at the same time. He was seven years older than me and quite obviously now a grown-up with a job and a flat and a life. How amazing.

The reality was not so glamorous, far more workaday, but still to me, a 16-year-old from teh sticks beyond thrilling. SO on a dark November day in this year my aunt and uncle set off with me and my grandma and a vat of 'curry and rice' as it was always called, not just curry - the rice bit was an add-on - to London. My uncle had a reputation as the slowest driver in Europe, so setting off early meant it took at least four hours to get there. And with this being pre-M3days, it was a big old trek.

I'd been London a handful of times before, but now I was of an age where the big city was an alluring temptress I was taking far more notice. This is where it was at, after all. Sort of. My cousin lived above Shoppers' Paradise in Kentish Town Road, in a tiny flat which was more of a bedsit really. But hey, at least he was there.

The major drawback with that flat (to me), was that the previous tenant had died there and not been discovered for about six weeks. They had to freeze the body to remove it. This didn't faze my cousin at all. It fazed me.

Kentish Town Road, though even more down at heel than it is today, was a treasure trove of London-only delights: Sketchley, Underwoods, a Kickers store that you could rollerskate into. It was a different world.

On the way home in the dark, I gazed out the window, taking it all in and knew that one day, it would all be mine. This Soft Cell song, in the charts at the time, though bleak and forbidding still offered promises of a different kind of life, one only lived in lonely cities where no one would notice if you had died or not.

No, there would be no bedsitter for me.


  1. I had the advantage of growing up a 25 minute train ride from King's Cross and also had grandparents, aunts and uncles living in the northern fringes, so London was just somewhere else we went regularly for days out. It has become more of treat the older I've got and moved out to the country!

    Mind you, in '81 I would have been more interested in Hamleys or the Science Museum than a Kickers store. Come to think of it...

  2. Both sides of my parents families came from Dalston and had mostly stayed in London. We were one of the few that had broken away from the capital, so were always in town for trips and family parties. But I was always wide-eyed every time we visited. It was like dropping into the set of The Sweeney, Minder or The Professionals. All those corrugated fences, former bomb sites and cobbled back streets. Or tobacconists smelling of pipe tobacco and sweets - and selling American comics on racks.

    Even though most of that has gone now, my two love it just as much whenever we visit

  3. I was lucky enough to be able to catch a bus - the number 25, which, incidentally were all sprayed silver for the Queen's Jubilee in 1977 - from virtually outside my front door right up to Oxford Circus. The fantastic Red Bus Rover meant that me and my chums were able to explore the capital at our leisure, and amazingly our parents let us head off up there alone from around age 13 onwards. It was thrilling, whether giggling over Spanish boys on the steps of St Pauls, nudging one another at the sight of Soho prostitutes, or gawping at Freddie Mercury buying Badedas in Harrods.

    I never did the bedsit thing either, and now can only dream of living bang in the middle of the action (who can afford to?) but it's never stopped being thrilling for me. Witness last Friday night; a pint of Tribute in the Golden Eagle, Marylebone, followed by the best fish and chips at the peerless Golden Hind around the corner. Apples and pears, mate, apples and pears.

  4. That's a London I never knew and I'll never know, Mondo, but one that I miss dreadfully.

    Freddie Mercury in Harrods! Wow, what a great spot. The only celeb you'd find in Harrod's today is one who should know better.