Purgatory is an eternity serving customers in the Tescos Express in Green Lanes, just off Stoke Newington Green. Or so it seems today. Each little item is dragged from the basket with a stoicism weighed down by a malaise-de-vie rarely seen in the living. Each beep of the cash machine seems a tiny bullet, piercing the cashiers ridden soul. For this is no normal Tescos Extra, no sir. This is possibly, neigh; THE worst Tescos Extra in the entire country. The store is so badly stocked that it never sells the same thing twice. Once it ran out of bread. I mean who forgets to order slice pans of BREAD!
Right now it’s running at a particularly slow pace. This husk of a human being, this black hole of enthusiasm currently manning the till, is particularly slow and nihilistic; even for the Tescos Express in Green Lanes. I mean, I’m used to this, so I shrug off the fact I’ve been waiting 5 minutes for him to serve one tiny basketted old lady with my usual mild contempt and admiration of this shops inefficiency; but obviously the guy two people in front didn’t get the memo.
“I mean for fahk sake! How long does it take to serve one fahking customer. I mean what the fahk, if I’d known it was going to take this long I would have gone to the self service for fahk sake.”a sudden explosion of bloated middle class desperation that sounds, to anyone not in the know, rather like someone dropped a rather large, rhasping fart right in the middle of the store. The self service machine is, despite his protests, still very free and available for use.
Without reacting much (why give him the pleasure of the reassurance of his terrible life – the twat) I look to the lady next to me. She holds the grissled wisened face of someone who’s lived in North London far longer than anyone else; she’s lived here long before the boutique hairdressers and artsy-fartsy craft beer bars that have been growing like magic fucking beanstalks in the last few years. She’s lived here since this place wouldn’t be frequented by the people who serve the people who serve us. And she’ll live here long after we’ve gotten bored and moved our entitled white arses to pastures greener. This lady will survive the apocalypse to live in Stoke Newington. Without reacting much I look to her and she looks back, a shrug and the slightest of wry smiles;
“Green Lanes, innit.”
1. Petherton Road Art Gallery
I’ll miss this place so much, my second home in London. There’s something that comes from living in a city so dense that every area sprouts a raft of unique cultural nuances, each little island it’s own Darwinian ecosystem of eccentricities. And though I’ll promise to come back and visit, and though I’m travelling but a twenty minute walk down the road, I know that this will probably be the last time I see many of these; as each new area breeds its own new interests.
Nothing defines this more than the Petherton Road “Art Gallery”. I passed this house every day on my way to work for the last two and a half years. And every day I waited with baited breath to see what new works of glorious eccentric terror were on display in the windows of this aging Victorian abode. Sometimes religious, sometimes personal, sometimes ancient in nature. But never dull, never boring.
And for those who wish to take a stroll up the fantastic Petherton Road, through the beautiful little park that runs through the centre (and over the New River, which now runs below)
2. Sunday Brunch at the Acoustic
There’s nothing extra special about the Acoustic Cafe on Stoke Newington Green. By all accounts it’s a fairly regular cafe. But like with all great North London Turkish Cafe’s, what the Accoustic does better than anything is good food cooked well and real cheap. Where else in London can you get a full full English, really well made, for £6.25.
As with all great places in London, people have kinda copped on to this of late and the cafe now spills out onto the street on the weekends, turning people away. But there was a time when it felt like this was our little secret.
3. For All Your Foody Need – The Green Larder
“What’s your name?”
“Ha. That means sugar in Irish.”
“That is cause I is so sweet, man”
When we first moved in this little fruit and veg shop, just right around the corner, had just opened and no one made us feel more at home in the neighbourhood as Siucra (that’s probably not how he spells it) and Mrs Siucra.
“Ow is you, man.”
“Yeah, I’m good.”
“Ow is your brother?”
“And ow is your mum and dad doing” (Siucra insisted we have them come in and say hello when they were over)
No one worked harder than these two, often opening at 7 in the morning and staying open till 8 at night before heading to the markets to get the freshest fruit and veg. When we arrived the shop was just selling the freshest fruit and veg and a couple of other little things but now sells everything from wine and craft beers to all manor of milks and cheeses. No one deserves their success more.
4. Dickens Mistress’ House
If you haven’t read The Invisible Woman (or, to a lesser extent, seen the film) then you totally should. An unbelievably interesting look into Victorian society and the secret life and mistress of Charles Dickens.
I took to reading it in the down time between jobs, sitting at the french windows of the flat and dipping my toes out into the Mews. A sunny January morning, brisque but with the slightest hint of heat and potential for the year. In this condition you often skim through multiple pages before you realise what you’ve read (lost in other thoughts) and I was in just such a position when I realised that I was very aware of the location of Charles Dickens misstress’ house. It was, in fact, just around the corner from where I lived (just beyond Stoke Newington Green and off Balls Pond Road). What’s more the house is still in existence, a little cottage alone in the middle of the street. It’s exciting to sometimes stand in front and imagine what it would have been like in Victorian times, Charles Dickens impatiently standing outside, waiting for his mistress to get ready so that they could go out for a walk (or whatever they did back then)
5. Cellars Pub
The best burger in London, in my opinion anyway, and not a half bad roast for a Sunday evening, just add a couple of pints. Especially in the winter, the little lounge space around the back of the bar always felt inviting and warm.
6. St Mary’s Church
Tucked in away in the corner of Clissold Park and Church Street is one of the most beautiful little churches. Rich in history, there has been a church on this site since 900AD,the latest incarnation initially built in the 1400s.
7. The Little Communal Garden Detour that Leads to Clissold Park
This little secret detour that I took, cutting from Green Lanes onto lower Church Street was always a breath of fresh air. The sandy red brick of the flats to your right flagged with the sights and smells of the little tended patches of garden to left.
Always brought a smile, day or night.
8. Clissold Park
Sandwiched as it is between the much bigger Finsbury Park up North, Highbury Fields down South and London Fields and Victoria Park out east, many forget the beautiful charms of Clissold Park. But with the historic beauty of St Mary’s Church, the fun buzzing atmosphere of the skatepark and playground,the victorian delights of the weirdly stocked mini zoo or just a walk around the New River and little lakes, there is a charm to Clissold that is hard to match.
9. A Pub Crawl in Church Street
In 2014 I did my first 12 pubs of Christmas. Starting in the Robinson Crusoe we continued up Church Street moving to The Rose and Crown, Ryans Bar, The Fox Reformed, One Two Five Church Street, The Lion, The Auld Shillelagh, The Daniel Defoe, Coach and Horses, Some place next to Coach and Horses, The Jolly Butcher and ending at The Three Crowns. I did survive and had a drink in every single pub along the way, although I’m very happy never to have to experience it again.
But this demonstrates that of all of the streets of London, the street of Church has a fantastic and ecclectic selection of not just drinking establishments but of restaurants, shops and stores. In fact it has almost* managed to stave off any sign of corporate infiltration (*there’s a Nandos) and remains a most unique and interesting little road.
10. The Shitty Tescos Express on Green Lanes near Stoke Newington Green
Which brings us back to Tescos. And yeah, it’s shitty. And yeah, it’s annoying that noone has the wherewithal to actually open a good shop in its place. And it can be frustrating as hell when they run out of fucking bread. But, at the end of the day, it wouldn’t feel like my home of the last few years without it, it wouldn’t feel like my little slice of North West London. Because, in the end of the day, it’s Green Lanes, innit.
My previous homes: