It’s been a funny old weekend. On Friday night I went out and spent way too much money. Plunged into my overdraft and there’s still two weeks to go until payday. Spent most of Saturday in bed, dosed up on Nightol and then today I was supposed to be going out, but thanks to the Northern Line being down, those plans were scuppered. I decided to walk home from Elephant & Castle via the backstreets of Walworth and Camberwell (where I live).
I went up East Street Market which has changed drastically (for the worse) in recent years. This was the market that Only Fools and Horses was based around. I also went past The Nags Head pub, again famed for being referenced in the same sitcom. The pub is full of “mockney” wideboys, old-age ex-villains and ne’er-do-wells. They have a cummunal multisex toilet in the beer garden and people openly do drugs there. You can get five pints of lager there for a tenner and have 20 pence change left over. Although I have this condition where I can’t walk past a pub without popping in, I managed to resist the temptation today.
There’sa lot of good stuff in Camberwell. It’s referenced in the Domesday Book as “Cambrewelle”, which I might get as a tattoo one day. A rare butterfly was discovered there called The Camberwell Beauty; there’s a massive mosaic of it on the side of the boxing club to this very day.
Camberwell is incredibly rough, but also manages to be bohemian at the same time. Everyone’s heard of “The Camberwell Carrot” from Withnail & I, and Syd Barret of Pink Floyd used to go to the art college there, as did the famous tattooist Thomas Hooper. The poet, Robert Browning, grew up there in Southampton Way (not as good as me, mind you) and the actress Jenny Agutter lives on Camberwell Grove. You might remember her sex scenes from An American Werewolf in London? The singer from Florence and The Machine lives in the area too, and comedienne, Jenny Eclaire lives opposite the mental hospital. Commercial Way was the location of notorious gangsters, The Richardsons’ garage lockup. They used to torture people there. My grandad – the professional boxer, Billy “The Butcher” Clements – used to drink with them in the local pub. Mad Frankie Fraser still lives on Walworth Road, and you can find him in the pubs there on most Sunday mornings. Where you find good – you will also often find evil – and so it’s worth noting that Bros also grew up on Commercial way.
There are plenty of non-famous characters in the area too. Ken The Magic for one. An ex-bank robber who now does magic tricks for kids (and drunkards). He will happily tell you how he used to work in a meat factory and threw paedophiles into the big meat grinder. Or how he’s stabbed wife-beaters in the woods. Or how he used to know The Beatles etcetera. The bastard’s still got my tattoo gun too.
There are plenty of pubs to be found in Camberwell, although I’m barred from most of them these days. Worth mentioning is The George – a small backstreet boozer that still lets you smoke at the bar. Also of interest is The Flying Dutchman. This is the closest pub to where I live. I had always thought it was closed as all the the windows are boarded up. I saw an old man going in there the other day so followed him in (I do like old men’s pubs). Turned out the windows were blacked out to stop passersby from seeing what goes on inside. They have sex parties, bondage and every second Tuesday of the month they piss all over each other. And I’m really not making that up. I didn’t stay long.
I found this tune by Basement Jaxx the other day, titled I Live in Camberwell, “I live in Camberwell, 10 minutes from Brixton…” go the lyrics. Have a listen.
And finally, I’m also proud to announce that Camberwell has it’s own Twitter account called @camberwellblog. My favourite tweet of all time comes from that very account:
“For those that missed it, a woman was raped in Brunswick Park last night”