If I ever need to buy heroin or presumably just about any other drug of choice, I now know my local dealer. I’ve yet to approach him but most days he can be seen dressed in a hoodie with a promising looking backpack slung from his shoulder often with a couple of sad-sack junkies trailing in his wake. He’s always in the same place hanging out, taking care of business, at our local BT InLink digital kiosk.
InLink allows you to make free calls, jump on wifi and charge your phone. It’s a hi-tech version of a phone booth and has proved a huge boon to the drug dealing fraternity.
Occasionally backpackers, slumped on their luggage, can be seen topping up their mobiles which must be deeply irritating to the dealers who feel that this is rightfully their territory.
BT must have thought they were on to a winner: A free public service that comes with a sleek electronic advertising hoarding that puts other street furniture to shame.
I suppose it’s an example of unintended consequences with crims using a service most people don’t need now most have smart phones. But bad news Mr Drug-Juggler, apparently police and councils are stopping further installations.
Dealers are big fans of this service as calls can’t be traced, but, wait a minute, there’s a CCTV camera hanging right above our kiosk. Perhaps the hoodie is obscuring his view.
Fed up with Brexit Britain? Had enough of Little England? Well here’s an idea, go buy a cookbook, more specifically The Oval Cook Book. As the author, Veronica Parker, says in her introduction: ‘In 2016 when we voted very narrowly to leave the EU, it felt as if all sorts of divisions had been opened up in our society.’ She wanted to heal those divisions where she could and set about creating a diversity cookbook which celebrates the lives and recipes of Kennington residents who have come from the four corners of the world.
Meet Akin Mustafa, originally from Cyprus, who runs the electrical shop on Clapham Road. He studied electrical engineering but fled the island after partition. Akin can fix anything from a toaster to an old VHS video machine and he can also fix a ‘Turkish Bean Salad’.
There’s a fine picture of Jasvir Singh receiving an OBE from Prince William for his services to social cohesion. His parents are both Punjabi Sikhs and the recipe he contributes to the book is ‘Turka Dhal’, that wonderful Indian dish with red lentils at its heart.
Walk down Coney Lane and you’ll come to Ashmole Stores run by the Patel brothers Bav and Prash. They came to the UK when Idi Amin ordered the expulsion of Ugandan Asians. The brother’s parents, together with their two sisters, moved to Leicester, then came to London and set up their shop in 1984. Bav is a Millwall supporter but don’t hold that against him. Their recipe is for ‘Curried Meatballs’.
Now you’re already getting hungry and wondering where this nourishing book can be found, which leads me to Jeanne Joyce who runs the gift shop Max & Melia. Jeanne was brought up in Normandy, came to England as an au pair and made London her home. Her recipe is for ‘Tomato, Onion and Hearts of Palm Salad’.
In 2018 Max & Melia was named London Gift Retailer of the Year. The book is on sale at their store and costs eight pounds. Five pounds of every copy sold is donated to the Triangle Adventure Playground just off Claylands Road. So far £1400 has been raised to support this excellent cause.
There are fascinating life stories in this book, which go into far more detail than is contained here. Find out more about the lives of immigrants who have made Lambeth their home. We are lucky to have them, and now we are lucky to have their recipes.
Walking down Fentiman Road SW8 and the smell hits you. Suddenly you’re not in Lambeth you’re in Provence; the smell of lavender is everywhere. Turning into Vauxhall Park there’s a hive of activity with locals harvesting great rows of lavender plants. Almost twenty years ago an unused bowling green that sat on the west side of this much-loved local park, was turned into a lavender field.
One of the hottest London summers on record means this year there’s a bumper crop and this weekend the locals are bringing it in under the watchful eye of Ruth and Polly from Friends of Vauxhall Park. Usually you are encouraged not to pick the flowers; this is the exception.
Volunteers are cutting down the plants and then snipping the flowerheads into baskets. These will be taken to the distillery tomorrow and turned into lavender oil and ironing spray, which will be on sale at Italo on Bonnington Square. A 10 millilitre bottle costs £8 and all proceeds are ploughed back into the upkeep of the park.
Distillery owner, Laurie from Carshalton, who’s in charge of the distilling process takes out his magnifying glass and shows me where the oil is contained in the flower buds. Last year the crop produced 5 litres of lavender oil, but he tells me excitedly that this year could see almost double that amount.
Ruth explains the old lavender plants must be replaced. So, pop into Italo and buy a pot, you’ll be part of making sure that we all enjoy the lavender harvest next year.
Today is my blog-anniversary, A Little London Life is exactly a year old. Thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting, I hope you’re enjoying the ride. I relish the writing process and it’s great to see that the blog is starting to build a sizeable readership. Spread the word if you feel so inclined and if there are stories out there you think I should be covering, let me know.
I finally went to see the RA Summer Exhibition today just before it closes. The collage above has some of my favourite bits.
I like funfairs, I’ve been going to them all my life. A particular favourite is the Dodgems, but I’ve done time on the Waltzer and even the Wall of Death.
So, I was happy to hear that Bensons Family Funfair was setting up shop in one of our local green spaces, Kennington Park. Well, I was happy until I went there.
We live in a pretty polluted part of town, I shudder to think what the smog levels are on Harleyford Road or Clapham Road. Fortunately, the London parks act as the capital’s lung combining the absence of traffic with trees performing that magic of absorbing carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses, and then releasing pure oxygen back into the air.
This morning, the mutt and I walked into Kennington Park and were hit with the acrid stench of diesel. I’m assuming that without a nearby electricity supply the funfair is forced to run its rides with power generated by its trucks. This means diesel motors are running constantly.
Funfairs have probably done this forever, but we didn’t notice or if we did, we didn’t care. But now we know about nitrous oxide (N2O) and particulates and all the other evil stuff that engines pump into the air and what it’s doing to our health.
In London we accept the inevitability of heavy traffic and look to the Mayor and Transport for London to help reduce pollution, but now the very place we seek solace from the stink is being stunk up.
What about the council providing an electricity supply so the trucks can power down? What are your thoughts?
Green-fingered Mrs Preen is responsible for a bumper crop in our modest market garden this year. I guess the industrial strength sunshine may have helped a bit too.
Favourable Spring weather, meant the tomato plants went in early and as you can see from the pictures, we are overwhelmed by the little beauties.
The cucumber plant we call the chicken plant; it lays a new cucumber every day. They sprout so fast, I swear you can see them growing.
Peppers are tricky in our temperate climate and we are only growing them this year because we were gifted a free plant, but as we now live in what seems like Southern California rather than Southern London we have four incubating.
We are growing broad beans following a project management cock up at the highest level. Mrs Preen meant to order runner beans, but because of an administrative error scored broad beans instead. Now I love a broad bean as much as the next man, but they are tricky to grow and are suffering as they went unwatered for a week while we were away. The poor loves seem to be bouncing back, but broadly speaking, there’s not much bean action.
The only ne’er-do-well, lazy backsliders in our garden are the strawberry plants. Beautiful, healthy looking specimens they may be, but totally unencumbered by any fruit. Shape up strawberries, or you’ll be ripped up by the roots. It’s survival of the fittest round our way.
Neighbourhood architects, Rolfe Judd, has its offices on Claylands Road SW8 in what was once a Congregational Chapel. (See above) It’s always been a local firm, starting out in premises on Kennington Road in 1968 and moving to its present site in 1982.
It now employs more than seventy architects and town planners and works on upscale projects at the Oval cricket ground and Nine Elms Point in Vauxhall. They recently held a summer fete where they displayed pictures of our neighbourhood from bygone days.
Kate Ludden, who works there as a business administrator, kindly sent me copies of the pictures which I thought you might like to see in case you missed their event.
I’ve mixed their shots with ones I took today.