I’ve recently been having a bit of a clear out, and this included the elephant. Now, before you assume that this will be an unpleasant tale about elephant enemas, I assure you, the elephant involved is actually a piggy bank.
So having emptied, and sorted every coin in the elephant into separate bags for each type of coin, I wandered down to the Nationwide branch in Blackheath. I have an account with them. And I had some money I’d like to put into the account… Which seemed reasonable enough to me…
The cashier took one look at my lovingly sorted bags, and said “Oh, we don’t take cash like that, it has to be in our own money bags, and we only take full bags“. Unbelievable.
Now, I realise that banks (and building societies) don’t want to be dealing with huge quantities of cash, and that they’d much rather be selling me car insurance, holiday insurance, or something else, but I wasn’t impressed – I’d already counted, and sorted it – all they’d have to do is drop it onto their scales, and figure out the cost. And they’re a building society for God’s sake!
So I went off to Natwest instead, and they happily deposited it for me without batting an eyelid. No Natwest in Blackheath though…
(Photo based on an original here.)
It’s shearing time again, so this time I thought I’d try The Village Barbers. This is a much smaller, and less ostentatious looking place than Chandler Wright Hair, which I’ve been to in the past (and posted about at length). It has a much better view across the heath (it is up near The Bookshop on the Heath, and the Buenos Aires Cafe).
I have to say, I was very pleased – it is quite an old fashioned sort of place… It made me smile as some little boy was having his hair cut, amid constant reassurance from his mum, and the hairdresser that he was “doing really well” and “had nothing to worry about” (why is it that having your hair cut terrifies little kids so much? Maybe hair really are your aerials…)
It cost £15 instead of the £40 from the other place (I guess they have to pay for those Birds of Paradise flowers somehow), and most importantly, was thoroughly approved of by Mrs Bugle….
Contact info: 13 Royal Parade, London, SE3 0TL 020 8852 0771, or click on the map.
I’m sure they wouldn’t think of themselves as guerrillas, but volunteers from The Blackheath Society seemed to be out in force this morning, clearing the undergrowth next to the London-bound platform at Blackheath station. It looks like an ideal spot for some guerrilla gardening, but I wonder what they intend to do with the land there?
As The Phantom has mentioned, railway sidings would be a great option for some allotments, and looking up from the station towards Hogwarts, the area is obviously lush and cultivatable… Perhaps several different beds for different requirements… Some nice organic vegetables for people who are feeling the squeeze, and can’t stomach the prices of the farmers market… A little section further on for the cultivation of some tobacco (for the Blackheath tramp, obviously)… And perhaps, right at the end, a shadier section where substances more usually associated with the Chelsea Physic Garden could be grown, dried, and then gently enjoyed up on the heath, whilst watching the sunset… Although, the Society probably wouldn’t go for that, I guess…
I went to Zero Degrees again the other day, after a very nice time at the Buenos Aires cafe… It is a strange bar. The beer is definitely reasonable, except that you are forced to drink it inside what feels like an enormous industrial kitchen. It’s so noisy, and smelled slightly of chip fat that had spent too long at the bottom of a deep fat fryer. The food at Zero Degrees always looks reasonable, but I’ve never actually risked it, mainly because you wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation over the din.
The beer on the other hand is quite good. One beer in particular is outstanding, but they almost never serve it. I’m talking about their Red Ale. It is rarer than hen’s teeth (but considerably tastier) – I’ve only had the pleasure a couple of times, and wish I’d taken some home too (as they offer take aways). The Pale Ale is ok, but I’ve had better, and the Dark Lager looks and smells like some sort of strange burnt brew to me… Both are pictured above.
The other strange thing are the people there. You get a higher than average bunch of crazies and drunks compared to some other places – they generally congregate outside, which is a shame, as it is the best place to enjoy the beer. It doesn’t get much sun though, and it is another one of those places that would REALLY benefit from a little roof terrace (just like Pizza Express and the pasta cafe next to it). Their entire upstairs seems to be used for loos, which seems a bit of a waste of space.
Their shiny shiny website is here. Or you could email them, and ask them to start selling red beer all the time. Beerintheevening.com review here. Or “Stonch’s Beer Blog” comments here.
Provender has finally opened its doors to Blackheath. I went in there the other day for a snoop around. To be honest, I don’t think it was a very fair test, as I popped in a bit late, so all the food was looking a bit tired. I had a coffee and a very nice piece of baklava for £2.80. Not cheap, but not horrendous. Both were good.
The trouble is, there’s almost nowhere to sit – they’ve put the serving trolley thingy right up at the front of the shop, so there are only two stools looking out through the window, and a small table outside.
The food itself looked along the lines of the Indian Lentil Daal kind of veggie variety, not the 1970s Woody Allen movie variety I’d been hoping for (a la Food for Thought)… Having said that, I didn’t try it, and so will make it a mission to go and give it a proper assessment soon.
Have a look, and let me know what you make of it.. It’s up near O’Neil’s.
Now look here… I realise that First Choice Travel was no cultural mecca. Melvyn Bragg and Mark Lawson were not hot-footing down Tranquil Vale to come and admire it or anything. But really, Go Travel isn’t doing a lot for taste and subtle design in Blackheath is it?
The photo doesn’t even show it in all its Plasma Screened, garish beauty. Comic Sans all over the bloody place. Makes The Railway‘s frontage look like the Book of Kells… sort of…
And they’ve covered up the nice little mosaic with cheap blue carpet. Grrr…
Just found a wonderful local history book -“A Century of Lewisham” by John Coulter. One of the best images from it, showing a caravan of camels traipsing up Tranquil Vale towards “Billy Smart’s Circus” on the heath, in the 1950s. The camels were supposed to have been Algerian veterans from the Foreign Legion. Click the photo for a closer look.
Blackheath is not short of places to buy your favourite tipple. There is the lovely Nicolas of course, pricey and slightly confusing if you know nothing about wine, but very nice nonetheless. And they do a lovely sparkling dry cider (Duché de Longueville Brut) that is much more within the Bugle’s pocket. There is another type of this cider made by the same people that is even better – less sparkling and even drier, but the nearest place to buy it is the greenwashed Sainsbury’s in Greenwich.
The Oddbins opposite Nicolas always looks a bit sad by comparison, but is actually much better for English Ales. They hide them right at the back, near the floor (they obviously want to keep it all for themselves), and I recently found both Summer Lightning and GFB, both made by The Hop Back Brewery, and both delicious. Their website doesn’t tell you what GFB stands for, but I have a fair idea. Previously the only place I’ve found this beer has been at Borough Market, or on draught at a wonderful hidden-away pub in Colliers Wood of all places. The other thing going for Oddbins, is the music. Last time I went in there, they were playing Cesaria Evoria – always a pleasure.
Then there’s Booze Busters. I’m sure I should call it McColls Newsagents or something, but it will always be known as Booze Busters in our house, because of the ugly banner above the shop. This place is ideal for buying a copy of the Daily Mail, and filling your body with High Fructose Corn Syrup, both of which should be avoided at all costs. They do sell cheapish lager though, which can be handy if you’re having people round who haven’t seen the light.
Then Shepherd Foods, which I’ve gone on about too much already (check out the fizzy australian ale though), Hand Made Foods who sell some alcohol, (I’m sure its lovely, but I’m always too scared to even look at the prices). And the wonderfully 1970s CostCutter, whose name should be done for under the Trade Descriptions Act. It’s a strange sort of place, but some of their £8 wines aren’t bad.
Anyway, that’s all I can think of right now. The combination of a grim nightshift tonight, and an extra-special summer cold is making me think I might prepare a hot toddy to keep me going. If you think of anywhere else worthy of a mention, please drop me a comment!
I overheard someone at the station a while back pointing up at the spooky Blackheath Hospital building and referring to it as “Hogwarts”…
It certainly does have a touch of the gothic about it… According to the guru (amazon or abebooks), it was originally built as a boarding school, though not for trainee wizards sadly. Instead it was a boys school for sons of missionaries. And now it mends broken hearts, sort of…
The Bugle had some misdelivered post today. So rather than stick it back in the post box, I thought I’d walk it to its rightful letterbox. The road in question was Blackheath Park, a beautiful private road, originally part of the Cator Estate, and full of spectacular leafy Victorian and Georgian houses.
I delivered the letter, and was walking back down the road, when I saw the most extraordinary house. Number 10 Blackheath Park looks like it has dropped down from out of space in comparison with the properties next to it, but doesn’t offend them, and actually seems to blend in (or maybe the trees around it soften the blow).
The front has a most peculiar spiral shaped tower of steps leading up to a raised front door, combined with a strange little water feature. I did a bit of research, and it seems to have been built by an architect called Partick Gwynne, who died in 2003. According to this article in The Telegraph, it was built in the Sixties:
The best of Gwynne’s houses date from the hedonistic 1960s: Witley Park, where the staircase seems to float; 10 Blackheath Park, where the four principal rooms were designed as hexagons because the owner thought a series of small, inter-linked rooms ideal for parties.
Pevsner described 10 Blackheath Park, with its black slate facings and horizontal bronze-tinted glazing, as “designed to shock”. Though some of Gwynne’s houses have been demolished, most have lasted well, often in the hands of their original owners or of new owners keen to value them. Four of them have already been listed, a record that few of his contemporaries can rival.
Obiturary from The Independent