An Autumnal Walk In Highgate

We must get out to blow away the cobwebs. We must appreciate the colours more. Take the time to appreciate the sunshine that this fine morning brings. Find the breath to walk the hills, up and down, that the locale brings.

Take the time to remember who we are and what we mean to each other. Take the time to remember. The more I remember the more I smell autumn. Leaves in the air falling to the ground. A dampness that clings with cold to the nostrils with cold dew hanging from them.

I look for the autumn picture. I see mine. Mine, the one and only. I see it just before i see a group of photographers, potentially a club. Its nice they are out together taking the same red shrub for all it can offer from angle to composition. Bean wants to know if I want to join a club. I don’t.
That will do. Just the one stop today. And we walk on. Its not chilling the bones. Bean is telling me about a groups disdain for Halloween as an American thing. She will also remind what the pagans think. I will turn this sequence into a poem. Indeed I have already and posted it to It should appear in a day or two. It’s called Ghost Walk.

Spectral thoughts turn to this time of the year in days past. I see myself pushing a wheelbarrow asking for: ‘A penny for the guy’

But that was then and this is now and the wheel of the year turns on. Turning as we walk and turning whilst we talk, up another incline to Highgate High Street or Highgate Hill as we may know it more properly and we look into the windows and we are impressed with the window displays, that tell of Highgate (the bookshop) and tell more regularly of the pagan festival

A classy joint; Highgate. Middle class Nirvana. We stop off to peruse the exhibition in the museum. It would have been so much better if only i’d have packed my old man’s glasses. Its amazing I can still see. Glaucoma is in the family. Other astmatics talk of detached retinas. As the seasons turn. So we turn. Older. Not always wiser. I see a new image for my signs selection…. that’s a collection of poems (you know where) and in this season of darkness i start thinking of new lines on the story of when the lights go on


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Come Together


I can’t begin to tell you how much some people irritate me. So, I won’t even try. For now here I am walking up the hill, a little breathless, to the Civic. Me and Bean. We have decided to go see Haringey announce their preferred bidder for the redevelopment of Hornsey Town Hall. The Hall is becoming increasingly important to us. We go there more and more often and we enjoy the idea of having a local arts centre and rooms for a community focus. We have a secondary interest and that’s to watch process in order to understand how things work for when we present our petition and arguments against the demolition of Victorian Villas in a conservation area designed to protect the same.

recapWednesday morning I’m on day 3 of Volunteer Induction Training and taking learners through a recap of the previous two days, ‘Disability Equality Training’ and ’12 Pillars Of Independent Living’ so as to lead forward into day 3, The History of the Disability Movement and the Roles that People Played. In a nutsell if you assume disability means discrimination on the basis of impairment you are taking a social model stance. This model defines different types of barrier to inclusion. They can be removed. You are now talking about rights, equality, and you are looking at how to achieve it. Activism, Advocacy, Art. My days coalesce. They come together.


That night I’m in Hornsey Town Hall with lover Bean and friend Rita enjoying A Suffragettes Song by the Crouch End Players. Here in the site some would seek to protect, glorying in the venue, the care a community of players have taken, an historic review, song, comedy, tragedy, on a theme of equality. I feel whole. My life has come together.

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Giant Bee Seen Signing Our Conservation Petition


Its true.
Kind of.

Crouch End Transitions invited us to their Apple Day at Hornsey Vale Community Centre so as to collect signatures from people attending. (petition Help Make Conservation Matter in Crouch End)

We liked the drink, we liked the cakes, as did a giant bee representing Muswell Hill’s Friends of the Earth.

We discovered the bee could talk and was as happy to sign our petition as we were to support the Bee Cause.

Sadly I didn’t have my camera with me and can’t prove that this happened but it did.

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Sweet Kindness and Commitment

redheartAt some point in this piece i’ll ask you to sign and share this petition. Might as well do it now. Please go ahead. Get it over with. Tell your friends a conservation area designed to protect Victorian Villas from demolition is under threat. Ask them to help make conservation matter in Crouch End. Other people do.Other people who show sweet kindness and commitment. This is the latest list:

  1. The 20 strong campaign group who continue to meet on a regular basis in our gaff
  2. Banners Restaurant and the ArtHouse Cinema who have always carried our petition and who continue to encourage us.
  3. Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum and the Highgate Society who agreed to attend our meetings and placed objections with Haringey Council
  4. The Victorian Society who took the time out to point us to a webpage that advised us how to lead a campaign
  5. Each and every soul that took the time to sign and twice those same souls when they went on to share, using social media to the benefit of our aims.
  6. The Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum again for recognising us at the their stall and talking to us like friends, sharing jokes and lifting our spirits
  7. Everyone who stopped to sign the petition on the streets and took the time to speak with us, telling us about their enthusiasm for our cause and their regrets at losing similar battles against powerful developers who show more money than taste
  8. Transitions Crouch End who before showing the incredible Greenpeace film ‘How To Change The World’ gave us the space to speak and the chance to ask for more signatures.
  9. The motivated green activists in the room that night who have set an example with their tenacity and willingness to keep going in the face of apathy. Their courage is based on the truth they hold dear.
  10. Sheila, (sorry don’t know your real name) but you took a petition sheet off us and said you’d get it filled out and two days later you showed up at our door as promised. You didn’t have to do that.

None of you had to do the things you do but you do. Its been a joy getting to know you and re-acquainting ourselves with the positivity that exists within our local and online commmunities. Thank you very much.

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…. of Local Interest


Crouch End Animal Welfare hosted a Dog Show and Family Fun Day last week.

We went down to seek signatures for our petition to save Victorian Villas on Shepherds Hill from demolition. For first time readers only…. the villas are in a conservation area, they are the reason for the conservation area, what will happen to the conservation area if the villas aren’t there?… but, we found more than people putting ink on paper.

Firstly we found free food from the co-op. We didn’t rate the pizza but we went a bundle on the muffins. Almost fatally we ran into our friends Jim, Max and Lily. We ate together, we drank together, we sat and chatted for hours. So what about petitioning? Friends are better.

Ultimately we gave 60 minutes towards the end of day to the act of signing up supporters. There we were in Hornsey Town Hall Square accosting passers by with our slogan; ‘Help Make Conservation Matter in Crouch End’, and we were doing a roaring trade with both those who just wanted to sign up and those who wanted to stop and chat.

“What about the Town Hall? Do you know what’s happening to that?”
“Do you know about ‘Save The Green‘?

Reps from the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum, responsible for local planning would shuffle by, quietly. They know about us and ultimately came on board by making objections to the council, but they’re not all sure, about  this issue of protection. Are the villas of that much interest, do they have architectural significance? They need to address such questions. But, they’re there now and their latest project seems to be about protecting the local pubs.

Conservation is hot in Crouch End. The people care and the organisations back it up. But the developers seem to have the power. Some times they match with the council quite well. “You have a white elephant – we have money – we can build and we can profit”, so its not always easy to win and we must fight on.

Jean thinks all this arose because the government relaxed planning regulations. She tells me about Mark and Sue, gardeners in Hertfordshire who are trying to protect a farm. The green belt is under pressure and the Tory’s ate my garden.

Sheila (false name) comes up to me. She is 80 years old. She asks me if I am who she thinks I am. I confirm that I am indeed. She tells me she had received a text from Thailand telling her about our petition and that she had signed it. She wants a copy of the paper petition to take to her Residents Associaiton. We give her a copy.

Max and Lily, mentioned earlier, were first to sign . They are children. Lily is about to go to big school. Young and old sign the petition but I liked Sheila’s story best because it told me about our petition reaching Thailand , people there being concerned and it further humoured me to think we’re almost Big in Japan

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A Special Place


Ancient Woodlands and Altior Court, the block of flats we live in

I want to tell a story to help people sign a petition. I imagine doing it. I would speak to someone like the Crouch End Neighbourhood Forum (CENF) or Haringey Council. I’d get time at the CENF but two minutes in the Planning Department where our objections are lodged would suffice. I’d start like this:

In listening to me you’ll detect an accent and think he’s not local, he’s a brummie. Well, Don’t. I’m black country. Proud of it.

When I was an active baggie boy, not an armchair one, I’d drive to London, Leave at the end of the M1, pick up the North Circ, turn onto the A1 and hang a left past Highgate Station. I’d drive a little way before turning round and parking as close to the station as I could. In doing so I’d think, ‘what a lovely road. I’m happy parking here. I feel safe’. Safe in London. Imagine.

Years passed. Leaving West Brom I came to London via Colchester. 61 years old. These are the three home towns I’ve known. I feel deep connections to each. London life started in Tottenham. I’ve only lived in Haringey. A friend told me about three lovely ladies making smashing cups of tea in the church up the road. I visited them and came, in time, to work with them. I always got a good cup of tea. I never thought one of those lovely ladies would become my lovely wife. One did.

I moved in with her. She lived in Shepheds Hill, Highgate. A lovely road. We have shared our  lives for 30 years. Awhile after moving in I walked up the hill. I’d done this many times. This time  I realised, I lived in the same road I parked my car in as a visiting baggie. It felt extraordinary. A magical connection. I looked around and smiled. I felt grateful to the trees, the energy around me. I thought, I’ve arrived, I’m home. It felt fantastical that when I used to park on the top of the hill my future wife was living at the bottom of it. Do you believe in magic?

Here’s something I believe. I believe your environment moulds you. Its one of those things that adds up to who you are. The place you live, the way you feel about it. I love it. I love my local environ. I’m more Crouch End than Highgate. Highgate’s my postal address. I’m part of a community here. I go to my local to watch the football. I particularly like to go when the Albion are on. People know I’m a baggie. My community has grown over the years. I know my fellow residents. We meet, eat, drink together. We get on well. Through our time in this place we have built links, embraced changes. Stayed together. I have become more aware of the history surrounding me. It pleases me that I live in a lovely road in a conservation area that was designed to protect Victorian Villas from demolition.

This is at risk. Demolishing the Villas next door, replacing them with an imposing block of flats, defined as detrimental to the area, just as the block I live in is defined as detrimental, just as every other block in the road is defined as detrimental,  causes great sadness. The conservation area will be scarred. The trees that best define the environment we live in will be savaged as four are uprooted and cleared to make space for this new build. I am saddened that the whole frontage of this building will impinge upon the hill in ways no other building ever as. I am sad that my wife who is not tolerant to noise will feel she will have to move and face re-housing as the Villas come tumbling down. I stand to lose the magic I have felt here. I stand to lose my historical connection with place. I stand to lose my sense of community. My shape is changing.

This is why I talk about this. This is why I campaign and ask people to sign this petition. This is why I am opposed to demolition. The why is because my environment will no longer sustain me. Make conservation matter in Crouch End. Let’s build a Sustainable Haringey.

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Research Visit


The way it was, the way it is.

Took a trip down Memory Lane yesterday.

Bruce Grove Museum used to be around the corner and up the hill from where I once lived in sunny Tottenham. I never went there back then. I do remember, my peer, Roger Braithewaite, doing an article on it for our Community Magazine, Haringey Ghost Town, scripted and produced by unemployed writers. Or at least I think I do. Memories are illusive. Some are made up. Others ill remembered; inaccurate. I used to have a great memory. It was good at sequencing, getting things right.

Nowadays I’m more dependent on others. Yesterday my dependency hinged on the cooperation of the Borough’s Archivist. We were never introduced by name. Though she knew mine for to get into the inner sanctum of the museum an appointment is strictly necessary.

My business such as it was involved researching histories. Not mine. Someone elses. Well, maybe. Certainly somewhere elses. To be specific I was researching next door, 70-72 Shepherds Hill, on the recommendation of the Victorian Society, who suggested that to campaign against its demolition we needed useful facts and figures. Something that said this building was of historical significance.

The time I spent there was interesting bordering on fascinating. I started by flicking through plastic sheathes holding post cards and photographs dating back more than 130 years. Then considering maps from 1894 and later, where I could see the buildings clearly but could not ascertain their house numbers. Its amazing to think that there have been so many changes on this road even down to the house numbers. We were a rural community then. Fields stretched out before us. A shepherds cottage existed on our corner with Coolhurst Road. A priory was at the top of the hill. The area behind the block of flats I live in was called something like North View. All gone now of course. All gone bar these Victorian Villas – a small reminder of our past, the people we used to be. Highgate Street Directories gave the names of the people who lived on the hill. A Lt Colonel became a local dignitary. But I could not link a name to the numbers.

Maybe the Villas have no historical interest. Some are saying they have no architectural merit.  but they have been here through different ages, they have seen, their walls have heard, and in spite of their many years they are still standing, their good condition in question.

I also know from other maps that behind them, behind us, we have ancient woodland. We look out on to some greenery still. Fields, allotments, Queens Wood, Highgate Wood. They are in our view and our street is tree-lined, a distinctive feature that I personally value more than the buildings. And of cause this verdant wonder is of itself at risk for with the demolition comes the destruction of up to four amazing trees. .

I am more linked to this campaign today because of the yesterdays I visited in Bruce Grove Museum and I am grateful of the time spent there and accordingly I recommend to all that you take the time to visit your borough’s archivists to take the time to reconnect with your pasts.
But for now in this present moment, can I ask you to sign this petition and share it on your social networks knowing that the technological advances we use at home or hold in our hands can save the past for the present whilst we continue to look to our futures.

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