One year ago in South London, aka taking a walk down someone else’s memory lane

Outside my window right now it looks like this:

The Channel

But one year ago, the view looked like this:

Lewisham-Catford 2

Both days were beautiful, sunny spring days, the kind of days that really stick in one’s memory long after one leaves. Okay, to be fair, that top photo is what it looks like almost every day in Los Angeles. Isn’t that just boring? Sun sun sun!

Blah blah blah, I say.

If I had to chose a winner of a day, it would definitely be 11 March 2012, the day my man took me on a little tour of his old hood, Lewisham and Catford. And of course, I brought my camera.

My London knowledge is mostly centered around west and southwest London, with the recent addition of north London to the mix. It’s when it gets to southeast London that my knowledge gets fairly lackluster, my opinion formed of what my man told me, what my friends told me, what I saw on telly, and that one time back in 2001 when I went to the Greenwich Observatory on my first visit to town. Shame, I know, all those years living in London and the furthest southeast I’d gotten to this point was Bermondsey.

Lewisham has a bit of a reputation for being a bit rough. Perhaps that’s because it hasn’t become as gentrified as other parts of London; it still keeps its urban roots. Ten minutes by train from London Bridge, it’s definitely not a shopping mecca. It’s shopping centres are serious blasts from the past, built in the 60s and 70s and in desperate need of some of that regeneration money that’s being poured into the area. The shops are not Westfield standard. You won’t be buying anything Vuitton here unless it’s a knock off. But in saying that, it’s kept some of the local heritage alive, the fact that American Apparel and Gap haven’t moved in keeps the daily Lewisham Street Market authentic.

Lewisham was actually not so bad once you got to the pedestrian shopping area. Of course, that may have been the sun blinding my eyes. The walk from the station to the high street is down a busy road that’s not quite as pretty. But if you walk left around that first roundabout, you’ll see a little bit of green and an old church that could use some help – and in front of it the River Quaggy, which at this point is what’s knows as an urban stream. Think a really small LA River – once it used to be a natural waterway, but now it consists of run off and is likely redirected because of the population around it. I even think that part of the Quaggy is actually subterranean, but I’d have to look further than just Wikipedia to find that out. Ho hum.

So here’s some photographs of lovely Lewisham to show you what I mean:

Starting with a boot scraper from St Mary’s Lewisham.

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Can’t. Get. Enough.

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A little further down the high street you’ll find the gorgeous old Lewisham library. Not sure what the building is used for now, but it is in incredible nick for its location. Might be used as a government building as it is attached to the Births & Deaths office. Anyone know?

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Now originally I thought that the tower blocks pictured above might have been built on land destroyed by bombs in WW2, as Lewisham was indeed ravaged by German bombs. However, that’s actually not the case  in this instance. This is the the location of Lewisham Park, and it was once surrounded on all sides by houses. But these three tower blocks were built during the mid sixties, an era where councils thought it better to buy up (if applicable, sometimes they just moved residents if they were already council tenants) all the houses along this stretch of the high road and build purpose built tower blocks instead and named them Malling, Kemsley and Bredgar. This practice happened all over London, in many instances to get rid of areas the government thought to be slums: families living in one room, no indoor plumbing, that sort of thing. Little did they know that by building these forward thinking homes in the sky, they were actually creating the very slums they tried to eradicate.

Wow, deep.

Further down Lewisham High Road you hit Catford. Poor Catford really had the shit beat out of it during the 1960s and 70s with some truly appalling architecture. The obsession with tearing down beautiful old buildings and replacing them with brutalist office blocks and residences continued. Lots of brick. Lots of concrete.

But these days it’s probably best known for it’s Cat:

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Its shopping centres continue in the same vein as Lewisham…

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And at least there are small businesses about, like this Chick Chicken! Word of advice: avoid all fast food chicken shops in the UK unless you want to play russian roulette with food poisoning. Luckily I’ve not succumbed to such a fate, but many others I know have. What were you thinking, boys?

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… a stall where you can get a mobile phone case, a banana and fresh fish inside (take that, Asda!).

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Looking down Catford Broadway.

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A bit of old Catford… I think this alleyway into the Catford Conservative Club is a front for organized crime.

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VW driving crime lords. Why not?

Okay, so Catford’s history may a bit prettier than its present, however I think the area has a lot to offer the interested photographer. Fulham it is not – but even Fulham has its rough edges. One day someone’s going to get wise about Catford and spruce it up, because in the light of day, it might not be a bad investment.

I wish I took more photos, but at this point my dogs were barkin’. In Catford.

Get it?

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