Where did I go for my holidays? Cuba, San Salvador, Barbados? No. I hopped on the 37 bus in Peckham and 30 minutes later disembarked in Brixton. I used to live there in the late 60s, early 70s. Then it was economically depressed but never less than colourful, edgy and the sort of place that provoked you to love it or hate it; sometimes both at the same time.
This cat is another of Peckham’s characters and can often be seen on Rye Lane outside an African shop to which, I believe, it belongs. Its habit has been to sprawl (elegantly) on the pavement oblivious to shoppers, buggies, trollies, etc. One is forced to step around it, as one might with royalty. But the other day, it appears the cat met with a belligerent dog and the cat came off worse. At first it was rumoured to have been killed. It wasn’t but it was seriously injured and now has a patchwork of stitches on its chest. Last time I saw the cat it was resting close to the shop, out of harm’s way.
Colour is so important to us. See a cheery one, a dismal one, a dull one, and it’ll do something to your mood. Elevate it or depress it perhaps. And here’s this lady in a resplendent pink with a bit of dazzle standing against some in-your-face posters. She’s waiting for a bus at the top of Rye Lane. Going where? Nunhead, Forest Hill, New Cross, Sydenham: they’re all up the road. Different roads… some of them start from here.
Peckam is the talk of the town. The Evening Standard and Time Out reckon it’s the new Shoreditch or the new Hoxton. In any case it’s trendy and if you’re hip this is the place to be. Of course, this can cause tension between those who live here because they love it as it is and those who see potential for change – some of it radical – to make it more Hoxton-like, more sanitised.
So far, Rye Lane looks pretty much as it has done; still full of small independents, many selling food. My pet-love is the butchers with their infinity of chickens. It’s done with mirrors. Admittedly, this picture shows only a suggestion of infinity because there has been a serious decline in the number of chickens displayed in all the shops. Something to do with food safety issues? On the other hand, the butcher comes as a set of three.
These haunches of animal flesh put me in mind of a Francis Bacon painting where he manipulates anatomy so that it bursts its physical constraints… so that it mutates into a bloody abstraction that pulsates with a life both repellant and fascinating. I took this photo in one of the legion (some might say, legendary) butchers on Rye Lane in Peckham. I reckon these are the half-bodies of goats. And for the price, they’re a bloody bargain. To quote Bacon: ‘We are potential carcasses.’
I confess to a fascination for mannequins. Peckham often satisfies this particular interest, but with an added twist of zaniness. The model may have one leg, no legs or no torso. It may have a head but no hair. A mannequin might be perfect, except he has no arms. Still, he stands doing his job. Yesterday I spotted one of a child (headless) that I’d seen in an arcade months ago. She now stands in a different arcade, but wears the same polka dot dress. It was like seeing an old friend who had not changed with the passage of time.
There’s nothing lovey-dovey about this. It’s a piece of wall art in Peckham and has been defaced/tagged by someone who is into graffiti. So, what’s going on? The bow and arrow are very big and, surely, the arrow would cause serious damage. And why is the man being shot at from behind? This is no inducement to love. It’s an attack and the intention is to cause harm. No wonder he’s fleeing. And who is he? Looks like a sleight-of-hand, fleet-of-foot banker to me. And what’s in his case? Securities? Our security? Not that, existentially, security exists. But if someone runs off with your money there’s a lot less of it… security that is. That which doesn’t… oh, never mind.
Too much normality scares me. Is there a saying, normal is as normal does? Does that sound exciting? No. Give me a touch of eccentricity every time. Could be in the shape of a leopard, stuffed and resting on the refrigerator of a butchers on Rye Lane in Peckham. That’s my kind of neighbourhood and my kind of normal.
Desmond’s was the name of a barbers in Peckham and its exterior was the one used by the eponymous Channel Four sitcom that used to make us laugh in the late 80s, early 90s. I visited Desmond’s a few times. It was an environment with lots of character. Above is a snap of one of the well-worn chairs. Desmond’s closed a few years ago; the building is currently a print studio.
Blue Tit, a hairdressers, is new to Peckham. It is a palace of mirrors, lights and quaint dressing tables. And gorgeous chairs. It is, in other words, a splendid place. In time it, too, will develop real character.
But it makes me wonder about the neighbourhood. Will we go the same way as Brixton, and have our very own champagne bar any time soon?