I make no apology for being a Sarf London propagandist. It’s where I grew up and where all the good things in London are, including Chelsea FC (please, let’s not start the old debate about whether Chelsea is a West London or South London club. It’s in SW6 and part of an exclusive group of places that despite being geographically north of the river, are not tarnished in my mind by actually being NOTR, they will forever be in a London no mans land. Sort of like those funny bits of Belgium and Holland that are small islands within each other.)
But there are parts of North London that are acceptable and Finsbury Park will always hold strong memories for me. I think it has a bit of a Tooting vibe to it and has thus far resisted the Starbuckisation that afflicks so many parts of town. (who’d go to Starbucks? Cafe Nero is far superior) Starting at Finsbury Park station itself, this was always our escape route back to safety after Arsenal games. Some strange logic about going one stop north to make the journey south that bit easier. Then of course you have the Park itself, forever etched in my mind as the scene of Madstock, that joyous, communal “Welcome Back” to Madness from, seemingly, the whole of London. Walk up the Seven Sisters Road alongside the park and you soon get to Manor House Station, the starting point of the Knowledge. First run of the Blue Book (see Cabbie Phrasebook) is Manor House Station to Gibson Square and is burnt into my memory banks permanently. Now don’t panic, I’m not going to start boring you about the Knowledge, I’m going to leave that for another time, when I start my fascinating feature “Top Ten Blue Book Runs”. If that doesn’t make me an internet sensation, then I really don’y know what will.
But, at last, the real reason for my trip to Finsbury Park and the Seven Sisters Road. On that stretch from Finsbury Park Station to Manor House, overlooking the park, is a string of Hotels which one Knowledge examiner used to ask examinees to name. So, being the gullible good Knowledge Boy I was, I went and learnt the whole lot – in order. So I can proudly (?) say that for about 2 and a half years I could recite the whole lot, starting from Manor House end; Cloudesley, Redland, Kent Hall, Majestic, Spring Park, Costello Palace (my favourite), Pembury and Queens. Being such a big part of my life for a while, I felt compelled to return and see how they are all doing. Well, all things considered, not much has changed – if you ignore the burnt out shell of the Spring Park. All the others seem as equally low key as they were when I first came this way (in a Knowledge capacity) back in 2003. But I still like them and I’m still trying to persuade Mrs Cabbie that a series of photos (in the correct order natch) along our hall would look pretty good. That may prove a harder nut to crack than getting through the Knowledge itself, but I haven’t given up hope. If you want to see the whole lot go to this Flickr page; and look out for what I did for the rest of today in a future – “Manor House Station to Gibson Square – The Knowledge revisited without the hassle or freezing temperatures” type of post. Or perhaps a book? Or film? Or, most likely, another bit of rambling nonsense brought to you while I wait for Samrat to deliver my tea.
Oh, and a Happy New Year to you all. Don’t forget to support your local cabbie………