Wednesday, February 23, 2011

More Old Times in Camden Town

There were a number of shops in Camden High Street that I remember for one reason or another. Not good reasons, most of them, not the right reasons, and probably not the right shops, but they are the ones I remember. I wish I had known then what I might want to remember now. I wish I had not forgotten.

There was Ryness, the stationer’s, where we sometimes bought supplies, though not very often, in my case. I think I preferred somewhere in or near Euston Station. I’d never heard of Ryness, and the real reason it sticks in the mind is that a friend of mine pronounced it in a memorable way. His /ai/ was an /oi/, and he had strange s’s, syllabic and palatal, a Shropshire thing, presumably.

The first time he said it I hadn’t even noticed there was a Ryness in the High Street, but I checked next time I passed. I probably went in once or twice. I’ve just looked it up, and it’s still there, except that it isn’t a stationer’s, it sells lighting appliances and associated things. I was confusing it with Rymans, which is odd because I have been in Rymans many times, and I look in to get their special notebooks when I'm in England, and I know it was called Rymans. All of which shows how reliable these reminiscences are likely to be.

There was a small baker’s, possibly called ‘The Little Baker’, which seems to ring a bell. If it is the same one, and I think it is, as it’s also where I remembered, and it is one of the survivors from back then, it is almost alone. The ones I actually remember are gone, and scanning the pictures at streetsensation jogs no memories. Not even the pubs are the same. The little bakery had fresh doughnuts, with just the right consistency and taste, and jam of just the right sweetness. I used to buy them regularly by the half dozen. They were dinner sometimes. It was easier that way.

This was a time when Spud-U-Like was the latest thing in fast food. At least it was food unlike what some of these junk joints turn out (I shan’t name them for legal reasons; insert your own pet hates here). It’s gone now, of course, though the company still exists and seems to be doing well. I didn’t go there much, scarcely at all in fact, despite my deep love of the humble spud in all its incarnations and presentations. Perhaps it’s the Irish blood, perhaps it’s just the way it is, but (many years from now, with a bit of luck) it is possible that the final, rambling sentences that fall from my pen before this blog is shut down for good due to the intellectual incapacity of your humble hedgehog, will be a paean to the potato.

However, returning to business. There was a bed shop called on a corner where the street dipped down abruptly, called ‘...and so to bed’, a name so horribly twee that I’ve never been able to expunge it from my mind. There is certainly no other reason I should remember it as, though I have nothing against beds, I am not inspired to write love-songs to them, and I never went in the shop. It’s long gone from that corner but, again, the company still exists and also seems to be buoyant. Ah well, into each life...

I was stopped late one night (Camden High Street is at its best late at night, or at least at its most atmospheric) by a young Japanese lad who was looking for a shop called Music Machine. We understood each other with some difficulty, but that was what he said and I had never heard of the place. Only now have I discovered that it's what the Camden Palace used to be called. The name changed before I got to Camden Town, and I didn't know.

The Palais is down by Mornington Crescent (which I was astounded to discover was a real place, shortly after I got to London, when I found myself in it), and is now called something else. Tuesday was gay night and they gave away free tickets to get people in, so that was when we dropped by. Music and beer, like a thousand other places. Nice façade, though.

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