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"Use every man after his desert, and who should 'scape whipping?"

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The Chase: Clapham's street of no shame

Each day I come home across the northern corner of Clapham Common, then turn right into my street.

Over the road are the beautiful walled gardens of Trinity Hospice, wonderful at any time of year, but especially so in spring, with its abundant wisteria and blossoming trees. This hospice - rightly venerated across the city - still operates according to the policies of its founders, that is - offering a place to anyone i need within its catchment area, regardless of anything else, wealth included.

If only the rest of this street, my street, where I have lived since 1985, could adhere to such policies.

Up on the wall to your left as you turn the corner from Northside into The Chase are two plaques.  Not genuine blue plaques denoting former residents of historical significance. No, these are a less impressive blue, one mid-blue, one dark, but they are not the real thing, not real London Blue Plaques.

Instead,  they are privatised plaques, essentially boasts, commemorating two street parties held in this road, one for the queen's 60th anniversary of accession to the throne,  possibly, and the other for the royal family wedding, a year or so later.

I can't remember the exact dates but I do remember the rather off-putting invitations, stuffed through our front doors back then. They invited us all to join in honouring said royals at "street parties".

 The Chase would be closed to traffic and the residents were invited to buy tickets for a feast in honour of, well I suppose the Queen herself, and ... I can''t remember who the others were - possibly Charles' son's wedding to Ms K. Middleton?

I have no interest in  England's royal family. They seem in some cases to be rather silly, annoying people, I am never sure why they are given the opportunity to comment so often. I do not generally believe them when they speak, it seems like they are actors, voicing someone else's lines.

 I'm sure they'd have similar or even stronger feelings about me. You can't really hate them, they are too bland.  The ones I loathe are the media arse-lickers who seem to think we all want them to plaster photos of these dreary folk all over the front pages of newspapers, and all over every TV news bulletin.

So, I have to admit, it rather annoys me every day, seeing these plaques commemorating these events which gave a few well-heeled households in this street the chance to advertise their patriotism and their connections and their good taste in catering to each other. It is still, in this country, a matter of who you know, or worse still, where you went to school or university.

But why did they have to stick these plates on the wall? It is the equivalent of me putting huge photos of Castro or Che Guevara or even poor old Ken Livingstone over my windows.

I wish I had a similar wall onto which I could screw plaques reflecting my own political views. Living on the top floor of a decaying chunk of jerry-built housing - one the luftwaffe should have put out of its misery, but narrowly missed - I do not.

I wish I had had the nerve to organise a street party  to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of this street's one truly great recent resident, Angela Carter. That might be something good: but I'm sure her many friends and fans and family me members will do something good, in 2017, for this great author.

It happens that there is a genuine Blue Plaque on a house in this street, directly opposite where I live. It marks the spot where the Japanese novelist, Natsume Soseki, spent a couple of extremely unhappy and uncomfortable years in London in a miserable Clapham boarding house. That house is now worth approximately £2.5 million. Or perhaps much more...

I doubt if many people will visit this part of Clapham to see where some wealthy residents glugged a lot of champagne in honour of the royals on those days. By contrast, almost every day through the summer, taxis and minibuses stop outside 80 The Chase to disgorge Japansese tourists, young and old, here to pay tribute to Japan's answer to Dickens or Henry James, and to visit the small museum in the flat at no 80b.

Maybe a Japanese themed street party would tick all our boxes?

Meanwhile, another "only in The Chase" sighting today - one of those home-made posters asking people to pick up their dog's shit. Only in this case, it came with a bag of Bob Marten's poo-bags, just in case the shames owners had forgotten to bring their own.


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