About Me

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

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Andy's barbershop on Landor Road - did I write too soon? I hope so, but the plot thickens...

It used to be Andy's on Landor Road – the best barbershop in all the SW London postcodes, in my admittedly prejudiced opinion. But now what's going on?
Having written about the closure of my favourite barbershop a few days ago, I went  back today just to get a couple of photos before the place was ripped apart or whatever. Instead what I get is a new burst of hope that maybe Andy's of Landor Road, SW9,  not closing after all….but then again, maybe he is.

Typical note from Andy when he goes on holidayAs you can see from the top photo, the windows are covered over with newspaper on the inside. It looks more like re-decoration than demolition or a total refurb.

But - in the main sign above the shop, Andy's name has been whitewashed out, as though there's a new owner who can't bothered to get a whole new sign made, and is just going to put their name there.

Then I look closer and see one of Andy's handwritten messages, a bit scrunched up, sellotaped to the window. But it's still legible: "Gone on holiday, back on 2nd September".

So, I was wrong, it seems - he's just having the shop nicely tarted up while he's back in Cyprus, a fresh coat of paint etc, to help with the eventual sale? I feel relieved and foolish all at once. What if he'd read my last entry?

Then I see two other things that make me worried again. When you look hard at the sign above the window, you can just make out the word "Andys" painted over, while"Barbers" has been left as it was.

Then  I notice two further small notes in the window - these are drawn in pencil, and one at least appears to show some sort of shield with some words in what might be an eastern European language…or might just be the name of a football club or something. There's also the date 1908 in the bottom left quarter of the shield - maybe the year this team started or won some big cup?

I begin to wonder if he's sold the place to a Polish barber, or maybe that young apprentice is taking it over? If anyone knows what these mean, please let me know here, it's fascinating.

It's all a mystery, but I am hoping to see Andy on September 2 when I will give him a full apology (and a better than usual tip)!

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Has he really gone this time? One of the last of south-west London's old-style barbers seems to have shut up shop

Cycling along Landor Road towards Brixton, I see what I have dreading for years. I see that the best barber's shop in south London has finally closed, and I am so sad. I swear I will never have a haircut again.

For about the last three years Andy has been threatening to retire, and then always staying on another few months….but now it seems the era of Andy's in Landor Road is actually finished.


What follows is a blog entry I wrote six months ago, expecting the shop to close that week:

 Get an education with your haircut in Landor Road

It's going to be another ending of another era, and this one is taking its time. Andy is the best mens' haird-cutter in south London, bar none. His little shop on Landor Road, halfway between Brixton and Clapham North, is one of those bright lights on any map of London's true centres of community.

Here for the last 30 years or so Andy has been cutting the hair of locals of all races, all ages, all conditions - although, by virtue of his trade, the vast majority of his customers are male. I started going there around ten years ago when my then favourite, Chris and Tony's in Northcote Road - closed down as yuppification swept up that street like wildfire.

Now people wil be paying five times as much to get their hair cut in  fake "retro" surroundings.

There was nothing fake and everything genuinely and blessedly retro about Andy's and Chris And Tony's - just the names tell you a bit.

Anyway, as for Andy, he's now 67  and for the past two or three years has been planning to retire. In fact he should have retired four or five times over the past few months, but each time something seems to happen to the process of handing over the lease to his business. It's all much too complicated to go into here, but he always tells me about his place in Cyprus, the olive groves and vegetable plots, the grapes and other fruit, and then about his London allotment somewhere near Crystal Palace.

It seems there's always a story to every visit to Andy's. Some days it's just like a soap opera: a guy comes in with information on where to buy new wing mirrors for Andy's 1980s Merc, and a lengthy and heated discussion ensues, ending with Andy handing over a wad of cash to this guy.

Sometimes itinerant hairdressers wander in and ask if there's any work going. One guy who came in a few months back, a Kurd, he said, was particularly insistent. His English was  not  perfect but he said he had plenty of experience and had worked for many barbers around London.

"How many years?" Asks Andy.

"One year"

"Come back in five years", says Andy, adding, "It takes ten in all but I'll train you for the  last five."

The Kurd looks crestfallen and again asks for work, and Andy then  hands him the scissors, points to the thinning hair on my scalp, and says, "Show me what you can do".

The nice young Kurd goes at my horrible  greying hair with vigour. Almost immediately, Andy stops him.

"Not like that, no, you have to learn, it takes time". He then gives him the names and phone numbers of a couple of other local hairdressers who might employ him, and he's on his way.

Today, I go to Andy's for the first time in much too long. I always expect to see the shop shut and boarded up, but it's open and busy. And for the first time since I've been going there's a second hairdresser.

"My apprentice will start you off, number 3 on the sides, number 2 to set the line….if that's ok."

He gets to the work with the clippers. Almost immediately Andy stops him, takes the clippers, and shows him how it should be done - "Look, like this, rising through the hair as you go up, like a plane taking off, up, lift, lift!"

He tries again, and again Andy stops him. Then he holds his wrist and helps him lift the buzzing clippers at just the right angle.

"It should be natural, it will come to you in time, but only with lots of practice. I took me a year or two to get that right".

The next time I go, the young Kurd greets me, seats me, and sets to work with full confidence.  He even begins chatting, just like Andy did, the usual stuff.

The shop is full of very talkative men, one  guy, maybe 60ish, with quite a posh voice, is trying to explain the theories of James Frazer's The Golden Bough, which he says he has just read. The guy is wearing a long black leather coat which looks a bit too big on him. But he's articulate, talking faster and louder.

At first he and Andy were joking , but soon Andy just goes quiet and lets this guy carry on with what is becoming a rant. I realise he's probably one of the many regular customers Andy has who are having treatment at the hospital over the road. I've seen some men in here more or less in their hospital pyjamas.

Quite a few of Andy's customers seems to get their hair done for a big discount, or for goods in kind. There's a guy who helps keep Andy's ageing Mercedes on the road, another who cleans his windows. Sometimes people have only a couple of quid on them, and Andy lets them off - perhaps til next time - the other six quid. Yes, the standard charge, this year went up to an outrageous £8. Cost of living.
This is one of London's best men's hairdresser, in zone 2. A barber's shop in London SW9, in 2015, a perfect haircut  for the price of two coffees and a bun.

That was written early this year - and now he really has  gone. 

Well, no, it did still shock me to see the shop locked and with for rent signs in the windows. It seems the owners wants to rent it to another hairdressers, but you can be sure it will a very different sort of place.
That generation of Greek and Turkish and Italian hairdressers who came to England, many of them in the 1950s and 60s, is dying out.

Last time I went there Andy said he might still work for a bit in another shop, owned by a relative, in Tooting. I must go there - because there's no-one else in this city who I'd trust to cut my hair. I will report back. 


Friday, 7 August 2015

Battersea Power Station and affordable homes - the plot thickens

They're talking about a "poor door" for the redeveloped Battersea Power Station's many apartments, as affordable housing is moved away from the main site and across Nine Elms Lane.  More like a "slightly less well-off door" I'd suggest.
Interesting development picked up by the Standard and further reported on City Metric website, suggesting that the original plans to mix "affordable" with premium housing in the Power Station redevelopment have been none too subtly altered.

It seems the affordable stuff will now be over the road, away from the river and the glam new buildings around the shell of the Giles Gilbert Scott building itself.

Well, there's a surprise then.

The developers, Battersea Power Station Development Company (BPSDC), and council point out that this is all well within planning laws - but why, in that case, did they not simply plan it this way in the first place?

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

As Brixton loses another pub, so Battersea's QuecumBar launches Kickstarter funding campaign to fight massive rent hike

Battersea's Le QuecumBar to fight rent hike with a crowd funding campaign as more south London pubs and clubs bite the dust
You know when they say things are coming to a head? As in, when bad things have happened so many times, and the people have taken it, kept quiet, grumbled amongst themselves, but not done very much?

Then another bad thing happens and you suddenly have the French Revolution, or the Poll Tax Riot, or whatever?

Well, the continuing litany of much-loved London pub and music closures has reached a new and almost absurd peak in this silly-season month of August.

First the deeply depressing news that Brixton's Canterbury Arms - under threat for so long, maybe we thought it would be ok, maybe they've forgotten about it? Er, no. It's going, in September, to be replaced by a 9-storey block of….you know what.

For the full, horribly sad story, including the gut-wrenching message from the pub's landlord, read the  story on the consistently excellent Brixton Buzz.

Then, sort of out of the blue, comes news that a well-established and truly quirky music venue in south west London is also under threat.

A report on the  London Jazz News site comes like another hammer blow:  the future of Battersea's Le QuecumBar, probably the only venue in the UK devoted entirely to the types of gypsy swing jazz made famous by  Django Rheinhardt's Hot Club of Paris, is under threat due to a 50 per cent rent increase.

Rather more hearteningly, this unique venue is fighting back, and has launched a crowd-funding initiative on Kickstarter to raise funds to pay this hugely hiked-up  rent. It's planning to increase its food offering, to set up a Swing Jazz school, and to run a festival next year, among other things.

Manager Steve Tennison also hopes to improve "the look and feel"of the place, though I must say I like the rather dusty old Parissienne café look and feel it has right now.

ANd yes it needs all our support, so I for one will be going along to get a taste of this 1940s revival music - and yes, they really do have live music, every night.

Get down there, or get to their "Kickstarter" fundraising page and throw some cash their way, if you care about the quality of life and music in this strange city we live in.