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Sunday, October 23, 2005

MEAN TIME: A stroll around Greenwich

Tom eating whilst admiring the capitalist beauty of Canary Wharf
After 3 hours kip, it was back up again. The fact that I had not started drinking till about 11pm meant that I was actually quite fresh, despite the late night. John went to open up his shop, then after a cup of coffee with Jackie it was off out to show my anarcho companions around Greenwich.

John is originally from Blaina, but has lived in Greenwich for 26 years. I could spend hours telling you about him, but I wont, it is my blog not his. I will say though that he runs a cracking little classic clothing shop, The Emporium, on Creek Road, Greenwich. I have been visiting him and staying with him for more years than I can remember, which means I have come to know Greenwich quite well.

Until a few years ago I would have described Greenwich as a hidden gem, cool and trendy, but friendly and ‘proper’ Eastend. There is the Cutty Sark, The Naval College, The Maritime Museum, The Observatory, a cracking park, some excellent pubs and a cool craft market. It is also famous, obviously, for the fact that it is the theoretical border between the east and west hemispheres and time through out the world is based on the time in Greenwich; a legacy of its former naval importance.

Then came the farce that was the Millennium D*me. With the D*me came the Docklands Light Railway, which has been a mixed blessing. Until the DLR, getting to Greenwich by public transport was a bit of a pain, and the only way to cross the river for several miles was the Greenwich foot tunnel. The DLR now means tourists and the yuppies working in Canary Wharf can get to Greenwich within minutes. As a result, business is good for the shops (including John’s), the market and the pubs; as a result prices have gone up, big business has moved in, local businesses have closed down, hotel chains have moved in and the area has somewhat lost its charm. That said, it is still a lot better than many other areas of London I can think of.

We set off on our mini tour and we soon started to develop a theme. Food. Tom seemed to be on a mission to eat everything vegan in town, luckily for him there were some nice little stalls in the various markets serving up vegan delights. We wandered around the craft market, then over to John’s shop.

John was busy out back and I had a chat with his assistant Paris (apparently he was on Fame Academy last year and for a while was drawing fawning young girls to the shop). John has had several minor celebrities working for him, including the son of Chris Difford (Squeeze); and numerous famous customers including Noel Gallagher, Antonio Fargas (Huggy Bear), Kyle Minogue (who got checked out by Jackie’s late mum for eating chips in the shop) and most of the members of the Top Cats.

After a chat with John we took a brisk walk up to the observatory to clear the cobwebs and scan the views over London (and in Toms case, eat more food), then eventually we headed back to Wales. The weekend turned out better than expected, as Tom put it, “we fell on our feet there son!”


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