Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Hawley Arms Fire: I Look on the Bright Side

I never could get the hang of Camden Town. It's a funny shape and I always get lost. Its residents display the first signs of the extreme ugliness that afflicts the whole of North London. And, finally, Camden has never got beyond about 1971 when the hippie life involved selling brass trinkets, tie-dyed tee shirts and exotic smoking materials. In fact, looking back, 1971 was the only time I did feel vaguely at ease in the town that time subsequently forgot. There is, therefore, a lot to be said for the fire that has destroyed the Hawley Arms and neighbouring buildings. Camden needed something like this to draw its attention to the fact that it is now 2008. With luck, it will inspire them to close down the whole of Camden Lock market, tossing the catering packs of Rizla and cheap Indian silk scarves into the canal.


  1. When a stroll through Kew to linger over the Azaleas, musing on the haiku. Then whatever joy one had for the Camden market is so dead that even Resurrection Day may have trouble.
    But what are the poor students to do for their supply of the never ending soviet era footware. That place shod students with boots which lasted, and sometimes lived.

  2. ... I had never heard of the place till it burnt down but the news that Kate Moss, Peter Doherty and Amy Winehouse frequented it suggests to me that it was a hang out for has beens and junkies...

  3. Quite agree, Bryan - last time I was in Camden Town I could scarcely believe the squalor. North London is indeed ugly and fundamentally wrong - too many buildings, not enough water, not enough open space, and, in many parts, deludedly up itself. South London is wonderful in contrast (Rebecca West extols it in The Fountain Overflows, a rather wonderful book). I realised the other day that you can walk on open land - much of it very fine and 'wild' - all the way from Wimbledon to the river at Richmond (of Petersham or Sheen), with only the odd road to cross. In South London, a man can breathe free...

  4. Nige

    "a man can breathe free..."

    Sounds like Raymond Massey in 'A Matter of Life and Death'. Great film.

  5. Like Mutley, I'd never before heard of this pub. Sounds a great place to pop in for snack: perhaps a boiled egg and a heroin injection, Aleister Crowley stylee. The people I know who've been to Camden Market have usually ended up being ripped off or having their wallet nicked. Besides, all the people I least liked at uni chose to settle in Camden or nearby, a base camp for an assault on Mount Television. SW London south of the river is much nicer, for the reasons Nige gives.

  6. I lived 2 mins walk from the place until last summer, having spent a decade in and around Camden since coming to London for uni.

    When you're a student, its music scene is fabulously exciting - and you're just too wasted (and young) to be bothered by the filth, crime and overcrowding. Being able to declare that one is Too Old For Camden is a turning point in a young man's life. Far better to bail out than end up like the piteous late 30s-40s wrecks who still stumble around with their greasy Crufts barnets and too-small teenage tramp wear like an army of Russell Brands.

    Last night's rolling Sky News coverage was amazing: breathless commentators duelling with mock-epic similes on the cultural heritage of the Hawley Arms, as if it were the Cavern Club.

    In truth, it's a rancid little hovel full of drunk students, crackheads and random star-spotters.

    I do love the Roundhouse, though. And the nightly live jazz and blues in the back of Marathon Kebab (opposite the Roundhouse) is one of North London's best kept secrets.

  7. strange to find you posting about the 70s and Camden Lock on the same day. Lots of good times but I left them all behind. Now it means nothing to me, oh vienna!

    a real shame about the fire...

  8. Camden Lock - the souk in Marakech without the charm.