Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Tickle on the tum

From time to time it's occurred to me to write some things about where I live and now, inspired by a property type article about the place in today's Evening Standard, here's my guide to Twickenham.

The Stadium. I've never been to a sporting event or a gig here. Just an art deco pottery fair. And I didn't buy anything. So, moving on into the town itself, b
eing a delicate indie-type I don't venture into the high street pubs - the Cabbage Patch and the George etc. The closest I get to entering a manly, rugger pub is the St Margarets Tavern over in St Margarets (which, when I think, I have sort of written a bit about).

When it's not chock full of hearty types in Harlequin tops it's very relaxing and cosy for such a big pub. The food's very good too and one of my mates was always chuffed to drink there cos they did Becks on tap. It's across the road from Twickenham film studios where the Beatles recorded some bits of the Magical Mystery Tour I think, they did something there anyway. I imagine there's a good chance they had a few beers in the place.

Also in St Margarets is Ches' caff which does an excellent breakfast, though it was done up a while ago and now has a proper evening restaurant bit. This has rendered it ever so slightly poncified. Moving along into the main bit of Twickenham the article mentions Church Street which features the Fox, the only pub in central Twickenham that I drink in. The first time I stepped down into the place two old buffers puffing away on pipes had created a mighty fug. It is, of course, not like that now. A shame, the pipe smoke, the lower than street level floor and the riverside location gave it a piratical vibe.

Also good on Church Street is Langton's Bookshop. I tend only to buy kids book in there to be honest. It scores heavily though for having a tearoom in the back - very comfy. Last stop for me on Church Street is Sweet Memories, which as the name suggests, is one of those boutique sweet shops that have sprung up recently to cater for sweet toothed nostalgists such as me, and for which trend I'm grateful. I noticed a few years ago that newsagents had stopped selling boiled sweets - and I do like to have a quarter of aniseed rock in my coat pocket when I go for a long walk.

Round the corner (past Flood Lane, look up to see commemorative plaque in the wall opposite showing the level of a flood in 1775) is the Thames. On the right is Eel Pie Island. Sadly you no longer haul yourself across on a rope ferry, there is instead quite a striking, high-arched bridge. My wife's known this part of the world for longer than me and the first time we walked down to this bit of the river I said something like, "That looks interesting" to which she casually replied something like "Oh yeah, it's Eel Pie Island". I couldn't believe it - as a big fan of both George Melly and the Rolling Stones the place was semi-mythological to me. I raced over the bridge to explore and...was pretty disappointed really. It's all private, as far as I could make out the general public only have access to a few yards of pathway. There's an article about it in this month's Uncut actually.

Along the Thames the other way (towards Richmond) you go past another good pub, the White Swan. It's long been an ambition of mine to get there early on a misty winter morning and get a window seat. Most times though it's been sunny afternoons and I've sat in the beer garden, which floods when the tide comes in. Trevor Bayliss, ladykiller and inventor of the clockwork radio, can occassionally be seen sat seductively in his powder blue E Type Jag outside this pub. Such a beautiful car.

Back into Twickenham and the main drag, as the article says, is a disappointment. There are plenty of charity shops, though not much vinyl to be had. The high street is long and featureless - it could do with a cinema round about where the big timber merchants is now. It needs a bit of character - which,speaking for myself, I think a greasy spoon and a decent record shop would go a long way towards providing.

Back to reality - trudging along the next good thing you come to is Angelo's. A slighly scruffy Italian restaurant. The owner (Angelo?) is, on the other hand, a very dapper Italian gentleman, probably in his sixties now but still capable of carrying off his dazzling tonic suit. Slightly further up is Panda Garden which does the best beef chow mein I've ever eaten, but my wife hates it. As a consequence I'm usually dispatched to get the Chinese from the brilliantly named, and admittedly superior, Ewok over in St Margarets.

Moving beyond Panda Garden (past the brand new tattoo parlour) you come to a railway bridge. Being a provincial country mouse I always get a big kick out of seeing trains going by overhead. It is, in my opinion, one of the most urban things ever. Walking under the bridge you cross from TW1 into TW2 and in doing so you are now unlikely to be eligible for free delivery from takeaways in places such as Mortlake and Sheen. Emerging from the shadow of the arches you are faced with the impressive horse chestnut lined triangle of Twickenham Green, the easternmost surviving portion of Hounslow Heath apparently.

Arthur's Restaurant there does a decent bacon sandwich but I mention it mainly because I'm certain that the building was originally a large (probably Edwardian) public lavatory, it's got that look about it. On the opposite side of the green is the cricket pavilion. According to their election literature the local Tories are very proud of the pavilion, and I admit it is a lovely building. Cricket is played on the widest part of the green but that doesn't stop them from hitting the cars parked around it. I've never seen them hit a moving car but it'd only take a good six.

A row of shops runs along the green the most fantastic of which is Shepperton Design Studio. Many's the time I've stood gawping at the reflec armour on display. However tempting the Tie Fighter pilot's outfit is I don't think I'd get away with buying one considering the sulks I've gone into when I've discovered the true price of some of my wife's handbags. I'd never, ever live down spending over a grand on a plastic spacesuit which I'd almost certainly never wear outside my flat.

If you've travelled this far and fancy a curry you'll be faced with a choice between the Green Spice and the Taste of Raj which, oddly, are right next door to each other. I favour the Green Spice on the grounds that it has booths and a mirrored mosaic bar that is a classic of its type. And I suppose it's a few feet closer to my flat that the Taste of Raj. A little further along you'll see the burnt out remains of two shops - a post office and a laundrette. Allegedly the fire was caused by a cannabis factory in the flat above the post office. I fantasize about turning the laundrette into a greasy spoon, it's just the right shape and size and the door and windows arrangement is perfect for a caff.

Finally, a bit further along, Crane Park - a long thin park that stretches alongside the River Crane (I noticed in the Guardian's obituary of Monty Sunshine that one of his first bands had been the River Crane Jazz Band, Twickenham was clearly a hotbed of post-war beatniks). I remember a few years ago commenting in the pub on the pleasant ease of walking by rivers, only to be slighty crestfallen at a colleague's prosaic observation that this was probably down to the fact that such walks were almost guaranteed to be along the flat. Hmm, good point I suppose.

Anyway, Crane Park has been on a couple of occasions the route along which, in a fit of post New Year disgust, I've taken myself out for a jog. Predictably enough I was defeated after five minutes or so, my mouth filling up with warm saliva and terrible aches wracking my body. So each time it turned into a slightly delirious amble through the nature reserve there. The park features an unusual, fairy tale looking tower, ironically in fact the sole remnant of the once extensive munitions industry that existed here. The towers were required for the manufacture of shot, which was made by pouring molten lead through a gauze at the top of the tower into a vat of cold water below. I'd never thought about how shot was made before. Will Self writes a bit about it one of his books (Psycho Too, by the sound of it).

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