Travel Reference
In-Depth Information
Junction. Even today (though they will certainly disappear before long), you can occasion-
ally find yourself in an ancient carriage on this line - travelling forward in space, as it
were, but backward in time - one of the old carriages equipped with solid woodwork and
flyblown photographs that delight the heart of the true collector. Again, there is the curi-
ous duality feeling in the atmosphere of Liverpool Street, a grimy Gothic cavern furnished
with soup-vending machines and pie-munching travellers, and at Victoria where, having
followed the hand pointing out of a cuff into the gentlemen's lavatories, one finds a period
door engraved with the words, 'Hats brushed'. St Marylebone still retains a refined quality
about it, despite the ugly modern block clapped on to it at the side. Here there are electric
lights of the Edwardian period, opaque mirrors, and carafes capped by inverted glasses,
but Marylebone Station's most attractive feature is the glass and cast-iron canopy over the
entrance. And Finsbury Park on a Saturday afternoon is the last rendezvous of the steam
spotters who gather to watch the expresses coming up the hill from King's Cross.
To return to Camden Town. There are attractive terraced streets to be found in the areas
off Kentish Town Road, stuccoed houses of the 1830s that have much character about
them. Many of these cottages, artisans' houses at the time of erection, are now being re-
stored and sold at fancy prices. London has been gripped by the fever for living in a 'peri-
od' house, and some areas, notably Islington, have distinctly gone up in the world. People
are prepared to buy houses that, after years of neglect, have to be almost entirely rebuilt,
so widespread is the hunger for anything resembling a Regency house, and it is difficult to
decide which is going to be the next area for preferment. But if it is sufficiently rotten and
decayed, a district is certain to become fashionable.
Another episode in the life of Camden Town is the Greek and Cypriot colony that has
built up in recent years. The area around Pratt Street is becoming almost pure Greek; the
Greeks were always colonists. Here they have their own church, and run small Greek
eating-places and caf├ęs. All this is a reminder that London is a great magnet for provin-
cials and foreigners, people from the ends of the earth, all coming as they have done for
centuries to try their fortunes, like Dick Whittington, in the great city. Somehow London
has managed to absorb them, and they have left their mark on London in its architecture
and street names such as Fournier Street and Mandarin Street.
Camden Town is a place of small shops and mixed businesses. There is a nice one in
Pratt Street, a little fish shop which displays large oysters on blue-edged dishes, and the
feeling of the owners for decoration is shown in the huge shells that decorate the window,
shells that are pink inside like the ears of a white cat, and there are roses made of pink
paper. It is no wonder that Sickert found so much material in Camden Town - those dolor-
ous bed-sitters, the damp basement flats where life, seen through lace curtains, is a succes-
sion of human feet wearing out the pavement tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Jel-
lied eels were a staple article of diet in Camden Town and still are, though the best of the
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