A dinner at a friend’s in Walthamstow and a sunny Saturday afternoon made the perfect excuse to sneak in some more Kinks-related sights. We’ve totally abandoned any attempt to do a Kinks Little or Great North London Tour as our progress always ends up being too shambolic. Clutching my further-annotated hand-drawn map from our first Kinks adventure, we set forth with just a basic idea of where we might end up going.
Disembarking at East Finchley tube, we repair to a presumably new, local café imaginatively monikered ‘New Local Café’, where the service is fast and friendly and the staff know the customers’ names and inquire about their relatives. Go for the ever-good-value breakfasts (veggie ones available) to fortify us for Fortis Green and our search for number 87, the big white Regency semi-detached noticed by Ray on runs around the neighbourhood as a kid, which we’d failed to find once already on a dark, wet night last December. It was the house that Ray Davies and Rasa lived in once, albeit briefly, once he’d managed to wrest £9,000 out of the management to buy it.
The large homes are set back from the road, secluded behind hedges or walls. I snap photos of some wrong ones before I get the right one, I think, rather grand and beautiful, the shingle driveway mentioned in X-Ray still in situ. I really respect the way that Ray remains so loyal to his hometown – this place is a stone’s throw from his modest family home at 6 Denmark Terrace. (The bedsit he first shared with Rasa in Midhurst Avenue is similarly close by.)
Pass the Clissold Arms, directly opposite Denmark Terrace and Alexandra before a side road on the left gives us a view of the playing field of Fortismere School (renamed from the William Grimshaw of the Davies brothers’ time), inaccessible behind a serious fence, a fence that means business, and in case you still feel like attempting it, there’s also a notice warning of guard dogs. OTT security measures all a bit pointless as from Tetherdown you can just walk into the school premises and access the same field, should it prove entirely irresistible.
Signs dictate that we report to reception but the doors to the rather modern school complex are all locked. We’d hoped to see Pete Quaife’s blue plaque but it was not to be. Incongruously, there appears to be a swimming pool, but the whole place is deserted, no sign of any school sports or extracurricular occupation.
Further along Tetherdown/Coppetts Road we pass some older school buildings, now designated the sixth form centre. Perhaps the Davies boys once graced these rooms. We continue in quest of the Coldfall Estate (sounds like it could have been one of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets), and Everington Road, which leads to Steeds Road, where Pete once lived.
Maybe the fact that it’s hilly helps to lend the area an open, seaside aspect, the roads falling away like they might all end at the ocean. In keeping with this holiday spirit, Steeds Roadside is populated by motorcaravans. They seem to proliferate in this atmosphere. Maybe inspired by the hopeful quality of the sea air, all the residents are dreaming of adventures on the open road far away from Muswell Hill. Much like Ray dreamed in his youth. Grubby meerkats look down from laminated Neighbourhood Watch posters which are screwed into rusty lampposts. A notice on a garden gate at one end of the road thanks people for leaving newspapers for the owner’s guinea pigs. Two guys, one black and one white, are working on a car together in an adjacent road.
People along Coppetts have left weird rubbish out for collection, including a white, coffin-like tallboy cupboard, a peculiarly shaped piece of varnished wooden apparatus (I couldn’t hazard a guess at its purpose) and a red and silver drumkit. On the left side walking back there’s a parade of shops that wouldn’t look out of place in St Mary Cray minus the marauding packs of delinquent feral teens in hoodies and unlaced trainers. The shops have that boarded-up-for-their-own-benefit air, like they were closed down in case of riots a decade ago. (There’s a halt and hail bus, the 234, that runs along here if the hill gets a bit much.)
Back on the main road we pass Les Aldrich Records, at 98 Fortis Green Road but don’t look in as by now we’re gasping for a cuppa. I’m persuaded against my better judgement to try a tearoom at the back of upmarket French patisserie Maison Blanc. Supercilious waiters in black aprons direct us to a table in order to studiously ignore us while fawning round the regulars. We collect our own menus but still can’t get served. These regulars, mostly with designer pushchairs, with posh overcoats, hats and bags, glare at us indignantly, their eyes intense with resentment at the nerve of these obvious blow-ins occupying a prime table at prime time. The waiters’ gaze meanwhile seems to travel over us without registering our presence at all. Eventually we manage to pin one down and order some Earl Grey. At least you get a nice big pot so you can linger in the warmth and further aggravate anyone waiting.
From here we return to the roundabout junction and take Muswell Hill Road down to Woodside Avenue and the Davies brothers’ old primary school, the impressively fortified St James C of E – the intimidating fencing is again more reminiscent of a maximum-security facility. I don’t think a five-year-old Dave would be able to walk out and go home now if he decided he didn’t like it, not without a blowtorch or a rope ladder.
Too dark by now to investigate the interesting-looking hospital opposite, originally called St Luke’s Hospital for Lunatics. Don’t you love those days before political correctness?
Soon to embark on the 2012 Dave Davies satsang experience at secret location in the southwest. Expecting spiritual enlightenment among other things. Will keep you posted if mind not totally blown.
[All lyrics from kindakinks.net.] Also see previous blog on Kinks sites – ‘Well, the road’s been rocky along the way’.