Saturday, May 20, 2006

Article: Croydon lad made good

Turns out that Dan Stevens, the actor fronting the BBC's big new drama The Line of Beauty, is a Croydon boy. For some inexplicable reason, his scant biographies focus on his Cambridge education and not on his time smoking at the Whitgift Centre after school. Expect in-depth interviews in the Sundays and on Loose Ends about his first time being denied access to the Blue Orchid and whether he preferred the Ship or the Black Sheep Bar.

Hat tip: Mr Stevie

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Article: Life beyond Croydon

Apparently there is life beyond Croydon. In journalistic style, taking my life in my hands, I stepped over the borough boundaries to see the following in the last few weeks.

  • Belle & Sebastian concert in Trafalgar Square
  • Lecture by James Cameron, chaired by HRH Prince Philip at the RSA
  • Picnic in Kelsey Park
  • Morrissey at the Palladium
  • Folk music at the ICA
  • Softball in Regent's Park
  • Drinks at the Harrow, Farleigh
  • Ojos de Brujo at the Barbican
  • Compass debate in Westminster
  • Japanese restaurant 'Okinawa' in Soho
  • Walk and tea & cakes in Penshurst
  • Clubbing in Vauxhall

It was all just fabulous. I may leave Croydon again

Article: Croydon round-up

A round-up of places visited in Croydon:

  • The Gold Coast, Ghanaian gastropub at 224 Portland Road, South Norwood: fun, popular bar and restaurant with interesting food. It was a balmy night and several bottles of Star didn't do anything to cool us down. Food is rich, spicy and filling, not necessarily the most inclusive or light, but good and hearty. Service was lovely
  • Domali's restaurant on Westow Street, Upper Norwood: as always good food, good coffee, good juices. This time had our veggie treats in the garden, not as leafy as I remember it. Next time I'll stick to sitting inside among the trendy types. Good hearty vegetarian (and fish) food, good deals at lunchtime. I had odd pea soup and roasted vegetables. 0871 3328093
  • Hart Beat at the White Hart, Crystal Palace, on Wednesdays wasn't quite what I expected. The food and beer were great, of course, but we were surprised by the music, a couple playing soft rock classics. They were good at what they did, but it was incongruous given the crowd and setting.
  • The new Warehouse Theatre (East Croydon) bar and cafe is good. They have taken the hearty pies and stews (which I really liked) off the menu and it's a lot lighter, with generic salads, sandwiches and jackets, but with a strong Mediterranean twist. I hope the new South African managers will encourage the good cooks to use the specials board to have some interesting dishes in future, but the staples are generous and good for lunch.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Politics: Addiscombe local election results 2006

So here's the first of my ward-by-ward looks at the election results from last Thursday. Long-time Labour marginal Addiscombe ward fell to the Tories on a swing of 10%. The new councillors are barrister Andrew Price, student Maria Garcia and MP's researcher Russell Jackson.

Addiscombe is a complicated ward to analyse; its population is the most varied in Croydon, with young professionals commuting to London who tend to move on quickly and longer-term sets of middle-class but more socially-minded types such as teachers and social workers, and large pockets of council and social tenants. Labour has been able to draw strength from all three in the past. The Labour Party and its councillors have been hard-working and high-profile, if somewhat independent, with localised campaigns, diligent casework and intelligent use of communications, not least their website at But if Labour was to suffer anywhere from national troubles, particularly those such as civil liberties and the Iraq conflict, it was here. The Greens achieved their best result in the borough here, and the Lib Dems were not far behind, similar to the cappuccino zone effect seen last year in Muswell Hill, say. The Tories, already in a strong place, also mopped up votes directly, with known local young candidates. Indeed, they seem like a committed and energetic young bunch, with Jackson just 22, and could stick around for some time.

Campaign-wise, Labour's team made some effort, especially on delivery, but were made to help elsewhere in the borough for most of the time, I understand. The Conservative trio, aided by Jackson's brother, took on much of the work themselves with little outside help, but were not called to Waddon, etc.

Expect this to move back towards Labour in the short term, although made difficult by the youth of the Conservatives; possibly a three- or even four-way battle in the longer term.

Andrew Price (Con) 1948 43.9%
Maria Garcia (Con) 1842 41.5%
Russell Jackson (Con) 1793 40.4%
Sean Fitzsimons (Lab) 1672 37.7%
Amanda Campbell (Lab) 1653 37.3%
Mark Watson (Lab) 1607 36.2%
Simon Barnsley (Grn) 850 19.2%
Paul Rogers (LD) 760 17.1%

electorate 11,087 : turnout 4,437 (40.0%) : swing 10.1% Lab to Con

Labour need 3% swing to regain

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Politics: Croydon Council election 2006 - the aftermath

Well I think my prediction here was quite accurate. Labour couldn't hold on but their local efficiency and organisation mitigated against a bigger loss in seats and votes in those key wards. The Tories took control and at the count were cock-a-hoop but restrained and polite, unlike their nasty and insensitive supporters at last year's general election count.

Labour held on well in Norbury and New Addington, inevitably losing in Waddon but, to their apparent surprise, losing badly in the supposedly safer wards of Addiscombe, Upper Norwood and South Norwood, and coming close in Woodside which had delivered so many votes for Geraint Davies just a year ago. The BNP gave Labour, and everybody else, a scare in Fieldway, and across Croydon South Labour fell back into third or even fourth place.

I think the reasons for Labour's loss are many and various, with different trends across the borough. National problems and local taxation issues, plus the undermining of the local crime and safety arguments by the prisoner release scandal, can point towards a long-term decline in white C2DE voters, which may explain the loss of votes in New Addington, South Norwood and Waddon. But the relatively high showing of the Greens and Lib Dems across Croydon and especially in Addiscombe and Upper Norwood reveals, in my opinion, a consequence of the war and loss of trust among ABC1 Labour voters, which in these two wards, with their affluent, professional but socially-minded populations, was key. These longer-term and less 'doorstep' issues also had another effect: although Labour's machine was as ever ruthlessly efficient, it was stretched beyond its usefulness by the loss of members and activists. I talked before about leaking votes at the margins and indeed this is what happened in Norwood and Addiscombe - there was not even enough local activity to pick up on the increasing Tory campaigns in those areas or their shift on election day. I doubt the Tory candidates for those areas had to leave their wards much; the same cannot be said for the losing Labour councillors who spent days and nights in Norbury and Waddon.

Where I got it wrong is to suggest the Tories faced a challenge at the other end. Although the Greens and Lib Dems deserve to be pleased with their showing, Croydon is a long way from seeing a three party system. The Lib Dems heavily lost their Coulsdon seat and were wiped out; although second in many places, they are not strong challengers to either Labour or the Conservatives in any ward. My suggestion that Marzia Nicodemi-Ehikioya would have a good showing was right (no surprise) with over 1,000 votes, but still a long, long way from the incumbents.

There follows a ward by ward analysis over coming days...

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Blog Flux Directory

British Blog Directory.

Sick of Croydon? Discover Crete...

Photos: Guess where Google Earth's been

Inspired by a photo quiz at the Croydon Society AGM last night, and having just discovered Google Earth is now available on the Mac, I've set a little quiz. See if you can guess which Croydon landmarks each of these are. Answers later...

Capability indeed

Everyone ends up here

Everyone ends up here on a Bank Holiday Monday

Looks like it's in the deep countryside, if Streatham Common counts

Terry & June drove here

Kept Institutional

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Restaurant: Rasta wholefood juice bar

This place sounds interesting, perhaps a little scary. Will let you know...

Bar: Colour theme at Crystal Palace

What's with the colour theme of the bars on Crystal Palace Triangle? First the Bluebottle, then the Black Sheep Bar, and most recently the White Hart. I went to the Black Sheep on Easter Monday, very quiet. Although it was a slow evening everywhere and the staff were helpful and chatty (in Croydon they'd use the absence of customers at the bar to go back and smoke, not clean up and offer table service), I was still disappointed. I'd fancied a bit of a buzz after a weekend of family and TV.

So it was nice to find the White Hart. It's been there for some time, since O'Neills sold up, and the recent paint job - brown outside with a large white stag's head painted across a wall - had caught my eye. Finally got there last week, and loved it! Large selection of beer and wine, although didn't try (or even see) any ales, so can't testify to those. Bottled Duvel, on tap Staropramen (and Granat Staropramen), Budvar, three Belgian fruit beers, and plenty of others, plus freshly made orange juice and good coffee. The atmosphere, though busy, was relaxed and friendly, with great service and a nice mix of seating areas to aid friendly interaction. The stack of board games was untouched and hardly original, but it does give a sense of what to expect. There's a small courtyard garden, but it wasn't the day to sit there.

Best of all was the food from the small grill area. We just had snacks but they were superlative: crispy potato wedges and home-fried nachos with dips were both really good. I am a sucker for specials boards, it gets me going back to a place. Burgers and steaks look to be staples but they had nice sounding exotic foods and old pub standards. Definitely a place to try again.

Oh and Wednesdays at the White Hart is 'HartBeat', mixed sounds, mainly jazz and blues, from 9pm. See you there.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Event: Croydon Society Annual Meeting

The Croydon Society is holding its AGM on Tuesday 2nd May at 7.45 pm at the Small Hall, United Reformed Church, Addiscombe Grove. After the meeting, there'll be a selection of the Society's slides and digital photographs. Admission Free.

Perhaps I should do one of those live blog feeds from my laptop in the meeting. But somehow I don't think it's appropriate...