A few weeks ago I had a minor, but irritating problem with my bike – a puncture. I’m not much cop yet at the whole palaver of getting wheels and tyres off, so I looked at ways to save myself a bit of bother. My eureka! moment came when I remembered there’s a Halfords only about half a mile away from me, in Charlton’s Stone Lake Retail Park.
So I took the bike down, and the young guy said it’d be fine… until he realised they didn’t have my size of tube in stock.
“Have you tried your local bike shop?” he asked.
You are my local bike shop, I replied.
And off I trudged. Eventually, I killed several birds with one stone by taking it into The Bike Shop on Lee High Road, Lewisham for a full service.
My bike came back as as good as new with a few parts replaced, and the advice that I should consider getting my tyre changed in a month or two as it was wearing out. Unfortunately, that should have been “in a day or two” – it barely lasted 36 hours. But The Bike Shop happily put things right for me without complaint, and I’ve been riding happily ever since.
There’s a couple of nearer places – the venerable Harry Perry Cycles in Woolwich, and Cycle Warehouse in Greenwich, both of which have given me friendly service in the past, and Cycles UK in Deptford is probably a similar distance away.
But the geography of this bit of London means it’s simpler and more pleasant to ride to/from Lee High Road – a zip through Blackheath Village or a meander through the Cator Estate (although I blame a pothole there for my service being a bit costlier than I planned for) instead of the dual carriageways or steep hills of my immediate neighbourhood.
The Bike Shop’s staff have been pretty good to me in the past, and I get a London Cycling Campaign member discount. So I’ve adopted them to get bits and bobs, although hauling a stricken bike from Charlton for fixing is awkward, as I’ve discovered.
Even though I’ve been cycling for year now, bike shops still have an amazing capacity to both baffle and fascinate me in equal measure – I wish I’d visited Deptford’s famous Whitcomb Cycles before it moved, but the nearby Union Cycle Works co-operative will still build you one if you want.
But, fellow cycling reader, is there any other local bike shop I should be aware of? I also know of Compton in Catford and the Sidcup Cycle Centre, and I’ve heard Brockley Bikes are very highly regarded. Any tips, or any experiences of the shops I’ve mentioned you can share,
You know when you go away for a week or two, and upon your return something about your neighbourhood has changed? When I returned from my travels three weeks ago, the change was right in front of me as I struggled out of Charlton station with my bags.
Coomes the bookmakers had gone, replaced with a shiny new Jennings betting shop. It wasn’t just the Charlton Church Lane branch – the Blackheath Standard one had undergone the same transformation, and so has the one at Brockley Cross. Out are the little blue pens and the distant whiff of fags, in come smart staff suits and varnished wood floors. Same old punters, mind.
The slick, shiny new bookies are a culture shock to anyone who ever set foot in a Coomes, a fixture of south-east London’s shopping parades for decades. Not so long ago, if you put a bet on at The Valley, it was a Coomes bet.
Despite the liberalisation of the betting industry some years back, Charlton-based E Coomes Ltd (or E Coomes (South London) Ltd or whichever variant was on the front of your shop) was a defiantly old-school chain. The gambling inside was still obscured by navy blue sketches of jumping horses, racing greyhounds, and soccer action.
No Ray Winstone shouting about in-play betting from home from this firm – it never even had a website. Just shops, staff, and little blue pens. One day, we’ll tell our children we physically had to leave the pub during World Cup football matches to
place lose a fiver on England winning 2-0. They’ll never believe us.
Over the years, Coomes’ star faded. While bigger chains moved aggressively into places like Deptford, the little blue shops started to close their doors for the last time. But now the name seems to be vanishing entirely. A little bit of south-east London will soon be history.
After literally minutes of journalistic investigation (a quid on tonight’s Wycombe v Charlton match*), it appears Jennings – which also trades as Joe Jennings and Betterbet – has bought 17 of Coomes’ best-performing shops. What about the others? “They’ll have gone by next year,” said my man with the odds. “Some of the smaller chains will pick those up.” If you know more, or different, please share it below.
There’s genuine and real worries about the unchecked spread of bookmakers at the moment, with brash chains descending on certain areas to fight it out in places where there really isn’t the cash to sustain them.
But it’s a shame to see a neighbourhood bookmaker like Coomes, where the punters never really changed, fade away. While I’m sure those shops witnessed some unhappy scenes over the years, at least your losses were funding a local business, and they wasn’t harassing you to lose even more on poker or some other game. If you want to see how our uncertain society’s changing – pop in at your local bookie.
The next MP for Greenwich could have to represent constituents from the fringes of Nunhead to parts of Charlton under projections drawn up by experts at Liverpool University.
With the coalition government aiming to reduce the number of MPs to 600 by the next election, the current Greenwich and Woolwich seat – held by Labour’s Nick Raynsford – could be split up if the predictions by Democratic Audit are correct.
A new Greenwich and Deptford seat would run from the Telegraph Hill ward in Lewisham borough across to Greenwich borough’s Peninsula ward. Essentially, it would mean the current Lewisham Deptford seat, held by Labour’s Joan Ruddock, expands east to take in Greenwich and Blackheath.
But it would see most of Charlton separated from Greenwich, forming part of a new Woolwich constituency which would reach out as far as Shooters Hill and Lee.
Other changes could see an Eltham and Welling seat stretching from Eltham High Street into Bexleyheath, while a Catford seat is projected to run from Lewisham town centre south to Downham.
The projected Greenwich and Deptford seat would include the Peninsula, Blackheath Westcombe and Greenwich West wards from Greenwich borough, and combine them with Lewisham’s New Cross, Evelyn, Telegraph Hill, Brockley and Blackheath wards. It would combine parts of the current Greenwich and Woolwich, Lewisham East and Lewisham Deptford seats.
It would unite the divided areas of Blackheath and Deptford under a single MP – the two areas have been split politically since Victorian times, although much more of Deptford came under Greenwich borough until the 1990s. But there are few transport links between the east and west of the predicted seat. Both Greenwich and Lewisham boroughs also have very different political cultures.
Splitting Brockley and Ladywell wards would probably kill off the Green Party’s long-held dreams of getting its first London MP in this area. Curiously, this seat would include Millwall Football Club, but stop just short of Charlton Athletic.
A Woolwich seat would be composed of Greenwich borough’s Charlton, Kidbrooke with Hornfair, Woolwich Dockyard, Woolwich Riverside, Glyndon, Eltham West and Middle Park and Sutcliffe wards. It would merge parts of Eltham constituency with what’s left of Greenwich and Woolwich.
The proposal would see most of Charlton separated from Greenwich for the first time since the Victorian era – but would unite most of SE7 under the same MP. But the Eltham area would be split between different constituencies in a seat stretching from the Blackheath Cator Estate to the edge of Thamesmead.
An Eltham and Welling seat would include Greenwich borough’s Eltham North, Eltham South and Coldharbour & New Eltham wards and combine them with Bexley’s East Wickham, St Michael’s, Danson Park, Blackfen & Lamborbey and Falconwood & Welling wards.
Voila – a marginal Eltham seat (currently held by Labour’s Clive Efford) becomes a safe Conservative constituency.
Democratic Audit predicts a Catford constituency consisting of Lewisham borough’s Lewisham Central, Ladywell, Rushey Green, Catford South, Lee Green, Grove Park, Downham and Whitefoot wards. Not much different from the current Lewisham East seat, held by Heidi Alexander.
The rest of Lewisham borough would form a Dulwich and Forest Hill seat, stretching from Dulwich Village to Crofton Park.
Please note: The colours on the maps date back to the 2006 council elections, so need more red and less blue, yellow and green. I couldn’t find a newer map to use…
The Guardian reported on the predictions earlier this week, calling them “the most detailed analysis yet of what those new seats might look like”. The new electoral map will be published by the Boundary Commission in September. You can find full details of these predictions at the Democratic Audit website.
UPDATE 1.15PM: I’ve also done a London-wide take on this for The Scoop.
Kicking back with an even bigger sound system: Upper Brockley Road, Brockley.
(Click on the image to hear it. Sound system was just to the left of the picture. See Brockley Central for more.)
The lesson learned from the Friday off? Kids love a royal wedding, adults like a booze-up. Seems healthy.
One thing this corner of SE London has lacked has been online forums, which partly explains why local blogs have done so well around here. Actually, 853 was nearly launched as a forum, but then I decided managing one was too much like hard work and started another blog instead. Well, all that’s changed in the past couple of weeks, with the launch of two new forums. When I get around to rearranging the list on the right-hand side, I’ll give them a permanent link, but until then…
First up is South East Central, a side project from this blog’s occasional collaborators at Brockley Central. As you’d expect, it’s focusing its efforts on the Brockley/ Deptford/ Lewisham areas, but its sights are wider than that, and you can discuss just what it means to be from the beautiful south-east to your heart’s content. Definitely one to watch for the future. Here’s me on shut pubs.
Also looking promising is the Blackheath Forum. I’m a bit concerned about its plans to go into “invite-only” mode in the future, though – apparently it’s a method to beat spammers, but as far as I’m aware, the messageboard system it uses is pretty much spam-proof anyway. Hopefully it’ll stay open to all, because “closed” forums, usually used by residents of new developments to escape the derision of outsiders, don’t really give off a welcoming impression. Look, someone’s been nice about me. (Update – see comments below for a revision of the invite-only policy. Hurrah!)
I don’t often mention Abbey Wood here, but I should also point you in the direction of the Abbey Wood Forum, whose creator wrote to me ages ago but I managed to lose his e-mail. Take a look at this bizarre yarn about Bexley Council, who are clearly sensitive to criticism…
While I’m here, I’m thinking of opening up 853‘s pages in a few weeks to some guest posts – I’ll be elsewhere for a bit so it’s either that or I stick up some episodes of Danger Mouse to keep the page views up.
So if there’s anything about life in south-east London that bugs you, or makes you want to cheer, and it’s legal, decent, and doesn’t pick on an individual or promote any party politics, then I’d love to hear about it.
And the Brockley British Legion memorial march, Woolwich market traders’ cries, Blackheath bank holiday funfair, Deptford car auction, Lewisham market traders, bats in Catford and a parakeet in Lesnes Abbey Woods – all from the intriguing London Sound Survey.