Tag Archives: yummy mummy


AH Dunn, under Creative Commons by Ewan-M. Click pic for link.

AH Dunn, under Creative Commons by Ewan-M. Click pic for link.

Battersea, home of the power station, the dog home, the flower market… These places aren’t really the Battersea I visited – they’re Nine Elms, so full disclosure, I’ve been to the power station but won’t write about it today. I did have a bit of a look at Battersea fairly recently though – it’s a classic case of gentrification (I cite Tim Butler) and is home to a charming housing estate, built for the working classes by well-meaning Victorians, both subjects I have pored over at length. It’s a textbook gentrified inner suburb, for sure, and vies with Crouch End to be the definition of yummy mummy territory – all artisan bakers, Starbucks and pushchairs – christened Nappy Valley by Will Self. And cheese shops; I’m pretty jealous of the cheese shops actually.

As you’d imagine, this is home to a certain type of charity shop. Northcote Road, the centre of Nappy Valley, is the hub of the inner-suburban leisure mum, and here are the more expensive charity shops: Trinity Hospice and a Fara kids’ shop (of course). There’s not a great deal to them though: some expensive tat, a selection of slightly intellectual books, the odd over-priced secondhand pushchair.

For a wider selection, cross the sweeping bar and cafe route of Battersea Rise to the semi-pedestrianised St John’s Road. Here you’ll find British Heart Foundation, Scope, Cancer Research, Traid and the frankly slightly odd Ace of Clubs, which I’ve never come across before. While none yielded any magnificent bounty, a smattering of objets made it a worthwhile diversion, and with that sort of population, you just never know.

Find: Battersea @ Google Maps
Consume with: plenty of options for frothy coffee or artisan fish.
Visit: if you can sneak into the power station somehow, absolutely do.
Overall rating: three coasters



Filed under 3/5, London South

East Dulwich

shop fronts, under creative commons from fear and boozing in a lost vagueness' photostream. Click pic for link.

shop fronts, under creative commons from fear and boozing in a lost vagueness' photostream. Click pic for link.

I’ve done a lot of work on gentrification in the last four months (see? It didn’t stop there). I can summarise Smith’s rent gap theory, or Ley’s humanistic take; I can waffle at length about Barnsbury (as per Jonathan Raban (who I love more than ever)), Brooklyn Heights, Bilbao, and associated subjects such as global cities or neoliberalism; I can cite writers like Zizek or Foucault with nary a bat of the eyelid. But booksmarts pale into insignificance when faced with an irrefutable measure of gentrification provided by the ever-paternalistic Times property section: the chicken shop test. Presumably the majority of Times readers don’t live in an area where chicken shops proliferate (i.e. where impoverished folk live), because I’m happy to confirm that chicken shops actually don’t correlate with ‘edgy’ either academically or in any other way. And because Lordship Lane in East Dulwich featured three (in 2004), that does not make it a bastion of working class solidarity amidst a rising tide of middle-class colonisation and class repression spilling over into the area.

East Dulwich is, in fact, thoroughly gentrified. House prices quadrupled during the 1990s as fixer-uppers moved in, and today Lordship Lane is awash with organic delis, fancy fish-n-chip shops and four-wheel drive monsters. It’s very pleasant for all that, and placed well, just close enough to the altogether more traditionally salubrious Dulwich Village, just far enough from the less classy Peckham Rye. There’s village greens, larger parks, art galleries – everything except a tube station. It’s reminiscent in some ways of a newly-established Muswell Hill, who pride themselves on not having a station. East Dulwich also fits into a West-East heirarchy: where Muswell Hill wants to be Highgate (which itself wants to be Hampstead), but looks down on Crouch End, which in turn looks down on Harringay and Wood Green, East Dulwich would dearly love to be as classy as Dulwich Village, but has to content itself with Nunhead lingering jealously nearby, and Peckham, who nobody loves.

What it doesn’t excel in is charity shops. It’s difficult to give a high rating to such a clearly well-off locale which sports just the two, fairly average emporia. The better is Mind, on the junction by Goose Green, which did well on DVDs and some nice looking cookware and cake tins, which is always nice. The lesser of the two was a slightly eerie St Christropher’s Hospice shop: large enough, but with the atmosphere of a hospital waiting room, and an odour to match. A few board games and tatty clothes weren’t enough to make it visitable, really.

East Dulwich then: thoroughly middle class, thoroughly modern, but lacking in what makes a day out. Probably a very pleasant place to live.

Find: East Dulwich @ Google Maps
Consume with: plenty of cappucinos and things with pastry at various coffee shops, you needn’t go short 
Dulwich Picture Gallery is nearby, if art’s your bag, but I’m more tempted by the epic-looking Horniman Museum in nearby Forest Hill.
Overall rating: two little cake tins


Filed under 2/5, London South



The Main High Street, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, under creative commons from bestfors photostream - click pic for link.

The Main High Street, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, under creative commons from bestfor's photostream - click pic for link.

I warn you now, Harpenden is not going to be totally fairly covered, for several reasons. We found Harpenden through our logic that where money > sense, charity shops will be good; Harpenden is one of the most expensive parts of the country, and therefore the charity shopping must be excellent. Correct?


Equation fail. There’s just the four here. And to make matters worse, our visit was somewhat truncated because on the way there, we got stuck behind the hunt. That’s right, not 10 miles from London the barbarism begins – or at least, some sort of bizarre ritual which includes rich people chasing something along where I want to be driving.

Which means that we got to Harpenden lateish, and therefore didn’t make it to all the charity shops (which all seemed to close at 4:30pm). I can run you through the couple I went in (Cancer Research was a pretty big shop with some fairly nice clothes, and as usual in a poshish place, some decent books. I left with Round The World Again in 80 Days by Jean Cocteau, but declined the amateurish, but large set of Lord of the Rings themed paintings. Help The Aged was a fairly standard shop, next to the station – it didn’t seem as good as the Oxfam nextdoor). A schlep up the High Street brought us to Marie Curie… which was closing.

So, an unsuccessful jaunt. I should come back. But I probably won’t. Why? Harpenden has all the trappings of success and beauty: village green; Caffe Nero for gossip; expensive houses; fast train to London; there’s really nothing of substance to the place. As you promenade the High Street, it reads like an upmarket version of Green Lanes. Instead of greengrocer/kebab shop/gold shop/repeat, it’s hairdressers/interior design/estate agent/repeat. It’s a little frightening the sheer volume of hair salons, beauticians, etc. I didn’t find the people of Harpenden to be sufficiently attractive as to prove this is a good thing. It’s a little depressing that people aspire to this kind of lifestyle though. Where’s the vim and vigour? Where’s the variety? Where’s the life?

Find: Harpenden on Google Maps
Transport: Harpenden Station, on the City Thameslink line
Consume with: I don’t recommend the Caffe Nero (worst. service. ever.) but the chocolate shop looked nice: DeAngelis Chocolates
Visit: Get out, and have a gander at St Albans cathedral
Overall rating:
two ugly cufflink


Filed under 2/5, Hertfordshire

Crouch End

Crouch End Broadway, by vic15


We’re in Yummy Mummy country this week. If ever there was a hive for these insidious equivalents of the ubiquitous American soccer mom, Crouch End is that. Despite being raised about a million cool points for being Simon Pegg’s home in Shaun Of The Dead, Crouch End is still mired in that post-gentrification yuppyism: like Muswell Hill, residents take pride in not really living near a tube station, having swathes of Victorian terraces, the highest pushchair-sized coffee shop to resident ratio in the Western hemisphere, and odd little boutiques and quirky restaurants.

The Broadway is not really big, or exciting enough to warrant the hordes which upon it descend, and yet descend they do, wielding cotton ‘Crouch End Shopper’ totes, designer wellies and carefully scruffed hairstyles. As such, visiting Crouch End can be something of a tortuous experience, but the good news: it’s just about worth it.

The big draw, charity shop wise, is the Oxfam: no ordinary overpriced Oxfam, this is the books and music special, and it really is pretty good. On display this visit we found a large and impressive selection of comics (impressive to me anyway, I have little clue about these sorts of things), a set of radio scripts for The Hitch Hikers Guide, a Norman Mailer account of Ali vs Foreman, and all sorts more I could spend money on.

Oxfam’s on Park Road; meandering onto the Broadway we have Cancer Research where, miracle of miracles, an actual, factual choice of jeans that fit. I chose the cheapest. Also around are a Marie Curie, a North London Hospice (horribly crowded) and a bit more upscale (if you can have such a thing), Hornsey Trust.

Crouch End is worth a fleeting visit, I think, but you won’t find much to justify anything more than that.

Find: Crouch End @ Google Maps
Transport: Hornsey or Finsbury Park stations for train/tube, or buses W3, W5, W7, 41, 91, 210.
Consume with: coffee and cake from any one of the many fancy patisserie-style coffee shops – I’ve always fancied the look of Hot Pepper Jelly
isit: The Parkland Walk goes all the way from Highgate to Finsbury Park
Overall rating: three tote bags


Filed under 3/5, London North

Muswell Hill

photo from markhillarys photostream

photo from markhillary’s photostream

Ray Davies was onto something when he coined the expression ”Muswell Hillbillies” – there’s a subset of society who were born into privilege and to these it stays throughout their life. There’s a further subset who dwell at the opposite end of the spectrum, and these people retain their bleak, disaffected attitude. Likewise, there’s a subset of the population of London that are born into Muswell Hill. Overshadowed by Alexandra Palace, educated at Fortismere, and geographically aloof from the upstarts like Crouch End, the Muswell Hillbillies sit in their castles and clique together.

This means that you get certain themes running through the locale’s charity shops. For instance, more than one stocked Umberto Eco; biographies of Marie Curie were found in several, the tat on the bric-a-brac shelves is just that little less tatty. As with so many (I’m looking at you, Highgate), there’s a tendency towards overpricing: £2 is a secondhand bookshop price, not a charity shop price. Nevertheless, the bookshelves are well-stocked, the clothes are well-made, the array of oddness is, as befitting such a location, quite spectacular.

For the sake of convenience, we’ll start at one end and work our way down: in this case, we’re starting on the part of the Broadway that later merges into Colney Hatch Road. Here you’ll find a typically expensive, but also typically well run and wellstocked Oxfam. Conveniently located opposite Costa, Art for Art’s Sake (sadly now sans termite-mound-esque decoration) and Woolies, it’s a good start: a large bookshelf, and a fantastically ambiguous earthenware pumpkin/onion/garlic type affair.

Follow the Broadway round and you’ll find that the shops you require are all on the one side of the road: the other side is all boutiques, award-winning fish’n’chips and yummy mummy, pushchair-friendly cafes. Next stop, the first of two Cancer Research shops (a la Epping) is fairly unremarkable. The Sue Ryder shop in between the two is a bit more ramshackle and chaotic, satisfyingly and amongst these three you’ll find loony ethnically-unidentifiable shop assistants, Victorian board games, pointy shoes, silvery jackets, and much more.

Round the corner, and opposite Muswell Hill’s art deco Odeon is the final gem, the North London Hospice. This is a great place for a bargain as it’s so much the preferably priced: books range from 75p to £1, CDs a pound, and so on. They also have almost our entire collection of VHS’s now, so if you want Memento, Grosse Point Blank or a bunch of Coen Bros films, go check it out.

Find: Muswell Hill at Google Maps
Transport: Highgate Station on the Northern Line, or buses 43, 134, 144, 299, W7.
Consume with: if you can afford it (I can’t) go mad for the stunningly artistic cakes in Maison Blanc
Visit: Ally Pally – duck ponds with rentable pedalos, views of the whole city to rival anywhere, and a literal Victorian palace.
Overall rating: three stripy shirts


Filed under 3/5, London North