Saturday, 13 June 2009

Homage to Holloway

The end of an era is upon me. I am leaving my beloved Holloway this week for the envisaged greener pastures of Stoke Newington. I go in search of stimulation, inspiration, the promise of new faces, a community, and the nearness of friends both on paper and in action.

Misty eyed as I write this from my attic room on Tufnell Park Road, the heavy summer rain outside echoes my sentiments. What a time to be leaving! I was so stoic in my belief that it was better to be the last one standing, to be the outsider. Now I join the ranks of the cultured masses, the Guardianistas, the liberalati, the nutrition conscious. How awful, and yet, how agreeable.

Holloway has served me well. It was my entry point to London when I arrived as a mere child nine years ago, at the bottom of Parkhurst Road, where the A1 begins it's ascent to the Northern reaches of the country, I took rooms. Four lanes of traffic serenaded me to sleep every night, and the soft concrete landscape soothed my provincial eyes.

What a fool I was to follow in the footsteps, almost literally, of Dick Whittington. To believe the streets of London were paved with gold. I arrived fresh off the family Corsa expecting to rise to indie stardom within months. How wrong I could be. How much time I wasted on that fruitless exercise.

There was always a consolation however. The Prince Edward opposite Holloway prison on Parkhurst Road has seen me grow from the floppy haired pretty boy into the upstanding gent I strive to be today. Inebriating me with pints of Fosters and Chicken Walkers at the lowest and highest points in my life. Though the selection of beer is nothing short of drab, I challenge anyone to find a better served pint of anything The Prince Edward offers. With an award winning beer garden, sadly ruined by the need to turn it into a smoker's shelter, and a barman so consistently incomprehensible you can only laugh and nod, it has all you really need in a pub, in a living room, in a life.

I've decried The Prince Edward as the best pub in the world many a time, and let me state once and for all the reason why. The reason for this is the reason why anything is any good in all walks of life: they get the important things right, and don't try too hard. A motto to be observed, but ironically, one that can never be followed.

In those early days though, I hated it, I truly despised it. It was ugly, crude, dangerous, and a bloody shock to the system, coming from the disgustingly sheltered suburbs. In reaction I planned a temporary escape from it's clutches to a more charmed existence in a less cultured continent. From there I had the opportunity to reflect on just what I left behind. A utopia it wasn't, and all the better for it.

On returning to the bosom for a second suckle, I started to pay homage to Holloway. Every song you've had the displeasure of hearing in the last few years has been written with this in mind. A backdrop to the ballads, hopefully subtle references to my escapades in and around the streets.

Perhaps 'The Last Embrace' epitomises this aim of mine. A particularly maudlin song about the non-existence of spirituality set on the bench in St George's park below my window. I sang it to the pigeons, and the drunks that should be left alone as they desire and certainly not admonished for choosing the bottle over an enduring human relationship. If there was of course, any choice to be made.

The polar opposite of that would be the celebration of the antic hay I have danced here, in the form of 'Life Can't Get Any Better'. Introduced at my shows as "A love song set on Holloway Road", it tries to encapsulate that feeling one has after the third pint. You're in the greatest city in the world, a pit bull off the leash, and there is a woman you admire and she returns your advances. The moment is fleeting of course, but still it existed, and why not celebrate it? For you know as well as I that I revel in my own misery all too often.

So here it is then. The last goodbye? I shouldn't think so, but a marked departure if nothing else. I shall certainly be back for a confused exchange of words with Sean at The Prince. It was once the centre of the known world for me, and may it continue to be.

Goodbye old friend.