So i’m on my way into Ealing Common station when a peculiar thing happens.I am mistaken for a professional female between the ages of 20 and 40. I know this because I have thrust into my hand, the new free women’s magazine, Stylist. Er..thanks. Feeling a little demographically challenged, I board the tube, gamely get in touch with my feminine side and have a quick flick, as it were. By the time I alight, I know that -Women spend 12 days a year getting ready for work, that Red transmits an aura of success and that Monkfish is good with a Chorizo crust and Spiced beans. Now that does sounds nice, I might give it a go. Actually no, cos monkfish is expensive and ugly. Like Donatella Versace. I drop names like that now, being an honorary lady and all.
Emerging into the afternoon glare of Holborn I bin Stylist only to have it replaced immediately by another gratis paper-pusher who proffers the rather lofty sounding, Epoch Times. Ah, now here’s an altogether more dynamic, world-changing read, as befits this busy, go-ahead area of West Central London. Once home to Dickens and site of the infamous and splendidly named homosexual brothel, Mother Clap’s Molly House, Holborn is now, ostensibly, a collection of offices, banks and pubs. I find a cafe in which to browse my Epoch (which sounds a bit Kenneth Williams gay slang). It’s a journal that speaks not of Gucci Bit Bags but of High finance; of the Arts and Sciences. And there on page 8, look, revealed:the mysteries of European Eel Migration. Mm..think I prefer the monkfish.
Holborn. So how should you pronounce it exactly? Nowadays I say Hoe Burn with a silent L. Some folk say Hole Burn, soft L. When I first came to London eons ago, I’d say Holl Born, totally wrong. What did I know? I thought this a pretty drab area back then. In those days I was all over London like a rash. I was positively psoriatic. From the all night moody broody Brixton blues parties, to dawn debates with the smugly superior yet always engaging Ladbroke Grove Anarchist set.Not to mention the sheer berserk mad bastardry and Guinnessy mayhem of Biddy Mulligans in Cricklewood. They were heady days with thrill, crackle and possibility around every corner. I would often wake up disoriented in a strange flat, maybe a striking miner in the spare bed, a dub poet on the settee, and me, the comedian-on-the-floor. Pecking order see, the miners got beds, cos they were ‘in struggle’.
Then I moved down full time to Hackney where I stayed for ten years. The trick to living in Hackney, I found, was to never read the Hackney Gazette. For it was within those pages where you learned of  various heinous happenings going on in the very same streets at the very same times that you were walking merrily along. What you don’t know can’t hurt you right? I once made the mistake of reading the News in Brief whilst looking for film times. Didn’t go out for a week.
On this beautifully sunny day, Holborn seems anything but drab. Light and shadow bring out an array of lovely colours. Greens, blues, browns, reds, even a little yellow. The buildings are showing off. (1-9) And my measly 3.2 megapixels strain to do them justice. Must get a better camera.
I then notice that a lot of the lamp posts have sea-urchin like spikey balls attached to them, (10,11) so I ask a cafe owner, who has one of theses things above his shop, if they’re street lamps. He comes out and looks up, saying that he’s never noticed them before. I never even saw that till the other day, he says proudly, pointing at a big litter bin outside his door. A customer told me it’s been there for 2 years! He’s looking at me waiting for a response. and I wonder what I’m meant to say – Right, eh.. well done for not.. noticing things..?
There’s a bus parked under a mirrored canopy (12) so I ask the driver about the balls. Do they light up in the evening? He looks at me like i’m a tourist. Security cameras, mate, he says with a grin. For spying on you innit.  Really?  I think back to those Ladbroke Grove anarchists all those years ago. They were right…a camera on every corner. But I’m happy to say that I still love London. In a different way and for different reasons. My thrills come now, not from partying and getting wrecked, but from shape and light and colour. My London has a soft L. I’m in the Capital but live life in lower case. It’s alright though, you know.
And my advice for anyone moving here? Two things. Don’t stand on the left on the escalators, cos you WILL get grief. And don’t read the local papers. Stick with Stylist magazine. It’s free. It’s weekly. Try the monkfish..


2 thoughts on “Holborn

  1. Wonderful photos – the colours are amazing. I know this area quite well having lived in nearby Bloomsbury/Fitzrovia for years. It’s full of fascinating places – but you’re right it can seem drab at first. I say Hoe-b’n btw.

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