A sunny afternoon, mid-May, and a meet up with some friends for an afternoon drink in a pub off Holloway Road. I remember the days when most pubs off, and on, the Holloway Road were fairly no go pubs. But times change and areas change.
Archway tube station seems very much the same, but there’s a huge change outside the station. Where has the Archway roundabout gone? A traffic flashpoint. I have nostalgic memories of city pollution and traffic jams there, a pub in the centre of the roundabout: now, who would want to go to a pub in the middle of a traffic roundabout? But the roundabout has gone and it all looks a bit fancy now. The old DSS block has become a rather swanky block of flats. A corner pub opposite is now a Starbucks. This is not the Archway I know.
My parents lived in Highgate so the Archway roundabout was an almost daily part of my life. I used to get on the tube at Archway as it was cheaper than getting on at Highgate. I despised Archway as it was grotty. I hated the roundabout and I hated having to use the underpass under the roundabout.
But it looked rather magnificent, poshed up and bathed in early summer weekend sunshine. I felt a pang for days past, the days of being in my late teens and twenties. A very different time. These days can never be recreated, but I like to think they were formative and that I still gain by them.
I walked down Holloway Road, well stomped in previous years, and by my mum and dad too. The top of Holloway Road is still a bit hit and miss – small cafes and takeaways, Poundland, Tesco Metro, Sainsbury Local, tarted up pubs that look a bit more welcoming than they did all those years ago. The pie and mash shop, Manzies, is long gone – I never went in there, but used to go past on the bus and remember the woman who worked there, dyed bold bright red hair, almost the image of Rita Webb.
The Church, St John’s, looked magnificent, even to this atheist. An open blue sky, emerald green trees and the Church tower. A rural aspect of the Holloway Road, probably unappreciated by those who walk by daily. I used to be see the Church tower from the bedroom window of my flat, and could hear the clock chiming. So, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to walk along the road where I lived in about 1986 or 1987, then a brand new one bedroom flat. The road itself had been a bit grotty, fairly run down small Victorian houses. It was not a posh road then, and I was quite pleased to see that it is still definitely not a posh road now, even though the houses there would probably sell for much more than my house in another part of London.
Nostalgia over, and it was time to meet up with the friends at a very nice pub, lots of tables outside to allow us to combine gin with sunshine, then to head to another pub for a late Sunday lunch.
The Archway experience ends with prosecco and ice cream in a friend’s garden, just by the side of St John’s Church. I hear the clock chime. Thirty years vanish and, like the ice cream, melt away.