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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Somewhere New

Yesterday, since it's hard to be travelling right now,  I decided to go somewhere new. Get on the train, get off at some unfamiliar station, see what I could see.   So I got on the first mainline train that came along, got off at the first station I'd never noticed before, and found myself in Canonbury.  



So what was there to see in Canonbury?

The first thing I noticed were these handsome vintage iron railings fronting what were probably mighty expensive early Victorian houses.   I'd guess many of these houses fetch close on a million pounds.  But there again, on the next street, I found this car repair shop with a friendly lion in it  ...


He's so battered that he has stopped being fierce and just likes to sit there like any amiable old fellow watching the world go by.  He ought to have a glass of beer down there by his pile of tyres.

I quickly spotted a very elegant church down the road.   According to the sign outside, it was called St. Pauls, and when I looked it up later, I found it was designed by Charles Barry, the co-designer of the Houses of Parliament.

Take a look at the old photo I found just now.   I think the tower even looks a bit like the Houses of Parliament, or is that just my imagination?


It's now de-consecrated and used as a Steiner School. (click here for info about Steiner schools) 

This Steiner school was having its annual Advent craft fair, and I decided to take a look.  Many other people had the same idea, as you can see from this photo of them flooding in. The church was well decorated with brightly coloured dotty garlands hung all over the nave.



I would not have chosen a Steiner education for my kids, because it seems a bit up there with the fairies for me - but I like its emphasis on spirituality and non competitiveness.  I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, but when one of the mums told me they hope to restore the church, I could only think that they had a long way to go.  It's  in a bad state, the interior spaces divided up with wooden screens and plastic. You see below part of of the fine original reredos, but paint and plaster has all come off the ceiling and green plastic is keeping out the rain.


It's not exacty sad, because it's a spacious and interesting environment for the children.  Some of the parents had installed a little cinema and were showing the kids hand tinted film shorts  (such as this one).made by the Lumiere Brothers over 100 years ago.

In the nearby church hall, was a gigantic (and very inexpensive) buffet created by the parents.  Although there were huge crowds, it was well organised, with bright African print tablecloths on long trestle tables and lots of organic, wholefood and ethnic dishes.


And the kids were very well behaved, and some of them even tucked in happily to lentils and tomatoes. Most kids I know would have turned up their noses, but perhaps that's what a Steiner education does for you.

After lunch, I continued up the road towards the one-time village of Newington Green. Newington really does have what was once a village green in its centre. It's surrounded now by interesting shops and cafes, many of them Turkish, and a specialist Children's Cafe.  One of the buildings also sported a plaque to one of the world's first true feminists, the fascinating Mary Wollstonecraft.


Mary died young but she had an amazing life - read about her here - and she also wrote "A Vindication of the Rights of Women"  in 1792.  (Her daughter Mary - later Mary Shelley -  was also a writer, of a different kind - she wrote "Frankenstein".)

Here is a sketch of Newington Green (complete with sheep) during Mary Wollstonecraft's lifetime


and here it is now, minus sheep but plus a children's playground.   Recognisably the same, even though the little Dissenters' chapel has a new facade since the sketch was made  (if you count 1863 as "new" that is.)


Leaving villagey Newington behind, I kept walking, seeing all kinds of things.  A touch of surrealism in this old and faded mural, on the side of a house, and now overgrown by a tree.....


 Toy rats on display in a front window. Or are they mice? And firing a cannon?  Mysterious....


And this extraordinaryshop, haphazardly piled shoulder high with tools. Some of the tools were as old as the shop itself.   It did have customers, too. They were rummaging around in search of that perfect 1950s screwdriver, I suppose....


I liked this clock outside a builders' merchants, with numerals have been represented by builders items.


But I didn't like this scary nail salon which specialises in unusual nail treatments.


The nail salon is in Dalston, on the way from Canonbury to Hackney.   And to be honest, the nails weren't the only thing I found scary in Dalston. Not that anything happened to me, but when even the charity shops are trying to keep out the hoodies, things don't look too good.


But Dalston gets nicer as it shades off into Hackney, and Hackney is a very interesting place. Hackney  deserves a post to itself, though, and anyhow, it was getting dark by then.   So I hopped on the train and went home. I felt I'd had an interesting day.

The other thing I did was call over to our neighbour's daughter's 13th birthday.   Wow!  A teenager. And her mum made a brilliant cake.

So, a good weekend. And plenty of new things.


41 comments:

  1. I've never heard of Canonbury but I thoroughly enjoyed this unexpected train stop. You have an uncanny way of making even mundane things sound appealing and fascinating.

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  2. It sounds like a wonderful way to spend a day. Ohhhh the nails kind of scare me as well. Best not hang around to late. Thanks for taking me along. Bonnie

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  3. A lot of work went into this pleasing post. What the mice in the window are proposing is a mystery, and I am intrigued by the handle on the underside of the sash. How convenient for lower the upper sash. I've never seen anything like that.

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  4. Hello Jenny

    I just loved travelling along with you and learning, as you did, as we strolled. Newington Green then and now is remarkable in that it has not changed very much, architecturally speaking.

    Thank you for this and I shal be researching the Steiner schools, I am unfamiliar, so more to learn
    Helenxx

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  5. What a sweet idea to hop off at the first unfamiliar stop. You found a real trove of treasures on this jaunt, I loved that glimpse of the Steiner school and the MW plaque. (Years ago, a friend and I showed up at a Washington DC airport with 'open' standby tickets & boarded the next available flight, which was to Italy - I need to repeat the spirit of that adventure with a train trip like yours:)

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  6. I love this kind of excursion. Get on and get off on a whim. But haven't been doing one like... forever.

    What an array of interesting stuff you got to see. :)

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  7. This was a great outing, Jenny, thank you so much for taking us along! Isn't it wonderful how much there is to discover in one's (relatively) close vicinity?
    I think the rats are mice. But without seeing their tail, it is difficult to be sure.

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  8. I have no recollection of ever having been to Canonbury and was fascinated by the post and some of the things that led from following your links. It's amazing how much time can disappear doing that.

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  9. I love discovering new places and don't do it often enough! This is a wonderful post - I love all the pictures. You really have an eye for the quirky and interesting :-) x

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  10. Such a great way to find new places. Everywhere had a story if you look closely - I'd love to know what lies behind that mural.

    Glad you had such a good day - I hope you can home refreshed.

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  11. Just the thing to do on a beautiful day -- go exploring. Sometimes it's amazing what can be found right behind our own back yards, so to speak.

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  12. I think it's a great idea to visit a new, unknown area. I certainly enjoyed your little outing.

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  13. Looks and sounds like an interesting day. I think I read Mary Woolstonecraft's book about her travels in Sweden, Norway and Denmark, but a very long time ago. I have a vague recollection of being impressed, but I'm no longer sure by what, exactly!

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  14. Jenny, I see you had an interesting day of discovers and adventure. You were right- to get on the first train. Something keeps many people off this step.
    I love the buffet at Steiner school, it's a pleasure to see kids' faces there.
    The 'builders' clock is lovely!
    http://northern-garden.blogspot.com/

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  15. I love doing this type of day trips! But here, where I live, there are no trains or buses to hop. Instead it's get in your car and travel to where you think you might want to go. On the plus side-don't have to worry about missing your ride home :)

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  16. What a nice idea to hop on a train and just set off somewhere … anywhere to see the sights. This would make a great plot for an Agatha Christie novel. Mix this up with your knack for telling stories and living in a fascinating part of the world and you have a fun read. There was so much to digest in this post. But I would especially like a chance at a piece of that lovely cake. :)

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  17. I've done exactly what you did - just hop off a train in some locale I've never set foot in before - and it is always fun of some sort. I'm usually in the company of MY WIFE on these excursions, so the very least is good funny conversation and commentary!

    Love that cake, by the way. All ooey and gooey and looks like it would be delicious with a tall glass of milk :-)

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  18. Discover a place without knowing where you're going, without some prior, or is expected to have something I love to do. Beautiful course yours, good find. Hugs and good week my dear friend.

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  19. Another really good tour. Late 70's was the last time I was in Canonbury, and I couldn't afford it then.

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  20. What an interesting way to go exploring! I would not have chosen a Waldorf education for my child either! I think she turned out quite well with her public school education.

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  21. More people should learn to "live" their lives. Good for you!

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  22. Hi Jenny,

    What a fantastic day, the kind I always wish I had time to do, which is to wander relatively aimlessly (though maybe you had some general itinerary in mind) and just see what there is to be discovered.

    Loved that trompe l'eoil effect of the house mural behind the tree! I did a double take when I was looking through! And those mice/rats with the cannon might be in reference to "The Nutcracker"? The Mouse King and his troops did battle with the Nutcracker and his soldiers. Cannons, sabers and horses were all part of the arsenal! All this in miniature around a Christmas tree, of course.

    And I was so fascinated by Mary Wollstonecraft, thanks for sharing. The conflict she felt depicts my internal struggles completely. I was recently invited to join the Delphian Society here. Its roots began in the early 1900s in Chicago, by women who would most likely have been the days' Feminists. But it really was a place for women to gather and develop themselves intellectually without feeling the scorn of men (and the rest of society). While we don't have as much need today to be "women's only" in orientation, it really is terrific to be surrounded by all these sharp ladies (many in their 80s, which makes them more uninhibitedly opinionated! I must be the youngest in it) as we get together for the diverse lecture series on our schedule.

    - Jenny

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  23. I've given you an award over on my blog, Jenny - if you would like to accept it of course :-) x

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  24. what a fun adventure....i might have to give that a try just pop off someplace new and explore...lots of fun sights....i like the street mural...just taught my class about mary wollstonecraft as well, ha...what a coincidence...really enjoyed the sights and sounds...smiles.

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  25. And here I thought I wouldn't get a vacation this year. :-) How interesting, to be able to hop on trains and go to different cities just like that! A one-way ticket from Minneapolis to Chicago is $133!

    Pearl

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  26. How wonderful to be able to hop on a train and take a mystery tour to someplace previously unknown, all in a day's excursion! Almost as good as Alice disappearing down the rabbit hole. And that photo of the unusually hatted shopkeeper in the tool store is a gem!

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  27. I know that whole area very well, having lived in Islington for many years. It's very bohemian and there are lots of fascinating shops and sights. But I know what you mean about Dalston being a bit scary, it was scary even when I lived round there! Funny, I never noticed that wonderful clock outside the builder's merchants. It's really ingenious.

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  28. The things you discover by going to an unfamiliar area. Perhaps Freddy Krueger got his nails done there. We have television show here showing people rummaging through antique junk. That caretaker fits right in.

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  29. You not only see the new and interesting things you find out information about them, too. What an interesting unexpected stop. :)

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  30. I love the idea of hopping on a train and getting off at an unfamiliar destination. Such a romantic notion.

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  31. What a great idea to just get on a train and get off somewhere you haven't been before. I'm going to have to try that sometime although our "stops" are probably further apart than yours are.

    Darla

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  32. Thank you for the comments. I'm glad so many people like the idea of just getting up and going somewhere new. I guess I was trying to say in this post that it isn't so much trouble! Normally I travel further afield. Although I prefer to have the choice to come and go, I can't do this at present because of the family problems, and so I am appreciating "travelling" on a more local scale. Love the idea of Freddie Kreuget at the nail salon! :)

    And thank you so much for the blog award, Teresa!

    Ah, Lulu, that sounds like such fun, boarding the next available flight.....

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  33. Jenny,
    I love your idea very much!! For you and us, this ia a kind of mystery tour without knowing a destination. In an unfamiliar place, there are a lot of fun and new discoveries. This is the spirit of travelling.
    I am grateful to Mary who fought for woman rights. However, I feel Japan is still a male chauvinist country.
    keiko

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  34. That was my kind of exploration, I enjoyed your post about all the things you encountered along the way. Glad you returned home safe and sound, though. I notice a bit of a "dotty" theme....dotty streamers overhead, and dots on the pretty heart-shaped birthday cake too.

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  35. looks like a perfect day--and i love that sketch!!

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  36. what an adventure...good for you! I could use a day where every minute isn't planned!!!

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  37. I love the idea of just deciding to go somewhere different! It IS an adventure and look what you discovered! I think I must try that myself -- spur of the moment, take off and go!

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  38. wow..you seems to travel a lot...i wish i could do that..

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  39. I am starting to dig a little deeper into your blog and find the things you focus on both in words and lovely photos so fascinating. I do not know London so every tit bit is delicious.

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  40. I really like your concept very much!! For you and us, this is a type of secret trip without understanding a location. In an different position, there are a lot of fun and new findings.Find travel agents this is the soul of traveling.
    I am thankful to Jane who conducted for lady privileges. However, I experience Asia is still a men chauvinist nation.

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  41. Wishing you have a Magic Christmas, Jenny :0) Love this post :0)
    Lot of love from cold Moscow
    Natasha & Fam

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