My old friend Adullamite gave me a prod the other day to write something, anything. And I agree he is right, though to be honest, I have always thought of this as a travel-related blog, and, of course, going anywhere or mixing with new people is exactly what we're now constantly being told to avoid at all costs. Still, we had an exciting event in our communal garden last week. Or at least it was exciting to me. Do you remember that story about the woman in New York who found another apartment behind her bathroom mirror? Well, we found a secret building in our garden!
We live in a flat in a large Victorian house which is built around a 3 acre garden square, (or, in fact, a rectangle.) It is behind the houses, and it is quite invisible from the street, and it slopes down the hill from top to bottom.
But actually, it doesn't. Someone in the block took it over without permission years ago and gained what I believe are known as "squatter's rights". Now, our garden chairman is working with the local Lord of the Manor (I kid you not) to reclaim it, and, last week, I was able to walk through this door, and have a look.
There was a brick building dating from about 1910, with a little courtyard and a passageway leading round the corner and onto a neighbouring street. The whole area had been neglected and choked with rubbish for years, and definitely needs total renovation, but now the main building has been cleared to reveal a fairly spacious room with a blocked up window, and a smaller room off it. The legal situation is still unclear, but various possibilities are opening up. Conservatory, storage, residents' meeting place? Who knows? We can't do much until the legal situation's fully resolved, but it's something to think about, and strangely exciting.
It was all fun and we generated far more noise than usual - not just shooting the film, but playing, dancing, shouting, racing around - with me editing the sound track of the film into the night, and we did worry a bit about what the Persian couple living downstairs might be thinking, since the place is not that soundproof.
But they said they liked the sound of children bringing some life into lockdown, and were, in fact, very nice about it. So I thought I might buy them a card for Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which is this weekend. And that meant a trip to the nearby area of Kilburn, where I'd heard a Persian shop or two had opened up.
It's about a mile walk to Kilburn High Road from here, and in all these years I've never found it to change much - a busy, slightly shabby place with heavy traffic and many immigrants. It's okay, with some nice shops and cafes, a good cinema and theatre intermixed with pound-stores, bookies, slot arcades and pawnshops, lots of dust and grime.
There are always plenty of bits of Kilburn that seem to have seen better days - like the Red Lion pub (above) here, once a glittering Victorian gin palace, now a sad sight with steel security doors and broken windows.
You can see by the huge mosaic plaque built into the space between its chimneys that this pub was once really proud of itself, announcing it was established in the year 1444...
Another indication that this bit of Kilburn is going up in the world is a piece of street art I'd never seen before - a sundial where you yourself point to the time. The months of the year are incised around a north pointing line on the coloured square shown below, (take a this picture on Flickr shows it much better). This was the exact moment when the sun obligingly came out (for about a minute) in the whole day!
Public artwork like this suggests that someone is taking an interest in the area, so it was good to see.