About two and a half years ago I came back to the UK for the first time since moving to California. I walked up to Edgware, just up from Burnt Oak, where I used to go to school, and where I used to shop for records, books, guitar strings, and more books. I was stunned to find that none of the places where I used to get these things existed any more, and I lamented the downturn of this edge-of-town suburb. I wrote a blog entry about it, which even now people are leaving comments on, telling their own tales of Edgware past. Each time I’ve returned since it seems to have gotten worse, crowded with people who have little to do, with all the half-interesting shops disappearing before our very wallets, even the chains. HMV is now a pound shop, McDonald’s is now a cheap clothes store, and we all know about Woolworths.
While back this time, I went up on Christmas Eve to do some drawing, and squeeze through the purgatorio of The Mall (formerly the Broadwalk). I sat in the cold outside the boarded up Railway pub, a wonderful old hotel which has sat empty for a few years now, and drew the church opposite. I used to pass this way on the way home from school every day, years ago; even my old school has been knocked down and replaced with a brutal looking Academy. There’s an alley to my right that cuts through to the streets leading up to Deansbrook Road, and Burnt Oak, me and Tel walking down there telling stupid jokes every afternoon of our teenage years.
I finished this sketch and walked across the road, past the still-empty Music Stop – and was shocked to find, a few doors down, a brand new guitar shop! I went inside; the young guy who worked there told me they’d only been open four days, and that the bloke who worked in the old Music Stop now worked there, having been working down at another fave old guitar shop of mine in Crouch End (in fact, this new shop is a branch of that one, Rock Around the Clock). After a chat about Ibanez guitars in America I walked off pretty happy: did this mean Edgware was on the mend? Who knows, and maybe it’s just the view from a distance, but either way, it’s a new shop that sells neither cheap luggage or cheap cardigans, nor is yet another pound shop, and that’s a start. If I still lived there, I might even shop there.