Friday, 23 November 2012

Unexpected Alphabet No 20

I've been reading Ian Nairn's incomparable Nairn's London recently, and mused over his phrase, used a couple of times, of places being 'plugged into the big city'. Well yesterday I found the perfect example of what he meant. I was in conversation with the good folks at Daniel Lewis & Sons on Hackney Road. For 215 years they have supplied London with metals of all shapes and sizes, and much more besides. I was there discussing a pallet of thin aluminium sheets being printed on by the Goldmark Atelier for the inimitable Nelly Duff gallery, coincidentally just round the corner in another fascinating city enclave, Columbia Road. "They're doing what with them?" they said at Lewis's. "And who's the Goldmark 'otel anyway?". So it went on, until I noticed the afternoon sun highlighting this enormous wooden coat-of-arms on the wall. And then, as we ended up out on the pavement, I saw this beautifully lettered vitreous enamel sign, presumably denoting a previous encumbent. With that comma hinting at another sign now missing from the next bay down. And I just had this overwhelming feeling of London life going on for so long in this terrace of businesses, stretching back over the years. The shouts and arguments, the clanking of iron and steel and trains whistling and rumbling over the nearby railway bridge in and out of Cambridge Heath station. Somebody came in and asked for 24 big rubber wheeled castors- "With or without brakes?"- and a pretty girl poked her nose in through the door, thought about saying something and decided not to. All of us plugged into the big city.  

7 comments:

Ron Combo said...

Nice pics, nice piece.

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Ron, thought it was about time I got my finger out.

Philip Wilkinson said...

Lens clean, eyes peeled, finger out: yes please.

TIW said...

Ah, my old stamping ground. The hours I've spent arguing with the counter staff at the spectacularly incompetent sorting office near there.

There's also a Lewis's dairy up the road. I wonder if they're related?

Lots to see in Hackney Road, among them London's most terrifying pub, the British Lion (now closed). That was at the Shoreditch End, handy for the old easel manufacturers that hung on until recently being driven out by rising rents and ironic moustaches - a fate that befell a lot of interesting business in that area, like Oakdens on Curtain Road, an ironmongery wholesaler with shelves of goods, each labelled with a brown paper tag.

Peter Ashley said...

Thanks Ten Inch. I got caught in traffic, parking restrictions and an appalling lack of light, otherwise I would've photographed that joinery and keycutting business on Kingsland Road too. KIS I think it is. An unpressured wander about is called for.

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