Although under threat of corporate gentrification, Camden – famed for its music, fashion, illegal substances and markets – still has a hard beating, fun loving heart.
Camden holds something of a nostalgic romance for both Greg and I. Back in 2007, when we were unaffiliated bumptious undergraduates at Kingston Uni, Camden was a regular site for our student loan funded debauchery. Waiting for Greg outside the station I remembered a time in the nearby Electric Ballroom when I accidentally chinned a Cybergoth whilst employing a dance move known as “The Windmill”.
First The Camden Eye – a forgettable little boozer that falls short of its own promises and opens itself up for harsh critique by branding the neologism “Awesomeness” on every possible surface. From there we swung into heavy metal favourites The World’s End and The Black Heart and intermingled seamlessly with the leather and denim clad regulars. Although The World’s End is something of a tourist trap these days, what with its faux-Dickensian back room, The Black Heart remains an excellent pub. Off the main crawl and with a mighty selection of beers, tasty food and a geographic location that will make all Spaced fans swoon, it never fails to impress.
Entering The Elephant’s Head we were met with the archetypal lad cry “Oi oi!” and two Neanderthalic and blathered mates shimmied their way across the tiny dance floor. Maybe seeing younger, soberer spectres of themselves in the two of us they demanded we join them which, being the polite young men that we are, we did. Half the duo tried to indulge us in conversation but the pre-speech that dribbled out of his mouth was unintelligible. The other, realising the self-imposed limitations of his booze soaked lexicon, took to only using the phrase “Oi oi!” regardless of the situation. Every scene was underscored with the predictable annotation and repetition of that unfairly maligned syllable.
Over the course of our drinks, the simple phrase started to take on further meanings. It was a type of glossolalia – a complex, esoteric announcement from the other side. When a girl spilt her drink nearby and our enlightened mate astutely commented “Oi oi!”, I could see exactly what he meant and his poetic philosophy brought a tear to my eye. That and the fact his burbling chum was stood on my foot. I pushed my hoof aggressor gently to relieve the pressure, which he of course took as an affront. When I explained his foot was on mine, he cupped my face in his huge, clammy, stained hands and forcibly planted his beer slathered lips on mine. Greg and I drained what was left of our bottles and darted for the exit. An echoing cry of “Oi oi!” following us as we crossed the street.
Supping drinks in The Oxford Arms and The Hawley Arms, we continued along Chalk Farm Road, stopping in The Lock Tavern before being enticed into cute venue Made in Brasil Boteco by a live samba band. We squeezed our way to the front and boogied with an older lady whose Friday night was clearly filled with unprecedented amounts of Awesomeness. I locked eyes with her and we started to groove away together. We both longed (and attempted) to join in with the excellent singer but being unable to decipher or understand his Spanish lyrics were unable. That is until, inspired by our early encounter, I initiated a free-style sing-off built entirely around the phrase “Scoo-Bee-Doo”. My Señorita soon engaged and we Scoo-Bee-Doo’d with complete abandon for the rest of the set as Greg joyously bounced with the crowd behind us.
After bevvies in financially unviable rum shack Cottons and Americana inspired Joe’s we finished off the night with whiskeys in The Enterprise where 16 months earlier we had ended our Belsize Park crawl. We excitedly tried to explain this to the bar man but the anecdote, boiling down as it does to simply being “this is the second time we’ve been here!”, failed to evoke the triumphant response we sought.
We collapsed onto the last tube and, filled with pride that we had only been to the same pub once during our three year adventure, tried to engage with our nocturnal commuter friends – with varied results.
How joyous that in the nine years since Greg and I first explored the taverns of Camden the façades have changed, but the spirit remains.
Next stop: CANADA WATER