Six degrees of Brockley

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Worker: You have many question, Mr. Sparkle. I send you premium answer question, hundred percent!


Despite living in South East London for nearly thirty years, Brockley had barely registered on our consciousness before we stumbled upon it in an increasingly desperate house hunt, about three years ago.

But since moving here, we find ourselves barely able to move without bumping in to old schoolmates at church fetes, ex-girlfriends in health food shops and the person who beat us to the role of "seven year old child" in a Greenwich Theatre production, nosing around the Co-Op.

Not only is our former life catching up with us in SE4, but Brockley's tentacles are reaching further and further in to the wider world. This weekend, we took shelter from the wind and rain on Southwold Pier in a little Heath Robinson arcade. It was filled with eccentric, hand-built machines which did everything from predicting your future to washing your brain.

We opted for a go on the Mobility Masterclass - a machine which trains you for a future of arthritic frustration by forcing you to cross a motorway with a Zimmer frame. We successfully avoided death only to find that our reward was a party at the Rivoli Ballroom.

What was a replica of the Rivoli Ballroom doing here? Was the fact that Gordon Brown chose to visit both Brockley and Southwold connected? Was it just coincidence that both places are filled with the angsty, middle-class artist-types?

The artist who created the game explains:

"The ballroom was the greatest challenge (it had to be a ballroom as I wanted the Zimmer to start dancing as the payoff for a successful crossing). I had a vague memory of an ornate ballroom in Blackpool and assumed there must be others, but no one seemed to know of any. Eventually I rang a magazine called Dancing Times who rather doubtfully suggested The Rivoli Ballroom in South East London. Still not knowing what it looked like, I persuaded the reluctant manageress to let me visit and take some photos. It was fabulous and spookily, exactly what I’d had in my mind. Not only were the ballroom and foyer perfect, but so was the exterior, which was almost identical to the one I’d drawn. Billy, the owner, and Charles, his barman, were great characters and I stayed chatting for hours."

So there's your answer, Fish bulb! If you've discovered any curious Brockley connections, please post them here.

74 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is it me or the writer, but this piece doesn't read well. It's like the mad ramblings of a cokehead.

westsider said...

erm, what bit don't you understand?

There's a reference to the simpsons at the top, classic episode, by the way. If you don't get that, just ignore it, the rest makes sense.

And if you're going to have a go at someone's writing, you should learn how to use question marks! ;)

Brockley Nick said...

The Southwold arcade the article is about is a very eccentric place (highly recommended) - so perhaps that had an effect on the writing. The links help to make things a little clearer.

lb said...

You have to admit, the piece does have a certain wild-eyed jumpiness to it.

The guy who made the arcade, by the way, is Tim Hunkin, who used to present an excellent television series called The Secret Life of Machines, or something like that (using that old ska warhorse "The Russians Are Coming" as its title tune).

As for the prevalence of angsty middle-class artists types in both places; well, these people love Suffolk (remote-feling, but still relatively near to London) and they love 'traditional' seaside resorts (I don't mean Margate or Rhyl, though, something a bit more sanitised and twee). Southwold has all this in (bucket-and-) spades. Oh, and Aldeburgh is just down the coast, which has always been a magnet for art-bores due to the classical music festival.

Headhunter said...

I must admit to being a bit confused. This game with a zimmer frame, is it some kind of electronic arcade game? Does the Rivoli feature electronically?

Brockley Nick said...

@HH - click on the link - pictures, diagrams, etc. As I say, the machines are all heath robinson style contraptions, and he mixes model making with video effects, very cleverly. There is a model and a video of the Rivoli within the machine.

headhunter said...

Ah, I understand now... Looks fascinating! Never heard of this place...

Anonymous said...

I can confirm Aldeburgh is for arty wannabes. Get this for random. I was once taken to lunch by Bryan Adams's (the Singer 'Summer of 69', etc) mum. I repeat - I was taken for lunch by Bryan Adams's mum while in Aldeburgh. She is an artist and has a holiday home there. I met her to talk about art - she took me for lunch. She paid. I had Gravlax.

Can this thread get any more weird?

Myrwhitt Tichael said...

So does this mean Brockley Road is going to become a six lane Motorway with pensioners crossing on Zimmer Frames to be used by passing cars for target practice?

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick?...walking stick of course.

The Cat Man said...

Eh?

Brockley Kate said...

Aw, I thought this was going to be one of those revelatory 'who's slept with who' type things ...

Paddyom said...

Curious Brockley connections no, however I did stop in a small town called Brackley (Northamptonshire I think) last week on my way home from a work site visit and I couldnt resist driving through it and stoping at its newly opened Waitrose supermarket to grab some lunch. I did chuckle to myself on seeing the giant sign declaring "Waitrose Brackley, Now Open" and wonder whether we are ever likely to witness a similar such declaration in SE4 in our lifetimes. Such a shame that the Portland retail unit didnt attract something similar or a Pizza Express type place and speed up the rejuvenation of our poor high street. I am sure someone somewhere has missed a trick there, or maybe its just me!

tj said...

I like Anon @12.11's traditonal take on the title of the thread. Bryan Adam's Mum. Excellent

Would love to play top trumps with any other six degree connections....I'll start with the fact that I've interviewed Louise Redknapp...a little bit more than a random meeting....but lunch with Bryan Adam's Mum in Aldeburgh trumps this.

Actually I'm probably going to be banned for going off topic

Headhunter said...

I think I can trump the Bryan Adams' mother story. Some friends an I gatecrashed a celeb house party in Islington in 2005 attended by Jude Law, Sienna Miller (they were together back then), Cathy Burke and various other relatively famous people whose names I've forgotten (I'm not up to date with Hello Mag), one of them was on Lock, Stock and 2 Smoking Barrels.

Anyway we gatecrashed the party and accidentally took magic mushrooms and went on to cause a bit of a scene before being ejected by security....

betamatt said...

Interesting - a couple of months ago my girlfriend and I gatecrashed supermodel Erin O'Connor's birthday party at *drumroll*...

The Rivoli Ballroom!

It's a funny old world etc.

Monkeyboy said...

Betamatt wins on the 'C' list celeb and local connection rule.

Saw Timothy Spall on the train (mentioned this months ago to universal indifference) Think he lives in Forrest Hill.

tj said...

betamatt winning top trumps - Timothy Spall on a trina is just too coincidental.

BTW HH - how do you 'accidentally' take magic mushrooms? I seem to remember having to put them in my mouth and wash them down with vodka, or brew them in a tea. Nieth was accidental lol

max said...

I once saw Brian Adams looking rather bored in a bar in my home town Trieste and I said "hey, you're Brian Adams, hi, my name is Max, I play alto sax and I'm going to a jam session now, would you like to come with me?" and he said "sure, why not?" and off he came. Him and his personal chef that always travels with him and that everywhere they stop on tour has the task to shop for fresh fruit and prepare him fruit salads.
Anyway, he's a very nice chap.

Brockley Nick said...

Evidently, this thread should be called six degrees of Bryan Adams.

I have never played sax with Bryan Adams, but I have played football with Bobby Charlton. And been berated by him for my poor crossing.

13:24 said...

Not so much six degrees of freedom - more shameless name-dropping - but..

..My dad was Tim Spall's Bank Manager. (Brockley Rise Barclays before it was a chemist.) TS still lives in Honor Oak, as far as I know, and I used to deliver his scripts from the Beeb back in the day.

HH - Sienna Miller introduced herself to me on the set of "HippyHippy Shake" (due for release shortly). We had a little chat, and she comes across as unusually normal for an actor type. I'd also like to think she fancied me.

Can't say I've ever met Bryan Adams though.

Back on topic, the six degrees thing works simplistically on the assumption that you've met the sixth root of the world's population. Currently 42 (to please Douglas Adams fans!). If each of these 42 has contact with another 42 and so on, taken to the sixth power, we reach 6 billion. Although I reckon that a better statistician than I could apply more rigour than this.

Headhunter said...

OK TJ, well I'll just have to tell you the whole story now won't I.

It was back in May 2005 and we'd been at the Canonbury Tavern (used to be such a great pub befor they closed it with plans to turn it into flats, it was so popular as well, I guess real estate speaks louder than beer).

Anyway, we were at the Tav (and incidentally saw that bloke who played Jonathan Creek and is always on QI having a quiet pint, but then he lives up there somewhere and was always in there). By 11 we the pub was closing and we decided to head back to my place for a few more drinkies but one of my friends decided she wanted to gatecrash a party in a flat on Willowbridge Rd. We could see people in the garden and out front, the lights were on etc.

We managed to get in by telling someone at the door we'd some to see "John" an they said OK and in we went. After a few minutes we realised it wasn't an average student bash and that there was a smattering of famous people (Jude, Sienna etc etc). We tried to mingle and act nonchalant but no one was interested in us as we were clearly nobodies. We availed ourselves of champagne, cocktails and food though.

A little later another of my friends who's an organic health food freak said something about there being this amazing white asparagus dish and that we should all try it coz it's what the celebs eat to remain forever young. So we all tried it.

Anyway, the party went on and we managed to get into a few conversations by splitting up rather than standing around gawping and pointing. A bit later I bumped into the friend who's got us in in the 1st place, she asked if I wanted to wander into the garden, so we did. When we got out there we saw Jude Law looking at our aforementioned organic eating friend looking concerned.

He suddenly stood up and said "does anyone know Donna? Who's Donna?", Donna was my friend who I was walking with. She went up to him and said "errr, that's me, what's up with Colette?" (the organic eater). He sid something along the lines of "Darling, she's simply had too many magic mushrooms". Cathy Burke was on the other side of the table saying that we should get some vitamin C for her (as apparently this helps).

Anyway, all of a sudden Donna and I realised that what Colette had thought was white asparagus had been a bowl of magic mushies and she had been chomping her way through them most of the night. We'd had some too but not as many and we just collapsed laughing.

Anyway, after we'd managed to round up the rest of our friends, who were also slightly wasted, we half carried Colette out of the door, trying not to wet ourselves laughing as we did.

The whole thing seemed absolutely hilarious at the time (as it would) and it took us about 30 mins to get back to my flat, which normally is a 5 min walk as we were laughing so hard, and carrying Colette....

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Ok, well I went to the Jazz Prom a couple of weeks ago (Prom 31 if you're interested) to be entertained by Jason Yarde (Saxophone) and Gwilym Simcock (Piano)

I returned home to be told by my sax playing friend that they both live in Brockley/Lewisham environs.

Haven't seen them in the Wickham Arms yet tho'

tj said...

Was going to give to give top trumps to Max picking up Bryan Adams in a bar...but it has to go to Nick being castigised by Bobby Moore (for sheer embarassment of being told you are cr*& by a legend)


I was going to mention how I went to an after show party with Jay Kay of Jamiroquai - but I reckon EVERYONE in Greater London, including Tooting, has seen JK pissed at an event by now

C'mon someone has to trump Nick....

Hot gossip said...

I just saw cllr Sue Luxton posing for photos, outside the old greengrocers on Tyrwhitt road

tj said...

nope..not a trump...unless she had been jugling bananas

Bea said...

My ex boss used to hobnob with the likes of Bill Clinton and got Christmas cards from Colin Powell. I remember him telling me how he has been at a dinner party where Bill was a guest and between desert and coffee Bill disappeared with the host’s wife and returned 30 minutes later all red and flustered with ruffled hair. And the connection with Brockley – well Bill knows Gordon Brown and Gordon has been to Brockley… very tenuous I know.

patrick1971 said...

I've been treated to dinner by Julie Burchill, and have also had a long and philosophical discussion with Suzanne Moore in Soho House.

Brockley Nick said...

@tj - thanks, but it was Bobby Charlton - playing with Bobby Moore really would have been an achievement!

Tressilliana said...

I did Eric Stewart's VAT return once. Lead singer of 10CC. You are all probably too young to remember him [hobbles out on zimmer frame].

Anonymous said...

Do any of you that post here, think about how others might view your comments? And what they say about you as a person?

Anonymous said...

Get over yourself anon, for god's sake. What's the problem?

fabhat said...

I stood up Rob Lowe...but not in Brockley.

Brockley Nick said...

Fabhat - why?!

Anonymous said...

I think they say that people have led varied lives and they are comfortable enough in their own skin to talk to their neighbours as friends and share a few lighthearted anecdotes as a break from the working day.

What do you think they say about us?

lewisham wayward said...

Fingers crossed I won't banned for excessive namedropping, but have knitted with Joel Pott's (Athlete)mum who lives in Brockley, also played pool with Joe Absolom in the Wickham Arms :) Once gatecrashed Madonna's aftershow party with someone from the Erotic Review who lives in Brockley - the place is teeming with celebs!

fabhat said...

BN - he was rather slimy...It's a long story, but the essentials are I was working on a film in Wales, and at the end of a very long day my friend and I had agreed to go to the local pub with Rob. But we decided that rather than getting pissed and being letched at by him, we'd rather goback to our cottage and make some nice food and get an early night...I think my friend still has one of his half smoked cigars somewhere. That's got to be worth something on ebay.

tj said...

standing up Rob Lowe is trumping the Bobby Charlton story - although Joe Absolom in the Wickham Arms is excellent and local - I've a great image of Rob Lowe being eyed up by suspicious locals as he waits for his non existant date to turn up

fabhat said...

Joe A is proper local though - he grew up in Brockley C side...

Brockley Nick said...

Curses.

I have a Kylie story, but it doesn't involve me having the opportunity to stand her up.

Monkeyboy said...

I want to know who the person from The Erotic Review is woh lives near by. I've got a PVC gimp suit that needs breaking in.

Brockley Kate said...

Fabhat wins!

tj said...

C'mon - let's see if your Kylie trumps Fabhat's Rob Lowe....

Anonymous said...

Re Paddyom's comment, you never know. I grew up outside Brackley and never imagined a Waitrose there but you saw it. According to the locals "it's awfully expensive" so not sure how long it'' last!

Brockley Nick said...

It doesn't.

Basically, some years ago, my friend was organising the DKNY London launch party. I got to go. When I was on the dance floor, Kylie came on and started dancing nearby, flanked with some burly blokes. I "casually" danced as close as I could and we managed to exchange a smile before she was hustled away. It's not much of a celebrity encounter, but it was enough to fuel my imagination for about the next five years. I probably could have pulled Mick Hucknall though, who was lurching around all over the place.

To this day, whenever anyone laughs at my dancing (which is often) I defend myself by saying Kylie liked it.

Bea said...

If you want stood up stories I have one about sumo wrestlers.

A friend and I were staying at a hotel in Japan when Akebono and his entourage turned up. He’d just won the prestigious Tokyo tournament and been made Yokozuna. My friends and I were hanging round the hot spring baths in the hotel where he was taking a dip (images of empty bath here) and hoping to catch a glimpse as he came out of the men’s section. Anyway he chatted to my friend and later one of his minders asked her for her telephone number as Akebono said he would like to have it! Of course she declined. I wish she hadn’t as we’d no doubt have wrangled some free tickets to the next tournament.

Here's who he is:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akebono_Taro

Moira said...

Van Morrison wrote a song about me, and my best friend turned Bowie down for a shag.

Headhunter said...

Wow... Akebono! he was a living legend in Japan. She should have gone for it if only for an opportunity to get ringside mats. Don't those sell for something like Y50000, although you do risk getting squished when the wrestlers fall out of the ring.

I watched the Osaka Basho on a few occasions. We used to queue at 6am for the paupers standing places at the top of the arena

Moira said...

More importantly, I appeared on Blue Peter.

Bea said...

HH - that exactly what I thought - and I knew her number - so tempted to give it to him but friends come first, right?!

tj said...

Sorry - late contender Moira has just trumped you all - by going from nicer than nice Blue Peter to having Van Morrison write a song about her - and also having a friend who could've shagged Bowie.

It begs the question though Moira - was your friend male or female?

max said...

I'm dying to know the title of the song.

fabhat said...

Having a song written about you, by someone we've all heard of, is definitely a top trump!

Anonymous said...

problem is we need proof.

Anonymous said...

Who was it that turned Bowie down for a shag - The Cat Man?

Moira said...

It was all such a long time ago...but was on the album A Sense of Wonder (not his best) titled Tore Down a la Rimbaud. It alludes to my profession and what I did with him...
My best mate's female and it was Angie who propositioned her on Bowie's behalf for a threesome.
Nick will know that my other friend went out with David Letterman. Ahhh, the heady days that were the '70's.

Bea said...

Moira

Was it these lines ...?

"Showed me pictures in the gallery
Showed me novels on the shelf
Put my hands across the table
Gave me knowledge of myself

Showed me visions, showed me nightmares
Gave me dreams that never end
Showed me light out of the tunnel
When there was darkness all around instead"

Monkeyboy said...

Moira defo wins.

Me sitting near Patsy Kensit in a pub in Camden is rubbish in comparison. Oh, I did spill the beer of an apparently famous perma tanned weatherman in Australia, but Australians are yesterdays news....just look at the Olympics [sniggers....]

Moira said...

That's the one. If anyone can guess what I did, they can have my Blue Peter badge!

Monkeyboy said...

dunno but it sounds pharmaceutically induced.

max said...

Did you introduce him to scientology?

fred vest said...

http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/factual/media/1michael_winner.jpg

Anonymous said...

tj - really? I also went to a Jamiroqai after-show party after someone in his band asked my friend where the good clubs were in the area. Whereabouts was yours?

tj said...

In JK's hotel room in Sapporo, Japan - there was the band and about 10 of us...?

tj said...

or was it you? lol

Tamsin said...

Hadn't logged on today so missed all of this until far too late to join in, but leaping back to the original comment about the all-pervasive Brockley connections, a similar place is Wootten Bassett just outside Swindon. Everyone, it seems to me, has or has had a friend or relative living there. (Also notable at one time for having 11 pubs in the main Market Street.)

Headhunter said...

Sounds like Moira was a librarian/psychiatrist...

Monkeyboy said...

or an acid head!

Bea said...

Tamsin - funny that - TJ and I have a mutual friend living near Wootten Bassett, as does my cousin!

Tamsin said...

Exactly - it really is extraordinary.
(Or, actually not, as my deflatingly practical husband would point out. Look at all the other bloggers who have NOT leapt in with their WB connections.)
If you can ignore New Town Swindon it's a nice part of the world.

sue said...

sounds like moira reads palms

Moira said...

Sue wins (although I lost my Blue Peter badge years ago). I might have a signed Wet Wet Wet album somewhere. Headhunter - you were strangely accurate.

Anonymous said...

tj - randomly, also in Japan - but Fukuoka!

Fabhat said...

Going back to degrees of separation I went to a wedding this weekend, in oxfordshire, of a friend who is not connected with any other of my friends and certainly not sarf londonish. They mixed up everyone and my husband and I sat on different tables. The woman seated next to him turned out to have lived, not just in the same house that we do, but in the flat next to ours ten years ago in Brockley.
Then today I was walking home, and discovered a abandoned old trunk - but with my family name written on it in a very familiar hand. Apparently my parents had given this trunk to a friend about 20 years ago, who'd then passed it on to some one else and it was last heard of in manor avenue. And now it's in Wickham, just where I live...quite weird.

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