I was brought up in Surrey, and went to school in Coulsdon. As a teenager, I used to go out in Croydon (South London now but Surrey then) and Streatham, in South London, among other places. (When I say, “go out,” I do mean when I went out clubbing. Or what we used to call “going to discos.” Croydon and South London was definitely the grown up place to be. South Croydon was great for a place called Boobs, Central Croydon for Scamps… The Cat’s Whiskers in Streatham (which had been, earlier, the Streatham Locarno, where my Mum and Dad used to go…). Those were the days.
I hadn’t intended to go back to Croydon when Gianni and I took a trip to Brixton. It was purely a recce of the area, to see whether it was somewhere that would suit her if she should choose to move that way in the future. She told me that she knew a few bloggers who lived in Croydon, so that might be somewhere to investigate too.
“Do you know Croydon at all?” she said.
“Yes, I used to go to school near there.” About a hundred years ago.
Coming out of Brixton station was great. There was a chap singing some of the good old reggae hits and there was a real buzz to the area.
“One love, let’s get together and it will be alright.”
He sang with such energy; it was a joy to behold. I hadn’t been to Brixton in about 15 years so wasn’t really sure of where to go anymore, and we hadn’t worked out a plan, so we had a bit of a wander. I’d forgotten what fabulous architecture there is down there, even knowing that it used to be a very wealthy area.
A walk in one direction wasn’t leading us to where we wanted to be – a restaurant. There were some great places to eat outside at Pop Brixton but it was windy and I like my hot food to be hot. We walked the other way and didn’t find a restaurant that suited us. (And let me be the first to say to all Brixton residents, we may not have gone to the right places. We just expected a bit more of the high street.)
“Shall we go somewhere else?” said Gianni.
We toyed with the idea of going back to Central London, but didn’t want to be somewhere full of people.
“What about Croydon? I have no idea how we get there from here, but I think we can get a bus.”
So we got a bus to Croydon. The beauty of getting a bus is that you get to see some of the life of an area on the way, it’s a great way of learning what an area is like. We got off the bus near to Fairfield Halls (how I remember seeing the Four Tops and Stevie Wonder there) and wandered down a side street.
Of course, by this time, we were both ravenous, and just happened to see a restaurant advertising itself as the “No 1 spot for Caribbean and Soul Food,” Caribsoul. We stopped, looked at the menu and entered.
Mine host was a lovely gentleman who made sure we were seated comfortably and that our table was suitably clean. He offered to help if we had any questions.
Choosing was hard, there were some of the good old Caribbean favourites that Theresa has cooked for me…. Will they be as good as hers I wondered? In the end, I went for Jerk Pork with rice and peas and Cole slaw, with a side of Caribsoul calls “coloured greens” and Louisiana corn bread. (What can I tell you? I was hungry.) It was all delicious, and they brought up some very good hot pepper sauce too, although the greens didn’t need it, they had hot peppers in already.
Gianni went for curried goat, with rice and peas and Cole slaw, Candied Sweet Potato Mash and Waffles. There was too much for us to finish, so we sat there, drinking our wine, me picking on the corn bread. It was like a sweet sponge cake rather than what I’d been expecting but actually rather nice.
We travelled back to Victoria on the train and went for a few drinks in the Brass Monkey in Vauxhall Bridge Road. This pub used to be called the Lord Burleigh, but they’ve smartened it up a lot from the way I remember it from my shift—working days. All in all, an enjoyable if nostalgic day for me.
© Susan Shirley