Category Archives: Camden Town

The King of Royal College Street

poetsHouse1

-Chapter Four –
The House of the Poets

Three doors down is The House of the Poets. Two French writers had lived there many, many people years ago. It was empty and sad. But all the cats would gather in the summer for the annual Pow Wow. Mum and I went along too. We watched as the street-cats strutted their stuff. It was a show of strength, get together, and mating ritual, all rolled into one.

Mum had met Dad there. She said Dad had escaped from the Veterinary Hospital. He was on the run so to speak. She fell for the dangerous look in his eyes, and the air of trouble that followed him like a cloud. But the problem with Dad was he never got further than the Poets House. He was captured, days after they met. Two great hair apes took him away.

Dad was a fabulist , Mum liked to say. He told tall tales. Made things-up when it suited him. It was part of his charm she said. I never told her about my fantasies. In one Dad would come back for a check-up at the hospital, and escape again. He would find us, and live in The House of the Poets. It was empty after all.

He would be sad about my brothers and sisters, but happy to have me. To show me the ropes. I longed to learn the tricks of the street-cats. They truly had nine lives: crossing Royal College Street like they owned the road. Some were so brazen they deliberately made cars swerve. But it was a dangerous game; some never made it to the other side.

Mum said they were all stupid, and Dad was nothing like that. But something told me, this was Mum trying to keep me safe. In  the end Dad was my superhero, he was indestructible. In my story he had markings like people tattoos. Pictures of  fish and birds, and mythical beasts like unicorns. And somewhere would my Mum’s name. Not the name the old man called her, but her real name. There are no English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Hebrew words for our names. But some ancient peoples: the Native Americans, the Aboriginals, and those from deep in the Amazon Jungle, know our names, they just don’t write them down.

Old Felix named me Tiger, on account of my tortoiseshell stripes.  That I didn’t mind, because tigers are pretty cool cats. One of my stories has Mum, Dad and me crossing the road. We make our way to London Zoo; where the real tigers live.

At one Pow Wow, one of the street-cats had boasted about getting as far as the zoo. She claimed to have taken the Grand Union Canal, which crossed underneath our street. The canal ran all the way to the zoo, and beyond. She described a floating Chinese restaurant , and huge grand mansions. For miles and miles, there was the smell of lovely food.

Stories got passed around at Pow Wow, that’s where we learned about Old Felix. He’d not always been old and forgetful. When he was young there were many cats living in his house. But people are just like cats when they get old, they get slow. They can’t cope with a ton of hungry cats. Before that Pow Wow was over, a big cat with the people name Butch, took us aside:

Have you considered your future, he said. And even Mum wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Street-cats can sense things though. They have to be on-the-ball. He then became more direct:

Have you thought about what’s going to happen when the old man goes.

Go where I first thought. Well I was young and didn’t understand the ways of the world. He could see by our expressions that the answer was no.

My advice to the both of you is to make friends with new people. Sorry to be brutal but the old guys on his way out. Find a family close by and be extra nice to them. It’s you’re only chance. You don’t want to end up like me, truly you don’t.

I remember he sized us both up and shook his head. He didn’t need to say any more. We knew the score. After Pow Wow, Mum tried to reassure me:

Don’t listen to him, he’s just trying to frighten us. Some street-toms tell tales to impress their girlfriends. They have lots and lots of girlfriends, its just the way they are.

But I knew deep down everything he said was true. And I was also kind of impressed by all those girlfriends. He was trying to help us in his rough and tough way.


The King of Royal College Street

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-Chapter Three-

The Great Storm

Soon it was my birthday. I was one year old. The two kittens next door continued to grow. And the Yuppies hair grew even larger. I was snoozing when the storm hit. First the windows shook so hard I thought the glass would break. Then the garden furniture began to fly in the air. There was a terrible crash when it collided with the garden wall.

In our garden, the old shed fell down. Mum was so lucky; she’d had the snip. So there were no newborn kittens or her, inside when whole thing came crashing. The chickens were lucky though; they escaped with a few ruffled feathers, but their cage intact.

Felix seemed to become slower, after the hurricane. He never bothered rebuilding his shed. It just stood there: a pile of wood, paint and tools. And he was getting forgetful. Sometimes he forgot to put food down for Mum and I. When we cried he would shout :
Oh shut up cats !
Which was not like him at all.

So Mum taught me how to hunt. We got by. But the poor old chickens, they didn’t see Christmas. Old Felix spent more and more time in his room. He stopped cooking food; so there were no more tasty scraps to scrounge.


The King of Royal College Street

royal_college_street_drawing

A short Shaggy Cat novel

-Chapter Two-

New Neighbours

Something had changed but I couldn’t figure out what. I shook my head, and went on my way. The next day, I looked again. That was the thing with these people, they were always out; so there was no danger of being shooed away (a hazard of the job).Later I learned that some people worked during the week and rested at weekends. But I was ten months old then, so I knew nothing. Anyway I look into the dining room first:

 

Table.
Chess Board.
Fancy Blue Curtains, all flowery and gathered-up at the ends. Very fancy.
A Computer that was never turned on.
Music System, that only came on a parties.
And a picture of something or other on the wall.

A big fat zero I hit there. So I look in the bedroom. It’s a small room, with only a bed and a chest of drawers. But the bed is mighty fancy: it’s all gleaming and gold, with fancy white covers. Then something emerges from beneath the covers, and I jump out of my skin. For some strange reason I think this thing is a dog; not that I’ve met one or seen once face to face. It’s instinct, don’t ask me why or how, it just happens.

But the moving thing makes no woof or barking sounds. Then I catch a whiff of it’s smell: cat, or rather kitten to be exact. I jump onto the side window ledge to get a better look. And while I’m becoming accustomed to my new neighbour, another little head, peeks from underneath. This new one is blue, and the first a browny cream.

I can see they are quite new to their Yuppie place,  quite frightened .  Although the bed looks lovely and soft, and I feel a little jealous. Old Felix keeps his bedroom locked, and I’m certain his bed is not as comfy or fancy.

 


At Camden Road

Black back chain
and cycles of possession.
The tattoo on your foot
and those dainty little toes.
Waiting at the crossing,
at Camden Road.

Hearding menfolk
on nights that always end.
The crinkle on your lips,
as you wait for them to go.
To catch their train.
at Camden Road.

To all points south.
To detours way up-north.
To Lambeth and to Poplar.
To Wilmslow and  to Whalley Range.
To way around the corner.
At Camden Road, at Camden Road.


In Camden Town

Puneal skin and the distant cry of birds.
The rumbling thunder of the road.
And builders beginning:
shaking tools, steel against steel.

Saturday Morning in Camden Town.
Life rising from the ruins.
No quite now from the Road.
People passing from their far off places.

Wood Green, Turnpike Lane,
Manor House, Finsbury Park, Arsenal.
Holloway Road and Cally Road,
then change at Kings Cross.

Bens shoes lined-up
on a white wooden floor.
Auntie sleeping,
god knows where.

The motor scooter whine.
Loud unseasonal bangs.
When I woke I was somewhere else,
but now I’m in Camden Town.


The Best of Luck

Cinnamon toast at Tea for Two:
full of cigarette smoke
and shoppers parked with bags.

Greek bakeries begetting boot stores
and a high street of oversized shoes.
The record and tape exchanges.

Crossing Delancey Street
for potato rosti and a coffee.
Crossing back to The Crown and Goose.

Then past the day-time theatre
of vagrants and despoilers,
right outside the tube.

Listening out for the town crier;
wandering the isles of the old ABC.
The Best of Luck, he shouts to us all.

Catch a film, catch a drag.
Catch a book at Compendium.
Catch some art in the Chalk Farm Gallery.

Play some pool and smoke some fags,
in The Falcons back room.
Chat to Baxter, catch a band.

End the night with a couple of beers,
at the Marathon Bar and Grill.
The Best of Luck, The Best of Luck, The Best of Luck.


Maria

Maria came from Cyprus
just after the civil war.
And settled with her sisters
in North London.

With long dark, wild hair
and deep distinctive eyes.
She cut quite a figure
in Camden and its surroundings.

There was a story about
a taxi driver,
that’s best not remembered.
Maria deserves more than that.

In the nineties
she worked as a waitress,
in a back-street Vietnamese.
But she was always trying for more.

And she may have found it,
who knows ?
Because this small perfect jewel,
had only the briefest of lives.

Oh Maria, Maria, Maria.
How does it happen
that people like you go.
And the bad abide forever.

Are there hundreds, thousands, millions
like you, up there.
Neither young nor old, beautiful
and too young for heaven.