Category: Uncategorized

Golders Green is changing

…and not necessarily for the better.

The good old days

Imagine that you gave a small child a piece of paper and said, “Here’s a fun idea! Why don’t you design your perfect town?”

Well, that’s basically what Barnet Council did, except it gave the piece of paper to a no doubt horrendously expensive planning consultancy called Fluid (motto: “Architecture, urbanism, participation”). They nevertheless produced a proposal that would shame a small child.

So, what did they come up with in the Golders Green Town Centre Strategy? A mix of the indecipherable, the none-of-their-business and the overly imaginative.

The indecipherable

Fluid believes that “High Street lighting is functional and there is a lack of intimacy” (because why else do you pop out to the pharmacy late on a Sunday evening if not to experience the sense of intimacy created for you in the street?) But what is the solution? “Atmospheric lighting to enhance heritage” – obvious when you think about it. The amount of unenhanced heritage lying around Golders Green is a crying shame, just waiting to be atmospherically lit.

They also criticise “inconsistent shop frontages”, which is surely just a function of there being, er, a range of different shops. Shop frontages in central London are very consistent but that’s because they’re all either Starbucks or Itsu.

Particularly important, stresses the plan, is to “celebrate diagonals”. I belive that anyone who pluralises an adjective (see also: botanicals, medicinals…) should be put on a watchlist and detained at airports, but that’s just my personal opinion.

The next service to have a sense of arrival will be on platform 3.

Other vital elements of the scheme include “activating the ground floor” and ensuring that those leaving the station are greeted by a “sense of arrival”.

One of my favourite of the 36 pages, however, was that which specified what sort of people use different areas of the town centre. The area around the war memorial roundabout (a heavily polluted concrete wasteland) is, apparently, frequented by “nature lovers” no doubt anxious to see local wildlife such as the Lesser Spotted Bus Driver and the Great Nesting Uber.

The “five parades” – or, in English, five scrubby little side streets running parallel to Golders Green Road – are allegedly the domain of “design lovers, collectors, experience- and quality-seekers”. The only experience I’ve previously had on Broadwalk Lane is the experience of standing on a discarded nappy… and frankly that nappy should have been taken away by a Council-employed “collector” weeks before.

The scrubbiest side street of all, St Alban’s Lane, is pervaded by a smell of rotten fish, but according to Fluid, its main drawback is that “interesting facilities such as the Jewish Chronicle and a language school are hidden by commercial bins”. The word “interesting” is doing quite a lot of work there… as is the phrase Jewish Chronicle which is no longer based in Golders Green at all, perhaps explaining why it’s so “hidden”.

But that’s all about the now. What is coming in the future?

None of their business

It’s easy to forget, when you’re a small child or an urban planning consultancy, that you don’t actually own the world. Some of the proposals in the Town Centre Strategy would require co-operation from businesses who are, erm, unlikely to co-operate.

This forecourt though. The absolute state of its public realm.

For instance, the large Sainsburys in which most of the locals do our weekly shop (which has “poor forecourt public realm”: not ‘a poor forecourt public realm’, just “poor forecourt public realm”) presents an “opportunity to replace with community use/ light industrial/ affordable workspace”. Well… no, it doesn’t present that opportunity unless J Sainsburys Plc agrees that its duty to sound urban design and acceptable “public realm” demands closure of the branch.

Fluid are also keen to “remove fences around the Greek cathedral to open its garden for wider community use and benefit”. Erm… what if the Greek cathedral doesn’t want the wider community sitting and boozing in its garden late at night?

Best yet is the planners’ desire to abolish the historic Big Red Building gentleman’s outfitters. And why? Because the site offers “an opportunity to create a 21st century food hall”. It’s not immediately apparent why this arbitrary food hall couldn’t be created in one of the many vacant, boarded up shops opposite the Big Red Building. But no, it has to be there. Gentleman can get their outfits elsewhere. Food hall. Now. Please.

The overly imaginative

The general solution to any urban ill, it seems, is to replace it with grass. But Fluid takes this idea one step further by proposing to revolutionise the railway bridge by “creating a green feature on it to build a strong local identity”. (This strong local identity will presumably consist of neighbours bonding over their shared bafflement over the sudden presence of a rhododendron on the Northern line.)

Almost every page of the proposal booklet contains photos of “inspirational examples” of other urban landscapes (English: towns). Some of these are approximately comparable to Golders Green, such as a high street in Hammersmith. Others seem to have been selected totally at random, for example:

Beirut?? How did Beirut enter into it? Another instance is where a new miniature park (sorry, “linear park”) is proposed, plus “active frontage: a Greek delicatessen for example”. Why a Greek delicatessen?? Why not a Turkish delight maker or a picture framer or a fancy dress shop? This cherrypicking of frivolous architectural ideas from arbitrary places is one of the most childlike parts of the entire scheme. ‘And then I’ll put a tower on top of Superdrug and it will lean to the side a little bit. And then I’ll knock down the bank and put the Taj Mahal there…’

There are also plans for a rooftop café on top of HSBC “with a special view of the Hippodrome” – which is of course one of the most sought-after sights in the south of England. For some reason there’s no proposal for a rooftop café on top of the Hippodrome with a special view of HSBC…

Another particularly wacky idea is to replace the surface of Hoop Lane (a fairly busy street linking up to the Finchley Road) with “historic cobbles”, the purpose being to “mark arrival space”. Perhaps they could also replace the pavement with treacle and put velcro on all the walls while they’re at it.

Perhaps my favourite proposal is that the Council should “consider planting olive trees as a link to the Greek community”. Because let’s be honest, whenever I tell anyone that I’m a rabbinic student living in Golders Green and I’m just popping out to get a bagel and some salt beef, without fail they always reply, ‘Ah yes, a very Greek area isn’t it!’

A closing song

One thing I genuinely learned from the strategy document is that Golders Green’s HSBC building was designed by well-known architect Ernő Goldfinger. So now there really has to be a closing song, doesn’t there. Here it is:


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Endnote

If you actually want to give Barnet Council your feedback on the proposal, see the consultation page here.

The Egyptian backstop: a Pesach special

Please note that this blog post is going to contain a lot of predictable jokes, frequently but not exclusively connected to the Brexodus. Sorry in advance, but in my defence, what else was I supposed to do?

Pesach’s arrival tomorrow, though later in the secular year than usual, is particularly well-timed as, turning on BBC Parliament, we see the spectre of innocent well-meaning people being abused by whips. After a year dominated by the Brexodus and by promises of being, next year, in a country redeemed, how pleasing to think that we’re cleverly outwitting starvation by rationing our own diets and selflessly selling off our staple food.

Meanwhile, the distastefully-named Grand Wizards of Brexit have been talking late into the night about their dreams of a no-deal crash-out… talking so late into the night, indeed, that eventually their advisors came to them to announce (Too predictable. Move on. -Ed.)

Now, the day before Passover, Jews up and down the country are making jokes about the Labour party leaning to the left and thinking about how to incorporate four Meaningful Votes into their family seder – perhaps one after each cup?

There’s also a great sense of communal relief at the postponement of Brexit until Halloween. Stockpiling food has been stressful enough; imagine having to stockpile twice to cater for both a Pesach and a non-Pesach Brexit…

To take your minds, for a few moments, off the doom and gloom and uncertainty, why not sit back, dunk some karpas and dig into this year’s edition of Pesach News:

So how about that. Meanwhile, don’t miss out on the list of suggested topical seder plate additions below.

Y’tziat Ecuador

“Could I pass for Moses yet and sneak out of here?”

It’s not just the Israelites who are marking newfound freedom this week. Everyone’s favourite internet troll Julian Assange (pictured left) has come forth from the confines of his room in the Ecuadorian embassy, after President Moreno kicked him out with a mighty leg and an outstretched foot.

Mr Assange managed to get himself sent out into the wilderness of Knightsbridge by wreaking ten plagues on his hosts, including ingratitude, skateboarding, dirty protest and unwashed dishes. A sea of journalists parted to let him enter the Promised Police Van. There are probably some other parallels too. That’s it really.

It would have been enough

Sing along to a well-known tune by clicking the play button below:

If May had triggered Article 50,
Only triggered Article 50
And hadn’t made an Irish backstop –
Dayeinu!

Chorus: Day-day-einu, day-day-einu, day-day-einu, dayeinu dayeinu dayeinu (x2)

If May had made an Irish backstop,
Only made an Irish backstop
And hadn’t ruled out revocation –
Dayeinu!

Chorus

If May had ruled out revocation,
Only ruled out revocation
And hadn’t promised resignation –
Dayeinu!

If May had promised resignation,
Only promised resignation
We’d all have been truly delighted –
Dayeinu!

Chorus

Of course, as anyone who’s read the Book of Numbers (and frankly, who hasn’t?) knows, the fleeing Israelites grumbled against Moses and found it difficult to agree on what should happen next. So really, they could have benefited from some indicative votes…

But once they decided what to do with their newfound freedom, the next big decision was: how do we celebrate it? So…

Beefing up your seder plate

We’ve all heard of the tradition of adding an orange to the seder plate, to remember those margnialised for their gender identity or sexuality – or adding shoelaces (for refugees), an olive (for peace between Israelis and Palestinians), coffee beans (for fair trade) etc. Personally, I like to add a pomegranate to recall the civil disobedience of Shifra and Puah, the Egyptian midwives who saved Hebrew babies.

But this year, Gabrielquotes is delighted to present a more topical list of potential seder plate additions for Pesach 2019…

  • The shank bone of a Dover sole to represent the parting of the English Channel in readiness for a no-deal Brexit
  • A cactus whose resilience in a hostile environment reminds us of Chuka Umunna and The Independent Group
  • A burger to celebrate Luciana’s brave stand against anti-Semitism
  • A chocolate teapot to remind us that Chris Grayling is still a member of the Cabinet
  • A bunch of rocket to mourn the passing of Israel’s moon mission
  • A date to recall the coming into force last year of the General Date Protection Regulation
  • £350m in cash to remind us of the claim that the NHS would receive an extr (Yes, I think we get the gist of this one. -Ed.)
  • A cravat to mark the first tied vote in the House of Commons since 1993 (Move on. -Ed.)

Nirtzah

Our blog post is now completed. We’ve sung the songs, cracked the jokes and eaten the matzah in the background that it took me ages to remember how to do because it’s been a year since I last did it. How fortunate we are to live in a free society where we can take the proverbial out of powerful people and institutions without fearing attack, prosecution or sanctions. Next year in West Jerusalem! Next year in a world redeemed. And preferably in the European Union.

The four sons (and other actors)

So, as the afikomen of time is found by the overexcited child of destiny, and as the karpas of fate is dipped into the salt water of eternity, it appears to be the end of the blog post.
In this week’s episode, Pesach News was produced by the Biblical Broadcasting Corporation and read by Gabriel Webber. Dayeinu was given a special Theresa May theme, while the indicative votes were held by Pharaoh. This was an Gabrielquotes production.