WORDS: Gary Budden
Saturday morning, maybe half nine, wake to a hubbub outside the bedroom window. Down on the street the sound of a crowd, murmurings, overlapping conversations. Something going on.
Blearily peer through slatted blinds. Women in their Saturday best, men in sharp suits and yarmulkes, the old couple I see every day both bent by age into perfect L-shapes. Police advise a rabbi and stretch wasp-coloured tape across the road.
The local synagogue, evacuated, some phoned-in threat that I never knew the details of.
Later, Jubilee line down for line maintenance, we take the rail replacement bus toward Baker Street. At Cricklewood Broadway, the traffic slows to a syrupy pace. More police. Something going on, again. Right-hand side of the road, dreadlocks, placards, young masked faces, UAF and Antifa chants. To my right, outnumbered even by the police who protected them, St George’s Crosses flapping in the wind, shouts of ‘we pay your taxes’ and ‘this place is harbouring terrorists’.
Never found out if the two events were linked.
Many months later, I switch on Channel 4 to watch Angry, White and Proud. I know that bloke, I say. He was there that day, on Cricklewood Broadway.
The Cricklewood Broadway farmers’ market is a sight that saddens. I admire the optimism, attempting to sell organic veg and high-end olives in the shadow of the titanic B&Q, watching the clogged traffic trickle into Barnet.
I smoke a cigarette by the Co Op watching the stall holders and wonder how long they’ll stick it out. At Cricklewood Broadway, the rural dreams of middle-class London are failing.
Teaching after school, off Cricklewood Broadway. A brick-wall of a student who I’m failing to inspire with the joys of English literature.
Statues of Ganesh, Vishnu and Shiva look at me from the mantelpiece as if to say, ‘What?’
I consider looking for a new job.
In the early January rain, under the sodium lights and passing the pub where Nina’s granddad used to drink, Cricklewood Broadway is the loneliest place in all of London. The Irish pubs here, and there are many, seem so full, their windows dark, an older London that still persists. A flag of some Irish county I lack the name for flaps above old men who smoke and drink outside Lucky 7. I want to go in but know I never will.
Go too far from Cricklewood Broadway and you leave the known world; out West is Staples Corner and Brent Cross, the divine meeting of traffic arteries.
At Brent Cross Cirque Berserk are performing in a car park.
Cricklewood Broadway is the frontier between the London I know and the abyss. This is the end.