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London A-Z – Camden Town

Welcome to Camden Town the epitome of alternative living and tolerance in an intolerant world. Camden attracts all kinds of people tall, short, fat, thin, bleached or gothed up to the nines from across the world. Punks, hippies and gothic subculturalists all contentedly rub tattooed shoulders. Arm piercings, Mohicae and stacked shoes of up to eight feet tall are commonplace. In Camden if you want to get ahead, get a tattoo or at the very least a ring through the eyeball.

Camden is famous for its lock: pick it and a whole world of unconventional culture opens up before you. Camden Market is London’s most popular open-air market. Indeed it was here that in 1990 I bought my first ever pair of used Levis with my second ever girlfriend. Sadly everything split up soon afterwards.

Camden is less a town, more a state of mind occasionally a befuddled one. Cult classic ‘Withnail & I’ is based on the elegantly wasted Camden experiences of its writer Bruce Robinson. The Mother’s Black Cap, a fictional amalgam, is actually the Spread Eagle where Robinson and his Withnail-like friend used to glug themselves funny. Other notable watering holes include The Dublin Castle (former favourite of Madness), The Good Mixer (ditto Oasis and Blur) and the appropriately-named ‘World’s End’. More recently the Hawley Arms is the place to be, especially if you want to get papped standing next to Amy Housewine at the bar. She’s there all the time. Rumour has it she likes a drink.

Alight at the tube and you will experience Camden’s unique meet-and-greet system. Whilst I appreciate the efforts made by the locals on this front, I do want to clear up an area of confusion my name is not ‘Skunk Weed?’. Nor do I know a ‘Mr Weed’. However if I do meet him I’ll be sure to pass on my best.

In the 1820s Charles Dickens spent two years of Hard Times in a Bleak House on Bayham Street, later using it as a model for the Cratchits’ home in A Christmas Carol. The area also produced a monster when Mary Shelley was born there in 1797. Welsh poet Dylan Thomas spent much of the 1930s in Camden though for much of the time he was more Under The Table than Under Milk Wood. More recently asexual miserabilist Morrissey resided on Oval Road, his song ‘Come Back to Camden’ apparently a lament for a missing cat. Last but not least, the lugubriously-voiced Alan Bennett has been moping around Camden’s fringe for thirty years.