A trip down memory lane…
…or more accurately, Kings Road Chelsea. It was a fine and sunny Saturday here and I’d been wanting to revisit some of my old haunts. My first trip to the UK was about 8/9 years ago now and I spent six months living and working in a pub on Kings Road Chelsea. It’s a posh area, no denying that, so in some ways I kind of lucked out when I got that job.
But that old saying to do with never really being able to go home again started to ring true. As I wandered down the road I spotted some old shops and buildings, some new ones in place of those I remembered and I looked for a few that I couldn’t find anymore. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve been here but it was a strange sort of day and I’ve been left with mixed feelings about my trip down memory lane.
I started my journey on the tube mid morning and decided that I would walk down Kings Road from Sloane Square station because it was a walk I had done so many times before.
The first good surprise was the Duke of York’s HQ which was just a building site when I last saw it. Now it is home to a small weekend market full of delicious food (the Jamaican jerk chicken pastry and pasteis de nata – Portuguese custard tart – that I had were soooo good). There is also a free Saatchi gallery with a display of modern American art. I took a small detour off Kings Road to the National Army Museum (which is free). Despite living in in the area I had never been there before and it’s worth a look especially if you’re into Empire or military history, or even if you just have a thing for military uniforms and guns.
These steps lead out of the registry area of the Old Town Hall which a lovely, venerable structure on the road. It must have seen the most amazing variety of weddings in its time. I remember passing by on my way to the supermarket seeing South Asian weddings with heaps of guests and decorated taxis, people doing the traditional white dress thing and of course the couple who wore matching black leather just to mention a few. They must still have ceremonies here, as there’s still confetti on the steps.
This is the Chelsea Old Church (though clearly some of the structure is new) which back in the day was the Church of Sir Thomas More, whose statue can be found nearby. My roommate at the pub and I, while a wee bit tipsy on Christmas Eve, decided at the last minute to run down the road from the pub (a couple of blocks away) to attend midnight mass here with it’s posh demographic. I’d never seen anybody wear a purple velvet suit and matching top hat to Church before, and I haven’t since. The fact I rarely go to Church services is irrelevant.
This smart looking wine bar/bar used to be a black clad, boarded up edifice know as The Man in the Moon. The story went that one night some gang of football supporters (possibly Chelsea fans) were kicked out of our pub and proceeded on down the street to the next likely looking boozer – The Man in the Moon – where they proceeded to wreak havoc and ripped out a number of the bar fittings. Hence its closure at the time.
And this lovely pastel palace, if I have the right building, used to be The Water Rat. This is where some of our regulars went when they wanted a livelier night out. It was the scene of a couple of stabbings during my time in the area. Suffice to say, this is not how it looked then.
And then there’s my old place – The Cadogan Arms Tavern – on the corner of Kings Road and Old Church Street.
It’s undergone more than one makeover since I worked here and I think it even closed for a little while. It doesn’t appear to be owned by a brewery anymore but by a company that runs … gastropubs. I didn’t take any pictures of the inside because it’s not the Cadogan Arms I lived in. It’s rather swish with pressed metal ceilings and dark leather couches, not too sure about the stuffed animal heads on the wall. It’s a tidier (non smoking) space but it doesn’t have the comfy well worn feel it used to. The pub was a good middle of the road for local workers. It wasn’t so upmarket as those closer to the Square but didn’t have knifings either. Blokes who worked in the loading docks in the Conran outpost Bluebird used drink here, as well as a couple of picture framers from the shop across the street. The bar here now may have stools but it doesn’t have that regular boozer feeling. We also used to get a lot of the local Art college students, and they might still be around but the customers I saw today didn’t reflect its former diverse charms. It was a little unsettling and, I can admit, upsetting to be somewhere so familiar yet so alien. My pub may have been a bit rundown about the edges but it was the focal point of my existence on this road, in this city, but it’s not really there anymore.