If you should happen to travel up the Northern Line, up the Edgware branch past Golders Green, you'll come to Burnt Oak, which is where I was born and grew up, where my mother grew up, where my family still lives. This is the 'skyline' of Watling Avenue, the main thoroughfare of Burnt Oak, weather-beaten chimneys crawling up the hill to Burnt Oak Broadway (aka Edgware Road, part of the ancient Roman highway called Watling Street). Burnt Oak it must be said is not a particularly charming part of London. It has changed a great deal over the years, nowhere more so than the shops on Watling Avenue, but these chimney-tops remain epic and unaltered, like a row of ancient statues. There is the odd shop here and there, however, that has survived the changes over the years as if unnoticed by the world - Hassan's clothing, Anthony's Drug Store, Pennywise, and of course my favourite shop Vipins, still run by the same Indian couple of who still remember me as a small red-headed eight-year-old buying felt-tip pens and glitter-glue. I sat in a quiet spot outside the Ming takeaway (another remnant from my youth) and sketched the chimneys, while the daytime passers-by passed me by, sometimes smiling, sometimes talking to me about what it was like round there when they were young. Burnt Oak might not be charming, but there is still charm to be found.
by Pete Scully