Good morning from the heart of Peckerwell, that small unrecorded parish in south east London that has at least a split personality, possibly multiple personalities and the associated disorders that go with them.
The name describes that nebulous zone in which Peckham blends with Camberwell and vice versa. Of course there is no such zone, you are either in Peckham in the borough of Southwark or you are in Camberwell, also in the borough of Southwark. There is no demilitarised zone, no neutral zone or no man’s land but despite this Peckerwell most certainly exists.
Rather like Liverpool and Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow or Cheltenham and Gloucester, these places share or at least co-exist in adjoining grids on a map. However whether through friendly or less friendly rivalry, they have an interesting relationhip. It’s not close enough to be a love-hate relationship or distant enough to be animosity. To me it’s they are places that really deserve to be twinned with the other but would never elect to do so voluntarily.
To understand the parish of Peckerwell you need only consider the welcome signs to the two neighbouring districts. Peckham’s sign is loud neon, probably backed with some very funky reggae track and has either the confidence or irony to include the word fabulous. In contrast, Camberwell Green – note the addition of the Green even in areas of Camberwell that are not the green and you get a glimpse of their individual characters. Camberwell’s sign is ‘classy’ – well they will tell you that, though it’s classy in the sense a tombstone or a sign saying ‘public toilets’ are classy. It’s gravitas is marked by its funerial dullness.
There is also something of a we look up to the them and we look down on them history between the neighbourhoods. There is a reasonably well known comment about Camberwell that says:
Half the residents of Camberwell are either Lawyers or Psychiatrists. The other half are either their clients or their patients.
In Victorian times, a much more pointed version was commonplace which said The residents of Camberwell are either Lawyers, Psychiatrists or Jailors, the residents of Peckham and Brixton are their clients, patients or prisoners.
Historically, Camberwell grew as a village around the church of saint Giles which still stands albeit now on Peckham Road. The local village and later market green known as goose green became the heart of the village. (Strage how goose green doesn’t have the same ring about it isn’t it?). The goose became the unofficial symbol of Camberwell.
As nearly every village had it’s own market space, Camberwell engaged in some early marketing and drew in the crowds with exotic wildlife – a mix of circus and tourist attraction. These included Chinese teal. fighting mallards and even Pelicans. Obvjously the smell and noise wasn’t going to be something Camberwell wanted, so they were hatched, raised and ‘farmed’ in nearby Peckham.
I can’t help but raise a wry smile when walking through Camberwell. There is no mention or sign of a goose to be seen there today. That part of their early trading days is seemingly erased from the district. In contrast walking just a little way beyong St Giles church into Peckham, I pass a cafe called the Peckham pelican next to the Pelican estate. Local addresses include Teal house, Kingfisher House and Heron house all on the sites that raised those birds for display in Camberwell. Irony indeed.
When you’ve finished buying your rustic bread and having your shoes resoled at the Peckham cobbler in SE15 you could walk a few streets to Camberwell in SE5. You might notice that the same bread is no longer a rustic loaf but is artisan bread from an artisan bakery. Similarly the cobblers is a traditional craftsman shoe repair. Additionally, you’ll have noticed your post code as increased by 10 and your house price dropped by between thirty and fifty thousand pounds for similar properties. So you can see for some, it’s very important which side of the Peckerwell expanse you land. I’m pleased to say most people rub along pretty well most of the time though that wasn’t the case this morning.
As I was walking Taz this morning (I’m convinced if you asked Taz he might tell you he was walking me) we came across that ever popular street activity – casual racism.
A lady was decorating one of the large trees outside her house with lanterns, streamers and the like. She looked south Asian in origin but I later found through a socially distanced check that she was adopted and had lived in the house for over forty years. She was a student of the green man and celebrated the old traditional seasonal festivals rather than take part in structured religion. The tree decorations were to celebrate the pagan festival of Ēosturmōnaþ (I had to look it up).
This celebration was clearly offfending a couple in the street (think Wayne and Waynetta or Shazza and Bazza) who were complaining at the rather festive decorations. I hung around in the adjacent shrubbery while Taz sniffed thinking she may need some support. I was wrong. At first, the complaining couple assumed the decorations were something to do with Eid until the woman hanging the decorations pointed out she wasn’t Muslim nor was it late May. (15-love).
Wayne and Waynetta complained that she was too bloody late for Easter. The woman unphased pointed out that Orthadox Easter was in fact next week were she celebrating it, which she wasn’t but it she were, she would be a bit bloody early (30-love).
Wayne and Waynetta then changed tack somewhat asking in terms whether this was something they did where she came from? Without much more than a momentary hesitation she replied “Haringey you mean? I’m not really sure dear” (30-love).
At this point I was at full leads length away and shouted over asking if everything was ok. “Fine thank you just discussing theology” came the reply. (Game – thank you linesmen, thank you ball boys).
At this point, Taz who was being entirely inoffensive shoved his head through the bushy grass which seemingly alarmed Waynetta sufficiently that both she and Wayne made their excuses and left.
I then had an entirely unexpected discussion (from about 12 feet) about pagan celebrations and their role in the early Christian Church and the influence the Anglo Saxon culture had on it. Hardly something I had expected for Easter Bank Holiday Monday, though stragely appropriate.
Now, I don’t know much about early Anglo Saxon pagan celebrations but I was able to dazzle with some insights into the morphing of Saturnalia into Christmas. I think I may have disappointed somewhat when I explained this didn’t come from a doctorate of theology but rather series three of the big bang theory.
During the following five minutes I learned a few things. Firstly, we’re about the only country that celebrate Easter using that word. Most celebrate an event stemmed from the latin Pascha referring to the aramaic and Hebrew word ‘pashac’ describing Jewish passover a few cases in point being:
- Latin — Pascha or Festa Paschalia
- Greek — Paskha
- Bulgarian — Paskha
- Danish — Paaske
- Dutch — Pasen
- Finnish — Pääsiäinen
- French — Pâques
- Indonesian — Paskah
- Irish — Cáisc
- Italian — Pasqua
- Lower Rhine German — Paisken
- Norwegian — Påske
- Portuguese — Páscoa
- Romanian — Pasti
- Russian — Paskha
- Scottish Gaelic — Càisg
- Spanish — Pascua
- Swedish — Påsk
- Welsh — Pasgh
However, in England and Germany early Christianity had a tough time shifting the engrained pagan deities including one godess of fertility and renewal – her name being Eostre.
Many theological scholars point out that many pagan festivals were incorportated or borrowed into the Christian calendar and Easter (or at least the name Easter) may be another such example.
Symbols associated with her were the hare (March hares etc), garlands of spring flowers and eggs all signs of a renewed spring in Anglo Saxon northern Europe. As Vaughan has just broken open (and now I look more closely mostly eaten) the second Easter egg I’m glad that bit of pagan celebration was carried forward.
Strange to think it might be the Easter hare rather than the Easter bunny isn’t it? In any event whether you are celebrating the period for religious or non religious reasons, may you have a safe peaceful and joyful day.
The title of todays post comes from a number of the same name from the musical South Pacific. For those who like to hear the tracks, it can be heard here sung by Mandi Patinkin in the control below.