Autioneering cliché, autioneering cliché, autioneering clichéd

7 02 2011

The first of a few slightly less common businesses coming up begins with the Criterion Auction Rooms at 53 Essex Rd.

That’s a bit weird in itself. The auction rooms is directly next to Barrio North but somehow we’ve lost 47, 49 and 51. I’m going to assume that this is because the property combined a few different places but it’s interesting to think of these other numbers that had tenants, owners, events and happenings just being removed from existence. I wonder if at first it was 47-53 and that just got a bit unwieldy. There’s a stone road sign in East London from the 1700s proudly claiming ‘This is Baynes Street’ which I suppose is a similar sort of thing. At what point did people stop having to say ‘this is’? A nice thought about the difference in how we interact with a space.

Auctions at Criterion take place Monday at 17:00 so, as this is Friday at 15:00 this is going to have to be done in a couple of parts. I wandered in to find the place busy. A mixture of older people milling about, well-spoken Islington ladies asserting that this was just exactly the escritoire for them and sleazy looking men I assumed to be antiques dealers looking for some sort of hidden treasure. Maybe too much Lovejoy for me.

I strolled around with two thoughts, one just trying to get a feel for the place and the other with a view to finding something to buy. I’d really like to keep my purchases to things that I actually need and although I’m sure I could make a cast iron case for ‘pair of marble obelisks of large size’ I can’t see them going down very well at home. A few nice bits caught my eye in a half interesting kind of way until I stumbled upon a stunning pair of Queen Anne leather wingback chairs. These would be perfect for the drawing room I thought. I quickly remembered that I don’t own a drawing room or a house or enough money for Queen Anne chairs and settled on ‘small amusing cast of michelin man’ with a guide price of £20. I’ll come back on Monday and hope that something so obscure and frankly hideous won’t attract too much attention.

On hand to help the people viewing lots were two young guys who were happy to answer my questions. One had worked there for a couple of years, his seniority denoted by the fact that he didn’t have to wear an apron like the other bloke. I remember those heady days. Neither had direct knowledge of what was there before but one guy said his dad had told him it was some kind of car showroom or garage. Makes sense, perfect size and frontage for that. I wondered if it was one of the businesses that had been there with the milliners and factories that Doreen told me about in the chemist. I had visions of chirpy garage attendants rushing out to fuel up Model Ts. Maybe too much Back to The Future for me. The fact that this guy’s Dad had told him it was a garage suggested that he could tap into a longer chain of local knowledge. In standard style I failed to press him on it and lost the opportunity to find out more.

I thanked them both and made to leave, just staying long enough to find out that they, like everyone else, used SX Hardware but that they preferred The Old Queen’s Head directly opposite to any of the other bars. They’re all pretty trendy round here to be honest. The Kings Head, my next stop is the only proper old man pub up this end of the road. They also used Essex Cars, the minicab office but weren’t sure exactly where it was. I presume that’s their go to option for anyone who unexpectedly finds themselves on Monday evening in possession of two marble obelisks of large size. Both thought Angel was up, one asserting that this was because Essex Road is on a slope. Be interesting to check that out on an OS map one day.


That was fascinating! I went along to the auction at 17:00. I was a bit nervous that I’d end up buying something really weird and/or expensive by accident. It’s a strangely hypnotic experience, listening to the auctioneer rattling through the lots and bids with a flowing rhythm. he even chucked in a few jokes and nods to regulars in the crowd. We quickly got to lot 217, the amusing Michelin man cast. Within a few short seconds my £20 item was up to £280 and I was well out of the game. Blink and you’ll miss it but at least I wasn’t poor. I waited for the next item I’d earmarked, some kukhri knives. Again the bid went too high for me and I realised that I’d missed out on the two things I was waiting for. I got slightly desperate, bidding on anything around the £20 mark. I lost out a couple of times and then took the opportunity to bid on a victorian meat plate that quickly dropped from £30 to £10. A brief bid off ensued which I won at £18 + buyers premium. It’s a piece of shit and I don’t need it but I left the auction rooms like a lottery winner!

  • Business has been there since – 1989
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 66.5
  • Previous business was – Some kind of car showroom or garage
  • Seven people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there by bus
  • I bought a charming cracked Victorian meat plate
  • Cumulative spend – £48.07


Barrio North

2 02 2011

Double measures

A month off work gives me the opportunity to step things up a gear on the Essex Road project. Hopefully the renewed energy begins here at Barrio North, 45 Essex Road.

So another bar in quick succession but Barrio North seems to be a bit more vibrant than Sequence. It’s open more often but regardless of that it gives the impression of being just a bit cooler. It’s one of two bars, the other is Barrio Central in Soho. This was the first one set up though.

Inside it’s a kind of Central American chic. Colours, tiles, flags, the odd left wing revolutionary here and there. I went in just after opening time (17:00) and met two guys, a barman and Matthew the manager. Both warm and friendly from the off, they looked and sounded like they were perfectly cast, even down to the de-riguer antipodean accent.

As we chatted I remembered I’d been in here before it became Barrio North. It was a fairly trendy pub called The Warwick that had a ludicrously awkward layout. It was just one long corridor next to the bar that meant you were moving to avoid people consistently. I’d met some friends there for a birthday party. It’s funny thinking back to a time when people I now consider very close friends were just people I knew and/or had met recently. I like that sense of a place holding some kind of collective or distributed memory.

Matthew mentioned that they used several of the local businesses for various bits and pieces, extending down to the hardware shop. (Down to Hackney for him). He definitely felt that there was a good local crowd which isn’t something you’d necessarily expect from a bar like this in a place like this. I wonder if the Soho version is quite as friendly.

The man on the left is a clear foot taller

On that subject I mentioned that I’d heard the people at Wenlock and Essex weren’t all that popular but Matthew expressed surprise as, according to him that and The Diner are owned by the same people. Did somebody miss the memo? He didn’t share the same feeling but gave the impression that there wasn’t really anyone he didn’t get on with nor anything that really phased him. Reminded me of the Queenslanders on the news who’d lost their homes and businesses in the floods just accepting it all as part of the deal. Having seen the drama we made out of a couple of inches of snow here it seemed like the right way to go.

I tried to pay for a coke but was waved away. I left with the pair joking with each other and encouraging me to come back for a drink soon.

  • Business has been there since – 2007
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 44.5
  • Previous business was – The Warwick
  • Five people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there on foot
  • I bought a coke for £1.50 but was offered it free
  • Cumulative spend – £25.75

Coke, £1.50 but free


Moving in Sequence

17 12 2010

Hard at work at No.43

A tricky one next door to the chemist was Bar Sequence. It’s only open later in the week and often looked too busy to go in asking questions. Eventually managed it though and added No. 43 Essex Road to the list.

Sequence is one of two bars next door to each other, both pretty much the same size and shape. I walked in just after six one evening, taking advantage of the fact that they were setting up. A couple of customers, a DJ and a busy looking barman were the only people in there. I thought I’d buy a drink first and then kick off with the questions. The barman served me then immediately directed me to the guy in the DJ booth at the back.

Aria was a friendly looking guy but it felt a bit strange speaking up to him three feet above me in the booth. He took off his headphones and came round but made it clear he just had a couple of minutes. I assured him it would be fine and he grabbed a drink then sat down. I’d got one and half questions in and he cocked his head to one side saying that it sounded like I was from the tax office or something. I assured him I wasn’t and spooled through my notebook to show him I was legit and not out to bust him. Not sure why that offered him any reassurance, it was the wrong notebook and had a series of illegible scribbles and some pressed flowers and a mini-strawberry in it that my wife picked on holiday last year. Great, professional grade work here.

We carried on and Aria gradually relaxed, smiling as we chatted about why I was doing the project and who I’d met. He spoke effusively about the people in the chemist next door, confirming how friendly they were and how much they were a fixture of the local area. Funnily enough when we started talking about other businesses he used, I got an almost identical response to the one given by the guys at Giraffe and The Diner. They’d borrow things from the bar next door and didn’t think much of the people in The Winchester and Wenlock and Essex. Too cool for school it seems. They had plenty of dealings with Café Mocha across the road as they outsourced food to them for events and such but other than that there was a loyalty to the same side of the road that I’ve seen before.

We chatted about the rules project I did and when I talked about the difficulty of crossing the road Aria laughed and mentioned his Iranian heritage. He heads back to see family and friends once in a while and talked about how you’d see traffic and people interwoven at a junction, everyone beeping horns and shouting but amazingly somehow it worked, a sort of chaotic ballet of humans and vehicles just about avoiding each other.

He liked the idea of some sort of map for this project showing the interconnections between business. It would be fun to do a google maps mashup with all the elements plotted on. As I explained that I had to buy something at each business he said he hoped I was rich because Essex Road is long. I’m hoping that pretty much everything I buy will be something I need or can actually use which would prevent it being too much of a burden.

That would actually be an interesting twist – trying to get by only buying stuff from Essex Road for the duration of the project. I can’t think of much that I need that you can’t get, unless being deprived of Moleskine notebooks became too hard to bear. It would certainly make me get through the project faster.

I realised that I’d used well over the two minutes Aria had to spare and he mentioned how he needed to get back to setting up some music for the night. I quickly raised the ‘up’ versus ‘down’ debate. A simple rationale – He described Angel as busier and more central so thus it was up to Angel and down to Hackney. As I left I noticed the chemist shutting up and partygoers crossing the road to come into the bar. I enjoyed a thought about a consistent business presence, live and active with the baton being passed from one to another all down the road.

I headed off happy again but was momentarily diverted by thinking about the Christmas tree seller opposite. That’s a temporary business. What do I do with that? Will it be next year before I get to meet them? If it’s not Christmas do I have to wait for the next one before I can move on?

Excised by these crushing first world problems I strolled home thoughtfully.


  • Business has been there since – 2008
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 41
  • Previous business was – another bar – possibly called Kasimo
  • Three people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there by tube or bus
  • I bought a bottle of London Pride for £4.00
  • Cumulative spend – £25.75

This was a London Pride

A journey back in time

15 11 2010

A guardian of the Essex Road village

So it certainly hasn’t been a speedy progress. Getting busy at work and being stymied by opening hours that don’t graciously convene with my daily plans have meant a big gap between my visit to the Bathstore and a trip to Essex Chemist and Opticians at 41 Essex Road.

But what a joy this was. I walked into this chemist-come-opticians to find a man up a ladder arranging some fittings. He greeted me and carefully backed his way down. No sooner had I started explaining my strange little project when an extremely well dressed woman I hadn’t noticed stepped out from behind the counter. Her red and gold outfit and jewelled bindi (For Diwali I later figured out) caught me off guard a little. She took up the conversation from her colleague who quietly climbed back up the ladder. She smiled knowingly as I explained what I’d been doing.

I kicked off with my questions and was immediately taken aback. She had worked in this chemist, a family business for 25 years. By some way the longest serving of all my interviewees. And it showed. Everywhere I’ve been so far has been friendly but this was a perfect example of a community business. Not a single customer entered whilst I was there who wasn’t greeted by first name. In turn they all knew Aziza’s name.

Aside from the genuine warmth and interest, this was a superbly useful visit. I quickly got on to talking about the block I’ve just finished visiting/cataloguing/enumerating – pick your word. It’s been something of a mystery so far but Aziza told me it had been a factory of some sort and that in it’s day the chemist had been a launderette. This explained the blue tiled cladding around the outside of the building.

I enjoyed falling into an interesting chat about the area. There was a real affection for Essex Road here. The people, the businesses and the way it had developed and was developing now. A brief diversion into talking about my rules project opened up a pandora’s box about government rules and regulations. You won’t be surprised to learn that as a small businesswoman, Aziza had plenty to say about interference and bureaucracy.

Disdain extended from the vassals of government to Tesco as we discussed the other businesses that they used. The language used to describe major national stores was generally negative: Invaded, dehumanised, conditioned. I love the idea that these words suggest some kind of territory or living thing that was being despoiled. That’s another level of affection for the place you work. How many of us could claim that? The fruit and veg place, the newsagent and the Coop were the main places mentioned in a positive light. I’d love to know which business I visit has the greatest geographical elasticity. You’d expect people to use their nearest newsagent but will they travel further than they need to for a hairdresser or bathroom fittings showroom?

As we chatted I reprised the debate about whether it’s ‘up’ or ‘down’ Essex Road. No definitive response here but given the feeling I got that this was a village, maybe the concept of up or down didn’t apply and everything was just closer or further away from a centre. Aziza furthered the sense of the chemist as a community focal point as she described women she’d met when pregnant who’s daughters were now coming in with kids of their own. A touching generational thought, although my dark side immediately thought that 15 years should do that for you further down the road in Hackney.

Aziza had been unable to remember exactly what had been on the factory site and before I could stop her she’d called a local resident to come over and help. I felt desperately guilty but that quickly evaporated when I met Doreen. 76, born and bred on Cruden Street just off Essex Road, she had an encyclopaedic knowledge of each building and business that had been on Essex Road in her youth and then what had replaced them. She told me about milliners, car garages, music halls, an offal shop, factories. It was like having a picture painted before your eyes. I could almost see old time characters in period costume going about their business. Buying offal. And again this amazing sense of a community. A place where people came from and called home. I really felt a big distinction between how I suppose most people see the area now and how Doreen did. People move there, they live there and then they move somewhere else. Doreen was categorically from here. It’s hard to explain but I felt like this was something it takes generations to achieve and even then it’s a struggle. Something I’d really only associated with darkest rural France or the far reaches of Cornwall was alive and well here, 500 yards from my house. I’m not ashamed to admit I was humbled.

Just as Doreen was telling me about Anderson’s Wood Yard (the site demolished to make way for the new build block that formed the first four businesses) and expressing the kind of casual racism that seems to be allowed once you’re over 70 (“The Bubble Cafe was next to that, rotten people in there, Greeks and such”) she got a text with a hot racing tip. I read it from the screen for her and she made her excuses as she needed to get to the betting shop. I asked her if she thought it was a good tip to which she scoffed disdainfully. (It came home fourth I found out later)

As she left I asked her if she liked the area. “Oh yes” she said. Elaborating with another “Oh yes” somewhat wistfully. I thought about all the businesses she’d mentioned. The vast majority were named after someone. Collins Music Hall, Repukes the Undertaker, Dickens the bakers. Outside of the inauthentic authenticity of posh brands, that sort of thing doesn’t really exist anymore. Lambast me as some sort of Telegraph-reading ex-Colonel if you will but I think that’s a shame.

Back in the present I realised that I’d taken up a huge amount of these good people’s time and had an impatient wife waiting down the road. I made a purchase (shaving foam – might as well get something I need) and said my goodbyes. I noticed as I left that Aziza was reading my blog after I’d written the address on a scrap of paper. I promised myself not to pull any punches just because I knew a subject would be reading it. Then I sensibly promised myself not to give any others the details.

  • Business has been there since – 1985
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 39
  • Previous business was – launderette
  • Three people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there by car or bus from Manor House
  • I bought shaving foam for £2.75 (I think – I lost the receipt – twat)
  • Cumulative spend – £21.75

Bathtime Story

24 10 2010


My first fail. Just three businesses in and I met resistance. I’d cockily strolled into Bathstore at 33 Essex Road at about midday on a Saturday. I asked one of the harried looking members of staff if I could speak to the manager to ask him a few strange questions. My jovial approach didn’t really go down well.

He told me this was a really bad time and I would be best off coming in on Monday but whatever the case to call by phone on Monday to check that this was OK. This wasn’t great news. Short of taking a day off work there’s no way I could get there during the week so it would have to be a weekend. Suitably chastened I went home and formulated a plan.

It wasn’t exactly cunning. I waited until the next Saturday and went in straight after they’d opened. Fear gripped me as the same member of staff got up to say hello. I could see the store was already busy with customers milling about and one sitting at the service desk. I hoped he didn’t remember me. I didn’t bother waiting for the intro and just asked for the manager. Invited to go to the end of the desk the manager looked up. Handshake, quirky intro, detail. A faultless triple play and he invited me to sit down.

I saw him mentally asking the following questions:

a)    Is this bloke a fucking psycho and should I fear for my life?

b)   Is this going to make me look stupid?

c)    Is this going to take all day?

d)   None of the above

It’s so great to see that once people have got over their initial suspicion by establishing that the answer is ‘d)’ then they generally couldn’t be more friendly and helpful. This was indeed the case with John Williams, manager of Bathstore Islington.

Meet the John Williams that didn't compose the score to Star Wars

I opened with some of the standard questions. Bathstore has been there four years and John thought it was part of a new build so there hadn’t been anything in there before. Well, obviously there had been but as yet no one has been able to tell my what. It’s becoming a bit of a mystery. In about fifteen businesses time I’ll be at the Library. I’m hoping they might be able to shed some light on things. Bathstore is on the corner of Essex Road and Gaskin Street and the block in which it sits extends a long way back. This is a sizeable plot so it was either a large group of houses and shops or a massive single building. If the latter, then it would have been a big deal when it was knocked down. Maybe I need to find some older Essex Road residents, everyone I’ve met so far has been pretty young.

John and I talked about the different places that he and the team went to on Essex Road. He seemed to find the question a bit odd and I had to prompt him a bit but he listed of a string of places that they went including the sandwich shop next to the record shop (looks nice but at my current rate I won’t be visiting until 2016), The Queens Head pub and Giraffe. Just like everyone else he spoke warmly about Giraffe, clearly a local favourite. He also mentioned the hardware shop but couldn’t remember the name. ‘SX Hardware’ I said. At that very moment I was gripped by the searingly obvious revelation that SX was short for Essex. I paused momentarily, dealing with this piece of gargantuan dumbness on my part and then carried on chatting.

When we started talking about how John arrived at work I uncovered a fascinating little quirk. He described the journey as ‘coming up from Angel’ Everyone else I’ve met so far describes that direction as down and coming from the Hackney end as up. This feels like some sort of fantastic psychological discovery that goes deep into the heart of how we perceive our space. Maybe the world’s population could be divided into those who think the journey between two ends of a non-descript street in North London should be described as up and those who don’t. We should organise our political parties and institutions along these lines immediately.

Back in the real world I needed to buy something. When I explained this to John, a customer at the next desk overheard and suggested I could pay for her new shower room. I declined this kind offer and settled on a shower hose for nine pounds, not a suite by any means but still my most expensive purchase yet. John went to great lengths to explain that it would work on pretty much any shower in the world, including all of those along Essex Road.

So after a difficult start with a refusal, my trip to Bathstore ended up being great. I genuinely enjoyed meeting John and was touched when he made my receipt out to ‘The Essex Road Experience’. Every time I get a friendly reaction on this project it’s a little treat. A tiny reminder that for all the world’s ills, people are on the whole really nice and keen to help, however random the request.

  • Business has been there since – 2006
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 14
  • Previous business was – nobody knew
  • Five people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there by tube to Angel then walks
  • I bought a 1.5m Shower Flex Doublelock for £9
  • Cumulative spend – £19.00

Hose the fucking daddy now?

You’re avin a Giraffe. Yes, and?

13 10 2010

Man and Giraffe

Right, I’m not going to apologise for the delay in getting this next installment out. If I get into the habit of it this is going to get actually dull rather than ironically dull. So, on to Giraffe at 29-31 Essex Road.

As with everywhere I’ve been so far Giraffe is part of a chain, something that’s bound to affect the nature of the business and the people that work there. I thought. I opted for a different tactic on entry, walking in as a customer with clear intent to buy something. The goal was to try and make it slightly less awkward. Kind of worked I think. I was seated by a friendly Aussie waitress and ordered a cappuccino. I don’t really drink coffee so I’m not sure why but it seems a much more writerly drink than tea, with milk but not too much, bag squeezed against the side and in a plain white mug. Coloured mugs make tea taste different, I’ll do a blind taste test it to prove it.

I asked her if I could speak to a manager and she went off to get someone. I’d seen a bloke in a shirt behind the bar when I went in and assumed he was some sort of manager type. There were only a few tables in but he seemed busy so again I started to worry that I’d be disturbing people. When he came out I cleverly disarmed him with a handshake and an introduction. Blank face. I explained what I was doing and he looked immediately uncomfortable. He started to make noises that suggested he wasn’t keen to help. He explained that there was no way he’d be able to answer financial questions. A part of me was tempted to test him on the formula for aggregate demand or get him to explain the limitations of the Laffer curve but I gave myself an internal slap and quickly explained what I wanted to ask.

He sat down and from then on couldn’t have been more helpful or friendly. We chatted a bit about Giraffe, this was the third of the chain to open and really quite important in establishing what is now a pretty big operation. He’d only been there six months though so didn’t know too much about the history.

Giraffe is one of those upmarket chain businesses that seems to denote a town as safe for middle class people to say they’re considering moving to. I always imagine planners in charge of our identikit high streets selecting which towns get to be grade one – Giraffe, Karen Millen, Paperchase and which get the bottom rung – Wilkinsons, Poundstretcher, Agora Amusements. It’s pretty much perfect for Islington and as we’re still very much in the snoot orbit of Upper Street it seems pretty well located. It made me think of this part of Essex Road as still finding it’s own identity. Before Packington Street it’s still a clingy toddler hiding it’s face in company. I’ll need to pass some grimy council flats before I’m into the teenage years.

Anyway back to Mike the manager. He was the first recipient of my newly added question about Essex Road businesses interacting with each other and I’m really glad he was. He totally opened up and started chatting about all the different groups of people that came in. The girls from the massage place, (aromatherapy rather than happy ending) the team from Barrio North and the estate agent. He also mentioned something that perked me up for the rest of the day. He said the guys from The Diner came in sometimes and they would often help each other out if they were running low on something. I’ve worked in restaurants and done the same but I really loved the idea of two competitive businesses literally next door to each other borrowing milk and lettuce. Reminds you that it’s all about people at the end of the day. Amidst this Essex Road professional love in, he did talk about the fact that he’d never met the guys from Wenlock and Essex, a new bar across the road and suggested that they weren’t very friendly. This intrigued me, partly because I think Wenlock and Essex will actually be the very last businesses I visit. Also it suggested that they’re perceived as outsiders. I certainly expected to find people using other businesses nearby but definitely didn’t expect to find a sense of community strong enough to both include and exclude people.

Filing this thought away for another time, I finished my questions, thanked Mike and got the bill. One thing I didn’t do was take a photo of my coffee. Being a purist I can’t go back and buy another one. (totally considered it) so I’ll have to notch it down as a rules failure. I’m considering setting a charity fine for doing that to make me more compliant. I did that on the living by the rules project and it cost me a painful £500. Worked pretty well though.

Before I left I had one last thought. How would the timing of my visit affect things. I went into Giraffe on the way to work. A bit stressy and with my usual morning boost of adrenaline from a fast walk and office fear. I’ll make the next visit on a weekend considerably more relaxed. I guess as long as I record it there’s some means of providing a control.

  • Business has been there since – 2001
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 10
  • Previous business was – nobody knew
  • 17 people work there
  • Interviewee arrives there by tube or bus to Angel
  • I bought a Cappucino for £3 and tipped £1
  • Cumulative spend – £10.00


Pumping iron, any old iron

27 09 2010


Right, bit of a pause between posts there. I actually made this visit on the same day as the first but have left it sitting in my folder just to keep you on the edge of your seat. (total lie, abject laziness and glut of weddings)

More complexity for the pyschogeographer as the new build development that encloses The Diner continues but with a narrow alley entryway to a courtyard set off the road. At the opposite side of the courtyard is a branch of gym chain Esporta. Immediately the purist kicks in. Is this actually ‘on’ Essex Road, does it count? It’s in Roberts Court and doesn’t actually have any view or frontage onto Essex Road.

I decided to let Royal Mail be the arbiter and entered, checking immediately to see if it had an Essex Road address. It did. 27 Essex Road. Given that The Diner was number 21 that meant there must be at least two properties, buildings or things between them. But there isn’t. And neither of them has a multiple address (ie 21-23 Essex Road) So essentially there’s some kind of middle class event horizon in Islington that’s swallowed these addresses and allows no information about them to escape.

I’ve actually considered joining this Esporta in the past but I’ve never been in. In fact I’ve never even been into the courtyard. I find it slightly scary how much stuff there might be just off the routes I walk or cycle. What might I have missed? I walked in to a reception area with some intimidating looking bars and Oyster style gates. An older woman with wet hair was sat fiddling with her phone and two receptionists stood behind a counter. The difference between them and the staff in the restaurant next door was immediate. Pristine white uniforms set off with chavvy underlit hair and fake tan. I felt less comfortable immediately. I took a deep breath and explained what I was doing to a pair of disconcertingly blank faces. Cautious OKs when asked if they would mind answering some questions.

Two big errors from me: One, I failed to look around and take much in. I was immediately thinking about getting out of an awkward situation. Second, I failed to ask for their names. I have to get better at this. Is it all my fault though? Could they have been friendlier? One receptionist answered my questions with a Vicky Pollard-esque tone of disbelief whilst the other watched me suspiciously from the safety of the back wall. They clearly had the potential to be fun. They shared a giggle dismissively as a disembodied managerial voice from behind a pillar reminded them not to wedge the door open as it was a fire hazard.

One came to Esporta from across the road. ‘Literally’ across the road. [Resists temptation for snobbish jibe] and the other came from Tottenham Court Road. An address I felt was suitably vague enough to suggest genuine fear at being followed home by the weirdo with the notepad. Interesting though to find my first Essex Road worker-dweller.

Neither of them knew what was there before the gym, although judging by the age of the development it’s either been there since the beginning or was another gym brand before. One of the receptionists involved the lady with the wet hair asking her if she remembered. I softened a bit at this piece of helpfulness. I resolved to find out a bit more about this development as I think I have at least another couple of businesses to visit that form part of it. Clearly something fairly big was removed to make way for it. I also resolved to try harder to relax into the project a bit as my own inhibitions are limiting what I get out of it. After all what am I afraid of? That they might laugh or refuse to give me three question’s worth of basic information? Seems unlikely.

Mmmm yummy

I asked if I could buy something and they offered me a locker token for a pound. Feeling uninspired by that, I bought a protein shake. I safely predict that I will never drink it.

  • Business has been there since – nobody knew
  • Guaranteed cumulative years in business – 1 (thought this would be nice to add)
  • Previous business was – nobody knew
  • Around 30 people work there – the same as The Diner next door. I wondered if they ever had tug of war contests given they were so evenly matched in numbers. Probably not.
  • Interviewees arrive there on foot and by tube
  • I bought a Power Bar protein plus drink for £3
  • Cumulative spend – £6.00

(The tug of war thing isn’t true, I just made that up. But it did give me a thought for another question I could ask around the interrelation between different Essex Road subjects. Do the girls from Esporta eat in The Diner? Do the chefs in The Diner work out in the Esporta? I’ll figure out the best way to ask this and maybe come up with some kind of interrelation score from now on.