A Time for Everything
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I had been intending to visit Croydon for some time now. The mid to late twenties of my life were spent in the south of London. And for us lads these were the partying years. To be free from work on a Saturday evening - indeed this was a great privilege. The place to be was Croydon. The night clubbing epicentre for anyone young in the body or young in the mind.
Croydon is considered a town however it feels more like a city. It is a large commercial district and has a population of over fifty thousand. It is multicultural and this is reflected in the spectrum of shops and restaurants. African, Chinese, Polish, Irish, Caribbean - people from all parts of the globe living together in this great town. I walked along the main street for the first time in over fifteen years.
Yes in those years of the past it was a time to party. And even now, for those at the brink between youth and mature adulthood - Croydon remains the same. Vibrant and menacing, magnetic and disarming: if you want to experience the real London, without the millionaires, limousines and palaces - you should visit Croydon.
It was a Saturday afternoon and it was myself and my partner and her daughter in the centre of Croydon. My lovely partner and the daughter quickly found one of those boutiques specialising in nail painting. I therefore had a couple of hours to myself to explore this town: to note what had remained and what had changed.
It seemed much more had changed than had remained. In the past we strictly adhered to a ritual to complete a night of party The first stage of the ritual began on a Saturday afternoon shopping on the main street. This was for clothing. I visited the huge department shop that used to be called Allders. This was a very elegant shopping complex. Sadly it is now one of those discount centres selling a bit of everything at reduced rates. A good place to pick up a bargain. Now it operates on one floor but it used to be several floors deep. I even purchased my wedding suite here. It's glory is now gone.
The second stage of the ritual was to meet up at the pub. Few of the pubs still exist however the George does indeed still stand. We would meet up in this pub with its long alley of tables and chairs, walls with with shelves and books. It could be quite a crowd. The objective was to order in as many rounds of beer as possible before the bell rang. Ironically the law whose purpose was to prevent blatant insobriety actually encouraged it. The drinking laws are now more relaxed. For us it was an issue of economy - alcohol was much cheaper in the pub than in the club. Thus a few boozy hours were mandated.
The third stage of the ritual was the club. There were a number of clubs - Cinatras, The Colleseum and Joe Bananas were often frequented. But the main club was the Blue Orchid. It was imperative to be seen at the The Blue Orchid. Although not cool to arrive too early; arriving late would mean a long wait. The queue could extend around the corner and it was not uncommon to be waiting an hour, only to be turned away if the bouncer didn't appreciate your dress standard. This is why the ritual began with fashion shopping that afternoon.
So admittance itself was an accomplishment. Inside the club was to enter into another dimension. Pretty people dancing to the latest tunes. Laser lights and misty guns. Flashing floors, cocktails, flirting, kissing - all those things that comprise the experience of the nightclub. A few hours lived without thought of the mundane. Without reference to work, bills or any of the toil of daily life. Isn't this the gift of youth? To be able to stand aside from duty for a little while. To have a party and to enjoy a few hours.
The fourth stage of the ritual was the early morning meal after the club closed its doors. This was typically a burger with cheese and sauce. No meal ever tasted so good - after all those hours of dancing, drinking and flirting. There would be banter and also some menace. Jealousy, anger, love and despair - they were all there somewhere within the boundaries of the dispersing crowds.
This great nightclub and the surrounding areas are now deserted wrecks. Entertainment's focal point had obviously moved to another part of the town. As I stood in front of this once superlative night club taking in the present day debris: I reflected on a generation that was mine. Where are those clubbing folk now? Probably like me - middle aged and dealing with the everyday matters of life. Children, mortgages, careers. Planning for a retirement perhaps, or the struggle of a divorce. Perhaps some health issue. Grief.
So this was an era that has been and now only exists in my mind's memory. It is all too easy to remain locked in a phase of your own history. Cannot today be even better? I believe it can irrespective of age. Perhaps this is not always easy - living life with the truth can be a struggle but it is possible.
Yes there is a time for everything - and it was good to visit this town of the past. A town where indeed, it was a time to party.
Peace to All