It’s the last thing an ale drinker wants to hear on a night out in the pub – last orders! It used to happen around 5 to 11 by the pub’s clock – which was often 10 minutes fast to assist the landlord in getting the punters out by the legal closing time. Of course, now we have all day / night drinking and as one door closes another one opens and it’s always possible to find somewhere dispensing alcohol.

Zywiec – a strong Polish Lager – available in cans and bottles from corner shops in my area
However, all is not well in the pub industry both nationally and in Finchley. Cheap beer is available from supermarkets and corner shops, all trying to undercut each other to the extent that there have been complaints that sometimes the product is being sold below cost price – which presumably means that the cheap alcohol is being subsidised by other items in store. Much of what is sold is tinned lager – it is a by-product of the domination of the market (some would say abomination) by the large brewers of the 1960’s and 70’s who sought to make bigger profits by replacing the traditional British ale with European Lagers and some home brewed ones. All chemically dead beers with a longer ‘shelf life’ than the traditional ‘real ale’. They were sold to the market as having a cleaner taste and being stronger than the traditional ales – I’m not sure about the former but the latter was a deception aimed at the vanity of young drinkers. The average strength of the popular Lagers was around 3.4% whilst most bitters were around 4.0% alcohol. More recently, we have seen a growth in premium Eastern European Lagers from Poland and the Czech Republic as the suppliers follow the migration of workers from those countries to the UK. These are superior products to those marketed in the past – both countries have a reputation for producing excellent Lagers. Indeed Plzen – the home of the Pilsner Lager is in the Czech Republic.

Fullers London Pride
Fullers London Pride – A traditional Bitter available in bottles from corner shops / supermarkets or from the hand pump in certain local pubs
Meanwhile, the smaller brewers carried on hoping to survive somehow. Partial salvation appeared in form of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) born out of the desire of ale drinkers for a proper pint of naturally brewed beer. The market for traditional beers grew again though it remained a bit of a niche with micro-breweries starting up and disappearing again within a few years. For most, sales through pubs that now had a clientelle mainlining on fizzy Lager were small and the breweries had to find other ways to market their product. In fact, only those traditional brewers like Fuller’s, Young’s and McMullen with their own tied houses were really able to challenge in the marketplace. In the face of adversity the brewers rediscovered the bottle – and the supermarkets began to carry a stock on their shelves. Thus, the traditional family breweries found a way to survive outside of the tied houses of the major brewers. And the drinkers could now enjoy a pint of ale at home whilst watching the footy (or a film).

All of which did little for the public house. Unlike the supermarkets, the pub landlord has to look after and sell draught beer which has a limited lifespan once the barrel has been tapped. The clients have to be handled in a polite and friendly way and given a comfortable and well-appointed environment in which to enjoy their chosen tipple. So there are big overheads for the publican and the cost of a pint of beer in a pub clearly illustrates that. Pint of lager in a pub – £3-20p… 500ml bottle from a supermarket £1-59p, or roughly half price (these are illustrative prices rather than exact ones but hopefuly you get the point).

Clearly, there are more complex factors at work too. Pubs on busy high streets tend to survive whilst those in declining shopping areas or away from the bright lights struggle. The result overall has been the closure of many traditional pubs at a time when the actual population of an area is greater than it ever was and you would expect demand to be increasing. There have been new pubs created on high streets utilising shop premises that have closed which partially fill the gap left by the traditional pub but they can’t replace the sense of lost history and architecture.

Over the last 20 years in East Finchley I have witnessed Last orders being called on a number of pubs – some of which had names tied to the history of the area… The George and The Duke of Cambridge – recalling Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, who commanded The Middlesex Regiment (and possibly the earlier visit of the 1st Battalion Royal Highlanders to Finchley Common in 1743 for review by King George II also Duke of Cambridge – though in the end the review was carried out by General Wade), The Red Lion, The Green Man.

Most recently last orders has been called on The Dick Turpin in Long Lane, just a few hundred yards from my home. The name recalls the time when Finchley Common used to ring to the Highwayman’s call to “Stand and Deliver” as coaches with the well-to-do travelled to and from the capital along the Great North Road. It was with a degree of sadness, despite never having been a regular of the pub, that I witnessed the delivery of an excavator on Thursday morning to carry out the demolition of the building…

Dick Turpin
The Dick Turpin as it was
Excavator Delivery
J.O’Doherty’s Volvo low-loader delivers an excavator to The Dick Turpin on Long Lane
Dick Turpin 2
The Dick Turpin – roof already half gone and excavator on site ready to pull down the walls

Meanwhile, on The walks, my preferred public house lives on…

Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle – McMullens tied house and my preferred East Finchley Pub

Kings Cross has been a part of my life since I was a baby… I may have been born in Barnet, then within the county of Hertfordshire, but my Father was a Scotsman born in Dundee and we used to travel north for our summer holidays to Scotland. So, I have many memories of Kings Cross as it was and a view on what it has become. Back in those days of steam it was possible to see the racehorses of the iron road – the Gresley Pacifics, including Mallard, here. I recall, as told before, travelling north behind Gresley Pacific 60065 ‘Knight of Thistle’ and on other occasions behind diesels that still stirred the blood in the early hours of the morning. Kings Cross, more than Euston, was a gateway to the magic of Scotland – possibly because the western route of the old LNWR linked to so many cities like Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, that Glasgow was often a forgotten by-product. You left Kings Cross knowing that it was York, Newcastle and then Edinburgh – a bit unfair on the beautiful city of Durham but it was never more than a stop for local trains and the occasional express back then. By the way, the stops used to be dictated by changes of locomotive – so it could be Doncaster, Newcastle, Edinburgh depending on the train you were on.

Moving fully into the diesel era, the Deltics ruled. There were just 22 of them and with 3300 horses and a top speed of 100mph – they soon won many fans and were very much the flagship of the BR fleet in the 1960’s / early 80’s. Kings Cross reverberated to the throbbing hum of their Napier engines.

As a railway enthusiast I visited at a variety of times of the day and night. I saw the newspapers being loaded in the early hours on platform nine and the royal mail parcels on platform 1 (where the lorries used to stand is the new platform Zero!). The Royal Mail train usually left from platform 8 and it was possible to post letters in a mailbox in the side of the carriage up until departure for sorting during the journey.

My late evening visits resulted in a number of encounters with ladies of the night who would generally accost you if you were standing anywhere near the southeast corner of the station. I can remember on one occasion in the late 1980’s being approached by a real waif of a girl in the middle of the evening, offering me sex. It was really not what I was there for – as I explained to her, “I’m just waiting for the bus home”. She then asked if I could spare her the price of a cup of tea – no problem with that!

So Kings Cross has been a bit of a home for me over the last 50 years. Sadly, recent changes have made it less friendly than it was, for trainspotters at least – barriers prevent access to platforms – no more wandering down to the end of Platform 8 to ‘see what’s on’. There are no Racehorses or Deltics anymore and I’m not convinced that the new concourse has really made a major improvement for passengers (though there is more space and it is less dingy!). The HST’s moved in to replace the Deltics and electrification displaced all the old noisy Cravens DMU’s with quiet electric units. Now it sometimes feels like a ghost town compared with the past – though it is busier than ever! Perhaps its soul has been taken away by the move into the modern world? Some photos from the past and present…

The Old Kings Cross
The old Kings Cross – 1975 with the original signal box and a Class 40 departing. Cleaning ladies sit waiting for the next train on a porters trolley.

Crews at Kings Cross
Crews at Kings Cross – Holbeck based 46031 awaits departure for her home in Leeds at the end of Platform 8.

Deltic 55018 ‘Ballymoss’ – A racehorse, bound for Kings Cross, at Newcastle. Ballymoss won the St.Leger in 1957 – the first Irish horse to do so.

Old and New in the 1980's
Old and New in the 1980’s – BR’s first mainline express diesel stands alongside an HST in Kings Cross.

DVT82217 at Kings Cross
DVT82217 at Kings Cross – the modern electric Scottish expresses.

Clinically Clean
Clinically Clean – the modern Kings Cross. The platforms screened off by barriers. No more strolls up to the end of platform 8 to watch the trains 😦

New Concourse
New Concourse – located on the west side of the station and utilising the original entrance and ticket hall. About twice the size of the front entrance hall it still seems pretty crowded but at least the roof allows in plenty of natural light.

Welcome to Kings Cross
Welcome to Kings Cross – A weary traveller wanders down the platform to board a local service.

Team Pret
But where would a railway station be without a little romance?… Team Pret – A friendly chat between staff or something more? You decide!

The concept of placing subjects that contrast alongside each other is a key photographic compositional tool. It adds tension to the photograph thus creating interest for the viewer. This effectively means placing opposites within the frame – small and large, old and new, light and shade. It can also be a more subtle contrast – using colours from opposite sides of the colour wheel. Here are a few examples…

A Suburban Terrace dwarfed by 132kV powerlines.

Living in the Shadow
Living in the Shadow

Living and Dead, tall and short, yellow and blue.
Dead Tree
Dead Tree

Colours from the opposite side of the colour wheel.
Red and Green
Red and Green

Is this last one a Juxtaposition? Over to you…
Bus and Pub
Bus and Pub