diamond geezer

 Sunday, December 23, 2018

London's festively-named streets include Holly Hill, Angel Passage, Yuletide Close and half a dozen Noel Roads. But I've been out to visit a meatier choice, a historic lane to the north of Enfield, to see what traces of Christmas I could find.

Turkey Street's seen many Christmases. In medieval times the hamlet where the Hertford Road crossed a small stream was called Tokestreete, likely after a family called Toke. By the 19th century the hamlet's name had changed to Turkey Street, and its associated stream had become the Turkey Brook. Today the local area is commonly known as Enfield Wash, and Turkey Street is the name given to the lane which runs west alongside the brook. It's also an almost perfect microcosm of Outer London, with housing ranging from timbered cottages to Victorian terraces and from interwar semis to towering flats, plus shops, a school and a Zone 6 station. Stuffed with interest, you could say.

Turkey Street begins at the Greggs on the Hertford Road, where the windows are speckled with snowflakes and the meal deal features a Festive Bake. It doesn't get much Christmassier than that. The Turkish butchers nextdoor has XMAX TREES AVAILABLE, the S.O.Y. Pound Store offers household stocking fillers and Öz Royal Kebab wishes all its customers a very Prosperous New Year. My mum was born just round the corner, so these would have been the local shops during her very first Christmas. The retail offering has evolved far beyond anything that traded here back then.

The first stretch of Turkey Street is unusual because houses run along only one side, with the river (now in deep channel) on the other. The first houses, beyond the shoppers' car park, are late Victorian. They've not gone overboard with the Christmas decorations this year, but I did spot one resident stepping out in a Santa hat, then driving off in her Volkswagen Golf Estate. The first house to have made an actual effort is on the corner of Ascot Gardens, which has plastic snowmen stuck to the front door and a Christmas tree in the porch decorated with a strand of glittery tape. If someone here is getting a games system for Christmas, the box sticking out of the dustbin ensures it won't be a surprise.

After a run of postwar semis, lightly decorated, the Turkey Brook swings away behind a row of old cottages and what used to be a pub. This was called The Turkey, perhaps too obviously, and has been converted recently into two decent sized homes. From the footbridge I spotted the almost carol-worthy complement of seven ducks-a-swimming, plus a fine crop of white berries overhanging the water, well out of any flower arranger's reach. The houses along this back path range from postwar infill to pristine detached bungalows, and the Parcel Force driver trying to deliver a festive parcel was having trouble finding one of them.

Up next is a patch of park where winged fish/squirrel hybrid sculptures are the norm, and a band of wilted bouquets around a lone tree marks an unhappy anniversary. Here too is Turkey Street station, once a minor halt called Fortyhill, now an orange-branded portal which whisks local residents in and out. One emerging passenger tugged a wheelie suitcase behind him with a carrier bag from the LEGO Store perched on top. Another returning for the holidays struggled repeatedly to squash her suitcase into a car boot.

The First Choice off licence, squeezed into a small hut just before the river disappears from view, is not overstocked with festive fare. Three ice cream vans parked outside a house on the corner of Brookside Gardens await the season when they can once again emerge from cold storage. The 327 bus slinks intermittently past, unmarked by any bus stop nor any hint that it goes by. The street's sheer residential variety is enhanced by a row of bungalows, a be-chimneyed Victorian lodge and a jarring nine-storey cuboid called Brookbank. I was expecting more wreaths on doors, or lights in windows, but was disappointed.

Abruptly this ancient lane is severed by the Great Cambridge Road, a roaring dual carriageway built in the 1920s to relieve the Hertford Road, back where we started. Those on foot must take a multi-coloured subway, whose tiles spell out HAPPY, SMILE and other upbeat words so long as you squint carefully enough. Beyond this the residents are trying a little harder to be festive, with a string of illuminable icicles above one door and a Christmas tree decoration stuck to the glass at number 133 (affectionately known as Chateau Turkey).

After crossing the New River, where two swans-a-swimming once again failed to hit the festive target, Turkey Street becomes inordinately rural. Across the sports fields I was suddenly surprised to hear the voice of Andy Williams pronouncing this The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, followed by Dean Martin urging Let It Snow. The Christmas tunes continued for the rest of my journey, it turns out emanating from the local primary school whose teachers were using music as a form of end of term crowd control. And finally I reached the million pound houses at the end of the lane - smart, lilywhite and early 19th century - whose front door decorations brought Turkey Street's wreath count to a final tally of thirteen.

I'd reached the hamlet of Bulls Cross, and the gates of Myddelton House, which has one of my favourite open-to-the-public gardens in the whole of London. I was the only visitor, late December not being peak-visiting season, and the ladies in the cafe were looking somewhat underutilised. But the grounds still had a few treats to bestow, including a clump of pink blossom, a patch of snowdrops and an acer by the lake that'd not yet dropped its vibrant red leaves. A dozen pine cones in a gift bag were on offer for £1.50 by the honesty box, with a variant selection including crystallised orange for a pound more.

A very ordinary yet extraordinary road in the outer suburbs, that's Turkey Street at Christmas.

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