Deep South London. Photos & text: David Secombe (2/5)

Victoria Way, Charlton, SE7. Photo © David Secombe 1998.

Despite London’s world city status, there are districts that can seem as remote, cloistered or exotic as Samarkand or Tibet – particularly those areas where the tube penetrates not at all or merely feebly. Charlton, SE7, remains one of the most overlooked and permanently unfashionable of all London localities. Its backwater ambience is very appealing to a certain type of person, and equally incomprehensible to those who crave easy access to a tube line or who see districts east and south of a given marker as dragon-infested territory. I lived there for seven years and grew rather fond of the place. (We moved out when they built the Millennium Dome in ‘north Greenwich’ a mile or so to the north-west, a development which has added little charm to the district.)

This gentleman lived a few doors away from where he is pictured, sitting at the junction of Victoria Way and Eastcombe Avenue, a daily routine which enshrined him as a local landmark. I photographed him twice, this being the most successful attempt. He indicated that he was deaf, so conversation was impossible, but he posed and co-operated with beguiling charm. He had a sort of stoic nobility and his presence on this nondescript south-east London street lent it a mysterious, romantic quality which it otherwise had no right to possess.

… for The London Column. © David Secombe 2011