Jazz Fags & Beer Picnics

Willam Smoker's Bench at West Norwood Cemetery

They don’t teach you this at school, but not everywhere is suitable for taking the herb and the hop. It’s certainly verboten during double chemistry, to which the premature end of my academic ‘journey’ stands as a testament.

Essentially, you need to be undisturbed by traffic or passers-by, but the premium spot should also afford an interesting vista, which you will find ‘amaaazing’ soon after ignition. So parks, cemeteries and quiet stretches of the river are ideal. Add some elevation and you’re flying Executive Class, albeit with some value lager in a Costcutter carrier bag.

I would say persons in authority are to be avoided, but that is surely the case at all times, unless, perhaps, in an emergency, such as when you can’t find your gear.

The following are some prime locations to get dreamy with a mate. Or preferably, his wife.

Neglected Balconies In Winter

It’s hard to believe that as recently as 10 years ago you could stand on the balcony of the Royal Festival Hall with a pint and a blunt taking in one of London’s best sunsets without feeling the long arm of the law on your thigh. Now, partly, I fear, due to our pioneering vision, it’s filled with people chatting or typing. Fine, but they are not having as much fun as we did.

Royal Festival Hall 5th floor balcony
In freezing mid-January, all balconies are returned to the hardy Deserter, stoically facing the freeze like giddy polar bears wearing vests.

The Baylis Terrace at the National Theatre was a classic neglected balcony, again with a stunning view, that due to the beautifully confusing brutalism of the South Bank nobody could ever find, except by accident. Sadly it is now being ‘developed’, very slowly. Having ballsed it up for the entire summer, we await a cold weather opening with interest.

London beach

Man on London riverbank smoking
Although you have lost elevation by stepping down to the riverbank, the stretch of the Thames from the Undercroft down past the Globe Theatre provides a sensational and seldom seen view of London. No tourists and few Londoners make it the perfect place to wobble, unseen, in a wilderness in the middle of the capital of the world, giggling like a spoon.

London Beach
The departing tide reveals plenty of escapes going east along the river where even those on the Thames Path can’t see you. Though if you’re smoking any of Half-life’s latest batch you may as well wear a spotlight, as the stench of cannabinoids and departing brain cells alert all in a 200m radius to your presence. Though my rule with the weed, however unreliable, is that if passers-by know what the smell is, they probably don’t care, or will want some.

Cemeteries

Is it disrespectful to crack open a cold one and spark up on a cemetery bench amid the resting dead? They don’t seem to mind. For all we know that might be how they got there. At least I’m not praying to a non-existent god that their imaginary souls make their way to a fictitious heaven. That’s just weird.

photo (34)
The bench at Nunhead Cemetery with the view of St Paul’s is a fine place to pause and discover deep philosophical certainty about something or other you’ll forget in an hour. West Norwood Cemetery, another of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries, also boasts the Smoker family’s bench (see main image, above) where the peace of the place can be appreciated by those for whom doing nothing comes easy, just like the inhabitants.

Places of elevation

Being able to take in the city from a high vantage point gives one an appreciation of its vastness, its diversity and its very high pointy buildings. ‘Wow!’ I sometimes say to myself, looking out at the splendour, ‘What a lot of offices.’

But, dooby in one hand and strong cider in the other hand, words like ‘majestic’ and ‘sweeping magnificence’ come to mind, though thankfully I shut the fuck up. The two highest points in South London according to my actual guess are Crystal Palace and Shooter’s Hill and it is from here you can get a sense of London as a teeming mass of activity while you sit on a hill getting quietly blootered. Once in Crystal Palace Park I could have sworn I saw dinosaurs.

Crystal Palace Park dinosaurs
They almost look like dinosaurs, in a mad sort of way

Oxleas Woods, off Shooters Hill is another delightful place to get confused in, though that can be dangerous, should you get the fear trying to find your way out. You could spend years trying to get out of the acres of ancient woodland if you’ve brought enough papers.

Plume of Feathers
We were supposed to go back to Oxleas for a pic but got stuck here. Soz.

Parks

You need a secluded spot in a park, well away from children, and more importantly, their parents. Sitting on a fallen tree with a tinnie, looking across the green fields and trees of Brockwell Park, the lido reclines under the stupidly erect city. Suddenly getting sacked doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

Greenwich Park also has vantage points where you can easily find seclusion enough to pollute the air while comparing the works of nature, Christopher Wren, Inigo Jones and the children who designed Canary Wharf for a school project for which they nearly got a C minus.

View from Greenwich Park of Queen's House, Royal Naval College & Canary Wharf
Open spaces

The difference between an open space and a park is fences. And the lack of them at places like Blackheath, Hilly Fields and Clapham Common induces a giddy sensation in the city dweller. Not giddy enough to run naked in them, mind. That takes actual tequila. But enough to provoke a sense of quietude that can only be happily disturbed by the hiss of a ring pull and the gentle foamy spit of God’s love for us.

View from Blackheath
Blackheath, grim South London

On Blackheath there are innumerable spots where you can forget yourself, all within easy reach of a pub and a pond. The views from the heath I particularly like because Canary Wharf (or whatever the fuck it’s called) and the bastard Shard are cut down to size by the high plateau you’re reclining on.

At the delightful Hilly Fields you can enhance your daydreams by the ancient stone circle, from the monolithic era, dragged to Brockley on the backs of sauropods from far away Lewisham, almost 15 years ago. The thirsty might like to note it is also within striking distance of the London Beer Dispensary.

Stone circle at Hilly Fields, Brockley
Stones. Lots of stones

By Some Bins

We don’t know why bins attract us so much; possibly because they repel others. A favourite spot lies at the bottom of the stairs from London Bridge station to Tooley Street, which we named The Dirty Bit. With half an hour to go before kick off, I often meet Half-life here in order get into a special condition to enjoy England struggle against Liechtenstein or similar. Nearby, just across the way from The Mudlark and affording views of the river, is its sister site, Dirty Bit-on-Sea.

Bins
Would ya?

Somehow, over the years, we’ve found ourselves entering a vague sense of bliss next to hundreds of bins, the mucky little sirens.

Yes, it’s naughtier now we’re talking Class B after five years of spliff being one letter less dangerous, but in this matter, as in most matters, we assume the government has no idea what is right or wrong and are guided by our most flexible instincts.

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Image credit: London beach photos by Mike Taylor

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  • David Moger

    Jazz Cigarettes? If i could spell litigious, i’d say that copyright (No, not the Graffiti artist) belonged elsewhere. A namecheck and a pint would suffice as compensation…oh, and a Doobie!

    • John Player

      Yep spot on, copyright certainly rests elsewhere, as the term was first used in the 1920’s in the USA. Naughty Margate Moger trying to claim that one!

      • David Moger

        All probably is theft…let’s call mine a loving tribute then, M’Lud

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